Security tightened at transportation office complex
By Sherri C. Ranta
Security at Datran Center, an office/commercial complex where Metrorail ends its southbound service, is at a higher level since the bombings of London's rail and bus systems.
Department of Homeland Security raised the terrorism alert level to orange for all mass transit systems nationwide following the July 7 bombings in London, prompting Miami-Dade County Transit to increase its alert for all operations including bus, Metrorail and Metromover.
"We have enhanced security at all our facilities," said Manny Palmeiro, public information officer for Miami-Dade Transit. Extra security measures include those at bus fueling facilities, garages, and rail and mover stations.
Additional guards are posted at all Metrorail stations, he said. Supplied by Wackenhut, a Palm Beach Gardens security company, they are former military or police veterans. Voice announcements at all Metrorail stations remind passengers to report suspicious activity including unattended bags.
People are responding, Mr. Palmeiro said. A portion of Biscayne Boulevard recently shut down when the bomb square detonated a suitcase left behind at the Bayfront Park station. The suitcase was full of clothes. "You can never be too sure," he said.
Datran manager Jack Goodrich, with Crescent Real Estate Equities, said the company works closely with Miami-Dade Transit and Department of Homeland Security. The complex is home to the South Dadeland Metrorail Station, terminal for two bus lines and a 2,500-car parking garages.
"The only reason we have increased security is because we are connected to the Metrorail and the other facilities are not," he said.
Although many of its additional security procedures are confidential, Mr. Goodrich said the building and staff are more alert. "There is more attention paid to abandoned packages, things out of place."
The Datran complex consists of office, retail and hotel components in 21-story and 22-story office towers at US 1 and the Palmetto Expressway. Built in the mid-1980s, the complex is one of the county's first mass transit joint ventures.
At various times since 9/11, Mr. Goodrich said, security in the building has gone to the higher orange alert. Increased measures have included locking down the buildings, establishing checkpoints and checking identifications.
But other buildings, such as those managed by Codina Real Estate Management, have remained at their post-9/11 levels since the London bombings, said Michael Vullis, division vice president.
The company has fielded no calls from its tenants, he said, "probably because they are comfortable" with the current level of security.
"We never go down in security. Once you get there, you stay there," Mr. Vullis said. "For obvious reasons, you never want to be in a situation that you decreased security."
Security at Codina-managed properties - 12 million square feet in South Florida - include more checkpoints in building lobbies, identification of visitors and the companies they are visiting. Security remains higher than pre-9/11 levels.
"Interestingly enough, people tend to react to the type of activity that occurs," he said. "If it's on trains, commuters call. If it's on buildings, building people call."
At Waterford at Blue Lagoon, John Scott, vice president and general manager of The Hogan Group, said the office park continues its security programs that include 24-hour patrols that can respond to any of its 13 buildings in minutes.
Since the 9/11 attacks the office park increased security, revising and setting up programs dealing with potential attacks involving weapons or chemicals.
Waterford's security program, designed by New York-based Massey Enterprises, is designed for life safety first, Mr. Scott said, followed by preserving assets for the landlord and mitigating losses.
Since the London bombing, he said, there has been enhanced awareness but no radical changes in procedures.
Mr. Scott is a member of the Emergency Preparedness and Security Committee of Building Owners and Management Association International.
The committee, he said, addressed security concerns after 9/11 and continues to address those safety concerns, sponsoring seminars on how to secure a building in an emergency.
The Building Owners and Managers Association International, in conjunction with Department of Homeland Security, is planning in the next year to conduct a disaster drill in South Florida. Specific plans for the drill are not final, Mr. Scott said.
AlliedBarton Security provides security services for many Miami office buildings. District Manager Valerie Vanderbilt said building management chooses the time when its building should go to heightened security. "Each building is completely dependent in their decision."