With dark corners, tight spaces and multiple levels hosting automotive and foot traffic, parking garages pose many risks. Fortunately, there are many steps a facility manager can take to minimize danger in a multi-level garage. Implement these solutions to maximize the safety of your parking facility.
Visibility is Key
Monitor the parking garage 24 hours a day to catch criminal behavior, as well as prevent it from occurring. Carl Thomas, a freelance facilities project consultant based in New York and International Facility Management Association (IFMA) member, highly recommends putting security cameras with visual and audio capabilities in all areas where there is regular foot traffic. It’s important to make their presence obvious, he says, because criminals will be deterred if they know they’re on camera. Thomas also suggests hiring a 24-hour security guard service to supervise all building access points and parking garage activity.
To eliminate potential hiding places, Thomas suggests constructing the garage with open or glass stairwells and glass-backed elevators. He also says that any rear access stairwells or low traffic areas should be locked from the outside, with key or card access, to prevent non-authorized persons from entering the facility.
For emergency situations, Thomas suggests placing emergency buttons or phones in multiple areas. These should be set up so that they automatically call the 24-hour security guard or the local police station via 911. This allows quick communication with little effort from someone who might be hurt or in an urgent situation.
Organizational and Maintenance Issues
Ample lighting and control of vehicle and pedestrian traffic are necessary to keep a parking garage safe. It is important to avoid glare that can impair a driver’s vision, as this can lead to accidents. Kenneth Stephenson, AIA, CFM, architect at the Buildings and Facilities Office of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), came across this issue during a recent project to fix various problems found in the CDC’s four Atlanta parking decks.
“In one instance, light reflecting off an adjacent building created a glare condition for persons driving the length of the parking deck,” he says. “This made it difficult to see pedestrians approaching drive lanes from the side.”
To decrease the amount of light reflected into the parking deck, Stephenson says that screens were installed at one end of the deck. "Lighting at entry and exit points designed in accord with IESNA [Illuminating Engineering Society of North America] requirements is important to provide an opportunity for driver’s eyes to adjust to the change in light level when going from outside to inside," he says.
Other maintenance issues related to a parking garage include proper ventilation, which is a major concern for any garage. Install carbon monoxide sensors to alert upon sensing any type of CO build-up, Thomas suggests. Also, make sure you’re performing regular maintenance on all forms of fire protection equipment, such as extinguishers and fire sprinkler/standpipe connections. At the very least, facility managers should inspect their equipment annually, and sprinkler systems usually require a pressure test every five years, Thomas says.
As a high traffic area involving both vehicles and pedestrians, the parking garage should be surveyed for blind spots to determine where to install appropriate mirrors, speed bumps and signage, Thomas says.
According to Stephenson, one problem they had was pedestrians taking random routes, sometimes in the path of unsuspecting drivers. As a solution, they installed “defined crosswalks with signage and pedestrian-activated flashing signal lights to warn drivers of a pedestrian presence.”
They also installed railings around stairs and elevator entrances to help divert pedestrian traffic away from active drive lanes. To prevent drivers from cutting across unoccupied parking areas and driving the wrong way in a one-way lane, Stephenson says they provided horizontal barriers.
“We also provided gaps in the barriers at locations near the crosswalks to encourage pedestrians to concentrate in the areas where crosswalks are located,” he says.
As a facility manager, it is your job to protect the personal safety of all occupants, Thomas says. Taking a proactive approach to your facility’s parking garage safety will ensure the well-being of building occupants, and portray the organization in a positive light.
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