Skip to content

Five Things Security Professionals Should Keep in Mind as Coronavirus Spreads

According to data being accumulated and presented by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the total confirmed infections of COVID-19, the coronavirus outbreak that started in China’s Wuhan Provence in December 2019, is more than 73,000 in 29 countries. The number of people who have died from the virus is nearing 2,000.

The outbreak has caused significant public concern worldwide. However, 98.8 percent of confirmed cases have been diagnosed in mainland China. Outside of Asia, the health administrations of most countries are mobilized and enacting precautionary and preparedness measures, but in general they report a posture similar to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says the risk to the U.S. population remains very low.

Economic impacts may be another matter. In a widely reported development, Apple cited the virus in a warning that the company would likely fall short of forecasts. Axios and the Harvard Gazette are among the many news outlets with analysis on why the economic toll of COVID-19 could be very high. As the economic impacts ripple, disruptions to supply chains and business continuity will have a significant effect on the security sector. ASIS International has created a page of resource links for security professionals.

In addition, on 27 February, the ASIS Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime Council (GTPIIC) will present a webinar, Novel Coronavirus: Crisis Management and Pandemic Best Practices for the Security Professional (registration required), to present and discuss the disruption that COVID-19 is bringing and what security professionals can do about it. Security Management asked one of the speakers, Jeremy Prout, PSP, regional security manager for International SOS (which as an informative page on COVID-19 as well as other infectious diseases), how security professionals should prepare for pandemics such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Here is Prout’s list of five things security professionals should keep in mind to support pandemic preparedness now and in the future:

  1. Security has a critical role. Although not the ideal department to manage pandemics, security may be the most prepared in your organization. Resiliency planning, impact analysis, monitoring, and crisis management are just some of the critical tasks that security departments excel at and are critical functions in pandemic preparedness. Human resources, business continuity, and other business units may also have a critical role but do not necessarily have the resources to immediately respond in crisis situations.
  2. Plan generally for pandemics. When putting together your pandemic plan, develop it to comprehensively deal with pandemics, not just this pandemic. Your organization is more likely to be impacted by seasonal influenza than a global pandemic crisis. A pandemic plan that addresses the best practices of training, communication, monitoring, and response will prepare your organization to meet this challenge. Plans that incorporate broad guidance combined with specifics based on validated best practices will create a pathway to success.
  3. Design to your footprint. Pandemics require local and global planning. Headquarters in Detroit and a plant in Beijing, for example, will need different resources. If there is no overseas location to be considered, know how pandemics can impact your supply chain. In a time when so much is “Made in China,” COVID-19 is a perfect example of our ever-growing footprint and exposure to risk.
  4. Avoid the rumor mill, “I’m hearing…” As soon as Wuhan announced plans for closure of public transportation, the rumor mill began to put out misinformation surrounding other transportation impacts and quarantine requirements. Investigate what you hear, but have validated monitoring options to inform your crisis response.
  5. The next pandemic is always one flight away. The world is growing smaller—pandemics do not have the geographical limitations they once did. This is a persistent threat, and one that likely will continue to grow. There is no better time to convince your organization of the need for resources to deal with pandemics and to apply the actions you have taken over the course of the past few months to develop a pandemic plan for your organization.