• Cost versus Investment: How Does Management View the Security Function?

    The term “Value” is one of those words like “suspicious” or “reasonable”; it means a little something different depending on who you ask to explain it. For security (a very important division for any company but one that typically does not generate revenue for its organization) it is an even more difficult term to define. One of the age old questions for security is how to prove your preventative value as related to criminal activity since the bad actors are not willing to tell us if they decide not to commit a crime because of our presence or the use of our tools (cameras, access controls, etc.). There are a few ways, however, that professional security practitioners can describe our contributions and attach some tangible and intangible ”value” to them, and this starts with a change of culture, such as using the term investment rather than cost when describing security related resources. A new CCTV or access control system should not be presented as a cost of doing business, but an investment towards a safer environment, and similarly many of the services that we provide today can be described better when presenting to company management.

    A few basic principles for proving ones value is to define what you do for the organization (duties, operational plans), why you provide them (cost efficiency, safety), how much you do (metrics) and how well you provide them (key performance indicators). For example, often security personnel are assigned non-traditional duties such a minor maintenance functions after hours. If we apply the previous principles to answer why this type duty is important, then one might explain it by defining the duty itself (checking a boiler setting), why security is doing it (to prevent overtime costs of calling a maintenance person back after hours and to provide a safety check on critical equipment), how often you do it (hourly) and well this service is provided (no unexpected downtime or issues related to boiler events for the past 18 months). As you can see, describing almost any duty or responsibility in such terms is not that difficult to do, but it does require practice and discipline in order to appropriately document it routinely and in such a manner that the information can be beneficial when validating resources.

    So let’s take this basic premise and use it to translate one of the easiest and most effective ways that a security program can increase its value to the facility and positively affect the overall culture of the organization, that of security related education of employees. First determine what types of security related training would be most beneficial to the staff of your particular organization. While there are many to choose from, a very common and topical issue currently is that of reducing workplace violence. Workplace violence can run a very broad spectrum from simple intimidation and verbal threats all the way to active shooter events, therefore it lends itself as a great topic for the creation of a significant number of separate and equally valuable educational opportunities that security can provide to the organization. You could start with one of the many facets of workplace violence (effective de-escalation and conflict resolution techniques for example) and then after sufficient research begin using the principles that were described earlier.

    What will such training consist of?

    • Why are you providing this training?
    • How much training is needed?
    • How valuable will this training be?

    The last point is the real test of your ability to translate such a program into both tangible and intangible value as a necessary investment to your management.

    Let’s begin with the intangible value, which is usually much more difficult to translate into dollars and cents. Some of the more common intangible and important benefits that an effective workplace violence training program can provide includes the strengthening of a security culture across the organization, a positive impact on staff and client satisfaction (perhaps an increase in positive customer service survey scores) and the meeting and exceeding of any regulatory requirements (the penalty for not doing so ranging from negative branding of the organization to fines). While each of these benefits is very important, they are difficult to assign as far as a clearly defined financial impact. This is where you as the security professional need to do some research.

    If you calculated the cost of such a workplace violence prevention program, you may find that such a program could cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars when using a third party to provide such a program (this includes associated costs such as travel, lodging, per diems and any fees of the instructor). Alternately, if you were to invest the time in learning these concepts and becoming an instructor in a similarly themed program, the same financial impact to your organization would drop dramatically. Take this same approach to multiple programs and you can very quickly validate the investment of teaching such classes in-house as well as provide the many intangible benefits mentioned previously.

    The same principles of cost avoidance can be applied to many of the physical countermeasures that security often replies upon as force multipliers (since we typically cannot afford to have security personnel in every area 24 / 7). Imagine the expenditure of installing multiple duress alarms in a facility (to include the devices themselves, wire pulls and other labor, the sealing of any penetrations to meet fire codes, etc.) as opposed to researching the implementation of a virtual cloud based application that could not only summon assistance from any enrolled portable device (no equipment purchases or labor costs) but could also be expanded to meet the growing needs of your staff and clients through simple programming updates and provide real time notification to the people that need to know when a adverse event occurs. Such a technology enhancement not only saves tangible dollars, it creates a proactive security culture in which every person is a key stakeholder by empowering them with the ability to share vital information easily and quickly.

    Validating appropriate resources for security can be a difficult endeavor, even more so with an increased “more with less” approach for non-revenue generating departments. Since the preventative value of security is difficult to prove, each professional security practitioner must do his or her best to take existing data and translate it into a language that your C-Suite will understand. So is appropriate security an investment or a cost? It depends upon how one approaches the issue, but keep in mind that one cannot purchase insurance coverage after an adverse event has occurred, and it’s too late to add additional security measures after an event has taken place. Better to build a good security reputation than to try and repair one after it has been damaged.

