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How the Coronavirus Pandemic Impacts Security Service Firms

The coronavirus pandemic has turned things upside down for some security service firms, industry leaders say.

Some companies whose workforces are already working at near capacity have been deluged with new requests for security services. On one hand, this is a positive, as most security firms in the competitive marketplace welcome new business. But even companies that have built-in capacity for growth—and are ready for demand spikes during holiday festivals and other big events—are being strained, says Don Saban, COO of the Phoenix-based firm Anderson Security Agency.

“As you can imagine, it’s extremely challenging,” Saban tells Security Management. “People who never had security now have the need for it. And some of them also have expectations that are kind of unreasonable.”

For example, one popular request has been for security officers who are able to conduct COVID-19 screening measures like taking temperatures. That’s a bridge too far for Anderson officers, Saban says.

“We choose not to be a part of that process. We’re not going to randomly expose our officers like that,” he says. “This is a pandemic, this is not about checking IDs at the door to see if you’re 21. This is something that involved people’s health. We’d have to step away that offer.”

Eddie Sorrells, CPP, CEO and general counsel for DSI Security Services, voices a view that is similar to Saban’s. In addition to new clients that now want security services, additional demand is also coming from some longtime clients like healthcare facilities that are bolstering their security services. And some of these longtime clients want the new officers to do more medical-related tasks.  

“Officers are being challenged to take on duties that they otherwise were not doing just a couple of weeks ago,” Sorrells says.

In these challenging situations, it is up to the security services company to ensure that the health and wellbeing of individual security officers is the top priority. “We are making sure to provide training to protect out populations out in the workforce,” Sorrells says.

Protecting a firm’s workforce involves, among other things, making sure the security officers will have the necessary supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) once they are on site. Officers can also be trained to minimize their own risk of catching COVID-19 by doing things like not actually touching IDs when they are checking them and maintaining social distancing whenever possible, which can be a challenge, Sorrells says.

And not every client is ramping up their security, he adds. Some companies, such as hotels and other hospitality industry firms, and temporarily closing some facilities, so their security needs are cut back.

Moreover, some of the hospitality industry staffers who have found themselves out of work due to closures are now applying for jobs as security officers, says Kimberly Anderson-Matich, Anderson Security’s founder, president, and CEO.  These include beverage and food service employees, bartenders, wait staff, and more. Workers from other affected industries, such as real estate agents, are applying too, she adds.

Sometimes, current security officers are asking if friends and loved ones who are newly unemployed can apply to the firm. “We’re getting references from everywhere,” Anderson-Matich says. Some of these new applicants have already turned into promising new officer hires. Once hired, they receive significant training before they start working in the field. “We choose to do it right,” she says.

From a security services standpoint, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of technology as a force multiplier, Sorrells says. In potentially virus-ridden environments, systems like video access control and drone surveillance with video analytics can bolster a security force. Security officers will never be fully replaced—“the human element always has to be part of the overall security program,” Sorrells says—but technology can supplement their efforts.

Finally, for all its tragic qualities, the pandemic has been an opportunity for security officers to shine, as they have juggled health hazards, family responsibilities, and new on-site challenges to succeed in their mission, Sorrells says. “It’s been a huge illustration at how dedicated the officers in this industry are,” he says.

Additional resources for organizations responding to the coronavirus pandemic are available on the ASIS International Disease Outbreak: Security Resources page.