Visitors to the Carroll County Office Building in Westminster may soon notice a slight change. A new security camera will be monitoring activity at the basement entrance, all government employees will be wearing identification badges, and some desks will be equipped with "panic buttons" that summon police.
Carroll commissioners recently budgeted $5,000 to implement the security measures, which mirror efforts at nearby administrative offices of the Board of Education.
"We are no longer the small, local place where everybody knows everybody," said Steven D. Powell, director of management and budget for Carroll County. "As we continue to grow, there's a desire to have a more secure building."
The badges, panic buttons and security camera will be in use by July, Powell said. The three-story brick building already has cameras that monitor the parking lot and main entrances, and security systems that limit access to the commissioners' offices and the county's computer mainframe.
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said the added security does not stem from any incident in Carroll County. Rather, it grew, in part, out of concerns sparked by the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
"It's a precaution," Gouge said. "We want our employees to feel safe."
Several of the county's 605 municipal workers said the new measures will bring peace of mind.
"I definitely think the panic buttons will make me feel more secure," said Bonnie Staub, a receptionist in the county's Economic Development Department. "In today's world, you never know when you're going to get an irate citizen coming in."
An average of 20 employees are killed in the workplace each week in the United States, according to figures from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury.
In addition, the institute, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has found that an estimated 1 million workers are victims of nonfatal workplace assaults each year.
Faced with those statistics, many municipalities have embraced security measures. Visitors to the Lake County, Ill., government complex must pass through metal detectors.
In Placer County, Calif., employees at five county health and human services sites work behind bullet-resistant glass. In Tamarac, Fla., an armed sheriff's deputy stands guard at the entrance to City Hall, ensuring that visitors sign in.
A similar sign-in procedure was adopted in Carroll at the school system's administrative offices in Westminster about two years ago.
The four-story building is also equipped with panic switches and a camera that monitors the receptionist's desk. Employees must wear identification badges. Magnetic strips on the backs of the badges provide access to the building's locked offices.
"We felt the security measures were imperative, given the number of people who come in and out of the building," said Larry Faries, coordinator of security for the Board of Education. "Some of the people who come into the building are not necessarily happy folks."
The commissioners are not considering a sign-in procedure or limiting access to county government offices. "We want to make sure the county government building still feels open to the public," Powell said. "It is their building, and we are here to serve them."