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Are We Prepared?

Dave Feehan

A survey in the Washington Business Journal asked readers if they were canceling planned trips to Baltimore as a result of recent demonstrations and riots. More than 60 percent said they would and another 20 percent said that while they would not cancel a planned trip, they would be more cautious. Baltimore isn’t the only city that has seen demonstrations and unrest. In fact, any city or suburb that experiences an incident of questionable police behavior this summer is almost certain to see some form of demonstration or protest.

Combine these human-related incidents with other factors—for example, the nearly unbelievable increase in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma, prospects of increasingly severe weather, and an apparent increase in sinkholes—and suddenly, parking managers and operators need to ask themselves a few questions: Do we have an emergency preparedness plan, how good is it, when was it updated, and are we financially prepared for what could happen?  The IPI Safety & Security committee is developing Emergency Preparedness Guidelines just for this purpose.  This new resource will be invaluable to your operation, and available for download this summer.

I worked with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District in downtown Washington D.C., a few years ago. I thought I had seen good emergency preparedness plans in other cities where I’ve worked, but this one was on a whole different plateau. Of course, the southern edge of this district has a unique architectural feature called the White House, so the Golden Triangle BID has to think about all kinds of terrorist threats as well. But anyone who thinks terrorism can’t strike in their town isn’t paying attention. Remember the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?

Immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, I called a hasty joint meeting with International Downtown Association members and members of BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association. We arranged a conference call with members in perhaps a dozen cities, and several people on the call expressed fears for their downtown skyscrapers. Not Minneapolis. The BOMA representative in Minneapolis said his greatest fear was an attack on the Mall of America, bookended by massive parking garages. A truck bomb in either one or both would be devastating.

Now would be a good time to review (or create) a robust emergency preparedness plan for your parking system. You may find that one possible danger isn’t physical, like a bomb, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado. It may simply be a major loss of revenue occurring when customers, out of fear, don’t show up.

Who’s There? What the Frack?


I live in Pennsylvania, where 64 percent of the state lies above shale. As a resident of West Chester, Pa., the home of QVC and, unfortunately, the MTV hit movie and show Jackass, I never expected to intimately learn about natural gas fracking by a knock on the door.

Daniel Foster/Flickr

Daniel Foster/Flickr

You see, my community is being rocked by fracking. So I tried to figure out how I can tie together fracking and parking, as the first topic is consuming me—my six-year-old son’s school is in a blast zone of a planned unmanned pumping station. I started to think: What would happen if a parking facility or garage was in a blast zone for an unmanned pumping station or worse? What would a parking lot owner or garage operator do if they were asked to sign an easement on their property for a fracking pipeline? Is the parking industry prepared for the shale boom and all the consequences of it?

Once an easement is signed, some mortgage companies won’t hold your mortgage anymore and you have to pay cash for your property or find a mortgage company that will allow pipeline easements. What happens if you want to sell that property? Who would buy real estate with an easement attached to it? Landscaping, trees, fences—none can be within 50 feet of either side of the pipeline (at least, that is the case for the homes in my township).

IPI’s online courses teach about safety and security—how tall bushes and hedges need to be for the safety of the patron, etc. The Introduction to Parking course also has a section on landscape design. Landscaping adds to the emotionality of feeling safe and secure as well as the overall aesthetics of a garage or lot. Let’s not forget what we as a core group of professionals do for the greening initiatives within the parking industry. So how would a parking professional handle being told they had to remove all landscaping within those 50 feet? How would patrons feel about that? What would the consequences be?

This fracking situation that I find myself, my family, and my beloved township involved in is slightly similar to having an ugly parking garage with no relationship to its neighbors. However, in my case it is an unmanned, loud, fire-and-gas spewing 40-foot stack in a residential neighborhood, near a school, that will have no relationship with its neighbors.

Are you ready for “that” knock on your facilities door? How would you answer it? Like I said before, “What the frack?”

