Tenants Play Important Role in Safety-Security Planning

  April 7, 2015

Any safety and security strategy for a multi-tenant office building has to include ways to get tenants to understand their role in helping to keep people out of harm's way. Another important challenge is planning in advance the response to an actual event, even when it seems a mere abstract exercise, and even when tenants, preoccupied with work, may have grown complacent about safety training.

Bill Criticos, general manager of three Philadelphia buildings, including two 40-story structures, for Brandywine Realty Trust, offers an example. In fully sprinklered high rises in Philadelphia, the entire building is not automatically evacuated in the event of a fire. Rather, the evacuation into the fire tower starts with three floors — the floor where the fire is and the floors directly above and below it — while the fire department assesses the situation.

That sounds straightforward, but when there's an alarm, tenants who have not attended life-safety training may evacuate when they shouldn't. That can lead other tenants who should be staying put to evacuate as well, he says. The ripple effect can put both tenants and the fire department at risk.

With 6,000 occupants in two towers, Criticos' chief enemy is complacency. "We try to retrain every tenant every year," he says. But after a tenant has been in a building for a year or two, it's harder to get them to find time for life safety training. Tenants who fail to participate can, out of ignorance, "throw a monkey wrench into the whole process" of safety planning, he says.

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