Case Study - A Change In Approach - Manned Guarding To Remote Monitoring

The lockdown has changed the way security is delivered to sites across the UK. Read how one property management firm in south London switched from manned guarding to a remote monitoring option to protect their site.

The Challenge

A property management firm in south London was faced with a number of operational challenges to secure their building and assets as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions from the UK-wide lockdown. Faced with these issues they approached Corps Security, as their incumbent security partner, for our guidance and support. Corps usually provides guards to secure their site.

The offices are home to several independent businesses, some of which were providing essential services although operating with reduced staff.  As the restrictions increased it became clear that the building would need to be locked down and an alternative security model put in place.

Corps Security conducted a risk assessment of the site, in consultation with the property manager, the existing security equipment maintainer and our own security site-based team. We identified several appropriate options that would address their specific demands.

Our Solution

The existing building and fire alarm systems were easily enhanced by adding a simple and inexpensive alarms transmission unit, which communicates all alerts to our state-of-the art NSI Gold Accredited Cat II monitoring centre in Scotland, allowing the critical systems to be remotely monitored.

There was already an existing CCTV system that was used to record locally onto a DVR recorder. Through the existing maintenance firm, we arranged to have this connected to our monitoring centre over a broadband connection on a secure VPN. This, combined with the existing building sensors, enabled us to provide a robust sensor-activated security solution.

In addition to securing the building itself, during the initial assessment of the site the property manager mentioned that his own staff would need occasional access to the building along with cleaning and maintenance staff. An existing swipe card access system was already in place and, in partnership with the maintenance firm, we were able to configure secure remote access to the site controlling the doors remotely through our monitoring centre. An inexpensive Voice Over IP (VoIP) intercom with camera was added to the main entrance and we agreed several protocols to ensure secure access. As an emergency back-up, we installed a remotely-monitored, Bluetooth-enabled key safe on the external wall of the building to cater for any failure of the door access system. The Secured by Design product is  olice and Insurance Association approved.

In order to protect the staff visiting the building, who could be classified as lone workers in the current environment, they were issued with our Corps/Zonith remotely-monitored Personal Protection and Positioning System app. It’s installed on their mobile phones and protection is enhanced with an ID badge holder with an integrated panic button. This links back to our monitoring system and ensures that if they had an accident while on site, or were under threat, they could alert our monitoring centre.

The Business Benefits

By designing an holistic and integrated solution that addressed the specific demands of the site, the building was protected from any potential incident – intruder, fire, flood or serious incident.

The proactive monitoring solution could be efficiently escalated using verified evidence to the emergency services or key holders alongside Corps Security’ own mobile response teams.

Other options

Prior to confirmation that the maintenance firm could attend the site, alternative solutions were considered including Corps Security supplying a 4G GSM transmission unit with in-built Sim card, passive infra-red sensors and smoke/heat detectors. An ideal solution for buildings without existing monitored intruder or fire alarm systems, the device is plugged into a power socket and also houses an internal battery backup with the power availability also monitored remotely.

In parallel, a plug-and-play 4G router option is also available where a maintainer is unable to connect an existing DVR to a monitored broadband line due to the current movement restrictions. This solution securely transmits live sensor-activated CCTV footage to the Corps monitoring centre in the event of a trigger from an existing sensor, intruder or fire alarm system.

All the systems detailed provide a solid foundation for providing secure remotely-monitored electronic security solutions which Corps Security has the in-house expertise to scale to enterprise-level nationally.

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 Technology And The Pandemic - A Two-Stage Process

There are two distinct stages to the role of technology in the security response to the pandemic. The first stage is the impact of new technology during lockdown and the second stage is post-lockdown, when restrictions are eased. That was the message from Mike Bluestone, director of Corps Security, speaking last week at a webinar focusing on how technology is helping or hindering security.

