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Does Your Property Have a Strong Key Control Policy?

For larger building complexes and multifamily communities, you might be surprised to learn that most security threats occur from within. Predators know how to search for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our own systems, and they know how to exploit them once they find them. A large number of break-ins don’t include brute force — they occur because the thief was able to obtain a key. In other words, your keys are the weakest link in your security chain. This is why having a strong key control policy is critical to the overall security of your facility.

How Keys Get into the Wrong Hands

key control policyThe vast majority of the time, keys get into the hands of bad guys for one of three reasons:

1. Lack of tracking

The building management has no clear-cut system for knowing where keys are or who has them, at any given time.

2. Lack of accountability

There is no system for tracking when keys are checked in and out, or by whom (or the system leaves much room for error).

3. Easy access

People can obtain keys far too easily, without much in the way of oversight. If one or more of these areas is weak, your key control policy is not strong enough to ward off breaches and intrusions. It’s as simple as that.

Elements of a Strong Key Control Policy

Concerned that your property has too much fluidity with its key control? Here are some ways you can strengthen your key policies and restrict access:

1. Keep the keys secure

Keys should be kept in a strong, tamper-proof, locked cabinet that can only be unlocked through a series of protocols.

2. Implement multi-step access

Make sure your employees go through several steps before a key is issued to them. For example, the employee may need to scan a badge and input a PIN number before the box opens. Better yet, implement a biometric system that reads fingerprints.

3. Enforce accountability

Employees should input which key(s) they are taking, at what time, and for what purpose — and they should check keys back in by a similar process.

4. Enforce restricted access points

For enhanced security, certain employees should only access certain keys for certain parts of the building or complex. They may only be allowed to check out specific physical keys, or their card keys may be coded for access to certain rooms.

5. Automate scheduling

Your system should be programmed so that certain employees may only receive key access at certain times of day. If an employee tries to obtain a key outside their designated hours, the box will not open.

6. Streamline your reporting

Management should be able to view reports at any given time that can show how many keys are out, who has them, which buildings/rooms have been accessed and at what time. This type of monitoring may be crucial to identifying potential violations because unusual activity can be identified easily.

7. Establish an audit trail

Reports should be backed up offsite to prevent any attempts to manipulate the data.

8. Train employees with a consistent protocol

Every employee should be properly trained in the procedure for obtaining and returning keys, and check-out/check-in occurs exactly the same way every time.

Advantages of a Strong Key Control Policy

Making improvements to your key control policy can do the following:

● Help you quickly identify and correct violations for heightened security

● Help you stop an intrusion before it starts

● Help you prevent an intrusion from happening in the first place

● Help you pinpoint suspicious activity in the unlikely event of a break-in

● Give you and your tenants greater peace of mind

Because your keys provide access, they are your greatest potential vulnerability, and therefore, must be accompanied by the highest levels of security and oversight.

HandyTrac offers a variety of key control solutions designed to enhance and implement your company’s key control policy, making it easy to monitor, track and secure your keys. To learn more, contact us here.

Why Your Building Security Package Should Include a Key Control System

building securityIf you’re working to improve safety and security in your building or multifamily property, be careful not to overlook the most vulnerable point of potential breaches: the door. Any building security package that doesn’t include some sort of key control system is leaving at least one gaping hole in their net.

A property can have the most high-tech cameras, the most robust gate security, the strongest locks, and the most diligent staff; if the keys to the property aren’t properly inventoried, monitored and regulated, it’s the same as leaving the front door open. The smart bad guys know the best way to break in is not by hacking your security systems, picking your locks or using brute force — it’s by getting a key. This is why any building management team serious about protecting its facility or tenants should include key control in their security portfolio.

Why is key control one of the most critical elements of your security? Here are just a few reasons.

One-third of burglaries aren’t forced entry.

