The First Line of Defense Your Staff’s Role in Security

Feeling safe in one’s home is one of life’s most basic requirements. In an urban residential building, it sometimes takes a lot more than locking the doors and making sure your stove is turned off before going to bed to achieve that feeling. Even though they aren’t trained security experts (and don’t necessarily have to be) the people who work in your condo or co-op building play an indispensable role in the building’s safety and emergency-response system.

Staff Roles in Security and Safety

Exactly what a staff member’s role in an emergency will be varies from building to building; a building with a hired security guard may require less involvement from other staff members than one without a guard. The size of your building, its location and other factors can influence the responsibilities of your building staff in emergency situations.

Some things, however, are universal. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a porter or doorman in a small building or in a huge skyscraper,” says Mike Green, the deputy director of security operations with the Thomas Shortman Training Center, which runs a joint labor/management training program for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ members. Course work includes such subjects as basic language, reading and writing skills, communication and computer skills, and industry-related coursework like basic plumbing and carpentry. The center also offers a security-training component as part of a pilot program called New York Safe & Secure, that began in May of 2004 as a collaborative partnership between the union, the city, and the real estate industry.

The New York Safe & Secure security awareness training curriculum offers four hours of security awareness training to doormen, porters, concierges, resident managers and building superintendents as well as commercial office building cleaners and maintenance workers. Training includes methods for spotting suspicious behavior or packages and swiftly alerting police and fire departments. The New York Safe & Secure security training program for private security officers provides a much more intensive 40 hour training curriculum designed to cope, if not prevent an actual attack or emergency.

“You’re going to be the one people turn to [in an emergency]. If there’s a blackout, you know the building better than anybody, and people are going to come to you,” says Green.

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