    Punch Alert can add value to your organizations security

    Bryan Warren

    “Bryan Warren is Director of Corporate Security for Carolinas HealthCare System, based in Charlotte, N.C. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, an MBA with a focus on legal foundations of healthcare and has over 27 years of healthcare security experience. He is a former President of the IAHSS, a member of ASIS, and participates in a number of professional associations and national taskforces. Bryan has been named as one of the Top 20 Most Influential People in Security by Security Magazine and as one of the Top 30 Voices in Healthcare Security by Forbes”.

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  • How to Create an Emergency Plan for Your Office

    Emergency PlanEven if rain isn’t in the forecast, most of us still store an umbrella somewhere. We all have a spare tire even though we don’t expect to get a flat. We still feed the meter for an hour and fifteen when we know we’ll only be gone for an hour.

    Why is it any different with an office emergency? It is rare to wake up expecting a fire, flood, or civil disturbance at the office, but planning for these events are crucial for us and our employees. Not sure how to begin? Use the following steps as a guide.

    Do an emergency assessment and determine what types of potential emergencies are a risk for your office.

    Your emergency plan should be all inclusive and tailored to your organization. Do an assessment of any physical, environmental, or chemical hazards that might make your building vulnerable to an emergency. If you have multiple sites, each one should have its own emergency plan. For more information on types of emergencies in the workplace, take a deeper look with OSHA’s “How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations” guide.

    Develop a method for reporting emergencies and alerting your employees.

    A well developed plan should have an efficient system for reporting an emergency that also includes a standard way of alerting employees. An alarm system is an obvious component, but it doesn’t give employees much information other than to leave the building. A portable radio unit or a mobile crisis management network, like Punch Alert, are reliable options. Confusion is the last thing you want in a crisis, so make sure to train your employees on your desired method. If you’d like a little more guidance on crisis communication visit ready.gov or cdc.gov for more insight and sample plans.

    Assign roles and duties for employees.

    Set up internal teams within the office, such as an evacuation team or shelter team. Within each team designate a leader who has the authority to make decisions and supervises the process. Also assign medical duties for employees qualified to perform them and instructions for those who may stay behind to shut down any operations, or use fire extinguishers. It’s crucial for employees to know their role for a smooth evacuation that minimizes damages, so make sure the teams and roles are clearly written out. For an example of a comprehensible plan, view ready.gov’s sample template.

    Develop an evacuation policy and procedure.

    Based on the floor plan of your office, come up with primary and secondary escape routes. Make sure your chosen exits are well lit, wide enough to fit several employees, and unlikely to put those evacuating at any further risk. Also determine refuge areas designated for when evacuation is no longer an option. Post these procedures where they are easily accessible to everyone. Consider a physical location at the office and also online or mobile – more than one place is always best.

    Designate an assembly location.

    An assembly location ensures you can account for all employees after evacuation and notify police, fire department, or medics if anyone is still in the building.

    It is crucial for you and your employees to take the time to plan for an emergency. Although no one expects a crisis when they walk into work, it gives everyone peace of mind to know the organization is ready for it. It’s like bringing that umbrella to the picnic when there’s not a cloud in the sky – always Be Prepared!

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  • New Law is Aimed at Protecting Healthcare Workers From Violence

    Workplace Violence

    Stronger workplace violence regulations demand a comprehensive, superior safety system.

    A national research study shows that health care workers are at a higher risk of workplace violence than the average worker. It is not uncommon for health care workers to suffer injuries from aggressive, upset patients, angry family members, or other stressed employees. (For more information visit here)

    California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has approved a rule that protects health care workers against violence in the workplace in California. This newly approved rule requires hospitals and other health care organizations to develop violence prevention plans that will identify violent risks, provide a process for mitigation and an effective response plan. It ensures that workplace violence is reported, investigated, and reviewed. In addition, it stipulates that the organizations effectively alert employees of the presence, location, and nature of a violent act or security threat.

    Health care facilities are required to implement the use of an “alarm system or other effective means by which their employees can summon security and other aid” to manage and resolve an actual or potential workplace violence emergency. This new law has set the bar with the strongest regulations against workplace violence and will most likely become the model for other healthcare organizations nationally.

    Implementing an effective, comprehensive and compliant solution can be complicated, time consuming and expensive. We, at Punch Technologies, have developed an emergency communication platform that will meet all the requirements set forth by CAL/OSHA and more.
    Punch Alert is exactly the safety system health care facilities will need to meet the OSHA Compliance standards and keep their staff safe in the workplace.

