Archive for 2014

Solutions Versus Bill Rates

I am somewhat surprised by how most of the security industry operates, specifically in regards to asset protection. In many instances the stage is set, the security program has been established and periodically an RFP is being issued to see if there is a supplier that can beat the bill rates. There is room to emphasize some added value services but that only seems to contribute to a small extent of the final decision. Good security suppliers are able to perform as partners and can add more value if permitted. I am not disputing the knowledge and experience of the security directors. They often have a good handle on specific security requirements and know how to ensure these requirements are met. I am merely suggesting that a different approach could be beneficial. Perhaps a different set of eyes or a diverse angle that could help see security concerns and solutions in a different light. Is there a new process or technology that could enhance the existing security? Video monitoring, analytics, warning messages given through camera systems, drones or robotics are just a few alternative options. Is there a way to change the operational processes in order to simplify security requirements? In one instance, a provider of logistic services was able to limit the time slots for pick-up and delivery to a warehouse leading to a reduction in guard hours. This will only happen if the client takes a step back and has an open mind to discuss their operations and related security with a partner. Lately several customers have been more open-minded and discussed security without the strict confines of a standardized Request For Proposal. This leads to a different more holistic approach. Starting with the main security concerns and a security audit, different options are being proposed and evaluated. The goal is to find the best solution for the customer and not to maximize revenue. In many instances the cost is reduced by combining guard presence with system optimization. For one customer the coverage went from 6 guards around the clock to only 2 by adding a smart Remote Video Monitoring solution. The yearly costs dropped by 40%. This allowed the supplier to maintain a healthy margin in order to compensate the remaining guards properly and ensure high quality. This is the way to counter the race to the bottom in a largely commoditized market. I just hope we will be given the opportunity to provide solutions to customers, instead of only price in a predetermined setting.

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It’s Déjà Vu!

I had the weirdest experience this past week. I attended a function downtown at Queen’s Park. Now, I’ve been to Queen’s Park before, but I’ve never seen more than the front lobby and the legislature. This time I got deep into the bowels of Queen’s Park, got trapped in a maze of underground tunnels and rescued by one of Queen’s Park’s finest security officers. Let me explain…

Due to the impending snowstorm, I decided to take transit to the event and got off the TTC at Queen’s Park station. As I was exiting the station, I noticed two non-descriptive doors leading to a tunnel that looked like the right direction. I thought, what the heck. Take the underground rather than trudge through the cold above ground. So, off I went. Now this tunnel went on and on. There were many turns and signs pointing to exits for the various government buildings in the park. Finally I decided I had gone far enough and left the tunnel. Exiting through some doors and down another long hallway, I encountered a security guard. After verifying my identity and my reason for being at Queen’s Park, he issued me an ID badge and sent me off down another series of tunnels to the designated spot.

The event was great. I had the opportunity to meet presidents and executives of some of Canada’s leading companies in the manufacturing industry. I was also able to meet the Premier of Ontario. When the event was over, I decided to retrace my steps and find my way back to the TTC station via the underground tunnels. That’s when my weird experience happened!

As it was late, I was the only person in the tunnel. Miraculously I was able to retrace my steps and work my way back. At each firebreak door I noticed a sign indicating, “Access to the Subway is Closed After 6pm. Pedestrians Must Exit at a Security Exit”. I figured I’d be OK. When I got to the last firebreak door I came across a man sweeping the floor. I thought to myself, this is weird. It’s déjà vu! It was just like the scene in the movie Almighty Bruce when Jim Carey comes across God (played by Morgan Freeman) working as a custodian sweeping the floor. So I asked the man where the security exit was so I could get out and walk to the TTC station and he looked at me funny. So, I asked the man again and he looked at me like I was speaking another language. He told me there were no exits and I would have to go back to where I started and exit there.

Now I wasn’t happy about that, but what could I do? I turned around and walked back through the tunnel. When I got to the final doors they were locked! CRISIS! Luckily there was an access card reader and a security phone on the wall. I picked up the phone and asked the security guard to be granted access so I could exit the building. The guard asked me a few questions, said he could see me but didn’t know who I was, and asked that I stay put and he would send a guard to get me. A couple of minutes later a young female guard came to my aid. She asked me some more questions. After checking my photo ID and making a note in her logbook, she led me through some other tunnels, up some stairs and down some halls to an exit point.

