This blog series focuses on best practices for the asset management of real property including buildings, grounds, furnishings, and equipment.

by John zumBrunnen, CEO and Founder, zumBrunnen, Inc.

Key Elements of Building Security

Security is about protection and prevention, important facets of asset management in the overall operation of senior living communities. In past years, high-profile cases of unauthorized entry, theft, and abuse has heightened the need for security. A secure living environment gives comfort to the residents and the families who are entrusting their loved ones to your care. The key areas and issues to building and grounds security are:

Security Equipment and Systems:

Every facility should have state-of-the-art CCTV equipment to monitor and record day-to-day operations and areas of the building where security personnel cannot always patrol. Good coverage with continuous taping of common and living areas, property and building entrances, parking garages, and grounds is a sound prevention tactic. The knowledge that security cameras are recording day-to-day patient care activities helps ensure quality care is administered, and that neglect or abuse will be detected and dealt with by management.

Doors, Door Hardware/Keying & Locks:

Qualified security consultants should evaluate automatic locks, keyless entry and wander guard systems, and remote control of locks at workstations to ensure the entire system is properly integrated so unauthorized personnel cannot enter. Residents in Alzheimer or Memory Care Units require monitoring so they do not wander outside the boundaries of their designated areas and care givers. A complete key control system is required so issuance of keys is secure. This includes issuance of master keys to staff and maintenance personnel.

Regular inspections documenting security equipment, doors, doorframes, and hardware are in good operation condition are fundamental. Security technology continues to evolve, becoming more sophisticated, intelligent, expensive, and oftentimes overly complicated. These systems are in active use every minute of every day, crucial to your operation, safety, and security. When considering modifications or a new security system(s), do your homework to understand fully how these systems interact and affect your daily routines; only buy after getting detailed references from other communities.


Proper light levels in surface parking lots, parking garages, stairwells, exit corridors, and around the perimeter of the building are key components of a secure and safe community. If, at any time, you feel that light levels are not adequate for resident and staff safety, commission a lighting consultant to take foot-candle illumination readings in these areas to ensure they meet current code requirements and good practice.


Plan the plantings of large trees and shrubs so not to provide hiding places near entry doors or parking lots, or cause blind spots for drivers at intersections or crosswalks. Incorporate a regular trimming maintenance program to prevent landscape from overgrowing in these areas.

In addition to the above security features for buildings and grounds, there are overall security management concerns to address to ensure a high level of security; they are:

Hiring Practices for Staff:

Prior to hiring any staff members, complete background checks and drug testing by independent consultants and labs. Random drug and alcohol testing, with strict disciplinary actions spelled out up to and including termination, should be a part of employment contracts so all staff is keenly aware of your drug free policy.

In-house Security Staff:

Security guards provide more than just security; they are an important part of your safety program and they are usually the ones to establish first impressions when welcoming residents, visitors, and potential future residents. Below is a brief guideline to review in developing security staff policies:

  • Maintain a well-groomed appearance; wear only clean, pressed, and approved uniforms with shined shoes and nametag.
  • Acceptance of gratuities should not be permitted.
  • Provide a written policy in accordance with all laws pertaining to use of force, self-defense, defense of others, accident investigation, handling small disturbances, working with and handling police reports, search and seizer, traffic control, vehicle use, and admission of liability.
  • Provide a written policy defining the role of security in emergencies and disaster-relief situations. This includes defining types of first aid and assistance that only trained security staff will provide. Examples include CPR, AED, or other life safety services; assist residents, management, and nursing staff with evacuation.
  • Provide a written policy defining the regular duties, schedules, and emergency procedures. This includes operating various security stations and equipment, assisting individuals to and from parking lots, traffic control, assisting emergency vehicles and personnel, and performing security checks such as a watch clock system or other routine security procedures.

Contracts with Security Companies:

Outsourcing security is always an option. Detailed interviews and background checks are a primary component of the selection process. Continuous monitoring of the contractor helps ensure services are provided; i.e. number of rounds, interaction with residents and staff, adherence to emergency procedures, etc. Contracted security staff should comply with the same security policies and procedures as detailed above.

Detailed Record Keeping:

Whether you provide security in-house or contract out, it is important to keep detailed records of security incidents such as theft, assault, unauthorized entry by staff, residents, or outsiders, emergency events, and the like. The records should include a detailed incident description without admission and/or assessment of any liability by the community. Conducting regular review of these records helps senior management to highlight any trends or areas of concern that need attention or more resources.

About the Author:

John zumBrunnen is Founder and CEO of zumBrunnen, Inc., an independent construction and building consulting firm founded in 1989. zumBrunnen has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of North Dakota, completed the US Army Corps of Engineers Training Program in 1972, and is a member of LeadingAge and Community Associations Institute on national and state levels. zumBrunnen has 40+ years of experience in construction, property assessment, development, and reserve budgeting. He is the inventor of the FacilityForecast® software system and a respected author and speaker in the industry.

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