“In the first stage we’ve used a combination of remote monitoring, mobile patrols and the presence of static guarding teams to help to mitigate against the impact of increased levels of organised, or opportunist crime, and anti-social, behaviour” he said. “This is vital given that the police are under pressure, and suffering their own depleted ranks due to contagion.” The use of portable devices by security personnel is another tool to enable real-time reporting of incidents, and ensure appropriate alerts, and where appropriate, police and other blue light responses. He also said there was a need to factor in the risk of cyber-attacks. Therefore in vacated buildings, the integrity of server rooms, anti-flood protection, air-con/cooling durability is of equal importance to the quality of firewalls, virus tracking software, and maintaining strong SOPs and password protection, he said.

But Bluestone’s was equally focused on the second phase, once lockdown restrictions were lifted. “There will be no ‘flick of a switch’ scenario when we go from what is effectively a state of house-arrest to total freedom,” he said. “The security industry will play a key role in supporting businesses to reopen, particularly through the use of thermal imaging cameras to check for abnormal human temperatures and on overseeing effective access control while supporting social distancing.”

The webinar, which was chaired by Martin Gill, also heard from Australia-based Chris Cubbage, director and executive editor, My Security Media Pty,  Mark Folmer, in Canada, vice president of TrackTik; and Monica Verma from Norway, board member, CSA Norway and Chief Information Security Office. If you missed it, simply click on the link below to view the recording.

>> Webinar – “How Are Technologies Helping And Hindering Security?”

 

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.

Supporting Security Staff During The Pandemic

The Government’s decision to classify SIA licence-holding security professionals as critical workers has meant that in many cases security officers are the last people standing in a building. Overall the Coronavirus outbreak has meant significant change for our front-line security officers.

In some instances, their shift patterns have changed where we’re required to provide day cover to maintain a presence in a largely empty building, whereas before it was mainly nights and weekends. Some relief officers are now mobile, serving a number of different sites where it’s safe to do so, whereas before many were based in just one building. Others are supporting critical infrastructure sites and are working longer shifts. Our colleagues at our remote monitoring centre in Glasgow are busier than ever as many clients turn to technology to protect empty premises rather than have an officer on site.  At the same time, our officers are playing a vital role in supporting the Police service, which is already stretched.

Meanwhile, like many others on the front line, some of our officers are unwell, or self-isolating because a member of their family has the virus. Many have caring responsibilities in their household to work around. In our offices, our people are busy managing constantly-changing customer needs with our security officer’s constantly-changing availability. It’s a tricky balancing act for everyone.

The key to making it work – and ensuring that people remain engaged, motivated and healthy – is good communication. Usually that would be through regular site visits, but obviously that’s not an option now. Instead, we’re using our colleague portal, emails, phone and video calls, letters and other channels to share advice so that they feel confident in their role and supported.

Many of our officers are faced with dealing with people who are showing symptoms of Covid19, so we’ve provided step-by-step advice on how to support those customers while also protecting themselves. Giving them the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is obviously a key part of that, as well as instructions on how to use it properly. Public transport has been reduced in some areas, and helping colleagues plan their journeys, which are often at anti-social hours, is key, with our central scheduling department and local management teams supporting them with route planning. Our previous approach to getting people to site in an emergency – known as lift to shift – isn’t appropriate in these circumstances so we’re adopting new ways of working.

Regular one-to-one check-ins with our security officers is also important. Their line manager will know them better than anyone and there’s already a trusted relationship in place. Making sure they’re feeling well, both mentally and physically, and taking the time to recharge is essential. We’re long-term supporters of Combat Stress and have a strong understanding of how people can be affected mentally by being on the front line and how mental wellbeing is important.

Overall we’re listening to what our security officers need – they’re on the front line of this outbreak.  The next few weeks and months are challenging times for us all. By listening to our front-line teams, we can ensure they provide the best possible care to our customers while also looking after themselves.

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.

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.

>> Register Here

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?

Sign up for your free place here.

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.”