COVID-19 Updates: What is Actually Important to Physical Security

COVID-19 Updates

UPDATED 4/8/2020

With the onset of COVID-19, the Silvertrac team will be sharing as much information as possible on how this is affecting the physical security industry as a whole, how security operations are responding, and any additional information we can find that will provide education and understanding on what is happening around the world.

We promise to provide information without unnecessary fear or chaos. We have been and will continue to be an industry partner and a human partner to all of our customers and readers, doing our part to help the security industry get us back to a safe and healthy world. We are all in this together. 

Updates

Keep in mind - as you read through these security operation updates - that many of our clients have different approaches to crisis management based on the needs of their community and organizational structure. 

The overall takeaway from all of our conversations is that each operation should have team members ready and willing to step up and a strong operational structure ready to make the necessary adjustments during this time. When building a crisis management response, evaluating the foundation your operation is built on is critical to managing crisis situations effectively. 

We want to thank all of the men and women currently working in all critical industries. Your efforts are seen and greatly valued. We appreciate all that you do. 

Please continue to check back on this article for regular updates. If you need assistance or want to share your thoughts on how you are managing your operation during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out

Resources (UPDATED 4/8/20)


We have compiled a list of resources that the Silvertrac team is using to stay updated and gain understanding about the COVID-19 pandemic. This list will continue to be updated as more information is made available. Feel free to send over any resources you have personally found valuable. 

NOTE: These are the sources our team is using, but we always encourage people to do their part by vetting resources when researching any topic, especially when it is related to something so prominent like a pandemic. 

COVID-19 Contract Security Panel

Security Operation Updates


United States (UPDATED 4/8/20)

Reminder: If you would like to share your successful strategies on responding to COVID-19, please reach out to our content team here. 

 

Update: 4/8/20

Weekly Takeaway: Cities and states, including the Las Vegas Valley, continue to adjust to the evolving COVID-19 crisis, reclassifying criminal acts and calling out the National Guard. The need for contract security operations rise as businesses remain closed and more incidents are seen on patrol. Operations remain successful due to effective delegation, minimal OT, and attempts to keep overhead down. 


On 4/1/20, the Nevada National Guard was called into action in the Las Vegas Valley.  Their role is still being finalized but will likely be involved with medical, security, transportation, logistical and food services. Security operations are on stand-by to see how this will affect their efforts and the overall dynamic of the city. 

The city of Las Vegas is offering its own small business assistance, in addition to the federal CARES Act. They are also working with security operations, including PFI, to educate businesses and communities on what they can do to keep safe.

Likely due to the reclassification of certain criminal acts, there are fewer crimes being reported but security operations are seeing an increase in domestic violence, fights, and violent crimes during their patrols. 

With over 250 officers on payroll and running 70-80 Silvertrac portals at once, PFI maintains a successful operation through delegation, minimizing overtime (OT) and making attempts to keep overhead low. They also believe in making sure their officers have a day off to decompress. All of this results in healthy, safe, and happy officers. 

They continue to see increases in their mobile patrol contracts to the point that they are now running 24 hr. patrol units. With businesses remaining closed, security operations are ensuring their clients’ properties aren’t damaged as the shelter-in-home orders remain in effect and incidents increase. 

In order to remain open and operational, PFI has implemented a 1-month advance on all new contracts. Some clients are asking to pay 2 months in advance to ensure the safety of their businesses. They have also seen HOA, short-term rental, and weekly/monthly stay apartment clients reallocate budget from weekend personnel to security personnel, meaning security-personnel are assisting in managing weekend operations instead of property-personnel. 


Many security operations are struggling to receive payment as clients continue to shut their doors or are unsure of when they can re-open. Working with clients and ensuring payment up-front has proven to be successful for many of our Silvertrac clients. 

Update: 3/27/20

Weekly Takeaway: In order to run an efficient and successful security operation during this unstable time, it is important to remain well-staffed, manage hierarchy to maintain organization structure, and have all hands on deck willing and ready to get the job done. Monitoring the situation across different channels is key to staying on top of the evolving crisis. It is important to maintain contact with local law enforcement to ensure safety for all. 


