Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. DeMille
October, 2011Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? After 245 dog years of sniffing around parking facilities with my master, I have actually learned a new “trick” or two the past few months. (Wow, think about it, my master must be getting up there in age since I am but a mere pup!)
I was walking a parking facility with the Garage Manager, now affectionately called “Mr. Kodak” for his unique way of taking notes during our walk. It seems the cellphone my master had given me years ago was now out-of-date. The new iPhones and Droids have either a 5- or 8-megapixel camera and are capable of taking great photos or videos with voice capture.
As we walked through the facility, Mr. Kodak’s phone was snapping away – photo and sometimes video with voice instructions about various conditions in the garage. In some instances, the photos were sent, via email, back to the office so the Manager on Duty could dispatch a person with the correct tools or cleaning items to resolve the problem.
I found this more efficient than calling the problem in on the radio because little explanation was needed as to the location and actual problem since all was visible in the photo. The nice thing about this was that there was a time-dated photo of when the problem was first observed and reported.
Not all of the items of concern were sent via email; at the end of the walking inspection, the Garage Manager simply downloaded the photos into a file with the day’s date. This file was shared with various shift supervisors for work to be done on cleaning and maintaining the property.
This has led to an increased response time from the Maintenance Supervisor or Ownership, because now they too can see the problem from a customer’s position and the potential liability issue.
Sending the photos with a voice narrative is the equivalent to an oral email and helps to identify potential liability issues, as well as simple facility issues such as overflowing trashcans or graffiti on the walls.
I have found that most Parking Operators offer their managers a $40 to $50 per month stipend for use of their cellphone at work. This is a reasonable expense – as long as the managers are being proactive with their cell.
Another new “trick” involves CCTVs – for the longest time, these have been the “domain” of the security company hired to watch over the property. It was rare that the Parking Manager ever saw the footage from those cameras.
With today’s IP-addressable CCTVs or DVRs, the Parking Manager, with proper access, can now also view what those cameras show. In many instances, I myself have seen major entry or exit lanes displayed on a large (32” to 37”) flat-panel screen so that traffic in the lanes can be observed from an interior parking office.
This helps greatly when there is a problem in the lanes as they can see, while speaking on the intercom with the customer, what is happening and any traffic backup the problem is causing. It’s also a great item to be seen by customers who visit the office; they know “Big Brother” is actually alive and out there!
A side benefit from having access to the CCTV cameras is observing employee behavior and work ethic while they are on the work floor. The manager now has a better idea of how long it takes to sweep an area of the garage or mop a stair tower, or, simply watch if employees are “disappearing” into their cars or out to the 7-Eleven for unintended breaks.
Also, by having employees wear an ANSI Level 1 safety vest with the reflective stripe, it’s easy to spot him or her on the CCTV, and it also helps the public know that this is a Parking Staff person.
Another use of CCTV cameras is to observe and count pedestrian traffic through vehicle traffic lanes. In an eight-hour shift, the managers and I were able to count the number of pedestrians walking through a vehicle entrance lane for a seven-day period 14 hours a day. (Normally, this would have been the equivalent of 100 staff hours to stand at the lane and keep count as people walked by.)
We realized that on a Monday-Friday basis, almost 5,500 pedestrians were using this traffic lane as a shortcut through the facility. On rainy or snowy days, this number increased because people wanted to stay dry, or keep out of the snow/cold wind or off unshoveled sidewalks. This shortcut was all to avoid walking around the block and saving maybe a 1,000 feet as the pedestrian traveled to their destination and another 1,000 feet on their return trip.
By redirecting this foot traffic out of the vehicle lane, drivers could enter the parking garage from the street faster, easier and more safely. Also, the amount of trash in the garage generated by this foot traffic dropped by 40%. And best of all, the number of incidents of customer claims of damage to parked vehicles and slip/fall incidents plummeted to almost zero.