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Gated Communities: Combining Security + Public Relations

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Security in gated communities presents challenges that vary widely from other facilities. These residential settings also require specialized skill sets and personnel that, again, are quite different.

For example, at a school or corporate campus, it’s quite obvious if someone attempting to enter has a purpose or belongs there. At many gated communities, the sheer volume and variety of   people seeking entry requires an equal blend of rigor and diplomacy.

Community Challenges
With residential communities, security personnel serve as both protectors and as public ambassadors. The open setting creates access-control challenges as officers decide whether or not to grant entry. As a result, officers must follow policies and procedures firmly and courteously, even though diligence might anger residents whose visitors have been delayed.

“Most people would say, that’s good. It shows they’re doing their job,” says Sunstates President Glenn Burrell, CPP. “It’s fine when it’s someone else’s guest, but when it’s your guest, it can be a problem.”

Depending on the size of the community, high volume at peak hours can affect the surrounding neighborhood. For example, many homeowners’ associations (HOAs) do not allow contractors to start work before eight o’clock in the morning. Larger communities may have 100 contractors waiting for entry, which affects public roads. Consequently, security officers need to be aware of what’s happening beyond their immediate vicinity.

In addition, security must enforce HOA rules and regulations, as well as standard procedures for safety and security. Diplomacy is an essential skill in such settings.

Community Best Practices
Based on extensive experience serving this specialized market, Sunstates Security has identified several key practices for meeting the unique needs of gated communities:

• Comprehensive procedures. Security personnel should have procedures, developed jointly with community representatives, for handling every conceivable situation, from background checks to emergency incidents. Such planning can help minimize common issues, such as visitor backlogs. In many communities, for instance, all guests and contractors must have prior approval, which includes background screening for vendors.
• Selection and training. The delicate nature of residential security demands personnel with exceptional public-relations skills. A discriminating selection process identifies individuals with the right temperament and attitude. Then, specialized training expands on core security skills to include gatehouse operations, community patrols, homeowner relations and diplomacy. First-aid and AED training prepares security personnel to respond to medical emergencies.
• On-site management. Having a dedicated manager at the community full-time helps align the security team with homeowners, property managers and other stakeholders. Such individuals have extensive experience securing residential communities, and they have the power to make informed decisions quickly and efficiently.
• Technology. Modern technology offers powerful tools for supporting the security function, while minimizing inconvenience. For instance, systems can scan and capture information from drivers’ licenses and compare that information to sex crime/pedophile registries. Other technology vets and processes visitors and issues temporary badges. New vehicle identification technology uses microwave RFID and semi-active transponders to identify residents and other approved vehicles. A more affordable option, tag or card systems on vehicles can speed entry for residents, while flagging non-residents.
• Two-tier authentication. While technology is indispensable for modern communities, those with automated vehicle-access systems need to heed the cautionary tale of the Trojan horse. Currently, most systems only identify the vehicle, not the occupant(s). The latest technology provides two tiers of authorization: the vehicle tag only works if an additional reader assigned to the owner is also in the car.
• Law enforcement liaison. The community security force is an ally of local law enforcement, and vice versa. Both groups should serve as the eyes and ears of the community and communicate regularly about incidents and potential threats. In addition, security teams need to monitor local crime trends and prepare for possible challenges.
• Resident resource. Hosting special events where board members and residents can meet security staff and managers has two benefits: it fosters trust and creates better relationships, and it allows security personnel to hear about and discuss issues and concerns firsthand.

To discuss how Sunstates Security can meet the needs of your community, please call 866-710-2019 or email us.

Written by Sunstates Security

August 14th, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Managing Modern Threats with Protective Intelligence

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Managing Modern Threats with Protective Intelligence

Social media makes it easier than ever for like-minded individuals not only to find one another, but also to organize demonstrations for their cause. Consequently, more companies are calling on security partners for assistance in identifying and preparing for pop-up protests and other potential disruptions.
Technology can provide advance warning of such threats, but skilled human intervention continues to play a critical role in analyzing data and developing a sound strategy for risk management.