    Utilizing the cell phones that employees already have, Punch Alert is a comprehensive mobile safety system that healthcare workers can bring with them anywhere, anytime. If they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation they can discretely punch a button in the app immediately alerting the right responders and notifying other employees nearby about the incident. Staff, patients and visitors can also receive warnings or announcements as mass notifications from the designated safety team on property. All organizations using Punch Alert are geofenced and iBeacons will accurately determine even specific indoor locations, so responders always have precise information about where help is needed in an active emergency situation. The staff can also access emergency plans on their phone at any time, so they are prepared and equipped for any emergency specific to their department and organization. Using Punch Alert as safety communication, the health care organization will automatically obtain an archive of incidents and communication on record to review with staff, which allows for ongoing training and involvement of employees, hence increased preparedness for emergencies.

    Punch Alert doesn’t only help organizations meet OSHA Compliance Standards, the fact that all staff in the healthcare organization is connected in a portable safety community via their phones, will take away the stress and worries about how to deal with unforeseen incidents during a shift.

    When Punch Alert takes care of the health care workers safety, the health care workers can take care of their patients. Within the health care organization, no one gets hurt and everyone is safe.

    Sources here, here and from the California OSHA Legislation: Standards Presentation To California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, Title 8, Chapter 4.

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  • Two Important Lessons Learned from our Customers

    We’ve been collaborating recently with a friend, John Baker, Safety and Security Manager for Lancaster Lebanon IU13 in Pennsylvania. John requested I draft a guest blog post last week, and it just went live here.

    You can also read the post here:

    With foresight and leadership, great schools across the country are making safety a priority, and not just with words but concrete action. Here are some notable items to consider when putting your own plan into action:

    • Not Just Active Shooter – Ironically, the best way to prepare for an active shooter incident is to embrace safety solutions that can be used for more common safety incidents. The high incidence of active shooter events is frightening, and many schools have changed their mindset to “when,” not “if.” That said, every school frequently faces incidents such as accidents, injuries, weather events, fights and other dangerous situations involving students, parents, or visitors. By communicating through a system like Punch Alert on a regular basis, a school is able to more finely tune its ability to handle, measure, and improve its response for when it needs it the most.
    • Work Together – Safety is not just the job of our law enforcement. In the past, schools relied too much on 911 and the police or fire department to arrive on scene and direct traffic. This approach has not proven sufficient. Schools must act immediately and with confidence. Punch Alert customers form an “internal responder” team for every location that makes emergency response their greatest responsibility. Within seconds of an emergency declared, responders communicate in the mobile app and make the critical decisions whether or not to release the emergency not only to official responder groups, but staff, faculty, students, parents, or even visitors. With this inclusive approach, schools are able to build a community of safety that can work together to make a difference.

    At Punch Alert, we’ve been very lucky to work with and learn from great, action-oriented schools across the country. As a parent of young children, I’m optimistic that our schools have the skills, tools, and mindset required to keep our children safe. But this will not happen on its own. We all need to get involved and help our schools move beyond the talk and take action!

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  • Something New

    Starting a company or building anything new is really tough.  Why?  Because of the herd mentality.  The other day I brought my kids to their weekly swimming lesson, but this time something was different.  For some reason, two-dozen parents were packed into the pool area, standing or sitting right next to the pool.  I asked the owner if something was wrong with the standard waiting area, and she replied, “No, it’s just that we have a new student and when her parents decided to stay, all the other parents started copying them.”  That’s what happens to us all, every day, many times a day.  There’s another known phenomenon called “anchoring” that guides our thoughts and decisions in one direction or another based on some pre-determined subconscious anchor that we think is approximately right.  Often, this anchor is completely random, and yet it still affects our thinking.  Why do we do this?  Because human beings have a really hard time thinking about anything in true isolation.  We usually adjust up or down from some other starting point.

    Ok, now back to starting something new.  The goal is to create a new way of thinking and find the early adopters that can help guide the herd in a better direction.  But that’s easier said than done.  I don’t have the answer, but I believe the key is to have conviction.  If you’re trying to get someone to try a new drink, or game, or style of clothing, it may be difficult to have that conviction if society tells you that “you suck.”  However, at Punch we have a lofty goal of a much, much safer world.  This drives us with conviction through any adversity because we are working backwards from a better outcome.

    So what’s our mission?  To create a much safer world where response times are so fast that most people would never even consider committing a crime.  Remember the Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report?”  Just imagine murders or rapes being stopped before they even start.  But we don’t need to put three psychics in a pool all drugged up to predict the future with a special rolling marble.  There is a real way to do this.  In fact, I’ll state flat out that it’s going to happen.  How?

    Well, let’s start with 911.  Do you really think we’ll be dialing 911 fifty years from now? Do you remember 411?  Who still uses that when you can just say “Ok Google” or “Hey Siri.”  Punch Alert is our first step towards creating a better way to communicate during an emergency.  We are empowering organizations like schools to better protect themselves, and the early adopters have come on board.

    That was the start, and stay tuned for what’s next.  We’ve got something very special up our sleeves and the world might just never be the same!

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