Here’s the second in our virtual “Security Q & A in the Time of Pandemic” Series with Rollo Davies, a Front Line Security Expert and managing editor of The Professional Security Officer Magazine (TPSO). 

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Rollo is a former Metropolitan Police Officer who left the Service in 1992 to explore opportunities in the private sector. With many years security experience ranging from front line, City corporate security roles and mobile patrol positions with different companies in both Essex and Kent, to management positions at two top London five star hotels, contract management for some of the biggest names in the City and West End, and for several years, hands on responsibility for the countries largest mobile patrol and response team, he has a broad spectrum of UK industry experience.

Always passionate about the industry, and still fighting to make a difference, Rollo joined the “Security Institute” in 2017, and has also created a social media profile, highlighting major issues, raising public awareness of our crucial roles, and becoming an established and respected commentator along the way.

TrackTik: What kinds of front line changes are you seeing or what are you hearing from a security perspective as a result of COVID-19?

Rollo: One of the biggest changes we are witnessing is in the event security sector. Music concerts, football matches, sporting events are all canceled so that sector is taking a huge hit, as are clubs and pubs. But there are swings and roundabouts, so although there are fewer guarding opportunities in the entertainment industry, there are new opportunities in other sectors like supermarkets, and front line security officers are needed to supervise social distancing at a number of locations. There are also more vacant buildings and shuttered businesses, so we are seeing an increase in manned guarding and a bigger demand for mobile patrols and alarm response teams.

TrackTik: I’m sure you’ve read about the toll this virus is taking on law enforcement workers all over the world. In the North American epicenter of the virus, NYC, 1 out 6 NYPD officers are either sick or quarantined. Are police officers and security working closer together? 

Rollo: I’ve actually encountered that personally, and they are working well together when called upon to do so. The Police Service are actually reporting a decrease in crime with everyone self-isolating at home, so their workloads are actually decreasing. Private security has stepped up to deal with events like intruder alarm activations in sensitive areas, but for the most part, the police haven’t needed to rely on assistance from private security as much as we thought at this point in the pandemic.

TrackTik: A few people have suggested that front line security should never have been classified as key workers? What’s your opinion on that? 

Rollo: I think it’s pretty disgusting that the government didn’t recognize the role that security played until the SIA and the police pointed out that security guards are needed to let the fire brigades in and respond to alarm activations. It wasn’t until the Home Secretary, Priti Patel stepped in that this perception changed. Over the last month, several people have expressed the view that front line security industry professionals should never be categorised as Key Workers, due to lack of training, or the calibre of some individuals. But that misses the point. It’s about the vital roles they perform. A few examples include: 

  • All those forced to stay at home, from offices, shops, factories and schools, will need a place of work to go back to that isn’t looted, vandalised or burnt out?

Security Officers are currently protecting those.

  • Can the already beleaguered Police Service cope with attending thousands of new intruder alarm activations, every night?

Security Officers currently attend those.

  • Do you want to safely shop at supermarkets, without witnessing looting, aggression or ‘Covid-19 spreading’ stupidity?

Security Professionals currently ensure that.

TrackTik: Were front line security workers prepared for the pandemic from a security perspective? 

Rollo: No, not in the least. We weren’t ready in the post-911 world, when we saw random terrorist attacks like the anthrax mailings, and we weren’t for the pandemic. Security officers in the UK are licenced by the SIA, but that training is very basic in nature, and only includes basic first aid. I think security companies need to invest in advanced first aid training, and provide PPE for our officers in the future. Right now, security guards are only trained to treat minor injuries. So we are definitely lagging behind when it comes to advanced training for our security officers and having to play catch up. I have never seen any masks or respirators on a site. 

TrackTik: Will our collective perception of security guarding as an industry change as a result of the pandemic?

Rollo: This is a subject that is very close to my heart. I am actually writing an article about front line security workers right now for The Professional Security Officer Magazine (TPSO). With front line security being in the public spotlight right now, public perception is already changing. The public is showing their appreciation and respect for our front line workers, but it’s early days still. Post COVID-19, I think we will have to increase training for our officers. There are professional security officers who want to do their job, but there are also officers who got on-the-job training and who took the job because they perceived it to be an easy job. That perception is likely to change when this is all over. 

TrackTik: Do you think front line security workers will adopt more or less security technology in the future? And if yes, what kinds of technology? More CCTVs? More mobile units? 

Rollo: There’s a lot of interesting technology that has popped out as a result of the pandemic. I think in the future, we will see heat-sensing body cameras used at airports, sporting events, and ports. I think the use of CCTVs will increase, and all of these changes will put pressure on the guarding industry. I foresee a need for improvements in the manned guarding industry, but that need is primarily for more training and education. I think the use of mobile patrols will increase as well. 

TrackTik: You’re the managing editor of The Professional Security Officer Magazine (TPSO), what changes do you envision for the magazine moving forward? 

Rollo: Our next edition of TPSO is dedicated to the COVID-19 coronavirus. We’ll have a panel of experts who will be contributing to the magazine and its effect on the security industry. I will contribute from a front line security perspective. Then hopefully, this will all be a terrible memory, and we should be able to return to normal, or a new normal. We do need to increase front line preparedness in the future, but I can’t think of any other industries, with the exception of healthcare, that have demonstrated this kind of resilience in the face of adversity. 

TrackTik: Any thoughts you’d like to share with our front line workers who continue to show up for work every day? 

Rollo: I’d like to thank all the dedicated men and women on the front line. These front line workers can’t work from home, can’t self-isolate like the rest of the world. They receive no company sick pay, just statutory sick pay of £95 a week, which doesn’t go very far. But they just keep showing up for work. So I’d say to them please just “Keep on keeping on.” It’s actually remarkable, although actual statistics are hard to come by right now, but our security officers aren’t getting infected with the coronavirus in large numbers when you consider that they are touching hundreds of door handles and alarm system keypads daily. Anecdotally, it’s negligible, so it’s quite remarkable how they can carry on. So thanks to them because without them on the front lines every day, life would be dramatically different right now.  

We hope you enjoyed the second in our “Security Q & A in the Time of Pandemic” Series. Our thoughts are with the dedicated women and men who make up our front line security workers during these unprecedented times. Don’t forget to share positive stories of front line security officers on social media using  #frontlinesecurity to show them you care.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay secure.

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