According to statistics reported by Safewise, over one-third of home burglars simply walk through the front door — and this statistic only covers residential theft. In other words, a large portion of criminals look for alternative points of entry than sheer force, and they’ll gladly choose unlocking a door over breaking it down. While security systems provide an excellent deterrent, if you aren’t controlling your keys, you’re effectively only covering 66 percent of your total potential vulnerability.

Your keys are your weakest link.

The keys to your facility or complex are small yet powerful because they are the tools that provide access to every room and every unit. And yet, they also constitute the weak link in your security chain for two reasons: 1) They are small, and therefore easy to hide, misplace or copy; and 2) There are so many of them roaming around. It’s not feasible to try to shore up this vulnerability by reducing the number of keys — your staff needs those keys to perform their functions — so the next best way to shore up this weakness is to have a system that controls access to the keys and gives an account for where every key is at any given time.

You could be held liable if an incident occurs.

This is particularly true if you are overseeing a building or property with multiple residents or commercial tenants. Management is responsible for performing due diligence to keep the property safe from intruders and criminals. If a crime occurs on the premises and the investigation concludes the point of entry came from a mismanaged key, you may be held legally responsible on the grounds of negligence.

A proper key control system saves you money over time. When keys aren’t properly inventoried and monitored, a lost key becomes an expensive prospect. Changing the locks throughout the facility can be quite costly, especially if the lost key provides widespread access. By comparison, spending a few extra dollars of your security budget on a key control system means your keys remain relevant for longer, and locks have to be changed far less frequently.

With greater accountability, infractions are easier to spot.

A good key control system includes tracking and reporting capabilities. This allows management to always have an eye on who has keys out, to which rooms/units, and for what reasons. This means anomalies and irregularity become easier to identify. If a violation occurs, you’ll be able to see where it occurred and who was involved — and if necessary, so will law enforcement.

You can prevent crimes.

Of course, one of the best things about key control is the crimes that won’t happen. Any employee who comes on staff with bad intentions will understand immediately that every key is tracked and accounted for — that he/she will be immediately identified for misuse. Many potential crimes are halted before they start.

Sometimes the smallest details become our worst enemies. Why spend thousands of dollars improving your security package only to leave your greatest area of vulnerability uncovered?

HandyTrac offers a selection of state-of-the-art key control systems that are both reliable and affordable. Contact us by email or phone at 1-800-665-9994 to see what we can do for you.

How to Select a Secure Key Control System

So, you’ve decided that you need to install a secure key control system for your property, but you’re unsure of what type of system you need, what features would help you, or which provider will offer the highest quality service. How do you select a key control system that’s right for you? Here are a few tips to point you in the right direction.

secure key controlLook for Multiple Layers of Secured Access

These days, a truly secure system means more than just keeping keys under lock and key, or even keeping a record of check in/check out. It also means your employees should have to move through several steps in order even to access the keys. For example, the employee might need to type in a PIN code after scanning his/her badge at the key console to prevent the possibility of access using a stolen badge. The employee should also have to designate which key is being pulled with a reason code to specify why the key is needed. In addition, your secure system should also provide immediate alerts via text or email to management in the event that proper protocol is not followed.

Look for Additional Security Features

Security shouldn’t end once the key box is opened. A good system also includes security enhancements to make sure key usage can’t be abused. For example, anonymous barcode tags on the keys can ensure an employee can’t identify one key from the other (the console can tell the employee which key to take). Another good feature is random key rotation, in which keys are never returned to the same hook from where they were pulled. (Again, the console can track where the keys are placed.)

Look for Simple, Accurate Reporting Capabilities

One benefit of installing a computerized secure key control system is that the computer can track your entire key inventory and instantly create detailed reports of key activity. Look for a system that can build reports based on functional activity, activity by building unit, activity by employee, etc.

Look at the Warranty and Support

No matter how secure the key control system is designed to be, it’s not actually secure if it breaks down, nor if you don’t receive the proper training and support in using it. Make sure your provider offers a solid warranty, as well a solid system for training you and your employees in proper use.

