Corporate security obligations amid Covid- 19 | Sunday Observer

Corporate security obligations amid Covid- 19

12 September, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world we live in. It has affected and impacted all activity affecting multifarious human endeavour ranging from personal or individual activity, business, manufacturing, services, and Governments, religious and social activity have been shaken to the core or even been changed forever as in the case of more and more people working from home.

The virus respects none. If due heed is not given by Governments, societies, businesses and more importantly every individual to live practically and effectively in the new norm thrust on us; mask wearing, social distancing and observing strict personal hygiene in washing hands and restraining unnecessary face touching, we will be compelled to face a long drawn out lifestyle enveloped with lockdowns and isolations notwithstanding the discovery of Covid-19 vaccines.

The security industry has not been spared either. Globally, the security industry and the fraternity are coming to terms with the repercussions of the pandemic by adapting to the scenario in terms of business continuity, safety of its personnel and more importantly its contribution to curbing the spread of the pandemic.

In this context it is timely to evaluate the status of the security industry in Sri Lanka in general and the obligations of the corporate security sector in particular.

Corporate security

There are several definitions defining physical security in the corporate world. A common definition, follows; “Corporate security identifies and effectively mitigates or manages, at an early stage, any developments that may threaten the resilience and continued survival of a corporation.

It is a corporate function that oversees and manages the close coordination of all functions within the company that are concerned with security, continuity and safety”.

As regards its role it says “The role of corporate security is to protect organisations, their technologies, employees, technical resources and customer data from internal and external threats.

Its ultimate goal is to ensure the proper functioning of a company and mitigate risks”.

The foregoing are conventional definitions, which now warrants revision in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It calls for security to integrate with health, hygiene, safety and hi tech to register its contribution in the fight against Covid-19.

The onus is on the industry and its professionals and allied experts to identify the requirements and make it happen. Let’s examine the technicalities of the subject during pre Covid-19.

Basic standards

According to the International Security Management Institute (ISMI) - UK, it advocates a set of basic standards for physical security operations in a corporate entity. These are:

1. Security focal points. These are coordinators or liaison for security responsibility in the various departments or units of a corporate.

2. Security policy declaration by top management.

3. Procedures (for routine and emergency operations).

4. Security risk analysis and risk management

5. Corporate security plan.

6. Security budget.

7. Security awareness program.

8. Security operating levels (levels may shift depending on the applicable threat level).

9. Access management; entry/exit search procedures, key control, vehicle parking and access, door, window and roof security.

10. Site perimeter security.

11. Video surveillance (CCTV).

12. Alarm systems.

13. Protection of high value items or produce.

14. Exterior / interior lighting.

15. Security service providers or own security personnel.

16. Pre-employment screening, including drug and alcohol screening.

17. Information and cyber security.

18. Security related incident reporting.

The above standards are subject to revision and amendment according to the requirements of the individual entities based on their vulnerability to particular threats, social and political environment and corporate culture.

In the Sri Lankan context security management may also include elements such as religious and racial factors too, to account for as it may impact security and safety of its personnel, services and its products.

Health and safety in the light of the current pandemic applies universally to corporate security management in all countries including Sri Lanka.

Security industry entrepreneurs and corporate security management are called upon to arrange for adequate training facilities to their personnel in the new areas of health and hygiene, focused on Covid-19 new norms of face masks, social distancing and hand hygiene, with a view to getting these requirements implemented by security personnel on ground as an ancillary responsibility and function to help in anti Covid-19 fight supplementing health authorities, law enforcement and the military.

In context of this article, the relevant security sector contributions would be from the specific areas of, security awareness, video surveillance, security personnel and skills.

Security awareness

Corporates security managers are advised to review security awareness documents and other measures available in their entities and introduce required amendments.

These could be their security operational policy and procedural documents, standing orders, all these are for security personnel.

The security managers in consultation with their organisation’s Human Resources, IT, Administration, Health and Safety Departments compile the necessary instructional paraphernalia focused on the greater non-security community within the entity, to bring about acceptance of these new measures and to bring about a sense of voluntary compliance by all.

In addition to this, timely innovative presentations and speeches too can be added to the campaign to eliminate any monotony setting in regards to compliance.

Another aspect is to open out and encourage dialogues from all sectors of the entity. Some people are not inclined to complain or correct health safety violators, but a suggestion box can be an outlet for such persons to drop their complaints or suggestions and maintain their anonymity.

