Right now, the world is understandably preoccupied with the COVID-19 outbreak. But ensuring safety for multifamily residents is about more than just keeping the coronavirus away. In fact, though the road to a vaccine may be long, COVID-19 will eventually pose a smaller threat. There are a number of other areas that constitute resident well-being, and that have no expiration date: fire protection is one such area, and so is access control and intruder prevention. But unlike fire protection, the human element to intruder security makes it much less predictable and a lot harder to fully address.
The other thing that makes physical security a particularly tough challenge for multifamily owners is that, in theory, the more hardened and protected property access points and security systems get, the more disruptive they can be for the residents that are supposed to be there. This can seem like a bit of a trade-off: safety or convenience?
It doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition, though. For property owners looking to satisfy both of those categories, it helps to conceptualize each step needed like a pyramid. To borrow from the field of psychology, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory that says people need to achieve certain requirements before others. For instance, according to the theory, people need to have their basic physiological needs (food and water) met before they can be concerned with achieving safety, and thereafter safety is a prerequisite to developing a sense of social belonging.
According to Brivo, a leading provider of cloud-based access control, multifamily security can be approached in a similar way. Physical security is not only the requisite first step, necessitating that trespassers are kept out, but also that residents have easy access to all of their spaces. When physical security is achieved, only then can property managers start to cultivate resident belonging and, consequently, retention. In other words, smart thermostats and Alexa devices installed in units are great, but if the property is not secure, they’re a waste of effort. For Brivo, the subsequent steps are to ensure good property appeal by integrating tech solutions and high-quality appliances, and finally, property future-proofing by getting ready for transformative forces like 5G and robotics.
Just like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, though, each of these achievement areas is dependent upon the previous one. For multifamily properties, everything goes back to safety. If owners are unable to provide that to their residents, even the coolest of gadgets and nicest of finishes won’t mean much to residents that are scared for their lives and property.
Brivo recommends approaching multifamily security through three focus areas: cloud-based access, ongoing monitoring, and optimized physical security. Each of these three areas works in concert to provide a comprehensive security package. Cloud-based access optimizes efficiency by doing away with physical keys or plastic keycards and allowing residents to get into the property via a smartphone app. It also allows residents to let guests in via the app, saving them from having to come down to the lobby. This kind of approach is useful in the best of times but amidst a background of COVID-19, it’s even more applicable: managers can see exactly who is coming and going and limit access to avoid large gatherings and the associated virus risk.
The second leg of the security plan, ongoing monitoring, is also critical. By connecting video surveillance with data from the access control system, managers can gain a deep understanding of who is in the property at all times, whether for package delivery, food drop-off, or a social call. And finally, all this data and utilization information can be leveraged to establish high-quality physical security improvements. That could take the form of developing access schedules, remotely closing off common areas and other shared spaces (particularly relevant during the outbreak), or even developing an awareness of over-redundant control points.
Security is the foundation of any great multifamily property. It’s equivalent to physiological requirements for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. However, it is far from a one-and-done implementation. Instead, it requires careful planning across a number of different focus areas. Without strong access control, monitoring is powerless. Without monitoring, physical security can’t be optimized. It’s all interconnected, and when each guest represents a possible virus carrier, the coronavirus outbreak makes property security more important than ever.