Complex Protection Made Easy

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Not the Norm
Security at Greenway is proactive, which is not the norm for such mixed-use commercial complexes. At most commercial real estate facilities, someone like the property manager hires a contract guard service that operates fairly independently, says Hutchinson. “The contractor takes care of what it thinks is important, and the manager gets involved when there’s a problem,” he says. Contact between tenants and security is minimal.

By contrast, at Greenway, “It’s not unusual to see our tenants on a weekly basis,” says Hutchinson. Not only are the bonds between tenants and security tight, but the security program also includes a 24/7 command center, a comprehensive, integrated access-control and badging system, a well-trained officer corps, carefully considered antiterrorism measures, and a strong alliance with law enforcement and emergency services.

Central Command
At the heart of the security operation is an around-the-clock command center staffed by one officer per shift, with an overlap during peak times and during church and other events. The command center receives data from 148 CCTV cameras, approximately 1,000 alarm points, and 300 access control card readers in the buildings’ base levels and garages.

It also controls the intercom system throughout the complex. “Every elevator, every entry point, and every incoming vehicle gate all have intercoms,” Hutchinson says. After hours, the command center controls access to the buildings, garages, and elevators.

The complex is currently preparing to upgrade from analog to digital cameras and to a server-based digital recording system. Hutchinson says that the upgrade, which will take place in 2007, will include greatly increased scalability. An approximate 20 percent increase in the number of motion-triggered cameras is currently planned.

Before any technology is purchased, it is evaluated with two questions in mind: First, does it enhance performance? (The goal is not to replace personnel.) Second, is it easy to use? A technology deployment team that includes IT, security, and others examines new technology that is under consideration. A part of the process is bringing in the technology and letting the end users operate it.

The security department has a corps of officers consisting of 65 contract officers who put in an average of 2,200 staff hours per week. Additionally, the department hires about 65 off-duty police officers who work inside the buildings during business hours and as traffic officers handling egress issues at the close of the day. They also work Lakewood Church events at night.

With such a large staff, good communications are critical. To that end, the contractor provides a project manager to whom all the elements of the contract guard service report. He works with Hutchinson daily.

To further facilitate communications, the department holds weekly meetings for security personnel; at these gatherings, news is disseminated and the previous week’s security incidents are reviewed, with a discussion of what proactive measures can be implemented to prevent repetitions in the future. For example, during discussion of a laptop theft from an office suite, the question was raised whether tenants were locking their suites at night. A special round of checks showed many were not. With this issue identified, security could educate tenants on the need to lock doors to prevent thefts and other types of crimes.

The contractor also provides a scheduling officer who handles the daily assignments. He uses Internet-based scheduling software that ranks officers by their availability for extra-duty assignments and allows guards to log in to see their schedule; it can also be used to send schedules via e-mail.

Additional contract staff includes an assistant project manager for training who oversees all new-hire training on report writing, traffic control, elevators, intercoms, use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), emergency response protocols, and other issues. Greenway Plaza’s owners have dedicated a large room in one of the buildings specifically for security training of officers and certain tenants, such as those who are designated fire wardens.

About 20 security officers per shift conduct foot, vehicle, and bike patrols of the campus. They use a touch-wand system to record their stops at various sites. Hutchinson can also use the system to monitor where the officers are and to generate reports from the data.

“Recently, there was an issue where someone questioned how many times officers were in the garages. I said, ‘Give me five days in a row and let the person who is complaining pick their own days,’” Hutchinson recalls. The report that Hutchinson produced documented an average of 60 wand touches per hour around the clock in the garages, proving criticism of the officers to be unfounded.

In addition to a regular security presence in the parking facilities, officers take note of cars left in the garages on weekends, which is generally against policy unless there’s a reason, such as an employee on vacation. License plates are matched with security’s master list and notices are then sent to tenants asking why the car remained.

Officers also look for vehicles that do not belong to anyone or any company that has the right to enter the garages. If such cars are found, they are carefully inspected to see if they pose a danger (as in the case of a car bomb); if not, they are towed and an investigation is conducted to determine how they came to be parked in the garage.

Security also conducts regular nook-and-cranny searches under the footprints of the buildings looking for anything that should not be there, whether a minor nuisance, such as trash, or a potential hazard.

These steps are indicative of security’s proactive stance. While some aspects of the program may seem excessive, says Hutchinson, “It’s all geared toward answering before the question can be asked.”

