How is Technology Helping and Hindering Security

To what extent is technology offering new opportunities for better security and where is it floundering?

How are these technologies interacting with people? After the Coronavirus crisis will there be more or less interest in technology? Those are just some of the questions that will be debated by Mike Bluestone from Corps Security and other panellists at an upcoming webinar at 3.30pm on Thursday 23 April.

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The thought leadership webinar, run by the OSPAs, Perpetuity Research and TECAs, will also explore what we are learning about security technologies as the pandemic unfolds; to what extent offenders are exploiting technology and where are the opportunities for security technologies?

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We’ve set up a dedicated coronavirus support team to answer any questions about the impact of coronavirus on your business. Please contact us on covid19@corpssecurity.co.uk and we’ll do our best to help.

Securing the future - the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the security sector

Walk through any of our major cities and they are almost unrecognisable from just a month ago. Deserted streets, shuttered shops, closed-down buildings, empty pubs and restaurants. Our built environment has been completely transformed by the current Government lockdown.

And that has had an inevitable impact on people looking after those buildings. It’s meant changes for everyone from cleaning operatives and maintenance engineers to catering staff and, of course, security officers. Some organisations have closed down their buildings entirely while others are operating a skeleton staff.  Meanwhile those who are considered part of the national infrastructure – food shops, financial services, utilities, distribution centres, police stations and of course hospitals – are often busier than ever but operating in a different way.

For us, it’s meant supporting our clients differently. Sometimes that’s been helping them to close down their building securely and providing a skeleton security cover while it’s vacant to protect critical assets. That’s been the case with some museums and major performing arts venues.  Elsewhere, reception staff have been furloughed in some instances and our security officers are now providing day cover to maintain a presence in a largely empty building, whereas before it was mainly nights and weekends. Other organisations have turned to technology to provide security through our remote monitoring centre in Glasgow, or adopting mobile patrols to replace on-site officers.

We always work incredibly closely with the Police Service, but at a time like this, with policing stretched like never before, we’re working even closer to support them. That will continue as we face different challenges as this pandemic develops.

Overall the security sector has been less affected by Covid-19 than other soft services like catering and cleaning as it’s seen as an essential service – as demonstrated by the Government’s decision to classify licence-holding security professionals as critical workers. But we remain a people-based organisation and protecting and supporting our on-site teams is our main priority. Some of our people are ill, or self-isolating, and we need to support them back to good health, while also working to protect our teams on-site who are still working. Clients’ needs are changing day by day,  so it’s a tricky balancing act to ensure we have the right resources where they need to be.

One thing is certain, one day these empty buidings and streets will be buzzing with people again, and security officers – and other essential workers – will be the only ones to remember a time when they lay silent.

We’ve set up a dedicated coronavirus support team to answer any questions about the impact of coronavirus on your business. Please contact us on covid19@corpssecurity.co.uk and we’ll do our best to help.

Security For Unoccupied Buildings - Staying Safe In Tough Times

Among the long list of things for businesses to address in a pandemic is how to ensure unoccupied properties stay secure and protected without the usual procedures in place. With well managed security procedures, this need not weigh on anyone’s mind.

Start with the basics; it is surprisingly easy for the finer details to be forgotten when the mind is under pressure. Every site should be checked over before being closed down for this indefinite period. Check locks on windows and doors. Taps mustn’t be left running, or even dripping, and high voltage equipment should be unplugged. Some systems may need to be left running. Server rooms must be maintained and kept cool so thermostats and cooling systems must be checked. Any maintenance  issues need to be sorted out before the building is left unoccupied to minimize risks of flooding, fire, or any other accident. That said, there is always a chance of the unexpected. Take standard flood protection such as placing any valuable equipment on basement or ground level floors onto pedestals.

