Women putting on face mask while at work.

Critical Security Risk Guidelines for COVID-19 Recovery and Reopening

Government officials, professional sports organizations and business owners alike are under increasing public and economic pressure to reopen their literal and figurative doors. Whether they elect to do so this week or months from now, they need to be prepared for a new normal.

As a security professional, how do you contribute to a reopening strategy that’s complicated by health concerns, the ongoing risk of contagion and a public that ranges from overly eager to apprehensive? You have a duty to help your organization re-establish operations in a manner that instills confidence among employees and customers, as well as steels their organization against the ongoing risks of COVID-19.

To help you set the foundation for a reopening strategy, our security risk and threat experts have developed recommendations organized into the following categories:

1) Workforce Wellness
2) Business Continuity and Emergency Management
3) Post-COVID-19 – Business Is Anything but Usual

Workforce Wellness

#1: Prepare your employees for what the ‘new normal’ may look like.

Your employees need to feel confident that they’re returning to a workplace that is safe and prepared, but they may not be as ready to transition into the new normal as they think. Consider the impact social distancing requirements – that some experts estimate may need to be maintained until 2022 – will have on everything from floor plans to workstations and common areas.

Tactics and devices that two months ago would have seemed invasive will need to be normalized. Bluetooth-enabled wristbands that alert workers if they get too close to each other, thermal heat sensors that detect if someone is running a fever, and mandatory restrictions on coming to work while ill can all have an effect on workforce morale. Even when following best practices, employers can run the risk of hindering productivity and creating resentment in the workplace.

To overcome these challenges, your organization should have a clear, transparent Pandemic Recovery Plan that outlines key protocols and procedures for returning to work – and what to do when someone becomes ill afterward. Tell your employees about it. Start preparing them as early as possible for the changes they will see when they return to work. This should also help you return to expected levels of productivity sooner.

Person holding sign that says "avoid contact with sick people" Covid-19

#2: Don’t ignore the ‘silent pandemic.’ Publicize mental health resources as part of your recovery efforts.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly seen following crises. The negative impact COVID-19 can have on mental health has been coined the “silent pandemic.” A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45 percent of U.S. adults reported increased worry and stress over the virus. Past studies show that similar pandemics, like Ebola and SARS, resulted in long-term trauma, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Take advantage of May as the Mental Health Awareness Month to open a dialogue with your workforce about mental health or substance abuse issues and how they may have been exacerbated or even caused by COVID-19.

Make sure your employees are aware of the resources they have to help individuals struggling with trauma and stress, including employee assistance programs (EAPs), tele-therapy services that may be covered by insurance and mental health awareness training. In some extreme cases, mental health issues can increase the risk of workplace violence.

Training is an excellent way to empower your entire workforce to identify and assist someone who may be on a path toward hurting themselves or others. We offer our clients mental health awareness training that give employees the knowledge they need to recognize if someone is struggling – and outlines the protocols they can follow to get that person help.

#3: Revisit your workplace violence prevention programs in light of new stressors.

Another unfortunate result of the stress brought on by a global pandemic is a heightened risk for workplace violence. The pathway to violence is the result of a complex ecosystem of internal factors and external stressors all of which could have been intensified by COVID-19. Even when employees are working remotely, the warning signs of violence can be readily apparent to employees who are trained to recognize them.

As teams report back to their respective workplaces, it’s even more important to reinforce the reporting process for behaviors of concern. It’s also a good idea to conduct training to refresh employees before they transition back into the workplace. Online workplace violence prevention training is an excellent way to prepare employees ahead of their return to work.

#4: Assess whether you and your family are ready to tackle the next year. After all, prevention begins at home.

If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that the public can work together to save lives and flatten the curve. You have the power to protect others, yourself and your family, and we want to make sure that you can continue to do so with best practices on your side.

When working with private clients or executive protection engagements, we help families gain assurance that they are prepared for the future. A family emergency management plan is a great place to start and can include guidance on family relocation, communications and supply stockpiling. We also suggest fortifying household cybersecurity, especially as hackers and other cybercriminals step up their attacks in light of COVID-19.

