Instant security simply does not work

May 2013 Security Services & Risk Management

Andre Mundell
Andre Mundell

Many of us believe that we can ensure our safety by installing an armed response alarm system or putting a couple of security guards on our business premises or at the end of our street. But if these ubiquitous strategies were effective, South Africa’s crime rate would not be as high as it is.

Considering all the security technology that has become available to us, we really need to ask ourselves why it is that criminals still get away with so much?

The answer is simple. Generic security measures cannot be effective. It stands to reason that criminals will quickly learn how they work and quickly learn how to get past them. Most criminals in South Africa know how to disarm your alarm system, know the average response time of your security provider and know how to bypass any poorly trained, badly paid or inattentive security guard that you may have hired to protect your assets.

Effective security strategies are those which have been designed to counteract specific architectural, environmental and logistical vulnerabilities through carefully planned responses that have taken all eventualities into account. This is a complex task which requires a thorough assessment of the property itself, the surrounding area, and the interactions between logistical vulnerabilities and the security measures themselves.

That is why the only way to create a security system that will work for you is to have a security risk assessment done by an experienced, independent professional who has relevant expertise in crime prevention and knows his way around the security products that are available on the market.

The specific advantage of having a security risk assessment done is certainty. For example, many business/homeowners have guards patrolling their premises, or surrounding streets armed with nothing more than a baton and a flashlight. This will in no way deter any determined criminal and it leaves the guard with no way of pre-warning the people inside the relevant premises. In fact, the flashlight merely serves to prewarn criminals of the guard’s whereabouts.

Most security providers in the country claim to offer free security risk assessments. This is a new tactic used to create canvassing opportunities. What these companies are actually offering is known in the industry as a product assessment, that is to say, a series of demonstrations which showcase the benefits of generic products with the sole purpose of making a sale or signing a contract.

A true security risk assessment requires a meticulous and thorough inspection of layout of the property in question, the neighbourhood in which that property is situated, the movements and lifestyles of the people who occupy the property, the efficacy (or not) of security measures that are already in place, and the crime statistics in the area.

Once this information has been gathered, a security risk assessor will apply his expertise to designing non-generic strategies to defend the property and its residents against all the identified risks.

While this is an excellent starting point, it is also wise to commission annual security audits. A security audit forms a fundamental part of a security risk assessment, but having it done once a year ensures that all your security measures are being managed properly. During an annual security audit, all the procedures that have been put in place are evaluated in context, to determine whether their projected level of efficiency matches the reality of the situation. If any shortcomings are found in the existing system, measures are put in place to address them.

To justify spending money on a security risk assessment and/or a security audit might seem difficult as these come across as 'soft services' in an industry where most people want immediate solutions. However, both services determine the effectiveness of the 'hard solutions'. Investing in a security risk assessment and security audits ensures that you are investing in safety, as well as the knowledge that whichever preventative strategies you choose to implement as determined by either or both of these services, will be functional against crime.

It is time that South Africa starts realising that along with any other audit, they start having their security audited as well. It is the only way they will establish whether their security is up to standard or not, and I can tell you now that it is not.

The most common mistake I encounter with clients is them jumping to a particular solution. They want me to develop and implement that solution (CCTV, access, security, audit procedures etc,) instead of defining their problem and going through a functional security risk assessment and design process.

It is amazing how much money they waste without solving the problem before I can get them to stop and answer my questions.

For more information contact Alwinco, +27 (0)71 319 4735, [email protected],

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