Security systems, likewise, will need to be checked. Alarms and cameras all need to be in good working order and their systems linked to any remote monitoring centres that the organization works with. This offers 24/7 supervision but that alone is limited if security protocols are not up to date and security officers don’t have current information about who to contact in the case of an incident. Work closely with your security professionals to ensure all appropriate systems are in place.

Organisations can make themselves less of a target by removing any high value assets from the premises. Any portable devices certainly fall into this category but so does anything that would make access to valuables easier such as keys, data that could risk a cybersecurity breach and hard-copy data.  Two-way radio units that may have a counterpart still active on another site must be removed but returned as soon as the site is in use again.

Once you have made the building suitable to be left unoccupied, additional security procedures will be put in place. In the ideal situation, on-lookers will believe that the building is still occupied. This might mean leaving on lights in strategic places and ensuring the exterior remains well maintained for the entire duration it is empty. Good exterior lighting can be as effective a deterrent as CCTV cameras so it is well worth investing in. Liveried vehicles and mobile security teams are not only important elements of security but also act as deterrents. An integrated security solution which utilises officers, expertise, and technology will offer security through this challenging period. Organisations need to keep open strong communication networks with their security teams. These teams can offer many years of experience, ultimately offering the peace of mind that we all need in this stressful time.

If you want to run, run a mile

All your senses are intensified. Your hands are sweaty, knees weak and arms are heavy. You can feel your feet hit the ground hard in rhythm to your heartbeat, like a bass drum. You can hear roaring crowds urging you to keep going and you smell the Normandy coastline with every inhale. But throughout your systematic, controlled breathing you have one goal in mind – get to the finish line.

It sounds dramatic, but these are perfectly common feelings for those taking on a 44-mile ultra-run across the coastline of Normandy as Salman Shamim, key account director at Corps Security prepares to do on 6th June. The date marks the anniversary of the D-Day landings, to commemorate the fallen of the 1944 Allied invasion of occupied France for veteran’s charity, Combat Stress.

Known as the D-Day challenge, this charity event was first set up in 2009 by Lt Col. Mike McErlain and his wife Jo to raise awareness and funds for Combat Stress. The route, which hugs the Normandy coastline, will take in villages, fields, beaches and D-Day celebrations. Runners will start at Pointe Du Hoc and finish at the historic Pegasus Bridge the same day.

Salman, who last year was awarded Corporate Fundraiser of the Year by Combat Stress after running 12 marathons in 12 months and raising £2,300, will be putting his mind and body to the test again. This time not just by going the distance, but by doing so in ‘full-shout’ traditional military uniform (excluding the boots, he’ll sensibly be running in trainers) as a tribute to former Corps of Commissionaires.

Having been with Corps Security for 11 years Salman has been able to work shoulder to shoulder with some amazing ex-servicemen and women. However, he has also seen first-hand the detrimental effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how challenging it can be for some individuals just to get through the day. It’s with this in mind that Salman is motivated to participate in such a unique event. These are people who work extremely hard and deserve help from the money raised. It’s also a way to pay respects to ex-servicemen we may have lost, as well as the fallen from D-Day.

At the end of his 44-mile run, Salman will be placing a wreath at the Pegasus Bridge Memorial for Commissionaires past. His goal is to raise at least £2,000 for Combat Stress and has already received donations from Corps Security CEO Mike Bullock and other staff around the business.

It’s safe to say, Salman has the full support of the Corps Security community and we wish him the best of luck with the challenge ahead and hope he fully indulges in Normandy’s famous cider to reward himself afterwards.

Good luck Salman, we’ll see you at the finish line.

If you would like to donate to Salman’s cause, you can do so via his JustGiving page.

Mitigating risk – Corps Security and the emergency services

Going into the City of London on a weekend is like walking through a ghost town. Almost to the point you’d forget it is home to much of the London skyline. The weather is wet, windy and wild, the streets are empty, and most shops are closed. Members of Corps Security have congregated opposite the Gherkin to grab a cup of coffee before uniting with the emergency services to work on Operation Eastern Cluster for the first time.

