While security salesmen are touting megapixels and anti-passback features, they are missing an opportunity to communicate the role of technology in the broader context of risk management and incident response – and in saving lives. That’s the message of Gerald Wilkins, PSP, Vice President of Active Risk Survival.

Incident response is at the core of how an enterprise reacts to risk and is a standardised approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response. Effective incident response requires integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organisational structure. All the elements must work together to achieve the desired outcome – to mitigate a risk using countermeasures.

Capabilities of systems during emergencies

I want to see us have more meaningful conversations with security directors and emergency operations planners"Equipment such as CCTV, access control and mass notification systems can provide effective countermeasures, but salesmen in the physical security market are not ‘connecting the dots’ between equipment specifications and its capabilities as part of the broader incident command system.

Historically, purchases of security technologies have not been considered in that context,” says Wilkins. “Rather, the industry’s sales pitches have been about features and capabilities – pixels or communication distances or intelligence – not about how those capabilities are useful in the specific context of emergency response.

My goal is to change the industry,” says Wilkins. “I want to see us have more meaningful conversations with security directors and emergency operations planners.

Focusing on the Emergency Operations Plan

We are in the life safety business, and we need to have more conversations about where technology fits into the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). When was the last time you [as a security salesman] asked a client to look at their Emergency Operations Plan? No one knows the technology better than we do.

What’s missing, however, is attention to how technology is applied to risk management and responseThere are so many folks in our industry who are technology gurus, who ‘get’ the technology, and are good at selling it,” he says. What’s missing, however, is attention to how technology is applied to risk management and response.

As an industry, even guys who have been in the business a long time have never heard about incident command,” says Wilkins. “How are we weaponising technology to maximise the outcome? We don’t talk about it. We want to talk about megapixels and wide dynamic range. But when are we going to talk about how we can apply that technology to mitigate our tangible and intangible risks?

Importance of security equipment

In the wake of each active shooter or other incident in the news, Wilkins looks back to consider the missed opportunities and how security equipment could have saved lives. “What technology did we have to help first responders – video, access control and paging – but they weren’t used?” he asks.

An example is the San Bernandino shooting in 2015, when police officers were heard asking “has anybody found that access control card?” In effect, a law enforcement officer was asking for technology that should have been included as part of the emergency plan.

Situational awareness, such as that provided by video systems, can help responders judge which areas are safe fasterSituational awareness, such as that provided by video systems, can help responders judge which areas are safe faster and provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel more time to save lives. However, video is not being viewed in that light as a part of the broader life-saving mission. “Our industry needs to sit down with a security director or operations manager and ask: How are you using technology as a resource tool that will become part of your critical response?” says Wilkins.

Understanding how equipment works

Technology is often not being incorporated in emergency planning, even with something as simple as a fire drill. Most fire drills are ‘one size fits all’ – every person knows where they should go and how they should exit. But what if there is a fire in a particular part of the building? Today’s fire alarms operate in zones to communicate the location of a fire, but this capability is not being used to practice a variety of resulting scenarios that could save lives. 

We need to understand as an industry how our partners in law enforcement and EMS do their jobs,” says Wilkins. “We can help stakeholders in a building understand how our equipment works every day and how they can use it in a critical incident. We need to understand Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs), how incident command works, and how we can help emergency responders.

Security training for salespeople

I want to know everything I can know to help guys sell things that can change the outcome if something bad happens"If a guy wants to talk about his pixels or his anti-passback, he should instead consider having a meaningful conversation with the client about best practices and how to mitigate risk. This creates a different position [for the salesman], and if there is a critical incident, something you said or did might save someone’s life.

When it comes to training and taking a more strategic approach to sales, to some extent, the security technology industry has been a victim of its own success. When business is good, security companies are less likely to look for ways to train their salespeople.

We’re in the life safety business, not in the ‘stuff’ business,” says Wilkins. “I want to know everything I can know to help guys sell things that can actually change the outcome if something bad happens.” Another problem is “we don’t know what we don’t know.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

Managing security during unprecedented times of home working
Managing security during unprecedented times of home working