Warrior or Ambassador?

Dave Feehan

With the nation’s attention recently focused on Ferguson, N.Y., and other police shootings, it might be a good time to revisit how parking systems provide security in their facilities and offices.

Some parking systems hire and deploy their own employees as security officers. Some contract with private security firms. Others may hire off-duty police officers. Some parking facilities are patrolled by Business Improvement District (BID) personnel.

Law enforcement has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Today, by some estimates, there are as many private security officers as publicly employed sworn police officers. Foley, Minn., recently disbanded its police force and hired a private security team to patrol its streets.

Discussions of security are generally not the hottest topic at parking conferences. Yet security is sometimes a life-and-death issue, and parking systems that handle security poorly may be putting customers and employees at risk, to say nothing of liability concerns.

Several years ago, when I was the president of the downtown organization in a midwestern city, we provided additional security through our BID. We patrolled downtown sidewalks and the skywalk system as well as augmenting parking garage security. The first important question we had to address was, should we employ our own security workers or contract with an outside firm? We elected to hire our own, because we wanted more control over who was hired and what kind of training was provided.  Fundamentally, we had to decide: Do we want to employ warriors or ambassadors?

There is an old saying in human resources that I often find extremely helpful: Hire attitude and teach skills. In our case, we wanted security patrol personnel who were ambassadors first and warriors only when absolutely necessary. If I were putting together a SWAT or SEAL team, I might think differently about whom to hire.

So what advice might I give a local parking operator or manager? If your facilities are not frequent crime locations, having security officers who are friendly, outgoing, and knowledgeable about their surroundings, who carry maps and event schedules, but who know what to do in an emergency might be the right choice. Your officer is more often going to be helping someone with a dead battery or chasing away a skateboarder than apprehending a murderer or bank robber.

Of course, there are many other considerations when evaluating parking security—cost, internal capacity, availability of good contractors—but if parking is the first and last experience for many downtown users and if your security personnel are the first people they encounter, what message do you want to send? Does your garage feel like a war zone or a hotel lobby?

Play Ball, and Let’s Keep it Safe

Shawn Conrad

I love sports, all sports. I enjoy playing, watching, and following my favorite teams. In the Washington, D.C., area, we have many teams to follow that are just a short drive away— professional football, baseball, hockey, and basketball teams. We also can follow games at the University of Maryland, UM Baltimore County, George Washington University, American University, George Mason University, Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Virginia, and Georgetown University, among others.  And a short drive away, we can catch Baltimore Orioles and Ravens games. While many people think of Washington D.C. for its political environment, I think of all the opportunities to catch a game and I try to see as many as I can.

D.C. is not alone, certainly, in having many sporting teams.  In North America, there are more than 3,000 stadiums where many people go to cheer on their teams.  As we all know, parking is the first and last impression someone has of a trip to a downtown area, theater, or their daily commute, along with those going to school or sporting events. Many of you manage events that provide for ample and efficient movement of people coming and going to these games.  I was recently was given a glimpse of what it takes to keep these stadiums and the people attending these games safe.

IPI and its Safety and Security Committee are about to embark on a partnership with The National  Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) at the University of Southern Mississippi to provide training and awareness for our members on best practices to address risks/threats, counter-terrorism, security management, and emergency management.

During the summer months, IPI and NCS4 personnel will develop ways to share techniques and tools to provide easy and enjoyable sporting events while maintaining a safe perimeter.  I’ll have much more to share when we are together at the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo, June 29 – July 2, in Las Vegas.

In the meantime, enjoy the NCAA March Madness basketball games and before you know it, we’ll be shouting “play ball” as my Washington Nationals take to the mound April 6. I can’t wait.

The Ebola Report

Bruce Barclay

After watching CBS correspondent Lara Logan’s report on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago, I began thinking of the effect Ebola has on the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. As of last week, there were more than 13,200 cases confirmed and more than 5,000 deaths in the three countries where the virus is widespread. Logan and her crew are finishing a 21-day quarantine in their hotel as a precautionary measure; fortunately, they have shown no signs of infection with the virus.