HandyTrac offers a selection of highly secure key control systems that are easy to use, offer plenty of extra security features and are backed by a stellar warranty and technical support. To learn more, give us a call at 1-800-665-9994, or send us an email at sales@handytrac.com.

6 Facts You Need to Know About Key Loss

key lossHere are 6 facts about the reality of key loss and why you should take preventive measures to avoid the risk and cost associated with losing keys.

1 – Re-keying a multi-tenant high-rise can cost upwards of $80,000 and take several weeks to finish. Even with insurance, an average deductible would run $25,000.

2 – Key loss is not only a security and cost issue – it’s also a credibility and integrity issue for security firms and property management companies.

3 – The majority of keys today are simply protected by the traditional key ring attached to a belt loop. This method of key control has remained unchanged for well over 100 years.

4 – During the London 2012 Olympics, a set of keys was lost for Wembley Stadium, a major sporting venue. Replacing keys and locks costs tens of thousands of dollars. Reference

5 – Re-keying the buildings on a typical college campus can cost up to $100,000. Last January, USA Today reported that the loss of keys costed College of William and Mary close to $500,000. Reference

6 – G4S was forced to spend £500,000 changing ALL the locks at prison after guards lost the keys. Reference


About HandyTrac

For over 30 years, HandyTrac has been the low-cost leader in multifamily, student and military housing key control; managing keys for more than 3,000,000 apartment homes nationwide. Our cloud based systems offer instant access to archived reporting and provide the ability to manage your communities with a single login through your computer or smartphone.


Written by Shannon Arnold. Originally posted here.

The Basics of Electronic Key Management and Control

electronic key managementIt’s never too late – or too early – to implement a key control and management strategy. A good electronic key management and control system is organized and formal, and addresses both access to and control of a property’s keys.

When deciding which system best suits your needs, keep these 8 basics in mind:

Tracking

A tracking system lets you know where keys are and who has them. The system records who took keys, when and for how long.

Cost

An electronic key management system can pay for itself when compared to the cost of loss and/or replacing keys on a regular basis in addition to the ROI gained from improved security.

Security

Key management systems are designed so that only authorized users can access keys and the management of keys is controlled.

Scalability

As your needs grow, the system can be expanded to accommodate more key cabinets. HandyTrac offers single and double cab options for all it’s key control systems.

Convenience

A key management and control system is easy to use and can accommodate a variety of keys. Biometric fingerprint verification, touch screen display and lighted cabinets add to the ease of use.

Integrity

Rugged 18 gauge steel cabinets and tamper-proof doors enhance the reliability of the system.

Access

PINs, access control cards, biometrics or any combination of the three are the most commonly used methods for accessing keys.

Aesthetics

Well designed key systems and cabinets make key management simple for all users. The HandyTrac Touch features a large touch screen display, biometric reader and badge reader for ease of use and maximum security.

To learn more about HandyTrac’s electronic key management and control systems, contact us today!

4 Key Management Reports Provided by HandyTrac

For multifamily dwellings, student and military housing, having a proper key management system in place is essential to ensuring the safety and security of your tenants. Of course, that’s only half the battle. It’s just as important to have key management reports that show you which keys were checked out, when, and by whom. This “paper trail” is critical, not just for protecting your tenants and keeping your employees accountable, but also to protect your company and to prove due diligence.

Logging key check-in and check-out can be a full-time job in and of itself, which is why HandyTrac simplifies the process by keeping track for you and generating four different types of key management reports. Let’s look at them one by one.