Ensuring you have critical supplies at home is a key focus of family emergency planning. We also help clients ensure their safety while traveling, something that’s taken on an entirely new meaning since the pandemic began. Whether we are talking six months, a year or beyond, the risk of illness or disease outbreak adds another layer of complexity to travel safety. Having a safe-travel plan that details potential hazards and critical support resources will be a necessity for international and domestic travel moving forward.

We also help clients ensure their safety while traveling, something that’s taken on an entirely new meaning since the pandemic began. Whether we are talking six months, a year or beyond, the risk of illness or disease outbreak adds another layer of complexity to travel safety. Having a safe-travel plan that details potential hazards and critical support resources will be a necessity for international and domestic travel moving forward.

Business Continuity and Emergency Management

#5: Make – and keep – pandemic preparedness a team effort.

As part of COVID-19 response initiatives, some organizations convened committees or teams to track and implement responses to this crisis. These teams were likely made up of heads of security, human resources leaders, communications and other key departments. Even as the nation transitions into a recovery phase and outbreaks subside, these teams need to remain diligent. Team members also need to return their attention to their “day jobs.” What many firms will find is that identifying a permanent team member to handle this function, typically within the security or emergency response team, is necessary to manage the ongoing demands of disease outbreaks.

Until a vaccine is readily available, COVID-19 will remain a health risk and it’s not likely to be the last one. Two of the many lessons COVID-19 is teaching the world are:
(1) how to prepare for a global pandemic, and
(2) that being ill-prepared can have devastating consequences.

To that end, organizations should have experienced emergency and pandemic response teams – either in- house or as external consultants – readily available to help them mitigate the future impact of potential outbreaks.

For example, employers need to know how to reintegrate the “certified recovered” (i.e., the people who are immune to the disease) before those employees who may be more vulnerable. Employers may need to reevaluate the physical layout of their offices as well.

Office showing phsyical layout that spreads people out.

#6: Prepare for a natural disaster in the context of a pandemic with an emergency management plan.

Forecasters predict that at least 23 states will experience severe flooding this year. Federal forecasters are warning of major flooding, a particularly rough hurricane season and a longer fire season – all of which is due to occur during COVID-19 response and recovery. With an event like Hurricane Katrina as our guide, we can learn how a lack of coordination and profiteering can contribute to a response that leaves the most vulnerable behind.

But industry leaders have an opportunity to prepare for these extreme weather events now – and potentially leverage their existing COVID-19 protocols in the process. There are many factors to consider –for example, how do you tell people to evacuate if they have been sheltering in place to avoid the virus – but an emergency preparedness plan can account for all those variables.

For example, employers can:

  • Update emergency response plans to account for anticipated COVID-19 resource losses
  • Leverage technology to develop a virtual emergency response team
  • Host virtual emergency response meetings while employees are sheltering at home

Post-COVID-19 – Business Is Anything but Usual

#7: Mitigate disruptions to your business with stronger supply chain due diligence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted established supply chains and vendor relationships. As state and local governments, healthcare systems and private companies try to navigate what has been described as “the wild west” of purchasing, organizations are dealing with “people we would never normally do business with,” as one client stated.

As people go back out into the world, the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) will continue to expand beyond the typical users. The average business will need ready access to face masks, disposable gloves and cleaning supplies in quantities that may not be available from their usual vendors.

We are now working with clients to conduct expedited, targeted vendor due diligence investigations that go beyond a “check-the-box” watchlist screening. Companies need meaningful information about vendors, often within hours of a request. These vendor due diligence investigations provide our clients with a much-needed level of assurance when they are under pressure to secure supplies. These investigations also signal when it’s time to look for a new source.

#8: Re-evaluate the effectiveness of physical and technical security measures.

Cybersecurity professionals across the globe have banded together to combat unrelenting phishing attacks. With many workspaces still cleared out because of COVID-19, some of our clients are taking this opportunity to conduct in-depth re-evaluations of their physical and technical security capabilities.

An empty or near-empty facility provides a clean slate for our security experts to conduct technical counter-surveillance measures (TCSM) sweeps, perform penetration tests to identify vulnerable access points, assess the effectiveness of video recording equipment and examine other security and safety measures, especially those that relate to a pandemic preparedness plan. It’s also much safer for our team and our clients as we’re able to do all this without coming in close contact with employees.

