Last week, the Schedule 84 Suppliers Research Panel participated in reviewing the 2018 contracting year with the GSA Schedule 84 leadership team. Our panel group consists of experienced contractors and consultants meeting for a monthly conference call. Schedule 84 is the GSA Schedules Contract for Total Solutions for Law Enforcement, Security, Facilities Management, Fire and Rescue.

Our opinions are part of a research programme to provide valuable feedback to the GSA Schedule 84 programme and on to the GSA central office. The director of GSA Region 7 Schedules Program, the Schedule 84 Branch Chief and the Category Manager Subject Matter Expert who manages our suppliers' panel gave us their full attention as we discussed the successes of the programme, hot topics, problems and the future.

We determined 2018 under the Schedule 84 team to be a year of innovative thoughts, cooperative effort and renewed enthusiasm

Innovative review team

We determined 2018 under the Schedule 84 team to be a year of innovative thoughts, cooperative effort, renewed enthusiasm and productive changes building upon the successes of 2017.

There was high praise for the accessibility to the Schedule 84 staff. Their consistent quick response to questions and concerns, thinking outside the box and supporting the programme by partnering with their contractors was much appreciated. There has been a renewed spirit of partnering to cooperatively bring the best to agency customers. It seems to be working as per the Centre Director sales are growing for GSA Schedule 84.

Advocating for the security industry

In my experience, business development starts with the Administrator from Region 7 in Ft. Worth, TX. As the annual Schedule 84 Industry Day at the SSAC begins he is shaking every hand and passing out his cards looking folks right in the eye asking, “how can I help you?” They have the best practices and most organised paperwork. The SSAC director has chosen well in her staff and is hands-on in every endeavour to direct things along when challenges occur or to improve the programme.

The new 84 Branch Chief is knowledgeable, innovative, tireless and has been heavily involved in advocating for the security industry

It continues with the centre’s CASE Manager encouraging the contractors at events, visiting agency customers and promoting the GSA Schedules Program by helping coordinate the partnering. The new 84 Branch Chief is knowledgeable, innovative, tireless and has been heavily involved in advocating for the security industry for adding new technology, meeting with industry associations, understanding the complexity and challenges of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD12) and advocating for the purchasing Physical Access Control Systems (PACS) utilising the appropriate standards and the GSA Program among other innovations. As far as the supplier panel, we gave our GSA Schedule 84 team and leaders high praise for 2018.

government procurement for GSA
GSA also added new categories or SINs for clearly identifying Physical Access Control Products that appear on GSA’s Approved Product List

Changes in the GSA programme

Some changes this year in certain GSA programmes included the creation of a new category of products/services Special Item Number (SIN) for Order Level Materials (OLM) developed to assist with solution procurements. This new SIN was added to Schedules 03FAC, 56, 70, 71, 00Corp, 738X and 84. Under Schedule 84 it is SIN 84-500.

GSA Schedule 84 consolidated many Special Items Numbers (SINs) to make finding products and services less complex

Essentially this SIN allows agencies procuring under the aforementioned GSA Schedules’ programmes to purchase and the contractor to add items and services not known prior to the task as a Contract Line Item Number (CLIN) not to exceed 33% of the order. For more information and FAQs on OLMs go to www.gsa.gov/olm. This is not to take the place of “Open Market” items for adding products only that are not listed on a company’s GSA Contract.

Physical access control products

Previously, GSA Schedule 84 consolidated many Special Items Numbers (SINs) to make finding products and services less complex for the agencies. GSA also added new categories or SINs for clearly identifying Physical Access Control Products that appear on GSA’s Approved Product List according to the standards created under FIPS201. These products appear under SIN 246 35-7 after being tested and approved by GSA. To be qualified to install these products under the GSA Program at least one individual from the GSA Contractor company must complete the class and be CSEIP certified before applying for labour SIN 246 60-5.

Additionally, the company must demonstrate certain qualifications and have past performance for this type of work. The Security Technology Alliance offers the training class and certification. Certified individuals and approved products are listed at www.idmanagement.gov. Companies listed with SIN 246-35 7 and SIN 246-60 5 may be found by searching at www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov.

