COVID-19 is driving falls in market and consumer confidence and threatening to test business plans in a way not seen in our lifetimes. And that’s before you lay the personal and social impact of the Coronavirus epidemic, including a tragic and ongoing loss of life and income, onto global communities.

There’s no point pretending the COVID-19 epidemic will not have an impact on the security market in many ways. Global news services are following events in real time as jobs and lives are lost, borders are closed, markets tremble and local currencies head south in ways that seemed impossible a few weeks ago. In a business sense, how much is real, how much is panic-based and how much will be made real by panic remains opaque. The only certainty is that we are all in this together.

From a security management and supplier perspective, it’s difficult to disengage from the turmoil. Conceiving a global epidemic and its ramifications can be overwhelming. But it’s important security people at every level resist panic, stay firmly welded to the industry’s protective function and strive to mitigate real world challenges as they arise, using the most efficient procedures, technologies and functionalities available. While we often forget this, security managers, security officers, security operators, security installers and security integrators are critical infrastruture workers.

It’s equally important to consider that COVID-19 does not change the operational demands of the security function. If anything, it sharpens them, while at the same time highlighting the serious potential of some of our electronic security technologies to assist colleagues, whether suppliers, integrators, corporate and government end users, and those members of the public security people ultimately serve.

Clever sensors, global notifications, powerful over-arching management solutions; integrated access, alarm, automation and CCTV solutions with remote management; app management of anything, cloud stuff, guard tours via existing CCTV solutions, AI-enabled thermal ‘fever’ cameras, video analytics of all kinds, drone response, no-hands face recognition access, high quality CCTV cameras and intercoms allowing management of entry ways, network redundancy and smart power systems, redundant comms paths, including serious wireless, secure 24-hour monitoring facilities, the ability to include medical testing as an access control rule – all these and many more have a role to play when security teams are reduced or isolated.

Within organisations – many public facing – security teams have a role to play in safety, as well as support for staff and the public, including first aid. There’s nothing new in any of this. What will be new is embracing the fact many of these functions can be handled remotely – from checking ID in real time to maintaining databases remotely, actioning alarms using intelligent mapping functions, as well as undertaking system maintenance down to the level of checking resistance on sensor cable runs using remote installer apps.

Security managers will have their work cut out getting team members back home from OS or interstate, mapping out safety strategies, and implementing freshly-minted procedures around security, first aid and remote management of sites half-emptied of staff. They are also likely to be presiding over changes to access control parameters and trying to stay on top of government healthcare directives in real time. Security officers, meanwhile, will find themselves assisting the public in different ways in more stressful times, and they’ll be facing a different risk profile. Control room operators are going to find themselves more than ever the eyes and ears of their customers yet be without recourse to patrol response. Some of you might end up living at work.

Suppliers and integrators have a major responsibility, too. Most systems incorporate smart functionalities never commissioned that are capable of delivering more flexible management of integrated solutions – including remote connectivity. These functionalities must be communicated to customers and liberated and implemented by integrators – securely. Importantly, remote management is not only found in high-end systems. NVRs and security controllers have capabilities few installers have jolted out of default. It’s time to discover what those functions are.

Prior to COVID-19, the year 2020 was shaping up to be particularly busy, with more tenders than usual flowing through and a lot of upgrade work taking place. In almost all cases, these upgrades sought to improve operational performance, enhance management capabilities, sharpen situational awareness and improve the efficiencies of security teams without increasing manpower. Far from being off the table, all these operational demands are now an even greater priority.

Time is the key – some of us are going to have more of it and it’s vital to invest that time proactively in a future that’s just around the corner. There’s time for planning, for training, for writing and implementing new procedures, for testing remote management and maintenance strategies, for getting the whole team across your product stack or emergency response procedures. Time to think about sourcing product from local suppliers with local manufacturing facilities to better cover bases when global supply lines break, time to look hard at supply chains, time to think about network and comms redundancies, time to design integrated enterprise solutions that can be driven by anything from anywhere.

There’s going to be time to consider the profound healthcare applications of security technology, the ability to save lives by detecting illness, to provide support for local communities, to investigate DIY systems that can be delivered, installed by customers and then commissioned by remote techs. There’s also going to be time to maintain those expensive tools you forgot you bought, for cleaning out vehicles, for streamlining tired processes, for choosing between Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Slack, for getting your head around 5G and deciding on IoT strategies, for doing the SWOT analysis you’ve been meaning to write for 10 years. Time to spend exploring the remote capabilities of existing systems for clients who need your help now more than ever before.

Now is definitely the time for listening to customer problems more carefully than usual, for answering the phone first ring, for checking your junk folder for lost customers, for economising on cabling and components by working more carefully, for taking note of what’s going on around you and recording its impact – noting the way challenges were or weren’t resolved. Now is also time to think about partnerships with companies interstate, for getting healthy but isolated team members to assist with remote work, such as help desk duties, remote commissioning and maintenance, even admin. It’s also the time to do loads of pre-commissioning and to do outside work – trenching, cable runs, infrastructure – anything that keeps your team isolated while pushing a job forward. And now is also the time to invest in your team – they won’t forgive you if you don’t and it will be hard to rebuild with a bent reputation. This is a people industry and it would be a mistake to forget it at the moment people are most important.

Now is not the time for face to face contact but there are many ways security people can contact and assist each other. For end users, consider leveraging overlapping security capabilities – including things like PTZ coverage, thermal fire detection camera angles of view, security patrols and most of all, intel. End users also need to make sure their lines of communication with law enforcement and emergency services are up to date. Integrators and suppliers should also reach out for support; whether from your team, your suppliers, even your competitors. It’s time to share resources with anyone who needs them. There are going to issues of broken functionality, maintenance, problems with commissioning of half-completed solutions with half a team, challenges with remote and interstate site access, staff issues at 24-hour monitoring centres, product supply issues and plenty more besides. Today, the customer comes first – everyone’s customer comes first – but we can only deliver on that promise by working together.

Finally, don’t lose sight of what’s most important in life – take care of your teams, yourselves and your families.

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