Security’s Role During the COVID-19 Pandemic
TDSi’s Managing Director, John Davies, discusses how the Security Industry has been prominent in protecting people and property during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how security providers will be playing a vital role as the UK’s restrictions begin to be relaxed.
What have the COVID-19 restrictions highlighted about the importance of security?
Medical staff have rightly had a high profile during the global pandemic as the ‘frontline troops’ in fighting the virus, but it has also highlighted the vital role that so many people play in our world.
Essential workers such as cleaners, delivery/logistics teams, retail staff and the emergency services –are all doing critical jobs, whilst also battling the potential of being infected and subsequently ill themselves. I am proud to add the security industry to the long list of sectors which help us all stay safe and well - something which the UK Government has acknowledged following a well-targeted lobbying campaign by the BSIA and SIA.
Tough times bring out the best, but sadly also the worst in people – there will always be criminal elements who take advantage of dishonest opportunities. With the police and other emergency services facing unprecedented demand, private security provisions are playing a crucial role in protecting people and property.
We have two ends of the spectrum, with many commercial and business properties lying empty and dormant, whilst many other facilities (especially in healthcare, logistics and retail) are working to full capacity. Both extremes have their own unique security needs and the current situation is highlighting where security works well, and where it may be falling short.
Security systems have also come to the forefront when it comes to monitoring for other potential dangers such as fires, weather damage or water leaks. With people movement restricted, remote security systems really have become the ‘eyes and ears’ of the business, managing facilities during these restrictions.
How are security systems helping to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus right now?
Modern security systems go well beyond the traditional role of ‘security’, they also already have a significant safety component built in. Whether its protecting people and property from human threats, to monitoring for fires and other emergencies, or helping to locate missing vulnerable people/children. Safety is intrinsic to most security systems.
We have already seen an evolution in how security technology is being used. At TDSi for example, we have developed a Track and Trace software module for our EXgarde security management software. This utilises existing hardware to track the use of secured access, helping to map the movements (and potential contact) of people that report COVID-19-like symptoms or who have been tested positive.
Without this level of detail, it would be considerably more difficult to ascertain the potential vectors of infection, but access control is already well geared to track and identify people as they enter secured areas. Our team took the initiative to develop a bespoke application, which is easy to deploy, and we are offering it for free, so it can be used wherever its needed. Everyone needs to play their part in tackling this virus.
Other key applications include the use of heat-sensitive cameras to check people moving through controlled spaces for elevated temperature – one of the key signs of COVID-19 infection. In key locations such as healthcare facilities and logistics hubs, this level of automated detection and alerts is playing a crucial role in helping to tackle the spread of infection.
What part will security play during the recovery period?
As we have seen in other parts of the world, the period during the relaxing of restrictions can also be a great challenge. Strict social distancing will inevitably need to remain in place for some time, and as people return to their workplaces or start to venture out to use retail facilities, there will need to be automated security in place to help manage this.
There are also likely to be tough times ahead with the significant economic fallout from lockdown. During every previous economic downturn, we have seen an increase in crime levels, and the vulnerability of valuable goods and property has become an increased worry as criminals become more desperate.
Inevitably the security market will change too. End users will need the right protection for the right price. Remote access is already essential, but there will be an increased demand to do more for less, so automated systems which can take the strain will be in high demand.
What lessons should we learn from all this?
Any end user which had failed to adequately invest in the right security systems will undoubtedly be feeling the pinch now. It seems highly likely that many security operators will be looking very closely at their security provisions and planning for their future needs.
Security is largely about ‘expecting the unexpected’ already, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the whole landscape of business and our social lives can easily be turned upside down. I think it’s also highly likely that all businesses (including those of us in the security industry too) will be very cautious about getting caught out without contingency plans in the future.
With all the social distancing and anxiety around hygiene and avoiding infection now, I think it is also inevitable that society will have different expectations moving forward. Touching door handles and using shared touchscreens will take on a more sinister image going forward. We will probably see more use of non-touch security systems, such as facial recognition and increased use of mobile device credentials, as people look to avoid physical contact wherever possible.
Things such as remote access and remote monitoring of security systems are likely to become the norm, rather than advantageous purchases. If nothing else, the COVID-19 restrictions have shown just what is possible through online technology, even for those who may previously have been reluctant to use it.