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Terrorism Surveillance: Keep Your Eyes Open

Monday, May 31st, 2010
Report suspicious activity

Report suspicious activity

Part 2 in a Series

A recent report by the Department of Homeland Security stated that attempted attacks on U.S. soil are at an all-time high. As a result, participation of private industry in surveillance has never been more important. The Obama Administration recently released its latest national security doctrine, which emphasizes the need for monitoring potential threats to United States-based targets.

The installation of CCTV Security Systems is becoming more widespread throughout urban and suburban areas, creating a “net” of coverage to aid in both terrorism prevention and speedy apprehension of suspects. As a property owner, you might consider installing a security system and establishing relationships with neighboring property managers as well as law enforcement.

Our post today explores best practices for terrorism surveillance, including how to scan for and identify suspicious activity and what to do with the information you gather.

Security System Installation

  • Select a professional CCTV installation company, which can advise you on the number and location of security cameras.
  • New camera systems offer DVR, which affords clients improved image storage and faster law enforcement review.

But the best camera system in the world is useless unless someone “knows what to look for.” Once your surveillance systems are in place, it’s important to educate your staff about how to identify potential threats.

Suspicious Activity could constitute “casing” of the building. Look for:

  • Individuals walking by the building repeatedly with no apparent purpose
  • Vehicles parked in unauthorized areas including loading zones or garage entrances
  • People trying to access restricted areas of the building

IT and information-related issues can be signs that your building is being targeted:

  • Terrorists who are scouting your location may do research. Be wary of:
    • Phone calls to your building asking for detailed tenant information or maps of the property
    • Website visitors from foreign internet connections repeatedly viewing your building’s website

Activities that could indicate an attack is imminent. Watch for:

  • Vehicles that come very close to the building past security barriers and then quickly depart
  • Individuals checking watches/cell phones frequently, and maintaining contact with other people who are located in various areas of the property

Cooperation with law enforcement and neighboring businesses:

  • Once security systems are in place, contact your local FBI office and police department to inform them of the system coverage and your willingness to help identify potential threats by reporting suspicious activity and sharing your surveillance footage.
  • Work with other business owners to discuss their surveillance tactics and share information about individuals or vehicles that have been behaving suspiciously.

With any complex problem designed to identify and prevent terrorism, cooperation is key. In the Times Square attempted bombing, a major lead about the bomber’s identity was obtained not from Times Square cameras but from shopping mall surveillance video that showed someone test-driving a suspicious vehicle. With a surveillance system in place, you can help foil terrorist attempts and play an important role in maintaining safety in your community.

Visit us next week for another post in our series about terrorism surveillance. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Preventing Terrorist Attacks

Monday, May 24th, 2010
Are you prepared for the threat of terrorism?

Are you prepared for the threat of terrorism

With the recent attempted bombing in Times Square, terrorism prevention and surveillance of threats are, once again, front page news. This is the first post in a series about terrorism-related issues, which we will explore to help property owners and managers recognize and mitigate terrorist threats.

Thanks to the efforts of intelligence and law enforcement agencies, several terrorist plots that focused on commercial buildings have been thwarted over the past several years. As seen in the recent New York City attempt, the actions of diligent civilians can also prevent catastrophe. Also, common sense and surveillance procedures increase awareness about things that “just don’t look right.”

Our first post in this series is an introduction to terrorist groups and explanation of their probable motives for planning an attack. Knowing this basic information can help provide context as to the types of targets and methods that some groups will likely use to cause damage.

Terrorist Threats

  • Domestic Groups:
    • Before the 9/11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing was the largest modern terrorist attack in the United States.
    • Domestic groups have anti-government agendas that can be based on perceived racial or socioeconomic issues.
  • International Groups:
    • Al-Qaeda is arguably the most well known terrorist group in the world. The group seeks to broadcast its views by destroying well-known targets in headline-producing fashion.
    • Other lesser known internationally-based groups, such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, also have aspirations to attack U.S. interests.