This is also an opportunity to train, or retrain, your workforce on security protocols. It could be as simple as an emailed update reminding people to stay diligent about access points or, if your facility is more accessible or higher risk, a short security awareness training course that reinforces your security measures and how employees should respond to a potential breach.

#9: Ensure cybersecurity strategies are adaptive to the lockdown-relaxation cycle.

Until a vaccine is readily available, outbreaks in various hotspots could trigger more lockdowns after social distancing is relaxed more broadly. This means that, at any given time, employees may need to start working from home at a moment’s notice. Make sure your cybersecurity training reinforces the importance of diligence no matter where an employee is located. As people shift back into on-location working environments, now is the time to work with your cybersecurity vendor to increase bandwidth, expand data centers or implement virtual private network (VPN) protocols to help keep your firm’s data and intellectual property secure.

Conclusion
The world we will all emerge into is dramatically different from the one we knew weeks ago, possibly even a few hours ago. Organizations need to respond to and evolve with an environment that may appear out of their control, which is why it’s so important to focus on the things we can control. These recommendations highlight critical areas of safety, security and prevention that can set you up for a successful recovery strategy – no matter what the future holds.

For help developing and implementing your recovery strategy, contact us.

Photo of a women employee working on laptop on desk, looking out a window.

Employee Safety Concerns – Ashley’s Story

Knight Protection Services, LLC was initially created to assist homeowners with protecting their home, their family and their assets. As we began working with more and more residential clients, one of them asked if we would be willing to consult with her property management at the building where she works.

Our client, “Ashley”, began telling us her concerns when she was going into the office.

“It usually starts first thing in the morning when I get to work before anyone else. There is a detached parking deck that I park in and then I walk to the stairwell, down to the bottom level and over to the lobby. When I walk sometimes I feel uneasy, almost like I’m being watched.

“There are sometimes other cars around, but most of the time the parking deck is empty. I also know that the property management has an unarmed security guard that works on the premises and should be walking through the parking deck to maintain security. I have never seen the security guard early in the morning and also while I walk, every other light is out or flickering and there aren’t any cameras except near the stairwells.”

Photo of inside of a parking garage.

As she spoke, I recognized that this led to her discomfort because not only is no one watching the majority of the parking deck, security isn’t walking through the parking deck and the dark areas cause spots where she can’t really tell if anyone is there.

She mentioned that this happens quite often which has caused her to dictate her hours around when more employees are already there or when the sun is out, so the parking deck is well lit. The more she told me, the more I was amazed with her daily struggle. At this point, she hadn’t even made it in the building yet!

This is a huge negative impact on an employee that is obviously showing that she wants to excel, wants to be a top contributor and loves what she is doing.

Next, she began describing what it was like as she arrived inside the building.

“Then as I walk into the lobby I’m never greeted by the security staff, and I never see the doors locked. Can it really be that easy to get in the building? Somehow, the security staff always have their face buried into the console or their phone. This is frustrating because it’s always the same. I don’t care if they say hello, I’m just worried about who could just waltz right into the building without being stopped.

“I see that the building usually does well with the access control on the elevators and I like that my floor is locked down. But there’s a really friendly girl that works on the 7th floor who always badges a stranger on to her floor. I don’t understand why you would just assume that person is supposed to be there if the floor is locked down. Is that the standard practice for everyone in the building?

“My floor has limited access and clients have to be badged up the elevator. But sometimes I see that the stairwell door gets propped open overnight sometimes, maybe from the cleaning staff? I don’t know who props the “secure” doors open.”

Photo of elevator in office building.

Much of what Ashley told me I have seen time and time again. Too often, different employees and clients will get complacent in the assumed safety at work. Letting a stranger on another floor might be polite, but maybe it was never explained to that nice lady on the 7th floor that it isn’t safe to assume they belong there.

Similarly, you may recognize the person, but they forgot their badge, so you help them out this one time. What they don’t mention is their ill intentions after being fired and removed from the property last week.