As much as the television story moved me to think of the situation in West Africa, I began to think closer to home and the impact the virus can have here in the U.S. Since an airport would be the primary point of entry for travelers who may be carrying the Ebola virus, the U.S. government selected five airports for entry screening: JFK, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, and Atlanta. These five airports receive more than 94 percent of the travelers departing from the Ebola-affected countries.  But, what if the individual is not showing any symptoms when they arrive at one of these airports? It is conceivable the infected person may slip through the screening process and arrive in one of our cities. What happens to the car or taxi he hires?

I’m sure there are lots of us thinking about what would happen if an Ebola-infected traveler arrived at our airports and was detained because of symptoms of the virus. Do we need to be ready for parking-area quarantine? What are the protocols for airline personnel, first responders, and EMS staff? What do our parking attendants need to know? Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control has provided guidance for personnel who may have to deal with potential Ebola infections. The CDC provides a great deal of information on its website ranging from prevention, signs and symptoms, and diagnosis, to preparedness for health care workers.

Advances in transportation technology are making the world’s population more mobile. As a result, the threat of Ebola and other diseases hitting our shores is a reality.

Where Were You?

Bruce Barclay

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Almost everyone in America beyond their teenage years remembers where they were and what they were doing on that horrific day. Certain historical markers are embedded in our memory forever. Baby boomers remember their whereabouts on the days when JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Individuals born in the ’60s and later have September 11 as an unforgettable memory that will linger long into their future.

September 11, 2001 was a date that affected the population of the United States on many different levels. The New York Stock Exchange was closed after the planes hit the Twin Towers and remained closed until the following Monday. The day it reopened, the Dow fell more than 684 points to close at 8920.70, down 7.13 percent.  Bond markets were also hit especially hard. Cantor Fitzgerald, a major government bond trader, lost many employees in the disaster. Their offices were located on the upper floors at One World Trade Center, the first building hit in the attack.

September 11’s impact on society was immediate. The U.S. aviation industry took enormous hits. On September 10, 2001 there were more than 38,000 flights. On September 12, 2001, there were only 252 commercial flights.* It took more than a week for U.S. flights to return to normal schedules. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, (ATSA), which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The ATSA mandated important changes in civil aviation security procedures, some of which we have become very familiar with when we travel. The first was the implementation of passenger security screening at all U.S. commercial airports, and the second was the screening of all checked baggage. Gone were the days when we could arrive at the airport 30 minutes before our flight and make the gate with time to spare.

From my perspective, September 11, 2001 started off as a normal day, with beautiful blue skies and sun over Newark Airport. I was general manager for the contract parking operations at Newark International and was in our valet operation just before 8:45 am. Local news events were being broadcast on TV in valet when there was an interruption in the broadcast— a small twin engine plane had just crashed into the World Trade center. My immediate thought was how could that happen on such a clear day?

My valet manager and I went to the roof of the parking garage adjacent to valet. What we saw was shocking. Thick gray smoke was pouring out of the top of the North Tower into the sky. We were about eight miles as the crow flies from the Trade Center and could see the events unfold in front of us. We quickly went back to valet for further news updates. As we reached the TV, the second plane hit the South Tower. “The second strike could not have been an accident,” is what I repeated to my peers. When the Towers collapsed, lower Manhattan was enveloped in a cloud of dust. The next few hours at Newark Airport were filled with anxiety and lots of misinformation. It did not help that the cellular systems were overloaded, making communication a challenge. I kept looking to the east seeing the continuous plume of smoke rising from the fallen Towers. It is a sight that I will never forget.

The Napa Earthquake: Lessons for Parking

Bruce Barclay

On Sunday August 24, the town of Napa, Calif., was hit with an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale. The quake hit at approximately 3:20 a.m., rocking the scenic community and leaving residents dazed and fearful of aftershocks, more than 100 of which have been reported so far.

