While security salesmen are touting megapixels and anti-passback features, they are missing an opportunity to communicate the role of technology in the broader context of risk management and incident response – and in saving lives. That’s the message of Gerald Wilkins, PSP, Vice President of Active Risk Survival.

Incident response is at the core of how an enterprise reacts to risk and is a standardised approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response. Effective incident response requires integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organisational structure. All the elements must work together to achieve the desired outcome – to mitigate a risk using countermeasures.

Capabilities of systems during emergencies

I want to see us have more meaningful conversations with security directors and emergency operations planners"Equipment such as CCTV, access control and mass notification systems can provide effective countermeasures, but salesmen in the physical security market are not ‘connecting the dots’ between equipment specifications and its capabilities as part of the broader incident command system.

Historically, purchases of security technologies have not been considered in that context,” says Wilkins. “Rather, the industry’s sales pitches have been about features and capabilities – pixels or communication distances or intelligence – not about how those capabilities are useful in the specific context of emergency response.

My goal is to change the industry,” says Wilkins. “I want to see us have more meaningful conversations with security directors and emergency operations planners.

Focusing on the Emergency Operations Plan

We are in the life safety business, and we need to have more conversations about where technology fits into the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). When was the last time you [as a security salesman] asked a client to look at their Emergency Operations Plan? No one knows the technology better than we do.

What’s missing, however, is attention to how technology is applied to risk management and responseThere are so many folks in our industry who are technology gurus, who ‘get’ the technology, and are good at selling it,” he says. What’s missing, however, is attention to how technology is applied to risk management and response.

As an industry, even guys who have been in the business a long time have never heard about incident command,” says Wilkins. “How are we weaponising technology to maximise the outcome? We don’t talk about it. We want to talk about megapixels and wide dynamic range. But when are we going to talk about how we can apply that technology to mitigate our tangible and intangible risks?

Importance of security equipment

In the wake of each active shooter or other incident in the news, Wilkins looks back to consider the missed opportunities and how security equipment could have saved lives. “What technology did we have to help first responders – video, access control and paging – but they weren’t used?” he asks.

An example is the San Bernandino shooting in 2015, when police officers were heard asking “has anybody found that access control card?” In effect, a law enforcement officer was asking for technology that should have been included as part of the emergency plan.

Situational awareness, such as that provided by video systems, can help responders judge which areas are safe fasterSituational awareness, such as that provided by video systems, can help responders judge which areas are safe faster and provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel more time to save lives. However, video is not being viewed in that light as a part of the broader life-saving mission. “Our industry needs to sit down with a security director or operations manager and ask: How are you using technology as a resource tool that will become part of your critical response?” says Wilkins.

Understanding how equipment works

Technology is often not being incorporated in emergency planning, even with something as simple as a fire drill. Most fire drills are ‘one size fits all’ – every person knows where they should go and how they should exit. But what if there is a fire in a particular part of the building? Today’s fire alarms operate in zones to communicate the location of a fire, but this capability is not being used to practice a variety of resulting scenarios that could save lives. 

We need to understand as an industry how our partners in law enforcement and EMS do their jobs,” says Wilkins. “We can help stakeholders in a building understand how our equipment works every day and how they can use it in a critical incident. We need to understand Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs), how incident command works, and how we can help emergency responders.

Security training for salespeople

I want to know everything I can know to help guys sell things that can change the outcome if something bad happens"If a guy wants to talk about his pixels or his anti-passback, he should instead consider having a meaningful conversation with the client about best practices and how to mitigate risk. This creates a different position [for the salesman], and if there is a critical incident, something you said or did might save someone’s life.

When it comes to training and taking a more strategic approach to sales, to some extent, the security technology industry has been a victim of its own success. When business is good, security companies are less likely to look for ways to train their salespeople.

We’re in the life safety business, not in the ‘stuff’ business,” says Wilkins. “I want to know everything I can know to help guys sell things that can actually change the outcome if something bad happens.” Another problem is “we don’t know what we don’t know.