Back to Basics, Facility Security, Security Hardware and Technology

Back to Basics: Parking Garage Security

Back to Basics is an article series highlighting important, but possibly overlooked, information that security professionals should know. 

Security professionals whose facilities include parking garages should take steps to increase the security of these structures, which have their own unique challenges. These multilevel structures with ramps are often made of concrete, but some are made of structural steel. Many busy facilities have parking garages because more vehicles can be accommodated in a specific amount of square footage than in a surface parking lot.

Parking garages can be found in a variety of settings, including:

  • Educational—mostly colleges and universities
  • Health care—large hospitals
  • Entertainment—large sports arenas, convention centers, and resort casinos
  • Business—shopping malls, office complexes, city downtowns, and town centers
  • Mass transportation—near airports, as well as major train, subway, and bus routes

Parking garages have more safety and security issues than surface parking lots because they:

  • Are partially or fully enclosed, making it easier for criminals to hide because it’s harder for people to view all areas of the garage;
  • Feature ramps that allow vehicles to travel between floors, which means vehicles have more blind spots and could more easily hit pedestrians;
  • Usually have unique design elements such as lobbies, stairwells, elevators, and restrooms; and
  • Require appropriate access control for pedestrians and vehicles.

Ways Security Professionals Can Increase Security

It is important for security professionals to consider past problems at the specific parking garages they work in and use Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) to come up with possible solutions.

Additionally, security professionals should consider elements that can be modified to increase safety, including ensuring the garage and the surrounding area are properly maintained by cleaning up graffiti and trash. They should also review the following and work with facilities management when necessary. The U.S. Whole Building Design Guide has several recommendations when it comes to parking garages, including the following

  1. Lighting is important for pedestrians and vehicles. Security professionals should therefore ensure there are no areas with shadows where someone could hide by promptly replacing any burned-out lights. They should also make lighting vandal-resistant and easy to maintain. To save money and energy, security should consider following Federal Energy Management Program-designated lighting.
  2. Signs and graphics such as directional, informational, and exit signs are necessary for pedestrians and vehicles. This signage should include security cameras in use (if applicable), accessible parking, fire lanes, no-parking areas, pedestrian crossing, and stop signs. Security professionals should also consider installing colorful signs on concrete pillars so visitors know the garage name, level number, and row number. Additionally, the signs should encourage visitors to take photos with their cellphones so they can easily find their vehicles. This is important to minimize the time visitors spend walking in garages so they are less vulnerable to attackers.
  3. Panic buttons and emergency phones should call to the security office or local law enforcement. Security professionals should be able to determine which button was pressed and where the visitor is located and should consider an emergency blue light system. Read about this in “Back to Basics: Comparing One-Way and Two-Way Emergency Communication Devices” on Total Security Advisor.
  4. Video and audio surveillance is a costly option, but it can be important in responding to emergencies in real time and reviewing footage. Security should install cameras in lobbies, elevators, and stairwells. If the facility has pay stations, where money and credit cards are accepted, on each level and/or at exit gates, security should ensure there is proper camera coverage for them, as well. To learn more, read “10 Ways Security Professionals Should Utilize Security Cameras” on Total Security Advisor.  
  5. It’s important that security personnel be present in high-risk facilities. Uniformed security can drive around the garage levels or walk around the garage to help deter crimes. To learn more about security uniforms, read “Back to Basics: 5 Types of Uniform Styles for Security Professionals” on Total Security Advisor.
  6. Access control should be provided by using security booths and traffic control gates to manage vehicular and pedestrian access. Security should utilize fencing to prevent access to obscure places (like underneath the staircase) where someone can hide, as well as consider having appropriate access control measures to prevent access to storage, security, and utility areas. To learn more about access control, read “Back to Basics: Increasing Security Through Strong Physical Access Control” on Total Security Advisor.

Security professionals should do whatever it takes to increase safety and security for those utilizing parking garages on their properties.  

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