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As American workers gradually return to the office, building owners and managers should take a fresh look at their security programs to ensure that their properties are adequately protected and tenants’ needs are being met.

That’s a message from Greg Falahee, managing director for facilities management at Allied Universal, a leading security and facility management company with more than 800,000 employees around the globe. 

Falahee said the scope of work outlined in contracts between many security companies and their clients has remained “stagnant through multiple contract cycles.” Meanwhile, buildings’ security needs have changed substantially during the pandemic, with new technologies available, occupancy rates in some building types down sharply and businesses adjusting their hours of operation to provide workplace flexibility.

Some building supervisors are requiring security guards to take on more customer-facing tasks, such as checking visitors’ vaccination status and enforcing mask rules. At the same time, the national labor shortage is forcing security companies to raise wages in order to recruit and retain workers, leading to higher costs for building owners and managers. 

All of those factors make it important for building operators to stay in close contact with their security providers and periodically review their priorities, Falahee said. 

“The pandemic has challenged all of us to look at things through a new lens,” he said. “Between the pandemic, civil disobedience and economic uncertainty, there’s definitely been a growing concern about providing safe and secure environments for tenants and guests. 

“Successful property managers work with their security partners in reviewing incidents both on and off their property, evaluating if there are foreseeable risks and deploying means for mitigating those risks. Maintaining a healthy cadence of communication and assessment will best address security concerns.” 

Falahee said building supervisors should establish and maintain a “reasonable standard of care” with regard to security at each property. Simple steps include:

  • Conducting a risk assessment or survey to identify threats and vulnerabilities. Who are your tenants? Do any pose a greater threat to the property? Does the use of your property increase the potential threat?

  • Review onsite and community-wide criminal activity at least annually, and adjust your security posture accordingly.

  • Have written security procedures that are refreshed annually. Ensure all responsible parties are aware of any changes.

  • Participate in local crime-prevention partnerships, typically organized by local law enforcement agencies or business-improvement districts.

  • Always document the justification for changes to your programs, and maintain a file for any unforeseen litigation.

“It’s important to keep in mind that not all building security programs are the same,” Falahee said. “Not only do they differ by building type, but they differ depending on who’s occupying the space, their risk tolerance and what types of business activities are being conducted there.”

Technological advancements are giving building owners and managers more sophisticated tools to maintain security. Falahee said today’s security professionals are interacting with a host of Internet-connected digital applications that include closed-circuit television, life and fire safety systems and remote online access-control systems.

Long-term industry trends include identifying tasks that can be performed by technology applications such as robotics, Falahee said. Examples include deploying an integrated visitor management system to expedite the credentialing of contractors and visitors and using robotics to patrol a building’s perimeter, allowing security guards to focus on decision-making tasks and customer service.

“Larger organizations are investing heavily in technology, analytics and intelligence tools to help move toward integrated security programs that provide better flexibility long term,” Falahee said. “Integration is the buzzword du jour in the commercial real estate security sector, with increasingly complex and disparate systems being integrated on a single platform. 

“Incident reporting, tour watches and security officer tour systems are all included on a single platform run with artificial intelligence. Today’s security professional is not complacent. Rather, he or she is technologically savvy and committed to continual training.”

Falahee said that when selecting a security partner for a customer-facing program, building owners and managers should consider:

  • Industry-specific expertise – Securing a residential community is different from securing an office building or a retail store. The right security partner will have experience with your type of building. 

  • Highly selective recruiting – With labor in short supply, some security companies may not be performing their due diligence when hiring security guards, and not every security professional is cut out for a multifaceted, public-facing role. 

    “The ability to both secure and welcome is a unique talent, and the security professionals filling that role must be carefully screened and selected,” Falahee said.

  • Emergency response plan – Your security provider should have the local management support and manpower to handle emergencies, along with a plan for action. 

    “A natural disaster that leaves a building without power or makes a primary exit road impassible should be considered as part of the security program development,” Falahee said. “While no security measure can prevent these occurrences, communication, preparedness and evacuation plans are needed.”


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