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You may be the world’s most careful driver but how sure are you that the driver in front of you will not bend down to retrieve his phone, realize he is now too close to the car in front of him and break hard, cause you to ram into him and the people behind you to ram into you? This happened to me and it can very well happen to you! Will your safe driving skills be enough to protect you on the road where other drivers and their carelessness impacts your fate?

Managing security in multi-tenant facilities is a lot like driving on a busy highway – just like you get all the good mileage you can and gets you to your destination faster, managing security here gets you the big pay scales, opportunity to network amongst the industry key players, the exciting training and development opportunities, business travel, take home vehicles, big fat year end bonuses and much like the highway, gets you to your desired destination in terms of promotions much faster!

However, along with all the perks comes the nightmare of sharing space in a bigger structure with other companies and their employees that do not follow your organization’s security guidelines. You become exposed to many threats and risks that would never be present had you a separate place to call home. Does this mean you pack up and move to a new facility? Well, if your organization can afford to, why not? But you don’t always have to! There are ways you can make the best of this situation and continue working right where you are!

Let’s say you are managing security for a multi national corporation that is housed

Bahria Complex - Karachi

in a very prominent landmark commercial tower such as the Bahria Complex in Karachi. Your boss is expecting a very important client to stop over at 3pm on a Friday afternoon. You have done what you do every time this happens; made sure arrangements are made with administration, have him signed in, meeting room has been checked for any safety/security hazards, external security has been given the license plate number for authorized access to drop off client in front of the entrance, lobby security has been notified of the visitor and an identified member of the security team will be on stand by to receive the guest at the lobby registration desk 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time.

The problem begins when the client arrives half an hour early and the post-Friday prayer traffic rush has just started! The client is now waiting in a line in front of the revolving door, with everyone from the jerk from the next office to the smelly guy from 3rd floor in front of him. What’s worse, he is completely exposed! He gets in to the building safe but now is met with yet another line in front of the elevator – what do you do? Tell him “sorry but you are 30 minutes early and our guy was going to be down there waiting for you in 15 minutes!”? Yeah right!

The ability to analyze a situation that has not yet happened, come up with as many worse case scenarios for this one situation and their solutions is a skill that not many security professionals are good at. Some security managers now hire staff that has the only task of coming up with these worse case scenarios and solutions for tackling them. Maybe if this would have been the case with the scenario above, your boss could have been advised against a meeting at that time on that day or maybe an alternate venue could have been chosen to avoid any mishaps altogether, given that Fridays in Pakistan are normally very unpredictable and avoiding them altogether is a very good way to go.

The level of security one can achieve depends on how much authority the person has over the facility. Sure, east wing on the 22nd floor is yours but how do you cover everything else directly above or below you?

Here are a couple of things that can be done to overcome this problem. An integrated security design for your facility that is aligned with every tenant as well as the building management can be a great start. From the final  approach towards your property all the way to the roof and in some cases, even the buildings right next to you should be on a somewhat same page as you. Access security, elevators, hallways, fire escapes, emergency exits, parking areas and the roof have to be all under one security umbrella.

When asked to share top concerns when managing security in a multi-tenant facility, one security professional; Brendan Keane, Chief of Staff for Homeland Security Department at the Long Island Business Institute stated “Communication is one of the top concerns. While this may be an obstacle within any organization, depending on size and complexity, it usually is an issue when sharing commercial space. My organization conducts exercises that are not required by the other tenants in the building. It is imperative to communicate with the neighbors beforehand to ensure them that all is well and indeed it is just a drill”.

When I asked Brendan what methods he uses to communicate their emergency drills and exercises with other tenants of the facility and whether he gives them the option to participate? He stated..

“We communicate with the building management beforehand through meetings. Even with this, we communicate the day of the exercise personally to each neighbor in our building. This may not work at larger facilities, which I suggest a security manager should have a contact in each company, whether by e-mail or phone, to whom they can share the exercise plans”.

Avari Towers Karachi

Hotels are another nightmare for businesses to be housed in these days, especially when they are on the top of any terrorist threat lists. A hotel if attacked will not only cause your staff and clients a lot of injuries and in most cases deaths, it will shut or slow your operations for a very long time.