Operation Eastern Cluster is a chemical attack drill which looks not only at the operations of the emergency services, but also the role of Corps Security as the appointed security provider for the Gherkin and how collectively they would deal with a potential attack from within the building. It’s a test of danger identification, a test of effective communication and a test of site knowledge to ensure all parties are prepared about how to act and react during an urgent incident.

Danger identification

As the appointed security provider for the Gherkin, Corps Security is always the first port of call in the event of any emergency. The drill began with calls to Corps’ security officers in the control room from building occupants complaining of trouble breathing and irritated eyes after a scheduled contractor accessed the 27th floor. Identifying the details of underlying issues requires knowledge and precision from Corps’ security officers to recognise any potentially troublesome signs, understand the possible implications and take appropriate action without jumping the gun and causing undue panic. The benefit of Corps staff practicing what to look for means they are better prepared to deal with a real issue in a high stress situation. In the drill, once Corps’ officers had identified the contractor as the attacker, Corps tracked the individual through the building and shared surveillance between the security teams on the ground and the facilities management team. Corps’ officers distributed information quickly, effectively and accurately to reduce the risk of danger to people within the building and determine whether the emergency services needed to be called.

Effective communication

As Corps is the primary communicator with the emergency services it’s our responsibility to include all the necessary details and ensure 100% accuracy. There could be significant consequences if the information conveyed is incorrect. Corps’ role here helps the emergency services assess the situation and decide how to address it. During the training exercise all emergency services including City of London Police, London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service were at the Gherkin within minutes and were fully appraised about where to enter the building thanks to Corps detailed briefing. The City of London turned into an array of sounds and sirens. Emergency services were met at the appointed fire door by Corps’ security officers who further updated them on injuries, fatalities, complications and the whereabouts of the attacker before the fire brigade made its way to the control room. These moments of effective, clear and accurate information sharing between Corps Security and the emergency services are pivotal to the successful outcome of an event. Communication is so crucial in supporting the emergency services respond to an attack and assessing how best to approach the situation ensuring limited casualties.

Site knowledge

Once members of the fire brigade were in the control room, it was down to Corps to share updated knowledge of the situation and the building layout including the best routes to access the specific floor and the location of people still present inside the building. By this point in the exercise, the communication channels had multiplied – verbally between our security teams and fire fighters, via walkie-talkie between fire fighters and the command unit and then back out to other members of the emergency services. As the primary communicator for dealing with any incident within a building, the role of security is vital. Security officers must make a fast and detailed assessment and provide clear, accurate and direction to the emergency services and support teams. Comprehensive site knowledge is critical and could be the make or break of a real-life event.

Corps has been working with City Security Council and the emergency services since November 2019 to prepare for this exercise. The exercise lasted several hours in order to ensure the strategy between all parties is completely sound and response times are fast, should such an event occur. Corps Security looks after many high-profile buildings which could easily find themselves as targets to such attacks in today’s climate. It’s essential a good support network is cemented, and processes are fine-tuned.

Training exercises like these are vital practice for all teams involved. They could make the difference between success and failure in a real incident. We will continue to work with City of London Police, London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and City Security Council to ensure the upmost safety of the people and premises Corps protects.

Who dares, wins. Who sweats, wins. Who plans, wins.” – British Special Air Service (SAS)

chris kenny

chris kennyWhen did you join Corps and what does your current role involve?
I have been employed by Corps twice, once as a commissionaire in central London many years ago and for the last 14 years as part of the security team at the Royal Opera House, although not all that time was with Corps Security. Initially I was part of the general security team, I then progressed and became supervisor, a position I held for six years. Last year I stepped back from that role and my new title is that of “resilience officer.” I am part of the security front-of-house team and work closely with the Royal Opera House front-of-house management team, the ushers and the other Royal Opera House staff. Over time we’ve built great working relationships together. My role is wide-ranging, and I’m involved with everything from internal patrolling of the public areas, reporting on any damage or items that need replacing, to aiding infirm patrons and answering all sorts of questions from the general public. It’s a really challenging but enjoyable role and every day is different.