Sources of Intelligence
Advances in technology make security operations centers (SOCs) more affordable than ever, often providing in-house intelligence as needed. At the same time, organizations have other excellent information sources at their disposal for a fraction of the cost.

• Local partnerships. The same technology used to organize protests and other demonstrations also keeps the public informed of local developments. Many law enforcement agencies have email alert systems to notify residents of unusual conditions, such as extreme weather, vehicle accidents, and police activity. Most large cities have downtown alliances for businesses and other organizations that operate in these districts; information-sharing among members is an important benefit. In addition to these publicly available resources, private security teams should cultivate strong working relationships with local authorities, which encourage a two-way flow of information.
• Social media monitoring. Instead of relying on public alerts, more organizations are monitoring and analyzing social media activity, often through a partner with the tools and skills required to mine the raw data. Such monitoring efforts frequently fo-cus on a specific geographic area for a discrete period of time. For example, social media monitoring can provide real-time intelligence to support traveling executives and company events or to prepare for public reaction to current affairs, such as the student protests following the Parkland shooting.

Planning and prevention
Securing advance warning is only the first step. Managing potential threats requires more finesse than increasing the security staff in response to possible demonstrations.

• Staff management. While additional personnel may be required, a large, visible security presence may have the unintended effect of antagonizing protesters. Organizations should develop a strategy for making additional support available and ready to respond, without fueling already-high tensions.
• Building security. In some cases, it might make sense for an organization to go into lockdown mode and to prevent public access during a planned event. Even during a peaceful gathering, companies should have a plan for managing practical concerns, such as access control for employees and visitors and public runs on the restroom facilities.
• Training. Long before any potential threat materializes, security team members should complete training on non-violent crisis intervention. This specialized training teaches individuals how to defuse challenging situations before they escalate into crises.

To learn how Sunstates Security can assist your organization, please call 866-710-2019 or email us .

Written by Sunstates Security

May 1st, 2018 at 8:53 pm

Security Lessons from British Terror Attacks

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The recent attack near a London mosque marked the fourth terror assault on British soil in three months. These incidents demonstrate continuing trends in terrorism, with sobering security lessons.

Today’s terrorists have shifted tactics from well-organized, large-scale attacks to super-efficient strikes executed by small groups and individuals. This change presents the dual challenge of more potential attacks and decreased likelihood of law enforcement infiltration.

In addition, the attackers are methodical and smart, applying the same sophisticated planning as career criminals. Their ability to study and surmount security measures requires consistent creativity from protectors.

Challenges of Concentric Circles

For decades, law enforcement and private security have safeguarded property and individuals by creating multiple layers of protection, like an onion. This same approach is used for the White House and Buckingham Palace, as well as for special events, like concerts and award ceremonies. Each successive layer is more secure than the previous perimeter, with the greatest attention naturally focused on entry points.

“We’ve created our own security problem,” says Glenn Burrell, CPP, president of Sunstates Security. “These perimeters do a great job of keeping out attackers, but they create a secondary target.”

In addition, the May bombing at Manchester Arena revealed another weakness, changing the security game.

“Typically, few security personnel are posted at the exits,” says Burrell. “Now we have to think long and hard about managing exit strategies. For instance, we may need to create another perimeter at the exit to stop anyone from going in after an event.”

Additional Takeaways

Responding to this ongoing threat requires less reaction and more analysis, supported by training and increased situational awareness.

Understand the enemy. Security teams need to put themselves in the shoes of the perpetrators to detect and shore up vulnerabilities. These individuals prepare attack strategies. They study the protective measures in place and adapt their plans to minimize risk and maximize the impact. Security personnel should follow the same practice on a regular basis and revisit policies and procedures to curtail weaknesses.

Look for patterns. During Burrell’s service with Scotland Yard, he participated on surveillance teams that followed bank robbers for weeks as they conducted dry runs in preparation for a heist. Security teams need to watch for patterns and unusual behavior, calling attention to such individuals. This type of analysis allowed the FBI to thwart an attack against a Southeastern synagogue last year. The would-be assailants had been captured on camera and recognized during repeat reconnaissance trips.

