The questions often arise after a serious loss or act of violence, "What more could we have done?" "Why did it happen to us?" "We never thought it would happen here."
Along with my forty-six years' security management experience, I've worked with dozens of organizations and businesses following major acts of violence and other significant losses, as well as served as expert witness in litigations where security and workplace violence programs are under question.
The following are some of the reasons why security programs fall short:
The Boss Doesn't Get It Management at varying levels, including the highest, may think of Security as a necessary evil or nonproductive expense. It may take an Act of Congress to get another security officer or camera. The Security program is among the least of priorities until the Big One happens and then it rises to the top for a short while.
In fact, more than half of my clients are competent and knowledgeable Security Directors and Managers who know what they need but can't get the Executive Committee, or even Board, to listen or understand. You're not always seen as a prophet in your own village.
The Mish Mosh The physical and procedural Security program has existed for years and is mostly composed of measures and tasks added in response to incidents and losses over the years. Here's a camera installed when some computers were missing. There's a security officer post placed when an intruder tried to get in. The end result is a Mish Mosh of measures accumulated over the years which may not address the real and present risks and vulnerabilities.
The People Are Not Part of the Security Team Often, when Security fails, it was not a failing of the Security program or staff but a failing of general employees to take personal responsibility and be protective of each other and their workplace. Doors get propped, strangers are allowed through restricted doors, badges are not worn or shown, suspicious or threatening behavior is not reported, confrontational behavior is escalated, etc., etc. Employees feel that Security is not part of their duties - is someone else's job. The most powerful, least costly and most neglected security measure of all is fostering a level of ownership, engagement, involvement, awareness and protectiveness by all employees. They should all be part of the Safety and Security Team.
It Couldn't Happen Here The first thing I almost always hear following active shooter incidents is, "We never thought it would happen here." The assumptions are often made, "It never happened before," "We don't have much crime around here," "None of our people would ever do that," etc., etc. Violence and other significant losses can and do happen anywhere, even in the nicest neighborhoods and where it never happened before. Perhaps above all else, the most effective Security program is the Proactive and Anticipatory one, far above the Reactive one. See more on that below.
We Don't Really Know What Our True and Present Risks, Vulnerabilities and Threats Are What harm is most likely to happen to your business or organization? What can most impact your people, assets, reputation and ability to continue business? What do comparable facilities in your industry do? How do your area crime rates and trends affect you? How does your history affect what you should be doing? Who or What is most at risk? How do you prevent, mitigate and respond to such harm? How does your Security program relate with your Human Resources, Risk Management/Legal, Safety, Facilities, Operations and Emergency Planning programs and processes? Is your Security program as cost effective and appropriate as it can be? It is best to periodically conduct comprehensive, outside and objective security risk and vulnerability assessments to reasonably assure your Security program is still on-track.
Security is Just Guards, Cameras and Card Readers I often encounter Security programs that are mostly limited to the traditional measures such as security officers, video, access control, alarms and lighting. While these are usually essential components, they are only pieces of the Security Pie. Sometimes even security managers sell themselves short and focus almost exclusively on those traditional measures. Other measures may include employee training, background screening, fostering employee security awareness, visitor and contractor management, law enforcement liaison, violence mitigation and response processes and tools, crime analyses, internal and external communications systems and processes, security and violence vulnerability assessments and analyses, internal reporting channels, worn identification, environmental and facility design, drills and table-top exercises, etc.
Security should also be creative and innovative. There are few "cookie cutters" in Security. As I like to say, in Security planning there is always more than one way to "skin a cat" depending upon the many variables.
The Horse is Out of the Barn Syndrome While many law enforcement professionals have moved into Security Management and embraced the concepts of good Security, some organizations mistake the primarily reactive nature of law enforcement with the primarily proactive and preventive nature of Security. A Security program focused primarily upon investigations or reacting to incidents is not a true Security program. While there needs to be a responsive component to a Security program, it is always better to prevent the bad stuff from happening than dealing with the painful and costly after-effects. And a key component of that preventive nature is deterrence, or making yourself less attractive as a target.
The Shoe Bomber Theorem Governmental agencies sometimes plan their security measures as reactions to the most recent attack. We take our shoes off in the airports in reaction to the Shoe Bomber. Again, Security is ideally anticipatory. For example, in security vulnerability assessments we determine what, in addition to people, are our most critical assets. What of those could be the most likely or vulnerable targets? How might someone most likely compromise those assets, including our reputation and ability to continue doing business? And do our current and planned physical and procedural security measures truly prevent and mitigate those risks and threats?
Security Does Not Reflect or Support our Special Culture and Values When I interview CEO's and presidents I sometimes hear the perception and concern that Security measures interfere with the culture. "We don't need a Police State/Fort Knox here." But the truth is that a well planned and implemented Security program will support and reflect that welcoming, customer/patient/visitor satisfaction and service oriented and respectful culture and values. In fact, where I see a high level of civil and respectful management and leadership as well as a strong culture of customer service and satisfaction I usually see a safe and secure facility. The most powerful five words in Security are, "How may I help you?"
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