The Gatekeepers

April 13 marks six months on the job for our new security firm Norred & Associates, Inc. Headquartered in Atlanta, the company operates in 20 states, and its 2,000 employees provide security services to private communities, hospitals, colleges, high rise offices, and a wide variety of other organizations.

I met recently with Jeff Bohling, Norred President, and Mike Whitlow, Norred’s manager of Seabrook Island operations. Their contract is administered by SIPOA employee Jenn Miller, Director of Security. The firm did not come to the island as newcomers, having previously served Seabrook Island from 2009 to 2013. All officers at our gate are SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) certified, and they are also trained in CPR and the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).

Mike describes this island as a dream, from a security viewpoint: There is only one access point so it makes it easier to monitor traffic in and out of the gate. The single access point also means that on occasion, traffic will back up due to volume. The fact that there is only one way in lends itself to constant person-to-person contact and Norred employees are very focused and adept at customer service.

Technology upgrades have been put in place to speed up guest processing. For example, rental guests now receive an email gate-pass voucher from their rental host or rental agency. The gate-pass voucher (on paper or on a smart device), contains a QR code that the officers scan to automatically generate a gate pass. This can be done from inside the gatehouse or via a smart-device the officer can use outside the gatehouse. Tests of the system show that use of the voucher creates a pass in about 15 seconds or less vs. 60-90 seconds if a pass is created without the voucher. Remember that on Saturday afternoons during the summer rental season, vehicle volume in the visitor lane ranges from 80 to 195 vehicles per hour, so every second counts.

Both Mike and Jeff stressed that the phones in the gatehouse are usually ringing off the hook. Security gets all sorts of questions not related to island security such as, “Why is my internet not working?” or “When does Harris Teeter open?” or “How’s the traffic on Main Road?” etc. With the excessive call volume in the gatehouse, Security strongly urges residents to use the online system to enter guest passes. This can be done via the website or app. (Questions about the guest pass system can be directed to the SIPOA Administration Office). When guests arrive at the gate, officers will first ask for their destination address and search the system by address, then by the host’s name. You can help the officers and speed the process by ensuring that your guests know the correct destination address.

On weekdays from 7:00 to 10:00 am, contractor vehicles are the majority of the entries at the gate. Therefore, gate staffing is weighted toward the morning shift when traffic and commercial access demands are heaviest. During the busy summer season, the Saturday afternoon shift is supplemented with extra officers.

In addition to gate officers, each shift has patrol officers that answer calls for service, patrol the island and concentrate on speeding and traffic/parking violation enforcement. This is a critical component of Norred’s focus on resident and guest safety.

When working security, things happen from time to time that aren’t part of the stated job duties. For instance, Norred staff responded to a call about someone who had been pulled out of the ocean and wasn’t breathing. Security contacted 911 before arriving on scene and assisted others who had already begun lifesaving measures. Thankfully, the victim survived.

On a lighter note, Mike remembers assisting a couple who could not get down their icy stairs during the snowstorm and were worried about how to let their dog out. Mike showed up and walked the dog. He and the dog are now on a first-name basis.

Mike said the point is not to make access to Seabrook Island difficult, but to ensure island access requirements are met. Attention to our access control rules and procedures results in a safe community for our residents and guests.

We are lucky to have such conscientious staff at our gate, so when you’re driving through the gate, give them a wave or a ‘hello’.

Please remember – call 911, not the gatehouse, for all emergencies.

-Barbara Burgess, Tidelines Staff Writer

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