Updates to guidance for procurement

Updates to guidance for procurement of PACS will continue to be posted to the GSA PACS Ordering Guide

Updates to guidance for procurement of PACS will continue to be posted to the GSA PACS Ordering Guide. The ordering guide posted at www.gsa.gov/firesecurity is a valuable support tool created to assist agencies with understanding the requirements of FIPS201 and procuring a PACS. The guide includes relevant regulations, FAQs, sample systems designs, sample statements of work, a list of key points of contract for additional help and questions.

In partnership with GSA and guided by the GSA Ombudsman group, the Security Industry Association and the Security Technology Alliance members and their contractor companies participated in a GSA Reverse Industry PACS Training Day on September 17, 2018. We presented from an industry perspective important fact on PACS system requirements, procurement planning, providing information on resources and further educating with panel discussions, individual presentations and amusing skits to over 300 Government agency staff and acquisition specialists. You can find some of the unedited recording of the PACS Reverse Industry Day Training on YouTube.

The GSA Schedules Program is a streamlined contracting vehicle incorporating specific Federal Acquisition Regulations for more efficiently purchasing commercial items
Some changes included the creation of a new category of products/services Special Item Number (SIN) for Order Level Materials (OLM) 

GSA Schedules Program

A hot topic about the GSA programme for 2018 was also an issue for the prior year. The GSA Schedules Program is a streamlined contracting vehicle incorporating specific Federal Acquisition Regulations for more efficiently purchasing commercial items. Companies may apply per a continuous open season for a 5-year contract with three 5-year options to renew. Contractors are vetted for past performance, corporate experience and financial capability. Products and services are considered for offering to Federal, State and Local customers (for Schedule 84) with pricing that is determined to be fair and reasonable through negotiations with GSA.

To make the determination for fair and reasonable pricing GSA carefully reviews the commercial practices of the contractor

To make the determination for fair and reasonable pricing GSA carefully reviews the commercial practices of the contractor as well as the competition of identical or similar item pricing. The most vocal complaint of concern from the contractors was regarding the consideration of competitor contractors offering identical items with out-of-date pricing or holding a Letter of Supply not authorised by the manufacturer.

GSA pricing tool

Since the GSA utilises a pricing tool to determine if the pricing offered is competitive, a rogue competitor can cause a pricing action to possibly be rejected due to out of date information even as the manufacturer offers an update of the product. This is an issue on all GSA Contracts that the supplier panel hopes will be reconsidered by GSA policymakers at the central office.

Most of us believe the Letters of Supply should only be issued by the manufacturer or with documented specific permission of the manufacturer to a reseller. Manufacturers may want to have a better understanding of the Letter of Supply, how it is considered by GSA and more carefully choose their Government partners for experience and compliance.

letter of supply GSA
Another challenge for the security community is regarding the lack of accessibility of participating dealers to GSA eBuy

Overcoming challenges for the security community

Contractors may only see RFQs which are posted under the Special items Number(s) that were awarded to their GSA Contract

Another challenge for the security community is regarding the lack of accessibility of participating dealers to GSA eBuy. GSA eBuy is an online Request for Quotation (RFQ) programme that is for GSA Contract holders only. Agencies will post their requirements by Special Item Number for at a minimum 48 hours.

Contractors may only see RFQs which are posted under the Special items Number(s) that were awarded to their GSA Contract. GSA Participating Dealers may take orders on behalf of a manufacturer if they are authorised under the manufacturer’s GSA Contract. They may also have an online PO Portal to receive orders. But they have no access to GSA eBuy to response to RFQs. Usually, under these arrangements, the manufacturers do not respond directly, so there is a problem using GSA eBuy for opportunities as their GSA Participating Dealers have no access to respond.

GSA Schedule 84 leadership

In some instances, a contracting officer may allow an emailed quotation. However, with the use of the electronic ordering system, this has become a common problem we hope to bring to the attention of policymakers. Some changes to the programmes may make the presentation of documentation more effective going forwardThe GSA Schedule 84 leadership has been helpful to explain the challenges to the agencies to try and resolve such issues.

So, what’s up for 2019? GSA modernisation is coming. There will be improvements to their tools and more consolidations of SINs and more. There have been discussions of a revival of the GSA Expo. The Expo offered training for contracting staff both Government and private industry.

