The Philippines’ first and only industry magazine that deals with safety and security matters pervading the environment today.

Avoiding Crisis by Effective Incident Management

Effective incident management begins with good fundamental incident response procedures. The significance of having an effective ‘incident management’ determines whether you will handle an incident effectively and avert a crisis or not. This holds true for security and safety incidents.

In order to have a good ‘incident response,’ one has to be able to recognize a situation as a security incident. A security incident may be one that is currently occurring, thus, is in progress, or one that has occurred or that potentially may be a security incident and may be described to be just a security issue. Same holds true for a safety issue. Most safety incidents become security issues or incidents.

We do train security guards with basic skills to be first responders to these security and safety incidents, teaching them first aid and CPR, arrest procedures, weapons handling, firefighting, and evidence preservation. But, we don’t teach them how to communicate nor do we have a system to effectively communicate.

Communication is the first and most important ingredient in security operations and thus, incident response. I have written about communications and its set-up previously, which basically says that an effective communication system is the backbone of an effective command and control (C2). C2 is an arrangement of personnel and equipment put together in such a manner to maintain a constant situational awareness, providing accurate information to a central command so an appropriate response to an incident can be made in the most expeditious manner.

In Incident Management, we want to know that an activity is going to be done on a security incident at a certain location before the incident is done or as it is being acted upon. In order to keep all these communications clear and documented, all communications are directed to a central position (CP-Control Point) and only to one location. No exception, unless otherwise cleared by the control point. This location acts as the repository of all the information and correspondence that transpire in that security organization. This is so that in the event of a large-scale incident with multiple units responding, radio communication is still coherent. All activity is jotted down, analyzed, and a cohesive response maintained.

The key to effective management of an incident is early detection or awareness of a security incident, happening or about to happen. With the knowledge of a security incident afoot, early interdiction is made and containment started. Upon interdiction of the security event, an initial description is provided and constant updates of the situation is communicated to the command point (CP), so that the appropriate response(s) is made with the goal of neutralizing the security incident and returning the location or facility to its normal operations as quickly as possible. The drive is to maintain control of an incident, whether minor or major from becoming a disaster and having to deal with a crisis. At most, the incident is limited to an emergency response. Always with the mind of immediate containment and if the incident is not able to return to normal within an appropriate time, consider isolating the incident with its own incident response team and return the rest of the facility to normal operations. Thus, your command point must have a redundancy and remote replication capability. Meaning your radio system needs to have a multi-channel capability, in order to move certain activities that may be contained, but still in progress, to a tactical channel while normal operations are maintained on the main channel. That back channel or tactical channel will also need to be supported with data computers so the incident can continuously be supplied with required information and the incident continuously documented.

A secondary CP may be started for a contained or active incident, an incident command (IC) which can be on a mobile CP or at another room or location, a ‘war room’ per se, releasing the main operating channel back to normal operations dealing with routine activities. This goes to support your enterprise’s business continuity.

A very important aspect of incident response is the competence of the first responder in executing the proper procedures. Again we want the first responder to constantly communicate their actions before and during the incident. This is done to a refinement by having the security personnel conduct themselves in a manner that every activity acted upon is treated as possibly becoming a major incident or emergency. Day in and day out, security personnel will use the communication system and respond to incidents, much like they would in an emergency. Practicing their response time, establishing containment, and resolution at an ever more efficient rate. This way the response procedures are honed into almost a motor skill.

As a security practitioner in the Philippines, the skill of managing a security incident is even more critical as the considerations are greater than one who practices in the Western world. Here in the Philippines, one has to consider the ineffective or uncertain response by public safety entities. Making your first response, as security personnel at your facility, even more critical, making sure that your first strike is effective in containing that incident, may it be a crime, a fire, or natural causes. You cannot depend on just “calling for help” because in several areas, there really is no effective way to get a unified effective response from public safety and, if you are standing, waiting for that response, the situation can deteriorate to an uncontrollable situation ushering in a disaster and a crisis on your hands. Remember these major incidents, most times called an emergency, are actually “rapidly deteriorating situations” that usually begin as minor, unobserved situations.

Remember, in security, it is communicate first, move second, and execute to return the situation to normal. We want to interdict security and safety incidents as early as possible; nipping it in the bud. The way to do this is to be aggressive and dynamic. Encourage that initiative from the security guards, transforming them from guarding mindset to securing mindset. If something doesn’t look right, call it to the CP, act on it, and if it’s of a security or safety concern, move to contain it and dispose of it, in order to maintain a safe and secure environment.

Stay sharp, be safe, always.