Keeping Your Security Program Active

March 13, 2003
Once you have created an effective security program, how do you keep it going? The answer is to actively pursue the right balance.

In a world of heightened tensions, organizations have become more aware of the different elements necessary to establish adequate physical security. But after you have attained a satisfactory level of security, how do you keep up the interest of your employees and tenants in maintaining the existing security program? Our goal is to discuss what is involved with a balanced security program and techniques to encourage your staff's participation.

You start your balanced security plan by evaluating the level of risk to your facility. First, what is your neighborhood like? Do you have neighbors that might attract unsafe individuals to your neighborhood? Does your facility contain individuals or activity that also might bring unsafe activity to your doorstep? Do you have a building filled with dentists or a building filled with federal law enforcement agencies or a major media outlet? How well known is your facility on a local, national or international basis? Is it near railroad tracks or major freeways? More American facilities have been evacuated due to toxic fumes from derailed trains and overturned trucks than terrorist activities. Are you near a university or college? Do any of the tenants in your building have negative media exposure? Are there certain organizations that are not thrilled with the existence of one of the tenants in your building? Each building has a different level of risk, and the security plan should be different in each case.

Now that you have defined the potential risk to your facility, you have one additional concern when planning your security program: what will be your security levels of response? Most managers plan their security around the average workday. What if your facility comes under some heightened threat level? A group of protestors or a disgruntled ex-employee may direct a threat towards your building, company, tenant or area, dramatically affecting your relative security needs.

You need to develop a plan for additional layers of security in the event of such threats. Will you add security staff? Will you shut down some access points? Will you increase access control? Will you increase package inspections? By having an increased security plan already in place with your staff trained in their new duties, when a threat comes around, you are ready and do not have to start planning on the fly. It is also important that all your employees and tenants understand the need for these various levels of response so they are comfortable with the changes at times of higher threats.

Once you have defined your level of risk and levels of response, you should now consider your security program. A well-rounded security program utilizes three basic aspects of security:

  • Mechanical security
  • Natural security
  • Organizational security

A security program that uses all three of these security aspects will normally become a cost-effective process. Relying too heavily on any one area may become costly and leave holes in the overall program.

Mechanical Security

Mechanical security is the utilization of security systems such as locks, intrusion alarms, access control systems and surveillance systems in a cost-effective manner that will reduce the need for continuous human surveillance. In recent years, such equipment has begun utilizing far more advanced technology. For example, the analog closed circuit television (CCTV) systems of the past with time-lapse videotapes, which took hours to review, have been replaced with digital systems, which allow for instantaneous playback without stopping the recording process. The new digital CCTV systems now record activity onto computer hard drives. These systems allow for recording only during times of actual movement and can be programmed to sound alarms as well as change recording speeds during special events. These systems can be tied, as a server, to your local area network so that authorized persons within your staff have the ability to view the live CCTV camera pictures or historic recordings at their desk computers.

As a result, the days when a staff member had to sit and stare at multiple video screens in hopes of observing unsafe activity have given way to systems that alert the observer when there is activity to view, or are tied to alarm or other sensor systems. The systems have become so advanced that when tied to other systems, they can even provide the observer with verbal instructions on what actions need to be taken. These CCTV systems can be "integrated" with other security systems such as access control, intrusion alarm and communication systems.

Such integration can make your security systems more effective and can, in some cases when planned properly, result in a cost savings. For example, you may have two security staffers to properly monitor a particular facility, with one staff member monitoring the systems while the second conducts roving patrols. The new systems allow for only one roving officer who can receive alarm transmissions as well as CCTV images on their handheld PDA. While the initial cost of the system might be expensive, the savings over time could be decisively in its favor.

Natural Security

The area of natural or architectural security utilizes psychological factors in the development of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) techniques. Does an unsafe individual feel they will be observed when they approach your facility? Does the appearance of your facility define your property and make the unsafe individual feel that rules will be enforced on your property? Have you reduced the number of access points to your facility and at the same time developed natural surveillance at each of these points? When your employees or tenants leave the building at the end of the day, is there adequate illumination and minimum visual barriers so that they will feel safer? Inadequate illumination or the existence of potential hiding areas for unsafe individuals can leave your tenants or employees feeling unsafe and with the unconscious feeling that your security program is inadequate.

Organizational Security

Finally, organizational security is needed to properly balance your security program. This particular aspect also enables you to continually motivate your employees to keep the security program active.