In fact, the question about what security personnel had done was asked recently, when a threat was made against the property. During the investigation by an outside agency, security was asked to document the last time it had inspected the buildings’ footprints and what kind of activity had occurred in the garages. When the reports were immediately produced, the investigators unaccustomed to such thoroughness showed genuine surprise, Hutchinson states.

Some officers are assigned to the buildings’ loading docks. “We inspect and sign in all incoming material,” says Hutchinson. The command center also serves as a remote dock check-in for two of Greenway Plaza’s buildings that are somewhat isolated from the others across a road.

Security officer staffing for these docks used to cost about $30,000 per shift per year. But recently Greenway decided it could save money by reducing on-site security and handling access clearance remotely. Now, when a driver enters the building through the docks, he or she walks into a vestibule and pushes an intercom button to speak with an officer at the central command. A CCTV camera records the overall scene, while the driver places his or her driver’s license under another camera and the bill of lading under a third.

If the officer at the command center is satisfied, the driver is granted access to the remotely controlled freight elevator to travel only to the authorized floors. Driver’s who are confused about what to do can be guided by the officer in the control center via a two-way intercom.

Additionally, a visitor management software package is used for dock registration. Drivers log into the system on a PC in the vestibule to create temporary color-coded paper photo IDs.

Cargo inspection cameras monitor the storage area of every incoming delivery truck. Each manifest is checked, and the recipient verifies the expectation of each delivery. Additional delivery-screening protocols, which Hutchinson declines to describe, kick in when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raises the threat level.

Emergency Response
The security team responds to more than 200 emergencies in an average year, most of them fire and medical. The day before I spoke with Hutchinson, in fact, a tenant had suffered a coronary. “We were out there for about an hour and a half with the ambulance crew,” Hutchinson says, adding that in the past, security has responded to as many as three medical emergencies at once.

The emergency protocols followed by Greenway’s security officers dictate that they get actively involved in providing assistance in a medical emergency. When a “code blue” call comes into the security command center, the dispatcher first contacts 911 for outside emergency medical technician (EMT) assistance, then he or she alerts one of the in-house emergency response teams, each of which consists of two officers; every building has its own team, so the team notified will be the one that is dedicated to the building where the incident is occurring.

The officers each bring a medical bag, an oxygen bottle, and an AED. Each medical bag contains supplies to triage 20 people in a mass casualty situation.

Meanwhile, other officers secure the base of the building and send out mobile patrols to the main entrance routes to escort incoming EMTs. “We have an officer holding the door, one holding the freight elevator to express the EMTs up to the patient, and meanwhile the officers on the floor are keeping in communication with the 911 service to let them know if the situation escalates or changes,” Hutchinson explains.

“If we have a second medical emergency, then we already have redundant equipment on the floor. We split the team and send one officer to handle the second emergency.”

Communications. Emergency response notification is handled by emergency communications software. Whenever there is an incident, it alerts the emergency response team and any predetermined others via e-mail and cell and office phones using voice translation. The recipients can reply via phone keypad or e-mail to let central command know whether they are responding. Back at the security control center, the system shows the dispatcher a list of everyone who has verified that they are responding.

The entire process takes place quickly. “We don’t have any lag times here. Ten calls can go out at a time, and we can get everybody notified within 30 or 40 seconds,” Hutchinson explains.

Defibrillators. AED training and testing occurs on a regular basis. “We were doing training in the classroom, like everyone does, but then we thought, ‘Let’s take it out and see how we do,” Hutchinson says.

The mannequins used in AED training are now routinely dragged out into common spaces and offices, where a real emergency is likely to occur. Responding officers are timed as they arrive, assess the situation, and use the AED to resuscitate the “victim.”

At first, trainers noticed a large performance difference between the in-class simulations and those conducted in public, much of which was caused by officer nervousness. As time passed, the officers became more confident and they tested better. “This has to have a positive effect during a real incident,” Hutchinson says.

Fire and rescue. Greenway Plaza is the designated facility for fire department high-rise training in Houston, and it has been staging training scenarios since 2002. The exercises occur in vacant office suites that are filled with heavy theatrical smoke. In the past, the training has included more than 35 fire and rescue vehicles and 85 firefighters.

Greenway partners with other rescue and law enforcement organizations for training exercises. For example, security is working with Houston technical rescue personnel to stage an exercise including rescuing window washers hanging off the building. SWAT teams and canine patrols have also conducted training at the plaza.



The Magazine — Past Issues


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.