Valuable tools for vendor training

Equally important is the networking, meetings and the exhibits of the contractors. Expos have been discontinued since 2012 but smaller events have been growing as well as online webinar training. Webinars are valuable tools for GSA and vendor training, but they do not take the place of being able to meet your customers face-to-face. GSA online eOffer and eMod programme have made processing actions more efficient.

Some changes to the programmes may make the presentation of documentation more effective going forward. The GSA online website for viewing the items on the GSA Contract and for purchasing items, GSA Advantage could definitely use an update as it has been basically the same for 20 years. Keep an eye on GSA Interact for the latest happenings with GSA.

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The Security Event 2019: a new security event to reconnect UK commercial security industry
The Security Event 2019: a new security event to reconnect UK commercial security industry

There is a new event on the calendar for the security industry in 2019: The Security Event 2019, 9-11 April, at NEC, Birmingham. For additional details and a preview of the new trade show and conference, we spoke with Tristan Norman, Founding Partner and Event Director, The Security Event. Q: It seems recently that some trade shows have been on the decline in terms of exhibit size and attendance. Why does the physical security industry need another trade show? Norman: I think there are numerous factors that play into the decline of trade shows in general and not something that is limited to the security industry. Those events that are suffering are no longer serving their target market or have failed to adapt to the changes in the industry they serve. However, what we are seeing now is the rise of focused, more “evolved” trade events which fulfil a gap in the industry event calendar and provide something new and fresh to a disillusioned audience. Q: What will be unique about The Security Event, and what role will it serve in bringing together buyers and sellers in the market? Where (geographically) will attendees come from? What we are seeing is a rise of trade events which provide something fresh to a disillusioned audience Norman: The driving ethos behind The Security Event is that we are “designed by the industry, for the industry.” We were able to start with a blank canvas and take onboard all the feedback from stakeholders throughout the security buying chain and create an event that is sustainable and fit for purpose. We see the role of the event as a very important one – to truly reconnect the currently fragmented UK commercial security industry, back at the NEC in Birmingham. We had originally anticipated that this would be an almost-exclusively UK event in year one. However, we have seen significant interest from potential visitors from across the wider EMEA region who are keen to do business in the UK. We formed a strategic alliance with Security Essen to help facilitate and strengthen our reach in these regions through additional marketing and PR activities. Consequently, early registrations indicate that it will be approximately an 80% UK and 20% international split. Q: What conference programming is being planned to augment the trade show event? Norman: Content will be delivered across three focused theatres, serving the needs of our audience throughout the buying chain. Emphasis will be placed on the latest technology innovations impacting the industry, practical advice on the most pressing issues facing security technicians, and important industry updates and insights. All sessions are focused on delivering tangible benefits to ensure professionals are equipped to stay relevant and to grow their business and we’re excited to be working with key industry bodies, innovators and experts to deliver the programme. We look forward to announcing those in coming weeks. Exhibitors want to re-engage with the thousands of industry colleagues who no longer attend other events on offer Q: Comparisons to IFSEC are inevitable. How will The Security Event be different than the IFSEC Security and Fire shows? What are the advantages of locating at Birmingham NEC? Norman: Both The Security Event and The Fire Safety Event, based at the NEC are completely different to any other trade show in the UK. We pride ourselves in creating a business platform that puts the exhibitors’ needs first, by limiting the size of stands and total number of exhibitors as well as creating a comprehensive CPD accredited educational programme for the visitors. Q: Which big industry players are supporting the launch of The Security Event, and what feedback are you hearing in terms of why they signed up at the show's inception? If a global manufacturer has a footprint in both the US and Europe, any tradeshow will be managed locally Norman: Our founding partners are Assa Abloy, Avigilon, Anixter, Comelit, Dahua, Honeywell, TDSi, Texecom, Tyco and Videcon. The full list of exhibitors and supporting partners can be found on our website. The reasons why they have signed up are very simple. They all see the exact same gap in the industry event landscape as we do. We believe there is a need for a 3-day channel focused commercial security exhibition based at The NEC in Birmingham. Our exhibitors want to re-engage with the thousands of industry colleagues who no longer attend the other events on offer. Q: Your 2019 show will be the same week as ISC West in Las Vegas. Do you think the competitive calendar will be a factor? Norman: In terms of our both our audience and our exhibiting base there is very little overlap with ISC West. Generally, if a global manufacturer has a footprint in both the US and Europe, any tradeshow will be managed locally so we haven’t observed any issues so far. We do acknowledge that having two shows at the same time globally isn’t ideal and we have moved our dates in 2020 to the 28-30 April to mitigate this going forward. The Security Event 2020 will not clash with Las Vegas' ISC West 2020 as it will in 2019, says Norman Q: How will you measure success in the first year of the show? What measurements (show size, number of attendees, exhibitor feedback, etc.) will constitute a "successful" first year for the show?Security Event will continue to evolve year after year, but will intent to stay true to the event's original concept Norman: Great question – the most important barometer of success for me and the team next April is the general industry reaction, after all, this show was created for them. Furthermore, it is vital to us that our exhibitors feel they have achieved their objectives for the show, whether it be quality, quantity of leads or raising awareness of a new product launch. We’ll also be keen to understand how satisfied visitors are with the event, including their views of the content, access to new products/services, effectiveness of the out of hours networking, etc. We are anticipating 6,000 visitors over the 3 days and I believe if we achieve this goal, we will have a strong rebooking on site, laying a great foundation for our 2020 event. Q: How would you expect/hope the show would continue to evolve in coming years? Norman: I hope over the next few years The Security Event cements itself as the industry’s favourite trade show and that exhibitors and visitors alike look forward to every year for both the business opportunities at the event and the networking outside of it. The Security Event will continue to evolve year after year, but I am determined that we stay true to our original concept and the principles on which the show was founded. After all, it is this formula that has proved to be so popular to date.

