Feature Opinion Read more online at www.securitymattersmagazine.com
ASIS in the UK
Technology continues to reach beyond known limits,
exploring ever-renewed ways in which to manipulate
the threat environment, enriching data and providing
systems that we would all once have marvelled at in
comic books and when the latest invention from ‘Q
Branch’ was unveiled, writes Darren Carter
We’re often very impressed by the
scientific R&D initiatives of security
manufacturers and the products they
can bring to market. It’s also fair to
recognise the truism that we often find
ourselves over-reliant on technology. In
our continual search for introducing
efficiencies into our businesses across
the nation, we’re easily seduced by the
latest ‘must-have’ kit.
Over recent months, we’ve witnessed
a small turnaround in the wider
perception of key workers including
security officers and the important and
much-valued work they do. I would
place any ‘host’-type role within that
description (ie a person being the first
point of contact for visitors to a
building). As many businesses return to
work, the risks have shifted for those
performing front line duties.
The continued presence of COVID-
19 causes us to re-examine many ways
in which we work, how we approach
unknown individuals, conduct a bag
search, a person search or detain a
suspect, etc. Yes, there’s technology out
there that will transact one or two of
those key tasks for you without you
having to lift a finger.
At least for now, it’s mandatory to
wear a face covering on all forms of
public transport in much of the UK.
Many will assume this ‘new normal’
behaviour for some time yet, I’m sure,
and at least until their confidence is
completely restored in being around
mixed groups of people, particularly so
within densely populated towns and
cities. With this scenario in prospect,
I’ve read several articles that speak
around technology constraints, asking
how technology will cope. I’m not so
sure it needs to.
This focuses our thoughts back towards
our front line colleagues who are now
expected to engage daily with people
they don’t know and who are possibly a
risk, and who are now, with some
legitimacy, covering their face.
Is it OK to ask a visitor to remove
their face covering during a public
health emergency? Is it the right
response to refuse entry to anyone who
refuses to do so?
At the very least, this situation may
cause distress to a person who holds a
genuine anxiety about the prospect of
removing their face covering. Worse
still, it may well provoke an unwanted
reaction, possibly aggressive or violent
in nature. We’ve seen examples of this of
late where serious assaults on security
staff have resulted from their
enforcement of face coverings.
This set of circumstances has
propelled the subject of positive
engagement metaphorically and
practically to the front line. The ability
of staff to be able to communicate in a
natural and non-confrontational way
that effectively enables them to assess
risk, identify a potential threat and
intervene with skilful communication is
a highly valuable trait.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s by
far the most effective tool we have
within our own means. It’s an essential
skill, deeply embedded within the way
many providers of hospitality operate.
This isn’t a space for ‘tech’.
‘Security Through Service’
Within my own business, we have for
many years trained a ‘Security Through
Service’ programme for all employees.
At its core sits exemplary customer
service: to host, engage, welcome and
assist. Alternatively, to the customer
with a more dishonest intent: to
intervene, stop, question and suspect.
This is a powerful deterrent and, when
fully committed, will significantly
reduce workplace risk, detect otherwise
unseen circumstances and, potentially,
prevent more significant events.
Launched last year, the ‘See, Check
and Notify’ (SCaN) training product
from the National Counter-Terrorism
Security Office/Centre for the
Protection of National Infrastructure
recognises the ‘Power of Hello’ in its
training package of six modules
designed to help protect your workplace.
Alongside behavioural detection
methods it can be incredibly powerful
and effective. No ‘tech’ required.
As for face coverings? This is where
the art of vigilance, awareness and, most
importantly, communication plays its
ace card. It should not be a critical factor
if someone is or isn’t wearing a face
covering. The interaction itself should
feed the decision-making process
sufficiently to understand the situation.
Yes, there will always be sensitive
buildings or environments that
necessitate the need to remove face
coverings even momentarily, but it’s fair
to state that this will not be the case for
As we gear ourselves up for a much
awaited return to business, we’re
mindful that the broad set of risks we
faced before COVID-19 are still very
much present today, as we were so
tragically reminded with the recent
murder of three innocent people in my
home town of Reading.
There are always training needs to be
met. A strong sense of customer service-based
communication skills, I would
suggest, must be up there among the
most important to better protect our
businesses and those on the front line.
Darren Carter CPP MSyI FISRM is
Head of Group Security at Edwardian
Hotels and Vice-Chair of the ASIS
International UK Chapter