Physical Security in COVID – 19 Environment: Dealing with Challenges

VS4 Security - Fighting Covid

The Environment

  • The epidemic given its rate of infection and the need for social distancing has thrown unparalleled challenges for the physical security industry. A physical security service provider is left with the dilemma of protecting the assets versus preventing his guards from the disease.
  • Lockouts, restrictions on movement and scarcity of resources have forced the guards to be temporarily located in makeshift accommodation in or around the area of deployment. The deployment has also been reduced to a bare minimum because of reduced workload and risk of spread of infection. This has decentralized the control over guards exercised by the service providers field and area officers.
  • In this situation, the client has also become a contributor in providing valuable assistance to the security service provider in terms of administrative support and checks.

The Threats

The environment with the absence of routine public activity, deserted streets and the law enforcement agencies focusing on epidemic control measures, poses innumerable threats. These could be thefts, sabotage, and vandalism. Resistance to local control measures and shortages may also lead to brawls leading to loss of life and property.  Emergencies like fire and medical may go undetected in the initial stages.

The challenges can be mitigating if the service provider and client collaborate for their mutual safety and security in these unparallel times, as tabulated below –

SubjectSecurity Agency Client
DeploymentBased on a security assessment.
– Bare minimum numbers to be deployed, more numbers more guards exposed.
– Entry/exit and critical need to be guarded.
– Other areas patrolled or monitored by sensors.
– Efficient use of communication tools.
– Baton & torches are a must.
– Cycles/ scooters for patrolling large areas.
– Formulate policies and processes for strict access control measures and social distancing.
– Deny access to non-essential employees and staff. Only minimum technical and housekeeping staff.
– Residential complex to deny entry to domestic help.
– Identify critical areas like generator rooms, fire control rooms and stores and share access to them with security for patrolling.
– Locking non-essential areas. Consolidating loosely lying stores if any.
AdministrationChallenge with no public transport and shortages.
– The guards should be temporarily made to shift near or preferably in the site, to avoid commuting and exposure.
– Mini cookhouse may be established. Stocking of rations for about a week. Cash advances for purchase of these will have to be given.
– We may wish to split accommodation – guards to stay in two groups one at client location and the other half in the near vicinity outside. In case one group gets infected the other will be available.
– Passes for the move of management staff will have to be obtained from the police.
– The client can be of great assistance in providing accommodation.
– The client may provide food if existing facilities are functional, especially in business parks. Else a place can be provided for guards to cook.
Health ManagementGuards most at risk of infection – because they are forced to interact in the performance of their duty. Unhygienic and cramped living conditions are sure to escalate infection.
– If possible, guards are shifted inside the site and resided in a hygienic environment with 3ft distances between beds.
– Training and provisioning of individual protection equipment (IPE).
– Strict monitoring of health will have to be done for sickness during each shift. Anyone with symptoms should be given rest.
– The guard sent for rest may infect his roommates. The security agency may not be in a position to provide a
separate room for quarantine and facilities for care.
– The security officer will have to ensure that if other guards are staying with the sick guard then others should be adjusted else ware or accommodated in the site.
– A person is detailed to take care of the sick if possible.
The agency needs to immediately transfer money to the sick.
– If hospitalization is required then evacuation to be done in
an ambulance to the nearest earmarked COVID -19
hospital (presently Victoria hospital in Bangalore).
– Lists of hospitals and clinics kept updated.
– Assistance in periodic medical checks, especially if qualified medics are stationed or residing in the site.
– Providing hygienic areas for temporary accommodation and if possible, for quarantining sick.
– Provisioning and checks on the use of IPE and sensitization equipment.
– Assist in treatment and evacuation
TrainingDue to short response time, it has not been possible to conduct formal training on operating in such an environment – protecting and preventing infection.
– The limited training staff of the service provider cannot cover all deployment sites in such a short period.
– Videos and circulars should be made by the service provider and circulated to all locations and in Whatsapp groups of guards. These should cover-
Use of IPE.
Sanitation and its importance.
Modified drills for frisking and search, with
protective measures.
Social distancing.
COVID- 19 identifying
symptoms, including use
of equipment like IR
thermometers etc.
COVID -19 awareness –
spread, prevention and action on falling sick.
– Besides brush up drills on emergency response, crowd control, first aid, etc.
– The security officers on sites to be guided over video/
calls by training staff to conduct onsite training.
– Since the training resources of the service provider will be scarce, the client can help in the conduct of the training of guards deployed on their site. The client may enlist the help of other security professionals, doctors and ex-servicemen in their community for this.
– Provide video conference facilities and training rooms.
– Monitor briefings on precautions.
Control and ChecksRestrictions on movement, fear of infection and limitation of field staff will make command and control a challenge for the service provider.
– Reports will have to be taken periodically on phone.
– IoT through mobile phones can be used with ingenuity.
Videos can be used for instructions. Even inspections and night checks can be done by field staff through live videos streaming on mobile phones.
– CCTVs of the client network can be also accessed by the service provider for checks if the IP address is shared by the client.
– Site in-charge. will have to be guided to make decisions.
Continuous communication with the sites of the field staff will pay rich dividends.
– Small reserve stocks of spare uniforms, security tools like torches, batteries, mobiles, and IPE, etc will have to be kept at or near sites for immediate replenishment.
– Field staff will have to be given financial independence to e transfer money immediately to sites for medical emergencies and the purchase of essentials.
– Assist in the conduct of checks, by physically taking rounds or remotely through CCTVs.
– Asking for reports directly from the site security and monitoring them.
– Stay in communication with the service provider and immediately report any lapses.
– Assist in laying down processes. Sealing of unnecessary exit/ entry points and disabling accesses.
Retention of GuardsGuards will be under pressure from their homes to return.
There is a risk of getting infected on duty. Retention and motivation of guards will be tough in these circumstances.
– Motivation videos including lectures by senior management should be circulated in the Whatsapp groups of guards.
– Site in charge. should be guided to give motivational talks
and shed fear by continuous communication with his team
– Basic necessities like food, water and accommodation will have to be catered for.
– Timely payment of salaries and liberal approach in giving advances for the sick and needy.
– Care of sick by detailing a member from the team to look after (with precautions).
– A dynamic reward and recognition program.
– Making timely payments to the service provider and ensuring that the security team receives salaries on time.
– Providing administrative support where feasible.
– Communicate with the security team, ask about their welfare, and make them feel that they are doing an important service. Words of praise and little recognition will be a big motivator.
– Assistance/ aid to the sick in terms of providing medical assistance or shelter.


The advice given and recommendations made do not constitute a warranty of future results, nor an assurance against risk.
Recommendations made are based on information available and personal appreciation of the writer. No express or implied warranty is given in respect of any judgment made or to changes or any unforeseen escalation of any factors affecting any such judgment.

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