1. Reports by Housing Unit

This report focuses on each individual unit in your complex, documenting how many times keys were checked out for that unit during the report period, as well as who checked them out, and for what purpose. If a specific tenant has expressed concerns about entry into their unit, you’ll easily be able to identify any discrepancies.

key management

2. Reports by Functional Activity

This report sorts all key management activity in your facility according to reason code (e.g., preventative maintenance or a unit inspection). This feature helps you keep track of things like ongoing maintenance functions as well as providing documentation for compliance purposes.

key management

3. Keys Out Report

Find out at any time which keys are checked out, by whom and for what reason. Pull this report anytime you want a snapshot of current activity on your property, or have a keys out report emailed to you daily. This way, you can easily track employee activity on the grounds to make sure everyone is where they should be — and be alerted if anyone is where they shouldn’t be.

key management

4. Report by Employee

This report identifies each employee’s key in-and-out activity during the specified report period, useful for tracking with job performance as well as identifying any unusual activity. These four key management reports can be accessed online from any authorized device, sent to any printer in your network and/or emailed to pertinent staff, making it easy to pull and access reports anytime you need them.

key management

To learn more about HandyTrac’s key management reporting features, contact us today!

What is Premises Security Liability?

premises security liabilityIn any type of multifamily housing — be it apartment buildings, student housing or military housing — the safety of your tenants is an ongoing point of concern. Without proper security measures in place, if someone becomes a victim of a crime while on your property, that person could potentially hold your company legally responsible on the grounds of premises security liability.

Simply put, premises security liability means that as a property owner/manager, you are expected to have reasonable security measures in place, and if you are found negligent on that front, you could be legally liable for any harm or damage deriving from a crime. This article in Justia explains further:

“An injured person is able to bring a negligent security suit based on the duty imposed on landowners and possessors of property to offer reasonable security measures and protect lawful visitors from foreseeable crimes of third parties. Negligent security assumes that the crime could have been prevented or at least made less likely by using appropriate security measures.”

The Hidden Weakness: Key Control

Most multi-family housing complexes understand and implement basic security measures to reduce the risk of crime — for example, installing security cameras and gated entry systems, or implementing ample lighting across the premises. However, proper key control is one aspect of premises security that can be easily overlooked.

With a large number of home invasions, robberies, burglaries and sexual assaults, the predator didn’t need to break in because they were able to obtain a key. In fact, as we mention here, one of the biggest jury awards given in a premises security liability case was one in which a rapist broke into the management office and found the key to his victim’s apartment clearly labeled.

Since the management oversees keys to all units, protecting and monitoring the use of those keys is one of the most important parts of keeping tenants safe — and also one of the aspects most likely to be targeted for negligence. Not only do the keys need to be kept secure, but their use needs to be tracked. You need an audit trail — you need to be able to document and trace who had use of the keys, when they obtained them and when they were returned.

Obviously, not all crimes can be prevented, but one of the best ways you can improve safety for your tenants is by implementing a secure system for key control. This also serves as a tremendous safeguard against premises security liability.

HandyTrac offers a variety of state-of-the-art key control systems that keep keys secure while generating a reliable audit trail. To learn more, call us today at 1-800-665-9994.

How to Ensure Tenant Safety in Multifamily Housing

tenant safetyWhen you own or manage any type of multifamily housing, tenant safety must always be a top priority. Understandably, the larger the complex, the more challenging it becomes to keep people and property safe. With more units, more keys and more employees also come more opportunities for lapses in security, possibly resulting in one or more tenants becoming victims of theft, vandalism or even more violent crimes.

Fortunately, by thinking proactively, there are a number of ways you can implement a security structure to help ensure tenant safety in even the largest multifamily complexes. Let’s look at a few key ways to accomplish this goal.

Surveillance Cameras

One of the first and best deterrents to criminal activity is the use of 24-7 surveillance through the use of video cameras. Thieves and other criminals don’t like to be identified, and a well-placed set of video cameras helps fill in the gaps where your security staff can’t physically be present. Many surveillance systems today can even be monitored and controlled from anywhere via Internet access.

Key Control Systems

One of the most common vulnerabilities in any multifamily residence is the proliferation of keys to the units. A properly designed key control system like HandyTrac solves this problem by keeping unit keys guarded and monitored by a computerized system accessible only by employees. These systems may be activated either by employee badge or by fingerprint, and accurate logs are kept regarding which keys are pulled, when they are pulled and when they are returned. This protocol helps keep all employees accountable, as well as keeping tenants and their property safe.

