What Can You Do About Security When Emergencies Pop up?

Posted by Chris Smith on March 31, 2021

Snowmageddon in Texas sends chills down many people's spines. It's not because Texas experienced extremely cold temperatures, but because of the problems that came out of it. Businesses and residents had no power, water, or both for days. Some still had no water after a several weeks. The roads were so bad that even local couriers such as the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx could not make its deliveries.

Dealing with the Unexpected

Texas was unprepared for anything like this winter storm. Unlike northern states and Canada, city workers struggled to clear roads. Locations accustomed to colder climates know how to prepare for snowstorms because they contend with it routinely every year. Nonetheless, commercial properties stood empty. Many retail stores closed for several days as workers — security guards included — could not safely commute to the building.

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina caused unimaginable devastation that affected people for years. The flooded areas and the downed trees rendered some businesses inaccessible. Company managers and security guards could not check on their businesses to assess the level of the damage. Besides, many of them may have been dealing with their own homes being damaged by these natural disasters.

Not all emergencies are at the hand of Mother Nature. In some cases, it's civil unrest that occurred. Some cities experienced rioting along with peaceful protests. Rioters looted unoccupied buildings, destroying everything in sight.

If there's one thing we can learn from these emergencies it’s that the only thing we can count on to happen is the unexpected. These can come on with little or no warning. No one thought the peaceful protests would also be accompanied by riots.

How Emergencies Cause Emptier Buildings

Events like Hurricanes Harvey and Katrina forced many workers to stay home. The pandemic also drove many to switch to remote working. Of course, not all businesses could permit the move to working from home. Some of those are retail, grocery stores, and other essential businesses. While their revenues climbed, they struggled to maintain acceptable staffing levels to support their customers.

Absenteeism at these in-person businesses hit record numbers. Businesses advised anyone showing any signs of illness to stay home and quarantine. People could have had a simple headache. But they had to stay home to avoid putting others at risk in case they had the virus and were contagious. COVID-19 has so many symptoms related to it that people didn't know if they had the virus or something unrelated.

Regardless of what it was, symptomatic employees had to quarantine until they could prove a negative COVID-19 test or enough time had passed since their first symptoms. Another contributor to absenteeism is that some employees may be responsible for care of a loved one who is ill. When they do that, they have to quarantine after the loved one recovers. A few employees have no way of commuting to work safely because of the risk of exposure on public transportation.

With businesses not having a full staff onsite, employees are more likely to have fewer eyes on their property, if any. It puts the business at risk for crime, vandalism, and other problems.

How Empty Buildings Affect Crime

Researchers have disclosed the global pandemic has had an impact on all kinds of crime. First, the good news. Violent and property crimes have seen a drastic drop. The same goes for simple assault, drug, and rape-related crimes.

The bad news is that other crimes have soared. With fewer people roaming around town, burglaries and car thefts on commercial properties have shot up according to the University of Pennsylvania's "COVID and Crime: An Early Empirical Look."

Your business may be one where the majority of employees work from home. It's possible you may have some employees in the office building. That said, your building stands unoccupied or close to it. A vacant commercial property can become a target for criminals and trespassers.

Unprotected and unguarded, a vacant property can cost businesses far more than the cost of the lease or mortgage. That is because an empty property may compel intruders to invade. If the building has a few employees, then it could put them in a dangerous situation.

Any property that has security guards may never see them during a natural disaster or weather-related event. The security guards can't get themselves to the building. Fearing for their own lives, they may not come during the pandemic.

With fewer employees or no one on the property, who will report problems? How do you close the gap with staffing shortages, lack of security, and protecting your business especially during emergencies?

A Safe Way to Put Eyes on Your Property

Video surveillance can help close the gap and prevent many of these potential problems. It is often more effective than security guards. Cameras don’t need to quarantine or drive themselves to work. Remote video surveillance costs up to 60 percent less of what it would cost to hire security guards. Moreover, video cameras can see the entire property at once. Security guards can only see around them.

You benefit from video surveillance in multiple ways. This is especially the case when you opt for live remote video surveillance that combines camera analytics with trained monitoring operators. Whenever artificial intelligence finds a match on one of its many programmed scenarios, it alerts the operator who investigates and responds.

This operator is not on the property. The person is in a remote location away from the property, possibly in a different city or state. This adds another advantage over security guards. Operators aren't likely to play a role in internal theft like security guards can.

The operator acts based on what the situation requires. If there are intruders, the operator can issue a warning through a speaker. If the suspect doesn't leave the property, the next task is to notify local law enforcement. If there are signs of flooding, then the operator can call the point of contact to handle it ASAP.

Employees who need to enter the building will feel safer knowing the cameras are under surveillance. When there's no monitoring or surveillance, it could potentially create a liability issue.

How Video Surveillance Helps in an Emergency

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, many business owners and property managers worried about the status of their building and assets. As if they didn't have enough to contend with, their own homes may have taken a hit.

Some businesses didn't have this problem. That is because they had remote security cameras. The cameras kept operating for the duration of the hurricane's presence. For these businesses, it provided peace of mind knowing someone had eyes on their properties in real-time. They could get updates on the rain and flooding and how it affected the parking lots, alleys, and areas around the property.

Remote video surveillance made it possible for these companies to enforce their disaster recovery plans right away. They did not have to wait for the water to recede, which takes many days after the hurricane disappears.

Supporting Clients During an Emergency

During and after the hurricane, Stealth Monitoring's video surveillance team operated in “war room” mode. They actively monitored the flood and provided support for customers through it all.

Not all was easy street. One of the biggest challenges was communication. As with any emergency, the city's communication infrastructure buckled due to the high call volumes across fewer phone lines and many technical outages.

Fortunately, the monitoring team could use mobile phones to communicate with the customers. At the same time, the properties of these affected clients showed up on the large overhead TV monitors in Stealth's control center. Normally, these are reserved for active incidents.

The TVs allowed the control center staff to have a continuous direct view of what was happening. The team watched for any signs of property damage, looting, and other unusual activity.

You think it couldn't get worse, but it did. The city's decision-makers opened the Houston reservoir in fear the rising water would put too much pressure on the dams. They believed a controlled release would be a more manageable option. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. It caused more flooding problems, which put thousands of additional homes and businesses at risk.

To ensure rapid response, a point person on the Stealth team handled all phone and email communications from areas hit by Hurricane Harvey. The point person kept the commercial security managers apprised of the situation. And those managers would contact the customers to update them on the status of their properties.

In addition to watching for problems in the building, video security cameras also provide the following benefits:

  • Help prevent crime and damage
  • Help with contact tracing
  • Track the number of people in the building
  • Help cut risk and liability
  • Help save on insurance premiums

You never know what emergency will pop up. No one could've predicted the pandemic or Texas becoming completely frozen. Ensure your property always has eyes on it with remote video surveillance. No one will be forced to drive to the property during dangerous conditions. You can stop wishing and worrying about whether the property is safe.

To learn more remote video surveillance and its ROI, check out this free guide on Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals or contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Tips, Video Monitoring