Remember that surveillance methods should not be relegated to racial profiling or stereotyping. Instead of identifying race during surveillance, look for suspicious behavior patterns. Future blog posts will explain specifics.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies:

  • Establish relationships with law enforcement for your building, including the FBI. This is a key step in preventing terrorist attacks.
  • Provide law enforcement direct access to your property so they can quickly and effectively respond to incidents and advise you about where to place surveillance equipment.

Complete emergency and disaster training should cover acts of nature as well as man-made disasters, including terrorism. While not all attacks can be predicted or prevented, property owners can take steps to identify and prevent attacks. The next blog in our series will explore how terrorist groups typically choose targets and how you can use surveillance and physical modifications to detect and deter potential threats.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Terrible Twisters

Sunday, May 9th, 2010
Prepare for tornadoes.

Prepare for tornadoes.

Few events put the power of nature on display like tornadoes. With the recent destructive tornadoes in the Midwest and South, it’s timely for all property owners to review tornado safety procedures.

Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes appear quickly and do not follow any forecasted paths. Panic and confusion among tenants can set in unless prior planning and procedures have been established. Tornadoes are unlike other emergencies, such as fires, because tenants need to stay in the building during the emergency, and actually use the building for protection.

Preparations Before a Storm Occurs

“Warning” or “Watch:” The first alert regarding tornadoes is a “tornado watch,” which simply means the conditions are right for tornadoes to form. A “tornado warning” means that a twister has either touched down or been spotted on meteorological radar.

Warning System

  • Consider installing a warning system that works in conjunction with fire alarms. Make sure that tenants can easily identify the two types of warnings, so they can plan properly. Remember that outside sirens are not intended to be heard indoors.
  • Establish tracking and warning procedures so tenants have enough time to properly prepare for storms.

Physical Improvements

  • Shatter resistant glass, made of Plexi-glass or acrylic substances, can greatly reduce the risk of flying debris including broken glass. This is especially important when tornadoes strike unexpectedly and tenants do not have time to move to the interior of the building.
  • Designate a building area as a tornado shelter. Make sure the area is large enough to accommodate all tenants. FEMA has guidelines on how to select the area in a building that is best suited for a shelter. If possible, investigate ways to reinforce the area through structural improvements, making sure to minimize the amount of materials/projectiles that are in the area.

During the Storm

Personal Safety and Evacuation:

  • Tenants should move away from windows and proceed to the interior of the building, moving to the lowest floors possible.
  • Instruct tenants to use stairs, as power to the elevators will very likely be out.
  • Tenants should be advised to cover their heads at all times in order to prevent injury from falling objects.
  • Establishing safety procedures for employees who are physically disabled will save valuable time.

Lightning:

  • Tornadoes form around severe thunderstorms, which lead to lightning! If time permits, tenants should unplug sensitive computer and television equipment to prevent the risk of fire.

After the Storm

  • Listen to a NOAA weather radio or check websites to be sure the threat of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms have left the area. Remember you may be safer in a slightly damaged building than risking exposure to lightning!
  • Tenants should evacuate the building according to the designated evacuation plan.
  • Once outside, everyone should pay special attention to downed power lines and other dangerous debris.

For tornadoes and other emergencies, we always say that preparation is the first step toward ensuring tenant safety. Proper planning and respect for nature can help save lives.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

All about OSHA

Sunday, April 25th, 2010
Building owners should view OSHA as an important partner instead of as an adversary.

Through the course of business, it is likely both tenants and building owners will eventually interact with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. While some employers or building owners might cringe upon hearing the word “OSHA,” the agency offers benefits and safeguards for the workplace. In existence for 40 years, OSHA has played a critical role to ensure that workers are treated as important assets and are provided with reasonable safeguards from harm.

Building owners should view OSHA as an important partner instead of as an adversary. Compliance with OSHA regulations, even those that require capital spending, will result in tangible benefits. A clean compliance record can also be used a selling point to help attract tenants who are rightly concerned about the safety of their employees. Most folks are weary about residing or working in a building that is known for receiving lots of citations.

