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Security in the Workplace - Informational Material

  General information for use in addressing security in the workplace issues (office security, physical security in a front-line office, and a checklist for telephone bomb threats).

Government offices can be targets for theft, unlawful entry, kidnapping, bombings, forcible occupation and sabotage. Effective barriers, both physical and psychological can reduce the likelihood of these threats. The following guidelines will help you analyze your office security profile and suggest measures to reduce your target potential.

Conduct a Crime Prevention Assessment - A complete, professional assessment of your security needs is the first step toward an effective security program. Your nearest Federal Protective Service (FPS) office can arrange a risk assessment be performed on your government-owned or leased office or building. (See FPS Organization and Points of Contact).

Since most crimes are directed toward individuals or offices that have little or no security planning in place. Take stock of your present measures and possible weak points. A comprehensive crime prevention assessment should ask:

  • What is your target potential?
  • What is the prevailing attitude toward security?
  • Who is responsible for the overall security program?
  • How are security policies enforced?
  • When was the current emergency preparedness plan developed (including fire, power failure and disaster)?
  • What resources are available locally and how rapid are the response times for fire, police and ambulance?
  • What kind of physical security systems and controls are presently used?
  • Do the available security resources, policies and procedures meet the potential threat?

Take Reasonable Precautions - Once the risk assessment has been completed, follow up with the FPS (or local law enforcement group) to act on the findings. For example, publicize phone numbers and make sure everyone knows whom to contact in case of an emergency.

  Here are some general suggestions that may increase your security:
  • Install key-card access systems at main entrances and on other appropriate doors.
  • Issue access control badges, with recent photographs, to all employees and authorized contractors.
  • Upgrade perimeter control systems with intercoms and closed circuit monitoring devices.
  • Keep master and extra keys locked in a security office.
  • Develop crisis communication among key personnel and security office involving intercoms, telephones, duress alarms or other concealed communications.
  • Have a back up communication system, like two-way radio, in case of phone failure.
  • Locate executive offices near the inner core of the building to afford maximum protection and avoid surveillance from the outside.
  • Arrange office space so unescorted visitors can be easily noticed.
  • Have staff follow strict access control procedures, don' t allow exceptions.
  • Keep important papers locked in secure cabinets.
  • Keep offices neat and orderly to identify strange objects or unauthorized people more easily.
  • Empty trash receptacles often.
  • Open packages and large envelopes in executive offices only if the source or sender is positively identified.
  • Keep closets, service openings, telephone and electrical closets locked at all times. Protect crucial communications equipment and utility areas with an alarm system.
  • Avoid stairwells and other isolated areas. Try not to ride the elevator alone with a suspicious person.
  • Don't work late alone or on a routine basis.
  • Keep publicly accessible restroom doors locked and set up a key control system. If there is a combination lock, only office personnel should open the lock for visitors.
  Keep an Executive Information File - Your security office should maintain an emergency contact file for immediate access for key personnel containing personal information to be used in case of emergency. This confidential file should contain:
  • Home address and telephone number
  • Family members; names, ages, descriptions
  • School schedules, addresses, phone numbers
  • Close relatives in the area; names, address, phone numbers
  • Medical history and physicians name, address, phone number
  • Local emergency services; ambulance and hospital phone numbers
  • Any code words or passwords agreed upon.
  Consider Setting Up Secure Areas in the Building - You may wish to consider maintaining one or more "secure rooms" on your work premises. This area can serve as a retreat in case of intrusion or other danger. The room should be equipped with:
  • Steel doors and protected ventilation system
  • First aid equipment
  • Phone and backup communication equipment
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Bomb blankets and hardened walls
  • Sand bags
  • Emergency tool kit
  • Extra food and clothing
  • Large flashlight and batteries
  • Firearms (if permitted under established policy)

If your office is a Federal "front-line" office with direct "employee-to-customer" service, your office and building should be designed according to Federal Protective Service security guidelines.
If your agency does not have security procedures in place, the head of your agency may want to ask a regional GSA Federal Protective Service office to conduct a physical security survey to ensure that employees are working in a safe and secure environment. (See FPS Organization and Points of Contact).

Before requesting a security survey, your agency may want to do a "crime assessment" of the risks you and your coworkers may encounter in your workplace. Are your customers likely to experience high levels of stress or tension? Do members of the general public who come into the office tend to be argumentative? Have there been threats or incidents of violence involving the public in the past? Or have Federal employees themselves become violent or threatening?

If your front-line public service office fits this profile, your agency needs to take immediate steps to help make your workplace fully secure. Following are some suggestions on improving security in your office and/or building.

  • Post a security guard at the main building entrance or at entrances to specific offices. Officers (or guards) should have a clear view of the controlled area at all times.
  • Install a metal detector or CCTV (closed-circuit television) camera or other device to monitor people coming in all building entrances.
  • Issue all employees photo identification cards and assign temporary passes to visitors--who should be required to sign in and out of the building. Under certain conditions, FPS officers (or contract guards) should be required to call Federal offices to confirm an appointment and/or to request an escort for all visitors--customers, relatives, or friends.
  • Rearrange office furniture and partitions so that front-line employees in daily contact with the public are surrounded by "natural" barriers--desks, countertops, partitions--to separate employees from customers and visitors.
  • Brief employees on steps to take if a threatening or violent incident occurs.
  • Establish code words to alert coworkers and supervisors that immediate help is needed.
  • Provide an under-the-counter duress alarm system to signal a supervisor or security officer if a customer becomes threatening or violent.
  • Establish an area in the office for employees and/or customers to escape to if they are confronted with violent or threatening people.

Physical Security Features in a Customer Service Federal Office

    Single public entrance to customer service area.

  • Reception desk immediately inside public entrance.
  • Silent, concealed alarms at reception desk and on Federal employee side of service counter.
  • Barrier between customer waiting and Federal work areas.
  • Service counter with windows between Federal employees and customers.
  • Window in supervisor's office from which supervisor can view customer service.
  • Access-control combination locks on access doors
  • Closed circuit television camera mounted for monitoring customer service activity from a central security office for the building.
  Physical Security Survey - A major goal of GSA's Federal Protective Service is to provide better protection for Federal employees and visitors by pinpointing high-risk areas in Federal buildings where potential problems or emergency situations might occur. This is accomplished through a "Physical Security Survey" conducted by a certified GSA physical security specialist. The survey is a comprehensive, detailed, technical on-site inspection and analysis of the current security and physical protection conditions.
  Source: U.S. General Services Administration

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