What impact is COVID-19 having on the security sector?

In the last few months, our city streets have started to resemble the opening minutes of a dystopian science fiction movie: shuttered shops, empty restaurants, deserted streets, and an eerie stillness. This is the result of COVID-19 and the resulting Government lockdown which has completely transformed our built environment.

This has had an inevitable impact on not only the people who own and operate these now empty properties, but on those that look after them – the cleaners, the maintenance staff and, of course, security.

The security sector, as with almost every other sector on the planet, has been cast into uncertainty by the coronavirus pandemic and when it comes to how the industry is coping there is no definitive answer – just lots of conditional answers.

Some businesses have closed down buildings entirely, whilst now that lockdown restrictions have eased slightly, others are operating a skeleton crew of security staff.

For those working in areas considered a key part of the national infrastructure, meanwhile (supermarkets and hospitals particularly), there has been more security work than ever before. As such, many businesses have been forced to upgrade security systems to ensure they can keep their employees and their customers safe.

It’s going to be a while before we can truly ascertain what kind of lasting impact this crisis will have on the sector, but for now, we can at least pontificate on the immediate impact and the ways in which we can adapt to this ‘new normal’ going forward.

 

The early weeks

In the first few weeks of lockdown, critical worker status was an issue dominating the discourse and during these times, security associations went to great effort to try to get their workers included amongst the ‘key worker’ bracket.

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and many others worked tirelessly to underline the importance of the security sector in such uncertain times.

In the first few days of lockdown, James Brokenshire, Minister for State for Security at the Home Office released a general statement that declared: “Security & fire safety personnel can play a vital role at this time of national challenge. People working in these sectors who are essential to national infrastructure are Key Workers for the purposes of the Government’s guidance on COVID-19.”

It was confirmed soon after this statement that licence-holding security professionals were indeed classified as key workers.

 

Going forward

Generally speaking, the security sector has been less affected by the crisis than other ‘soft’ services like the hospitality industry because it’s a service that is, at its root, essential.

However, it’s an industry that remains as focussed on people as it is on security technology and there are still those who are self-isolating or have vulnerable family members at home that will have their working lives disrupted by the pandemic.

That’s why it’s vital for businesses to start investing in security systems that can be monitored and controlled remotely. In all sectors, there has been a definite move towards remote working and while there will always be a need for boots-on-the-ground in security, a greater investment in remote security infrastructure means businesses will have to rely less on mobile patrols and can help their workers isolating themselves at home to continue working.

There’s very little certainty on the cards right now but there is one thing for certain – eventually, those empty streets and buildings will be full again and when that day arrives, the security sector is not one that we can afford to sacrifice.