History:

  • Established by Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970
  • Inconsistent enforcement during the administration’s early years resulted in criticism
  • The agency first focused on enhancing the safety of physical machinery with retrofitting and other safety apparatuses.
  • During the Carter Administration, the focus was on hazards such as industrial chemicals
  • The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush pushed to weaken the enforcement powers of OSHA, which included some voluntary compliance initiatives and other industry-friendly regulations.
  • The administration under President Clinton saw a marked increase in OSHA investigations and power.

OSHA’s Responsibilities:

  • Reviews ergonomic standards of businesses to prevent ergonomic-related injuries and stress such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Conducts research and gathers data regarding workplace issues and tactics for minimizing safety risks.
  • Protects employees by alerting their employers about the existence of safety violations.
  • Performs inspections to ensure that employers are following health and safety regulations.

Benefits of compliance:

  • GAO studies on voluntary OSHA programs showed cost reductions in workers’ compensation premiums along with increases in overall workforce productivity.
  • Safe employees and office visitors are less likely to be injured at the workplace, resulting in decreased exposure to liability.
  • OSHA funds free consultations through many state agencies that will come to places of employment to identify safety risks.
  • Healthy employees utilize healthcare and insurance benefits less than those exposed to dangerous situations.

Some criticisms have been levied at OSHA because of the low number of criminal prosecutions and severity of fines. It should be noted that many of the administration’s enforcement and penalties have been restricted in the past; however, recently, stiffer penalties were introduced. The Obama Administration is becoming more involved in investigations and working to keep pace with quickly emerging technology and processes used by a variety of employers.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

It’s an Electronic World After All

Monday, April 19th, 2010
Be careful how you dispose of e-waste.

Be careful how you dispose of e-waste.

Part 5 in a 5-part series

We have come to the fifth and final blog topic for our series about green initiatives for office buildings. Previously, we have discussed green roofs and living walls, implementing tenant recycling, enhancing energy efficiency of HVAC systems and the importance of water conservation.

Today we are going to explore environmentally-sound electronics practices in the workplace. We’ll cover the problems associated with discarded electronic waste and ways that you and your tenants can employ smart electronics usage practices to save energy time and money.

The problem with e-waste

  • According to the EPA, more than 2.25 million tons of televisions, computers, monitors, keyboards, and peripherals were tossed into landfills.
  • Electronics use precious materials such as copper, aluminum and even gold.
  • Millions of electronics are shipped to developing countries where they are dissembled, often in a crude manner, which exposes workers and the environment to contaminants such as mercury, sulfur, and lead.

The solution for handling e-waste

  • Team up with a reputable electronics recycling company and educate tenants on the environmental impacts of proper recycling practices.
  • Purchase products that do not have “planned obsolescence.”
  • Simplify. Making due with less is something our ancestors did out of necessity. Try to remember that the more you have, the more you have to take care of, store, clean and repair. Sometimes, less is more.
  • Encourage tenants to turn off computers and printers when leaving for the day.

Electronics should be on a power strip with an on/off switch, otherwise electronics can continue to draw power when turned off as long as they are plugged into an active power supply.

PCs and monitors have a finite life relative to the number of hours they are turned on.

  • Use products that have been labeled with the Energy Star endorsement:
    • Encourage tenants to purchase energy-efficient computers and appliances.
    • Energy Star products use less energy. For even small-sized office buildings, this translates to substantial annual energy savings.
    • Note that no two products are identical. One Energy Star-certified product can use less than another Energy-Star model. Learn how to read labeling carefully so that you can select the most efficient products.
  • Cell phones:
    • Some tenants assign cell phone devices for every employee. Cell phone technology changes very rapidly and companies often end up swapping out old phones for models with the latest functionality.
    • Phones can be recycled with other electronics or they can be donated.
  • Toner cartridges:
    • Distribute information to tenants about the benefits of recycling printer cartridges. Improvements in manufacturing processes enable re-manufactured cartridges to print images equal in quality to those produced by new cartridges.
    • Most toner ink is petroleum-based, and can emit volatile compounds when used. Encourage tenants to use soy-based cartridges to cut down on indoor air pollution.

With office electronics, it’s important to remember the green slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” By observing this practice, it is entirely possible to drastically reduce the amount of items used. Encourage tenants to delay purchasing new equipment when current electronics work properly. Reusing toner cartridges and cell phones puts less of a strain on natural resources. And recycling keeps electronic waste out of our landfills!

