Property management companies face unique challenges when it comes to navigating safety during the COVID era. Not only are property managers thinking about maintaining the property and building itself, but also keeping employees, tenants, visitors and customers safe, secure and healthy.
With the onset of COVID-19, landlords, building owners and property management companies around the country must now think about their tenants’ safety in new ways. Since the COVID-19 environment is constantly evolving, property managers must also revise safety and security plans based on changes to protocols and as the number of people onsite increases or decreases.
Whether you manage an industrial space, workplace, multi-family community or another type of property, there are measures you can take to enhance operations and improve the overall security of your location and people.
Create a Risk Assessment Plan
In this COVID era, managers cannot afford to take big risks—especially when it comes to safety and security. COVID-19 not only affects how you are managing your space but also how you plan to secure it. As a property manager, building strategies and plans can help to reduce risk and chaos in stressful situations.
Start by creating a plan to assess your risks, so that you can be flexible as requirements change month-to-month, and sometimes even week-to-week.
Assess Property Exposure Risk
First, evaluate your property’s threat risk. If you don’t already have an emergency preparedness plan for your property, now is the time to create one. It’s never too late to map a contingency plan—and establish how your security technology can help mitigate risk.
It is also crucial to identify the health risks your employees could face based on their job responsibilities and environment, as well as your tenants. According to a survey conducted by PwC, many employees lack confidence in specific measures that their employers are taking to reopen office buildings and implement health and safety protocols.
IREM’s Pandemic Guide for Real Estate Owners outlines some questions to ask yourself about potential contact to ensure that your plan addresses these scenarios accordingly:
- Will my employees, tenants or guests be in contact with large numbers or groups of people?
- Will they spend time in work areas where they could come into contact with other people?
- Will they handle materials or goods that could be contaminated?
- Will they be in spaces—either indoor or outdoor—that need to be monitored to ensure premium safety?
Once you properly assess how your people will move and interact throughout your property, you can begin to think about the properties themselves, and what you can do to ensure safety.
Assess Property Security Vulnerabilities
Surveillance is a critical security component of any business. And with COVID-19 on the rise across the country, surveillance can help enhance security when your onsite team may be thinner than ever. Just like other businesses, property management companies must first identify their security vulnerabilities. This includes three main components:
1. Your property’s location(s) and its surroundings
Your property’s surroundings and location impact its physical security. To identify location-based vulnerabilities, ask yourself:
- How close are other businesses to mine?
- Can people enter the property easily?
- Are they able to enter under a low profile?
- Is lightning prominent, both inside and outside of the property?
- What is the crime rate in my area?
- What time of the day are my employees, tenants and guests coming and going?
2. Your IT equipment, devices and setup
Safeguarding your properties starts and ends with technology. And that means protecting your IT equipment and devices in the best way to prevent hackers and loss of critical information. Take a look at your IT setup at your various properties, which includes routers, servers and end-user devices to keep your technology safe and secure.
- Create email and Internet browsing standards.
- Grant network and program authentication only to necessary individuals.
- Require unique passwords for devices and systems.
- Secure internal Wi-Fi and networks.
- Use firewalls.
3. Your vendors and employees who have access to the building
With employees, tenants, vendors and visitors passing through your property, the goal is to have safety protocols in place that everyone follows. But this could require some adaptation over time as COVID evolves. A security system can help to ensure that everyone is following these regulations.
Enforce COVID Protocols with Enhanced Security
During the pandemic, prioritize operations and maintenance at your properties to maintain the health, safety and security of those who spend their time there. When you have a good handle on your people and your buildings, it helps to shed light on the right tools and technologies you need to keep them safe.
Property managers can rely heavily on technologies to support routine operations at their buildings, which include security, payments and showings. Explore different security options that will help keep your property—and people—safe in case of a crisis.
Add Surveillance Cameras to Monitor Activity
Many property management companies use video cameras at different locations for crime prevention. On top of that, surveillance equipment can also help enforce safety precautions onsite to prevent illness.