Speak To Your Property Management

Ashley went to the property management and voiced her concern about everything she told me about. Their response was great! They saw the value in bringing in an outside, objective opinion to complete an audit of their security protocols and operations.

When they hired us, we did just that. We took an in- depth look at the security measures they had emplaced from the curb all the way to the c-suite. We looked at what the security team was or wasn’t doing. We looked at their employee handbook, their tenant handbook and their security handbook.

We found several vulnerabilities that could lead to terrible PR and an unaffordable lawsuit. They wanted to show each of their valued clients that they took the proactive measures to make sure if you came to their property, you were safe and well protected.

Security Audits Protect Your Assets

Our security audits will help you, the responsible party, show that you weren’t negligent in caring for your employees, clients and visitors. You brought in an objective mind that looked at your protocols, practices and daily operations. Taking the proactive steps that we will recommend will help provide peace of mind to all the people visiting your property and help you have peace of mind knowing you have done everything you could to keep them safe.

If you are an employee and need assistance with approaching your Property Manager regarding safety concerns, please call Knight Protections Services, LLC at (404) 771-9368.

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12 Ways to Protect Your Home While Traveling

When leaving for a vacation, protecting your home is essential. Take the time to carefully plan appropriate home security and maintenance to fully enjoy your trip and give you peace of mind while you’re away.

traveling-airport

Here are 12 steps to take to protect your property while traveling:

Do This: Turn on Your Security System

It’s important to not only have a reliable security alarm installed, but also turned on. While this may seem like common sense, many people, including wealthy celebrities with a lot of valuables in their homes are burglarized because they fail to activate their security system when they leave home. This is an especially crucial step to remember when you are heading out of town for an extended period of time.

Do This: Don’t Tip-Off Social Media

While it may be tempting to post your vacation photos on Facebook or Instagram, you letting the entire world (or at least your connections) know you are away from your home, leaves you vulnerable to burglary. Also, resist checking in at the airport or various exotic locations and avoid status updates like “Hawaii here we come!”. If you must, share your photos only with trusted connections and do it after you’ve arrived back to your safe, secure home.

Do This: Lock Up

Locking up your house may seem like common sense, but it’s critical to lock every possible entry into your home, not just the front door, but the back door, garage door, windows, patio doors, everything. And all with a deadbolt if possible.

hidden-spare-home-keys

Do This: Remove Spare Keys

If not whether you have a spare key hidden on your property, whether under the mat or in a fake stone, you don’t want to leave if not them out while you’re on vacation. When no one’s home, a would-be-thief has all the time in the world to carefully search your property until he finds what he’s looking for. An expert burglar knows all the most common hiding spots that you think are fooling him but aren’t.

Do This: Reprogram Your GPS

If you leave your car at the airport or even in your hotel parking lot overnight, a thief can break into your vehicle and simply access the “Home” setting on your GPS, leading him right to your unoccupied property. Instead, try setting your address in your GPS to a nearby intersection, that way you still get directed home, but won’t lead any bad guys there.

Do This: Put Valuables in the Safe

Before you head out of town, put any cash, expensive jewelry, guns, or family heirlooms in a safe. That way, in the event your home is broken into, the burglars won’t have access to your most valuable possessions.

Do This: Have Someone Keep an Eye on Your Property

knight-protection-services-logoOne of the best ways to protect your home is to have someone keep an eye on your property. Many turn to neighbors with whom they have a good rapport and ask them to watch out for any suspicious activity while they’re away. Some even go as far as to provide a neighbor with a spare key to come in and feed the cat, bring in the mail, etc.

However, it’s important to consider how well you actually know your neighbors. Do you trust them not to go into your home and rifle through your things? If not, you could ask a friend or family member to come by and check on your house a few times a week. If you don’t implicitly trust your neighbors or have a friend or family member who’ll do it, it’s best to bring in a security professional.

You can also try calling your local police department to let them know you’re going on vacation. They’ll often send an extra patrol or two through your neighborhood to establish a presence. While this isn’t a replacement for asking someone trusted to stop by a few times, it is an additional layer of security.

