Security In Emergencies

SecThink

There is, or there should be, a strong bond between security and emergency management. Security is predominantly about prevention and emergency management about the response, but they overlap in that both need prior planning, training, procedures and interoperability and both should be concerned with the before and after aspects of an incident.

Unfortunately, there is often a significant disconnect, particularly where templated, off-the-shelf, ‘insert client’s name here’ emergency and security plans are purchased. This disconnect can be exacerbated when the responsibilities for security, emergency management and facility management are all outsourced and the in-house responsibility for the security and safety of the business rests with a contract manager.

Even in situations where the organisation may have a dedicated security manager and a dedicated and committed emergency manager/chief warden, there may still be cases where security and emergency management are unaligned or even in conflict.

Assuming that both disciplines are about protecting the business by preventing the loss of people and other assets, there are a number of considerations that are worth reviewing:

  • How is the site to be secured during and after an evacuation and during re-occupation? If the site is not on fire or subject to some other hazard, what stops people, innocently or with evil intent, from entering the site? How confident is the security manager that all important information, drawings, contract documents and so on have been secured during an emergency, as it is possible, if not probable, that staff will not be the first people to re-enter the building? How will re-occupation of the building be managed to ensure that security of the site is maintained?
  • In addition, there are issues relating to how the site can be evacuated, and the implications of closing down production facilities and processes without causing more damage than the initial emergency event. Hopefully, the process managers have been involved in the emergency planning, but the security manager may consider how these processes will be secured.
  • The protection of evacuated staff from weather events, protests, crowd crushes and acts of violence should be part of an emergency plan. If staff or visitors are unable to access their cars, medicines and other personal belongings during the incident, how will these assets be protected once the incident is over, particularly if the site is not released until the middle of the night?

Another area of concern is the concept of ‘shelter in place’ which receives only two small mentions in the relevant standard (AS3745). The application of the basic concept often appears confused. The principle is simple: if the hazard is external, people are kept in place until the security manager knows what is happening and has identified a safe method of egress. If an active shooter is outside, then the plan should be to lock down and keep people in until the police advise of a safe egress route to get away from the incident site. If the active shooter is inside, then the aim should be to get people away from the hazard by getting them out of the building, if safe to do so. Sometimes, a lack of thought suggests that in all cases people should evacuate or for some emergencies, such as an active shooter, they always stay and hide. Neither is right; each incident must be decided on a recognition of the hazard, its location and the safest and most secure response.

Security and emergency response are closely related and must work together to protect the business; they are part of the same safety and security continuum.

Don Williams CPP RSecP ASecM is a recognised thought leader in the field of security management. He is a member, often a committee member, of relevant security and engineering professional associations. He can be contacted via email donwilliams@dswconsulting.com.au

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