It Takes a Strategy to Prevent Workplace Violence

The Lake Forest Group remembers all victims of workplace violence, especially those in Atlanta and Boulder this past week.

How is your leg bone connected to your WPV prevention program?

Protecting your employees from workplace violence is not easy. It takes a dedicated team. It takes training. And it takes a strategy to pull it all together.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy an off-the-shelf workplace violence mitigation program, plug it in, and let it safeguard your organization? It might be easier, but certainly not better. After all, you’re unique, and you deserve a customized program that you know will work for you.

To mitigate workplace violence, you need a strategy that covers it all. Because creating a safe workplace relies on a lot of things that must work together.

I’m reminded of the lyrics of a popular children’s song “The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone” and so on.

It’s the same with your WPV prevention program. Your WPV policy is connected to all your other policies, your other policies are connected to your Security, HR, and Facilities departments and threat management team, and your dedicated team is connected to training that invites your employees to participate in their own safety. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it definitely rings true.

It’s time to get the team together.

As we said, workplace violence mitigation is not easy, and it really does need a team—from different departments and with different perspectives—all dedicated to the mission of protecting your organization.

  • Leadership must set the tone by committing to a safe and secure workplace with resources and messaging that support it and additional policies and accommodations for those affected by domestic violence.
  • Security, if you have a department, must collaborate with company stakeholders to mitigate workplace violence through physical, technical, personnel, and procedural measures that control access, protect people, manage emergencies, and sustain operations, among other things.
  • HR, oftentimes the most accessible to an employee, must understand how to identify employees who are either at risk or present a risk and share resources to alleviate life stressors.
  • Law enforcement and forensic psychologists must contribute their expertise through investigations and evaluations.

That’s the core of your threat management team (TMT), and your TMT must meet regularly and actively identify, assess, and manage threats to your organization.

If you see something, say something.

If you’re not familiar with DHS’s “see something, say something,” you need to be. And you must go beyond familiarity and actually perpetuate its imperatives in your organization by training your employees to follow them. That also means—and this is important—that workplace violence mitigation training is not just for managers or security personnel. In order for your training to be effective, everyone must understand how to recognize warning signs of potential violence and how and to whom to report it. This training is not just for the workplace. After all, how do we define the workplace today when so many are working from home? And so many workplaces (pre-COVID) are the spots where we go to eat a meal, see a ball game, or hear some music. Your training will improve your people’s situational awareness by developing skills that will help them protect themselves against violence while at work, home, and as they live their lives.

Your WPV strategy needs a strategy.

If you feel like your workplace violence mitigation strategy is experiencing some severe scope creep, it probably is. Because WPV affects so many areas. The intersectionality of your different departments might actually be larger than the characteristics of the departments themselves. Think about issues that affect multiple departments so that multiple stakeholders must be part of the solutions: safe terminations, threat management, policy development and enforcement, and access control, just to name a few. But a holistic security strategy— that includes expertise from multiple stakeholders in your organization, is shared, communicated, and explained to the entire organization, and puts the safety and security of your people as your number one priority—is certain to provide a safe and secure workplace where your people can do their best work.

We’re here to help.

If your WPV mitigation strategy doesn’t have a leg (bone) to stand on, give us a call. Add us to your team, and we’ll ensure you have what you need to protect your employees. Contact Mike at 312.515.8747 or [email protected] to discuss your WPV mitigation strategy or whatever security challenge currently demands your attention. We look forward to hearing from you.


We Get You—and We Got You—in 2021

As we exit 2020, destined to be remembered as one of the most challenging years in our history, and enter 2021, we want to remind you that we are here for you. We get you, we got you, and we know what you’re going through—and you’re not alone. When our clients got focused on safety and security last year, they called us—maybe about the same things you’re struggling with:

