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Security lawsuit prevention is BOMA topic.

"Security negligence is the fastest-growing civil tort in the U.S. today," stated Gerald A. O'Rourke, certified protection professional of Strategic Controls, Inc. as the featured speaker at the October 6 luncheon sponsored by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York, Inc. (BOMA/NY) at The New York Marriott Marquis Hotel.

"There has been an extraordinary proliferation of cases," he continued, explaining that in large part, the obligation of the owner is not understood by all parties. "The landlord is not obligated to guarantee the tenant 100 percent security . . . . in fact, there is no such guarantee anywhere. Look at the Secret Service, the largest and most sophisticated security operation out there today. it still cannot guarantee 100 percent Presidential security."

Owners do have the obligation to provide "reasonable and adequate" security, O'Rourke explained. "Landlords have to do risk assessment of their buildings, examining the types of business their tenants are engaged in, the crime demographics of the neighborhood, and property crime standards for the neighborhood. They also have to ask themselves, 'What are the industry standards for a building of this type?'"

Compounding the "grey areas" of what defines adequate security is the fact that the accepted industry standards may not exist in written form, but the owner must "exercise prudence and common sense," O'Rourke continued.

Common areas of concern in New York City buildings are:

Lobby Access: In large high-rises with sensitive tenant industries, such items as Photo ID cards or other forms of ID for all visitors and tenants can be highly desirable. At night, it is genuinely accepted that there will be manned security, locked premises as appropriate and sign in/out procedures. In one property, O'Rourke recalled, a highly cost-effective kiosk "security closet" system was used, where a visitor would actually step inside the kiosk to be photographed before being admitted to the building. The bottom line result was a sharp decrease in crime. This was, he stated, an example of exceeding the normal accepted standard. The type of procedure, he added that a judge would uphold as reasonable and prudent deterrent.

Lobby Deliveries: O'Rourke reminded the BOMA/NY audience that often, obvious security hazards remain unchecked - fire doors remain unlocked, exits to the street should be controlled by delayed exit alarm systems, and the lobby door to the receiving dock should be secured and alarmed.

Messengers can be a major source of security infractions. O'Rourke recommended issuing RFP's to messenger services to screen out potential problems and receive all packages in the lobby, except for such couriers as Federal Express or United Parcel Service. Similarly, food deliveries should be restricted to the lobby.

Elevators: Ideally the three walls should be mirrored. If that is not possible, O'Rourke recommended that at the least, the elevator should be equipped with mirrors so that as individuals approach, movement can be detected. Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) and an intercom service are also highly desirable, he said, adding that a small sign stating the purpose of the system serves to reassure tenants.

Restrooms: If the restrooms are located within tenant spaces, there is no obligation for the landlord to provide security, O'Rourke said. When outside the tenant spaces, the owner must provide a working lock with a bolt or key control. O'Rourke also recommended installing alarms on all fire wells, fire escapes, and roof doors.

"A regularly scheduled security survey or self-check is essential," O'Rourke concluded. "Landlords should also take advantage of the free audits offered by the Police Department. And, if any questions remain, you can 'sue yourself hypothetically to see if your security measures would hold up in a court of law."
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Title Annotation:Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York, Inc.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Nov 3, 1993
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