Do This: Install Timers on Your Electronics

When it comes to showing a human presence within your home, lighting is a crucial component. If your home is dark for a week straight, that’s a clear sign that you’re on vacation. You also don’t want to leave the porch light on the entire time either.

A simple and affordable solution is to install a few well-placed timers in your home that have been programmed to turn on lights and other electronics like TVs and radios at specified times of the day. Be sure to buy timers that work at random intervals, as you wouldn’t want the lights to turn on every day at precisely 6 pm and turn off every night at exactly midnight. Criminals keeping an eye out on your neighborhood will surely notice these kinds of patterns and target your home for an intrusion. More and more people also have access to smart home devices like light bulbs and electrical outlets that can be turned on and off from any location using their smartphone.

knight-protection-services-12-ways-to-protect-your-home-while-traveling-infographic

Do This: Have Someone Mow the Lawn/Shovel the Driveway

A big giveaway that someone is on vacation is an unkempt lawn or a snow-filled driveway completely free of footprints. So in the summer, have your landscaping company mow your lawn even while you’re away, and in the winter enlist a friend, family member, neighbor or security company to clear your driveway and sidewalks of snow.

Do This: Stop the Mail

An overflowing mailbox and a pile of packages on the porch are clear indications that you’ve been away for an extended period. Have USPS put your mail on hold until you get back. Or ask a trusted friend/relative/neighbor to come by regularly to pick up your mail.

If you know you’re going to be away, it’s best not to order things that are scheduled to arrive while you’re gone. But if something does need to be delivered, you can also stop UPS and FedEx service or hold the packages at a pickup location. However, it can be a pain to retrieve those packages later. The most convenient option is to hire a full-service security company that can handle bringing in your mail and packages and many other tasks as opposed to inconveniencing your friends, family, neighbors, or yourself.

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Do This: Have Someone Take Out the Trash

Trash sitting outside for a week or more not only stinks and may attract pests, but it can also attract thieves. Trash visible from the curb is also a clue to burglars if everyone else’s cans in the neighborhood are empty. Ask a trusted neighbor to bring your trashcans out and back in on trash day to avoid this.

Do This: Hire a Security Service

One option that covers many of these tactics is to hire a reputable security service. While it may seem more cost effective to enlist a family member, a friend, a neighbor or a house sitter to accomplish these things, these individuals cannot always be trusted or relied upon to do the job.

A security professional has been background checked and is trained to spot any security vulnerabilities on your property. He or she can also do everything including watering your plants, collecting your mail and packages, scheduling your lawn service, optimizing your alarm system, feeding and walking your pet, and so much more.

Who’s protecting your assets while you’re away? Contact us to learn how our Asset Overwatch service can help.

bank-of-america-building-atlanta

3 Ways to Deter Criminal Activity While You’re Away

Atlanta is a great place to live. It’s home to an assortment of wonderful people, vibrant music, movies, arts and other industries, and an array of beautiful neighborhoods — both old and new. However, not everything in Atlanta is peaches and sweet tea.

In this article, we’ll review the crime rates in Atlanta, as well as some of its most popular suburbs and inner-city neighborhoods. We’ll then discuss three ways to protect your home while you’re away, whether you live in these neighborhoods or anywhere in the country.

Crime Rates in Atlanta

While Atlanta may be the third fastest-growing metro area in the nation, with 90,000 people moving here between 2016 and 2017, it’s also a hotbed for criminal activity.

  • The Atlanta metro area had three times the national violent crime rate in 2016, with 1,084 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Atlanta residents.
  • The city was also one of America’s top 25 murder capitals.
  • The overall crime rate in Atlanta is 123% higher than the national average.
  • In Atlanta, you have a one in 16 chance of becoming a victim of any crime.
  • When it comes to property crimes, Atlanta is 114% higher than the national average.

Let’s take a closer look at the crime rates of some of the most popular cities and neighborhoods in the Atlanta metro area.

Smyrna, GA

One of the most densely populated cities in the metro area, the crime rate in Smyrna is considerably higher than the national average in America.