A positive was there was no loss of life. However, more than 120 people were treated at local hospitals, three in critical condition. Damage to the town was extensive. Especially hard-hit was the downtown historic area, where many older building were red tagged by city officials and deemed too dangerous for people to enter. Water and gas lines were ruptured causing fires throughout the community, and low water pressure caused by main line leaks made fighting the fires a challenge. Power outages in the region affected almost 70,000 residents, but power was restored to most communities within 24 hours of the earthquake.

The drain that an earthquake has on local resources is enormous. Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan told reporters the city had exhausted its resources trying to extinguish fires, transport injured residents, search homes for anyone who might be trapped, and answer calls about gas leaks and downed power lines. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the area, which will provide additional resources in the aftermath of the quake.

The quick response in Napa by first responders was no accident. Planning, preparation, and training for such events were critical to a successful response. Responders may have received some of their training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Training Program. NIMS Training is intended for all personnel directly involved in emergency management and response. This includes emergency medical personnel, hospitals, public health, fire service, law enforcement, public works/utilities, skilled support, and volunteer personnel. The training is intended to aid people who don’t usually work together seamlessly respond to and recover from a disaster, either natural or man-made.

Each segment of the parking industry should have a disaster/emergency plan in place. Some may be on a rather small scale, but others may be very detailed and cover a wide range of potential disasters. I encourage all parking professionals to get involved and enroll in NIMS training. Gaining the knowledge and training required to participate in a disaster rescue/recovery, no matter how small your involvement may appear, is satisfying and rewarding. You never know, it may even help save a life.

For more information on NIMS training visit:

The Watergate Garage

Isaiah Mouw

I just finished reading All the President’s Men by Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. The classic Mouw_Blogbook chronicles the investigative reporting of the Watergate burglary and the ensuing scandal of the Nixon administration’s attempted cover-up which eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Gene Roberts called the work of Bernstein and Woodward “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.” Robert Redford produced and starred in the film of the same name, and the authors introduced the world to one of the most infamous parking garages in the world.

Woodward secretly met with an anonymous FBI source nicknamed “Deep Throat” in the Rosslyn Garage in Arlington, Va., to get secret information on the Watergate scandal. The book validates the fact that parking garages can be extremely creepy, as the two chose to meet in a dark corner of a secluded garage in the middle of the night with odd sounds and sporadic noises freaky enough to frighten the likes of Stephen King. Reading it makes me wonder how easily such a meeting could happen today with the progressive security measures and technological advancements the parking industry has embraced in recent years.

Could Deep Throat and Woodward meet today in the bottom level of a parking garage without being captured on camera? Could they even get into a restricted access facility that requires credentials? Would sensors cause smart lights to turn on as they walk throughout the garage alerting management of activity in the bottom of the garage? Would the design of the garage have incorporated Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles that would make it harder to meet out of view of passers by? Would a roaming security guard ask them their business in the garage?

There are many garages where it’s still possible to hold secret secluded meetings, but it’s fun to think about the many garages that, thanks to technology and security upgrades, Woodward and Deep Throat  would have to pass by. Today, I think they’d have to meet in a park instead of a parking garage.

The Changing Face (and Terminology) of British Parking

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

As I sat down at the annual British Parking Awards in London (UK) last month, one particular category caught my attention: The Front Line Award.

The organizers announced that the new category was created to reflect the unfortunate hostile climate faced by those working on the ground in the parking industry in the UK.

The reason this category especially stuck in my mind was that I have closely followed changes in the terminology used to describe parking attendants. For many years, they were called traffic wardens and the general public seemed to accept that while they would also issue parking fines, their main role was to keep traffic moving in the city.  Was it no coincidence that at the same time that their name changed to civil enforcement officers, the public began to see them as confrontational? Soon after their title change, the British public realized that they now had the power to issue large fines for parking. This, I think is where the aggression began.

