Gated Communities: Combining Security + Public Relations
Security in gated communities presents challenges that vary widely from other facilities. These residential settings also require specialized skill sets and personnel that, again, are quite different.
For example, at a school or corporate campus, it’s quite obvious if someone attempting to enter has a purpose or belongs there. At many gated communities, the sheer volume and variety of people seeking entry requires an equal blend of rigor and diplomacy.
With residential communities, security personnel serve as both protectors and as public ambassadors. The open setting creates access-control challenges as officers decide whether or not to grant entry. As a result, officers must follow policies and procedures firmly and courteously, even though diligence might anger residents whose visitors have been delayed.
“Most people would say, that’s good. It shows they’re doing their job,” says Sunstates President Glenn Burrell, CPP. “It’s fine when it’s someone else’s guest, but when it’s your guest, it can be a problem.”
Depending on the size of the community, high volume at peak hours can affect the surrounding neighborhood. For example, many homeowners’ associations (HOAs) do not allow contractors to start work before eight o’clock in the morning. Larger communities may have 100 contractors waiting for entry, which affects public roads. Consequently, security officers need to be aware of what’s happening beyond their immediate vicinity.
In addition, security must enforce HOA rules and regulations, as well as standard procedures for safety and security. Diplomacy is an essential skill in such settings.
Community Best Practices
Based on extensive experience serving this specialized market, Sunstates Security has identified several key practices for meeting the unique needs of gated communities:
• Comprehensive procedures. Security personnel should have procedures, developed jointly with community representatives, for handling every conceivable situation, from background checks to emergency incidents. Such planning can help minimize common issues, such as visitor backlogs. In many communities, for instance, all guests and contractors must have prior approval, which includes background screening for vendors.
• Selection and training. The delicate nature of residential security demands personnel with exceptional public-relations skills. A discriminating selection process identifies individuals with the right temperament and attitude. Then, specialized training expands on core security skills to include gatehouse operations, community patrols, homeowner relations and diplomacy. First-aid and AED training prepares security personnel to respond to medical emergencies.
• On-site management. Having a dedicated manager at the community full-time helps align the security team with homeowners, property managers and other stakeholders. Such individuals have extensive experience securing residential communities, and they have the power to make informed decisions quickly and efficiently.
• Technology. Modern technology offers powerful tools for supporting the security function, while minimizing inconvenience. For instance, systems can scan and capture information from drivers’ licenses and compare that information to sex crime/pedophile registries. Other technology vets and processes visitors and issues temporary badges. New vehicle identification technology uses microwave RFID and semi-active transponders to identify residents and other approved vehicles. A more affordable option, tag or card systems on vehicles can speed entry for residents, while flagging non-residents.
• Two-tier authentication. While technology is indispensable for modern communities, those with automated vehicle-access systems need to heed the cautionary tale of the Trojan horse. Currently, most systems only identify the vehicle, not the occupant(s). The latest technology provides two tiers of authorization: the vehicle tag only works if an additional reader assigned to the owner is also in the car.
• Law enforcement liaison. The community security force is an ally of local law enforcement, and vice versa. Both groups should serve as the eyes and ears of the community and communicate regularly about incidents and potential threats. In addition, security teams need to monitor local crime trends and prepare for possible challenges.
• Resident resource. Hosting special events where board members and residents can meet security staff and managers has two benefits: it fosters trust and creates better relationships, and it allows security personnel to hear about and discuss issues and concerns firsthand.
To discuss how Sunstates Security can meet the needs of your community, please call 866-710-2019 or email us.
How Technology Adds Value to Security Services
The foundation of good security is good people, and that’s always been the focus at Sunstates Security. At the same time, we’re always looking for opportunities to help our people provide even more value. That’s why we partner with proven experts as needed and we employ the best technology to enhance and extend what our security officers are doing. This policy allows us to apply best practices from a wide range of industries to enhance client security programs.
“We apply the concept of ‘dog fooding,’ where you should never promote or sell something that you’ve never tasted yourself,” says Sunstates President Glenn Burrell, CPP. “We identify a strategic partner and use their product or service to better understand its capabilities and limitations so we’re able to advise our clients on whether it’s an appropriate answer to their problem.”
New Solutions for Common Problems
Some of the technology we use is behind the scenes: our clients won’t necessarily know we’re using it. Some is more client facing. We constantly review the available technological solutions and work with trusted partners to employ the best solutions on clients’ behalf.
• Proximity Readers and License Plate Recognition Software. Many facilities, such as corporate/school campuses and residential communities, have a high volume of both regular traffic (e.g., residents, students, employees, etc.) and visitors (e.g., guests, vendors, etc.) driving in. We know what systems can most efficiently read a tag or other device from the front of a vehicle as it approaches a gate, allowing quicker entry. Pairing such technology with license plate recognition software can confirm identity.
• Key Tethers. A key tether connects a key (or set of keys) with another device and provides an instant alert when, say, keys are detached from a belt. We often also attach a GPS tile to find separated keys. Clients frequently entrust us with the keys to their facilities, and we have a critical responsibility to take care of their keys, regardless of cost. Key control is critical to our clients’ safety and well-being.
• KnoxBoxes. Many property management clients have maglocks on their doors because they’re convenient: access cards can be easily programmed to control access for individual employees. But those doors will lock down in a power outage. While they can be opened from the inside, authorized personnel cannot enter the facility, even with an access card. We’ve found a solution by using KnoxBoxes, which uses a master key—available for security or management—to open those doors manually.
• Mass Notification Systems. We partnered with Punch Technologies to offer clients the Punch Alert emergency communication platform. The system allows individuals to report emergencies and safety hazards through a smartphone app. In addition, the platform permits two-way communication during an incident, so users can submit information and responders can issue mass updates.
We evaluate new technology constantly to find solutions that provide a higher level of security and convenience to our clients. Technology will never replace the eyes and ears of trained security officers, but it can help them do their jobs better every day.
Do you have a challenging security issue that’s keeping you awake at night? Contact Sunstates Security at 866-710-2019 or email us. We’ll help you find a solution.