Download PDF version Contact company

The task of protecting shared spaces, such as offices and schools, has become increasingly complex, particularly with ever-rising political tensions and the difficulties of assessing threats for schools, workplaces and law enforcement.

Given the randomness of when and where a violent person may strike, those who manage facilities need an emergency plan, as well as robust training, detection and awareness. To gain more insights into dealing with such threats, we interviewed John Torres, President of Security and Technology Consulting, Guidepost Solutions.

Guidepost Solutions is a global team of investigators, security and technology consultants, and compliance and monitoring experts. They provide security design and consulting, investigations, and compliance and monitoring leadership for critical client needs.

Torres has extensive investigative and security experience. Previously, he served as the Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. His background includes more than 27 years of experience providing investigative and security management for the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, including serving as the Acting Director and the Deputy Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Q: Why is it difficult for schools, workplaces and law enforcement to assess threats of violence? How can they differentiate between a threat and a non-threat?

Torres: With mobile technology and social media, threats are more than just physical. Schools are often not screening student social media accounts and are restricted in what they can and cannot monitor due to privacy laws. Proactive business and educational institutions are working closely with law enforcement, providing training and increasing awareness of potential threats or abnormal behavior. Proactive business and educational institutions are working closely with law enforcementEmerging tools include software that allows monitoring of students’ school-issued email and file storage accounts. Communications software and apps provide real-time notification of emergency messages to students, parents, employees and the community to provide critical instructions during an emergency. The combination of training and new tools has enabled trends and threatening language to be identified and appropriate authorities notified.

Q: What tools and/or insights can Guidepost Solutions add to the mix? What are the elements of a “comprehensive risk assessment?”

Torres: Comprehensive risk assessments include adopting a tiered approach to assessing the school or office and the surrounding environment. A typical approach includes site perimeter review, identifying gates, fencing, vehicle barriers etc., the parking lot, building exterior, interior paths of travel and individual classroom measures. Review and observation of systems including mass notification, video surveillance, access control, intrusion and visitor management, etc. are critical to ensure that they are equipped to maintain functionality in the event of power loss etc. As an insight, always engage with people, they have the knowledge of each unique facility.

Elements we can add to the mix include assessments, physical security improvements and mass notification systems, as well as emergency response training, operational policies and procedures, and behavior analysis.

Q: How can the elements of a risk assessment be translated into recommendations of specific technologies or processes (such as video surveillance and/or access control)? 

Torres: Risk assessments often drive and identify the need for technologies to be implemented into the security programs of schools, business or places of mass gathering, such as stadiums, convention centers and houses of worship. Risk assessments often drive the need for technologies to be implemented into places of mass gatheringRisk assessments help identify weaknesses in security procedure and then often support phased security enhancement programs as funds become available for investment. Each entity is different, and stakeholders should be included. For example, video surveillance may be a priority at one location but controlling the main point of entry may be more important at another. Technology and process recommendations must meet the operational needs and support the goals of the security team and operational managers.

Q: How can the risk of an incident be mitigated and lives protected?

Torres: While multiple steps are helpful, all of them in combination are key to implementing a comprehensive security plan. They include:  

  • Assessments – physical, cyber and procedural
  • Physical Security Improvements – visitor management, fencing and barriers, locks and cameras
  • Emergency Response Training – law enforcement coordination; muscle memory response
  • Mass Notification Systems – current software, clear concise directives, testing
  • Operational Policies and Procedures – termination, evacuation, communication, intervention
  • Behavioral Analysis.

Q: What are the elements of behavior analysis?

Torres: They include things like changes in appearance and behavior, including social media behavior, and isolation from family or friends. They also include studying or taking pictures of potential targets, and real or perceived bullying. An individual may advocate violence or hate, and/or consume violent extremist information/propaganda. He or she may talk about traveling to places that sound suspicious, and/or have an obsession with weapons.

Q: What is the role of training? 

Torres: Training is critical regarding emergency situations in schools, be it a fire drill, earthquake, lockdown, active shooter situation, etc. Training and drills educate those present, including employees and staff, with information about actions that may save lives and reduce casualties in a real emergency. Training should hold people responsible and set standards for acceptable behavior. Training is critical regarding emergency situations in schoolsThere should be a plan that is implemented, including practice and drills. You should also provide training and communication skill building classes. Develop intervention strategies. Work with HR and legal (and others as appropriate). Finally, document everything.