If you have security staff or lobby attendants, are they properly trained and motivated? When an individual enters your lobby, are they greeted and asked if they need help? If your security staff does not show interest in your security program, why should your employees have any interest? Motivate your security staff with adequate training. Make sure all the security staff members are fully aware of their duties and are aware of any changes in security procedures. The more training the security team receives, the more motivated they will be.

The security staff should have written post orders that clearly define their duties, especially in special situations such as:

  • Fire
  • Elevator entrapment
  • Flooding
  • Natural disasters (earthquakes, tornados, etc.)
  • Hazardous material spills
  • Medical emergencies
  • Loss of electrical power
  • Armed intruders
  • Hostage situations
  • Bomb or terrorist threats
  • Suspicious packages
  • Workplace violence
  • Civil disturbance

Do not leave the training of your security staff to word of mouth. This could leave your security program open to different interpretations, which could mean that a security officer on one shift might react to a situation differently than the officer assigned on a different shift. Written tests and other forms of audits can confirm that the security staff understands its duties.

Are you utilizing proper background investigations when you hire a new employee? Are you checking for previous criminal activity to avoid bringing a problem into your facility? Are you requiring the same types of background checks for your contractors? When a new employee is hired, are they provided adequate security orientation? Does the new staff member understand the goals that you are trying to achieve with your security program and how their involvement in the program will make the program that much more successful?

Are you keeping abreast of the criminal activity in the neighborhood of your facility? In too many security reviews, we have found that the management staff is unaware of the crime in their vicinity. Don't be taken by surprise; make contact with your local law enforcement agency. Many agencies have community policing programs, which will be able to provide you a contact to keep you up to speed on local problems.

Once you are aware of these local problems, it is important that you pass this information on to your security staff, employees and tenants. Make sure these notices provide solutions the readers can use to avoid the problems. If there are auto burglaries happening in the area, suggest that the staff and tenants lock their vehicles and not leave valuables in plain sight. If there have been assaults in the area, you might set up escort services for staff or tenants to their vehicles. Keeping these lines of communication open will help keep your staff and tenants motivated.

More than a Memo

Avoid solely passing information along in the form of memos or postings on bulletin boards. The use of regular meetings with staff or tenants can be the perfect time to discuss recent criminal activity in the area and to discuss alternatives.

We all saw an increase in interest in security and safety issues after 9/11. We have observed far more people becoming involved in emergency evacuation training or paying attention during fire drill demonstrations. But as any advertiser will tell you, you have to keep your product out there in front of the public.

We have had success in solving security problems at facilities when the management calls upon their staff to make recommendations. Give staff members who provide good recommendations public recognition or other rewards, such as a couple of steak dinner certificates.

At some large client locations, contests have been used to involve employees or tenants in security. For example, at a large production facility, there had been a continuous problem of unauthorized persons tailgating into the facility. Tailgating is a situation when an authorized employee or tenant opens a controlled access door and an unauthorized individual follows them inside the facility. The use of security staff, turnstiles and sensor systems can reduce or eliminate this problem, but these mechanical and staffing approaches can become costly or take time to put into place. In this case, the cash-strapped firm turned to their employees for assistance by making them more sensitive to the issue.

This increased sensitivity started with memos and meetings. Then the firm brought the staff into the decision-making process by offering a prize and recognition for the best anti-tailgating slogan. A plant-wide vote was used to select the best slogan; this group activity made many more people in the facility aware of the security issue.

Other clients have had poster contests where the children of staff and tenants could produce security or safety posters that cover a problem they were trying to solve. Now your employees understand the security issue and they are trying to teach the issue to their children. One client posted the drawings, by age group, in the lunchroom and had all the employees vote on the best ones. The result was that employees could brag about their children and the management team raised the sensitivity of their staff concerning a particular security issue.

Planning the security of your facility begins with a proper risk assessment, followed by the balanced use of organizational, mechanical and natural security. Once you have a viable security program in place, use basic forms of psychological motivation to keep your employees interested in the program and thus keep it both effective and cost-effective.

About the author: Richard D. (Rich) Maurer is an associate managing director of the Security Services Group of Kroll Inc, a risk consulting company. He also is the chairman of the ASIS Physical Security Council. He manages risk analysis as well as security reviews of government, corporate, hospital, retail and educational facilities nationwide. Contact him at [email protected] or at (212) 833-3239.

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