Why aren’t the Federal Government’s Physical Access Systems compliant with HSPD-12?
Why aren’t the Federal Government’s Physical Access Systems compliant with HSPD-12?

In the wake of 9/11, the Federal Government’s secure-the-fort, big idea was to create an identity credential for all federal employees and contractors. Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-12 set it all in motion. Today, we know the smartcard-based credential that arose from HSPD-12 as the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card. The PIV card is meant to give employees/contractors physical access to federal facilities and logical access to federal information systems. While using a PIV card for logical access has been largely successful and compliant with HSPD-12, implementing PIV-based, physical access control systems (PACS) has been much more difficult to conquer. As a result, HSPD-12 compliance for PACS has largely eluded the Federal Government. The noncompliance reasons are many, but there is now hope for fully achieving HSPD-12’s mandates. Interoperability with any agency’s PIV Beyond Passports, PIV cards represent the only other open-standards-based, multi-vendor-supported, identity credential program on the planetAll Executive Branch employees and long-term contractors, including the entire Department of Defense, have been issued PIV cards. This has been true since 2013. Beyond Passports, PIV cards represent the only other open-standards-based, multi-vendor-supported, identity credential program on the planet. It seems so simple, where employees/contractors previously used their proximity card to open a federal facility door or go through a turnstile, they should now be able to use their PIV card. However, HSPD-12 took the PIV requirement one step further – compliant PACS must be interoperable with any agency’s PIV. This introduced an entire magnitude of additional complexity. A compliant, interoperable, PIV-based PACS should work like this: an authorised employee (or contractor) presents a PIV card (contact or contactless) to a card reader to enter whichever federal agency building they have reason to be. Over the last 14 years, in all but a very few cases, the lack of PACS’ HSPD-12 compliance has prevented this from happening. Secure credential policy Today, less than 1% of the Federal Government’s PACS are HSPD-12-compliant. At most federal facilities, especially those outside the National Capitol Region, a noncompliant PACS works like this: an authorised employee (or contractor) presents a proximity (‘prox’) badge to a proximity card reader to enter his or her agency’s facility. At the fraction of federal facilities with upgraded PACS that work with PIV cards, virtually all such PACS fail to properly use a minimum number of PIV security features before granting access – let alone interoperate with a PIV card from any other agency. Active government solicitations are issued for new, non-compliant, proximity-based systems that perpetuate the delay to HSPD-12 complianceNew federal initiatives frequently suffer from having no policy to enforce their roll-out. That isn’t the case with PACS compliance. Policies have been in place for so long that newer policies like Office of Management and Budget (OMB) M-11-11 (February 3, 2011) remind everyone what the policies said in 2004 and 2006. This year, OMB publicised its proposed OMB M-18-XX (Draft), which will replace M-11-11. OMB M-18-XX’s (Draft) main PACS thrust is, once again, to ensure that everyone understands what the Federal Government’s secure credential policy is. It hasn’t changed since 2004. It would be tempting to say that PACS technology isn’t mature, but that isn’t the case. In 2013, the Federal Government revamped the PACS portion of the FIPS 201 Evaluation Program and, since that time, all PACS on the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Approved Products List are 100% compliant and interoperable. Yet, on any given day, active government solicitations are issued for new, non-compliant, proximity-based systems that perpetuate the delay to HSPD-12 compliance. The usual suspects, policy and technology, are not the culprits for this epic delay. An authorised employee presents a PIV card to a card reader to enter whichever federal agency building they have reason to be Difficulties in adopting HPSP-12 compliance for PACS Standards – The Federal Government’s approach to standards is to avoid a great deal of specificity. It’s