High Stakes for High-Rise Security and Safety

The global image of every major urban area throughout the world is shaped and characterized by the tall and dynamic structures that pierce the city skyline. And because husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons spend their days within these structures, protecting human lives is paramount to successful high-rise security. The recent fire that engulfed a 63-story hotel in Dubai on New Year’s Eve stands as a real-world example of the dangers high-rise buildings, their managers, and their occupants face every day.

It All Starts with Access Control

No matter how tall or big a building may be, the #1 security and safety concern is controlling access to the property. Access control is not only about people entering the site, but it also concerns vehicles, mail, packages, deliveries, and equipment. Different types of people — residents, employees, contractors, clients, visitors, and service personnel — can be separated by their respective reasons for requiring access to the building.

A truly holistic approach to protecting the building and the people within it addresses all access control areas, individually evaluates each entry point, and offers specifically tailored measures to control access. While an ID badging system will filter and identify individuals once they are on the property, the loading dock for entry of deliveries and trucks and the mailroom used to screen packages require other means to control access. Some of the more sophisticated access control measures are x-ray screening, metal detection, and biometric readers.

Let’s Talk About Hardening the Target

Security- and safety-related policies and procedures, such as visitor management and mail screening, can assist in mitigating risk to a high-rise building along with these tangible items that can harden a venue:
• Property barriers
• Vehicle barricades
• Blast resistant window film
• Electronic locking devices
• Signage
• Card access systems
• Intrusion detection systems
• Video surveillance systems
• Lighting

These examples offer different options for you to consider when crafting the security posture for the property. Highly visible signs that inform visitors of the building rules, list prohibited firearms, or point to an emergency exit can increase safety and provide cost-effective solutions. More expensive items such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) are typically planned and allocated within a security budget. Regardless of cost, these areas need to be addressed to harden the property.

How Do I Escape From the Penthouse?

One of the greatest challenges of effective high-rise security involves an emergency evacuation from a floor higher than a rescue ladder can reach. Since most hook and ladders cannot go above the 10th floor, a well-designed and continuously trained emergency evacuation plan combats this logistical issue as well as other challenges inherent to building security. All occupants should know what to do in an evacuation and where to go regardless of where they are in the building. You must be committed to education and dissemination of critical information, such as the location of the emergency exits and shelters areas, if evacuation is not possible.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Additionally, you need to follow fire codes, test smoke detectors, conduct fire drills, assign emergency roles, designate floor monitors, select searchers, and coordinate with first responders. You must make current rosters of building personnel available, including handicapped and elderly individuals, and publicize basic fire safety “don’ts” like using an elevator, moving to the roof, or breaking a window. Be sure to recognize that information is your great ally—the more that you can provide, the greater the potential for a safe outcome.