  • The chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in Smyrna is one in 31.
  • Relative to Georgia, Smyrna has a crime rate that is higher than 68% of the state’s cities and towns of all sizes.
  • The chance that a person will become a victim of a violent crime in Smyrna; such as armed robbery, aggravated assault, rape or murder; is one in 267.
  • Your chance of becoming a victim of a property crime in Smyrna, including motor vehicle theft, arson, larceny, and burglary, is one in 36.

Marietta, GA

One of Atlanta’s largest and most sought-after suburbs, Marietta has one of the highest crime rates in America at 42 per one thousand residents.

  • One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 24.
  • Within Georgia, more than 77% of the communities have a lower crime rate than Marietta.
  • The chance that a person will become a victim of a violent crime in Marietta is one in 241.
  • Your chance of becoming a victim of a property crime is one in 26, which is a rate of 38 per one thousand population.

Buckhead

Known as one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Atlanta and ranked among the top 100 wealthiest zip codes in the U.S., Buckhead is a prime target for criminals looking to prey on those with valuable assets stored inside their properties.

  • The overall crime rate in Buckhead is 54% higher than the national average.
  • For every 100,000 people, there are 11.96 daily crimes that occur in Buckhead.
  • In Buckhead, you have a one in 23 chance of becoming a victim of any crime.
  • The chance of being a victim of property crime in Buckhead is one in 25.

West End

The West End is one of the worst neighborhoods in Atlanta when it comes to crime statistics. Those living in this area should take every precaution to keep your families, homes, businesses and other assets safe.

  • The overall crime rate in the West End is 186% higher than the national average.
  • For every 100,000 people, there are 22.2 daily crimes that occur in the West End.
  • In the West End, you have a one in 13 chance of becoming a victim of any crime.
  • The chance of being a victim of property crime in the West End is one in 17.

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3 Steps to Deter Crime from Happening While You Are Away

Now that you know how likely you are to be the victim of a crime in Atlanta, it’s time to take some serious measures to ensure protection for yourself, your loved ones and your assets. Here are three things to consider:

Step 1: Assess Your Risk

Do you know how safe your property is? If you think for one second that locking the doors and activating your security alarm is enough to prevent a crime from happening on your property, you’re fooling yourself. Determined criminals have likely plotted out several ways to victimize you that you’ve never even thought about.

And that alarm monitoring service that you think is protecting you will actually do nothing to prevent a crime from happening, it will only alert the authorities after a crime has already occurred.

To prevent a crime before it happens, it’s imperative that you do an audit of your property, looking for any and every way a savvy criminal could use to get in.

If you’re not a savvy criminal or someone with extensive security experience, hiring a professional is a good idea. Someone trained to think like a criminal and well-versed in the latest security tools, technologies and methodologies can give you a comprehensive overview of your property, pinpointing where your vulnerabilities lie and how to fix them. By taking care of the issues facing your home now, you’ll feel that much more secure when you leave.

Step 2: Reinforce Your Property

Burglars will typically avoid a house if it is too difficult to gain entry. After assessing your risk, you should have a good idea of what you need to do to increase the security of your home. This may include:

  • Additional exterior lighting
  • Updated locks
  • Optimizing your alarm system
  • Video monitoring
  • Reinforced entry points
  • Removing overgrown brush or other structures to allow proper sight lines

Step 3: Give the Appearance of Presence

Some dead giveaways that a homeowner is away for an extended period of time are newspapers piled up in the driveway, letters overflowing from the mailbox, porch lights left on all day and unkept lawns. A few ways to avoid letting on that no one is home include:

  • Placing a hold on your mail delivery from USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.
  • Installing timed lighting to come on at random times throughout the day and night to give the appearance of activity inside the home
  • Asking a neighbor to routinely check on your property while you’re away
  • Scheduling the landscapers to come while you’re away so your yard stays neat looking.

However, if you’re too busy to set these things up yourself, don’t have a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your home while you’re away, or desire a higher level of protection for your valuable assets, an alternative would be to hire a team of trusted security professionals to conduct security sweeps, pick up your mail, install timers, feed the dog, water the plants and more.

The trauma of being victimized by burglary can have long-lasting psychological effects. Anyone in possession of valuable assets should take the necessary steps to ensure their protection while they’re away. Being proactive about the safety of your property goes a long way toward warding off criminal activity.