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NEW YORK CITY-Don’t ask how much the industry has learned about building security as a result of Sept. 11. We did, in our latest Quick Survey, and the results weren’t pretty.

In fact, a large majority of survey participants–some 59.6%–rate their building’s security as only adequate, while 20.2% judge in-place safety measures as nothing more than “window-dressing to appease tenants.” Some 10.4% rate their stop-gap security measures as “lacking where it matters most.” Only 9.8% of our poll-takers think their building systems are thorough.

Even when we move beyond the inadequacies of individual assets, lackluster security performance seems to plague commercial buildings in general, and 63% say that most lobby security systems are effective only some of the time. Another 21% believe that building systems were not at all effective, while only 16% report that current systems are effective in most cases.

Oddly, 59% of our respondents claim to have beefed up their security systems in the wake of Sept. 11, begging the question of how inadequate those safety measures must have been prior to the attacks. Only 41% say they did not increase their security safeguards.

The lack of performance of building security systems may also be a function of the belief–increasingly vocalized within the management community–that security is “not our job.” In fact, while 57% of our participants state that tenant safety is “absolutely” the responsibility of building management, a surprisingly large contingent–43%–say it is not.

Asked who would be responsible if not the managing agent, 66% answer the tenants themselves, while 20% indicate local law enforcement officials and 14% federal agencies.

“The building is responsible for the first level of security,” commented one writer. “That would be in the lobby or the garage. The tenant is responsible thereafter.”

So, if management is hands-off the problem, it follows that tenants should foot the bill for any security upgrade–although most respondents (59%) said the pass-alongs should not be disbursed in equal measure. Only 41% thought that costs should be cut evenly straight across the board–regardless of the tenant’s degree of security need.

But if management can take a hands-off approach when the alarms sound, many of our respondents feel that the agent is responsible at least for thorough training before the fact. The manager should “establish contingency plans, with drills and practices, and educate tenants,” wrote one commentator.

“I think it comes down to a lot of training on what to do and what not to do,” agreed another participant. “Actually running through procedures on how to evacuate a building, where to go when you are outside and what steps you should take for the individual’s safety when you evacuate a building or area. Other training should be given on what to look for prior to an emergency and what to do if you see something suspicious.”

Of course, no level of security can qualm the fears of those naturally prone to be ill-at-ease. As one nail-biting writer pointed out: “If a terrorist wants to get into a building, he will find a way.”

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