Most estates have had the experience of having a risk assessment done only to find they have no way of meeting all the advised risk mitigation processes because of the costs involved in doing everything as well as the complexity of a well-designed security solution. Of course, the costs and complexity pale in comparison to the Gordian knot of getting the project and the expense approved by the Body Corporate or Home Owners’ Association.
The reality is, compromises are the order of the day as the economy tanks and squeezing a bit extra out of the residents for upgraded security is close to impossible. Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked two risk assessors who operate at estates around the country for their advice on how estates can keep their security effective and their residents safe on a shoestring budget.
Where do you start?
If an estate is in the position of having budgetary woes when it comes to ensuring that its security is up to scratch and that there are as few openings as possible for the ever-resourceful criminals out there, where should they start looking to invest their limited funds to obtain the best security for their money?
“In my opinion, the right place to start if one wishes to develop a strategy is with a thorough audit of what the estate already has in place in terms of the security industry subcomponents of manpower, processes and technology,” says Lesley-Anne Kleyn from Kleyn Consulting, an independent risk, safety and security consultancy. “An audit enables one to start the process of developing a risk strategy before unnecessary spending takes place.”
Of course, an audit by an independent assessor who isn’t trying to sell you products at the same time will cost money, but Kleyn says the fee should be reasonable and represent only 0,5% to 2,0 % of the annual manpower spend and/or the cost of any potential technology upgrade.
“I recently examined an estate which had provided me with a professional site plan showing exactly the thermal/analytic coverage being achieved by its perimeter cameras. Neither the remote monitoring provider nor the onsite guard force had noted any disagreement. However, when I looked at the camera specifications and the video management software in place, something seemed off. Investigation soon revealed that the coverage depicted on the site plan by the original installer was just not accurate. The estate had far more sections of penetrable perimeter than it had realised. This insight completely changed what decision-makers had assumed would be their next steps.
“More importantly, we did not resolve this matter by installing additional costly cameras, but rather by implementing different video analytic software at reasonably little cost. This gained the estate analytic coverage on the existing cameras, which enabled coverage of the perimeter completely. The estate addressed its most important risk area without breaking the budget.”
Andre Mundell, an independent security risk assessor at Alwinco, has a short answer to budgetary problems: “Read your security risk assessment.
“If you don’t have a security risk assessment, you are in trouble because you don’t have security,” Mundell states. “Not understanding your security risk will end up in a disaster. The viewpoint is not management’s viewpoint but from the viewpoint of a risk assessor. Claiming to have security without a security risk assessment is like building a house without a plan.”
In addition, he adds that an independent security risk assessment will tell you which risks are more important and need to be dealt with immediately.
Prioritising your risks
The only solution for the budget-restrained estate is to start dealing with the most important or dangerous risks, slowly adding more security over time until the estate reaches an acceptable level of security. Although, as Mundell says, “a risk is a risk, no matter how big or small.”
He says that most of the time the risk assessment will show that the most important risk factor can be eradicated without spending a cent. “Willpower, management, action, communication and attitude are some of the elements that contribute to the risk factor and that do not need a budget to remedy, but need to be understood.
“Simply put, you cannot do anything without a plan in place,” Mundell repeats. “Only through a risk assessment will you understand the key points that need to be dealt with immediately. When your security risk assessment is done in full, you will understand the risk and you will understand what to do to mitigate the risks. That is your plan.”
He also notes that there are security risk assessments and security risk assessments. They might sound and look the same, but it is the viewpoint that makes the difference. “There is a vast difference between the viewpoint of an independent security risk assessor and the viewpoint of a sales consultant or risk manager.”
Protecting people first
“People move to estates for many reasons, but it is the sense of safety that will be the paramount factor,” notes Kleyn. “Risks which should be tackled immediately are any risks which represent potential physical harm to residents. But this is easier said than done, and the specific risk areas will differ from one property to the next depending on the micro measures already in place and on the macro crime environment.
“My advice, in general, is to tackle the need for a clear, written strategy early on. Regardless of how secluded and quiet the specific estate might be right now, don’t wait for an incident to occur.”
To tackle strategy, the estate manager or security manager will probably need to wade through an overload of well-intentioned and strong opinion at the decision-making table,” Kleyn adds. “An audit and a risk determination exercise will be helpful in this regard. An audit will present the facts pertaining to the state of the existing manpower and the existing technology, against inarguable best practice principles. A risk determination will present the facts of the macro crime environment against the estate’s calculable likelihood and potential impact results.”
