Security Changes Due to COVID-19

August 28, 2020 | By: Molly Looman

Security has always been a vital part of the ecosystem of a building. Centered around safety and hospitality, security is responsible for guarding a property and ensuring tenant comfort.

However, when COVID-19 meant most properties were underutilized, the role of security turned. With re-entry beginning and many property managers and building managers faced with a new reality, the security teams have a big part to play. Still ensuring tenant comfort, but in a whole new way for a new world.

Welcome to Re-entry

Some properties are beginning to see their tenants welcome their staff back to the building, while others are remaining at home. Over the next few months, property staff are going to have to cope with a new foot traffic pattern than before COVID-19. Paula Petakos, a property manager with JLL, has found that re-entry security is all about communications and vigilance.

“We monitor every tenant, how many people are in that suite, what tenants are working,” Petakos said. “We’ve reached out to every tenant, and we want to know who their pandemic coordinator is and what their schedule is for rotation.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and stay-at-home orders were issued across the country that meant property managers had to decide what and where to put their security resources. Joe Murphy, Senior Vice President of Sales & Operations with SecurAmerica, said their personnel needs to be changed immediately.

“Hospitality and education facilities went from full usage to no usage in a matter of days,” Murphy said. “But other industries, including health care and distribution facilities, became even more active, adding security and support resources to meet the increased demand for these services.”

With re-entry beginning, Murphy said that those services are now being redistributed again. However, he said they do not look the same. While certain trained officers will return to their usual schedule, certain officers may no longer be available and property managers need to be prepared for new staff to be assigned to their buildings.

“Building managers will be looking to their security providers to ensure each officer is prepared to interact professionally with people who are returning to work with some apprehension, possibly against their preference, and who may have experienced recent trauma as well,” Murphy said.

Changing Roles

Much like many other industries, security is not the same job it was pre-COVID-19. Petakos said that security is going to evolve as re-entry progresses and that adaptability is key.

“I do feel like security’s role is definitely changing. It’s becoming a whole different animal than what it used to be,” Petakos said. “It used to be about securing the property. Now, it is really about
monitoring who is on the property.”

Security will need to be more focused on logistics and flow of traffic rather than securing the property itself. They also need to prepare for change. With COVID-19 still affecting the nation and the general unknown surrounding the next few months, security staff and property staff need to be ready to put resources where they areneeded most, and quickly.

Security personnel may also need to be trained in a whole new set of skills. Murphy said that some staff may need to expect to add on certain duties, such as monitoring temperatures of inbound personnel, overseeing physical distancing guidelines or maintaining a cue for an elevator bay.

“Importantly, security personnel will need to be trained on how best to protect themselves from enhanced exposure as they will no longer be able to maintain a socially acceptable distance
since they will be within arms-length to perform these screening services,” Murphy said.

Beyond the Door

A lot has happened since tenants left their properties, and it will be the responsibility of all building and property personnel to ensure the tenants experience a safe and comfortable return. In
many cases, Security serves a hospitality role. Now more than ever, that role will be important.

“It will be important for property managers, building operators and all facility staff to realize that returning tenants and visitors will not be the same people who left the property several
months ago,” Murphy said. “Their personal experiences will shape their future behaviors.”

Security remains part of the overall safety mission of a property management team. Monitoring the property, maintaining guidelines, and ensuring a comfortable environment are all
instrumental in creating a smooth return to work.

“The whole thing for me was I wanted the safety for my tenants. Period,” Petakos said. “Safety for my staff. Safety for my vendors.”

Petakos said she appreciated how the commercial real estate community had banded together to help each other through this time. She said she is in constant communication with people she knows in the industry to make sure they are all on the same page every step of the way.