This new award certainly seems to support this theory, as does the winner’s job title: Jade Glover is a hate crime ambassador for APCOA Parking.  Sadly, part of her daily routine now includes carrying a DNA swab kit in a bid to prosecute more common and aggravated assaults.

In the event Jade is assaulted, she can use one or more dry swabs to extract saliva from her skin or uniform and report her attack to the local police.  This can then be matched against 6 million records in the national DNA database.

How sad that someone who is dedicated to making our streets less congested now resembles an extra from CSI. What do you make of it? I look forward to reading your comments below.




Property Owners Asked: How Safe Is Your Parking Lot?

Mark Wright

Does a nose-in parking configuration present safety risks? Are wheel stops enough to keep a vehicle from crashing forward into a building? How might demographics help influence parking lot safety planning?

These are just some of the questions that have been posed to commercial real estate development professionals in an online discussion via LinkedIn. The discussion comes on the heels of an article NAIOP (the commercial real estate development association) asked me to write for Development Magazine about vehicle-into-building crashes.

With the help of co-author Rob Reiter, the piece helps shine a spotlight on parking lot safety in general, with particular attention to what can happen around the edges — in the space where parking areas and buildings meet.

IPI has been wonderful about helping educate its members about these issues. The LinkedIn discussion this week offers a great opportunity to extend parking professionals’ perspectives and expertise to an audience for which parking — especially parking-related safety — is not always top-of-mind. (I think of it as cross-pollinating great ideas!)

As a fellow IPI member, I invite you to add your voice to this important discussion. Join the NAIOP LinkedIn group and give property owners, developers, and managers the benefit of your parking knowledge.


Fixing Broken Windows

Isaiah Mouw

I’ve listened to several speakers validate a common criminological theory–”fixing broken windows.” This was introduced by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, and proposed that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition (i.e., no broken windows or other signs of chaos) will prevent further vandalism and even more serious crime. In other words, an effective and simple way to prevent vandalism and other crime in your garage is “fixing the broken windows”–keeping the garage well maintained and clean, changing out defective light bulbs immediately, etc.

While to some this may smack of environmental determinism, Kelling has plenty of research that supports his revolutionary–yet simple–notion: if people are cued to understand that breaking the rules is tolerated in a certain environment, they’re more likely to break the rules in that environment. Kelling, in fact, was given the opportunity to provide a real-life demonstration of his theory when he was hired as a consultant for the New York City Transit Authority in 1985. His theory, implemented by David Gunn, aggressively targeted small crimes such as fare dodging and graffiti tagging while improving the overall atmosphere of the subways. The result, according to a 2001 crime study, is that crime fell suddenly and significantly and continued to drop over the next decade.

If you allow graffiti to remain in your facility for a long time, you can expect more graffiti to come your way. If you are slow to changing out lights, you can expect break-ins to continue. In a 2013 IPI Conference & Expo presentation, The Art of Parking, speaker Jeff Petry explained that placing art on different levels in one particular garage eliminated graffiti and biologicals altogether. In a garage where graffiti was common, simply adding art stopped graffiti and urination in those areas completely.

This is not advocating that security is not needed. But remember that keeping your garage clean, maintained, well-lit, and fixing the other broken windows of your parking facility is doing more for your facility than simply looking nice.





John Walsh, Host of America’s Most Wanted, on Parking

Shawn Conrad

One of my first mentors was a gentleman who coached football, baseball, and any other sport he could sign up for at the local Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.13.43 PMelementary and high schools. Big Al was a great big, strong Italian man who had powerful catcher-mitt-sized hands–when he patted you on the back for a job well done, you’d land a few feet forward. We kids didn’t know it, but our coach worked the evening shift at the Congressional Post Office so he could spend daylight hours out on the ball field, teaching us the fundamentals of the game.

