Security Post – Post COVID
As the COVID 19 Pandemic seems to be slowing down, and many of the restrictions that were put in place last year have been lifted, there is a noticeable increase in the number of cases of people gathering in large numbers and traveling again. Along with that there is a large increase in those individuals that are shopping again and frequenting businesses. But not to be outdone by COVID, the other pressing issue now is the shortage of workers that is affecting many businesses.
Over the last 18 months there has been a remarkable increase in the number of civil unrest cases, riots, and violent crimes in many parts of the United States. That being the case, one must wonder what it would have been like if many people were not working from home, traveling on vacations, and in many cases just not getting out like they used to? In fact, let us not forget all the aggressive protesters that were storming restaurants, residential areas, business districts and so on causing chaos and leaving destruction in their wake. Now that the COVID restriction have pretty much dissipated, people are traveling in record numbers, and employees that were working from home are now returning to the workplace, are we ready for what may come our way? Doubtful at best in my opinion.
Over the last 18 months I have been advising business owners and administrators to prepare for this day by looking at their past security issues/concerns so that they are ready and prepared. In many cases pre-COVID the major issues were with visitor or customer management.
For example, hospitals have always had issues with controlling the visitors within their facilities, and in many cases the homeless. However, during COVID they restricted access into their facilities and closed most of their exterior doors to funnel everyone to 1 or 2 doors to conduct the screening. Not one of the hospitals that I worked with would argue that that was not a good thing for their organization. In fact, in many cases, they realized a decrease in the number of violence incidents, thefts, trespassers and so on because of their restrictions. That being the case, my question to them all was, do you plan to go back to the old ways of many doors open to the public, or keep in place a system that you know is reducing your risks and vulnerabilities? The majority agreed that they would not go backwards, but they felt that they had to reevaluate their current operations.
Post-COVID security measures are critical to business planning, as we do not know what the new normal will be going forward. Basically, if we are not going back to the old ways, do we stick with what we are doing now, or modify what we are doing now? The fact of the matter is that there is no perfect answer. However, these conversations should have started months ago.
We knew we were eventually going to come out of the pandemic, yet most businesses had not thought that far ahead. Then it seemed like overnight many states lifted their COVID restrictions, and the people were on the move again, and during the July 4th holiday the number of air travelers broke all records. Now, comes the issue where businesses were not prepared for such a sudden change, and many of them still do not have their full staff back to work.
Deadly Violence in America
There is likely no where on earth that is not aware of the number of shootings and homicides that have resulted from the civil unrest or social injustice issues that are in the news daily. As many political leaders have said, the increase in crimes is affecting their cities and states, but there does not appear to be a whole lot being done to mitigate the crime trends. Quite the contrary, many of the major U.S. cities that are seeing an enormous spike in violent crimes are the same ones that cut the budgets of the law enforcement agencies in their states or cities.
I personally heard a police commander in one of the major U.S. cities tell me that he has had cases where someone with a gunshot wound may have to wait 6+ hours to speak with a police officer, because they are having staffing issues and the numbers of call for services are off the charts.
My point here is that we cannot rely on law enforcement to be there when we call, like the old days. Many law enforcement agencies are not responding to simple traffic accidents (no serious injuries), burglaries where there is no suspect on site, petty theft (including shoplifting), and numerous other types of 911 calls. It is not that they do not want to respond, its that they do not have the manpower to respond so they are focusing their efforts on the most serious calls. If you were not aware of that, this is your wake-up call. Things have changed folks, and there are no signs that things will get back the pre-COVID normal. In fact, if I had to guess I would say things are going to get worse before they get better, but then again, I am an optimist by nature.
As business owners and members of our communities, we need to understand what our risks and vulnerabilities are in today’s world. We also need to understand what limitations our local law enforcement agencies have placed on them, or have had to adopt due to staffing shortages and reduced budgets? What will the new normal be? Do we need to have a security staff full-time, part-time, or temporarily? Is our business at risk for civil unrest?
What many people have discovered in the last couple of years is that we are all just one tweet or social media post away from being the target of violence. If you as a business owner take a stand for a certain political group, religious affiliation, racial or ethnic group, or any number of other causes or beliefs, you may find yourself on the front lines of the social unrest. If one thing is for certain, your words and actions in today’s world not only can have repercussions, they will have repercussions.
Security Risks – Personal and Business
The most important steps you can take at this time is to understand your risks and determine what vulnerabilities you might have. Unfortunately, the average person has no idea how to determine risks and vulnerabilities, so they often seek out someone who knows, or says they know.
To understand risks is complex, there is no step 1-2-3 that anyone can follow, and just because someone is a police officer, former police officer, security officer, or a security supervisor does not mean that they know how to determine, measure, and mitigate security risks. It is just not that simple. Trust me when I say that there are hundreds of “security experts” out there that claim to know how to determine risks, yet when you review their work products it will become clear very quickly that they do not.
When it comes time to determine your post-COVID security measures, assess your security risks, determine just how you will operate in a society that has by many accounts been pushed to the edge, and in locales where the police do not respond to low level crimes anymore, you will soon find out that you may be on your own for an extended length of time before the police will arrive. That being the case, what are you going to do? How will you protect your business, home, family, customers, employees…?