If not a terrorist threat, since hotels are centrally powered and utilities are all shared, you could be left to deal with problems such as utility breakdowns that are not even in your control. Whether it is Unilever at Avari Towers Karachi or an international NGO in Serena Hotel Islamabad, they are all relying heavily at the security being implemented by the management and in order to remain safe, they should have a say in how things are managed all the way from the gate to the underground parking garages.

The problem is that location is key when it comes to housing businesses as they say something about the reputation and prestige your business holds and famous

Marriott Blast - Islamabad

landmarks make it easy for your customers to find you. On the flip side, the more famous the building, the better target it makes. A prime example of this is 20th Sept 2008, Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was attacked by a suicide bomber who drove a truck packed with explosives into its main gate and strategically detonated two bombs for maximum casualties. Not only did the hotel suffer in terms of countless lives lost, people injured, property damaged to ruins but a very prominent business building right next to it suffered heavily as well.

In case you are a person assigned with security for an organization that is based in a building such as a hotel or a very famous landmark tower, it would be wise to look at the whole picture and the bits and pieces around it. Look not only at what is going on once you enter the facility grounds, but what is outside and around it.

  • Are there dangerous intersections famous for accidents and hit and runs?
  • Are there any traffic bottlenecks that could leave staff members unprotected and exposed to external threats?
  • Is your facility on or close to a route frequented by VIP movements?
  • What kind of guests usually stay at the hotel? Are they political or diplomatic?
  • Do people protest and riot around the vicinity?
  • What other businesses are operating inside and outside the hotel?
  • Would the hotel be open to sharing some details of sensitive/important guests at their facility that could jeopardize your safety and work with you to implement protective measures or simply just give you a heads up?

Aside from questions like the ones above, you have to ask yourself if you have a system in place to audit and gage the level of security that the facility (management) has in place. Have you made an effort to communicate with your counterparts in other organizations that are in the building with you to establish a common security program that works for everyones safety and security and not just yours?

Initiating an awareness program is also another method you can use to get everyone on board. It could be something like the ‘See Something Say Something‘ campaign launched in the USA where your staff, neighbors and even visitors can keep a vigilant eye out for you and you can do the same for them. If the finance guy from the 5th floor sees a member of your organization walking out with something he is not supposed to, he could tell you and in turn, act as a security guard that you do not even pay, the entire building becomes your extended department!

This type of a strategy only works if everyone is on board so the better your awareness and information dissemination is, the better the chances that more people will come along with you. Make them feel that this is something they need, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your sales and marketing folks and work with them to get some good copy-writing done and turn this program into a ‘must have’ for the entire building that your sales staff can help you sell.

Security Managers from other businesses in your facility may (hopefully) be keeping some sort of records of incidents or mishaps that occur during their watch. From vandalizing property, office theft, elevator assault, mugging in the parking lots or simply a case of faulty wiring that has or could cause electric fire. These are all pieces of very useful information that could be put together in an overall facility risk assessment. How about starting a centralized database where everyone can access it and feed their information so that a review can take place quarterly and numbers can be analyzed so preventive and corrective measures are put in place.

Another big problem with sharing a building is that your emergency plans are not the same as the organizations around you. You could have the best evacuation plan in the world but if other organizations have something different or worse, don’t have a plan at all, your people will evacuate perfectly out of their spaces and right into screaming chaos! Get other security and safety managers in the building together and share with them your plans for evacuation; shelter in place; lock downs; supplies, etc! Try to get others to share their plans and help them develop one if they don’t have a plan of their own. Each organization can even start a funding system where every organization in the building puts in a fixed amount every month to pool in their resources and equip the building with emergency supplies, equipments and trainings.

The point of all this is that working in a multi-tenant facility does not always have to be a nightmare; it can work to your benefit if approached strategically. It can do more good for everyone than maybe it would if it was just your organization. Different organizations mean diverse group of security and safety experts and greater funding. Use it to your advantage rather than letting it cause harm.

If you would like us to design or consult on an inter-organizational awareness plan for your facility, design a customized facility safety and security database or help audit your present facility security and give you an outsiders view, give us a call or write to us and we would be glad to speak with you right away.

Stay Well – Stay Safe!

N Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant
AfterShock-CEM
C: +92-341-2020-359      
Skype: aftershock-cem                                                                                                Email: nkhan@aftershock-cem.com
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