Special Focus: Don’t Overlook the Parking Areas

They may be under-appreciated by the many users who take them for granted, but for the security industry, parking lots and garages are a sort of double-edged sword. For integrators, parking areas offer a range of opportunities for technology deployment; on the other hand, for your customers, they are one of the greatest areas of risk.

Chances are, at one point or another you have found yourself alone in a dark and deserted parking lot — usually that situation is not accompanied by a pleasant feeling in the pit of your stomach. Your client’s security director undoubtedly gets the same feeling if he or she finds out about a security incident in the company parking lot — if they did not deploy the proper technology to mitigate the risk, they may have a lot to answer for.

Thus, it is vitally important that you as a security integrator make it a point to be sure your clients’ parking areas are well-lit, under surveillance and offer recourse for patrons in case of an emergency. Perhaps the best way to accomplish that is through an integrated web of technologies — many of which will be outlined in this special section.


Multiple Markets

One thing about parking lots and garages is that they don’t discriminate when it comes to the markets security integrators serve.

At hospitals, for example, violence in parking lots is so prevalent that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends all hospitals provide security escorts to the parking lots at night.

How about retail? Nearly every single store has a parking facility. “Customers are easy targets in parking lots,” Pat Murphy, president of Houston, Texas-based LPT Security Consulting told SecurityInfoWatch as part of its coverage of the Black Friday after-Thanksgiving sales. “(Customers) are focused on getting into or out of the store — and during the holidays, there are generally a lot of cars moving around so it is difficult to sense a slow moving vehicle that may be a threat.”

Many corporate, healthcare and other clients maintain large parking garages that can be both cash-generators and magnets for crime. Beyond the dark corners of the garage, cashier booths are a high-risk target for robbery. Cash collection in parking structures is an important security design consideration. Cash can be handled manually at kiosks or by automatic systems; however, the cashier can be an important aspect of surveillance during operating hours.

Another market for high-risk parking areas is large venues. Think about the people you may see in various states of inebriation as you walk through a parking lot and into a football stadium, for example.


Mitigating the Risk

While there is no silver bullet, a good combination of integrated technologies can vastly reduce your clients’ parking area risk. There are many potential technology deployments, but the key areas should be lighting, surveillance, perimeter security — including gates, fences and bollards — and emergency contact stations.

The rise of LED lighting has been a significant step for parking area security. The technology includes both infrared and white lighting capabilities, and the “green factor” of LED’s low power consumption makes it financially feasible to establish lighting levels high enough to ensure quality surveillance images. “It behooves safety and security practitioners to take the entire spectrum of value into account and consider where current LED lighting technology, especially white lighting, can provide improved risk mitigation at a good cost,” says security consultant Ray Bernard.

Not only does good lighting make patrons feel safer, it goes hand-in-hand with the video surveillance system. Read more about that in James Marcella’s article on page 26.

Perimeter security effectively “surrounds” a facility with good access controls. “Perimeter control can be fencing, level changes, ground floor protection and other architectural and environmental barriers that channel people to designated entry points onto the property and into the lot or garage, discourage persons from hiding outside and inside the property or buildings and discourage trespassing and unauthorized access,” says Randy Atlas, an expert in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Emergency call stations or panic buttons are a characteristic of many secured parking areas — especially garages. “Panic button call boxes should be integrated with the video surveillance system, allowing a camera to be activated when a call box is pushed so that security can receive a call for assistance instantly,” Atlas says.

Whichever technology you choose, be sure to include proper signage. Not only can signs help move vehicles to designated areas quickly and efficiently but they also deter crime. Criminals avoid areas with cameras and proper signage with clear warnings will go a long way to stopping dangerous activity before it occurs.