How to keep your staff and organisation safer – 3 key elements

Forget everything else you’ve read about security because until you have these crucial elements nailed, your security strategy will have gaps and vulnerabilities.

Achieving an optimum state of security depends upon three key elements coming together – systems, people and process.

Firstly, let’s look at systems.

 

1. Security Systems

Security systems can be technology based or manual. For example, an intruder alarm system that alerts when a door is forced is technology based, while a security officer writing an incident report on that security breach is a manual operation.

Most businesses have multiple manual and technology based systems that contribute to their overall security strategy. This is all well and good.

The general perception is that because these systems have been implemented in a business, the standard of security must be quite good. Not necessarily. And let me explain why.

We do a lot of work in local government and are currently reviewing more than 40 properties for our council clients. These reviews are driven by the need to improve staff safety.

Almost all these properties have duress buttons installed. Duress buttons allow staff to call for help when people become overly aggressive or the staff feel threatened in some way. Sadly, this occurs far more regularly than you would think.

These councils have done the right thing by installing duress buttons because the safety of their staff is paramount. And while the duress buttons work as expected, the response mechanisms associated with them are fundamentally flawed and broken.

During any duress event, the goal is a timely response. This is critical. If staff feel threatened, what they are counting on is help arriving quickly.

Police may or may not attend, depending on their priorities. In some cases, they can but in other circumstances they can’t. It is simply a matter of resourcing and priorities. This may surprise you, but it is common for police not to attend these types of incidents.

Private security is more reliable as we can be sure they will attend, although we never know how long that will take. Patrol vehicles may not be where they are needed most and could take 45 minutes or more to arrive. This can feel like a lifetime for the poor staff member waiting for help.

With our clients, we are developing a strategy that can guarantee on-site security attendance within 15 minutes, 99 per cent of the time. To achieve this, we need to align both people and process with the existing duress systems.

So where do people and process fit into this scenario?

To answer that question, let’s now look at process.

2. Process

Staff members need to be properly trained and briefed on using duress systems. They need to know where they are located, under what circumstances to use them and what to expect when the system is activated. Ensuring that happens is a business process that extends across multiple departments within the organisation.

The next part of process is to ensure that the alarm is responded to within a guaranteed time frame for us to achieve our goals. During a recent incident, the alarm monitoring centre took 12 minutes to act after the duress was activated. This is a failing in their internal processes and can have a significant impact on our objectives. This needs to be improved.

Another example of good process is ensuring that the duress systems are always working. There must be a test regime that ensures every device is regularly checked. Other business units need to be involved to ensure that this happens.

There also needs to be a process that sees key elements of duress systems continuously measured to ensure all parties meet their obligations. Service level agreements must be associated with external providers and internal stakeholders made accountable to ensure all necessary processes are followed diligently.

These are critical systems and without the proper processes they break down which is what is happening today.

The third element is people.

3. People

People are critically important here because without them, the systems and processes we implement will fail. For example:

  1. If the control room operator doesn’t action our alarm event when we need them to, we may miss our response time.
  2. If the service technician doesn’t test the duress button properly and it fails, staff safety is jeopardised.
  3. If the security patrol person prioritises another call over attending a duress event, that can also have consequences.

Final Note …

We know that duress systems require a variety of systems and processes that are only made cohesive by people doing what they need to do at the right time. Otherwise these systems will simply not work.

When evaluating the workings of such systems, it is important to undertake an assessment on the entire supply chain to determine where gaps exist.  This includes all internal and external stakeholders. If any gaps are identified then you (and your security consultant) need to work out ways to fill these gaps to improve the overall process.

If you are unsure on the process, reach out and I will be happy to send you something that will help.

Duress systems are almost always installed with good reason. But they are probably the most challenging of all security systems to get right. This is because there are so many elements that contribute to them working effectively. And if one element of the supply chain fails, often the whole system fails.

When implementing these critical security systems, you must look at the entire process and not just the button fixed to the underside of the desk. It could help keep your staff and your organisation much safer.

About the author

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Luke Percy-Dove

Luke is one of the most respected and highly regarded Security Advisers and Security Design Consultants in Australia and has been a trusted key player in the security industry for more than two decades, delivering security solutions for hundreds of businesses and organisations nationally.