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Monday, May 24, 2010

company doesn't care about building security

A reader writes:

Hope you can help address this pretty strange situation that is occurring in my office. My desk is the closest desk to the side door/parking lot door. Most building foot traffic comes through this door since it leads right to the parking lot/straight to the office area, so it's heavily used. With the way the building is set up, whenever the central air conditioning system is on, the door (which is normally magnetically held shut and opened with an RFID card) is kept open with a gust of air, leading to a whistling/howling sound as air rushes out. This is a minor (albeit annoying) issue compared to my next complaint...

Once in a while, people open the door from the outside without their RFID card. Since the door is held open with the air conditioning gusts, it's sort of expected for people to just pull the door open and walk in. Sometimes, people that come in aren't part of the company.. meaning people can walk in and walk around without anyone noticing. We all have cubicles on the first floor with a 6' wall around us so we don't get to see everything.. just the sounds of the RFID reader beeping, the howling of the door being held open, etc. Yesterday, I heard the door howling so I got up to do my normal routine of shutting the door and making sure it stays shut, I see some unknown person walking out of the building trying to shut the door behind him. I never saw this person before and thought it was strange, so after I closed the door and had a moment to think about it, I went outside to see if I can see if this guy belonged to a maintenance truck or something doing work on the building. Nope, nothing.. guy was gone.

I go to complain to HR about this (as I am the first desk by the door, I don't want people walking in and potentially taking something or worse) and the head of HR just blows it off like I am complaining about the sound (which I have done in the past, to no avail). I tell him that my concern now is with unknown/unwanted people wandering around the office. His response was to start chasing people out of the building. I am not building security nor do I think I should put myself in such a situation. We are a credit card processing firm so we take risks/compliance very seriously and I don't think that leaving a door wide open during the summer would go well with security analysts.

Essentially my question is: What should I do? HR blows this off as me complaining and whining, my manager and his boss work in different countries so they are not witness to this. I am honestly at a loss of what to do about this situation. I don't think I feel safe walking away from my desk and leaving anything behind if someone can walk in and just take something without anyone knowing. Nor do I think I should be the one to confront these people if anything should happen.

HR is probably blowing you off because you complained to them earlier about the sound of the door, and now they think that's your real concern.

If I'm understanding correctly, the problem is caused when someone uses the door, because then the air from the AC system causes it to stay open, right? So the issue is that people aren't pulling the door shut all the way and ensuring it locks shut? One way to handle this would be for the company to crack down on that, and require people to treat the door as a security measure -- which it is -- that they need to utilize properly, meaning ensuring it locks shut each time they go in or out.  Another would be to talk with your building operations management and find out if the AC vent causing the issue can be redirected in a way that will solve the problem. 

You might get somewhere by suggesting these two options to whoever at your company is in charge of security compliance, since HR doesn't care. Frame it as a compliance issue.

You can also explain to your manager what you explained here; just because he doesn't work out of that office doesn't mean he's not capable of processing what you're saying. Again, frame it as a security issue.

But if your company just doesn't care, I'd get a cabinet that locks and keep any personal belongings you want to keep secure in there.


Cori Rozentāle said...

Speaking as a commercial locksmith, I might add that there is another option. The reader should speak to whoever is in charge of maintenance. This is a situation which can be fixed by adjusting the closer on the door, along with other small tweaks to ensure the door closes properly every time. If building maintenance is unable to make these adjustments, a professional locksmith can easily fix it. Perhaps the reader's boss can arrange for one to be called in so this can get resolved.

Anonymous said...

OP here.

Thanks AAM for posting this :)

@Cori: The person who is in charge of maintenance IS the HR guy.

@AAM: Right now, the door is not open and hasn't since the weather evened out, but next time it happens I'll speak with my remote manager. Thanks for posting my question :))

Rebecca said...

Maybe document your attempts to make management/HR/whoever aware of this problem, so if (when!) sensitive info is stolen from your work area next to the door, you can show you brought this problem to their attention.

Anonymous said...

Depending on your office culture, maybe you can just send out a broadcast email, asking everyone to remember to shut the door as they come in. Or put up a sign on the door. You can even include in your email what you witnessed re: Stranger walking in so people may pay more attention.

Anonymous said...

Is there another door you can use in the summer time if anyone refuses to fix the situation with that door? Then, that other door can be locked from the outside (not from the inside so you can still have a fire escape).

Anonymous said...

This is a technical problem, and I think you should try to fix it that way. Since the HR person is in charge of maintenance (sheesh!) present these suggestions to them.

Who sold/services the RFID reader? There has to be someone providing service for that. Call that vendor first. If they can't fix it because of the HVAC trouble, that will give some technical information to the HVAC people. Then call the HVAC people.

Cori is absolutely right. It drives me nuts to go into a commercial building with balky doors or jammed locks, these troubles are easily fixed by tech people. Not IT or HR people.

Anonymous said...

Most employers are merely tenants in a building owned and managed by others. So regardless of whether it is HR that submits the request on behalf of OP's company, it is ultimately the building management that fulfills them. Or doesn't, in this case. And there's not a lot that can be done, until something serious happens like a theft.

Anonymous said...

I worked at a semiconductor company in which keycards were required to enter our buildings.

We ended up having a lot of thefts from people's cubicles over a short time period. Naturally, people were pointing fingers.

I simply brought up the point that people would let others in without checking their ID if they didn't recognize the person. I hold HR that all I had to do was simply walk in with a notebook, a $10 network card and I had easy access because everyone would assume I was an engineer.

We ended up locking up stuff in our cubicles, which is pretty stupid when you're in a building that should be secure from the beginning.