Finally I could see the outside! I exited to the street, trudged through the snow back to the TTC station and found my way home.

So much for taking a quick route underground to the station to avoid the snow.

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A Rude Awakening

The recent events in Ottawa and Quebec that resulted in the death of two members of our armed forces certainly woke us up. It is still to be seen how the security landscape will change based on these events in the long term. Although many sources called them terrorist attacks and some comparisons were made with 9-11, I do not believe this is accurate. Terrorist attacks are meant to create fear by conducting gruesome deeds and taking as many people down as possible. Terrorists take time to plan and coordinate an attack and have a certain level of sophistication. The events here in Canada didn’t have a long planning cycle and were not sophisticated. These attacks were inspired by terrorism, but seem to be the acts of mentally disturbed lonely people acting on their own. They were susceptible, due to their mental state, to the ideas of radicalism as preached by ISIL.

In the short term, the events have resulted in increased security around official celebrations as experienced during Remembrance Day. Also the government is expediting the plans to give the country’s security forces greater powers in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest. In the private security world it has also lead to some changed policies in malls and around events. Increased security measures may not be kept in place over time, as these horrible events prove to be isolated incidents.

What is still a concern is the response, or lack thereof, to a shooter incident. There was panic and a general sense of not knowing what to do among the public and security personnel. Members of the public were confused and started to run either towards the gunshots, away from them or decided to stay put. It is essential that security personnel are being trained on how to deal with an active shooter. They need to direct the public, give correct advice when being asked and lead by example. This may result in the right approach if an incident should happen. There is no time to think in the moment and security guards should be able to fall back on their training and act accordingly. Some companies have decided to train their guard force more thoroughly to mitigate some of the risks surrounding a shooter incident. Malls are particularly vulnerable since easy access is essential to their operations. Hence the decision of many retailers and property management companies to train their employees. Mall and in store security personnel have an important role to play. They can prevent a panic response and lead the members of the public by giving direction and showing them what to do. Unfortunately the question is not if an active shooter incident will take place, but when. The preparedness of all involved will have an influence on the outcome. A rude awakening may lead to some measures that will result in a better response to violent events in an increasingly violent society.

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Chirp – Feed me

Early one morning this past week at 3am I was rudely awaken by a loud CHIRP. As I lay in bed, I waited to hear the sound again. Thirty seconds later it happened. CHIRP!

Now, I’ve heard that sound before. What I didn’t know was where it was coming from. So, I donned my house robe, left my bedroom, turned on the hall light and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Not a peep. So, I crawled back to bed.

No sooner had I settled in, I hear CHIRP! I got out of bed, stood in the hallway and waited. CHIRP. I was able to finally determine that it was coming from the carbon monoxide (CO) detector right above my head, outside the bedroom.

Shame on me for not heeding the message from the Ontario Fire Marshal and my local Fire Department. In the past few weeks, we all have been asked to check our smoke and CO detectors and change their batteries when we turn back our clocks for daylight savings time on Halloween weekend. I didn’t do that and my CO detector was letting me know. It didn’t care that it awoke me from my sound sleep. In fact, it did its job to save me from CO, a silent killer.

So, armed with new batteries, the CO detector was replaced on the ceiling and I crawled back to bed, a little weary and ashamed for not doing what I was asked to do to protect my family and myself.

Over the past few weeks fire safety has been all over the news. It was National Fire Prevention Week from October 5-11. On October 15th CO detectors in Ontario homes became law and the province held its first Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week starting November 1.

I see a lot of the aftermath from fires that ASAP Secured is called to. Some of these fires have claimed lives. Protect yourself. If you don’t have a CO detector, I urge you to get one. If you do have one, please test it and make sure it has fresh batteries installed.

Yes, there is a cost but they save lives and that has no price attached to it.

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FIRE! Get out, NOW!!

I hope to never have the need to shout those words. According to statistics provided by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office, house fires, no matter how they are started, claim someone’s life every 35 minutes, and seniors aged 75 and older have the highest risk of dying in a house fire. I do not want to be such a statistic.

