This article is a republication of an article we originally published in January of 2020. How could we have known how much the world would change soon afterwards for the security industry. The principles and practices described we still use to this day (although we have significantly upgraded the technology we use) . One of our comany values is that we use technology to empower people not replace them. This article and how we approach fast turnaround operational planning we believe embodies that ethos.
Last Sunday I was sitting at home looking forward to a day starting on a new project on Monday. This project had been planned for a number of weeks and all of the preparatory work had been done. Three hours, one phone call and one text message later we had 2 fastballs task which required staffing on Monday both on opposite sides of the country and both requiring small teams. Now I’m lucky that I work with amazing partners who have exceptional staff who regularly go above and beyond on these types of task but fastball tasks still carry risk. They carry risk from an operational, and a reputational perspective. While I realise that fastball tasks are a reality there is a right and wrong way of doing them. This article is a little about how I like to do them. It’s also about the benefits of documenting projects on an ongoing basis to support this.
Like I said above there is no perfect way to handle fastball security tasks. There are however good and bad ways. Bad ways include putting staff on site with no idea what they are walking into or any idea about the site itself. No risk assessment, no training, no briefing and no clue. I’m not saying that our way is the best way but it works for us. Its not perfect but it works. Its safe for the teams and its effective in operation.
Two different jobs
I’ve always been a big fan of gathering and keeping information on every project we have worked on. I’m sort of like a data hoarder. You never know when you might need it. Indeed, I’ve been known to carry out advances in hotels I’ve been staying in while on holidays, in conference centres and shopping centres. You can never have enough information. For one of the cases on Monday this proved to be an advantage. The site requested by a client was one that I had been on a training course in last year. I took some time at the end of the course to make up a quick site profile of the site including pictures and videos and stored it on our file sharing site. It also helped that the client was one we had worked with before and the type of project was one that we had worked on before with this client. With a couple of quick calls to the venue for info and some online resources I was able to construct a reasonable risk assessment, operational briefing, method statement and have it to the team before the job started. This was supported by a virtual brief on the morning after consultation with the client. All of this allowed the experienced professionals on the team to get to the site early and fill in any areas left on the documents before starting the job. The second job was slightly different. New client and new venue and short notice. Again, lucky to work with a great team in the local area. I was able to organise manpower coverage within the hour. Our preparatory work for an event such as this allowed me to securely share our list of apps and SOPS for advance work with the team. The team lead attended site within the hour after downloading our app list and advance checklist to his phone. Using apps such as Polycam, Magic Plan , iAuditor and Sectara we had an advance, risk assessment and operations order prepared in a couple of hours and transferred to our templates. A couple of hours after that I prepared a virtual briefing using the information for the team and delivered it in the morning. Two projects- 5 hours.
Technology in security
We are so blessed to work in the security industry where we have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. Leveraging technology in the form of mobile apps. file sharing and technology savvy security professionals means that we can produce high quality risk assessments, site reviews, and SOPS’s in a relatively short period of time. I’m not going to into all of the apps used from our list but special mention to a couple (above) and the methods we use to make sure we are all on the same page. I have devised two mobile application resource lists on our file server. Each list contain the full list of apps we use on project, their functions, and instruction for their use. One list is direct links to the App Store for iOS systems for each of the apps and the other is for Android devices (for those still living in the past). The user can direct download the apps to their device and we provide log ins for any premium services we have to use.
As I said above special mention to some really handy apps and platform including:
- 1. Polycam/AR measure – Live video in AR technology giving live measurements and distances on screen as it is recorded. Polycam also allows a 3d rendering of the room/building to be produced.
- 2. Magic Plan- Annotated floor plans designed by using the phone camera.
- 3. iAuditor – Safety risk assessment, checklists and SOP’s
- 4. Sectara (on laptop)- The best security risk assessment platform I’ve seen
- 5. Otter – transcription software
I did a close protection course many years back with a training provider who I continue to follow to this day. I learned a lot on the course but one of the concepts that stuck with me was the idea of constant information gathering about venues, areas and cultures. Every where I go I collect the tourist information, I collect venue information (we live scan these int the file share platform as we go) and I subscribe to a range of intelligence platforms around the world. The venue I described in Job 1 above I had attended a table top exercise for a major event last year. I had an hour to spare then so I did a walk through with my phone and discreetly recorded an annotated floor plan, layout of security and fire systems and venue facility information. I stored it on our file server not knowing that I ever might need it again. That time came this week. It never hurts to gather information of venues in down time and that methodology has served me well over time.
The benefit of being able to leverage technology coupled with security professionals who are equipped to use it has multiple benefits. I’m talking here about it in terms of corporate security or protective operations. It has applications for all sectors of the industry. I said above that managing fastball tasks will always carry more risk than a well planned and orchestrated contract mobilisation. No contract is risk free however and sometimes fastball tasks come up. Of course, you are perfectly entitled to say no and turn down a task (and I have done) if you cannot safely assess and respond to it.
- In terms of the benefits of my way these include:
- 1. Providing your team with a safe work environment allowing them to operate at their most productive.
- 2. Providing the team with an honest and transparent intelligence based job specification for the project.
- 3. Providing the client with real value for money and not just bodies on a job.
- 4. Protecting the clients reputation by providing a team which is informed and prepared.
You know that old saying about all of the P’s when it comes to preparation. Well it’s true. Ive seen it come through on so many accident and incident investigations over the year. Murphys Law is a real thing. I think as a professional provider of any type of security service putting yourself and your team in harms way deserves the best preparation and planning that you can do in the circumstances. Indeed sometimes it requires you to turn down work. But if there are tools out there that enable and support us in providing this preparation and enhancing our team safety then wouldnt we be foolish not to leverage them. Attempting to continue do what we have always done will only lead to one outcome. Remember the old Marine Corps mantra of Improvise, adapt, overcome. How about innovate,improvise adapt and overcome.