People on your properties may be abiding by social distancing protocols, or they may not be. A simple way to track this is to properly plan your spaces using your surveillance cameras’ video analytics function. This valuable information can help you:
- Gauge foot traffic so that you know which areas have the most people at a certain time of day.
- Count people to get a better understanding of the ratio of individuals to space, and how to properly enforce social distancing.
- Determine busy times, which could lead to rerouting entrance and exit paths, increased cleanings and more.
If you notice that people are congregating in certain common areas, by mailrooms, near elevators or in stairwells, you can use this information to reflow your areas, add signage to reinforce regulations or direct people to different entrances.
You can also use your indoor security camera infrastructure to check in on employees and tenants to ensure they’re wearing masks and adhering to your stated limitations. Additionally, review high-traffic areas and see which locations throughout your property may require increased cleanings, such as workout areas, lobbies, restrooms and mailrooms.
Video surveillance helps to check on outdoor areas as well, which impacts vendors, deliveries and guests/visitors. This is a helpful way for you to decide if individuals are maintaining a safe distance between each other and if you need to ramp up communication about COVID guidelines at your property.
Protect Your Properties After You Lock Up
If you plan to reassess your property’s location strategy because of COVID-19, proper positioning and setup of video surveillance equipment are crucial. After all the time you spend on your risk assessment and regulations to keep your property safe, the last thing you want is someone entering the property after hours to derail your safety measures.
Protect your business after hours with these equipment recommendations:
Surveillance cameras can be placed around the building or at certain entrances or windows. If you’re not onsite, you need a video monitoring system that provides footage remotely. Mobile solutions allow you to check on your property whenever and wherever you choose.
Motion detectors will also alert you on your mobile phone as needed so that you are aware of any intruders after hours.
Monitored alarms provide the peace of mind you need for your properties when you can’t be onsite or aren’t able to act quickly enough with simply a surveillance camera. An alarm monitoring system can be critical to deterring after-hours visitors or intruders on your property. When an alarm is triggered, a signal is sent over to the monitoring center and the necessary contacts, like local authorities, are notified.
Additionally, an alarm system may have the following components:
- Visual and/or audible alarms
- 24/7 monitoring through mobile access
- Mobile arm/disarm capabilities
For even more protection, consider adding supplementary sensors to your security system, such as:
- Window-break sensors: Trigger an alarm when the glass is broken or the window opened.
- Door sensors: Sound an alarm when a door is opened.
- Image sensors: Activated by motion and capture images if someone is inside a monitored area.
Keep Your Property Employees, Tenants and Guests Safe
Security equipment can help keep people both on and off your team safe and healthy, especially during this COVID era. Consider using a combination of the tips below to maintain health protocols and minimize exposure or spread of the virus.
Use Thermal Monitors to Check Temperatures
Temperature checks are common these days wherever you go—from restaurants to retail and office spaces to health care organizations. And on top of that, the practice can be mandated by the health department or a tenant’s company at a property entrance.
First, determine the requirements and responsibilities around temperature checks of tenants, residents or others entering your property. If you aren’t supplied with thermometers or temperature scanners, you don’t necessarily have to set up a station at every entrance—you can use access control technology.
Biometric access control and thermal video cameras can be deployed at checkpoints and other key areas to detect elevated body temperatures and identify at-risk individuals. You can also integrate facial recognition with temperature detection that automatically identifies personnel and forwards confidential alerts for further action.
Integrate Touchless Entry Throughout Your Property
Touching fewer surfaces means reduced germ transmission. Using access control to enable touchless entry helps to reduce the risk associated with high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and keypads. You can also limit employee and tenant access to common areas, storage rooms, extra conference or meeting rooms and entrances so that you’re able to contain individuals in your space—and potentially the spread of the virus.