Proper Lighting

All public areas of your property should be well-lit, and the bulbs should be changed out regularly to prevent outages. Pay special attention to common parking areas and breezeways as these often provide hiding places for predators to lurk. Also, make sure all unit entrances are appropriately lit, as tenants can become vulnerable when fumbling for their keys.

Gated Entrances and Secure Parking Decks

If your multifamily housing complex can accommodate a secure gated entry, this feature provides an excellent layer of safety for your tenants. Likewise, if your complex or building includes a parking garage, consider installing an automatic door that tenants alone may open remotely.

Background Checks and Screening of Employees

Another way to ensure tenant safety is to require criminal background checks on every employee in the complex prior to hiring them. Thieves and other predators often like to come on board as employees to gain an in, especially when the complex is otherwise secured. Background checks provide yet another deterrent to these criminals. Most or all of your applicants will pass background checks; those with felonies on their records most likely won’t even apply.

Property Staff Training

Beyond screening your employees, the next step is to train those employees in proper safety protocols. You would do well to make sure every member of your staff receives training in the following areas:

● CPR and other life saving techniques

● Water safety certification (if your complex has a pool or spa)

● Basic first aid

● Basic maintenance training in property systems (e.g., heating, electrical and water systems)

● Emergency protocols for fire, natural gas smell and other hazards

● Security protocols for reporting suspicious characters or unidentified persons

● Basic self-defense techniques

Some cities offer this type of training as a service; check with your local offices to see what courses may be available for your employees.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Of course, crime is not the only danger potentially threatening your tenants. Fire presents a constant danger, and odorless carbon monoxide from heaters kills hundreds of people each year. Virtually every state requires smoke alarms to be installed in apartment dwellings, and a growing number of states now require carbon monoxide detectors on every floor, as well. Know the laws in your state, and when appropriate, be willing to exceed those standards to make sure your tenants remain safe in their own units. Educate your tenants on the use and testing of these systems.

At HandyTrac, we are committed to tenant safety in multifamily, military and student housing.To learn more about our key control solutions, contact HandyTrac today.

How to Train Your Property Staff in Key Control Best Practices

In any multifamily dwelling or complex, your greatest potential security vulnerability is not necessarily your lighting, your security cameras, your parking lots or your property entrances. It’s actually something much smaller, something you can hold in your hand. Your greatest security risk is the mismanagement or misuse of property keys. This is why training your property staff in key control best practices is a critical part of keeping your property and your tenants safe.

Why Are Your Keys a Security Risk?

Key Control Best PracticesThe bigger your property, the more units you have and the more staff you have, the more keys you must keep track of. Every key made increases the potential risk. Why? Simple: A key implies permission to enter. Keys leave no evidence of a break-in. Someone who obtains a key without permission can enter a unit, violate or steal at will and without warning, putting your tenants at risk and making you potentially liable for harm or damage.

The good news is that guarding, managing and controlling your keys by a set of key control best practices will greatly reduce this risk. It takes a few extra steps and a bit of training, but in the long run the entire property will operate a lot more safely.

Tips for Training Your Employees in Key Control

Once you’ve established your priorities and practices for key control, how do you train your employees in the process? Here are a few tips to help out.

Emphasize the importance of key control.

Everyone on your staff today, and everyone you hire in the future, should understand that key control is a top priority for your property. Emphasize that these best practices are for their protection as well as yours.

Keep the process consistent.

Once you have the system in place, make as few changes to the process as possible, with possible exception of completely revamping it for security reasons. Every time you change the procedure, you’ll have to retrain your employees.

Make the process as simple and straightforward as possible.

This may seem a little paradoxical considering that a secure system requires multiple steps, but if those steps make sense to your employees, they will memorize the process quickly, and it will become second nature through repetition.

What Are Some Key Control Best Practices?

