6 Ways or Steps to Enhance Your Office Security

Author: Michael Gips

Safety and security have always been both complementary and in counterpoise. Consider fail-safe versus fail-secure doors, or window bars that keep burglars out but trap people fleeing from an emergency inside.

Covid-19 has now upped the stakes on balancing the interests of safety and security. But there are effective ways to maintain both at high levels. Below are 5 ways to enhance office security without sacrificing—and even enhancing—safety.

  1. Whoever runs the security department—it could be security, IT, facilities, HR, legal, or a combination—should clearly communicate to staff and contractors that safety and security is paramount. That message should be endorsed and embodied by the executive staff, who should be required to follow the same protocols as everyone else. The security team should create written and communicated processes for basic functions in which safety and security figure predominantly, such as access control, travel, mail and shipping services, and business continuity.
  2. Access control manufacturers, systems integrators, and security consultants report a surge in demand for systems that minimize touching. Typical systems use smart cards, proximity cards, or perhaps keypads to enter a locked door. That means repeated handling of dirty cards, reuse of borrowed or guest cards,  and touching of keypads and door handles where viruses swarm. After years of falling short, an array of touchless technologies, such as Swiftlane, is finally meeting market demand for easy enrollment, reasonable cost, low maintenance, and high accuracy. Many can also integrate with legacy systems or use some of their components, which saves significant time and expense. These systems include face recognition, contactless fingerprint and hand geometry readers, voice recognition technology, iris and retina scanners, and a few others.
  3. On the safety and hygiene side, staff returning to the office during or after the pandemic will be hypersensitive to contamination, so companies have to address the issue of how to open the unlocked door without skin contact on the handle.That’s not a problem with optical turnstiles, but those systems are used only for main entrances/exits with heavy traffic, not typical doors separating an elevator bank from a corporate suite. And self-opening doors would have to move slowly to avoid causing injury, thereby inviting tailgaters. After installing a brand-new system, it’s peculiar to ask staff to open the door by pushing with a shoulder or bag or else pulling with a shirtsleeve, jacket, sweater, or some other garment. Options include placing a stand stacked with paper towels and waste basket and/or sanitizer on either side of each door. Antimicrobial hook-like tools can also be distributed to staff, though they too would need to be regularly cleaned.
  4. Companies owe traveling employees a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to protect their well-being, known as a duty of care. That duty encompasses security issues such as personal protection, as well as safety issues including illness. Now is an excellent time to review a corporate travel risk management program in light of evolving travel practices. Policies could more explicitly cover issues such as creating more space around a flyer by purchasing higher-class seats or multiple economy seats, for example. This will evolve as airlines figure out if and how to restructure seating areas to accommodate passengers’ concerns. It might be time to add other modes of transportation to that policy, such as trains and personal vehicles. Travel risk managers might consider a checklist of new items that might be supplied to all travelers, including face masks, sanitizer, gloves, as well as additional hygienic considerations.
  5. In the late 1990s, the Unabomber and Bruce Ivins (the microbiologist behind the anthrax letters that killed five people) drew attention to the matter of mail and package security. Best practices emerged that involved identifying suspicious letters and parcels, using screening technology, adopting procedures on isolating staff from suspicious items, and appropriately contacting authorities. While those issues remain legitimate concerns, staff–especially those posted to the mailroom–will be wary of touching containers that may host viruses or other noxious materials. Already, delivery companies are waiving signing requirements so staff don’t have to touch communal pnes. Gloves could alleviate concerns, though staff need to be meticulous about removing and discarding (or cleaning) the gloves before touching their face, other people, or other objects. A catch-all policy of having the mailroom open all letters may create privacy issues, however. Another option is to use a relatively dry spray that kills viruses or to wait at least 24 hours before touching an incoming cardboard box (Coronavirus lives up to 24 hours). Sprays are dicier for letters, because wetting paper can ruin the document inside. Since Coronavirus can last 5 days on paper, it’s likely not feasible to wait that long for the virus to become inactive on its own. The best bet may be to simply open the letter and wash your hands thoroughly immediately afterward.
  6. Business continuity plans always work perfectly on paper when threats are hypothetical; it’s a different story when reality hits and previously unconsidered issues come to the fore. That’s the reason behind the saying that contingency planning is more effective than contingency plans. The most important aspect of business continuity is open and frequent communication with staff, customers, clients, suppliers, contractors, board members, and other stakeholders. In a global pandemic, everyone is affected, and operations go sideways. For example, during this pandemic, many organizations have set up corporate-level crisis management teams that communicate authority and support while allowing regional crisis teams latitude to do the work on the ground. Communication provides assurance, restores confidence, projects leadership, calms shareholders, and energizes staff and partners. Another critical component is to watch the supply chain like a hawk and to look for alternatives on the fly. In an uncertain market, critical suppliers could go belly up, parts can become unobtainable, and shipping can become irregular. The shrewd security team constantly surveys the environment for supply chain issues and looks for backup.

Michael Gips, JD, CPP, CSyP, CAE has written almost 1,000 articles and columns on virtually every topic in security. As a contributing writer at Swiftlane, he develops content surrounding the future of access control as well as specific topics around touchless, hands-free entry solutions. He is currently the principal of Global Insights in Professional Security, LLC, a firm that helps security providers develop cutting-edge content, assert thought leadership, and heighten brand awareness in a crowded marketplace.

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