Expand training and education. Both security and non-security personnel need to learn about the tactics of would-be attackers. The insidious and pervasive nature of this threat makes security everyone’s responsibility. Employees must also look for and report unusual behavior. Security teams, in turn, need to respond to, and communicate, with such informants to encourage such information sharing.

For information on how Sunstates Security can help your organization review and adapt its security procedures, please call us at 866-710-2019 or email us.

 

Written by Sunstates Security

June 27th, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Case Study: House of Worship Responds to ISIS Threat

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At eleven o’clock on a Thursday night, the local Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office contacted a house of worship protected by Sunstates. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had issued a public threat directing followers to burn this institution to the ground.

Sunstates President Glenn Burrell, CPP, discussed and analyzed the threat with the client contact. They concluded that the multimillion-dollar annex faced little risk, due to its state-of-the-art fire suppression system. However, the original sanctuary—more than a century old and constructed entirely of wood—could present an attractive, symbolic target.

Targeted Security

“Such an attack would send shock waves throughout the country,” said Burrell. “We couldn’t add resources to their budget, so we identified the most vulnerable areas and redirected security there.”

The site was already using a mobile management system to monitor inspections and issues. Sunstates immediately increased patrols around the historic sanctuary and added more checkpoints to confirm thorough inspections of the area.

In addition, Sunstates reinforced anti-surveillance techniques with security personnel. While conducting their duties, officers keep an eye out for anyone who appears to take special interest in the building and/or its security. Officers politely offer assistance to such individuals, a gesture that also conveys the vigilance of the security team.

Creative Partnership

By coincidence, the Sunday following the DHS alert saw the launch of a pilot program that Sunstates had developed with the client several months earlier. Sunstates trained ushers at the church as part of the security team. These volunteers completed rigorous security courses, including firearms training and licensure. Moving forward, these individuals will adhere to the Sunstates training requirements for armed personnel—quarterly refresher training, in addition to the annual qualification required by states.

“Even though they’ve volunteered their services, they are part of the security team,” said Burrell of the ushers. “In their role as greeters, they serve as the first line of defense in a potential situation.”

For information on how Sunstates Security can help your house of worship or organization prepare for such threats, please call us at 866-710-2019 or email us.

 

 

 

Written by Sunstates Security

March 21st, 2017 at 6:54 pm

Civil Unrest: How to Prepare for Uncertain Times

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From the Baltimore riots of 2015 to the political protests that continue today, such disturbances are emerging as “normal” threats with which American businesses must contend. In Sunstates Security’s home state of North Carolina, demonstrations related to police shootings and women’s rights have disrupted commercial operations, requiring additional security coverage.

Part of the reason for this unfortunate trend comes from increased polarization. Data from respected organizations like the Pew Research Center shows that the ideological center is shrinking, while those occupying the right and the left are growing farther apart.

Social media has made this volatile situation even more dangerous by making it easy to coordinate pop-up protests. Although relatively small, these gatherings form quickly and drive away customers, so even peaceful demonstrations have a negative effect on local businesses.

Crimes of Opportunity

Beyond the obvious disruption caused by these events, businesses in the surrounding area also need to guard against crimes of opportunity. Statistics show that minor crimes—such as break-ins of vehicles and buildings—spike during public disorder as opportunists take advantage of the diversion.

During President Glenn Burrell’s days with Scotland Yard, he dealt with hundreds of public order events, including policing picket lines. Video cameras proved effective as deterrents because they removed anonymity from the situation; people didn’t want to be identified. To maximize their deterrent value, he recommends making the cameras as conspicuous as possible, while protecting the equipment against tampering. Facilities should post prominent signs announcing the use of recorded video surveillance.

Similarly, businesses need to do more than keep an eye on a civil disturbance. They also need to look for, and shore up, any potential weaknesses that might be exploited while the main event holds the spotlight.

Steps to Consider

Effective protection against these threats starts with awareness, recognizing the potential for such events and evaluating the specific danger to an organization.

Threat assessment. Security teams should analyze the likelihood of a civil disturbance at or near their operations. Some threats are external, such as physical proximity to a courthouse or other government structure, or to public gathering space. Internal threats may arise from negative events, like layoffs, or ideological differences. A threat assessment should include all these factors and analyze both physical and operational vulnerabilities.