Let’s look at a few common-sense ways you can streamline key control for your property:

1. Generate as few keys per unit as possible.

Remember, every key made increases potential risk, so the fewer keys you have in circulation, the better. Beyond the set of keys presented to your tenants, we recommend creating the fewest number of keys per unit required for you to operate efficiently.

2. Store and secure all keys in a central access location.

Having a centralized system helps you track keys more accurately and store them more securely. It also helps employees know at all times where to get keys, and makes you better able to watch keys go in and out. If your complex is too large to have a single access point for keys, you might want to set up several access points throughout the facility in a way that makes sense. However many access points you create, make sure you have a system in place that effectively tracks all activity at each point

3. Create a multi-step access system.

Obtaining a key should never be as simple as opening a locked box and pulling out a set of keys. A secure system should always involve a number of steps in sequence—for example, an employee may have to scan his badge, input a PIN code and identify an apartment number and reason code before the box will open. Establishing this set of steps may feel cumbersome at first, but once your employees are trained, it quickly becomes second nature.

4. Set up an audit trail.

Every time a key is checked out and checked in, you should have a record of it. You should be able to tell who checked out which key, at what time, and for what purpose. This detailed documentation makes it easy to show compliance with existing protocols as well as identifying and correcting discrepancies. It also keeps your employees accountable.

5. Implement a computerized system that easily integrates the above steps.

At HandyTrac, we’ve designed a key control system that helps you catalog your keys and store them in a central, secure access point, accessible through a secure set of steps. The system automatically tracks and documents each in-and-out transaction and generates a set of easy-to-read reports on demand. Once you’ve trained your property staff to use the system, key control becomes far less stressful and far more secure.

HandyTrac is committed to helping multifamily properties maintain a safe environment for tenants and employees alike.

For more information on key control best practices and the solutions we’ve devised to help you, call us today at 1-800-665-9994 or email sales@handytrac.com.

3 Secure Options for Streamlining Multifamily Key Management

multifamily key managementWhen it comes to security, HandyTrac stands out with effective key control technologies that protect tenants and property owners alike.

Key control represents a reinforced shield that can be incorporated into an existing building security plan. Yes, by all means, keep that dusty, dog-eared key ledger and the single-employee key checkout oversight system — which makes only one person responsible for each key. But while you are making that ledger entry, and wondering what happened to page 5, don’t forget that a truly secure and effective key access demands that unit keys be easy to get to, secure in their location, and consistently trackable.

What is key control management?

Key management is a system that ensures the security and availability of physical keys enhanced by options that free up time, facilitate reporting, and ensure that duplicate keys are not mismanaged. Thanks to the electronic age, key control and management systems can bolster existing security measures and key access protocols.

HandyTrac’s three pivotal key control systems include the Classic, Biometric, and Touch models.

These systems can also reduce the costs inherent in a strictly physical, paper-based key inventory and checkout system. One of these costs is lost keys. Another is the associated and inherent security breach, as managers either rekey the lock, ask the tenant for their key for duplication, or replace the entire lockset.

HandyTrac’s key control and management systems are designed so that authorized users can access keys within an architecture of advanced technology that systematically records each and every incursion.

In many instances, instituting a more effective and durable program in the business world means deleting any bulky, archaic holdovers. Not so with HandyTrac, which can incorporate and help streamline existing manual key controls with overall physical security strategy.

Even down to the Classic model, a number of options can be added to tailor the package.

● For integrated solutions, where a single building is the target, management software can help streamline key checkout, lost keys, move-in move-outs, and ongoing maintenance projects (i.e., painting and replacing appliances).

● For more than one property, or location (whether across the parking lot, across the state, or across the nation), with management software on board, permission levels can be set for each individual, from president and CEO to building manager, and from there to front office personnel and maintenance staff.

● Data can be accessed from any electronic device connected to the distributed network. This remote capability also allows users to pinpoint who last had a certain key. Management and front office staff can also run and print activity reports, or sort databases based on different guidelines.

Property managers looking to improve their property management tactics could do no better than to contact HandyTrac via e-mail at sales@handytrac.com.