This will lend credence to the fact that there is widespread ownership of the revised requirements and bring about the ideal mindset and attitudes to the Covid-19 threat.

The writer was recently in a queue at a local post office to register post a letter, maintaining the one metre distance from the person ahead of him and noticed the person behind him was almost rubbing shoulders with him in not observing the social distance.

The writer requested this person to observe the one metre distance and the violator reacted very aggressively to the extent of telling the writer that he need not remind him of this requirement.

This incident, though outside a corporate scenario, shows the general mindset and attitude of some people towards anti Covid-19 safety measures.

We have witnessed this type of public behavior in some vaccination centers in their eagerness to get the jabs, leaving safety protocols to the wind.

This type of behaviour and attitude should not discourage citizens, in prompting fellow citizens who does not seem to observe such new normal requirements meant for the collective good.

Another observation is the improper wearing of the face masks by many, including those in leadership and authority, who thereby miss out on the opportunity to set examples for emulation by the public at large.

We have seen plenty of these violations on TV and other social media. This type of negative attitudes and mindsets could be prevalent even inside corporate entities and among clients and customers who patronise corporate entities.

It is the responsibility of the security personnel on ground to prompt those not adhering to observe these through polite and tactful means, short of being aggressive. The new norm calls for new habits and old habits in the area of personal conduct die or fade off slowly.

It may look like everyone’s duty to mutually remind each other of the need to observe and comply with Covid-19 safety measures.

Video surveillance

The thrust of this write up is to highlight the potential for contemporary security technology in the anti Covid-19 safety campaign.

To be particular, amongst an extensive array of technology available for the security industry, what relates to the pandemic is video surveillance or in common parlance CCTV.

Video surveillance with analytics added cameras have been used in the anti Covid struggle as early as March-April last year.

These are used to tracking, identifying and containing the virus spread. According to media reports, China is reportedly using video technology extensively in corporate, public and home domains to control and contain the spread of the virus.

Many Western countries too are indulging in these usages. Security professionals are now called upon to integrate and work with CCTV and IT experts, to fine tune Covid containment related security work.

The pandemic has brought about financial instability as well and economies are reported to be struggling to make ends.

In this backdrop corporates may not invest funds in the development and upgrade of CCTV infrastructure in their establishments, obviously for cost reasons and other reasons such as uncertainty in return on investments and need to train many persons on the related technical skills, especially related to video surveillance analytics.

By most accounts the pandemic is poised to remain with us for some time and customers and clients in the future will be inclined only to patronise safe environments.

In this, it is prudent on the part of top management to make available the necessary funding considering the long haul benefits to be reaped once people’s health safety and security are reinforced.

Video surveillance now comes upgraded with integrated video analytics which can provide real value addition to security in helping fight the Covid virus.

According to the IFSEC GLOBAL ‘Video Surveillance 2020 Report’, the following video technology could be most useful in managing Covid-19 and similar virus threat infections in the future.

Thermal cameras (to detect body temperatures), facial mask detection, facial recognition, people counting, occupancy density, social distancing, heat mapping and contact tracing.

Security professionals and managers will have to work closely with technical consultants, engineers and installers and in the process, if they are not knowledgeable in this area, gather as much formal and informal know how to advice management on the most cost effective investments that the corporates could invest in these difficult times keeping in mind that overall security is achieved not with “cost plus inconvenience”, but achieve good security with “less cost and less inconvenience”, in the current context of extending help to contain the highly contagious virus, which keeps mutating into several variants by the day.

As is usual in conventional corporate security design and plans, a security risk assessment needs to be done considering the particular threats and vulnerabilities from a Cpvid-19 perspective in consultation with health authorities.

Video surveillance systems can be operated and stored in various ways. These include in IP based network cameras, own corporate servers, in cloud systems.

Systems online are subject to cyber security vulnerabilities, in them being hacked. Security managers have to work closely with IT personnel in understanding the threats and vulnerabilities at stake, consider the cost factors and recommend the most suited surveillance systems with analytics to optimise tackling of the Covid-19 threat as well as loss prevention objectives.

Security personnel and skills

In the Covid-19 scenario, security personnel of all levels are required to achieve a thorough training on anti Covid-19 safety protocols. The following are suggested.

Training by health authorities, in safe procedures in handling clients and customers, who may be potential virus careers (asymptomatic).

How to use safety equipment, such as temperature measuring and PPE where applicable.

The range of permissible temperature on persons. Apart from the training and instruction, personnel must be tested on their level of know how. These will contribute to the confidence and efficiency of security personnel.

