Does your Condo Building Need a Security Audit?
By: Phillip Livingston
Date Published: October 23, 2020
Establishing a safe condo community is a significant part of maintaining the value of the property, and minimizing turnover rates. Owners who feel safe are much less likely to move. But, if you don’t know much about residential security, you may be unsure of which strategies/tools will be the most valuable to your building.
Having a security audit performed will help you understand the effectiveness of your existing security systems, as well as identify any areas that need to be improved.
What is a security audit?
A security audit is an assessment that identifies strong and weak points in building security. It is an independent review of the effectiveness of the existing security measures, performed by a qualified, impartial party.
Security audits consist of visual inspections that determine how well current security measures are working. During the review, the security systems will be evaluated and ranked according to risk. As a property manager, you will receive recommendations to reduce security risks and augment the interconnectivity of your current solutions.
Why would my building need an audit?
Security audits are an important part of crime prevention. They help keep residents and employees safer, and they are the first step to improving the overall security of a condo building.
Audits identify vulnerabilities that you might not have even considered. From staff training to local area crime patterns, an audit will take a closer look at your community’s safety, and make invaluable suggestions that could save you money and time in the long run.
Things a security audit will uncover
While this list is not exhaustive, below are some of the key items an audit will bring to light.
Unsynchronized security systems
Condominiums are complex, and have many moving parts. With multiple points of entries, visitors coming and going, packages being dropped off, and maintenance workers requiring access to protected areas, security systems must be integrated to be truly effective. This means that all the different components of the systems (security cameras, access control, key procedures, lighting) must be harmonized. A simple audit may reveal that the lighting is not sufficient enough to allow the security cameras to capture quality recordings.
Uncontrolled access to a facility
Facilities need access control to limit who may enter or use a space, and at what time. Without access controls, anyone, including short-term renters who may not be as mindful of the building’s rules and policies, can get to any amenity or shared space. Similarly, you don’t want visitors to have unlimited access to the building, either. Even a basic security audit can help to improve access control by taking note of poor or nonexistent access controls.
Staff lacking training
Employees need training to help them make the best decisions at work. Without proper instruction/education, workers may incorrectly guess how to perform a task or resolve an issue, thus risking their own safety. An audit can help identify what additional training may be needed to help security staff handle situations with more strategy and precision.
Lack of security follow-up procedures
Maintaining security is an ongoing process. Condo corporations should revisit security procedures annually, or even semi-annually, depending on security needs. Without proper follow-up procedures, security protocols become stagnant and ineffective. The company that is performing the audit should be able to provide relevant information about how to update some of your procedures.
Creating a better security system
It is not recommended that condo communities copy what their neighbours are doing when it comes to security. What works for one building may not yield the same benefits for your community. The great thing about having an audit done is that the assessment can help determine what exactly you need to keep your condo secure.
When a condominium is looking at different security solutions, there are three core categories that they should consider: human resources, technology, and policies/procedures.
Human resources – Security cameras simply cannot replace humans, no matter how good they are. If you have the budget, it’s almost always recommended that you hire security or concierge. Having a guard on the property ensures someone is always ready to react in real-time to any events that may endanger others, or the integrity of the building.
Bringing a team of security or concierge professionals on-site is an investment, so it is critical to ensure that the company you are looking to hire has prior condo experience. Another option for condominiums that don’t have the budget for a full-time security presence is to have security working during high-risk hours, or even to contract with a company that provides mobile patrols.
Whatever you decide on, the expectations of the guards should be clearly defined. Guards should also provide reports after each patrol shift so that management can identify reoccurring problems and look at how these issues can be minimized.
Technology – Technology can help deter unwanted behaviour, but it must be installed correctly to work well. While technology has a definitive place in a condo’s overall security plan, it is only a critical piece of the puzzle and should be supported by other security measures. Some people don’t see security cameras, and others will ignore them. Cameras may capture a crime and give you the information you need to resolve a situation after it happened, but generally speaking, they won’t prevent crimes from occurring.
Policies/procedures – Proper security policies/procedures are critical to a condo corporation’s overall security rating. Policies may be as simple as educating owners and residents on the dangers of letting a stranger “tailgate” them and enter the residential area of the building. Safety tips and information can be shared through newsletters, announcements, or community forums. The more that owners act on these procedures, the safer the condominium becomes.
Another policy that your condo may wish to implement is regular audits of the access control system (namely, a fob audit). During security audits, management often does not know how many old fobs/keys owned by former residents are still in circulation. A regularly scheduled fob audit is a process that can be implemented to ensure only registered users are accessing the building.
Security policies are a low-cost solution to improving security, but they are also the least effective. The reason for this is that the effectiveness relies on proper implementation by staff and residents. The possibility of human error reduces effectiveness.
Implementing a full security plan isn’t a short-term project, but this process can be less expensive than you may think. Often, it is more about shifting or redistributing resources as opposed to acquiring new ones.
Furthermore, there may be latent benefits to amplifying your condo’s security systems. Insurance rates can be reduced depending on the extent of the security plan, and items or resources purchased for security purposes may qualify as tax write-offs.
Rather than waiting for a security breach to occur, be proactive and make sure your building is safe. Having an audit performed is the first step to ensuring the property and the people who live there aren’t unnecessarily exposed to any dangers.