Suspicious package response in a high-rise environment challenges the best of management teams and highlights the importance of teamwork and communication. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation requiring management, security and engineering personnel to work cooperatively to achieve both item isolation along with clear, concise communication to building occupants. Having a plan in place is a start. The challenge becomes understanding how that plan is affected by item location and bustling common areas.
Trust Your Plan
There’s a reason why you are considering the item potentially hazardous, whether it be physical indicators or unnerving circumstances. Trust in your instincts and your decision, and when you implement your response plan, do so fully. There is no partial implementation and do not cut corners. It’s understandable to want to avoid disruptions to daily operations and the potential backlash from inconvenienced tenants. However, it’s not acceptable to have anyone injured because these reasons were given too much weight. Stand by your decision and trust in your response plan.
Implementing the R.A.I.N. (Recognize, Avoid, Isolate, Notify) response model is complicated when the item is located in a busy common area. Teams need to prepare for suspicious packages located in those common areas and practice quickly implementing isolation plans.
- Staff and restrict all points of ingress into the danger zone
- Direct tenants and visitors to safer locations
- Take environmental concerns, like glass items that could become secondary fragmentation, and adjoining businesses into account
Preparation is paramount.
Are Your Tenants Prepared?
One intangible that teams cannot control but must prepare for is improper actions taken by building occupants. Emergency plans can be quickly complicated by tenants who respond improperly, even if having good intentions. The reality is that many are unaware of what they should do in emergencies.
An Atlanta area high rise facility recently fell victim to this when a suspicious package was delivered to a tenant floor. The tenant quickly identified it as suspicious and instead of observing safety rule #1 of suspicious items – Do Not Touch, brought the item to the busy lobby and turned it over to security. What could have been simple area isolation on a restricted floor became an overwhelming and confusing restriction of the main lobby at lunchtime with adjacent restaurants and open eating areas to consider. Yikes!
Offering tenant education in emergency response can go a long way, especially when dealing with items thought to be explosive or hazardous. Floor wardens already have a role in emergency response and can be easily trained in basic response procedures – suspicious item indicators, basic safety rules, the facility response, and evacuation/shelter-in-place considerations. Having trained personnel in each tenant space will increase the likelihood of safety guidelines being followed and compliance with evacuation decisions.
Communication is the key to success during an incident. It is also the most significant challenge faced. Building staff, tenants and responding public safety personnel have to work together. Having a plan in place and implementing that plan requires communication and coordination within the building team. Educating tenants and providing them with updated information about an incident ensures the response plan does not get complicated and keeps them safe. Relaying incident and item specifics, procedures implemented and current building status to first responders allows them to focus on resolving the incident quickly and safely.
Environmental factors, location and the number of people occupying the area can complicate an already challenging suspicious package incident. The time is now to take your suspicious package response plan a step further. Enhance your plan to account for all the potential roadblocks your team may face. Doing so now will pay off if you have to implement your plan later.