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Impact of enhanced threat perception on FM services

The recent terror attacks in Mumbai are a stark reminder that we are living in an uncertain condition where motivated and determined elements can wreak havoc in our daily lives, resulting in considerable loss of life and property. From here on, security of workplaces and buildings will take on an entirely different meaning, with a greater emphasis on preventing possible security breach and quicker response times. While the government enhances the capabilities of the law and order agencies to fight and prevent such attacks, building owners will equally be keen to safeguard their assets through available means.

Professional facility management services cover the entire gamut of support services required in an office or building space, including security and risk management. A facility manager is strategically poised to render the first and onsite assistance to the occupants by virtue of his/her knowledge of the building or work space and available support systems such as emergency aid and evacuation routes. There will however be a need for the facility manager to have a critical assessment of the building security and integrate the systems and equipment for security with the overall building design and operations. Some of the areas where FM services will see a paradigm shift will be:

Physical Security: Traditional security will give way to adaptation of state-of-the-art, real time security systems supporting the facility manager in early threat perception. Graded entry barriers will need to be added on to existing buildings, with suitable means of quickly shutting down entry/exit points. Facility managers will play a greater role in building design from the security standpoint as they can bring in their operational knowledge to the drawing board to optimise security parameters. Remote control rooms, with multiple repeater stations will enable the facility managers to monitor sensitive areas from different vantage points. Examples of advanced gadgetry currently in the market are listed in the table below.

Integration of systems: The facility manager will need to integrate all core building functions into a unified system to better efficiency and control. The areas where integration would be implemented would include access control, asset tracking, IT systems and communication systems.

Personal verification: Majority of security staff as well as facility management staff deployed in buildings and offices is outsourced. Enhanced levels of screening as well as background checks of outsourced staff will be effective in deterring potential trouble makers from indulging in acts of sabotage.

Evacuation planning: One of the most important roles of a facility manager is evacuating occupants in case of any emergency. Detailed and up-to-date evacuation plans, supported by regular training of facility management staff in evacuation will help in minimising loss. More than 11,000 people were evacuated from the World Trade Towers in the 9/11 attack within an hour of the commencement of the attack, thanks to effective planning.

Business continuity planning: Business must go on, and hence, facility managers will be called upon to plan for continuing the organisation’s business, even in times of disruption of services due to terror attacks. Facility management professionals will have to closely interact with risk management teams and be proactive. Multiple command and control stations and remote data storage sites are part of the risk mitigation strategies that the facility manager would have to take.

Cost Impact: Revamping of security services and integrating the multiple deterrent systems with facility management services will have a cost attached to it. Advanced equipment, improved training of ground level staff and additional levels of security will all require financial inputs which will increase the facility operating costs for both building owners as well as occupiers. The impact would be most in retail spaces where the public access is higher and threat perceptions large. Increase in common area maintenance (CAM) charges for occupiers will be seen. An increase of 10-25% in operation costs are estimated in account of these expenses. Professional facility management organisations will play a pivotal role in optimising cost in the process of enhancing security levels. These firms will aid building owners in reassessing their current security levels and suggest, as well as implement automation systems that offset the need for physical security, reviewing evacuation plans and retrofitting systems to support the new requirements.

Security standards the way forward: Currently, there are no standards in the Indian market to assess the security preparedness of buildings. The ISO 17799 standard covers various aspects of building security from planning to personnel security and information security. The Building Security Council of the US has a rating system for assessing the security preparedness of buildings on the lines of the LEED certification for construction. Facility management agencies will need to adopt these global standards, tailor them to suit the Indian conditions and requirements and implement them through a nodal body. This will allow building owners to benchmark their security preparedness and also allow occupiers to choose buildings that meet their security objectives. The facility management agencies will in turn support both owners and occupiers in furthering their security responsibilities.

Bringing in technology into the security arena and integrating it with the enterprise wide systems used by facility management agencies will pave the way for safer work environments in the future.

Aneesh Kadyan
Associate Director – Asset Services,
CB Richard Ellis

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