Playing it safe

Despite it being a new year, Saskatchewan businesses still face an age-old problem: protecting their employees, property, and assets from potentially dangerous threats.

Therefore, every leader should make a resolution to ensure the proper physical security of their business, whether big or small, to make 2022 as safe as possible.

Fortunately, workplace security breaches are preventable with the proper security measures and strategies. While everybody understands the importance of having physical security to keep unwanted guests off-premises, alarms for trespassers, and surveillance to catch them, security professionals from across Canada agree that their experience can help your organization identify the scope and severity of risk factors.

Professional perspectives

“It takes a different mindset when you’re in the world of security or even law enforcement,” says Helen Perry-Raycraft, vice president and COO of Brigadier Security Systems Ltd., “because you have to, unfortunately, think of how people are going to break in, damage things, or how the crime is going to be committed in order to try and mitigate those risks.”

She says this “security perspective” can help people make sense of their business’s unique needs and a comprehensive security assessment is the first step for an organization when planning its physical security strategy.

“The first goal is actually understanding what the customer’s objective is because you can look at a site plan and can come up with all sorts of scenarios but without talking to the clients about how they want the system to work for them you could be pricing the product out of the option,” Perry-Raycraft says.

Although physical security is an important component of a wider security strategy, it has three key aspects security experts specialize in: restricting access to your business via fencing and key fobs through access control, video surveillance and alarms, and regular testing and employee training.

New tech for an old problem

Patrick Straw, executive director of the Canadian Security Association (CANASA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the industry has been managing security service companies since the late 1980s and has seen the rapid advancement of these technologies first hand.

From touchless and encrypted facial recognition access controls, remote surveillance to breakthroughs in HD cameras and digital analytics where software is programmed to recognize specific changes in the environment, he says, “Almost everything now is fifty times better than it was fifteen years ago.”

“We used to sell cameras that might be five to ten grand with all the mounts to get a reasonably crappy black and white picture, but now look at what you can do with your phone,” Straw says. Because he has found that many businesses treat security like “insurance,” where people purchase only the minimal amount they need without realizing that it’s insufficient until something bad happens, he recommends that the best practice is to have proper security audits performed which makes gradually upgrading less expensive.

“I’m going to suggest that most security companies are happy to come out and do a walkthrough and review of what you have, and they won’t charge you for it,” Straw says. “Because what happens is that people start out with businesses and they don’t have a tonne of money, so maybe they put in the minimal amount of security they required and now they’re booming, they have three or four times as much stuff, they’re doing a lot more business and they just never realize, ‘wow maybe I should beef this up.’”

Protecting in a pandemic

In addition to technological advances, Straw says that at the beginning of the pandemic CANASA’s regional councils and approximately 1,000 member companies collaborated to share the best practices to transition their employees to home offices, to implement regulations like social distancing and masks, and the volunteer monitoring station committee functioned as a hub for observing fire and intrusion alarms.

Commissionaires, Canada’s only national not-for-profit security company and member of CANASA since 2009 also rapidly pivoted to meet the demands of the pandemic. Commissionaires North Saskatchewan is now a Saskatchewan Health Region approved Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Testing agency, and Les Speers, director of operations has seen significant increases in demand due to the implementation of new public health guidelines.

“That would be access control to commercial centres, whether it’s showing proof of negative tests or vaccinations,” Speers says. “Because there are people that don’t agree with the public health measures, having somebody that’s trained in de-escalation to deal with those frontline situations is certainly beneficial to businesses in general.”

Speers believes the best addition to a physical security system is a “hybrid model” that converges technology and the security workforce to stop crimes from happening. For example, Commissionaires’ headquarters-located Monitoring Response Centre observes surveillance from their clients 24/7 and dispatches mobile patrols to the location if suspicious activity occurs.

“Cameras are good but they’re only good for post-incident management unless you have somebody watching those cameras constantly they’re not going to prevent a crime from occurring,” Speers says.

While the hybrid model provides a remedy to these threats, Straw stresses that physical security should also make it as hard possible for people to get into buildings and worksites, especially in rural Saskatchewan where dispatch times can be lengthy.

“Security is about making it really difficult for them to get in so that maybe they even trip something electronic before they’ve gotten through so that they’re now giving the response people time before they even get to steal something,” Straw says.

Perry-Raycraft recommends that businesses should regularly call their security provider for advice because in her experience security is often forgotten about and becomes almost like a utility where you assume that once you have the service that it’s always going to work, until it doesn’t.

“A lot of people think of security as more of something that you have to do … it’s also about safety. Security is about protecting your employees, making sure they’re leaving your building and are able to get to their car without any issues,” Perry-Raycraft says.