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A relationship with automated standard operating procedures

In an ideal world, security personnel would never be faced with making quick decisions in difficult situations. They would not have to respond to incidents or emergencies because such things would not occur. But, of course, one of the main reasons we have security personnel and physical security systems in the first place is because bad things do happen and we need to address them quickly and efficiently to mitigate danger and return to normal as quickly as possible.

It is our security operators who are tasked with responding to emergencies and unplanned events as well as with maintaining the day-to-day security of institutions and organizations. Increasingly, they are working with technology that helps them with these tasks by automating and supporting their decision-making.

With a Decision Support System, security operators are better able to manage incidents with quick access to the data and tools required to respond confidently and intelligently to any situation. By increasing situational intelligence, visualization and incident management capabilities, these systems allow security personnel to make informed choices in their daily routines and when facing an unplanned incident.

For years, as part of an incident response plan (IRP) or as a way to ensure compliance with routine activities, organizations have frequently relied on standard operating procedures (SOP). SOPs are often organization or industry specific procedures that describe the actions, in the proper order, necessary to complete tasks or respond to an incident. As such, they define the expected practices by systematizing and documenting processes. When it comes to security, SOPs are an essential tool for reducing the impact that human emotion can have on decision making in high stress situations.


The type and efficiency of SOPs has run the gambit from tabbed binders that security personnel flip through, sometimes in tense circumstances, to specialized integrated systems (PSIM) designed by programmers or consultants.

It is not surprising that there are significant and widespread disadvantages associated with tabbed binders, which often consist of laminated pages. For example, when faced with an evolving high stress situation, working with a paper SOP first requires that security operators be able to correctly name the type of incident they are facing and then search through one or more binders to find the appropriate section. If the situation changes, as can happen with unplanned events, then the operator has to begin searching anew.

In addition, the prescribed actions are performed on an entirely different platform, forcing security personnel to move back and forth between their binders and their security system. It is easy to imagine a scene in which a security officer is at a workstation watching monitors and managing a situation with a binder open on their lap. This is hardly the picture of efficiency. But, more than that, there is no way to measure impact.

While PSIMs can address some of the issues associated with paper SOPs, they are expensive to maintain and require periodic updates, which increase their overall cost. In addition, because the functionality comes from the PSIM itself, changes to it or any other portion of the technology can cause compatibility issues.

Recent advancements in open platform systems, like Security Center from Genetec, have enabled organizations to integrate their SOPs with their security platform. Security Center, for example, allows for a vertical integration with the SOP functionality. One of the clear advantages of this is that the functionality is at the platform level, thereby reducing compatibility issues or problematic upgrades. Additionally, this type of integration does not require extra licensing.


There are clear work efficiency, cost, and compatibility advantages to be gained when an SOP is integrated with a Decision Support System like Mission Control from Genetec, but there are other benefits as well. In particular, they allow your organization to measure impact and learn from your own experience.

Universities, airports, law enforcement, medical centers and cities all use SOPs to respond to unplanned events and emergency situations. For these organizations and others, SOPs help mitigate the risks associated with poor decisionmaking in high stress situations by giving security personnel clear procedures to follow based on an organization’s processes.

Using SOPs, organizations can anticipate and prepare for unplanned events with cooler heads to gain greater control over any situation. They allow organizations to address common incidents or threats by helping them to define a response management strategy and contingency plans in advance. Based on an organization’s operational environment, users can create incident categories, the multi-layered rules that trigger them, and the automated system response.

In the aftermath, most organizations use SOPs to review their procedures and responses with the goal of managing the next incident with greater understanding and efficiency. Because they are working with clear documentation, they can use exact criteria to evaluate their successes and determine where they can change. The result of this evaluation frequently leads to improvements to responses that are then reflected in an updated SOP, a process which is made much easier when an organization is working within their security platform.


But SOPs can also address more than safety. Being able to provide a clear level of accountability for your environment can be very powerful. With the data collected through your automated SOPs, you can affect and improve your daily operations.

Consider the following question: In your organization, do you really know how long it takes to replace a broken camera within your facility? The process is fairly straightforward. A trigger— whether it’s from the camera itself, the system it’s connected to or a person reporting the outage— is signaled. An investigation occurs, and then the appropriate party or parties take action to fix the problem. Do you know or can you find out how long this takes?

With an automated SOP integrated into your security platform, not only can you establish the clear procedures to fix the camera, you can also measure the efficiency of the process. In this way, you can begin to think about the next question: When was the last time you made a noticeable impact on that length of time?

When you understand the steps and can track the length of time it takes, you can begin to investigate ways to make procedures more efficient. It is considerably easier to make changes at any level in an organization when you can quantify results and accurately predict outcomes.

Ultimately, the ability to understand data to, in a sense, predict the future is what a Decision Support System is all about. Its goal is to provide security personnel with tools and information to help them make the best decisions in everyday and extraordinary situations. Automated standardized operating procedures are an important part of this solution.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Security Today.


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