Multitenant facilities, especially those with multiple floors, offer continuous security challenges related to access control and emergency evacuations. Security directors and managers must be ready to work with their colleagues, from facilities to maintenance to the landlord to the local fire marshal, to keep plans up to date and evolving to face emerging threats, including terrorism.
Building owners and managers have an “invitee relationship” with the various people who use their facilities, including tenants, employees, visitors, vendors, and the public. Like a hotel, they are invited to use the building and have an expectation of safety and security beyond just a basic level. The facility’s safety and security stakeholders must collaborate on the building’s emergency action plan (EAP). Per the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the EAP must cover the “designated actions that employers and employees must take to ensure safety from fire and other emergencies.”
A well-crafted EAP must be available to the safety and security professionals connected to the building and should be on hand for the floor wardens, receptionists, and first responders. Besides fire responses, the EAP must cover evacuation procedures; the roles and duties of the designated safety personnel (floor wardens or those with similar roles who have been briefed and trained on a regular basis); updates to the plan based on new additions to local or state building or fire codes; floor plans and evacuation routes for the floor wardens and the first responders to use; exterior assembly locations; any potential or designated “safe rooms” or “shelter in place” rooms to be used for weather emergencies, hazards around the exterior, potential terrorism events, or active shooter situations; a process to review employee and visitor headcounts to account for all who have entered and exited the building during drills or real emergencies; evacuation procedures for disabled people and other building users who may have mobility issues, like young children or the elderly (a full-service family medical clinic is one example); and a procedure for how and when the employees or users can reenter the building after the all-clear signal from the facility safety teams, security teams, or fire or law enforcement.
While most building tenants and users have an expectation that a fire evacuation and firefighting response protocol is in place, they may not think much about the need for other forms of evacuations related to a rare but potentially catastrophic event like an active shooter, a bomb threat aimed at the facility, or even a hazardous materials spill created by a maintenance employee or outside vendor or contractor. The EAP must address these, along with what public address messages will be used and what, if any, code words or phrases will be used. The EAP response to threats shouldn’t focus only on bomb threats but also on who to notify and what to do about suspicious packages, suspicious people, and phone or cyber threats aimed at the facility or its occupants.
Even the best-written EAP will die on the shelf if it’s not updated, discussed, trained, and used on a regular basis—not just during yearly drills.