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How to Update Your Building Security Process

A facilities manager's worst nightmare: During a routine inspection you discover that valuable office property is missing. It's what Carol Farren, president of Facility Management World Wide Ltd. in East Durham, N.Y. experienced in 2008 when she was managing three floors of a high rise in Manhattan's financial district.

She ultimately discovered that two men — one of them an employee in the company — stole six large desktop computer towers from unoccupied desks. Because the desks were vacant, Farren didn't know what date or how much time had elapsed since the theft before she discovered the loss.

Based on her experience, Farren, a CMC, CFM, IFMA Fellow, suggests following these tips to catch a culprit and stop future security breaches:

Review Security Reports for Unusual Activity

The company's computerized security system had the capability of printing reports. One report showed activity in the building around 1 a.m. one night, which helped zero in on the actual date of the theft.

Have a Camera System Installed at Appropriate Heights

Consider doing a system upgrade to replace old cameras and install new ones in security hot spots around your facility. More importantly, Farren says, be sure all cameras are installed at an appropriate height, preferably with two cameras at different heights for the best monitoring system. 

Use an ID Card Scanning System

To catch the thief, Farren used an ID system that internally monitored which ID cards were being used at the main entrance. Farren recommends having a system that monitors people, both as they enter and exit the building.

Collect Former Employee Access Cards or Keys

One of the thieves used an ID card that belonged to a former employee who lived out of state and wasn't involved in the theft. But the authorization on the stolen and forged building pass helped the thieves get out and past the lobby guard with the computer towers.

To help prevent this, Farren recommends using and enforcing the following policy: if someone leaves the company, the employer should collect all keys for office doors and ID cards before the former employee receives his or her final paycheck. This was a company policy prior to the theft, Farren says, but it wasn't strictly enforced.

Keep Authorizations Secure

Prior to the theft, anyone leaving the building with a package, other than a briefcase or pocketbook, was required to show a building pass, which includes two mandatory signatures: one from the individual's department manager and another from someone in the facilities department.

Track Inventory

This incident highlighted the need to track not just people, but inventory. When the computer towers first went missing, no one immediately noticed because the desks were unoccupied, Farren says, so be sure to keep your inventory up to date. Ensure that bar codes are put on all new and existing furniture and equipment, and that every piece is scanned as it leaves the building.

The Takeaway

Updating your security system protects a building's assets and helps ensure the safety of tenants and reduces liability issues for your organization. But before embarking on a major overhaul, consider seeking technical advice from a security consultant. If you are still trying to decide if it's the appropriate time to update or upgrade your security system, consider Farren's final piece of advice: a break-in may not mean you need a new product or service, just better control and oversight over your existing system.


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