Total System Design Guards Against Lawsuits

By the time you read this, our magazine will be settled into its new 50,000-square-foot headquarters, which was recently purchased by our parent company, Bobit Business Media (see news item on page 16 of April issue). Before we moved in, the facility had to be completely gutted and remodeled to meet our publishing company’s unique needs. During the planning phase, I gladly accepted company President Ty Bobit’s request to help design our building’s security system.

Having spent 20 years as a field sales manager calling on systems integrators for manufacturers like Ademco, DSC and Radionics, designing a system is a no-brainer for me. Without attempting to make a complete list of security-related issues, I would like to share a few of my key design strategies.

One of my pet peeves is a blatantly offensive security system. I believe a system should be designed so the access control portion is nonobtrusive. Users of a facility should not feel intimidated (and legitimate visitors should not feel unwelcome) by the security devices. Meanwhile, employees’ privacy needs to be reasonably respected, and restricting access to certain areas within a building ought not make those who are excluded feel like second-class citizens (e.g. airport security).

Staffing considerations should play an important role in guiding your equipment selection. The system’s sophistication should depend on the number and skill of the personnel who would be available to operate it. It’s also good to look into a crystal ball and attempt to choose equipment that would be adaptable for future expansion.

Obviously, a security system’s most important job is to provide safety for all the employees and authorized visitors who occupy a building. Second to that is protecting property and sensitive company information.

So far, I probably haven’t mentioned anything out of the ordinary, as most industry veterans are aware and already doing these things. However, there is one critical aspect of security system design you may not be thinking of in your planning process – legalities.
Here in California, especially Los Angeles, frivolous litigation is a hot growth area for opportunistic lawyers and greedy employees to seek monetary gain. While I am sure most attorneys are honest and hard-working, these cases are driven by creative lawyers trying to come up with new theories of liability.

Often, an employer would rather pay a settlement than endure a lengthy lawsuit, even though that employer might very well ultimately prevail. Companies that provide no security for their employees are at the greatest risk, followed by those that don’t have enough.
You should consider everything – interior and exterior – that can be done to provide a safe environment. For our building, I recommended 400W white-metal-halide lighting be installed above the outside entrances, CCTV cameras adjusted and focused to provide identification (not just verification), plus numerous other security measures. In addition, exterior bushes around the building were cut back to minimize hiding places.

Proper building security design is a serious undertaking. Convince your customer to do all they possibly can within their budget to reasonably provide safety and security for their employees. Losing a lawsuit – be it legitimate or frivolous – for gross negligence is much more unlikely when a business has shown due diligence. Let’s help keep the bottom-feeding lawyers swimming around for their next meal.

Thinking like a criminal has always been helpful when designing a security system. Now, you just have to expand the types of crooks you trying to foil. As you can see, today there is much more to building security than just installing the latest electronic gear and software package.

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