The guys I grew up with all respected Al for what he did for us, but also for the things we saw him do for others.  Along with his large frame, Al had a giant-sized heart and constantly looked after the downtrodden and the little guy.  Many times, a kid who didn’t have the means to buy a glove or a pair of cleats found a pair on his doorstep, out of nowhere. He never left a note, but we all knew they came from Al. He also made us call him when we got home safely after games. Those who forgot inevitably heard a knock at their door and knew the coach was standing there, just to make sure.

A flood of memories came rushing back to me this week as I read The Parking Professional’s March cover interview by editor Kim Fernandez featuring John Walsh, the advocate behind the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and host of television’s “America’s Most Wanted.” Most of us know Walsh’s horrific story–his son, Adam, was abducted 34 years ago from a shopping mall in Hollywood, Fla., and killed. It took 27 years before the Walsh family finally had closure and found out who the perpetrator was.

The part of the story you haven’t heard is that John Walsh thinks a trained parking professional may well have made a difference in the way Adam’s case turned out. He shared many great thoughts with us in his interview, but the overriding theme is that parking professionals can be a first line of defense against all sorts of crime in our communities, from burglaries to abductions to terrorism, and he has some concrete thoughts on how that can happen.

Reading this interview reminded me of Al because both men spent the better part of their careers helping their communities be better and safer places to live. Take a few moments to read the March issue and learn more about what Mr. Walsh has to say about the parking industry and the people who maintain and manage our garages and parking lots, and then share the interview with your staff members and talk about how you can put his ideas in place in your own operations. Everyone in the parking industry can play a role in making our neighbors–especially our children–safer in our facilities.



Keeping Your Herd in the Corral

Mark Wright

Sometimes when I look out at a busy parking area I see a herd — a moving multitude of four-wheeled wildlife — penned into a corral. Let something spook a member of that herd and there’s no telling what will happen.

At those moments, the fence around that corral better hold. The ‘fence’ might be a wall, a guardrail, or a line of bollards.

On August 4, 2012, a driver got honked at — twice — while trying to back out of a space in a multi-level parking structure in San Diego. Flustered, he confused his gas pedal for his brake, drove into a guardrail and went over the side.

That fence didn’t hold. As a police officer said to a 10News reporter at the scene when describing the guardrail that failed to stop the vehicle: “It…wouldn’t take a lot to go straight through that.”

Why did that guardrail have all the stopping power of toothpicks? I asked veteran consultant Jerry Marcus, owner of The Parking Advisory Group LLC in The Woodlands, Tex., to speculate.

“One possible explanation for this failure is poor maintenance of the facility’s barrier systems connections,” said Jerry. “Most likely, these connections were designed to code standards. Unfortunately, in many cases the every day wear and tear in a parking structure goes undetected. Patrons bump walls, connections deteriorate in the open air, and operators don’t take enough care to wash down corrosive ice melting chemicals frequently. An annual schedule of inspections will go a long way to keeping those ‘cows’ home.”

Coincidentally, ASTM International is developing a proposed new standard for testing low speed vehicle barriers, which is important news for safety-conscious designers and engineers.

What experiences have you had with parking area barriers? And how have standards and maintenance practices helped you keep your customers safe? All comments welcomed.

All Roads Lead to Technology


According to a new survey released today by the International Parking Institute (IPI), technology, sustainability, revenue-generation, and customer service are the top trends in the parking industry and the things most parking professionals are looking for.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking Survey was released at the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. It showed that cashless, electronic, and automatic payment systems join apps that provide real-time information about parking rates and availability and wireless sensing devices that help improve traffic management as the top in-demand technologies in the industry.

More than one-third of respondents said that demand for sustainable services is a top trend, and that they’re talking about energy-efficient lighting, parking space guidance systems, automatic payment process, solar panels, renewable energy technology, and systems that accommodate electric vehicles and/or encourage alternative methods of travel. Technologies that help people find parking faster take cars off the road; an estimated 30 percent of people driving around cities at any time are looking for parking, wasting fuel and emitting carbons.

