The importance of security in a parking area cannot be overstated. Just one accident or attack inside a parking garage can have a devastating impact both in terms of physical harm to the victim and financial and reputational cost to the owner.
Unfortunately, many structures weren’t designed with security in mind. However, today there is no reason for any parking structure to be unsafe. There are numerous strategies and tools available to ensure that new structures can be secure and that older garages can be improved and made safer. While it’s true that some of these security tools can be costly, the cost of inaction can be infinitely greater.
There are two primary safety threats in a parking structure. One major threat is that of vehicles hitting pedestrians. The other is crime. Vsibility helps to reduce both threats. For example, lobbies leading to elevators should include as much glass as possible to improve visibility within. The same applies to stairwells.
Designers sometimes inadvertently create potential hiding places for attackers. These hiding places can be avoided with good lighting and attention to landscaping. Careful configuration of parking spaces and aisles reduces possible hiding places for criminals and enhances pedestrian space. The only entry points should be automobile entrances and pedestrian access to elevators and stairs.
In addition, access control, CCTV, and sound monitoring are other devices that can be incorporated to enhance the safety of any parking facility. The best option is to use fixed cameras, with fixed lenses, and a few cameras with tilt-zoom capability. Cameras should, however, be positioned to avoid direct bright sunlight over the course of the day, generally facing north or east. Entrances into parking structures should feature at least 60 foot candles of illumination to ease the transition from a bright exterior into the garage.
Richard C. (Dick) Rich, PE (professional engineer), is president of Rich and Associates. He is also president of Medpark Management, a company that manages parking facilities throughout the United States. A registered engineer, Rich pioneered many of the approaches that have become standard elements of parking design.