Securing the Building

Securing the Building

Common security concerns require unified approach

Multi-tenant buildings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from a few to dozens of stories tall. Tenants may include residents, professional service providers, commercial businesses, government agencies or retail shops. Some buildings have a mix of tenant types.

No matter their differences, multi-tenant buildings share many common security needs requiring a unified approach of layered systems. One of the first requirements is determining who can enter the building and how. Owners, managers and tenants may disagree. Some want a more open-entry policy while others prefer the added security that comes from 24/7 locked doors.

Gaining Access

Either way, there will be times—perhaps nights and holidays—when doors must be locked. During these times employees and/or residents may still need entry. An access control system using card readers, keypads or fobs can handle the job.

Access systems are more secure and convenient than mechanical locks. Keys can be easily lost, stolen or copied. The services of a locksmith to rekey locks every time a key is missing can become prohibitive. Removing and replacing a lost or stolen access card, code or fob is faster and less expensive.

The main tenant entry may be located off an underground garage or parking tower. That makes it logical to install readers or keypads at doors or elevators leading into the building. The same access system can be used at entries to interior tenant suites.

Then there are visitors to accommodate. Many buildings choose to limit them to one specific entry that’s kept locked. An outside building directory with keypad allows visitors to contact an individual tenant. The installation of a video intercom station at the entry and another in each suite enables tenants to determine who is allowed in after seeing and communicating with the visitor.

Staying Up-to-Date

Keeping the directory up-to-date becomes critical in larger buildings where tenants move in and out on a regular basis. Look for an intercom that gives management or a security integrator the ability to quickly and remotely update directories using the building network.

Intercoms should only be answered from inside the tenant’s space, ensuring all visitors are properly screened onsite. A closed, wired system eliminates the chances of being hacked and the expense of monthly telephone service to contact offices from the entry.

Entry vestibules inside the main public entry are becoming more popular. These can help control the problem of tailgating—people rushing into the building along with an approved visitor. A second video intercom inside the locked vestibule gives tenants another chance to see everyone who’s entering.

Some building owners prefer a lobby desk staffed by a security officer or receptionist who greets visitors before contacting tenants via an audio intercom for approval to enter. Video intercoms are also ideal for building entries reserved for deliveries and service personnel. Again, tenants determine who can enter the building. Some intercoms’ built-in cameras can record images for later identification of visitors.

Adding Layers

Surveillance cameras are an important security layer for multi-tenant facilities. Combined with the cameras embedded in the video intercoms, they provide additional evidence of entrance activity. Cameras also are valuable for monitoring and recording events in lobbies, elevator banks and parking garages.

Intrusion detection systems are another valuable security layer. Systems can be partitioned to allow each tenant to arm/disarm systems in their own suites. Sensors should be placed on all common exterior doors and any reasonably accessible windows.

High-quality door locks are vital. Today’s best practices call for electric strike locks with a “fail-safe, fail-secure” standard, meaning they remain locked on the outside during a power failure but still allow tenants to exit.

Building owners/managers and tenants benefit from unified systems. For example, an intrusion system alarm can signal the nearest surveillance camera to begin recording. Key pads, readers and video intercoms integrate with locks to open doors.

This type of integration is possible by using systems from manufacturers supporting open standards. Open standards let products be selected on price and performance. There’s no reason to be limited to devices from a single product line. Open standards also protect a security investment by allowing failed or outdated components to be replaced without having to rip out an entire system.

Once security protocols are set, it’s important for building owners and managers to put them into writing. Tenants need to know that when they let someone into the building, they are responsible for that person’s actions. Also, each building needs to maintain a list of approved security products to avoid problems when tenants attempt to add potentially incompatible devices to their suites.

In addition, emergencies, such as an active shooter or a fire, can quickly become disastrous in a highly populated multi-tenant building. Designate a contact person from each tenant space to assist during an emergency. Have an emergency plan that is reviewed and updated annually, then conduct drills to ensure all tenants understand what is expected of them in different situations.

A multi-tenant building with various unrelated businesses or residents sharing one facility will continue to create security challenges for property managers, integrators and tenants. However, the proper layers of equipment and strong entry procedures can create security equal to that of a single-tenant building.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Security Today.

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