The situation in Las Vegas, as well as the rest of the world, has continued to evolve from last week’s Silvertrac COVID-19 security operation update. 

Violent crimes, property crimes, and domestic violence have been on the rise. The Las Vegas court system and eviction system remains closed, while the judiciary system continues to only monitor violent crimes. This aligns with other reports that the Silvertrac team has come across in multiple regions across the US. 

Due to the increase in crime and the continual shut-down of different businesses, PFI and other Silvertrac clients, both in the US and internationally, have continued to pick-up mobile patrol and shopping center contracts. 

PFI has also had the opportunity to start working with a number of non-profits within the Las Vegas valley, including women’s shelters and organizations working to help the homeless population. 

Operationally, PFI has increased its team from 120 guards to over 220 with applications continuing to come in. They anticipate seeing additional contracts coming in over the next few weeks. All command staffers are working posts, patrols, and K9 operations in order to manage the need for professional security services. 

The organization has ordered additional shirts, hats, badges, and N-95 masks for its officers. The command staff continues to sanitize all equipment after a shift, including wiping down all vests, duty belts, and ensuring K9 units remain clean. 

While most security operations understand that criminals often take advantage of unstable environments, PFI and other Silvertrac clients have continued to maintain a positive attitude as they continue to protect our communities. 

 

UPDATE: 3/20/20

Las Vegas, one of the most high traffic cities in the US, officially shut down non-essential operations in response last week due to COVID-19. The Silvertrac team sat down with Protective Force International (PFI) to get an understanding of how they are managing. While this week’s update comes from a Las Vegas security operation, the situations talked about are similar to what many security operations are currently seeing and what we have continued to hear across different industry news sources. 

Within a week of the shutdown, the city has already started to see an increase in theft. Jonathan Alvarez, PFI’s CEO & Co-founder, attributes a lot of this initial uptick in crime to bored teenagers being home from school and adults who are desperate after losing work. The Las Vegas community relies heavily on tourism and hospitality, which has been shut down completely. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s expected to continue for the foreseeable future until the world has a better handle on the spread COVID-19. 

While many of the events-only based security operations are pausing operations and letting officers go, PFI has seen an increase in demand for their services, especially armed officers, patrol units, and K-9 units. PFI is currently securing retail spaces, other commercial properties, HOAs, faith-based organizations, and women’s shelters. 

They are also seeing an unprecedented increase in officer applications. Thankfully, PFI has an extensive hiring process in place that includes required background checks and drug tests. Once hired, officers are required to complete in-depth officer training at PFI’s internal academy. The operation does not allow any ill-equipped officers into the field - something we should all be thankful for.

During this time, PFI is only manning posts with armed guards. This is not only for the safety of those they are protecting but their own safety. The reality is that many things are still unfolding, and PFI would much rather be overprepared. 

(NOTE - All PFI armed officers must go through extensive firearm training prior to being on the job, as well as continued firearm training during their service with the operation. They take handling firearms seriously. PFI has a strict use of force policy, and does not use firearms as a show of force or fear

In order to maintain officer safety and the safety of those they come in contact with, PFI officers are required to wear standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including:

As the PFI team continues to work long hours and take on more contracts, they maintain mental health by eating healthy, working out, playing video games and laughing. This is an important reminder to everyone that mental health is incredibly important during these stressful, uncertain times. Please remember to take care of yourself, even if you aren’t on the front lines.

Since this is an evolving situation, PFI continues to monitor news outlets and is working with local authorities to make sure all team members are up-to-date with the latest news. This allows them to make any necessary adjustments to their operation in real time. 

All of this is possible because of the organizational foundation that PFI created from the beginning. Their team structure is set up similar to law enforcement and military hierarchy using captain, lieutenant, and sergeant roles to create clear chains of command. By implementing Silvertrac early on, they can easily pull real-time reports and streamline operations. Finally, PFI has built and continues to grow its relationship with the community, having built recognition and trust with the public.

