According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Commercial Facilities Sector-Specific Plan, there are approximately 740,000 commercial office buildings in the US, providing 12 billion square feet of space to roughly 29 million workers. With that much real estate, property owners and managers are constantly held accountable for a number of services to ensure a safe work environment for their tenants, such as regular structural maintenance. But when it comes to active shooter incidents, there is often tension surrounding who is responsible for what: is the tenant responsible for personnel safety or is the owner/operator responsible? Because of the nature of life threatening issues like active shooters, a shared responsibility is the answer.
Increasing Tenant Safety
A recent FBI study of active shooter incidents occurring from 2000-2013 revealed the majority of incidents (45.6%) take place in commercial settings. As such, building owners and property managers really have the greatest responsibility in protecting tenants’ lives since they control the physical environment. Implementing and strengthening policies that reduce or prevent unauthorized access to the building can drastically increase tenant safety.
Another reason for implementing practices that increase tenant safety is reduced recovery costs. The recovery costs for building owners, managers, and employees from workplace violence incidents is quite substantial—nearly $5 billion in direct and indirect costs, not to mention the impact on the lives of your tenants and their families. These costs are associated with replacing personnel, damaged property, and administrative resources, as well as possible litigation. Investing in ways to mitigate damage incurred through active shooter incidents will cost less than the alternative.
Since perimeter access is a direct building responsibility, having strong access control measures is important and can be viewed as a first line of defense in protecting tenants from active shooter incidents. Some of these measures include installing alarms, CCTV, and access card readers, along with employing security personnel, which will increase the detection of an active shooter on the premises. Other security measures are:
- Tenant Communications and Education—Having a means to communicate emergency notifications to tenants using pre-planned messages can quicken response times to active shooters, adding valuable time to help tenants get to safety. But tenant communications is only part of the process; educating tenants on what to do should they receive an emergency notification from the building will also help them react quickly.
- Emergency Response Program—A full emergency response program identifying likely risks to your facilities, how to respond to those threats, and what steps are needed to recover will further assist in increasing your tenants’ safety.
One important aspect of a full emergency response program is an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), which determines key responsibilities during an emergency event. To learn more about EAPs, what they include, and why you need one, click the “Register Now” button to register for The Importance of Emergency Action Plans for Commercial Real Estate Professionals webinar. Hear from and interact with Certified Safety Professional and Occupation Health and Safety Technologist Jace Guerin and Training and Development expert Robin Guerin during this free webinar on Thursday, September 10, 2014 from 2pm to 3pm.
Marlia Fontaine-Weisse is the Content Manager for Preparis.