The Importance of Security Communication Integration at Your Facility

One chilling realization stemming from the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was the inability for the first responders across all disciplines—police, fire, and paramedics—to communicate with each other using the same radio frequencies. Are private sector security practitioners any better at reaching or talking to each other in routine conditions and serious emergencies?

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It’s not uncommon in company facilities protected by security officers for employees to ask how to reach those officers in an emergency. “Do we call them directly on their cellphones? Do we call the security office and have someone from there call them? Is there a radio system, like with dispatchers and 911? Or do we try to find them at their desks?” While these are valid questions, they were probably also asked and answered during new-employee orientation sessions.

Or during staff meetings as part of facility security updates and in security-related emails that went out to all employees. Or through supplied phone tree lists that all employees should have at their work stations or desks (but probably don’t … or they threw them away).

The responsibility for these security communication reminders starts with the security department, but individual officers should make it a part of their shift rounds and daily interactions with employees to greet the employees they see and remind them on an occasional basis as to the best ways to contact them in both emergency events and nonemergency or routine situations.

Perhaps it’s fair to say the security officers might assume all or most employees know how to reach them by landline or cell phone when this is probably not the case. It’s also up to the site security manager and/or the chief of the guards to verify that all employees know how to contact the officers.

During site security assessments of public and private sector facilities, it’s not unusual to find that phone tree lists are outdated. When government or company employees are promoted or transfer to other departments, their phone numbers and extensions may change. This information is not always updated on paper, and while it may be accurate on company online or intranet databases, these changes don’t always reach the communication caretakers working at the reception counters or security desks.

Since the receptionists and security officers may need to reach senior managers or members of the safety and security stakeholder teams, it’s critical that they have ready access to updated and accurate phone trees, including cell phone and after-hours contact information for all necessary responders.

This may especially become a critical issue when the usual receptionist is on a break, out sick, or on vacation, and the not-briefed or untrained relief phone operator or receptionist is unfamiliar with emergency contact protocols. (This can also occur when the “usual security officer that sits over there” is out sick or on vacation as well, and the relief officer has not been trained or briefed—or has not taken the time to review the site’s posted orders—about making emergency contact calls.)

Critical reception and security station junctions need the presence of both an accurate online version of an emergency “Red Book” as well as an updated hard copy version as well. (During a power failure, the phones may continue to work if the computer networks are down. Employees may even need to read their phone lists by flashlight.)

Besides critical phone contact lists and call-out trees, this “Red Book” might need to contain facility evacuation maps, facility schematics and blueprints for fire, police, or power utility first responders.

It’s easy to take for granted that employees know how to get in contact with security officers and other safety stakeholders. Emergencies or, better yet, regularly practiced drills can verify both the updated contact information and the ability to use it.

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