It was National Fire Prevention week (Oct. 5-11) as I wrote this article. My social media feeds were full of articles about fire chiefs across Canada that were expressing their disappointment with the number of homes without smoke alarms. This should not be the case in this day and age.

Since March 2006, it has been mandatory for each household to have a working smoke alarm on every floor of their home. I’ve ensured that my home and family are protected. In my field of work, I’ve attended numerous fire scenes and many times observed homeowners and their families out on the street with literally their shirt on their backs. Sometimes they don’t even have shoes on!

When a fire starts, smoke travels quickly and smoke kills. Smoke travels so fast that time is of the essence and every second counts. Forget about the family photos or your prized possessions, gather everyone in the home and follow your planned escape route (a topic for another time) and GET OUT!

Smoke alarms are your early warning system to alert you of danger and give you every available moment to get out safely!

Do your part. Make sure you have the proper number of smoke alarms in your home. If you already have alarms installed, take a moment and test them to make sure they are working because their job is to save your life. Help them help you.

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In many ways, the market for security guard services is commoditized and it is challenging to find real differentiators. One of the ways a difference can be made is by being really responsive. Responsiveness can be measured in two ways: by how well the customer has been listened to and the speed in which a request has been fulfilled. Service delivery needs to meet the expectation. This can be accomplished by making sure to have all incoming requests for services directed to someone (a manager) that can make the right decision. This manager needs to ask the right questions to be able to fully understand, spell out and make the request ready for execution. This manager also will not only ensure a person will show up, but he/she will match the job with the right individual. The match should be made based on the requirements and culture of the customer and the capabilities of the guard(s). The speed of fulfillment is important since after confirmation, the customer can be assured his security request is being taken care off. Being able to respond quickly is something that should be part of the organization, and in its DNA and culture. It is a sense of urgency, of always wanting to help the customer ASAP with a short-term request, proposal or advice. The people, processes, systems and infrastructure should all be aligned to make this happen. For some verticals in the security market this is essential.

When my wife and I decided to have some landscaping done, we approached 3 different suppliers. Two of them I assumed were busy as it was difficult to set a meeting for a quote. One supplier was quick to respond and made a drawing and provided a quote within 2 weeks. The difference in cost between the 3 suppliers was not huge, but still relevant. The quick responder was the most expensive, and stayed in this position even after negotiating the price down. However in the end, we chose this company since we believed that their focus on servicing the customer would continue during the execution of the job. We were not disappointed. This is a perfect example of the importance of responsiveness as a differentiator even if a small premium needs to be paid.

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Beware of Bears!

After the decision was made to spend our vacation in Canada this summer, my family quickly settled on camping in Algonquin Park. We loaded up the van, including our mountain bikes, and drove to an outstanding campground where we had a spot by one of the lakes. When we entered the campground there was a sign that said, “Caution Bear in the Area. Do Not Leave Food Unattended”. Although the direction was clear, it was not very comprehensive. After a few days we spotted 3 bears; a mother with 2 cubs. We were not the only tourists in the area and many people came by to observe the bears and to take pictures. Since there was a good supply of berries in the area, the bears returned every day. People started to become bolder and approach the bears a little too closely. Well maybe not too close, since no one was aware of any guidelines. Several times the park ranger came by to send people away but he did not give clear guidelines about distance, noise levels and do’s and don’ts. We saw the bears stressing out when they felt surrounded by tourists. Although we did not see the incident, we heard that the mother bear came to the defense of her cubs and chased after some intruders.

A simple information card with safety rules handed out at the camp entrance would have done the trick and would have made observing the bears less risky and less intrusive.

The same applies to the security industry and the lack of direction in several instances. Clear instructions, a quick reference card and training (including logic and reasons for the rules) will make guards and LP officers more effective and will reduce the number of incidents. During this summer there were several occurrences involving guards working in our industry who did not know how to deal with difficult situations. Clear guidelines and instructions are essential to enhance security around campsites frequented by bears and people not behaving appropriately. When I discussed it with a park ranger, he actually thought that it was a good idea to be more specific next year to protect the bears and the tourists alike.