Thanks for reading our series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties. Remember that beyond the environmental and social benefits, green initiatives can result in real cost savings for building owners and tenants.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to waste!

Monday, April 12th, 2010
Save Water. Save the Earth.

Save Water. Save the Earth.

Part 4 in a 5-Part Series

So far in our series of green initiatives for office buildings, we have discussed green roofs and living walls, implementing tenant recycling, and enhancing energy efficiency of HVAC systems. Today we are going to take a look at what is arguably our planet’s most abundant and precious resource—water.

As with other green improvements, focusing on water conservation might require considerable up-front costs. But these can easily be recouped. Simple fixes can pay immediate dividends. For example, a leaking faucet can release up to 1,000 gallons of water every week, which will add up to savings of $300 a year. A 10-story building could have 50-100 faucets. That wasted water can really add up.

For today’s discussion, we will focus on water conservation efforts for tenants in “typical” office settings, instead of businesses that use large amounts of water in manufacturing processes.

Some water conservation changes could also potentially provide the added benefit of tax advantages. Be sure to check with your accounting firm for information about possible state or federal credits.

Since most large buildings use thousands of gallons of water every day, let’s explore some of the ways that you can ensure you use those gallons wisely:

  • Piping and Water Systems:
    • Ensure hot water pipes are properly insulated for increased efficiency.
    • Perform an inspection of all water pipes to uncover leaks which not only waste water but can also cause problems such as rot or mold growth.
    • Check water pressure to make sure is the gauge is not set higher than necessary. Install water pressure regulators, if needed.
  • Bathroom Water Conservation:
    • Installation of low-flow toilets, which can reduce water requirements from about 4.5 gallons per flush to 1.6 gallons.
    • Faucets should be continuously monitored for leaks. And tenants should be asked to report problems to their facility management team. Faucets can be replaced with lower-flow models which can save water without inconveniencing tenants.
    • Urinals can be converted to automatic flush models.
  • Landscaping:
    • Choosing the right plants for your climate zone can reduce irrigation needs substantially.
    • Consider xeriscaping some landscape areas. This is particularly important for offices located in the Southwest, where large expanses of green lawn are water wasters!
    • Install rain sensors so sprinklers are turned off when they are not needed.
    • Adjust the irrigation schedule for seasonal sun and rain patterns.
  • Graywater Treatment Systems:
    • Systems collect untreated wastewater from bathroom and kitchen sinks and, in some instances, clothes washers.
    • Collected water is integrated into landscaping irrigation.
    • Proper signage is important to keep people (especially splashing children) away from recycled water.
  • Train tenants and their employees to follow sound water usage practices:
    • Limit dishwasher usage by running only full loads.
    • If the offices have shower facilities, encourage employees to limit shower times.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance:
    • Instruct your maintenance staff to use sweeping or other methods to clean sidewalks or patios, instead of spraying water.
    • Cleaning crews should manage water usage properly.

Water conservation can be achieved through changes to physical processes and materials as well as changes to tenant and maintenance personnel behaviors. An important step in the process is to keep track of your water usage before and after changes are implemented, so you and your facilities’ team can see the long-term savings in actual dollars.

Visit us next week for the final entry in our 5-part series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Going Green with HVAC

Monday, April 5th, 2010
Go Green with HVAC Solutions

Go Green with HVAC Solutions

Part 3 in a Series

While we are not experts at HVAC, here are some basic tips. For more information, please contact your HVAC professional.

In previous posts in this series, we’ve discussed green roofs and recycling programs. Today we are looking at more “behind the scenes” ways you can reduce your building’s carbon footprint.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial buildings account for 18 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. In a typical office building, energy use accounts for 30 percent of operating costs, which is the single biggest category of controllable costs. Reducing energy usage can result in significant long-term reduction of building expenses, freeing up capital you could use for other improvements such as landscaping or painting.

Today’s blog covers ways you can improve your building’s HVAC and other systems to improve energy efficiency and save on costs.

