An Effective Security System is FREE

Security is an overhead expenditure, a burden and dent to the company profits, are the kinds of the expressions one keeps hearing in some organizations, particularly while producing company balance sheets for business reviews. The trend may be a bit lesser rampant in Security hazards prone areas, but even there when the situation remains calm for some time, such voices start surfacing. When one views the statistics of losses to the companies due to terrorism, other attacks, theft & pilferage, corruption, fraud, strikes/ other loss times, indiscipline of different kinds, accidents on sites/ while moving and related wastages, and the possible role the Security system can play to avoid these, one may think otherwise.

Terrorism and other violence are a menace in different parts of the present day world. The US businesses alone suffer some over ~50 Billion USD due to different workplace crimes. Lack of order and compliance are other issues leading to losses suffered. Many of the losses to the company can be gauged tangibly while others may be difficult to quantify. Many Security hazards like attacks on the site, aggressive gatherings by locals, strikes, etc. if averted due to a good mitigation strategy and effective Security system, would not accrue us data on the number of attempts which were never conducted since the potential target company had taken effective mitigation. Who would know as to how many times a terrorist attack or other violent attack, attempted theft/ robbery, etc. were only contemplated/ planned and not translated into actual action after seeing the effectiveness of the preparations/ mitigation strategy? In contrast, Loss-time injury (LTI) free time period could be a very credible gauge to rate an effective system of HSE and other operational compliances.

An effective system of Security would directly or indirectly contribute in different ways to avoid potential loss to the company. The magnitude of such losses averted or minimised can never be quantified, and hence the above-mentioned anomaly in realising the importance and ‘free status’ of Security. Following the age-old concept of, ‘every penny saved is a penny earned’, one can easily infer that Security perils avoided lead to tremendous savings to the company. Seeing the magnitude of hazards emanating out of weak or no Security system vis-à-vis the resultant dollar value of the loss would show that presence of effective and credible Security system in a company can rather save tremendous sums of money, much beyond the expenditure incurred on emplacing the security system.

Security managers at all tiers need an important commitment. One leading the Security system has to ensure focus on sincere, professional, candid and upright disposition & functioning rather than apple-polishing. The job at hand is so sensitive that any Security manager who is tentative or conscious of likes or dislikes of the management, is bound to fail miserably! Hence opinions and judgments have to be fairly, truthfully given, surely maintaining the professional decorum and polity  

A good system of a company should take care of the following aspect either directly or supportively:

  • Physical Security of offices, operational and residential sites based on the professional and documented Security risk assessment
  • Guarding of the mentioned and other sites having potential pilferage and loss
  • Technical Security system to the level of the company’s needs duly integrated in the overall Security management plan
  • Being present at all sites/ activities of the company actively assist in compliances like HSE and other operational SOPs (this requires appropriate training and grooming of the security personnel)
  • Watch-dogging important and high-value matters of the company, if and when desired by the company’s top management (this requires developing high level of trust and expertise, main areas being Corporate Services, Finance, Corporate Affairs, or any other area for contracts, Business Development, major payments, etc.)
  • Theft and fraud prevention as a generic subject
  • Fleet management and the related issues
  • Investigations of multiple dimensions, if mandated
  • At country Security level, develop and maintain regularly updated situation/security mosaics, collating all-available intelligence/ information at local, country and regional levels of  geo-politico-strategic developments to enable him/ her to render apt advice on current and future operations of the company
  • Monitor actively to help maintain discipline & order, community issues and unionism related dynamics as all these have the potential to escalate and become security issues
  • Develop good working know-how of work of technical/operational, corporate affairs, legal, corporate services, HSE, Admin and rather all spheres of the company so as to render ALL-OUT support to them in routine, or if specially asked for
  • Maintain good rapport with top management in-country as well as Security & other counterparts at Regional and Global levels of the Company/ conglomerate

In nutshell, a Security system worth its name and credibility can render support to the business in such a diverse manner. The day Security’s contribution to the business starts making the company realise that Security is a real necessity rather than a ‘waste’, you can consider that the security system emplace is ‘effective’, hence FREE to the company.

Country Level Security Manager – A role far too beyond just Security Management

The canvas of company’s Security Manager of medium to large-sized company can be at geographical region, zones or country level. This asks for an updated knowledge and grasp of the overall country/ region or zone security dynamics, with fair degree of grip over the other tiers’ perspective in the realm of geo-political and geo-strategic dimensions. This can only become possible when the Security manager and his Security team have thorough understanding of the company operations. There are examples where sometimes the security leaders are so well blended and equipped that visitors may take them as managers heading any other team but security.

Top management of the companies and others would always bank heavily on the advice rendered by the security manager and other members of his/her team placed at different locations within the company. This would ask the security head and the site leaders to generate accurate inputs for managing Security for the ongoing operations and also carrying out Security risk assessments for the impending company operations.