To inspect, the effectiveness of the equipment before use on others.

Prompt and encourage non-observers of safe anti Corona virus measures. For instance security guards deployed at the entrances of supermarkets ignore customers entering the premises with face masks not properly worn and crowding in at such entrances ignoring social distancing or some even not sanitising or washing hands when such facilities are promptly available.

Another important area where security personnel can contribute is in the observation of customers, clients and visitors for other suspicious signs such as continuous coughing and apparent overt signs of having severe colds and so on.

On detecting such signs or symptoms, these persons can be referred to a paramedic or other health person for a decision in regard to permitting or denying access.

As indicated above, these safety measures tend to be forgotten, as these are new habits. New habits needs to be continuously repeated over a period of time (at least 21 days), to become a new habit.

All of the above should be implemented with the usual courtesies and make customers, clients and visitors relaxed and comfortable in a Covid-19 environment.

The display of adequate signage will also help relay messages effectively.

The Government crusade

The Sri Lanka Government’s battle array in the face of the deadly virus, gained momentum in October, November and December last year having commenced the campaign in early March.

The first wave of Covid-19 was handled with clinical efficiency by a regimented task force comprising Health authorities and the military.

However subsequently it appears public complacency set in resulting in a vicious second wave comprising several clusters.

Right now moving to September 2021, we are faced with an equally vicious third wave with multiple variants. Covid statistics in terms of the number infected persons, numbers recovered and the number of fatalities are of concern.

The Government machinery comprising of the health authorities, the military, police and others are working full time.

The Government’s vaccination program is also on high gear to get the population vaccinated within set time lines. It’s time for all stake holders to chip in with their contributions (abiding the Health Authority advocated safety practices and rules), better than previously with the nation in mind.

At the same time we notice the repertoire of security and safety measures implemented by the Government, some of which could be emulated by the corporate sector. Hopefully we should reap the fruits of these actions in due course.

Curfews, isolations and lockdowns in selected areas, total lockdowns (except essential services movements), Rapid Antigen tests, PCR tests, Police mobile patrols educating and prompting anti Covid-19 measures to the public in the various police jurisdictions, use of drones, to locate curfew violators and monitoring isolated or lockdown areas, contact tracing through mobile networks.

The Government in collaboration with the World Bank is engaged in a multi sector Covid assistance program through creation of the Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERC). Reportedly World Bank emergency funding has been made available in the areas of agriculture, food security, education, digital initiatives, and transport and in disaster risk management.

Increased vaccination centres, including mobile units to reach out to the very old and senile who are unable to travel to the vaccination centres.

Scanning visitors on QR codes in Government institutions. It’s preferable if this is also facilitated and extended to as many areas as possible.

The corporate sector with its resources should adopt this, though applicable to only certain segments of the population, will contribute to customer client convenience and sales.

All of the above in addition to other anti Covid-19 measures adopted by the Health authorities and the PHI network.

Living with the virus

It appears the Covid virus with its various mutations will be around for some time. Once the majority of the population in Sri Lanka is vaccinated and reinforced with the public mindset and attitudes turning positive in regards to compliance of health safety measures specially when in the public domain, near normalcy could be achieved to get the economy to the next level.

Currently in addition to Western medical treatment for Covid-19, there is enthusiasm locally for Ayurveda immune boosting recipes.

Given Sri Lanka’s historical and ancient achievements in native treatments, there appears to be no harm in trying out these immune boosters, as they are herbal based.

In this backdrop it is prudent for corporates to engage in sustained continuity of the present anti Covid-19 safety measures to protect their most valuable assets.

Costs and ROIs would be foremost in the minds of corporate leaders, but the times call for sensitivity and humane welfare considerations.

Top management along with the security managers have to keep the momentum going, which is easier said than done.

As suggested above maintaining constant dialogue across the corporate community by helping employees with free or subsidised face masks and making arrangement for immunity boosting vitamins and local Ayurveda immune boosters will ensure a contented and safe corporate community, whilst the state is engaging in the overall responsibility and administration to ensure safety of the entire population.

The participation of corporate leaders in this effort is a display of their commitment to their community and also to lend a hand to the state effort, will go a long way. Also lead by example in regard to face mask wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene.

The writer is a Corporate Security Management Professional (CSMP) UK and a Member of the International Security Management Institute (ISMI) UK. He is also a Fellow of the Industrial Security Foundation (Sri Lanka), Inc. Retired Superintendent of Police)