Mission Critical: Maintaining Threat Awareness in the Time of Coronavirus

Larry Bowman

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Oct 29, 2020

Right now, maintenance of social distancing, self-quarantining, washing hands and cleaning surfaces defines risk management – and rightly so. However, as we battle the ongoing reality and impact of COVID-19, it is also important to consider the holistic risks posed to companies as pandemic infection rates are surging across North America and Europe.

2020 has seen major volatility with respect to the safety and security of companies and their employees. It’s never too late for corporate leaders to plan for the various threats that face them while balancing business continuity efforts during the pandemic.

Key Considerations for Staying Vigilant of Threats Amid COVID-19

It is vital to ensure that critical elements of our pre-coronavirus safety, security and risk posture remain as strong as possible.

  • Review security assessments via conference calls or webinars, with company leadership or trusted advisors to ensure they rate pre-coronavirus risks on a scale of low to high risk based on their present likelihood and impact under current conditions.
  • Emergency response and business continuity plans should be reviewed with specific attention paid to the implementation of lessons learned in the initial and ongoing response to the coronavirus and the implications those lessons hold for other threat scenarios. A strong emphasis should be placed on succession planning, cross training, remote support, the viability of alternate locations and the refinement of conditions guiding the availability and use of essential personnel at each level of the organization. Emergency response plans should be revised to consider the potential impact of depleted first response and detail the use of other supplemental resources. For facilities such as stadiums, hotels and convention centers, emergency management plans as well as site operation plans and guidelines should be at the ready for use by the requesting federal, state and local entities and revised to meet the new need while maximizing site protection.
  • Contracted or proprietary security personnel should be augmented to mitigate shift fatigue and facilitate breaks. Every reasonable effort should be made to ensure on-site security and facility personnel are provided with multi-mode communication equipment, food, lodging and personal protective equipment (PPE). Security personnel should be fully debriefed on how emergency protocols and responses may have changed, such as varied security patrols.
  • Critical security system infrastructure such as video surveillance, access control, lighting and intrusion detection should be tested for full functionality particularly given facilities may have been vacant for some time. Any repairs needed to these systems should be given immediate priority. Furthermore, security leaders should pursue methods of monitoring and controlling these systems remotely.
  • The safety and security of critical infrastructure such as HVAC, electrical, fuel storage, water and mechanical systems, should be ensured through protective fencing and gating, locks, tamper proof seals, audible alarms and video surveillance. These infrastructure elements, which are vital to the health and operation of a facility and its occupants, can be prime targets for threat actors particularly when easily accessible. Therefore, proactive and thorough identification of potential threats to any one or more of these critical infrastructure systems must be a part of the ongoing threat assessment program.
  • Open source intelligence must be maintained, if not increased, during this time of increased web traffic due to more social isolation to identify inappropriate, deceptive, threatening or illegal behavior or activities that may affect the security of their personnel, leadership or facilities. Ensuring designated personnel working remotely are equipped and trained to monitor social media and alert security and leadership to items of concern is a must.
  • Online security awareness training focused on areas such as cyber security, active assailant response, threat response protocol awareness, workplace violence prevention and company security policies ensures that your workforce stays informed no matter where their office may be. Furthermore, as human resources and security leaders shift from pandemic response to reopening mode, the challenges they will face continue to mount. As some employees transition into roles that require them to enforce health and safety guidelines (e.g., social distancing, facial masks), they will be even more in need of training on how to deal with security and threat risks.

The current environment meets many definitions of “worst-case scenario”. Staying vigilant and focusing on the safety and security helps companies stay resilient during the ongoing threat of COVID-19.