Get Back To Normal
A relationship with automated standard operating procedures
- By Zebedeo Peña
- Jan 01, 2017
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
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 EVOLUTION OF STANDARD
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.
DATA YOU CAN LEARN FROM
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
HOW TO IMPROVE
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
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.