Q: What challenges still remain? 

Torres: Cultural and behavioral change remains at the forefront of schools and businesses when addressing safety and security measures. A large percentage of violent acts may be preventable if a bystander shares his/her concerns with the proper authorities. According to the FBI, perpetrators exhibited behavioral indicators in 93% of incidents. And bystanders had prior knowledge in 81% of school attack incidents and 80% of terrorist-inspired behaviors or activities before an attack.

Q: What progress are you seeing?

Torres: With each tragedy that occurs, leaders are engaging with safety and security head on. There is a shift in schools and businesses to engage with professionals that can help them understand what they do not know. Simple things such as improved communication and enforcement of policies and procedures can have a tremendous positive impact on an organization’s security posture. Assessments and technology upgrades are important and effective, but it all starts with acknowledging the need to provide and maintain safe and secure environments for students, employees and the community.

Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SecurityInformed.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SecurityInformed's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

How Well Do Systems Meet Video Surveillance Needs In Prisons?
How Well Do Systems Meet Video Surveillance Needs In Prisons?

Keeping prisoners safely housed is among the biggest challenges the security industry faces. Correctional applications of security technology are often more extreme and require a specialized mix of technologies. We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the video security and surveillance needs in prisons, and how well do technologies meet those needs? Are there any ethical qualms about selling to prisons?

The Growing Popularity Of Personal Safety Apps
The Growing Popularity Of Personal Safety Apps

The past year has elevated consumer awareness about personal safety, from COVID-19 issues to social unrest, making safety top-of-mind and the need for personal safety solutions, even more prevalent. In addition, consumers spent more time at home, as schools closed, events were canceled and remote work increased. This prompted two major shifts that, in my opinion, most significantly opened the need for and raised the popularity of mobile safety solutions. Demand for grocery and food delivery apps surged Rise in use of app-based delivery services During the past 18 months, the use of app-based delivery services has skyrocketed During the past 18 months, the use of app-based delivery services has skyrocketed. With more use comes more interactions among strangers in homes and businesses, and while the majority of these moments are completely safe and convenient, incidents are happening, ranging from uncomfortable situations to physical assaults.   And, with more delivery drivers on the road, there are going to be more accidents among gig-economy workers. Based on recent estimates, food and grocery delivery are expected to remain popular, even as we get back to normal life. High popularity of mobile security apps and wearables With more work shifting from stationary locations to working on-the-go, mobile security apps or wearables can be a lifeline in all sorts of situations. It’s important for these mobile safety products to be comprehensive, dynamic and designed to address the full range of people’s safety and security needs, from providing simple human reassurance to dispatching emergency help. Domestic violence cases increased According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, domestic violence rose as a result of many victims being stuck at home with their abusers, while sheltering in place and working from home. Mobile safety apps, such as ADT’s SoSecure U.S. Attorneys General and other state-elected officials have endorsed mobile safety apps, like SoSecure by ADT These situations necessitate the need for discreet ways for victims to call for help. U.S. Attorneys General and other state-elected officials have endorsed mobile safety apps, like SoSecure by ADT, as a tool to help victims of domestic abuse, safely call for help, without alerting their abuser. Over the past year, the mobile safety app market has seen tremendous innovation, including more user-friendly ways to make SOS calls. Today, within a single app, a person can summon help hands-free, by saying a secret phrase, by text or by swiping a button. Extension of mobile safety into wearable devices And, users can connect with people trained to help in unsettling situations over video, which can be an effective deterrent and provide video evidence. We’ve also seen the extension of mobile safety into wearable devices, in order to make these devices more discreet and usable. There will always be some safety risks in our lives. However, the good news is there’s no need to live in a constant state of fear. The easiest, most direct way to be prepared and ready to ‘fight back’ is by having a personal safety tool in your pocket, a mobile safety app that is there, when you need it most.