Some Security managers go wrong by restricting their scope to Security alone. It doesn’t mean that their hardcore work is not important. Diversity of their role demands them to remain aware of the ongoing operations to the minutest details, operational barriers/ deadlines, potential impediments from the local communities & contractors’ side, sensitivities related to the targets of the company, the HSE compliance needs/ issues, administrative bounds, corporate affairs related complexities, stoppages (both prevailing & foreseen) and their dollar impact, overall & the current financial health of the company, prevailing litigations and the company legal cases, etc. All these should become the filters that must influence the preparation of the security solutions.

All the above looks daunting and undoable, given the fluid nature of Security operations of any company, but remember! A Security manager worth his/ her name, will always gel so well into the companies’ teams that such inclusion and awareness will become a second nature.

If this guideline is followed, the information will spontaneously flow to the Security manager. This is when he/ she wins the confidence of the contemporary heads and the top management. I have often seen the Security Manager to be part of important meetings of the company, part of all operational interactions and be on the distribution list of all very important communications. This arrangement can either be there as a default practice or a realisation based on displayed significance of a particular Security manager.

I would recommend to my Security friends to ensure that they should conduct themselves in a manner that they are included in both the above situations. This would demand them to be atop their professional prowess and be an active part of the organisation. Contribution to the correct decision-making process for the good of the company and becoming a mandatory input needed for it, is what is desired from all managers including a good Security professional. Anything otherwise, would rather leave a lot to be desired!

How to be a good Site Security Officer in the Field?

‘How to’ series: 1/ 1 of 3

Site security management remains the foundation of any Security system in the Field. Situation further accentuates if this function has to be performed in the trying milieu of Security prone areas. This importance in view, I shall cover this important topic in a series of three articles on how a Field Security Officer (FSO), on sites of different industries should be.

Professionalism, knowledge of the area demography, requisite liaison with the authorities and the right attitude are the precursor attributes for this important function, and hence are not being dilated upon here in much detail.  Absence of any of these should rather not qualify one to be an FSO.  Background check, interaction during interview/ entry test

and close monitoring during the probation period can be handy to preclude missing out on the above mentioned personality traits. Any shortcoming on these aspects should be given serious pondering with regards to retention of a Security officer under review.

Talking about the other finer aspects now, these are in relation to site leadership & other colleagues, Security personnel & Corporate Security in case of MNCs/ larger companies, and external elements including locals & contractors. There is no measure available to prioritise these importance-wise. It would always depend on the industry, situation and area of company operations. Let’s take these one by one.

Considerations would remain the same or similar may it be a single owner’s company, an MNC or other corporate entities. However, the sensitivities would differ. I shall restrict the analysis to more than small-sized or single-site companies. By and large the sensitivities would remain the same only differing in magnitude. Focal considerations are:

  • Site leadership mostly would be a technical manager, usually lesser in age/ service years. A good FSO will maintain good rapport with him/her while striking a balance between sufficiently informing and unnecessarily passing the irrelevant concerns to the site leadership.
  • Try and understand the company business in sufficient details. This will help you design and provide befitting Security management. 
  • Gaining confidence of the site leadership and the contemporary non-Security leaders on the site is very important. This emanates from formal yet frank and open interaction. Working relationship springs out from becoming a team member, sharing, caring and devoting time. Some FSOs find it difficult to mingle with different members of the site. This can be counter-productive and can lead to seclusion.
  •  Mutual respect remains very important. Security officer has to sometimes discuss or share sensitive matters and information, remain firm on Security protocols and still maintain working relations. This can only happen if one has confidence of all through an apt behaviour.
  • FSO must take part in all formal/ informal meetings and occasions. If needed, one must keep striving to gradually become part of these. Remember, they would only keep the FSO off if no benefit is envisaged in doing otherwise.
  • Informal interaction to an appropriate extent with all at the site including contractors’ staff and even those visiting the site can always be handy in gauging the overall pulse of the surroundings. Hence FSO must be accessible and confided shoulder to share.
  • Some FSOs go wrong by dressing and conducting themselves differently than the bulk of site members. It creates unnecessary gap, which widens with time. In many compliant companies, use of PPEs and following different safe HSE practices and other good organisational behaviour’s dictates is rather mandatory. Remember, FSO must champion these compliances through personal conduct and remain part of the site team.
  • Always seek feedback on whether the site members and leadership feel secure under the umbrella of the site security.
  • Carry out regular Security drills and exercises with the site members partaking. Do consult site leadership about the right time to conduct announced and impromptu drills. Always debrief in the end.
  • Keep the site leadership and members informed of the Security climate in the area. They should never be surprised on matters, which might imperil their security.
  • Try and resolve their official or personal problems by reaching out and becoming available. This can only happen if they confide in the FSO.
  • Help develop rapport between site leadership and corporate Security by ensuring that those visiting the site from Security department must meet the site leadership and interact regularly so that they understand the bigger picture from Security angle.
  • Keep your character and credibility beyond reproach. This hold good for all segments of the organisation but is a must for the security officers and personnel.

These were some of the very basic but important aspects concerning FSOs vis-à-vis site leadership and members. We shall deal with other two aspects in the next article of this “How to” series.