International (UPDATED 3/24/20)

UPDATE: 3/24/20

New Zealand now has 155 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The country is following the lead of places like the United States and will be entering a strict quarantine - only allowing essential business services and their staff to leave their homes.

Those essential businesses like supermarkets, healthcare facilities, and banks are requesting more security services than ever. That means a likely increase in demand for contract security services around the world as essential businesses carry more and more weight through this crisis.

UPDATE: 3/18/20

A Silvertrac client located in New Zealand is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation. The NZ government has already implemented strict policies in order to keep the virus under control. They do not have a community outbreak at the time of this conversation.

With virtually all event security contracts being canceled, Silvertrac clients are moving their event units to other essential business units like asset protection. Employees are now working across multiple roles and units to ensure the safety of their teams and communities. 

Morale and teamwork continue to remain high within these security operations, and they are seeing high-security demands in supermarkets, retirement homes, and welfare centers

SMB Recession Updates (UPDATED 4.1.20)


The longer shelter-in-place orders stay in effect, the harder it is to ignore the effect COVID-19 is having on the global economy. The financial markets have had some of their best and worst days ever, and if you haven’t seen it already, this chart showing weekly unemployment claims is almost too crazy to believe.

So what does all that mean? We’re in the early stages of a recession, according to most people:

Let’s look specifically at how this recession is affecting the physical security industry. The CISA guidelines from the DHS classify “Private Security Guard Forces” as a critical infrastructure sector. That means security companies can and should keep operating during this crisis. We’ve even seen some of our customers tell us they’ve had more business because of this crisis.

Bottom line: the physical security industry will probably be better off no matter what happens than other industries like hospitality.

But that doesn’t mean invincible. If this crisis turns into a full-blown recession, you need to be prepared. Check out this eBook on how to manage a business through a recession so you are ready for anything and check back on this blog for updates on the long-term economic situation.

 

Q&A with an Emergency Room Doctor (UPDATED 3.20.20)


Dr. Adam Goodman is an Emergency Room doctor at Torrance Memorial Hospital in Torrance, CA. He went out of his way to share his expertise and knowledge of the COVID-19 situation in the healthcare industry with us. 

The Silvertrac team thanks Dr. Goodman for providing us with such valuable information and his continued dedication to providing medical services to our communities.

Q: Is this a real threat?

A: By now, I hope most people understand that yes, the threat is very real. How real it is will likely be determined in the next 1-3 weeks. The SARS-CoV2 virus is an extremely effective virus. Its prolonged incubation period in essentially asymptomatic people makes containing the virus almost impossible. The illness itself is mostly mild and self-limiting, but it has a devastating effect on the elderly with the ability to decimate a nursing home, as we are seeing in Seattle. We are also seeing young, healthy people succumbed, including a healthy 29-year-old intubated (put on a respirator) in our ICU as we speak. The projections and numbers of who will be infected are all over the map, but it stands to reason a large amount of the population will at some time contract it. The efforts made at social distancing will hopefully be effective, but it is more theoretical at this point.

Q: Isn't it like the flu?

A: Yes and no. While the flu kills a large number of people every year, those numbers are generally spread out over a long period of time. The morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19 will likely occur at a much higher rate and over a much shorter time period. Additionally, influenza and COVID-19 are fundamentally different viruses. Influenza has been around and infecting humans forever, and we have an effective vaccine, as well as a large amount of herd immunity. COVID-19 is a novel virus to humans, meaning that it only recently jumped from animals to humans. We have essentially no immunity to this virus as well as no vaccine for the foreseeable future.

Q: What are hospitals seeing?

