5 Best Practices for Business Continuity
For those of us on the East Coast, Hurricane Matthew provided a sobering reminder of the natural disasters that can disrupt business operations. As we head into the winter months, which often bring weather-related challenges of varying inconvenience, now is an excellent time to review business continuity plans (BCPs) and test their relevance—namely, before an actual emergency.
As providers of security services, Sunstates has an inherent interest in clients’ disaster response plans. After all, our personnel typically play key roles in their execution. Understanding an organization’s internal plan allows us to tailor our site-specific instructions and training programs accordingly.
For years, our managers have discussed business continuity with clients on a monthly basis, and we’ve noticed some interesting trends of late:
- Significantly more organizations consider these plans a priority than five years ago.
- Today, workplace violence is a primary driver of these plans; natural disasters used to be the main concern.
In any case, an effective plan will help an organization prepare for both man-made and weather-related crises.
Business Continuity Best Practices
Following are some of the ways that we support client business continuity, including lessons learned from our own efforts:
- Table-top exercises. On at least an annual basis, companies should schedule time to walk through an emergency scenario to review the effectiveness of their emergency response plan. During one such exercise, we determined that loss of power would automatically activate magnetic locks at all external doors to the facility—and no one, including the security team, could access the property. As a result, the client installed special universal lock boxes with building keys, providing codes and box locations to the fire department and security team.
- Double-duty employees. Such practice scenarios have prompted several organizations to assign security personnel to certain positions, where they can help support business continuity efforts. For example, many companies are using trained security officers in receptionist positions, who can help identify potential dangers as they greet each visitor or employee who enters the facility.
- Communications. The ubiquity of smartphones and mass notification systems like Punch Alert, which can pinpoint employees’ locations within a building or campus, have made it easy to notify community members of a potential threat and to provide two-way communication with security personnel and emergency responders. At the same time, many organizations depend too heavily upon modern communication tools. A strong plan needs to include old-school tactics, such as floor marshals and meeting points.
- Redundancy. Similar to the double-edged sword of modern communications, disaster response plans often fail to include adequate redundancy. In addition to factoring in back-up forms of communication, businesses need to assign alternate team leaders, in case the assigned individual is at the doctor’s office, on maternity leave, or even no longer with the firm.
- Frequent updates. Recognizing that these efforts detract from other responsibilities, we recommend reviewing these plans monthly—or as often as feasible. At Sunstates we discuss our internal plan at the corporate and regional levels every month, discussing any changes—such as personnel vacancies—that could affect business continuity. Our managers can assist clients with this internal effort to reduce the time investment.
One benefit that all Sunstates clients receive is access to the Sunstates Mutual Aid Rapid Response Team (SMARRT) program. Started 10 years ago in response to Hurricane Katrina, we have expanded this program, training and certifying more than 10% of our full-time employees throughout our service area. These individuals train to work in small, self-sufficient teams and are ready for deployment at a moment’s notice.
If you have any questions about how Sunstates can support your business continuity efforts, please call us at 866-710-2019 or email us.
Training Spotlight: Fighting Violence with Preparedness
On September 11, 2016, Sunstates Security Officer Antoine Worsley of Raleigh, N.C., received the Ralph Day Security Officer Heroism Award from the ASIS International Security Services Council. The award recognized Worsley’s life-saving heroism on January 12, 2016, when he responded to a fight outside his assigned office building.
Three men were punching and kicking a fourth man, on the ground, who had previously attempted to rob one of his attackers. Worsley advised the individuals to “go their separate ways.” As the group dispersed, the man on the ground pulled out a knife and stabbed one of his assailants multiple times.
The armed man continued to threaten the other individuals, even after learning the police were en route. Worsley approached him from behind and grabbed his arm, forcing him to drop the weapon. The man was detained until police arrived and EMS provided medical assistance. Medics later revealed that one of the wounds was near fatal and that additional injury could have resulted in death.
The story had a happy ending, thanks to Worsley’s training and quick response. But how do you assess the effectiveness of a security company’s training program before an incident?
What to Look for in Security Training
One challenge in vetting security partners lies in the fact that everyone makes the same claims. Use these guidelines to dig beyond the marketing hype:
- Training curriculum. Do they have a skilled, in-house team that develops their materials? Do they outsource training to a reputable third party? Perhaps they combine proprietary and external programs, such as the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Training. (Hint: A collection of pirated VCR tapes is a bad sign.)
- Training methods. How are training programs delivered and reinforced? The best programs present information in different ways, testing retention and understanding on an ongoing basis—such as during inspections. Role-playing opportunities can help officers empathize with others as they attempt to defuse a situation.
- Training metrics. How closely does the company track employee training progress? Are officer training records available for client review? Retention rates should also factor into the equation. Does the firm offer a rotating staff with basic training? Or do they have a stable team that shows continuing advancement?
- Client support. How can the security firm support internal training efforts? For instance, some companies coordinate active shooter training with local police departments. They may also offer educational seminars on employee awareness and the importance of communication.
For information on how Sunstates Security can help support your employee training efforts, please call us at 866-710-2019 or email us.