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Laptops Don't Have Legs

When laptops began disappearing after hours from Manhattan’s One Liberty Plaza, located across the street from the World Trade Center complex, building managers knew they hadn’t walked out on their own. And they knew just how to find out who took them. The facility’s access control system keeps a record of the exact time and date that each person enters and leaves the building. Because the approximate time of the theft was known, narrowing the list of suspects was as simple as running a report.

The thief, who was an employee with access to the office from which the laptops were taken, was questioned when the access logs showed him leaving at the end of business and returning in the middle of the night. Managers determined that the employee had no reason for accessing the office after normal hours. They questioned him about the incident, and he confessed.

This result would have been impossible a few years ago. There was no system in place to track the comings and goings of workers, contractors, or others. Security was limited to a few personnel and outdated CCTV cameras.

After the 9-11 attacks caused extensive damage to the façade and interior of the building, the building closed for eight weeks. The owners recognized the need to upgrade security, and access control became a priority.

The building—managed by the massive Brookfield Properties, which also owns the World Financial buildings adjacent to the World Trade Center site—is home to more than 40 tenant office spaces, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of Nova Scotia, and Zurich Insurance. More than 10,000 employees are housed in the offices and about 15,000 visitors and contractors need to enter the building in any given month.

Before choosing a product, building managers evaluated several access control systems, but chose Touchcom’s OneFacility because it allowed tenants to monitor the system remotely via an Internet-based system and preregister expected visitors. Because the system is Web-based, users can access it from any Internet-enabled computer by typing in a username and password. It also allows authorized users to run reports on employee and visitor access throughout the facility.

Installation of OneFacility at One Liberty Plaza required adding four Internet-enabled computers to a visitor help desk. Because the system is Internet-based no additional software was required.

The building managers also installed turnstiles in the lobby entryway. The turnstiles are just inside the main doors and adjacent to the guard desk at which guests must first obtain their ID badge/access card that will open the turnstiles. Card readers were also installed at office doors internally; these were integrated with the system. The installation of the turnstiles and readers took approximately two months.

Once the system was operational, Delimay Figueroa, head of One Liberty Plaza’s visitor center, became the property’s OneFacility administrator. Figueroa designated one tenant facility manager for each tenant in the building. Figueroa says adding new tenant facility managers is a simple process and can be accomplished in minutes by completing a user-friendly setup application.

Each tenant facility manager maintains their company’s employee database, including removing fired employees and adding new hires and visitors. The tenant facility managers do not have access to other tenants’ employee databases, eliminating the possibility of a Goldman Sachs tenant facility manager adding unauthorized users to Zurich’s list, for example. As the system administrator, Figueroa has access to each tenant’s lists.

Although all the administrative functions are left to either Figueroa or a tenant facility manager, individual employees are given the power to preapprove visitors by logging onto OneFacility. The employee designates the guest name and the duration of the visit.

When the guest arrives, a guard requests a photo ID, checks to see that the guest is registered, takes the visitor’s photo, and prints a temporary photo ID badge/card. If a guest has not been preregistered, the visitor center will phone the hosting company for authorization.

No guest is permitted access to the building without a temporary photo badge/card. The guest card has a bar code, which contains an expiration date; the card will no longer operate once the date has passed.

Employees now enter or exit One Liberty Plaza by touching their cards to the turnstile reader. If the card is recognized, the employee or visitor’s name, time of entry, and date will be saved to the OneFacility database, and the turnstile will operate. Additionally, if a fake or outdated card is used, the incident will be saved in the database for review by building managers and security.

Access to the tenant office space is also tightly controlled, and employees and visitors must touch their card to a reader located outside of each office before gaining entry.

Another feature that Figueroa says has proven extremely valuable is the system’s help desk, which can be accessed through either telephone or e-mail. Because the entire system resides on Touchcom’s servers, if a problem is identified, technicians can diagnose and solve it remotely over the Internet.

This feature was put to the test one morning. During the height of rush hour, the entire system went down, preventing entry into the building. Figueroa made a call to the help desk, and the problem was solved within minutes, with little inconvenience to tenants.

Touchcom regularly upgrades the system based on individual client requirements. For instance, Figueroa wanted the ability to create an automated weekly report that detailed how many visitors and how many employees were given access to the building. Touchcom added the ability and trained Figueroa in how to perform the new functions.

Figueroa also requested an automated alert that could notify her staff if an employee had not used the card for an extended period of time. The staff will then investigate the employee to determine the reason for the lapse. If the employee has been fired or has resigned, that user will be instantly removed from the system.

Touchcom has given Figueroa training sessions to teach the “ins and outs of the system,” Figueroa says. She then trains her staff and tenant facility managers.

Beyond the inherent security benefits, Figueroa says the system has given the building’s tenants peace of mind; “they feel safer,” she says. Figueroa, credits it with helping sway a few prospective tenants into purchasing space in the building.

While the entire system, including computers, turnstiles, and help desk, was fairly expensive to install, costing “a few hundred thousand dollars,” Figueroa says it was well worth it. “You can’t put a price on security,” she says.

—By Marta Roberts, staff editor at Security Management