At The Intersection of Facilities & SecurityDoubling Down on Facility Safety and Risk Mitigation

At The Intersection of Facilities & Security
Doubling Down on Facility Safety and Risk Mitigation

When discussions about facilities safety and security arise, the good news is that both facilities and security teams can and should work closely together. Communications via mobile devices are recommended for both facility and security officials.

“On weekends, we have one custodian working and usually one district police officer, and that’s to cover three sites,” said Byron Woods, Dean of Facilities at College of the Sequoias. “If I’m out of town and a police officer responds to a fire alarm on one of the campuses and he doesn’t know where the panel is or how to turn it off, I can pull up the floor plan on my phone, click on my fire alarm panels and it’ll show me exactly where it’s at.”

Healthcare Security Professional Martin Green nailed it when he said, “We lock the doors. They fix the doors. We’re the eyes and ears for each other. We’re interdependent.”

At his hospital, facility and security teams work together almost every day for a variety of reasons. Both teams also train together.

“Security staff spend 90% of their day watching other people work. They notice inconsistencies and ways to improve efficiency,” said Houston T. DeFoe, Metro Public Safety Investigations. “Security personnel are usually onsite 24 hours per day. If an alarm or issue happens to a facility that does not have onsite security, an engineer typically must drive to the property in the middle of the night or on Christmas morning.”

What can facilities learn from security and vice or versa? 

Green’s security team must know the building’s layout, so when they hear a funny noise, they alert facilities, because that’s good for preventive maintenance.

“No one knows the property better than a facility engineer,” said DeFoe. “A lot of times, a property manager hires a security firm but cannot explain the need-to-know safety information about the property as thoroughly as an engineer.”

At Green’s hospital, front line workers from facilities and security teams don’t meet at each other’s meetings, but management teams do. Either security reports to maintenance or both teams report to the same VP.

One example of working together? Green suggested installing a security camera at a new area that’s being renovated.  

In the best-case scenarios, security officers are checking fire extinguisher dates, pump rooms, locking down elevators or dealing with trapped individuals,” said DeFoe.

Facilities teams are typically responsible for maintenance of emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers.

“It’s absolutely critical that security departments know what’s behind the doors or up above the ceilings,” said Green.

One recent trend that’s putting both facility and security teams are ransomware attacks.

“Healthcare is getting hit hard via email, spam, and phishing,” said Green.

“Technology lives in servers inside the building, so facilities need to be aware of ransomware attacks as building automation systems may be vulnerable,” he added.

 Another issue of concern for both sides is workplace violence.

“Workplace violence is at an all-time high in healthcare,” said Green. “Healthcare staff are attacked daily, hit, spit, by the public. Violent incidents involving families fighting in waiting rooms are not uncommon. We’re faced with emotionally charged situations, with Covid being a contributing factor.”

Both teams need to be aware of these situations and alert each other.

DeFoe shared his experience working with a client in an industrial area of Kansas City. The onsite management team for the facility, their security managers, and neighboring businesses all meet with the local police department once a year to discuss crime patterns or concerns. 

“A door or gate that needs to be closed after each use can make a big difference,” he said.  “There are many angles that need to be discussed. A facility engineer or manager might know how the property works a certain way, but they need to also consider how or why they may be vulnerable.”

He added that a lot of times, the police know nothing about a facility and fire departments have limited information so all that information passed off from the facilities team to the security team could really come in handy when no one else is at the property except for security personnel during an event.  

Facility and security team checks and balances can make a huge difference whether a facility uses onsite security or a patrol service. 

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