an unspoken tenet that federal standards must be flexible, promote innovation and avoid disadvantaging any participating market segment. The opposite is true if your goal is interoperability: nearly every detail must be specified. Consider the standards-based success story of chip-based credit cards. When was the last time you used a credit card and it didn’t work? Interoperability failures are nearly unheard of. If you look at the hundreds of volumes of technical specifications that cover minute aspects of every component in credit cards and payment terminals, you quickly realise why it works so well. Nothing is left to chance, nothing is a variable, and there is no optionality. The Good News: Work to increase viability through deep scrutiny has progressed in recent years. The GSA APL PACS Testing Lab, set up in 2013, annually tests credentials from all PIV issuers against all GSA-approved PACS. This testing has significantly reduced interoperability failures at federal facilities. Collaboration – In the past, physical access practitioners from federal agencies rarely collaborated, unlike their logical access counterparts. This is also true for PACS procurement decision-makers across agencies and facilities. The Good News: In 2018, an agency trend has emerged where finally physical access, physical security and IT practitioners have begun sitting down to discuss their shared responsibilities. We have already begun to see coordinated budget requests between IT and Security with enterprise architectures positioning PACS as an enterprise service on the network. Scale – The Federal Government owns so many buildings that they can’t be counted. Google doesn’t know how many there are and neither does any one government official. Variability – A significant percentage of facilities have unique aspects making a one-size-fits-all approach infeasible. The Good News: Mature consulting services can now help agencies marry federal requirements with their unique environments to develop robust PACS enterprise architectures. As we see this occurring more and more frequently, a repeatable, achievable, systems-based upgrade of all PACS may be on the horizon. The GSA APL PACS Testing Lab annually tests credentials from all PIV issuers against all GSA-approved PACS Provenance – In many cases, different groups own different parts of a single facility, not all of whom might be subject to, or wish to interoperate with, a high-assurance compliant PACS. For example, GSA manages facilities for Legislative and Judicial tenants who aren’t subject to HSPD-12. Policy dictates that GSA manage the PACS for the front doors of these facilities should be HSPD-12-compliant, despite the fact that these tenants likely don’t have credentials that work with this technology. Sure, these tenants could commercially obtain a PIV-I credential, but almost none have. Economics – It’s difficult for agencies to create their annual security budget requests when HPSD-12 PACS upgrades are in scope, because so many unknowns exist at each facility. To assess the cost, the time to complete, and the facility’s existing equipment inventory, it would be logical for an agency to hire a contractor with PACS expertise to perform a site assessment. Having to do capital planning for an assessment phase in advance of making the annual budget request for the PACS upgrade creates a never-ending cycle of delay. Especially at agencies with multi-year capital planning requirements. Many agencies, trying to avoid this delay cycle, have fallen prey to doing site assessments themselves. This results in their integrators doing their walk-throughs after the contract is awarded. This is the leading cause of PACS upgrade cost overruns. Dependence on the agency’s IT department – Historically, PACS have been deployed on dedicated networks and are rarely ever connected to the enterprise, let alone the Internet. High-assurance PACS that validate credentials from other agencies must now communicate with many different systems on an enterprise network and over the Internet – so much so that the Federal Government reclassified PACS as IT systems. The Good News: With collaboration increasing between Physical Security Officers (PSOs) and Chief Information Officer (CIOs), we expect this to improve in due course. Resistance to change – This is a classic human factors challenge, and it’s a big one. PSOs have spent decades achieving their positions. PIV-based PACS could