Many years ago, when I was living on the Upper West Side, a neighbor of mine was notified over his scratchy intercom system that a UPS carrier had a package for him. Without hesitation, he buzzed in the deliveryman and opened his front door. Instead of receiving a new package, the neighbor was met by an intruder pointing a gun. Tragically, my neighbor was shot and killed.
This story represents an extreme case of what can happen when buildings rely on unsophisticated audio-security systems to protect their residents. For me, it was also a personal wakeup call. The tragedy that befell my neighbor could have happened to anyone.
Unfortunately, while our city is much safer today than it was ten or 20 years ago, some risks have not changed. Buildings without strong security systems may be exposing their residents to potential risk. In the post-9/11 world, “building security” has come to mean more than a simple intercom; more reliable and effective tools that enable visual and audio communication between concierge and residents have become the gold standard.
Reliable communication can do more than just alert people to disaster. It can point them in the right direction and allay their fears. For example, when New York Yankee Cory Lidle’s plane crashed into an Upper East Side building in October, there was immediate speculation that it was a terrorist attack. But if the concierge had had the capability to immediately explain the actual circumstances to residents, their anxiety would have quickly diminished. Unlike outdated audio-only intercom systems, modern, cutting-edge security and communications systems have both audio and text message features that allow concierges or doormen to alert the entire building—or individual apartments—to impending events.
Post 9/11, developers and owner/residents must refocus their attention on security and communication and assess the adequacies of their current and future systems. They need to ask: Is an audio security system sufficient? Are all entrances to the property secure? Do residents have a way to contact authorities if an intruder is already at their door? Is it easy for the concierge to contact residents directly, and vice versa? Are the systems in place to meet the needs of all residents? If the answer to any of these questions is no, it may be time to take proactive steps towards purchasing a new system or upgrading the old one.