Can you tell us a little about your career background / what was your first job?
I followed my father’s footsteps by joining the Royal Artillery. I started as a Gunner and was promoted to a non-commissioned officer (NCO) role. I then went on to become a signals instructor and command post NCO. I instructed and invigilated many basic signals courses and managed a small team of about ten soldiers. Working for the Artillery Range Safety as a signals NCO was very exciting. During times of live fire our armoured vehicle would occasionally rock with the blast waves. The noise was something else! I got to travel quite a bit during this time, including Germany, Denmark, Cyprus and six months in Canada which was my favourite posting. I also carried out Public Duties as my Regiment covered guarding at Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and St James’s Palace. I also served two tours in Northern Ireland.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
The people at the Royal Opera House are my favourite part of the job. Whether they’re performers, behind the scenes staff or front-of-house they all show such dedication and professionalism. I love the buzz and the palpable enthusiasm I can feel from everyone working at the Royal Opera House – it’s almost better than coffee!

If you weren’t in security, what would you be doing as a career?
Helping people is something I get great satisfaction from so I would probably have gone into the voluntary sector or become a teaching assistant. I don’t have teaching qualifications though so I would have enrolled in an on-the-job training programme.

What are the main challenges you face in your daily role?
As you would expect, the clientele here at the Royal Opera House cover a wide spectrum of society, from royalty and politicians, to celebrities as well as the general public attending our performances and events. Although it’s rare, I’ve had to escort somebody out of the building on a couple of occasions and that can be challenging. I usually try to engage with that person and use a combination of verbal persuasion and body language to encourage the person to leave the building. Sometimes they try to re-enter using another door, so you have to be vigilant and manage it appropriately without disrupting any performances.

What would you say has been your biggest achievement whilst working for Corps?
Doing my job to the best of my ability each and every day. By taking this approach I hope to elevate the reputation of Corps Security in the eyes of my client, the Royal Opera House, and the general public.

What do you like doing outside of work?
I have regular reunions with my Regimental and Battery comrades in various locations across the UK. It’s great to be with my old comrades again and when a group of 60 somethings start behaving like they are 20-year olds again, well, I will leave that to your imagination! I’m also a big fan of music, mostly from the 60s and 70s but I also love jazz, light classical, modern country and rock. Sometimes I take friends and family to an opera or ballet performance and give them an insight into my role.  It does sound like a busman’s holiday but I’m just really proud of where I work. I also like going travelling whether it’s in the UK or abroad.

What are your aspirations?
I’d really like to be able to continue working in such a fabulous building with great people and continue to make the client and customers’ lives as pleasant as possible.

Specialist security services provider, Corps Security, has achieved ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22301 and OHSAS 18001 renewal accreditations, reaffirming its commitment to the highest standards of management, sustainability, business continuity and occupational health and safety.

ISO 9001, the internationally recognised Quality Management System (QMS) standard, demonstrates the continuous improvement and streamlining of operations within Corps to reduce costs whilst raising standards.

The international standard for environmental management systems, ISO 14001, facilitates management of business at the highest environmental standard, going beyond compliance obligations to enhance environmental performance.

ISO 22301 for Business Continuity Management offers tools for an organisation to best understand, prioritise, and manage any possible threats which may interrupt business continuity.

Corps’ existing BS OHSAS 18001 accreditation has also successfully been migrated over to the new ISO 45001 international standard for occupational health and safety. This accreditation ensures the security services provider’s increased organisational resilience through proactive risk prevention, innovation, and continual improvement of standards within the organisation.

To achieve recertification in ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22301 and OHSAS 18001 (now ISO 45001) Corps Security underwent an extensive company-wide audit that included a series of systems developments, audits, assessments and reviews.

