It’s All Happening at the Naturally Wild, Houston Zoo
At one of Securitas USA’s most unusual client sites, maintaining a safe and secure environment is just as much about animals as about people. The Houston Zoo is home to over 4,500 animals representing more than 800 species and including bird, reptile and primate collections that are among the finest in the world. In addition, more than 1.5 million people visit the Houston Zoo each year to see the animals and to attend various private and public events.
“We strive to provide exemplary animal care, and also a fun and exciting experience for visitors,” says Joe Kalla, the Houston Zoo’s vice president of operations. “It takes a very dedicated staff and a lot of community support to do that.”
Securitas provides crowd management services by helping to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors during business hours and animals around the clock. When the zoo is open, Securitas officers serve primarily as ambassadors, giving directions to patrons, assisting with lost children and reporting any disorderly conduct and other security incidents to the proprietary staff of Zoo Rangers who provide daytime security services. Radio and cell phone contact is maintained with the Zoo Rangers and the Guest Relations office dispatcher to report lost children and other situations needing attention.
“In addition to security training, officers at this site must have some special qualities,” explains Stephen Kimbrough, Securitas USA’s field service manager. “They need to like being around animals and interact well with people—including school bus loads of grade school kids on field trips. They also must be able to handle continuous patrols on foot, tricycle or golf cart, as well as Houston’s summer heat.”
Each night, a Securitas officer patrols all areas of the 55-acre zoo, helping to ensure that animals are safe and secure, checking that appropriate doors and gates are locked, and helping keep intruders—whether people or feral animals—out. Securitas Tour Confirmation System is used to document that 26 locations within the zoo are checked at least twice per night.
The Houston Zoo, a nonprofit organization since 2002, is located in Hermann Park, a city-owned, 445-acre urban enclave near downtown that also encompasses the Houston Museum of National Science, the Miller Outdoor Theatre, a public golf course and other major attractions.
One of the most-visited zoos in the nation, The Houston Zoo is a recognized leader in animal husbandry and enrichment techniques, and regularly shares its expertise with other institutions. More than 1,000 educational programs for large and small groups are offered each year promoting appreciation for the natural world, as well as conservation awareness and action.
“Our goal is to provide a unique, educational experience for our visitors, and for everyone to feel safe while they’re here,” Kalla says. “Securitas USA helps us do that."