Early warning. In addition to maintaining relationships with local law enforcement, companies may consider commercial solutions to monitor social media chatter. Such programs can be customized with keywords and dates to help alert organizations to protests during the planning stage.

Employee education. Enlist personnel in the security effort through training programs. Teach them to recognize warning signs and to communicate this information along an established chain of command. For additional support, a skilled security partner will likely already have courses to teach officers crowd management and nonviolent conflict resolution, which can be adapted for non-security employees.

Additional resources. For known events that could trigger a disturbance—such as a potentially unpopular court verdict—organizations at risk should speak with their security provider about backup personnel, if needed. A larger firm should have additional staff available. Some firms also offer trained special-response teams that can travel where needed for emergencies. Such efforts should address not only threats related to the primary demonstration, but also crimes of opportunity.

For information on how Sunstates Security can help your organization prepare for social disturbances, please call us at 866-710-2019 or email us.

Written by Sunstates Security

March 21st, 2017 at 6:47 pm

HOW MANAGEMENT SUPPORT IMPROVES CUSTOMER SERVICE

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As corporate conglomerates keep growing and local firms get ever smaller, customer service seems to suffer. Razor-thin margins force many companies to cut corners, especially when it comes to personnel. Tasking a shrinking workforce with maintaining service and production levels creates a losing proposition for all:Customer Service

  • >Managers and employees burn out quickly, unable to succeed under impossible circumstances.
  • Customers receive disappointing service from overworked support staff.
  • Companies must replace a continuous outflow of customers and employees.

That’s why Sunstates Security continues to follow a more traditional approach to business operation and growth. The company invests resources into recruiting and supporting the right people, who in turn take care of Sunstates’ employees and clients. Double-digit organic growth in each of the past five years bears out the success of this strategy.

Prioritizing personal service

Sunstates Security managers are responsible for much smaller portfolios than their counterparts at national firms—typically one-third the size. The lighter work load frees them to spend more time with clients, as well as with security officers, in person. Sunstates managers are able to visit accounts and discuss client needs as part of their daily responsibilities—not only during an incident. The result is high customer satisfaction, as evidenced by monthly client surveys and a client retention rate that exceeds 95%.

“We’re growing our business the old-fashioned way,” says Sunstates President Glenn Burrell, CPP, “through rock-solid customer service. We want every interaction with Sunstates to create a positive impression. This philosophy applies to our dealings with everyone, from clients and employees to vendors and visitors.”

Burrell leads Sunstates management by example, visiting client sites to talk not only to the client, but also to employees. “We stay in touch with what employees need,” says Burrell. “If a branch manager isn’t on a first-name basis with everyone at a site, we’ve got a problem.”

Retention and reward

Workforce retention and continuity are another key part of customer service. Sunstates empowers managers to act and gives them the tools and the personnel they need to succeed. In an industry that’s notorious for high turnover, Sunstates takes the opposite road. “We hire the right people for the right job, and we make sure they’re invested in staying with us,” says Robb Rogalski, Vice President of Operations.

The Sunstates Learning Management System includes courses on leadership and management skills, as well as security and safety practices. Rogalski says, “Rather than looking outside for talent, we have found it’s more effective to develop it and promote from within. It’s good for us, certainly, but more importantly it’s good for our customers, because having officers and managers who know their job and the customer is the best way to meet clients’ needs.”

Sunstates Security has been providing premium customer service since 1998. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Written by Sunstates Security

January 26th, 2016 at 7:55 pm

LATEST CLIENT TESTIMONIAL-EFFECTIVE TRAINING PRODUCES RESULTS

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February 21, 2011
“A recent robbery incident at our corporate headquarters has resulted in arrests. After many interviews and a good vehicle description the suspects were identified and arrested for armed robbery. I want to personally thank employees at our corporate headquarters and our Sunstates Security Officers for their time and diligence in helping police detectives solve this case with good, detailed and accurate information.”

See more Sunstates Security client testimonials on our website.

Written by Sunstates Security

February 21st, 2011 at 2:32 pm