When people think about the duties of a property manager, activities such as collecting rent and responding to complaints of a leaking pipe probably come to mind. However, it’s a whole different world out there and the modern property manager has a lot more on their plate. And, unfortunately, one of the more recent and important of these tasks is related to violence in the workplace. Spending just a few minutes watching the evening news or reading the daily paper will underscore the importance – it seems as if not a day goes by that another shooting or terrorist attack makes the headlines. And quite often, this violence spills over into the domain of a property manager, whether it be where people come together to work or to socialize. As a result, the modern property manager must consider the potential for violence to occur within one of their properties and, if something does occur, what systems and procedures are, or should be, in place in order to properly address it.
A primary consideration is how security is handled and administered. For most larger properties, such as a downtown office building or a suburban shopping mall, a third-party security company is likely responsible for the onsite monitoring, policing and administration. But the situation is likely different for a smaller property, such as a six-plex apartment building or a small community retail center. But regardless of how the security is handled, it is important for the property manager to have a sound plan in place.
The first step in developing a plan is to conduct a risk assessment for each property that specifically addresses the risks associated with a violent act at the property. This assessment would ask questions as: How attractive or likely is the property as a target? How would a violent act impact the property? What is the probability of a violent act occurring? Once the risk assessment is completed, a plan needs to be formulated that addresses the following points.
This includes items such as physical barriers, door locks and gates or railings. It also includes one of the primary deterrents – lighting.
When addressing these physical aspects, there certainly needs to be a balance between deterring access to a violent individual and deterring access to any individual. There are many ways, however, to offer the benefits of effective physical security while still providing accessible premises. Related to this, make sure that building floor plans and property site plans are readily available for security, law enforcement and emergency personnel.
This involves anything having to do with an alarm system, including video cameras, motion detectors, infrared devices, audio monitors, etc.
The goal of technical systems is to reduce (and in some ways, supplement) staff. And while these systems can be highly effective, four things must always be kept in mind: (1) the technology needs to be proven; (2) the technology needs to be maintained and upgraded when necessary; (3) any triggered alarm needs to be responded to in the same manner – as if they are real; and (4) a technical system is never the sole component of the plan.
This includes the staff as well as the policies and procedures of the plan. It is the most common part of a security plan and can be the most effective. It can also be the most neglected, so it is critical to have a well-developed plan. Make sure that everyone adheres to this plan and make sure the plan is modified as needed over time.
The security plan needs to be comprehensive and will likely cover items such as identifying a security coordinator for the property, detailing evacuation and lock-down activities and having a checklist when dealing with the media, among many other items.
No one likes to think about what happens when things go wrong. But by having a sound, comprehensive and well-documented plan in place, you can greatly reduce the potential damage in the event of an unfortunate incident. Ira Krumholz CPM