Delta Scientific’s Vehicle Barriers Elevate Public Safety In Troubled Times
Delta Scientific’s Vehicle Barriers Elevate Public Safety In Troubled Times

Vehicle barriers first rose to the forefront of public attention after 9/11. The focus from 2001 to 2010 was on anti-terrorism, and vehicle barriers appeared at military and government facilities around the world. The U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6, 2021, brought heightened attention to the risks in a society that is increasingly fractured and volatile. Various protest events in recent months have made customers more aware of possible threats and prompted many to proactively install vehicle barriers and other systems to protect their premises. Shifting market focus Since 2010, and with the anti-terrorism market mostly saturated, the market focus for vehicle barriers shifted to public safety applications such as stadiums, schools, universities, large tech companies, and data centers. It’s an example of deploying technology developed in “wartime” to the broader public good, says Keith Bobrosky, the new president of vehicle barrier company Delta Scientific Corporation. Withstanding the pandemic The only remaining hurdle for Delta Scientific is to deal with continuing uncertainty going forward Like many in the security market, Delta Scientific has withstood a tumultuous two years during the duration of the novel coronavirus pandemic. They have “come through with flying colors,” says Bobrosky. The company never closed down, and its vaccination rate is high. The only remaining hurdle is to deal with continuing uncertainty going forward. Delta Scientific’s commitment Bobrosky began working in sales at Delta Scientific in 2007. Along the way, he has expanded into management, production, and engineering management. Through it all, he has seen a company that provides employees the autonomy to do their jobs and who have a strong commitment to customers, he says. The privately-owned company is nimble; decisions can be made quickly to respond to market changes, adds Bobrosky. Addressing needs during a pandemic The company was concerned about lower demand when the economy shut down, says Bobrosky, but they did not see an impact. The business was steady as a result of government entities and other organizations taking advantage of being closed to evaluate and address security needs. “We saw a decent flow of government business because of the shutdown,” says Bobrosky. Delta Scientific focuses on the domestic U.S. market but also has a presence selling to partners in the Middle East and Europe, where the equipment is known for its ability to take multiple hits. Even after withstanding an impact according to ASTM standards, their barrier is still operational. Increased steel purchased Delta Scientific ramped up its purchasing power, staving off any shortages and striving to keep lead times short As material shortages have spread through the industry, Delta Scientific has ramped up its purchasing power, staving off any shortages and striving to keep lead times short. Steel is their major component – literally, 98% of the weight of the products is steel, and there are 5,000 pounds of steel per barrier. The price of steel has gone up and there have been shortages. The company has maintained supply by leveraging its reputation and purchasing power. Most of their components are made in the USA, which has helped them dodge the recent challenges of the global supply chain.  Application of barriers and bollards Automotive dealerships are another market for Delta Scientific; their bollards and barriers are used as anti-theft devices to keep vehicles from being stolen from a sales lot. Delta Scientific’s products can foil car thieves who might otherwise use a large vehicle to plow through a barrier and then enable a parade of accomplices to drive away in additional vehicles. Auto resellers buy anti-terrorism products to protect their inventories. DSC550 Open Frame vehicle barrier Delta Scientific’s products have evolved from push buttons and relay to touch screens and microprocessors New efficient product designs enable Delta Scientific to use less steel while keeping prices competitive and maintaining crash ratings. The products are more innovative, says Bobrosky. New barriers include the DSC550 Open Frame vehicle barrier, which does not block the view as solid barriers do. During the last decade control systems for Delta Scientific’s products have evolved from push buttons and relays to touch screens and microprocessors, although some customers still prefer the simplicity of the older approach. Portable crash barriers The equipment can also be controlled remotely and integrated with PSIM-type systems. Although the systems are stand-alone, some clients have been toying with the idea of controlling them through the internet, emphasizing the importance of appropriate cybersecurity. A separate line of portable crash barriers can be towed into place in 15 minutes by a vehicle or even a golf cart. They are used for events such as the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, the Oscars, music festivals, etc. There are hundreds of units in the field, available as needed for various events and rented out to event management companies and other organizers. Improving customer relations  As the president of Delta Scientific, Bobrosky says his biggest opportunity is to continue improving customer relations – a never-ending goal. He will also strive to increase communication. Looking ahead, additional crash tests are scheduled for 2022, and the company will continue to look for ways to “do more with less.”