Touchless entry can come in the form of a key fob, swipe card or another device paired with a sensor. Once an individual is granted access, the door automatically opens. The benefits related to COVID are two-fold: you have the ability to minimize the transfer of germs, as well as to easily trace contacts if an outbreak does occur. Touchless entry technology provides records of which individuals came into the building down to dates and times.
Maintain Cleaner Air with Environmental Controls
Air circulation and proper ventilation are critical to a building’s health. With environmental controls and monitoring, you can keep your properties at the right temperature and properly ventilated. If air is stagnant, stale or too warm, there is a higher risk of exposure for your people. These components of building maintenance are crucial—especially when dealing with an airborne illness like COVID-19.
As the COVID era has progressed, many building owners are regularly evaluating their HVAC and ventilation systems to provide adequate indoor air quality. One way to efficiently manage your environmental controls is to connect your security system with the ventilation and HVAC system. Through energy management, you can improve air quality for your staff by controlling how and when the air is circulated through your office. For example:
- Adjust your thermostat according to your business hours.
- Create customized thermostat schedules for peak times when you know people will be on the property.
- Install and monitor temperature sensors in bathrooms, kitchens, break rooms and other highly trafficked areas.
You can also take proper precautions to update your ventilation systems with new technologies as well. Features like underfloor air circulation and UV-C light filtration purify and sanitize the air more consistently to keep people healthy.
Manage Deliveries and Vendors Safely
Daily operations at your property likely involve general business vendors and deliveries onsite. While these individuals are not part of your employed team or the tenants that occupy your properties, they could still expose people to the dangerous virus. Putting vendor and delivery protocols in place helps your property management team to function efficiently—without needing to interact in-person, which could potentially expose them to harmful germs.
First, consult your visitor policy to ensure you’re welcoming the right people. Additionally, one way to help minimize risk and exposure is to leverage visitor management technology so that you’re keeping track of the people who enter and exit your property. You can use this technology to:
- Log in guests and deliveries
- Capture visitors’ credentials
- Take photos of visitors
- Create temporary access cards
- Utilize video surveillance for records and analytics and more
You can also utilize your security system’s two-way intercom and video capabilities. Using these components affords your employees the opportunity to manage logistics of people or packages flowing in and out of the building, all without coming into contact with others. They can use surveillance cameras and audio devices to communicate with the visitor, direct them to an entrance if needed or to leave their deliveries for retrieval.
Also, if you’ve enabled smart locks with remote access, your employees can unlock the door for vendors and other personnel, watch them unload deliveries through video surveillance and then lock the door once they’ve left—all from a mobile device.
Manage Security Best Practices for Your Properties Remotely
While your property management employees may still be working onsite, there are also opportunities for you to manage operations remotely. This could be a solution to help you maintain a smaller workforce onsite as well to limit employees at certain properties if they’re not critical to your operations.
No matter the situation, you should be prepared to keep your properties safe and secure. A security system with remote access and/or a business security app can help you do so. With mobile, remote access to your security system, you can:
- Manage heating and cooling to maintain lower energy consumption.
- Check in on a live feed of your security cameras.
- See a log of remote access activity.
- Receive notifications from your motion sensor or alarm triggers.
Using a security vendor that offers access to a 24/7 monitoring center adds extra protection for your business. Monitoring centers work to verify threats and dispatch the appropriate personnel in case of a true emergency. That means your properties are protected without you ever having to call 9-1-1.
A Secure Property Starts with a Trusted Vendor
COVID-19 has forced property managers to seriously reassess building protocols and adapt to ever-changing guidelines. But overall, these precautions are worth the time and investment, as they create safer spaces for the employees, tenants and guests who move through these spaces each day.
During the COVID era and beyond, confidently protecting and managing your properties begins with the right partner. Using a high-quality, professionally installed security system is a necessity. Working with a security vendor that you can trust will help you to figure out the right system for your properties so you and your team can stay safe and secure.