by Adia Walker / Published October 2014
Life safety measures, such as alarm systems and access control points, are important elements of a security operation for any community association. Various hazards exist in all neighborhoods, but with some careful planning and diligent implementation, the risks can be reduced. When associations take action to protect the lives of those who live within their community, residents will feel secure, knowing that their safety is a priority.
PREVENT VERSUS REACT
You may have heard the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure;” while we don’t plan to use any scales to weigh the merits of this saying, it does bring up a valid point. “What typically happens in a lot of communities is that after someone breaksin and steals a car, the management then realizes they should have had working security cameras in place,” says Jason Bell, Operations Manager for Royce Integrated Solutions.
Instead of waiting to respond to an incident when it occurs, Bell suggests investing time in the planning of prevention strategies that could strengthen the security of your community. “Management companies, maintenance staff, and members of the association should be in-volved in the planning,” says Bell. He suggests that the group first spend time defining assets, conducting risk assessments, and creating “what if” scenarios to identify areas of vulnerability. “It’s important to set specific goals about what you want to accomplish and when,” Bell says. Armed with this information, it is then time to select the systems you would liketo put in place and work with the vendor(s) for successful implementation.
Whether you are installing fencing, lighting, security cameras, burglary alarms, pest control measures, fire alarm systems, or access control mechanisms, Bell advises against cutting corners in order to save a few dollars. In addition to the fines and penalties that can result from not complying with codes and regulations, a community association can even be held liable for certain incidents that occur on your property. “Security standards are in place to protect people,” says Bell. “For example, safety devices should be installed on security gates to prevent injury. If a person who is trying to break into your community attemptsto enter a closing gate after a resident and gets stuck in a gate that doesn’thave the proper measures in place to prevent injury, you could be liable.”
Mirella H., Sales Manager for The Monitoring Center, advises community associations to carefully research the companies they plan to utilize. “You want a company that employs technicians who are certified, trained, and experienced professionals,” she says. Other helpful research tactics include checking for customer reviews, certifications awarded by professional associations, and the availability of technical and operations support. A company that uses the latest technology, invests in training their employees, is awarded prestigious certifications, and offers 24/7 support, will probably be a good choice.
In addition to careful planning and successful implementation of proper solutions through the right companies, ongoing maintenance is required to ensure that your investments are serving the purpose for which they were intended. “You should set up a monthly maintenance agreement with the company that includes servicing and testing of all equipment,” says Bell. “You should also hold weekly or monthly meetings to go over the protocols that have been put in place and make sure that staff knows how to use the equipment.” It should be everyone’s job to keep an eye on the life safety measures that have been implemented in the community. Residents should know how to report malfunctioning lights, gates, alarms, and other equipment.
ALARM MONITORING TIPS
Alarm monitoring services can provide a quick response to potential threats, peace of mind for management and residents, and even discounts on insurance premiums. “A security guard can’t be everywhere at once,” says Mirella. “Having an alarm monitoring service is a good idea.” She provides the following tips to help ensure you are getting the best possible protection.
• Visually check your alarm system daily to see if the maintenance light is on—if it is, immediately call your provider to troubleshoot the issue.
• Consider adding additional services to the standard burglary alarm model. Some companies offer medical monitoring, panic alarm monitoring, carbon monoxide monitoring, and fire monitoring.
• Call your monitoring service once a week, or at the very least, once a month, to perform a free test.
Always call for a test before you go on vacation.
• If you change your phone company, notify your monitoring service, as this will affect the monitoring process.
• Always arm your alarm system when you leave the premises, even if you will only be away for a short time.
• Properly display your alarm window stickers and lawn signs provided by your security provider.
CRIME PREVENTION TIPS
The Monitoring Center offers the following tips to help keep your community members safe:
• Lock-Up—Always make sure that all doors and win-dows are properly closed and locked at night and when you’re away from home. All doors should have a deadbolt; a strike plate is also advisable. Secure your sliding doors with a metal rod or piece of plywood in the track.
• Light-Up—Timers work in creating the illusion that you are home. Use outdoor lights with timers or motion-activated lights. Light is a burglar’s worst enemy.
• Clean-Up—Do not allow overgrown trees and shrubs to conceal a burglar while he is trying to break into your home. Tree branches near your home can provide a “ladder” to the upper-level windows of your home.
• Going on Vacation—Try to have a neighbor or friend collect your mail and news-papers. Never leave any details on your answering machine about where you have gone and/or how long you will be there. Neighborhood Watch really works, so if you have one, advise them you will not be home. Notify your monitoring center that you are going on vacation.
A FEW MORE HINTS
• Install fences, screen doors, and window screens.
• Install peepholes and door chains where appropriate around your home.
• Never open the door to any strangers.
Life safety should be a priority for all community associations who want to protect their residents and staff while providing a quality environment for people to work and live. Proper preventative actions, careful planning, thorough implementation, and continual maintenance can reduce threats to your community while building peace of mind for your association. n