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 and one phone call and one text message later I had 2 fastballs tasks needing 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 leveraging technology and documenting projects to support this.
There is no perfect way to handle fastball security tasks. There are however good and bad ways. Bad ways include putting guys 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 my way is the best way but it works for me. 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 I’ve done. 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 on on holiday or for leisure and in conference centres and shopping centres, just in case. For one of my projects 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 picture and videos a 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 send 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 blank on the documents before starting the job.
The second job was slightly different. New client, new venue and short notice. Again I’m 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 AR measure, Magic Plan , iAuditor and Sectara (more on these later) 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 for the team and delivered it in the morning.
Two projects- 5 hours.
We are so blessed to work in the security industry at a time where we have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. Leveraging technology in the form of mobile apps, web platforms, 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 periods of time. I’m not going to into all of the apps used form our list but special mention to a couple (above) and the method 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 projects including their functions, and instructions 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:
- AR measure – Live video in AR technology giving live measurements and distances on screen as it is recorded.
- Magic Plan- Annotated floor plans designed by using the phone camera.
- iAuditor – Safety risk assessment, checklists and SOP’s
- Sectara (on laptop)- The best security risk assessment platform I’ve seen
- 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 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 30 minutes to spare at the end 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 filer 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.
Virtual Briefing and debriefing
I regularly carry out virtual briefing and debriefing over a variety of platforms. Its something I have done for a while and long before a pandemic forced it upon us. The ability to talk to a team remotely and share videos, drawings and files remotely and real time is real advantage. It really has the potential to work across all sectors of the industry for briefing and supervision purposes. There is no reason why a security company supervisor cant have a 10 minute check in call each day with each site remotely and share all of the daily tasks and updates each day. Leveraged correctly it could enhance supervision across the sector. This hinges on 2 things though. Firstly, hiring technology aware security operatives who will be the future of the industry and secondly supervisors who are capable of providing a professional briefing properly.
Debriefing afterwards is also a technology enhanced process. While Job 1 was debriefed by the Team Leader I was able to debrief Job 2 at the end from my own project 150km away. The debrief was recorded along with all of the notes and photos shared by the on site team and later transcribed by Otter for future reference.
The process of leveraging 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 however. 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:
- Providing your team with a safe work environment allowing them to operate at their most productive.
- Providing the team with an honest and transparent intelligence based job specification for the project. ‘
- Providing the client with real value for money and not just bodies on a job.
- Protecting the clients reputation by providing a team which is informed and prepared.
The future is coming faster than we all think and if we dont innovate then we die. I’m finding myself spending more and more time on R&D and looking at the future. Mobile SOC, drones, VR and AR are all here and developing. Leverage it or your competition will. Man has always used tools to give us competitive advantage and technology is the current generation of tools
You know that old saying about all of the P’s when it comes to preparation. Well its true. I’ve seen it come through on so many accident and incident investigations over the years. Murphy’s Law is also 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 teams safety then wouldn’t 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 and overcome. How about innovate, improvise adapt and overcome?