LONE WORKERS: STAYING CALM IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
Debbie Howlett, TrackTik, Network Partner
With tensions at an all-time high right now, it’s important to ensure that our frontline security officers remain as calm, cool, and collected as possible during these difficult and trying times. One of the best ways a security company can ensure the safety of their security teams, and especially lone workers, is to equip them with the very best tools to support and protect them. Ensuring the safety and well-being of your security officers also confirms your commitment that as a security company you are complying with your health and safety obligations towards your security personnel.
California, like many states across the U.S., is under a statewide order issued by California’s governor requiring people to wear face coverings while entering most indoor settings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But across the U.S., face masks have become a topic of hot debate, with some parts of the population flat-out refusing to wear masks while others argue that masks could save lives.
As a result, there have been several instances of violence against security officers for enforcing safety policies across the country.
In Flint, Michigan, a security officer was fatally shot after telling a customer to wear a state-mandated face mask. The officer was simply doing his job by upholding the governor’s executive order related to the Covid-19 pandemic for the safety of store employees and customers.
In Chicago, two sisters were charged with attempted murder after they attacked a security officer in a shoe store who told them to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer.
Another security officer, this time in Van Nuys, California, walked away from a fight with a broken arm after two men refused to wear masks inside a Target store.
Risky Work Environments
As more major U.S. retailers require their customers to wear face masks, store employees are often being confronted by unreasonable and sometimes violent customers who refuse to comply with the mask mandates. In August, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, asked companies to hire security staff to enforce a store’s mask policy instead of burdening employees with the task. “Employees should not be expected to put their safety and their life on the line for the employer. That’s an unreasonable expectation,” Appelbaum said.
However, security experts are also encouraging security officers to adopt calm, non-confrontational tones when speaking with customers about wearing a face mask. Instead of saying “You need to wear a face mask,” experts suggest using phrases like “This business has a policy requiring face masks? Are you able to get a face mask?” At the end of the day though, if a confrontation ensues, security officers, like store employees, should always escalate risky situations to law enforcement.
Lone Work Safety
In the past, security companies were forced to rely on paper reports and check-ins via radio to know what was going on during an officer’s shift. Not anymore. Lone worker systems ensure that you are always aware of where your security officers are. These systems – which include GPS tracking and other key features – were designed to ensure that your workers are always safe and secure.
Here are a few technologies that could save a security officer’s life:
- Instant Incident Reporting & Video Recording
Modern lone worker systems allow for your security officers to take video footage and photos in real-time at the location of an incident, while also sending instant alerts to the office support staff that something is amiss. Video recording (sometimes referred to as “Watch Mode”) can also improve lone worker safety by providing officers with the ability to record interventions and other potentially dangerous situations they may encounter during a shift. For example, let’s say that one of your security officers encounters an intruder while on patrol. Rather than attempting to describe the suspect afterwards, they can instead activate Watch Mode to capture a clear image of the perpetrator. This not only helps law enforcement take proper action, but it can also protect your officer against legal concerns if there is a dispute surrounding the incident.
- GPS Tracking
One of the most frequently highlighted features of lone worker systems is GPS tracking, which allows you to keep tabs on a security officer’s location at all times. Many lone worker systems take things a step further with the implementation of geofencing systems and other alarm features. By establishing geofence boundaries for a particular site, you will automatically be notified if an officer strayed outside their assigned area. This allows you to check in on your officer and make sure everything is okay.
Checkpoints along your security officer’s route also make it easier to track their progress and safety. Lone worker systems can send automatic notifications when an officer reaches a checkpoint, or when they fail to show up on time. This allows you to become aware of a potential incident, even if your officer hasn’t called in to report a problem.
- Panic Button
For situations when your officer is in serious trouble, the inclusion of a panic button ensures that your officer can send an immediate alert to your office team. A list of emergency contacts – individuals security officers can call in the event of an
emergency – should also be available to lone workers. Your site-dedicated emergency contact can then take swift action to call emergency services and get the necessary support to your officer. Being able to respond quickly to this type of notification could very well save a security officer’s life.
By providing a reliable method of monitoring your security officers during their shift, lone worker systems provide a better approach to safety while also promoting overall peace of mind. This ensures that your officers receive the protection and support they need when dispatched to new sites or locations where face mask policies and other safety protocols are in place and need to be enforced.
Debbie is an experienced writer with a demonstrated history of working in the security industry. She is based in Montreal, Canada, with TrackTik—a dynamic and cutting-edge tech company that sells cloud-based security workforce management software.