Top Safety Risks Facing Commercial Real Estate

Top Safety Risks Facing Commercial Real Estate

Employing over $2 million people, the real estate, renting, and leasing industry is one of the largest sectors in the U.S. economy and accounts for over 10% of the country’s GDP. To maintain operational success and growth, particularly in the wake of COVID-related industry disruptions, commercial real estate organizations must remain aware of and responsive to security threats. 

This article will present five key safety considerations for the commercial real estate industry: property damage, vacancies, cyber risk, security delegation, and terrorism.

1. Property Damage

Property damage is the primary risk facing commercial real estate properties. These damages most often result from environmental events, climate change, vandalism at vacant properties, and facility failures. Identifying and addressing these damages is crucial to preventing property destruction and associated financial losses.

To mitigate the threat of property damage and its effects, properties should facilitate ongoing communication between security team members and tenants. This can include broadcast notifications and a mobile reporting process. By providing security and tenants with the ability to submit tips about property damage, property managers can quickly address concerns before they escalate. This will prevent further destruction and monetary loss and better equip properties to respond to threats.

2. Vacant Buildings

Vacant residential and business properties are at risk for vandalism, forced entry, property damage, and illegal tenants. Additionally, without inhabitants or employees living and working in these properties, damages and facilities failures can go unreported and may worsen before being addressed.

In recent years, the commercial real estate vacancy rate has hovered around 10%. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it spiked to approximately 25%. Although occupancy rates will likely increase in the coming months, commercial real estate organizations should develop strategies for protecting vacant properties and rapidly identifying and responding to damages. 

One way to do this is by providing security team members with an easy means of reporting concerns and communicating with colleagues and superiors. This will help commercial real estate organizations more quickly identify and address vacant property concerns and will allow security to request backup in the event of an emergency.

3. Cyber Risk

Cyber risk is a significant problem in the commercial real estate industry, particularly as properties digitize and go green, or “smart,” and much more sensitive information is saved online. Commercial properties also often partner with external vendors or outsource data management to third parties, so there are multiple methods of information tracking and potential points of entry for cyber attack. 

Deloitte’s 2021 commercial real estate outlook reports that 44% of surveyed commercial real estate executives believe that cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges they face when digitizing their properties. This is particularly notable because the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $8.19 million

Privacy is critical for tenants to have successful digital experiences, but digital experience is not a core competency in commercial real estate. To address this threat, properties should assess cybersecurity threats and bolster their protections, ensure that data is captured with consent and stored safely, and train key team members on data privacy best practices. It’s also valuable to enable security team members and tenants to report suspected cybersecurity breaches, such as phishing attacks.

4. Security Delegation

When deciding how to protect their properties, commercial real estate firms must choose between providing security themselves, outsourcing security, or delegating security responsibilities to their tenants. Outsourcing and delegation are common choices and both involve security risks.

Outsourcing security to a third-party vendor can create communication or quality assurance challenges for the properties and tenants, as there often is not direct communication about threats. Conversely, when security is delegated to tenants, tenants are responsible for either establishing their own security or for hiring a third-party security company, both of which present risks. Tenants may also choose to not hire security, leaving properties at risk of damages.

In the event of a crisis, security teams must also have a process in place to appropriately delegate security team members across the property for effective prevention and response. This requires an effective safety communication tool, such as an emergency mass notification system (EMNS), and can rely on tenant-submitted reports of hazards.

5. Terrorism

Commercial real estate properties are also at risk of terrorism such as active shooter incidents, explosive device detonation, biological or chemical attacks, and forced entry attacks. Maintaining adequate terrorism risk coverage has been deemed “critical to helping maintain a strong and vital commercial real estate market.”

The risk of terrorism is particularly pertinent at highly-populated properties, such as busy retail locations or dense office or residential buildings. Ongoing communication, preventive safety measures, and effective security delegation are key components of anti-terrorism preparedness strategies. It is also important to establish and communicate evacuation protocols to facilitate safe operations in the event of an emergency.

Addressing Industry-Wide Threats

As the commercial real estate industry kicks back into high gear following COVID-related operational disruptions, organizations must remain aware of safety and security threats and develop corresponding security strategies.

One valuable prevention tool is an emergency mass notification system (EMNS). EMNS are one-way broadcast communication platforms that are widely used across organizations and institutions of all sizes for both routine and emergency communications. One such tool is LiveSafe Alert, Vector’s EMNS offering.

Regardless of the situation, LiveSafe Alert provides simple, powerful communications capabilities. To learn more, download the LiveSafe Alert Feature Flyer.


Alexandra Brunjes has a B.S. in Neurobiology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with minors in Creative Writing and French. She is a published journalist and experienced health and science writer. Her expertise includes risk intelligence, healthcare and neuroscience, and technology.

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