Survey participants also said that convincing urban planners, local governments, and architects to include parking professionals in their early planning processes is a priority; doing that, they said, would help prevent many design problems in final projects. And when asked where parking should be included as a course of study in academic institutions, nearly half of the survey participants said schools of urban study, followed by business or public policy schools.

The full survey can be accessed on IPI’s website.

Preventing Garage Suicides

Isaiah Mouw

Cindy Campbell recently wrote an excellent blog post about being trained for the unexpected after a suicide took place in one of her parking facilities. In the past few weeks, there have been several examples in the news of people threatening to commit suicide by jumping out of parking garages. Thankfully in both cases, the police and authorities were trained for the unexpected.

Andy Troth (CAPP) and I wrote an article [PDF] about suicide for The Parking Professional a few years ago after dealing with suicide jumpers at our own parking facilities. The article outlines why suicide from jumping happens, where suicide from jumping most commonly occurs, how parking professionals should handle this tragic event should it occur in their garage, and how to help prevent suicide from happening. We reached out to some suicide experts, including Lanny Berman, Ph.D., ABPP, executive director with the American Association of Suicidology. What we found is that parking garages are prone to suicide attempts because they provide easy access to great heights, and jumping from great heights offers a high certainty of death. Suicide by jumping from a parking garage affects all market segments especially universities, hospitals and municipalities, so shouldn’t we be prepared?

To learn more on how to handle this situation should it occur in your facility, check out the article or visit IPI’s webinar on the subject.

Would You Recognize a Threat?

Henry Wallmeyer

With last week’s news that the CIA foiled a plot by terrorists to use a much more sophisticated underwear bomb to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner, we are once again reminded that terrorists hope to do us harm.

Parking professionals need to be constantly aware of potential threats not only because parking has played a vital role in several domestic terrorist attacks (the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the explosion that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City both originated from parking spaces), but also because if terrorists are prevented from attacking in the air, they will shift their focus to the ground.

To help you think differently about potential security threats and help train your staff to do the same, IPI worked with the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop the parking module of the First Observer anti-terrorism training program in February 2010. Since then, First Observer, which supports the National Preparedness Guidelines of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has trained more than 12,500 parking professionals to spot suspicious activity and report it to the proper agencies.

An article in the March issue of The Parking Professional [PDF] highlighted successful outcomes of the program. Those who’ve taken First Observer training say it opened their eyes to activity that might not have seemed suspicious before.

First Observer training is free—there are no associated costs—and accessible to IPI members on-site at members’ operations and electronically through online, on-demand training. Everyone who successfully completes the training class will receive a First Observer card and certificate.

If you or your organization has not taken advantage of this free parking-specific, anti-terrorism program, I strongly encourage you do so. You can schedule training and find out more about the program at or by contacting the First Observer call center at 888.217.5902.

If you’ve taken the training already, how has it changed the way you do your job? Comment below.

Hitting the Wrong Pedal

Mark Wright

Witnesses said it sounded like a bomb going off.

The sound they heard was no bomb. It was a 76-year-old woman driving her Toyota Camry through the glass entrance of a Publix supermarket in Palm Coast, Fla., on Saturday, April 14.

Store cameras caught video of the car coming from the parking lot, crashing in through the windows, sending a baby carriage — and its three-month-old occupant — flying, and hitting other people before coming to rest on top of an 83-year-old man.

News reports said the driver mistakenly hit her car’s gas pedal instead of the brake.

The Publix accident occurred just one day after a new report [PDF] from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) spotlighting the problem of pedal confusion made headlines.

The Associated Press announced the report, noting:

Accidents in which drivers mistakenly hit the gas instead of the brake tend to involve older female drivers in parking lots, a new government study has found.