Mike Bullock, CEO at Corps Security said: “We are delighted to have these accreditations renewed once again. They highlight the fantastic work our staff carry out in the day-to-day management of the organisation, and the continual improvement and innovation we seek in our safety, sustainability and management standards at Corps Security.”

Grant Fulton Corps Security

Grant Fulton Corps SecurityWhen did you join Corps and what does your current role involve?
I joined Corps Security as a CCTV operator in November 2003. Since then I’ve worked my way up the ranks and at the moment fulfill the position of Corps Monitoring Center (CMC) Operations Manager. My role is to ensure the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) runs smoothly, with all client and company requirements being met. As well as making sure the staff are trained, organised and looked after.

Can you tell us a little about your career background / what was your first job?
My first job as a young lad was working in a glass furnace business, which I left to join the Royal Air Force as a Fire Fighter. I spent many years with the British Forces travelling the globe and only left to start a family. This is when I started with Corps Security and have enjoyed my time here since.

If you weren’t in security, what would you be doing as a career?
If I was not in the security industry, I’d probably still be within the fire service trade or similar, possibly fire safety/prevention as my knowledge base is strong in that area also.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
The best thing about this role is that almost every day is different. Often, I’m presented with unexpected challenges and I enjoy the satisfaction of finding solutions.

What are the main challenges you face in your daily role?
As the CCTV, building alarm, and personal protection industry is moving and evolving at such a fast pace, you need to ensure you are keeping up to date with the latest developments in technology. It’s my role to balance that progress safely and robustly for both Corps and our clients.

What would you say has been your biggest achievement whilst working for Corps?
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Buckingham Palace with my family on behalf of Corps and I spent the day with the Royal Family at the Queens tea party. It was an experience of a lifetime and something I’ll never forget.

What do you like doing outside of work?
I’ve a very family orientated person, so most of my time outside of work is spent making sure my daughter and family are happy. We enjoy travelling and I’m a bit of a foodie, for my sins. I recently started studying a programming language called Swift and I’m enjoying the challenges of writing and developing apps for Apple products.

What are your aspirations?
Ultimately, I believe we only improve as individuals and as a team if we continually challenge and stretch ourselves to do/be better. I really enjoy working for Corps Security and the mindset and ethos of the company makes it an enjoyable place to work. I have never limited myself to a goal, other than improving personally. Normally if you improve to be the best you can within your role, then a byproduct can be promotion which allows for more growth and challenges.

iwfmAs 2019 comes to a close, we reflect on the recent breakfast event that Corps Security hosted with the IWFM at Goldsmiths’ Hall in St. Pauls, which was centred around future fit security. Corps Security alongside Eclipse, a provider of digital security and drone detections to businesses around the UK, and CombatStress, the UK’s leading charity for veteran’s mental health, discussed the latest threats in London, the impact of drones and the mental health of security officers. This was a ticket only event and all proceeds went to Combat Stress, in aid of supporting ex-veterans with mental health conditions. The event raised a total of £483.28 for Combat Stress. So, thank you to everyone that attended.

Mike Bluestone, Director of Corps Consult, Corps Security, kicked off the event by discussing organisational resilience, including the ability of an organisation to absorb and adapt to the multi-methodological tactics used by terrorists. As well as the increasing threat of terrorism, he also touched upon other mainstream threats we face today including organised crime, single-issue activism/political extremism and antisocial behaviours. A lot of people create a character stereotype for certain types of crime but it’s important to remember not everybody will meet this profile.

To remain vigilant to threats, it’s critical that businesses increase the number of tests and drills, such as penetration tests, to reduce tailgating into buildings and remain suitably prepared. Either the tests will successfully prove that individuals are unable to gain access to the premises or, it will highlight where an organisation needs to improve in order to avoid potential threats entering their buildings. Having a rigorous business continuity plan in place, regular audits, practice lockdowns and evacuations can help improve the safety of staff and prepare organisations for potential threats. Businesses can have a better chance of resolving issues if they remain aware of what’s going on around their premises by repeating these tests.