Companies are following government guidance and getting as many people as possible working from home. Some companies will have resisted home working in the past, but I’m certain that the sceptics will find that people can be productive with the right tools no matter where they are. A temporary solution will become permanent. But getting it right means managing risk. Access is king In a typical office with an on-premise data centre, the IT department has complete control over network access, internal networks, data, and applications. The remote worker, on the other hand, is mobile. He or she can work from anywhere using a VPN. Until just recently this will have been from somewhere like a local coffee shop, possibly using a wireless network to access the company network and essential applications. CV-19 means that huge numbers of people are getting access to the same desktop and files, and collaborative communication toolsBut as we know, CV-19 means that huge numbers of people are getting access to the same desktop and files, applications and collaborative communication tools that they do on a regular basis from the office or on the train. Indeed, the new generation of video conferencing technologies come very close to providing an “almost there” feeling. Hackers lie in wait Hackers are waiting for a wrong move amongst the panic, and they will look for ways to compromise critical servers. Less than a month ago, we emerged from a period of chaos. For months hackers had been exploiting a vulnerability in VPN products from Pulse Secure, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, and Citrix. Patches were provided by vendors, and either companies applied the patch or withdrew remote access. As a result, the problem of attacks died back.  But as companies race to get people working from home, they must ensure special care is taken to ensure the patches are done before switching VPNs on. That’s because remote desktop protocol (RDP) has been for the most part of 2019, and continues to be, the most important attack vector for ransomware. Managing a ransomware attack on top of everything else would certainly give you sleepless nights. As companies race to get people working from home, they must ensure special care is taken to ensure the patches are done before switching VPNs on Hackers are waiting for a wrong move amongst the panic, and they will look for ways to compromise critical serversExposing new services makes them also susceptible to denial of service attacks. Such attacks create large volumes of fake traffic to saturate the available capacity of the internet connection. They can also be used to attack the intricacies of the VPN protocol. A flow as little as 1Mbps can perturbate the VPN service and knock it offline. CIOs, therefore, need to acknowledge that introducing or extending home working broadens the attack surface. So now more than ever it’s vital to adapt risk models. You can’t roll out new services with an emphasis on access and usability and not consider security. You simply won’t survive otherwise. Social engineering Aside from securing VPNs, what else should CIO and CTOs be doing to ensure security? The first thing to do is to look at employee behaviour, starting with passwords. It’s highly recommended that strong password hygiene or some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) is imposed. Best practice would be to get all employees to reset their passwords as they connect remotely and force them to choose a new password that complies with strong password complexity guidelines.  As we know, people have a habit of reusing their passwords for one or more online services – services that might have fallen victim to a breach. Hackers will happily It’s highly recommended that strong password hygiene or some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) is imposedleverage these breaches because it is such easy and rich pickings. Secondly, the inherent fear of the virus makes for perfect conditions for hackers. Sadly, a lot of phishing campaigns are already luring people in with the promise of important or breaking information on COVID-19. In the UK alone, coronavirus scams cost victims over £800,000 in February 2020. A staggering number that can only go up. That’s why CIOs need to remind everyone in the company of the risks of clickbait and comment spamming - the most popular and obvious bot techniques for infiltrating a network. Notorious hacking attempts And as any security specialist will tell you, some people have no ethics and will exploit the horrendous repercussions of CV-19. In January we saw just how unscrupulous hackers are when they started leveraging public fear of the virus to spread the notorious Emotet malware. Emotet, first detected in 2014, is a banking trojan that primarily spreads through ‘malspam’ and attempts to sneak into computers to steal sensitive and private information. In addition, in early February the Maze ransomware crippled more than 230 workstations of the New Jersey Medical Diagnostics Lab and when they refused to pay, the vicious attackers leaked 9.5GB or research data in an attempt to force negotiations. And in March, an elite hacking group tried to breach the World Health Organization (WHO). It was just one of the many attempts on WHO and healthcare organisations in general since the pandemic broke. We’ll see lots more opportunist attacks like this in the coming months.   More speed less haste In March, an elite hacking group tried to breach the World Health Organization (WHO). It was just one of the many attempts on WHOFinally, we also have bots to contend with. We’ve yet to see reports of fake news content generated by machines, but we know there’s a high probability it will happen. Spambots are already creating pharmaceutical spam campaigns thriving on the buying behaviour of people in times of fear from infection. Using comment spamming – where comments are tactically placed in the comments following an update or news story - the bots take advantage of the popularity of the Google search term ‘Coronavirus’ to increase the visibility and ranking of sites and products in search results. There is clearly much for CIOs to think about, but it is possible to secure a network by applying some well thought through tactics. I believe it comes down to having a ‘more speed, less haste’ approach to rolling out, scaling up and integrating technologies for home working, but above all, it should be mixed with an employee education programme. As in reality, great technology and a coherent security strategy will never work if it is undermined by the poor practices of employees.

How does audio enhance security system performance?
How does audio enhance security system performance?

Video is widely embraced as an essential element of physical security systems. However, surveillance footage is often recorded without sound, even though many cameras are capable of capturing audio as well as video. Beyond the capabilities of cameras, there is a range of other audio products on the market that can improve system performance and/or expand capabilities (e.g., gunshot detection.) We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How does audio enhance the performance of security and/or video systems? 

How have standards changed the security market?
How have standards changed the security market?

A standard is a document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes, and/or practices. Standards surround every aspect of our business. For example, the physical security marketplace is impacted by industry standards, national and international standards, quality standards, building codes and even environmental standards, to name just a few. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How have standards changed the security market as we know it?