security assessement

Is your security toolkit complete?

One of the things that separates law enforcement professionals from average civilians is how the two groups approach a situation. When the average person walks into a building, his or her attention tends to be focused solely on the destination or the purpose for the visit. But when a police officer enters the same building, he or she instinctively scans in every direction, looking for any potential threat sources, mapping out escape routes, and evaluating what’s happening.

Similarly, when businesses or organizations talk about security, they tend to talk about specific things. Maybe we need cameras. Or a badge system. Or a stronger door. But when those of us who have worked in law enforcement talk about security, we take a more holistic approach. That’s because true security encompasses many different elements that work together in a synergistic fashion. Any one of those elements offers some protection; multiple elements work together in ways that provide a much higher level of safety.

When I’m asked about how a school, a company, or another organization should approach facility safety, I suggest they develop what I call a security toolkit. Just as your toolkit at home includes a variety of devices to help you perform an even wider variety of tasks, your security toolkit should include multiple items that address many different aspects of security. What are the tools that belong in your kit?

Start with a Security Assessment. Invite a professional consultant or local law enforcement to walk through your facility, identify potential vulnerabilities, and make recommendations.

Create a Policy. A security policy explain the reasons behind security, everyone’s responsibility, and the steps to take when something goes wrong, such as who is authorized to dial 911. When people aren’t sure how to approach a situation, that policy provides guidance.

Threat Assessment Team. Create a group from your organization (and possibly pair them with representatives from local law enforcement). Give them the responsibility to think about and identify the threats your organization might face and steps that could be taken to address them.

Background Checks. You won’t be surprised that the head of a background check provider advocates background checks, but it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent problems. A resume tells you how someone wants you to think about them, but a background check can share what they don’t want you to know.

Visitor Management. If someone doesn’t belong in your facility, you shouldn’t let them in. If you do allow them to visit, you should know where they are and what they’re doing. Formal systems like SafeVisitor help, but you can also use policies such as ensuring that visitors are always escorted through your facility.

Anonymous Reporting. After most workplace shootings, we hear that someone knew that something wasn’t right, but they were afraid to say anything. So provide ways that employees can call attention to strange behavior or situations without having to identify themselves. An employee who jokes about bringing a gun to work probably isn’t kidding around.

Integrated Communication. Have the equipment and processes in place so decision-makers and first responders can communicate clearly in an emergency situation.

Training. The training your team needs depends on your situations and activities. For example, if your team members travel frequently, make sure they know how to protect themselves on the road. Also provide training about domestic violence awareness, so employees can recognize when there’s a problem and so the entire team knows how to protect victims.

Hardware/Construction/Renovations. This is the physical part of your toolkit, eliminating and minimizing vulnerabilities by using technology and physical alternations to your facility. No single approach is right for every organization. Make your choices based upon the vulnerabilities your assessment identifies.

Finally, your security toolkit should also address what you’ll do if your security is breached. We’ll hope that your security toolkit prevents that from happening, but it’s wise to have a plan just in case.

Contact us for more information on creating a security toolkit.

Active Shooter: Facility Security Starts Far From Your Front Door

It never ceases to amaze me how many organizations establish “security” for their buildings by stationing a sleepy security guard or a doorman with a clipboard at the entrance. If someone who was planning mayhem … such as a shooter … shoved past the front desk, about the only defense that guard can offer is to yell, “Hey! You can’t go in there!” Then he might call his boss to see what he should do about it.

Even worse, those glorified hall monitors rarely pay attention to what’s signed on those clipboards. I could write “Charles Manson” for my name, and nobody would blink. Nor do most verify my credentials or check to see if I belong there. If I were a domestic abuser who wanted to get to my estranged spouse, all I’d have to do is claim I had a meeting with one of her co-workers (whose names I would know from conversations). I might have to wear a visitor’s badge, but that’s about it.

I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but we live in an era in which workplace and school shootings happen often enough that most earn just a quick spot on the news feed.

Take April’s shooting at YouTube’s headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. Nasim Majafi Aghdam simply walked into a courtyard in the company’s complex and opened fire on people she apparently didn’t know, wounding three before turning the gun on herself. She evidently had grievances with the company’s business practices, and these three just happened to be in the wrong place when she walked onto the property looking for someone to punish.

What’s to stop someone who’s unbalanced and has a gripe with your company or one of your employees from doing the same?

If you truly want to protect your students, your employees, your customers, or anyone occupying your facilities, you need to recognize that your front door is your point of last resort. It’s your last opportunity to control access to the facility. You may not be able to stop someone with criminal intent, but you can slow his or entry and alert authorities. Once the individual crosses that barrier, it’s too late. Even if the police arrive within a couple minutes, it’s likely that the damage will have been done.

So you need to shift your thinking. Instead of asking, “What do we do when someone enters our building?,” you need to ask, “What can we do to keep the wrong people out of our building in the first place? How do we make it clear that our location is unwelcome?”

Most people think of those as security decisions, but they’re really policy decisions that should become a central part of your organization’s culture. “Keeping our people safe” should be one of your organization’s guiding values. Finding the best way to do that then becomes the responsibility of everyone from the very top down.

There aren’t any one-plan-fits-all building security approaches, so you need to approach your situation with the specifics that make sense for your organization and facility. It may be a visitor management system, some kind of mandatory prior authorization for visits, moving the front line of security from the front door to the entry drive, creating an open-door policy in which victims of domestic abuse can feel comfortable sharing their concerns, holding a tabletop exercise to see how you’d handle specific scenarios -- the list of potential elements is endless.

We don’t need to be paranoid, thinking that everyone is out to get us in every manner imaginable, but we do need to be practical and realistic. We need to give serious thought to potential threats and ask ourselves what we can do to head each off. We need to invite first responders into our facilities and ask what makes them nervous, because they constantly have to assess risks as part of their job. They immediately notice things you’d never think about.

Employers and building managers don’t blink when they’re asked to install sprinkler systems, extinguishers, alarms, and other elements of fire protection. They don’t hesitate to identify shelter locations to protect employees and visitors during times of severe weather. So it’s no stretch to expand that thinking into protecting everyone from someone who means to do harm. Real security starts with intelligent thinking.

Learn more about Security Assessments