There has always been some controversy around standard operating procedures (SOP), who sets them, who they benefit, and how you know that your security service provider, or any service provider, is following them.
Then, there is another SOP relevant to estate security, the site operating procedure; this defines how the estate (as opposed to the security operator) is required to act in the case of an emergency. Of course, this assumes the estate has a set of SOPs for security and a range of other emergencies.
SMART Security Solutions asked Bernard Senekal, MD of Sentronics, for his take on how an estate should handle alarms and emergencies consistently, according to predefined processes and procedures. We also wanted to know how these are set up to ensure consistent performance by all players to resolve the situation quickly and effectively.
When developing SOPs, Senekal says an estate (or any organisation) must have expert knowledge about the type of security threats that occur. “Domain-level experts that have experience in estate security are therefore essential. Then, deep diving into historical events and how they were dealt with at the specific estate helps management understand how to improve on these.
“This creates a bottom-to-top approach where the security threats drive the SOP logic. Ensuring a good understanding of exactly who needs to be contacted, in which instance, at what step in the SOP and at what time of day/night, along with making sure that this information is automatically populated into the alarm management software and available to operators when they need it, is essential.”
Additionally, assigning priority levels to various threats or occurrences that may present themselves is equally important, and these, in turn, need to be assigned SOPs. For example, a perimeter breach is a far greater priority and demands more attention than Mrs Jones, whose cat has run away.
Senekal adds that it is also essential to have alarm management software that allows for SOPs to be set against, not only the type of event/signal that occurs, but also be flexible to the point that a SOP can be executed at client, zone and asset level, and to be configurable against specific schedules by all responsible staff on site.
The copy-and-paste SOP
We often hear about an estate ‘borrowing’ its neighbour’s SOP or the security manager bringing an old SOP from their previous position and adapting it slightly to the new location. In other articles in this publication, we are warned that this approach is dangerous. Or could it perhaps have a positive side in streamlining security and estate operations by building on what works?
In Senekal’s view, this is not always a bad idea. “Much of what a previous security manager would bring to a new client would be copy and paste across the industry. One could almost view these shared SOPs as best practice templates for estates. I think this is a good thing because these could be compared to existing SOPs, and the new client’s SOPs will ultimately be strengthened through the comparison process.”
No matter the specific approach to developing SOPs, both for the security and operations side of estate management, what is on a piece of paper is worthless unless it is effectively communicated and the people on the ground enforce it. In today’s technology-rich estates, automating the processes and procedures is one critical aspect of SOPs.
The officers on the ground need to receive notifications timeously and know what they have to do without waiting for detailed instructions from a supervisor. Similarly, when an alert is raised in the control room (which could be as simple as an alert from a perimeter camera on someone’s smartphone), nobody has the time to look through the printed SOPs and then make a decision. Automation and integration into existing management systems is critical.
Automating alerts and actions
From a Sentronics’ perspective, Senekal says that the company enforces SOP compliance by introducing alarm management software that provides operators with process guidance. “This means the operator cannot get to step 3 in a SOP before following steps 1 and 2. This system drives the operator approach; instead of the operator driving the system, ensures compliance and standard policy management across operations while assisting operators during these periods of heightened stress.”
Sentronics ensures that the service provider and client can create and maintain their own SOPs. “We do this with a Workflow Engine Tool that provides a visual drag-and-drop interface so that service providers and clients can create their own SOPs in a simple and understandable manner. This tool provides functionality that is as simple as drawing a flowchart or decision tree on a whiteboard.”
He says it uses ‘IF THIS -> THEN THAT -> ELSE %’ logic. Furthermore, Sentronics provides dropdown boxes during the management of an alarm according to the relevant SOP, which means that operators are not entering free text and making mistakes, while following their standard procedures. This also increases the accuracy of post event reporting and event analysis.
SOPs require action
Whether the process of developing both types of SOPs for an estate begins with a risk assessment and a blank page, or if previous documents (or those borrowed from other estates) form the basis for the development of SOPS, how one rolls them out is what really matters.
Training, preparation and communication, as well as the automation of as much of the process as possible, not only avoids confusion in a severe emergency, but ensures the responses of all involved are prepared and ready to initiate at any time. It also ensures everyone does their jobs and you do not have people getting in the way. Automation assists in making sure everyone is on track and processes are followed from step 1 to the end.
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