There is a caveat, she warns: both the audit and the risk determination exercise need to be thorough. A general site survey is not an audit, and a risk determination must consist of objective measurables. Once in place, the security strategy will outline where critical spend is needed and will also lay out a three- to five-year plan for phased-in spend.
Kleyn also believes that a full assessment represents value for money on multiple levels and that every estate should journey through the process of a full assessment as swiftly as money will allow. However, she says there is nothing wrong with breaking this process up into three phases.
“An audit will cover the basics: what the estate (really) currently has in place, and how the property is tracking against best practice principles. This will often include technology designs with budgetary costings and offer some fundamental pointers. A risk determination will add the next layer of information by providing context and measurables to the surrounding criminal environment and its potential impact on the estate. From there, senior decision makers will then be able to brainstorm and develop a written security strategy.”
The quest for cheap
Of course, even with a top-notch assessment and plan in hand, there is always pressure on security and estate managers to play suppliers of both manpower and technology off against each other to get the absolute cheapest price they can. This most often works and the price will decline until you are left with someone willing to cut margins to the bone.
The question to ask yourself is whether the people that company puts on site or the technology installed is worth even the cheaper price. What will happen in an emergency when you have untrained guards making minimum wage to rely on? How long will the cheap technology last and how keen will the supplier be to service the products and/or respect warranty claims?
“We have found over the years that cheap in the context of ‘cheap technology’ is more about education and information and not necessarily about money or budget,” explains Mundell. “Cheap is never good. When it comes to security, it cannot be cheap and secure. It is one or the other. A security risk assessment will tell you the difference between cheap and good quality. It will explain the limitations and provide the information to make informed and accurate decisions.”
If the cheap products are chosen, he says the risk assessor should advise on additional measures that will eliminate the gaps that are caused by cheap products. “It’s like purchasing a cheaper multi-vitamin that doesn’t contain all the essential vitamins and minerals and you end up having to purchase additional vitamins to make up for the ones not included in the multi-vitamin. Now you need to ask yourself, did you really save money?”
As with most things in life, Mundell asserts that cheaper products don’t last as long as the more expensive products and, in the long run, the money you might have saved on the cheaper product is usually spent fixing it and eventually, more money is spent to replace the ‘cheap stuff’.
Cheap, fast or good
Kleyn says that in the security industry, clients have the option to implement manpower or technology that is cheap, fast, and good – but an estate can only ever pick two of the three. “The premise is that if an estate wants a good job, done fast, then that job will not come cheap. Similarly, if the client wants a cheap job, done fast, the result will likely not be a good one.”
Cheap installations in terms of inexperience and/or bad practice come at massive cost, not only financially in terms of device failure and/or incorrect applications leaving the estate vulnerable, but also in terms of reputational damage should an incident occur, she notes. “For example, one cannot install a handful of pan/tilt/zoom cameras which are designed to track and follow (and are great at it), when what one needs is an impenetrable static perimeter. Wrong camera. Wrong application. Big cost. Big risk. There are better ways to protect a perimeter without breaking the budget.”
Kleyn also makes the point that the industry landscape has changed in recent years. Manufacturers of what were previously considered consumer-grade equipment are now doing great things in the professional project space, at a reasonable cost.
So, Kleyn suggests the key to making the right decision lies in “the right equipment, from an appropriate manufacturer, correctly applied, to the right critical areas of the specific estate, through the right distributor, by the right solutions integrator, according to best practice principles, with all applicable discounts applied, and at the most palatable budget stretch possible, for each unique estate.”
Services on offer
The risk management services Alwinco offers can be summed up as information and education regarding risk, security and safety.
“When we are invited to estates, we attend the meetings and we explain concepts such as security risk, decision making, the importance of speaking the same security language and so on,” says Mundell. “One of Alwinco’s goals is to use every opportunity to share knowledge, give advice and guidance, we aim to educate as many people as possible about the importance of understanding security risk, security and crime.
“We discuss the reasons for everything in a risk assessment with them, although we cannot give them a risk assessment in a two-hour meeting. And as some questions cannot be answered in a two-hour meeting, a workshop will be a better option. However, after the meeting is finalised, they will have a clear understanding as to why a risk assessment is vital, and they will understand why an independent security risk assessment is their best option.
“Ultimately, security is not measured against the size of your budget, but rather the size of your willpower.”
Kleyn explains that Kleyn Consulting specialises in all three phases of the physical security risk assessment process:
• Manpower, processes and technology audits.
• Risk determinations.
• Security strategy development.
“I work mostly with end-user clients directly,” notes Kleyn. “I have also worked extensively with security service providers themselves, assisting management to identify internal challenges and facilitating change.”
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