Managing closed and partially closed sites

by Jamie Barnfield, Sales Director, IDIS Europe

Apart from the grocery retail sector, pharmacies, healthcare and critical infrastructure, much of the world is closed for business.  Security managers have acted swiftly to protect sites in lockdown, with some quick operational adjustments, and some special projects underway to harden the security of perimeters.

Most security managers cannot just lock up premises and forget about them.  Just one example: for organisations in the retail and eating out sectors there has been a need for some staff to come on site and deal with perishable goods,  either disposing of them or organising distribution to those in need before they expire and go to waste.  

At the same time, there is also a need to ensure critical equipment and building management systems are maintained. Organisations must avoid anything that damages their core equipment and infrastructure if they are to hit the ground running once social distancing measures are relaxed.  And for the same reason, they must be mindful of their people too.


Lone working more important than ever

Staff and contractors accessing facilities alone continue to be a challenge for the security managers – risks and circumstances may have changed, but duty of care obligations have not. Most retail and restaurant staff will not be familiar with lone working, and this fact alone may make them more susceptible to accidents such as slips, trips and falls. They will be more vulnerable without colleagues nearby to help.  And with fewer people around on high streets and in public areas, staff who are more isolated may, in some situations, be at greater risk of physical or verbal assault.  


Opportunistic theft risks

On the flipside, the lockdown also gives staff with access to sites more opportunities to plan the theft goods, or simply to act on impulse to take commodities that are in short supply.

So, there’s a tricky balance to be struck when implementing new security measures.  Security managers can’t simply padlock buildings and limit staff access as that leaves them with little flexibility to maintain property and assets.

Importantly, it also sends out a message of no-confidence to key holders and local managers - the very same staff that will be needed to ramp up business operations once the crisis abates.


Protection with minimal resources

There are also many examples of businesses that are operating partially closed sites with skeleton crews, including significantly reduced guarding and first response teams. These include companies in the critical infrastructure sectors and in higher education research facilities. Many universities have ramped up laboratory operations to support diagnostic testing and vaccine research, while shutting down large proportions of their campuses.


Surveillance and analytics to support staff and maintain goodwill

What all these companies have in common is the need to preserve premises and assets - and to maintain the goodwill of staff - so that they can make it through to the end of the emergency in reasonable shape.

Updating policies and procedures and communicating advice and guidance for lone working staff is an obvious step, and in many cases remote surveillance and analytics are already providing the answer.


Safer remote working with VMS  

All reputable video surveillance software (VMS) should provide good tools to allow remote surveillance operations to continue. And most will come with a mobile application giving security managers VMS functionality at their fingertips, while client software should allow rapid configuration of analytics, either on-board cameras or via the VMS interface.

A decent VMS also present an opportunity for security managers to extend resources, for example giving permission to support other personnel working remotely, allowing them access to video clips or recordings.  For instance, this could help operations and specialist maintenance teams assess and schedule essential engineering works, or allow managers to view third party contractor activity.



The most basic of analytics found on most IP cameras is motion detection. Applied on entrance cameras it can be set to alert security managers to essential maintenance staff entering premises, allowing them to monitor activities and ensure the wellbeing of personnel. This is further assisted by the ability communicate via two-way audio found on many IP cameras.  And if required, panic recording functionality can be initiated. 

For sites with more frequent visitors, trip zones can be put in place to protect high value assets and storage areas.  


Remote guard tours

Virtual guarding is good alternative for facilities with large perimeters and outdoor spaces with fewer staff.  It might also mitigate the potential risk to lone security staff on routine patrols.  Similarly, auto tracking on PTZ cameras is particularly useful for actively patrolling perimeters.

Another great tool for security teams is functionality within VMS, which allows mobile phones to be integrated and become part of the surveillance system, much like body cameras. In practice, this means smartphone cameras record centrally, making footage available for playback, review and bookmarking. This will enable personnel to record any suspicious activity, vandalism, buildings or equipment in obvious need of urgent maintenance. Or it could make it easy for them to visually report potential security weaknesses, such as broken fencing or damaged locks.  And while hopefully never needed, it will also provide additional video footage, as well as audio, that can be anonymised and exported for use as forensic evidence. 


Deep learning

So far relatively few businesses have taken advantage of deep learning analytics, but these represent a huge step forward for security teams dealing with a major new threat. They can cut false positive alarms to enable control rooms to be more efficient and to help controllers to initiative faster responses, more confidently.  They also come with the ability to detect suspicious behaviour such as loitering, allowing security personnel to intervene before a crime occurs.  Other useful functions include action detection, such as recognising a slip, trip or fall and enabling a fast first-aid response to potential serious injuries.


You probably already have the tools – now’s a great time to start using them!

Sometimes customers are surprised to learn that they already have a lot of useful functions, via their existing VMS and edge analytics, that they’re just not using. Up until the current crisis, most users have just wanted adequate live view and playback for security safety and loss prevention, and so simply never got around to configuring their analytics.

So if your surveillance system is relatively new, you might be pleased to discover there’s a whole bunch of tools at your fingertips that can give you additional support.   And with many technicians and engineers home working, this is a good time to call your systems integrator for advice.

In addition, most manufacturers offer online training, so take this opportunity to brush up on your VMS skills and check you are getting maximum value. 

And if you still have questions, call your manufacturer for the answers – that way, you’ll come out of this lockdown period with new knowledge and capabilities.

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