Managing High-Rise Master Key Systems

Locksmiths who maintain master key systems in high-rises face specific challenges. Emergency response personnel must have immediate access to all areas of the building, on demand. Frequent tenant turnover generates rekeying requests. High rises are...

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Locksmiths who maintain master key systems in high-rises face specific challenges. Emergency response personnel must have immediate access to all areas of the building, on demand. Frequent tenant turnover generates rekeying requests. High rises are targets for terrorists; therefore heightened security levels leave no room for chance regarding unauthorized entry. By developing certain techniques, locksmiths keep from over-extending or misusing the building’s master key system.

Iron-clad policy
In order to establish that the locksmith is acting as the owner’s agent and is the single source to obtain keys and order key services, written policy is established that states the intentions and instructs tenants on how to work with the locksmith.
The policy includes how keys are to be issued and what services are available.
The policy should establish deposits on keys that will be returned when keys are returned. This motivates tenants to return keys when not needed and inhibits passing keys in an unauthorized fashion to others.
Part of the policy limits issuance so that duplicates (of controlled keys) cannot be issued to individuals.
The policy needs to ensure that other agents or outside services cannot infringe or impede the locksmith’s efforts. The goal of this part of the policy is to keep others from coming in and compromising the key system by producing unauthorized keys or rekeying locks.

The locksmith is in charge of a turnkey operation that tracks all events relating to key issuance and return.
The building owner and the locksmith should create an official key issuance form and make it available to tenants. The form includes the names and signatures of persons authorizing the keys and the name, contact information, and signature of the person who will receive the key. It should clearly list the amount of the deposit and a statement of the facts.
Periodic reports are sent to the owner relating to keys issued and returned.
Routine owner audits will be performed to ensure records compliance by the locksmith.
As tenants learn of the key tracking, they are more likely to comply with policy and keep requests reasonable. When they go on record as the person initiating rekey, the rekey is more likely to be practical. Tight key control limits the number of keys that are swapped or not returned.

Not Everybody Needs A Master
The goal of master keying the high-rise is to make sure that emergency services have the use of a single key to streamline their moves into the building. The goal is NOT to demonstrate that all levels of master key can be applied, thereby giving every little “chief” a sub master to the chief’s part of the domain.
Floors of the high-rise can be set up so that individual master keys can function for each floor.
People who need to carry building master keys might be: operational and security managers; maintenance supervisors and lead persons; custodial managers; and others whose job require it.
For prestige, some owners like to carry a single key that access all areas of the building. Others who are more savvy realize that it is more prestigious to have doors opened for them, and they can’t lose what they don’t carry.
In reality there never is one key that opens all. Some areas are required to be off the building master key.
The high-rise locksmith must make sure that all areas of the building can be accessed by first responders and accessible by their specifications.
Fire departments require an updated set of keys that allow them to access all parts of the high-rise.
A modern trend that needs to be addressed is the “Active Shooter” policy adopted by local law enforcement agencies. Across the country, law enforcement agencies are changing the means in which they handle the “active shooter,” a person who is firing off shots in a public place.
The preferred policy empowers the local agency to meet, develop a plan, and move in quickly and aggressively to contain the active shooter. This means that sets of master keys need to be securely and safely stored at a strategic location so that law enforcement can be effective.
Universities and companies are being sued for not acting swiftly enough to get persons out of harm during these Columbine-like incidents. It’s easy enough to predict that there will be lawsuits if law enforcement can’t get the keys they need in a timely manner during an active shooter incident.

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