not be more different from the technologies that proceeded it, and such radical change is often resisted. When the value proposition is clear, change is adopted more readily. But security value isn’t easily measured or observed. It is often said that the best performance review for a PSO is to note that nothing happened. And when something does happen, it is necessarily kept quiet so the risk can be remediated without calling attention to the vulnerability in the interim. To date, the value proposition of moving to PIV-based PACS has been entirely based on policy (without corresponding funding in most cases) and through the shock value of white hat hackers, showing how easily most proximity badges can be cloned. This is not the stuff of change agents.   PIV-based PACS could not be more different from the technologies that proceeded it, and such radical change is often resisted Are these challenges a unique situation? No, these PACS challenges are not unique. Cybersecurity initially faced many of the same challenges that federal PACS face today. By 2000, the Federal Government recognised its urgent need to improve cybersecurity practices across its computing infrastructure and issued many policies that required agencies to improve. Improvement was sparse and inconsistent. GSA Schedules were set up to help agencies buy approved products and services to assist them, but this too produced lacklustre results. The Federal Government found that the best cybersecurity results occurred when enforced at the time an agency commissioned a system Congress enacted the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) (now amended by the Federal Information Security Modernization Action of 2014). FISMA mandates an Authority To Operate (ATO) accreditation process for all information systems. The Federal Government found that the best cybersecurity results occurred when enforced at the time an agency commissioned (vs. purchased) a system. FISMA and ATO accreditation has been highly successful when implementing new systems. These cybersecurity requirements are the closest thing that the Federal Government has to the ‘PIV Police’ today. However, the PIV requirements in FISMA and ATOs currently apply to only logical access for information systems. The proposed OMB M-18-XX (Draft) mentions that a FISMA PACS overlay to NIST SP 800-53 is forthcoming. The intent of the PACS overlay is to use the army of ATO accrediting officials in the Federal Government and enable them to assess implemented PACS as fit for purpose. This is the first time an enforcement approach has been brought forward that could reasonably succeed. How long for HSPD-12 compliance? We know that it won’t take another 14 years to achieve HSPD-12 compliance. Pockets of compliance are popping up. Compliant procurements do exist, and the state of PACS across the Federal Government is better in 2018 than in any previous year. Progress to date has been at a constant rate. The question is: what would take for progress to occur at an exponential rate instead? A major attack or compromise involving PACS would certainly hasten upgrades, but let’s hope that’s not the solution. The energy distribution sector has been riding a wave of security upgrade demands to retrofit their facilities across the U.S. The energy distribution sector, under nearly constant Advanced Persistent Threat attacks, has been riding a wave of security upgrade demands to retrofit their facilities across the U.S. The potential threat exists for Federal Government facilities as well. Looking into the federal PACS-compliance crystal ball, we’re beginning to see the faint outline of a multi-faceted campaign of education, budgetary oversight and accreditation of PACS that will ultimately see us past the tipping point. Consider though, at the current rate of PACS enablement, a 50% compliance rate is still far in the future. When that day arrives, the PIV card form factor may no longer be the key that fits that future lock. (Are you already using a mobile device’s Bluetooth interface to open the door to your office building?) Taking decades to perform a technology upgrade is the aging elephant in the room no one talks about. By the time critical mass is achieved with an upgrade facing these many challenges, there are typically compelling reasons to start over again with the next generation of technology. That cycle may well prove to be the Federal Government’s biggest PACS challenge of all.

