At 5:00 PM on May 5, 2017, two well-known and highly respected physicians, Dr. Lina Bolanos and Dr. Richard Field, were returning home to their secure, penthouse, home in the Macallen Building in South Boston to continue planning their upcoming wedding among their other regular evening activities. At 7:30PM Dr. Field was dead and Dr. Bolanos was fighting a losing battle to save her own life. How could this happen and how could it have been prevented? Those two questions are the most significant and relevant questions we strive to answer after any unspeakable and horrific tragedy such as this.
We know that the first question has already been answered by means of the initial investigation and prosecution as well as the subsequent litigation. That is, there were on-going and repetitive breaches in the security protocols, controls and deployment of the various security services. Add to that, while it has become known that they had been reported by the victims as well as other residents, it appears no one with on-site responsibility or authority to do so within the Condo Association or the Association’s contracted professionals acted in an acceptable and timely fashion or in an appropriately responsive manner to these notifications. It is known that the concierge / security service staff were provided reminders by way of at least one written memo by the property manager to be more vigilant and to utilize extra caution vis-à-vis suspicious persons gaining access to the building. However, as is obvious by the facts, this was neither sufficient nor successful. Thus, these issues as well as others lead to the finding in Field vs. Highbridge, as recently decided by the Massachusetts Judicial Court, denying the Defendants Motions for Summary Judgement. This finding allowed the Association, Board, the Property Manager and the Concierge company to be viewed as responsible parties and open to potential recovery.
The penthouse floor, where Dr.’s Bolanos and Field were owners, was by all accounts a restricted floor. There were practices and systems in place to act as safeguards that should have prevented unauthorized access to the Penthouse. There was an access control system for the on-site parking garage as well as the lobby entry doors. There was a concierge service in place checking and validating visitors, vendors and delivery people from gaining unauthorized access and to allow owners and residents access. The elevator access to the penthouse was regulated by a key fob and there was a video monitoring system in place that had in excess of thirteen cameras viewing the common areas of the building. One would think these procedures and all this technology would suffice. Unfortunately, in this case you’d be wrong.
The reality was that access to the penthouse was easily gained by anyone without a key fob by simply tailgating in the elevator with anyone who possessed a key fob, riding to a residential floor, exiting the elevator on that floor and then using one of the internal staircases that allowed unrestricted access to all floors including the penthouse.
So the “how” element has been determined. Now the question becomes “what do we do to prevent these types of breaches and events in your Association?”
One of my favorite sayings is “there is a reason our cars have very small rear view mirrors and very large windshields”. Stated differently, hindsight is 20 – 20! It is certainly important to look backwards but equally and always more important to look forward. By doing so and utilizing the knowledge gained from what has happened in the past we can apply those lessons to today’s issues. By applying that logic there are methodologies that can assist us in a meaningful way to look forward to prevention and protection from complete liability. One of those methods would be the undertaking of a comprehensive physical security assessment.
A physical security assessment provides both a comprehensive and specific overview of your Association’s safety and security measures. We take a look at the potential risks from a concentric rings of protection dynamic. That is, we look at the city in which the Association resides, the patrol sector, the neighborhood, crimes and crime rates from national, state and local law enforcement records, the access to the property from the public way onto your private property, the grounds, the periphery of the building/s, the common areas, the mechanical systems, the physical plant, access control, video monitoring, obvious areas requiring immediate repair, post orders and policies and procedures for contracted security or concierge services, your emergency response plan if any and everything that may be contributing to areas of potential exposure for the Association, the Board, the Property Manager and vendors. The results are quantified by area with solutions that mitigate existing or potential breaches.
The entire exercise of a physical security assessment is designed to be a collaborative and proactive tool to assist with mitigating or preventing tragedies such as the untimely deaths of Dr.’s Bolanos and Field, the Surfside collapse and, to a lesser degree of importance, insurance issues, property losses, inconvenience and diverting attention away from the work the Board, Property Manager and vendors should be focused on.
The horrors that took place in Boston and Surfside, FL are unimaginable and can’t be undone. But…we can learn from them and, hopefully, although we’ll never be able to know…prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
William B. Connors, Jr. is President and CEO of Risk Management Advisors, Inc., a Boston based, global provider of security consulting and support services. Bill and his team have been serving clients for the last 29 years.
Contact Allcock & Marcus at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding your condominium and security.