COVID-19 highlights how we need a supportive approach to security
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. It’s changed how we live our daily lives both in the short and long-term – some of its impact could last for years.
One of the immediate effects is the need to change modus operandi and for the majority, embrace remote working overnight. Whilst this is feasible for IT operatives or those in Financial Services, people who don’t spend their day governed by computers have really felt the shift. For example, those working on the frontline in security and law enforcement must continue operations, often with depleted resources due to sick colleagues or changes in shift patterns. For experienced operatives this is less than ideal; but for those with minimal experience or little exposure to high stress situations, this change to the status quo can be devastating.
The truth laid bare
Protecting a building, estate or area of public interest can be one of the most stressful situations a human can be exposed to. Some days might be relatively mellow, but on those when a criminal is threatening to cause a disruption, the effects on the human body can be telling. No matter how much training people undertake, there is always the natural adrenalin rush associated with fight or flight – in essence, even the most experienced operators can freeze.
This is because our brains can only handle so much information. Despite the fact they’re supercomputers, they still get overwhelmed. Cognitive overload happens all the time, with all of us exposed to it on a daily basis. Think about how we’re interrupted by phone calls, emails, and asked to hop from one app to another just to digest information which we can rarely give our full attention to. In high stress situations this goes into overdrive, information overload leads to paralysis and standard operating procedures are instantly forgotten. For security and police personnel, this could be the difference between success and failure.
No matter what the circumstance, security professionals need to be able to successfully prioritise – not only to ensure consistency and compliance, but for the good of the whole team. COVID-19 has exposed many teams in so far as reduced staffing measures for health and safety don’t translate into decreased workload. In fact, those with malicious intent may see this as the perfect time to strike, with resources stretched thin.
Whilst much has been made about technology riding to the rescue during these testing times, with automation able to do some of the heavy lifting – such as machine learning chatbots screening customers through to deep learning integrations into video analytics, the truth of the matter is it should never replace the human decision. But it certainly can aid it.
That’s why we should place renewed focus on whether our technology and workflows are helping or hindering the mental wellbeing of our security operators. For example, collaborative decision management systems is one area I expect to flourish. This is because it can pull all the information needed together into one digestible format – via a single pane of glass. This situational intelligence, visualisation and incident management prevents the brain making leaps or operating on disparate data points. This timely flow of information helps form the right decision; as often one of the biggest stress drivers is not having all the information to hand, or being able to process it properly. For juniors, it gives them the reassurance that they are following the right steps in the absence of the senior counsel they often rely upon; and for more senior operators it’s the surety that they are not missing simple steps when they are being pulled in multiple directions.
Plus, with these responses often tailored to company specific protocol, it provides a clear timeline and audit trail when incidents are evaluated.
Trusted reactions time and again
One thing COVID-19 has taught us is that despite our best efforts, it’s very easy to be caught off guard, requiring us to pivot to contain a situation. Whilst this is rare in our sector, everyone needs all the help they can get, and if that means adopting technology which can provide guidance no matter what the situation, instead of using a one-dimensional crisis manual then I do expect this to be an area of growth. We don’t know what the future will bring and the challenges that will arise. What we do know is that threats are becoming more sophisticated, meaning those in charge of protection need to cover far more bases than ten or fifteen years ago. In light of this, it’s time to update the crisis response and start using data to help inform next steps, as it’s the only way to keep pace in today’s fast-moving threat-scape.
Paul Dodds, Country Manager, UK&I, Genetec