A: We [Torrance Memorial] have been preparing for a surge of patients over the last few weeks. We converted the entire bottom floor of our parking garage to a mass treatment area capable of seeing up to 63 ambulatory patients at a time, in addition to our normal Emergency Department (ED) capacity. We thankfully have yet to need this area. In fact, right now our ED volume is very low. In my ED, we average about 230 patients/day in the summer and almost 300/day during flu season. We have been seeing less than 170 patients/day over the last week. We expect that to increase dramatically over the next 1-2 weeks based on experiences in other cities.

We have, however, started a gradual but significant uptick in sick people with presumed COVID-19  infection, and we had 4 patients needed to be intubated yesterday in the ED alone.

Work has changed fundamentally, as well. We have essentially separated the ED into two halves. One side for normal ER complaints (chest pain, headaches, strokes etc...) and the other half for respiratory complaints, because we are assuming everyone is at risk for having the virus. 

Working in the respiratory area becomes relatively stressful and claustrophobic, as we are wearing masks/eye protection continuously. Unfortunately, due to lack of supplies, we are wearing single-use masks for the entirety of a 10-hour shift and trying to ration supplies as best as we can. 

While it can be stressful on us as doctors, I can only imagine the toll it's taking on everyone else including the nurses, techs, phlebotomists, janitorial staff and all of the other people required to make an ER function 24 hours per day.

Q: What are the challenges?

A: The shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is very real. The virus is transmitted by droplets from people sneezing/coughing/talking but is also likely to be airborne. The N95 Respirators that will protect us from the virus are in short supply, and there have been mass thefts from the ED over the last few weeks to the point they are now being kept under lock and key. 

We are also short on gowns and eye protection and are at risk of running out of gloves, hand sanitizer, wipes, and other vital equipment. We have resorted to begging the community to donate any supplies they have. While we are still mostly supplied and our hospital is doing everything they can, we will likely run out sometime soon and this is before we have even seen the tip of the iceberg of sick patients.

Additionally, the CDC has been rapidly changing guidelines on what is appropriate protective gear. Over the last week, they have changed from recommending full PPE with N95's to basic mask/gloves/eye protection. These changes are not based on science but on lack of inventory and supplies. This does not fill us with a lot of faith in the guidance from the CDC at this point.

Q: Why aren't we testing for COVID-19?

A: As of now the turn around time for the screening test at my hospital is between 4-5 days. That is way too long to actually help make any clinical decisions. We are only testing people sick enough to be admitted to the hospital, healthcare workers, and people with recent travel. Unfortunately, the travel history is now meaningless as it is being spread widely throughout the community. The test itself is also somewhat unreliable. The test only has approx. 80% sensitivity, so up to 20% of people with the disease could test negative but actually have it. Hopefully, this will improve, and we can scale up testing dramatically. However, at this point, it is not going to make a huge difference in the day-to-day treatment of these patients.

Q: What is the outlook?

A: How long this will last is unclear, but I anticipate it will be much longer than people are expecting and hoping for. The best-case scenario is that the virus respects the season similar to the flu, and we get a little breather this summer.  Even if that is the case, we will likely see another resurgence in the Fall, and while this will hopefully be less severe, as people will have developed some immunity, I can see a repeat of quarantines, social distancing, and significant changes to our previous way of life. While "flattening the curve" gives us a chance to manage the disease from a healthcare standpoint, it, also, means lengthening the time frame we will be fighting against it.

We can only hope that the government will learn from its mistakes and stockpile equipment/resources to be able to respond quickly to further outbreaks. The actual medical impact on the majority of people will be minimal, but the socio-economic impacts will be major and far-reaching, I fear, for quite some time.

Wrap Up

With all this, I hope everyone takes some comfort that there are many of us in the medical profession ready and willing to take this on, and I'm confident we will come out on the other side.

If you currently work healthcare security contracts or are looking into entering the healthcare security industry, we’ve got some great resources for you.

  • This Thinkcurity webinar on healthcare security with Tony York gives you the inside scoop to regulations, safety, and workplace violence in the healthcare security market.
  • This quick guide is great for anyone looking for some basic information on healthcare security.

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