G4S President Drew Levine takes a look at how technology is impacting manned security forces in the October 2010 issue of STE.
Today's technology tools make security officers much more productive.
The word "system" is often used to describe how security technologies work together. However, just as a group of elements interacting forms a complex whole, a security system is more than just a collection of hardware and software - it is also the individuals tasked with operating, monitoring and maintaining that equipment. A true definition of a security system includes both technology and manpower. Today, the rapid advancements and evolutions of the available technology have a significant impact on the manpower needs of the user.
How is security technology changing the manpower needs of our industry? The immediate answer is "more than most people consider." Too often, game-changing technologies such as video analytics and networked systems are introduced into the mix without enough consideration to their impact on the individuals who operate the equipment. In practical terms, it is time to realize that just investing in technology is not enough to achieve security excellence. We often see businesses that have spent significantly on technology, but there has been a disconnect with their security officers and other personnel. It is imperative that it all be tied together.
Here are nine ways technology is impacting security officers and helping to expand their role in the enterprise:
1. Technology provides new tools. We know that one key to a quality security and safety program is to give security officers the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. In the past, the tools used by a security officer have often been limited to a guard tour device, a two-way radio, a flashlight and keys. Before the advent of the current electronic tools, there was often limited communication, and incident reporting required paperwork and relied heavily on memory. Critical information was not shared effectively. In contrast, today's technology tools make security officers much more productive.
2. Technology serves as a force multiplier. Using technology to extend and enhance the reach of a protection system beyond security officers acting alone can impact a business's risk factors in a positive way. Advances in wireless and advanced video enable security officers to accomplish much more. Officers now have access to more information, often using hand-held devices. The information must be presented in a way that is understandable and actionable by the security officers, and their interface with systems should be as simple as possible so as not to interfere with important duties.
3. Technology enables real-time response. Today's security officer must respond in real-time based on information at his or her fingertips. Technology captures and reports incidents immediately, and response can also be immediate. Many sectors, including commercial facilities, educational institutions and critical infrastructure sites such as ports and chemical facilities, are investing in video surveillance, access control, video analytics and even command-and-control centers because they need to respond quickly to incidents and crises.
4. Technology requires security officers to have more skills. Today's security officers must also have the skills to operate communications and security systems effectively. Security officers have historically been recruited from accomplished backgrounds in law enforcement and military service. Choosing candidates with these credentials helps to promote professionalism. The latest technologies often emphasize ease of use, but officers also need a level of competency to interact with them.
5. Technology makes top-notch training critical. Now more than ever, personnel training should be designed to provide the customized skill sets security officers need to interface effectively with technology and to expand their duties to better leverage the efficiency advantages of innovation. Training is essential to get the best efficiencies from a security force, and from the tools and technologies they use to do their jobs. Without training, you have a corps of officers who cannot optimize the return on investment (ROI) possible with current state-of-the-industry solutions.
6. Technology empowers security officers to make decisions. Technologies can make companies and institutions more secure largely by providing better information about security threats and events to enable security officers to respond. However, real-time response by a human being is the desired outcome of even today's latest technology innovations. In effect, the technology provides information that empowers the security officer to make decisions to ensure a company's security. As first responders, security officers should clearly be recognized as a critical element of any security system.
7. Technology enables officers to be more active. Video cameras can put additional "eyes" on possible security threats, and a qualified and attentive officer must be available to respond if something happens. However, sitting passively in front of a bank of video monitors waiting for something to happen may not be the best use of an officer's time. Video can extend the "range" of an officer's attention, but only if it makes that usable information available to the officer without interfering with his or her other duties. Thanks to technology, he or she can be patrolling a site instead of watching a roomful of video monitors. In case of an alarm, he or she can still have access to video on a handheld device.
8. Technology increases officers' responsibilities. A benefit of the greater productivity made possible by an overarching approach encompassing both manpower and technology is to broaden the effectiveness and responsibilities of security officers. Technology provides greater efficiencies while equipping officers to perform multiple functions related to security, safety and facilities. The patrol of a security officer can be a value-added activity for a company's business. In the future, a CEO will perceive a security officer as a strategic part of his business.
