Uncertainties plaguing Facility Management
“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”
As a new year rolls in, there are an increasing number of uncertainties plaguing facility management and facility managers. The Covid-19 pandemic, since its arrival and subsequent aftermath, turned the entire facility management industry upside down.
Many facilities were shut down as the management companies were left with nothing to manage, because employers allowed workers to work remotely. Some employers went a step further: allowing some staff to work remotely on a permanent basis. This upset the expectations of many building owners and managers.
Some cities, especially the urban ones, were in the middle of building booms, with new office and apartment buildings sprouting up all over. That is, until the pandemic. Building owners anticipated an influx of eager tenants. No one dreamed that managers would struggle to fill these new buildings.
Many other things changed as well. The past year witnessed considerable unrest in many spheres. That unrest found its way into buildings and facilities.
Building security becomes more pressing now because those facilities which typically had no more than a couple of security guards on duty throughout the day, now need to be proactive in establishing stronger defensive measures to protect facility occupants, technology, electronics, mechanical infrastructure, and property. While security will be emphasized in this piece, a discussion of remote working needs to be examined first, to see how it will be amiably normalized for building owners and facility managers.
Impact of Remote Working
Remote work is not expected to last, to the relief of building owners, at east not as extensively as initially feared. American businessman Michael Bloomberg has observed that “Everyone, including employees is now realizing that they are losing touch with each other and the company; Remote, permanent remote working, simply will not work.” Many business owners around the world have come to similar conclusions. They believe employers will permit remote working for workers more of the time, but not all the time. The prediction is that as 2022 moves forward, more and more employers will want to see more of their employees back in the office on a regular basis.
Assessment of Building Security
Building security may be a longer-lasting challenge. Evaluation of the current situation as regards security is a pressing task for facility managers. It is easy to relax if the facility is situated in a comfortable, suburban, or rural area, but in today’s world, what can happen to one facility in one location of the country can just as likely occur to another facility in another location. This is a reflection of the times, and facility managers would do well not to cop-out and take risks.
Here are some critical steps facility managers can take when it comes to making an accurate assessment of current building security:
Crime Stats: No facility manager can assume the facility and property is safe just because it is located in an affluent area. Though properties located in less affluent areas and areas notorious for heavy crime are more at risk for petty vandalism, street riots, break-ins, robberies, and other unsavoury activities. Therefore, evaluating the surrounding demographics is a critical issue.
Access: In times of emergency, the time it would take for the responders to reach the property needs to be calculated. The different times of the day might affect this calculation. For example, it would take emergency personnel far longer to reach a facility in a state of emergency during rush hour than on a Sunday afternoon. This needs to be borne in mind when evaluating access.
Appearance of Building: In this case, looks count. A facility in poor condition, even one looking distressed, in viewed as a better target to unsavory characters, and is more likely to be compromised than a well-kept one. In today’s times, upkeep becomes a safety measure.
Emergency Preparedness: The facility manager must not wait to put plans in place should there be a fire, holdup, terrorist attack, or other emergency incident. There should be a formal evacuation program in place and a list of steps building users and occupants should take in an emergency. That is the essence of emergency preparedness.
The Uncertainty Element: The element of “what if”, if not included during the designing of a building security assessment, is not complete. It is myopic to only consider present conditions. Many “what if” questions must be asked: “What if members of staff were threatened?” “What if the facility was at grave risk of a cyber-attack?” These questions and many more imaginative scenarios must be considered when it comes to making building security assessment. Digging deeper, this process can easily become more complicated.
A risk management firm might be needed to consult for the facility to complete the security evaluation. They do this by bringing a new pair of “eyes”, who can easily identify security concerns or risk areas which were not originally considered.
Looking back decades ago, the security situation in the country, while not ideal, was not as dire as it is now. Lenin may have been right. There were decades in which nothing happened. Recently we have lived through weeks when decades happened.
If the year 2020 and 2021 taught anything, it is that building security is something all managers must focus on going forward.
Building Security Terms Useful for Facility Managers
- Outer Perimeter Security: Identified weak points from defining the actual property lines, where someone could enter the facility with malevolent intent.
- Natural Access Security: Building users can be guided to specific entries and exits into a facility with the use of landscaping. It will also discourage intruders.
- Inner Perimeter Security: These include locks, inner alarm systems, building user access control systems, which can be regarded as steps taken inside the facility to keep it safe. It also involves the use of keys which are only carried by authorized personnel, making it hard for intruders to make copies
- Territorial Enforcement: Intruders and unsavory characters have a hard time blending in when building occupants and users develop a keen sense of who belongs in the facility and who doesn’t. The legitimate occupants should be encouraged to report intruders on sight.