Canadian Security Magazine

More risks, new approaches in a post-COVID era

By Winston Stewart   

News Industry View

When it comes to retail and office space in the post-COVID era, it won’t be business as usual again.

While we may do away with masks, and see people cautiously return to public spaces, the pandemic has forever changed the way we work, shop, and live our lives.

This means owners of commercial spaces are faced with an avalanche of change management issues. Reimagined spaces, new technologies, health safeguards, and the hybrid workplace. There’s so much you may be grappling with!

It might seem to follow that with fewer people in your stores, restaurants, offices or service centres on a daily basis, your security services and guards may also be scaled back, right? Just like desks and square footage? Unfortunately, this is not the case and a very dangerous assumption.

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With fewer employees and customers on site at once and changing tenant expectations, now is the time to rethink and reconfigure — not scale back — your security systems on site.

A tech-led approach to commercial security
In securing the office or retail space of tomorrow, technology will lead the way. Live security guards will remain vital — especially with lower numbers of people on your sites and more/different risks to your premises, and the personal safety of customers and workers on site moving between less populated spaces of buildings/malls and retail centres.

While the number of guards on site may possibly be reduced, more secondary security systems must now be in place for office and retail site owners to have complete peace of mind. Security technology systems that commercial site owners should be investing in include:

  • Virtual concierge — cameras that conduct exterior patrols that a live officer can monitor from the central desk
  • Upgraded CCTV systems and recording equipment throughout the site
  • Access control systems (with browser and mobile access)
  • Glass break, carbon monoxide and motion detectors
  • New card access systems to control traffic in different areas of the building

With all this new tech comes a need for a new breed of security guard. No longer does the stereotype of the old guard sitting at the desk, checking badges and greeting visitors, apply. The security guards of tomorrow will need to be cross-trained, tech-savvy and aware of the threats present in the post-COVID world.

They will also have to be up to speed on new health and safety regulations. And of course, they must confidently exude an aura of vigilance. This means even greater care must be taken when selecting your guards. Don’t risk putting any individual on watch at your building who does not have the right character, confidence or mandatory training in the latest technology and safety policies. They must be able to proficiently use electronic systems and to navigate building security systems with ease. Trained guards, familiar with key software and savvy in security technology, should be a mandatory prerequisite.

Good communication skills needed
In addition to being tech-savvy, the commercial building guard of the future needs to possess excellent people and customer service skills.

As the nature of building use itself changes, the ability to liaise with employees, shoppers and visitors in a variety of situations is becoming more of a priority. Your commercial building itself may be in the midst of a major transformation. Multiplexes are on the rise: buildings or complexes where people are coming not just for work, but for shopping, dining, exercise and other purposes. Security guards protecting these new multi-use facilities will need to liaise with the public in a myriad of ways, from providing friendly customer service and vital information to emergency response.

More than ever, your guard will be the first face of your facility — playing an essential role in “public perception.” They will need to respond quickly and professionally when someone requires help with their shopping bag, when there is a slip and fall in the parking lot but also when there is a crime, a serious mechanical failure or suspicious activity.

Site specific training and protocols
If a guard does not have the right combination of tech skills, people savvy, diligence (“duty of care”), and site-specific routines and protocols, you may be exposing your building to costly liabilities.

Especially in the post-COVID era, most sites have their own expanded set of rules and health and safety protocols. Each guard needs to be brought up to speed and trained on the requirements and site protocols of each specific location before they arrive for duty.

Here’s a quick rundown of key duties for security guards in the commercial facility of tomorrow:

  • Enforcing new safety regulations
  • Using customer service skills to assist visitors, workers, shoppers and tenants, especially in multi-use facilities
  • Overseeing new fire safety roles to safeguard vacant or less traveled areas
  • Expanding patrols and monitoring of more extensive spaces, including car parking, open-access sites and queuing systems
  • Monitoring, programming and sometimes installing new technology security systems
  • Applying higher levels of crowd control and traffic management
  • Assisting customers and workers in navigating new layouts and protocols
  • Overseeing cameras and conducting mobile patrols
  • Enforcing processes by screening visitors

What steps can you take to prepare for the future of commercial security? The best way to begin is with a comprehensive security assessment of your facility by a trusted security provider. Whether you own a store, restaurant, office building or multi-use facility, no two locations are the same, and a custom approach to your security needs is vital.

Winston Stewart is the president and CEO of Wincon Security (wincon-security.com).


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