Hidden costs of low-priced security options
By: Kim Brown
Date Published: December 17, 2020
Condo boards have a duty to protect the safety and security of residents within their condo community. As the building’s governing body, the board must make critical decisions regarding the building’s maintenance, finances and security. Every board wants their building to feel and be safe, but costs can interfere with security.
Boards may be tempted to look for the cheapest options when it comes to implementing security solutions. But price should never be the only deciding factor. Low or weak security solutions can cost associations a lot of money in the long run. After all, it only takes one break-in or violent incident to make residents feel unsafe. We understand that boards have a strict budget that they must respect, but instead of cutting corners, boards should take a look at how they can implement security solutions as strategically and effectively as possible. A security audit can help you identify weak points, and find customized solutions.
Security cameras are one important tool, but they cannot do everything
Security cameras are very useful to condo buildings. They can “keep an eye” on the property 24/7 and help deter unwanted behaviour. Cameras are also one of the most cost-effective security solutions available. But, cameras alone cannot stop crimes from occurring. Security cameras are much more effective when a security professional is available to monitor and respond to activities. On the other hand, it costs money to hire a guard, and this option may be too expensive for smaller associations.
In theory, there are workarounds. Some equipment comes with sophisticated additions, such as a loitering guard. This feature tracks moving objects, and triggers an alarm if someone has been in a predefined area for too long. You can also program the camera to activate a loudspeaker or turn on lights to scare off intruders. The alarm can help prevent crime such as vandalism, but again, having someone available to respond to the alarm makes this system infinitely more valuable.
Dummy CCTV camera systems are another low-cost security option. Condos simply need to acquire old cameras and mount them to highly visible areas to deter crime. However, this strategy is strongly discouraged. Having cameras on the property infers that events on the premises have been recorded. Residents expect that anything that happened in front of the cameras would be recorded and could be used as evidence. But once it is discovered that dummy cameras were installed, the association could be exposed to liability issues.
A second reason is that a dummy system doesn’t actually do anything. Suppose that there is an actual event that took place in the lobby. In this case, the cameras are entirely useless, and even though they were cheaper, the association essentially wasted money that could have been invested in something else.
In short, condo buildings shouldn’t rely on only cameras to keep their community safe.
Some services should not be sacrificed for a lower price
No matter what, hiring a security guard or company is going to be a significant expense. That being said, the cheapest option may not deliver the services your condo community needs. Often, boards will receive a few bids from different security providers, and the contract is awarded to the lowest bidder. While you may save some money upfront, you may be surprised with unexpected expenses later on.
Not all security guards have the same training. There are minimum requirements, but some companies have more experienced or better-trained staff than others. A seasoned guard may be able to quickly resolve situations that a new guard cannot, and as a result the building or someone who lives in it could still be harmed.
Similarly, some companies may equip their team with more comprehensive security tools. A guard tour system, for example, helps guards keep the building secure by giving them strategic routes to follow and checkpoints to scan. Details and photos can be logged at each checkpoint, and if anything is out of place or an incident is occurring, the guard can notify their supervisor right away by sending an incident report. Reports can be reviewed later on, and admins can analyze the information to gain a clearer understanding of the incidents that occur most frequently. Management and security can then work together to find solutions to minimize these occurrences.
When preparing the scope of work for security providers to bid on, there should be clarity on the purpose of the guard, and what level of experience you require the guard to have.
Get proposals, not bids
The board should be asking security companies for proposals outlining the services they offer, rather than asking for just their pricing. Find out which security companies are being hired by other buildings in your neighborhood, specifically, buildings that are a similar size to yours. Once the board has a list of qualified candidates, invite them to speak to your board of directors.
Associations should also make sure that the security guard company they hire has the appropriate insurance. Review the insurance binder and ask to have your building named as an additional insured. Otherwise, the association could be held responsible for accidents.
Remember, when you’re hiring somebody, your biggest concern should be finding the right person for the job. You do have to be price-conscious as well, but don’t go for a company just because they charge the least.
Armed or unarmed?
Here’s one way you may be able to minimize the amount you spend on hiring a guard. Armed guards cost more because they require more training and insurance. They are also (generally) unnecessary in condo communities. It makes sense to have an armed guard at a bank, a business that sells expensive items, or government buildings. But in a residential environment, just having a security professional present is often enough to dissuade people from acting criminally.
Access control systems are a must
Another great option for condo communities is an access control system. Installing an access control system at an entry point automatically limits the number of non-residents who can enter the building. Without a fob or code, it is much more difficult to get into the condo. It is also helpful to install this system on doors leading to the parking garage, or the back of a building, to add extra security.
Access control allows a condo to maintain a professional and welcoming environment, while also implementing strong security capabilities. It creates physical barriers to criminal activity, and is a moderately priced security solution.
A combined security approach is the best approach
Different communities will require different solutions. Their size, location and budget will all impact what solutions they pursue. But, no matter what your community looks like, a hybrid or integrated security solution almost always works best. A mid-sized condo may want to hire a small security team and purchase its own guard tour system, or an access control system. Security guards are very important to a condo building, but even the best guards can’t be everywhere at once.
Security can create stress for condo communities. While each association wants the best for its residents, some security options just aren’t compatible with the budget. Take the time to do research, and if possible, have a professional conduct a security audit so that you can find effective, cost-friendly solutions for your building.