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People before Technology; All Risks Approach to Security & Life Safety


At the heart of risk aversion and management are people – not technology. Make no mistake, technology creates great advantage, but it can never replace what people bring to the equation. When we consider engineering security and life safety systems for an organization the mistake I see often repeated is that the systems, which are based on technology, are envisioned outside of a business continuity plan. Business continuity (BC), what we are really talking about, has three area of concern; manmade hazards – intentional and not, natural hazards – geological and biological, and lastly technological which I believe is too extensive to be included in manmade. Based on the input of the people in the enterprise of concern, these are the areas we need to consider in our risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

Security and life safety are part of a much larger picture, which is the BC program and plan. Before we can begin to design systems based on technology to mitigate risks and hazards, the best course of action is starting at the beginning, not mid-stream. BC plans, and in their turn the best security and life safety plans are ones developed and maintained by the end user under the guidance of an expert BC engineering specialist. An expert BC sensitive engineer has both the BC planning skills and the systems engineering knowledge to guide the process. For maximum effectiveness, an end user team should write their own BC plan. The technology based support systems should always be engineered by professionals with the client’s advantage at top of mind.

If there is a business continuity team in place, we start there, insuring that it has the sponsorship of top executive management. Existing plans must be complete and up to date. Either way, we work with the existing team or with the directive of the CEO, a new team is developed. Diversity is key; all aspects of the clients company are necessary – this is the heart of the business survival “insurance” no matter what emergency presents itself. Team leadership comes from within the company and includes IT, security, life safety, HR, legal, facilities, and more. Other team members should include an expert BC consulting engineer, emergency responders, key suppliers and clients, government, utility providers – this may vary based on the nature of the organization. The point is for optimal results through employee buy-in, all of this precedes designing technology solutions.

The purpose of this paper is not to delve into the details of creating a BC plan and program. Suffice it to say at some point certain risk mitigation strategies identified by a BC plan will require security and life safety systems. These strategies will have well developed people based responsibilities for both day to day activities and activities associated with response plans to risks and hazards of high probability and significant operational impact. It is to these strategies that we employ technology to boost their effectiveness. This is the job of an expert engineer – to create plans and specifications for bid, to manage the project as it evolves and to commission the project once it is completed.

The job of the security and life safety systems engineer is to insure that clients follow the above process to the greatest extent possible. This will be a new paradigm for many clients. BC is not on many companies radar. As engineers, we must recognize that we are part of a team that is responsible for the survival of our clients businesses and in turn their employee’s jobs and the nation’s economy.

Thank you for reading this paper! I look forward to your comments and our discussion of your thoughts.

Felix has 40+ years in the life-safety, electronic, and physical security arenas. Additionally, he specializes in business continuity program development and program management. He serves a full spectrum of clients from residential through Fortune 100 companies, and serves as an expert witness in these areas. He is on the Board of Directors serving as Vice-Chair for ASIS International’s Southern Connecticut Chapter, and an active member of the National Eagle Scout Association. Felix is an ASIS International Board Certified CPP, holds an engineering degree in fire protection systems and is a state certified firefighter in Connecticut.

Copyright © 2015. Felix A. Giannini FPE, CPP. All rights reserved.

#securitymanagement #riskmanagement #buildingmanagementsystems

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