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22 July 2013

Jeff’s Journal – July

I attended a ‘Masterclass’ on protecting the critical national infrastructure last week in London.  It was an international gathering with security experts from as far afield as Mongolia, Estonia and the USA attending.

The issue that struck me most was the interaction between security and various disciplines which make up the civil protection / emergency planning / major incident management and disaster recovery domains.

Any ‘in-house’ contemporary corporate security director will, in all likelihood, have all of these additional activities on his or her job description as well as the principle tasks of risk management and protecting the organisation’s blood and treasure.

I do sense that contracting out of blue light services and emergency response will increase over the next 5 years as local and national government coffers become more stretched. But I wonder if the security industry is missing a trick in not developing its own crisis response capability and offering such skills to both its corporate direct clients and the broader emergency service cohort as well.

Security and crisis response demand similar disciplines.  Both require personnel to wear a uniform and often IPE (Individual Protective Equipment).  Both demand staff who have a systematic and disciplined approach to a problem and who take the lead when others run in the opposite direction.  Both require a high degree of training, often with specialist equipment and communications.  Both require a degree of physical and moral strength and courage often in dangerous or hazardous situations. The similarities required are too close to ignore.

Let us take fire as an example.  Increasing numbers of fire and rescue services will not now attend an AFA (Automatic Fire Alarm) activation (notwithstanding CFOA policy) unless the outbreak is confirmed, either by a 999 call or other means.  Closer cooperation, joint training and perhaps a small investment in front-line fire fighting equipment could help resolve this dysfunction.

We already have seen a much closer working cooperative between private security door supervisors and local police units.  Such bonds are clear between the guarding services sector and police forces in most areas.  Could we not extend such cooperation to the other blue light services whilst increasing the skills of our guarding cohort, broadening the whole concept of emergency response to involve the private security sector whilst supporting and reinforcing the speed of reaction to incidents and occurrences across the board.

This would result in an increase in resilience at all levels, increased depth of emergency response, more respect for guarding officers, higher skills levels and decreased insurance premiums if that industry is involved in such an expansion of capability – after all, flood and fire are the biggest causes of insurance claims today with crime claims coming in a distinct third.

Maybe I am missing the point and security purists will say that we must not dilute the basic and fundamental core skills of the industry and that we have already breached these precepts by moving along the FM path.

I would argue that we should be threat based and look at the broader range of threats which now afflict our society.  Mirroring the agencies and services who respond to society’s dramas and crises and even major incidents and disasters opens up a new front for an industry about to be challenged by the revolution in technology enabling remote surveillance and response to be the norm.

I do not use the word ‘revolution’ lightly.  Some years ago, the US military coined the term RMA – the Revolution in Military Affairs.  This was in response to a change to the threat – i.e. asymmetric warfare, a change in technology – via better sensors, autonomous vehicles and network enabled capability and a reduction in force levels and budgets.

I would argue that such a revolution is now well underway in security affairs – but we are watching it happen to us – often driven by software and middleware developments – rather than engaging, managing and exploiting the new capabilities now being offered.

The RSA is well underway!