9. Technology helps to boost the stature of the occupation. The job of security officer is changing, and not just because of technology development but in response to other factors as well - especially the changing needs of the enterprise. The security officer can play an expanded role now, thus providing more value working in tandem with technology. Moving forward, security officers will be required to have the skills needed to perform a higher-level job. They will also bear the increased responsibility inherent in the productivity improvement made possible by using more effective tools. In the process, the job of security officer becomes much more important to an employer; and the ever-widening role helps to boost the stature of the occupation in general.
Security Officers of Tomorrow
The skills needed by security officers deployed at reception areas are very different than the skills needed by officers deployed in high-risk, high-consequence environments. Therefore, to a large extent, the "job" of security officer will continue to reflect various levels of responsibility and varieties of duties that are specific to a certain market sector or even an individual company. In the same way that specific types of technology are favored by various market sectors, multiple levels and types of security officer expertise will continue to be in demand. The application rules - whether you are selecting security personnel or security technology.
For providers of contract security officers, the best approach to meeting this diversity of market needs is a tiered officer program that provides manpower consisting of trained experts in specific market sectors such as government, real estate, corporate campus, chemical/petrochemical and healthcare. Such an approach ensures that officers are recruited, trained and compensated based on the needed skills in specialized areas.
A Holistic Approach
The arbitrary separation of security officers and security technology in the minds of industry professionals has evolved more based on historic market forces than on the needs of the enterprise. For today's companies and institutions, security, risk mitigation, disaster preparedness, etc. are goals. Technology and manpower are both tools to get there. Effective security demands a holistic approach incorporating both.
Companies need a range of tools - including manpower and technology - that work together effectively and efficiently. Ultimately, products must be designed to fulfill the information needs of the workforce, and security officers must be trained to get the most value out of the technologies. It is critical to have a properly trained, customized force of officers to carry out the objectives of security by using the best technology has to offer.
Drew Levine is president of G4S Secure Solutions.
Weingarten Realty Deploys Manpower Management System
As director of corporate security for shopping center owner and developer Weingarten Realty, Bill Strother's responsibilities extend to more than 400 properties. When serious situations occur, he needs immediate information in order to take actions that will mitigate damage and assure Weingarten Realty's tenants that the company is doing what it can to provide an environment where their safety and that of their customers is a priority.
The former system of reporting such events - which could occur anywhere across the three time zones of the 23 U.S. states in which Weingarten Realty operates - was paper-based, manually filed or passed up the chain of command by security team members.
"Information is power," the former police officer says. "But if a security officer forgot to notify his supervisor, or the supervisor decided not to call me at 2 a.m., because, in his estimation, it wasn't that severe and nothing needed to be done immediately, there were unnecessary delays."
Things came to a head when he was going through incident reports on his desk one day and learned about a significant event for the first time - two or three weeks after it had occurred. Strother was aware that other actions could have been taken, if he had known about it sooner.
He called G4S, his main security provider. G4S has had a national contract to provide secure solutions at 90 percent of Weingarten Realty retail properties since 2001.
When G4S determined the perfect solution to speed up the transmission of information was not available, they created it. The result was the introduction of Secure Trax, a security management enterprise software platform enabling end-users to have real-time feedback on what is happening in their businesses. The system uses customized PDAs to revolutionize incident reporting.
What began as a digital reporting device slowly developed, stage-by-stage, into a mobile phone with GPS tracking added, as well as having a camera, e-mail functionality, text messaging, a panic alarm, time-and-attendance recording and the ability to read bar codes as part of an advanced guard tour and facility inspection system.
For three years, Weingarten Realty and G4S tested the system, refining and improving it, before it was unveiled to the industry and began its roll-out to other customers.
The system has exceeded Strother's initial demands and provides him with new risk management tools. Now, for example, G4S custom protection officers can use the system to capture images of reported problem areas - from pot holes and leaking sprinklers to abandoned cars - forwarding them from their PDAs via e-mail to Weingarten Realty's property managers, who then send the pictures on to contractors, speeding up response times and reducing the threat of costly litigation in some cases.
"We had a safety awareness meeting at one of our shopping centers and someone complained that they never saw the security officer who was supposed to be patrolling," Strother recalls. "I took out my computer, pulled up the Website, went to the previous day and showed them the tracking of that officer, which is recorded via the Secure Trax geo fencing and tracking capability. It showed he had covered that entire center and he couldn't have done it any better. The center's management and its tenants were impressed that we had that capability and it restored their confidence in the security arrangements."