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Security tops list of office building owners and operators

NEW YORK — The reopening of One Liberty Square this week also opened a host of new building security concerns. The Brookfield Properties office building, which is located across the street from the former site of the World Trade Center, suffered façade damage following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the towers. Tge building now operates under heightened security, according to a Brookfield brochure on the buildings new procedures and policies.

Heightened security is the new maxim of building owners and property managers in New York and across the United States. Assessing security needs has become a top priority, according to security panel experts speaking at a security seminar hosted by Insignia/ESG on Oct. 24.

"Since Sept. 11, we’ve had literally hundreds of calls from existing clients to new clients," said Stephen Howell, senior managing director at New York-based Kroll Security Services Group. Clients want to know everything about security and they want it implemented today, he added.

Security has become a major priority of high-rise building owners and operators. "Open" buildings, which allow anyone to enter the building, will become less common, said David Aggleton, president of locally based Aggleton & Associates, an independent security consulting and systems design firm. "The closed building is becoming a reality."

Aggleton said that prior to Sept. 11 two high-rise building clients had not decided whether their building would "open" or "closed," but they are now seriously considering a "closed" building due to the terrorist attacks.

But even with security measures in place there isn’t a security silver bullet. According to Aggleton, the World Trade Center complex was the largest closed building complex in the world. "Anything you install will protect you against the majority of instances, but not everything," he said.

Building and tenant security

During the panel discussion, bomb threats, anthrax scares and hiring contract personnel were among the concerns voiced by building owners. Tenants want answers from owners about buildings’ contingency plans — schemes that seemed highly unlikely a few months ago. Owners want information to secure the building and allay their tenants’ fears.

Gerald O’Rourke, president of security management and consulting firm Strategic Controls Inc., said building owners and operators should first assess current security procedures and policies. This could mean hiring a security firm, or contacting the local police department’s crime prevention units and asking for a security assessment.

Each building owner should also assess the threat level of the building. Is the building a landmark or icon? Who are the tenants?

"No one set of standards can protect buildings," O’Rourke said. "There’s no such thing as 100% security." Regardless, setting up security serves as a deterrent. The more obstacles to discourage a criminal the more likely they are to target the building down the street.

Howell listed several strategies for safeguarding employees and property. The primary goals? To quell anxieties, protect lives and assets and ensure business continuity. Kroll Security is working with The Port Authority group to develop short-term and long-term security solutions. Short-term solutions might involve hiring additional manpower, security guards and requiring new badges. Howell added that tenants need to see that everything possible is being done to protect their safety.

In addition, Howell said that companies should have a comprehensive crisis plan in place that has been tested. Brookfield Properties had a comprehensive evacuation plan set up, so when the first plane hit the first WTC tower, tenants and employees were evacuated with no loss of life during the disaster.

After a building has security controls in place, the work doesn’t end. "Ensure the security you’ve got in place works," said Howell. "This will give a morale boost to the people running the security."

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