How leveraging new technologies in the workplace will enhance its security
How leveraging new technologies in the workplace will enhance its security

As the world continues to become more connected, it’s becoming increasingly important to adjust security and safety procedures in the workplace. But today’s ever-evolving office environment can present unique safety and preparedness challenges. No two businesses are exactly alike, with some located in numerous buildings or spread out across campuses, while others have employees that frequently journey from different locations, work remotely or travel internationally. With this shifting environment, Rave Mobile Safety’s recent Workplace Safety and Preparedness survey asked over 500 full-time employees in various industries across the United States about their views on safety at work and emergency preparedness. Preferred safety measures Only 57 percent of respondents indicated that their workplace currently had preparedness drills in place for critical situationsThe survey looked at how employees and companies respond to various workplace emergencies: workplace violence, active shooter, medical emergency, fire, hazmat incidents, weather events and cyberattacks/system outages. Respondents provided insight on the current state of safety in their workplace, as well as how they want to be contacted when an emergency occurs. Though opinions on the preferred safety measures differed between generations and also between on-site and offsite workers, one fact remains consistent: there is much to be done to instil a better sense of safety in the workplace. While the findings show that employees feel safe in their workplace, only 57 percent of respondents indicated that their workplace currently had preparedness drills in place for critical situations. Quick thinking Of the plans currently in place, excluding fire, 57 percent of the other major emergency plans were rarely or never tested. With so few drills in place, employees are left not knowing the best ways to respond to emergencies like weather events or hazmat incidents or if their employer recommends a certain response to situations like medical emergencies. Testing these plans is essential so that all employees, whether they are new to the company or not Even if plans are in place to begin with, not ensuring your employees understand and are comfortable with how to react to certain situations, can put the organisation in harm’s way. Testing these plans is essential so that all employees, whether they are new to the company or not, have the appropriate response top of mind and their actions become second nature during a situation that will likely require quick thinking. Workplace violence Instilling regular practices will only further ensure that responses will happen seamlessly, regardless of the emergency. Beyond the general awareness of drills and practices, most surprising in the responses was the fact that 34 percent of female respondents were unaware of workplace violence emergency plans. This is particularly shocking because workplace violence is the second leading cause of death for women in the workplace, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics. This shows an obvious lack of preparedness from organisations. It’s immensely important that employees to understand the relevant dangers of the workplace, especially when alternative could have a fatal result. The differences between baby boomers and millennials in the workplace is a common barometer showing how the workplace is continuing to change. Emergency plans Workplace violence is the second leading cause of death for women in the workplace, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour StatisticsWhat may have worked for previous generations must be reworked and adjusted so every generation is made aware of and understands the plans and procedures in place. These changes can help make workplace safety plans fresh and continuously relevant. With that in mind, millennials currently represent the largest segment of employees unaware of emergency plans for major workplace emergencies. 38 percent of this age group are unaware of existing emergency plans, compared to just a 28 percent average of employees over the age of 35. This could be associated with the fact that some organisations are not communicating plans with newer employees or even that organisations that employ a significant number of millennials might not have plans in place at all. Affecting everyday work If the newest generation is unaware of these plans, then it is only a matter of time before Generation Z enters the workforce and is in even worse position when it comes to emergency awareness. The survey results showed that on average, workplaces use two methods of communication for emergencies Feeling safe and secure at work should not be something that workers need to focus on, however more than a quarter of respondents that work remotely said that worrying about safety is exactly what is affecting their everyday work. With that in mind, it’s even more concerning to see that there seems to be a clear divide between current methods and preferred methods of communication during an emergency. The survey results showed that on average, workplaces use two methods of communication for emergencies, with the top two being intercom system announcement/building alarm (27 percent) and email (22 percent). Mass text messages At first, these methods seem to cover both remote and in-office employees, but survey results actually showed that both groups preferred and would be better reached during other methods. While email is the second most common emergency method currently in place by organisations, it actually ranks as the fourth most preferred method at a mere 11 percent. Even with a clear preference towards communication via mass text messages by respondents (39 percent of remote workers prefer this method), less than 20 percent of companies actually take advantage of this technology. This clear disconnect shows that organisations must find what works best for their employees instead of using methods that were previously established or that are just currently being used. Preparedness plans What remains important for organisations, regardless of size or industry, is to keep emergency preparedness plans ever evolving Communication can not only be essential to alert employees to everyday situations, like office closures, but it is also imperative in preventing emergencies to escalate when they do occur. Although this survey discusses the current state of safety in the workplace, it’s that the disconnect between employee perceptions and employer polices that’s the most concerning. Companies need to take steps to understand how their employees would like to be reached during an emergency, as well as how employees would also like to reach out to management to report their own concerns. What remains important for organisations, regardless of size or industry, is to keep emergency preparedness plans ever evolving and well communicated, so your employees are confident in the emergency plans in place. By proactively planning and practicing for emergency events through table top exercises and drills, employers can demonstrate their commitment to employee safety and preparedness and build employee confidence.