Reduce the need for heating and air conditioning:

  • Review building insulation and fill gaps with the most efficient materials.
  • Reduce the building’s “solar gain” by installing reflective roofing materials and tinted windows. These are especially important in buildings located in sunny climates.  Examine office equipment to make sure tenants use the latest technology that produces a minimum of heat. Pay special attention to data centers which require substantial cooling.
  • Simple solutions are best.
    • Encourage tenants to open blinds/curtains where feasible to let in warm sunlight.
    • Ask tenants to close/open windows to warm/cool office spaces before adjusting thermostats.

Selecting and maintaining the heat and AC systems:

  • Review older systems against more efficient, modern units. For many buildings, the initial outlay for a new system could potentially be recouped through annual energy savings. Talk to an HVAC specialist about potential savings.
  • Don’t purchase a system that is too big for your building. Your installer can test to make sure the “load” recommendation is met for your building.
  • Consider dehumidification systems for humid climates and evaporative coolers in dry climates. As the saying goes, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.”
  • Install quality control systems:
    • Programmable thermostats are important for reducing heating/cooling during off hours. Work closely with facility managers to make sure thermostats are set for the correct temperature.
    • Multiple zones are essential for multi-room and multi-floor buildings. Tenants will inevitably have different needs. Some might have 20 employees working in one space, while others might have only a few employees who work in small, individual offices.
    • CO2 sensors dynamically adjust heating/cooling by measuring CO2 amounts.

Proper maintenance:

  • As with all mechanical systems, proper maintenance can extend life and performance.
  • Replace air filters frequently with high quality filters.
  • Inspect all ductwork and piping for any leaks, which can contribute to heat/cooling losses.
  • Check thermostat function to make sure everything is functioning as it should.

Beyond the benefits to the planet and your profits, improving your building’s HVAC systems will lead to comfortable, content tenants. This is great because no one likes to hear disgruntled employees complain about being too hot or cold. And an unhappy employer is a tenant who might not renew his lease in your building! Modern HVAC systems are designed to provide controlled temperatures at maximum comfort.

Visit us next week for part 4 in our series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Get Tenants Involved in Recycling

Monday, March 29th, 2010
Go Green in Your Property Management

Go Green in Your Property Management

Get Tenants Involved in Recycling

Part 2 in a series about Going Green with Your Property

Last week we talked about literally including green in residential and commercial properties, with features like vegetative roofs and walls. Our topic today is one of the first things many people think about when they think about going green. Recycling!

Helping your tenants recycle can be an important step in reducing your building’s carbon footprint. The first step to take before establishing a comprehensive program is to realize that any successful, long-term recycling plan will require consistent encouragement and ongoing education.

Follow these steps to get your tenants and residents on the road to recycling:

If you want, you can take it slow. Start by recycling paper products and expand the program over time.

  • Choose a company to collect recycled materials:

You may need to enlist more than one firm if you have tenants who produce several types of refuse. For example, some tenants use pallets or unique packing materials that would require a specialty recycling company?

  • Establish recycling protocols and procedures:
    Place bins in each tenant’s office
    Bins should be situated near garbage cans and printer/document rooms
    Tenants should be taught about the types of materials that are recyclable as well as those that are not suitable for recycling.
  • Integrate document shredding:
    Document security is essential for residents of apartment buildings as well as commercial property tenants. Offering commercial-grade shredding machines onsite will give everyone peace of mind about safeguarding important data.
    Make it easy to destroy sensitive documents and collect paper recycling at the same time. Tenants should educate their own employees about procedures for shredding data protection.

    • Encourage long-term participation:
      Check in with tenant management frequently to ensure recycling procedures are being followed. Work together to offer new inducements to employees to reward their green efforts.
    • Get management involved and excited about recycling:
    • Consider a tenant lunch to discuss the program.
    • Encourage commercial tenants to offer incentives to employees for participating in recycling efforts.

Establishing a tenant recycling program is not only environmentally-friendly, it can also be a selling point for new tenants who care about green practices. Implementing a variety of green initiatives can help you maximize occupancy and rental rates in a tight market.

Visit us next week for part 3 in our series about strategies for going green.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.