Hurricane Season is upon us, and especially in the East Coast, this brings a host of unpredictability. Whether it’s planning for outages, potential storm damage, or securing facilities that may be compromised, the physical security industry needs to be prepared. One of the key areas centers around workforce management and the teams you assign to posts on a scheduled basis. How can you mitigate any risks when disaster strikes to fulfill your promise to your clients when they need you the most?
Security Doesn’t Take a Day Off: How a Weather Event Impacts Operations
Any disaster, hurricane or other event, will ultimately have an impact on operations within a business. While most businesses will respond with closures, or delays in operations, there is still a need to provide security services to protect the facilities that are contracting with a firm. This means that, while there may be some deviation from normal operations, security still needs to be on call to fulfill their posts. In the event of an impending weather event, it’s important to build in contingencies within your workforce management system surrounding your teams availability to work. Having a disaster response program, with backup guards and the ability to schedule a post quickly becomes critical.
Leveraging a centralized Time and Labor Management system with flexible scheduling options will enable you to report on the staff that is available to work, is located close to the client, and can work at a moment’s notice should mitigating circumstance prevent the scheduled guards ability to fill the post. You want to be able to have a real-time notification system, such as a mobile device, to be able to schedule replacements, and have them respond quickly. This way, you have more options to ensure that in the event of a hurricane or storm, you have the resources available and ready to fill the gaps.
Managing Security in the Event of a Power Outage
Weather has an impact on the infrastructure of a local region, and this can cause security complications that need to be dealt with. Particularly with power – hurricanes cause power outages, and the systems that otherwise assist in the security of a facility can be impacted by a loss of power. As a result, there may be a need in some cases to increase the physical security element to handle the normal operations in the event of a power outage. Sometimes these power outages can last for hours, days, even weeks. The important thing is to ensure that the facilities that are secured remain secured to the level in which is necessary for effective operations. When contracting with a client, it’s important to have a disaster response plan with the client – one that outlines that, if there is a power failure, what the response from the security firm should be in terms of additional resources to compensate for any loss of power and video monitoring. This is something that not only you should plan for with your team, track in your time and labor management system, but also provide a bill rate for disaster relief in these events. This is where having a Time and Labor Management system that is integrated with your Billing management system to ensure that the time worked is billed properly, and you are compensated for the additional effort to secure the facility.
Aligning your Team: Communication within Workforce Management
Anyone who has been through a hurricane knows that there is a level of chaos during and after the event. Both personally and professionally, people are consumed with responding to any resulting damages or impact from the storm. Traditional communication may be limited; and in order to mitigate any stoppage of work, it’s important for security operators to have communication methods within their workforce management system that will enable contact even when normal communications are challenged. This is where the notion of mobile communications and mobility in workforce management systems becomes critical. The ability to send notification on scheduled shifts, changes with the Time and labor management schedule, and availability to work is important to maintaining order within the operation. Through the use of these centralized tools, you can ensure that your employees are adequately informed of the plan, stay in contact and be able to communicate their ability to work.
Increased Value of Security Guards during the Aftermath of a Hurricane
While never a desired cause, the effect of a hurricane or similar event can provide an impact on a security firm. In many cases, such as after Hurricane Irma in 2017, FEMA sought the assistance of armed security services to help maintain order in the wake of the storm. This is a good place to not only demonstrate your company’s ability to assist relief in a positive way, but also to gain a contract with a government agency or private business in need of security services. It’s a good idea to have a specialized team within your security workforce and a process within your workforce management system that is able to respond and procure services to work in these times. It helps to create more work for your team, builds your client base and provides a valuable service to help both state/local agencies – as well as potential private businesses – in the recovery effort.
Preparation, Communication, and Automation
As we navigate through a typically unpredictable season through November, the importance of having a plan for your workforce is critical. You want to follow some simple steps:
- Prepare with a Plan: Having a predefined plan for how you will continue to operate, serve clients and fill posts is important to ensure that everyone in the company – and your clients – knows how you will react when disaster strikes. This entails knowing where your guards are located in relation to their post, their ability to work, and when their shifts are during the time. In some cases, there may be a need to suspend work for the safety of your workforce; this also needs to be documented and a part of this plan. In the end, you want to have control over the response and process around working during these extenuating circumstances.
- Communicate with your Team – Before, During and After: Nothing is more important than proper communication. Prior to the event, you want to enact your plan, communicate it to the team, and determine the availability to work any posts. Once you have that, you want to stay in contact with any guards working during the storm to report whether relief is needed, additional resources are required, or if the client determines that it’s too unsafe to continue work. Lastly, after the event you want to leverage a communication method that will be effective to continue (or escalate) operations as needed. Mobile is a prime way; having a workforce management system that uses mobile technology to send notifications, update on status, and confirm shifts will be vital in the process.
- Automate using Workforce Management Systems: Last is one that will help you to gain better visibility and control over your operations, and that is using a workforce management system. Having all your workforce entered into one centralized system, where you can see all schedules with proper time and labor management, push notifications out to your team, and be able to respond to any changes quickly will be critical in the chaos of a hurricane. Look for solutions that combine this time and labor management, with mobile notifications, and has all your qualifications and employee information in one place. This will help you to bring order and manage more effectively.
While hurricane season is typically localized to the East Coast, the elements involved are not exclusive to this type of event. Tornadoes, severe storms, earthquakes, or even acts of terror are all instances of events that require operations to respond above and beyond the norm. This is why having a plan, building a communication strategy, and streamlining through workforce management systems will help your security “weather any storm” that may come.