Security dilemma for skyscrapers

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          As more Kenyans spend a significant part of their lives in tall public build­ings, the new landmarks are rais­ing a collection of concentrated and heightened security risks. Commercial buildings have high human traffic and a lot of valuable property housed in an environment where movement is restricted by elevators and stairways, according to Mr Tony Sugden, the CEO of Warrior Secu­rity, a specialist in integrated risk solutions, including for oil and gas producers and for the United Nations in South Sudan.

 

       For these reasons, US compa­nies typically spend over $1 million (Sh85 million) a year on building security, the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) says. The security issues covered fall into two main areas in design and the security management of often multisto­rey buildings, being the need to keep all occupants safe, and the need to protect the building and its contents despite large flows of people.

 

          In design, security experts advise public buildings should be set back at least 50 metres from the road, which is an ambi­tious aim in downtown Nairobi, and that bollards should be built in to stop vehicles from ramming into their sides or fronts.

 

          The number of entrances is also a critical concern. The 2008 bombing of Taj Mahal Palace and Towers in Mumbai, India, clearly demonstrated how buildings with multiple entrances can be a play field for terrorists. Accord­ing to a report published in Today Travel, multiple entrances in the building enhanced the easy entry and exit of terrorists who killed at least 166 people.

 

          Mr Sunil Sethi, a Columnist with Business Standard, drew a comparison of the Westgate siege in Nairobi with the Mumbai attack, observing that like shopping malls in metropol­itan India, with their enclosed spaces, multiple entrances, underground parking mazes and lackadaisical security, Westgate was a sitting target for terrorists. The terror incident claimed over 69 lives.

 

          However, theft remains the largest single problem for busi­nesses housed in commercial buildings, according to a 2012 Commercial Victimization Survey in the UK, which found that stealing accounted for the vast majority of crimes against a range of businesses sectors, and more than two-thirds of the security incidents in the whole­sale and retail sector.

 

          “The security team should employ an access control system with an associated alarm capac­ity. Such a system will provide visible evidence of security, prevents unauthorised intrud­ers, and may deter criminals from even trying to enter,” said Mr Sugden of Warrior Security. Mr Sugden further adds that pedestrian access control systems, such as keys or swipe or proximity cards, with personal identification numbers, are also key tools that can be deployed.

Cards can additionally code employees with access to specific areas depending on their need, company affiliation, or any other factors. And in areas where

tighter security is required, such as labs or IT rooms, management can install keypads, keypad/card combinations, or biometric devices that can scan finger­prints or handprints.

 

       Visitor access to commer­cial buildings should also be controlled by a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera system, including at the build­ing’s entrance. In Chicago, a mall with nearly 500 reported inci­dents in a single month prior to the installation of cameras, expe­rienced a 20 per cent drop the following month and stayed low after installing CCTV cameras.

 

       “Surveillance is in itself a key deterrent, as is clear visibility,” said Mr Sugden. The British Parking Association recom­mends good lighting to increase visibility to identify and detect intruders in the parking lots. The Association further states that parking facilities should include a perimeter with a clearly defined boundary which identi­fies it as a private area. Features that prohibit easy access to and removal of a vehicle from the parking facility should also be included.

 

          Other security measures include monitoring of deliveries, which should be done through one point and inspected, possi­bly X-rayed, and signed in.

As most commercial buildings acquire security systems that include access control, physical security, CCTV, lighting, security officers, emergency plans, docu­mented procedures, and security awareness efforts, these do need to span the full range of tall buildings security issues, which include fire, infrastructural and elevator failures, electricity blackouts, suicide risks, hostage takings, protests, and emergen­cies such as natural disasters.

 

 

          Lastly, occupants should be engaged over security issues, making sure that they are famil­iarized with emergency plans, encouraged to be vigilant, and informed about potential threats and actual incidents, through security training and awareness programs as well as mailings, elevator bulletins, meetings or guest speakers.

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