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The North

People that come from Europe to Canada, especially from smaller countries, generally have no idea how big the second largest country in the world actually is. I moved from the Netherlands almost 8 years ago. I worked for a large company with many branches in all provinces, including Sudbury and Timmins. One day I decided to drive from Toronto up to Sudbury. When I finally arrived 4.5 hours later and caught up with the branch manager, I asked him if we could also visit the satellite branch in Timmins while I was there. He then told me that this would take another 4 hours one way.

Northern Canada is a vast area, rich with natural and mineral resources. Exploration has been going on for quite some time resulting in a large number of mining operations. These mines generally require security, either “in house” or by a security contractor. These mining sites have their own dynamic. It is a community on its own with mining personnel and contractors working close together, guided by a large number of procedures and safety guidelines. Often they are located so far up north that the employees stay on site in camps and work for 2-6 weeks in a row. Working in these remotes sites can change the mood of people and from a security perspective, it is really important to stay alert and be ready to deal with tense situations when they occur. Proper training is vital to prepare guards for this type of work. Courses such as “Mining Security”, “Advanced First Aid” and “Non- Violent Crisis Intervention” can have a tremendous impact on how guards deal with a situation.

Only after visiting some of these remote sites, can you really gain an appreciation of the vastness of the area and the enormous distances. I may wait a bit before doing the Trans Canada Highway, although it would be rewarding.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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Training at Sea

I can still feel the movement of the ship when I close my eyes and think back of working in the Merchant Marine. In order to save on salary costs, shipping companies reduced crew sizes considerably resulting in long shifts on the bridge and in the engine room. No matter how busy the crew was there was always time for safety training. The training focused on possible disasters and emergencies such as fire on board, sinking ship or piracy. The importance of emergency training never seemed to be questioned.

Nowadays, in discussions with representatives of major companies I often hear that there is no time or money to spend on training or training exercises. Or there is acknowledgement of the importance of training, but managers are too busy to organize it. There is a high risk attached to this way of thinking. If an emergency arises and employees have not been trained they may make the wrong decisions leading to injury or loss of life. Just having employees read the procedures is not enough. They may know what to do when being asked, but they may respond differently under stress. The only way to improve the effectiveness of response in an emergency is training, repetition in learning the theory and practicing the drills. Emergency situations may happen and by giving employees proper training, a company will limit the possible consequences to their staff, reduce liability and protect their reputation.

I was never involved in an emergency at sea, but the focus on training made me feel comfortable and limited any liability against the shipping company if something were to happen. It feels pleasant to close my eyes, think back and feel the movement of the ship. Unfortunately, some need to open their eyes and acknowledge they need proper training.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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High-Risk Terminations

It was 6 years ago that I had a frightening experience in the workplace. I had to terminate an employee for cause. The meeting, conducted with a lady from HR, was quick and to the point. The employee was given a short verbal explanation and a letter outlining the reason for their termination and the consequences. We walked the employee to his locker; he grabbed his personal belongings and left the building without saying much. It looked somewhat uneventful and I went on with my busy day in operations. When I left for the day and walked to my car, it was already dark. Several guys were gathered close to my car and one was sitting on the hood. They were making remarks about the ‘wrongful termination’, my expensive car and murmured words I don’t want to repeat. Although I was afraid, I continued to walk to my car and asked the guy sitting on my hood if he would please step away. He was reluctant but slowly moved. I was really scared and expected to be punched. That didn’t happen and they let me drive away, but I was shaken up for sure.

Of course I should have known better. It would have been easy to put some security in place just in case. In hindsight, I should have known that this was a somewhat high-risk termination. Simply having a couple of security professionals involved, the situation would have been different and more controlled. For example, one guard could have walked me to my car while the other covertly filmed the incident with a video camera. Unfortunately these high-risk events are happening more and more in our society. Last week’s incident in a Toronto office building illustrates what can go wrong. It is important to recognize that and make sure to take measures to mitigate the risks. Employers need to focus on duty of care and having security professionals that are well trained in non-violent crisis intervention and conflict de-escalation. Now when assessing terminations I ensure that all appropriate measures are in place to ensure the safety of others and myself.

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