From Randy's Book "The Key to Keys"

True Story 3

It’s 6:00pm on a Thursday evening. Public access to this landmark building is now closed. One of the 4 swing-shift security officers, Officer Phillips, is issuing the Janitorial Supervisor the 12 sets of floor masters that her staff will need to clean the building until 2:00am. Believe it or not, the year is 2014 and the “key box” is literally a wooden box with ~20 sets of keys thrown in it. Janitorial services are provided by a service contractor, Sunday through Thursday.

The proper procedure for issuing keys is that the security officer would pull out one set of keys, identify the set number, log it out on the Key Sheet and then hand the set to the Janitorial Supervisor. The Supervisor would then confirm the set number and sign next to the entry the Security Officer made on the Key Sheet, verifying that she received the correct set of keys. In this case, however, that’s not what happened. Instead, the Janitorial Supervisor dug through the key box, pulled out all of the sets she needed (like she does every night), looked at Officer Phillips at the desk and said, “Okay, I’ve got them all.” Then Phillips says something like, “Great – have a good one!” He proceeds to write down the list of key set numbers that the Supervisor picks up every night (copying it from the previous day’s list) and makes some sort of initials after the list.

The building is 50 stories, more than 800k sq. ft., with over one hundred tenants. The tenants range from a prominent law firm to a “classified” company that does secret research. That company’s name isn’t even listed on the building’s tenant directory and access to their floors are highly monitored.

It is the end of the janitorial shift, 2:00am Friday morning. The Janitorial Supervisor is looking for Officer Phillips at the security desk. He is out on a call and unavailable for a few minutes. The Janitorial Supervisor wants to go home, so she radios security and says she’s putting the key sets back in the box. Security says thanks and to have a good night.

It was a busy shift for security on that night. Bars in the area were closing and that made for a lot of intoxicated people walking around the exterior perimeter of the building. Some were knocking on the windows or sitting on the marble steps to smoke or continue drinking out of their own bottles. It wasn’t until 4:00am that Officer Phillips returned to the lobby console. In addition to making all of his Daily Activity Report entries, he had an incident report to write. He finished those by 4:45 am – just in time to do patrol rounds of mechanical rooms and the building’s exterior perimeter. 5:15 am rolls around and Phillips sees that he hasn’t “inventoried” the janitorial keys yet. He looks in the key box, it appears to have all the sets of keys. He’s been working with this Janitorial Supervisor for almost a year now and he’s never had an issue, so he signs off on the key sheet that all key sets are accounted for.

Flash forward two days – it’s Sunday afternoon and the janitors are returning to work after a few days off so they can make the building sparkle in time for tenants to return to their offices at 8:00am Monday morning. The Janitorial Supervisor goes to the Security Console desk to check out all her key sets. Officer Phillips is off on Sundays and Mondays, Officer Spencer is on duty and begins issuing the key sets, using the proper procedure. It doesn’t take long for both Officer Spencer and the Janitorial Supervisor to realize that the Supervisor set of keys are not in the box.

After several hours of everyone looking for the keys, the Security Officer notifies his Account Manager and tells him what happened. The Account Manager calls the Branch Manager of his security company who in turn, calls the client at home, Sunday night, to tell her that we can’t find a set of keys with masters on it. The client, understandably, is livid – It’s Sunday night, the building re-opens tomorrow morning at 7:00am and she needs to notify her tenants that there’s been a potential breach of the building and their space. Not good at all.

The client wants to know what happened. Her tenants are going to demand an explanation and a plan to re-secure the building, immediately. Security is pointing at Janitorial for losing the keys and Janitorial is pointing at Security for not logging them in when they were returned, two days earlier. Of course, the first priority is to secure the exterior perimeter doors into the building. While these doors and many of the interior doors have proximity card readers, they also have hard key locks, in the event there’s a malfunction or other issue with the card access system.

Our client had locksmiths and additional engineers on the property first thing Monday morning. Extra security was added until the exterior locks could be re-cored. This was an older building so there were many lock sets/hardware that had to be changed out completely. Those locks did not have interchangeable cores. The rekey project lasted 9 days at a cost of $106k. Who paid for it, you might ask? Who was really at fault here, Security or Janitorial? Well, the client decided that we were each 50% culpable.

A lot of people ask, “Well, don’t you have insurance to cover losses like that?” Many don’t. In this case, the janitorial company was self-insured up to the first $250,000, so they paid $63,000 cash. My company had a $25,000 deductible, so we paid $25,000 with insurance picking up the rest (which I got to repay over time via increased premiums). This is cold, hard cash that neither company will ever see again. They will not recoup that loss from profits of that job for many, many years. What’s more, both companies risk having their contracts terminated by the client for being negligent. Billing, for both companies, ranged from $30,000 to $55,000 per month – an account you don’t want to lose. But guess what else that particular client has? Two other properties that are also serviced by both the janitorial and security contractors – if you lose one, the likelihood is that the client will take all of their services out to bid.

Scary what the impact of one stupid mistake, not following procedures or accidentally losing a set of keys, could have. The breach from when the keys went missing to when it was discovered that they were lost, was 72 hours! To this day, we don’t know what happened to the Janitorial Supervisor’s keys on that Thursday night.