One of the study’s most striking and consistent findings was that nearly two-thirds of drivers who had such accidents were female. When looking at all crashes, the reverse is true — about 60 percent of drivers involved in crashes are male, the [NHTSA] study noted. Another finding: Gas pedal accidents tend to occur more frequently among drivers over age 76 and under age 20.

While the prominent role of pedal confusion comes as no surprise to anyone tracking media accounts of vehicle-into-building accidents, the report’s spotlighting women drivers is nonetheless provocative. I hope that rather than inciting finger pointing, NHTSA’s work leads both to greater awareness and to a better understanding of why drivers of either gender or any age mistake the gas pedal for the brake.

Have you encountered such accidents in your own parking facility? Did they result in any changes in how you configure spaces or keep cars and pedestrians safely separated?

Training for the Unexpected

Cindy Campbell

A recent sunny, southern California Friday afternoon that should have been a typical last day of the winter academic term turned out to be anything but at Cal Poly State University. A passerby discovered the body of a young man (later identified as a first-year student) in a vehicle parked in a busy campus parking lot. The tragedy was an apparent suicide by over-exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas. The young man had taken steps intended to keep others safe, posting signs on the inside of his vehicle windows that warned of the chemical. Along with police officers, members of our parking staff were on scene to keep pedestrians and vehicles a safe distance from the work of the hazardous materials team. It was a challenging task, as students were trying to pack their cars and leave campus for spring break.

When something like this happens, we naturally reflect on thoughts of our own families and hope to never experience such personal tragedy. We feel sadness and sympathy for both the victim and their family. On this occasion, another thought occurred to me, and it’s the purpose of this post: what if one of our parking employees initially came upon the situation? Would they have understood the potential dangers involved? Would they have reacted instinctively and opened the car door in an attempt to help the young man? We provide training on a wide variety of topics to our parking staff, but understanding and recognizing hazardous chemicals isn’t one of the topics we’ve covered in the past decade. Is it a standard training topic for your program?

Eight Questions About Security

Bob Harkins

When safety and security of a parking lot or facility was mentioned before September 11, 2001, many rolled their eyes and yawned.  Since that unforgettable day, the concept and actions in parking security have taken on a new dimension. We all have a dog in the hunt.  So where do we begin?  Let’s start at the extreme and work back to the day-to-day.

  1. Terrorism: The greatest threat to our lots and facilities is an act of terrorism from a vehicle bomb. Parking facilities are often very attractive to people who wish to do us harm. Our facilities and lots are in key locations to do damage. What can we do?  IPI has partnered with the First Observer Program to train parking professionals on what to look for and what to do. In short, if it doesn’t look right report it! Our employees need to be the eyes and ears for bad people trying to do bad things. If you want training for your staff, click here. It’s free. More than 8,000 parking professionals are now First Observers. Are you?
  2. Basic Safety: We all need to walk our lots and facilities in daylight and at night.  How do you feel? Certainly lighting is a critical factor. Better ideas?
  3. Cameras: Most believe that if you have cameras, there is an expectation that they are monitored. If they are not, there should be signs to indicate that the cameras are for management purposes.
  4. Elevators and Stairways: The use of glass and openness has helped significantly with the feeling of security. Closed-in spaces can create fear and concern.  What are best ideas and practices?
  5. Entrances: Restrict pedestrian flow into a facility to specific pathways that can be observed or filmed. Watch shrubbery and bushes that can hide attackers. Some facilities have wire mesh screens to prevent access in areas other than designated entrances.
  6. Lighting: What is the proper or best lighting level for parking lots and facilities?  What are the most cost-efficient types of lights?
  7. Panic or “Blue Light” Buttons: Are they useful?  Buttons with two-way communications or just call technology? With the prevalence of cell phones, some facilities are re-thinking the need. What is your stance?
  8. Bus Stops: How do we protect and secure bus stops and reduce waiting time? Will mobile technology and GIS capability on transit vehicles provide real-time information about arrivals and delays?

What other questions should we be asking and what answers can you share?