Complex Protection Made Easy

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

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.

Antiterrorism Measures
Since 9-11, Hutchinson has developed active relationships with local, state, and federal law enforcement. He receives threat information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and other sources. He receives flash intelligence messages via his cell phone and says he frequently receives bulletins before the media reports the information.

Hutchinson also works closely with professional societies such as ASIS International and the Building Owners and Managers Association International. Additionally, he chairs the Security Managers Executive Forum, a group comprising corporate security directors throughout Texas. The group shares information and plays an active role in state legislative issues concerning security.

The intelligence gleaned from these sources keeps Greenway Plaza security attentive to threats, yet flexible in its response based on their severity. “A lot of companies have decided that if the threat-level color chart goes from yellow to orange, they’ll do one through 14 on their list. If it goes from orange to red, they’ll do one through 20,” explains Hutchinson. “We only commit to the things that make sense. We respond to the threat level after weighing information from local agencies, including threat information, sector location, and probability of impact,” he states.

Tenant Relations
At the leasing office, when a potential tenant comes to view available space in one of Greenway Plaza’s buildings, they view a presentation on the security program. Those who are seriously considering leasing meet with Hutchinson personally. When a lease is signed, he works with the tenant on the move-in process.

“We work with them on the installation of their electronic devices to make sure they are code compliant and everything is working correctly,” he says. He also consults with tenants, both new and existing, about additional security systems that they might want or that Greenway might consider worthwhile. He then helps line up vendors and installers, and oversees the project.

“Tenants call all the time looking for security solutions,” Hutchinson says—so much so that when he attends security trade shows, he combs the exhibition halls looking for technologies that his customers can use.

Each tenant company must appoint one employee to serve as a contact point. Security’s policy is to deal only with these designated individuals. Among the contacts’ duties is to learn about and implement the perimeter access control program’s badging protocol.

Badging. Every employee is required to have a valid combination access control /ID badge to gain entry to the upper floors of any building. For new hires, the badging process begins with security’s receipt of a form from the contact. The document can be completed online at a secure site, or filled out on paper and then delivered to security. The form provides all pertinent information about the employee and details the level of access he or she needs to the building.

In the case of new tenants, the contact must supply these forms on every employee before move-in day. The whole group is invited to the security offices for a meet-and-greet with the security team; at the same time, they have their pictures taken for their ID, and receive their activated badges as well as information on the access control systems and proper use of the badge at the card readers.

Every 90 days, security produces a report on card use. Any cards not used during that time period are reported to the company contact for clarification of the employee’s status. Hutchinson describes this as another facet of security’s proactive mission. “We’re not counting on our customers to give us this information,” he says. The result is a regularly updated card-management database that doesn’t leave active cards in the hands of former employees.

Tenant communications. Security officers interact with tenants on a daily basis, and contact between the security offices and tenants is frequent. Face-to-face meetings with the designated contacts are regularly arranged to discuss any security issues.

If a situation occurs that requires it, security holds meetings with all tenant contacts at the hotel. For example, in September 2005, Houston looked like it would take a direct hit from Hurricane Rita, one of the top-five most intense hurricanes on record. A meeting was held to explain what measures were being undertaken to secure and protect the property, when the buildings would be accessible and under what conditions, as well as other issues.

Security also works with tenants to arrange for and communicate with them about the security aspects of the special events regularly held on the Grand Plaza, including company parties, radio station promotional visits, and holiday events.

Compliance. In general, says Hutchinson, tenants of Greenway Plaza comply readily with security policies and procedures. For the few tenants who refuse to go along with the program, security is as flexible as it can be, but the department makes sure the tenant knows where the flexibility ends.

As an example, Hutchinson cites one long-time tenant company that refuses to have its employees photographed for ID badges. Hutchinson says this has been allowed, but he has made sure the tenant knows that if a major security incident occurs, the company’s employees will not receive any special treatment. “If the buildings are locked down, and you don’t have a Greenway Plaza ID with a photo, then you will wait in a long line, present your identification, be cross referenced on a master list, and it’s going to be a painful process,” he told them.

Other tenants have balked at twice-yearly fire drills. In this case, the drills are for fire code compliance and are not optional. Those who refuse are reported to the fire marshal.

The effectiveness of Greenway Plaza’s security program is clear when comparing crime statistics for the business campus to the surrounding area. For example, in 2005, Greenway Plaza had no reports of stolen automobiles and less than a dozen incidents of burgled vehicles; the police blotter indicated 40 to 50 of these crimes per month.

While stronger security measures have become a fundamental aspect of the commercial real estate industry since 9-11, tenants don’t want to be overburdened—physically or psychologically—by excess layers of security. They simply want to know, as Greenway tenants do, that the security team has carefully evaluated risks and is ready to respond to any type of situation. With their fears thus allayed, they can concentrate on business.

Houston’s Greenway Plaza includes ten office buildings ranging from five to 31 stories and totaling 4.3 million vertical-feet of space. The complex is watched over by a robust security and tenant-relations program.

The security hub is an around-the-clock command center to which is routed video from CCTV cameras, and information from alarms and access control card readers in the buildings’ base levels and garages. The command center also controls the intercom system throughout the complex.

The department staff includes a database administrator who handles all access control, camera, and technology issues; a project manager, to whom all the elements of the contract guard service report; and others who oversee training and scheduling for the 65 contract security officers. Additionally, the department hires about 65 off-duty police officers.

The security team responds to more than 200 emergencies in an average year, most of them fire and medical. Greenway Plaza is the designated facility for fire department high-rise training in Houston and has been staging training scenarios since 2002.

Each tenant company appoints a contact person to work with security on employee access rights and badging, compliance, parking, and other issues, such as preparations for an impending hurricane or planning for special events.

Security holds frequent meetings to get to know the tenant representatives, offers training to fire wardens, and consistently looks for new and improved ways to interact with the campus population of more than 12,000.

Ann Longmore-Etheridge is an associate editor of Security Management and editor of Dynamics.



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