Mike’s presentation also covered opportunistic moped crime, which seems to be ever more prevalent in the UK. Looking at the types of moped attacks that have happened over recent years, Mike advised guests to urge their staff not to use phones while walking, where possible, to mitigate the risk of possessions being stolen by those on mopeds.

Neil Mochan, Independent Security Consultant for Eclipse, went on to ask the audience if drones were a friend or foe? With six million commercial drones in operation in the UK, there is a clear trend towards broad drone ownership, but blurred lines in how they are used. Many drones are used for commercial photography, filming and agriculture, as well as being used by online empires such as Amazon for deliveries. However, the growth in the use of drones is a real threat to public safety, as they are now also reportedly being used by terrorists in the battlefield or to smuggle goods into prisons. Teenagers have been able to turn drones into weapons and even children as young as eight have been able to engineer them to drop a six-inch bomb. Astonishingly, 1,000 drones can be operated from one controller, meaning multiple drones can be used for criminal activity, at exactly the same time, by a single individual, from anywhere.

So, what is the solution? How do we control the use of drones? Neil explained that some countries have looked at jamming the communication to drones, causing them to fall out the sky. Others have attempted training birds of prey to catch the drones. These methods have proved to be unsuccessful and are actually illegal in the UK. Drones are often safest when they are up in the air and could do more harm if they fall from the sky. In the UK, security companies have been looking at the progression of drone technology and advancing with it to understand how they work, and implement effective safety measures, such as embedding software which restricts them from flying into certain areas.

The last speaker of the morning was, community occupational therapist, Charlie Alkin, from Combat Stress, a charity that aids ex-veterans with mental health conditions. There are a large number of veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress and we sadly learnt that 71 veterans committed suicide in 2018.

With so many veterans in the security industry it is essential the right measures are in place to support mental health. Security officers work unsociable hours, often in isolation so they have even more limited opportunities to be able to talk about how they feel which could be a trigger for poor mental health. It’s important for organisations to create a culture where people can share how they’re feeling with their managers and ensure support is in place for staff to be able to talk openly. Charlie highlighted the most effective way of implementing this is mangers leading by example.

On average people say “I’m fine” 14 times a week, but only mean it just one fifth of the time. Actively giving employees “time to talk” can increase the chances of a more meaningful response to the question “how are you?”. This gives employers the opportunity to support improving and maintaining the positive mental health of their employees.

As only a quarter of men feel able to talk to friends and family if they feel stressed, Charlie reiterated how human-to-human support is vital and detailed how Combat Stress is constantly innovating to come up with new initiatives that organisations can take on. Mental health training for military champions across the UK is just one example.

One thing is for certain, the way security teams work to keep us safe will continue to innovate and evolve at pace to provide effective defence against the rise of new threats. It is absolutely fundamental that security companies ensure they look after the wellbeing of their staff in the process.

And there you have it. A complete round-up of a very informative and insightful event over bacon butties and coffee, wrapped up in one post!

Walsall College renews security partnership with Corps Security

Corps Security has been re-awarded its contract with Walsall College for a further five years following a competitive tender. The ongoing partnership involves static guarding, control room management, patrolling, front-of-house and student services assistance across all four campuses.

Walsall College, based in the Midlands, has been rated outstanding by Ofsted and is the largest provider of courses in the borough. The college’s main campus is in Wisemore, with other sites in Green Lane, Whitehall, Cannock and Leamore.

A team of 16 officers, as well as a dedicated security manager, will continue to work across the sites.

Mike Bullock, CEO of Corps Security, said: ‘I am delighted to be delivering security services to Walsall College for a further five years. We have built strong working relationships with the organisation and look forward to continue to work with them.’