  • Got overwhelmed: Some clients have plans with no one to implement them, and others know they need to improve safety and security at their organization but don’t know what to do first, next, or at all. Serving as a Security Advisor, we help define what you have and what you need. From an assessment to an emergency management plan to training for your entire workforce or specialized sessions for your leaders, we can help you get your plan in place.
  • Got ready: Workplace violence can affect every organization in every industry. And that makes a Workplace Violence Program, policy, and training even more critical to the safety of your employees. The program establishes your commitment to a safe and secure workplace, the policy strengthens your pledge to promoting employee well-being, and the training invites your employees to participate in and foster their own safety. Our client came with a vision of employee wellness that went beyond exercise or work life balance, and we helped them build a workplace violence program with safety and security at its foundation.
  • Got together and got involved: Many of our clients do not have a Chief Security Officer or a security department at all, forcing security concerns to Human Resources, Legal, or Facilities. Our client wanted to move away from the siloed approach to security where different aspects were housed in different departments and focus their approach on a centralized system of threat identification, assessment, and management with Customized Training to ensure optimum risk management. While an informed and participative workforce makes every workplace safer, training with internal and external collaboration adds another layer of security that protects your employees.
  • Got ahead and got protected: Not only does an Independent Security Study (ISS) of executive protection programs for high net worth people comply with applicable IRS deductible expenses—and save the executive thousands of dollars—it also protects the entire organization by looking at its overall security program. Our client understood the need to evaluate the specialized security requirements of the CEO and combine it with an assessment of the vulnerabilities impacting the entire organization. With a review of the security measures at the corporate offices, during transportation, and at private residences, you will understand where you are exposing employees to unnecessary risk.
  • Got caught unprepared: Safeguarding employees was our client’s focus, and as you share that priority, especially in an emergency, a holistic Emergency Management Plan (EMP) ensures they will know how to hide, evacuate, communicate before, during, and after an incident, and resume normal business activities as you recover. An EMP that covers all hazards including natural (weather), accidental (fire), and intentional (criminal) incidents prepares your organization for the unexpected—even a pandemic.

We’re Here to Help
Have you got stuck, got caught off guard, got no one to turn to, or got lost? And would you like to get help, get support, and get going? Because in past years, when the going got tough, the tough got the LFG.

So let’s get excited about the “what ifs” of 2021. What if your employees felt safe and secure? What if you focused on your employees’ well-being? What if you found a trusted advisor who gets you—and takes your security to the next level? You’ve got that all in The Lake Forest Group. And we’re just a call or click away. Let’s get started.

Contact Mike at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to discuss whatever is on your mind in a free 30-minute consultation and together we can create a strategy that supports and prioritizes your employees.


To Save and Protect: Independent Security Study Does Both

How safe and secure do your employees feel? They might be harassed or threatened by co-workers or visitors, or exposed to some other type of workplace violence. Or maybe your CEO has received threats from a customer dissatisfied with your organization’s product or service. From C-suite to entry level employees, you must be committed to security as a 24/7 objective.

What is great security—and how do you know if you have it?
You might know what great music sounds like or great pizza tastes like, but do you know what great security looks like? Great security follows best practices to successfully protect your people from any hazards they might face in the workplace.

And great security is achieved through a security assessment that helps you understand what you have and benchmarks it with best practices and other organizations who are doing it right to determine what you need. A security assessment ensures that physical, technical, procedural, and personnel security measures are working together to protect your people, property, and assets.

What is an independent security study and why do you need it?
Especially if your organization or CEO is high profile, a security assessment must look at security across the enterprise, like transportation, private residences, personal protection, and other activities related to your executive protection (EP) operations and corporate security (CS) program. That’s when the assessment becomes the foundation of an independent security study (ISS). Not only will an ISS protect your employees, but it will also evaluate EP and CS, and how well you identify, assess, and manage threats to individuals and the organization itself. Plus, the ISS allows your organization’s leadership to avoid unnecessary tax liability as it relates to executive protection.

You can’t conduct the study yourself—that’s why it’s independent.
An important part of the IRS compliance is that the study must be done by an outsider—that’s why it’s independent. In other words, you can’t conduct your own assessment. The net result of the ISS conducted by an independent consultant is an evaluation of your personnel, programs, policies, technologies, operations, and current security environment to identify areas of strength along with opportunities for improvement.

Benchmarking, United States Secret Service, and IRS compliance—a dynamic trio.
Your EP might include air travel, airport protection, ground transportation, and a traveling protective detail to ensure the safety of company executives, especially if they travel internationally. The IRS taxes the gross income of those executives for transportation security costs—unless you can show a bona fide business-oriented security concern for the protection provided. An ISS meets the necessary requirements for the IRS to avoid this tax, saving your CEO money.

Does the CEO travel to countries with known terrorist activity? Does a driver transport the CEO from home to work and back? Does the CEO travel by private plane? The ISS dives deeply into your EP operations to document current measures and offers industry best practices to mitigate threats and strengthen overall security.

By working with The Lake Forest Group, you optimize the value of this outside relationship through benchmarking and extensive experience. Because of our varied client list, we can connect you to best practices that transcend industries so you can learn from organizations you would rarely have contact with otherwise. And as I assess your CS program and specifically EP operations, I will rely on my experiences as a Secret Service agent who protected the President and First Lady in the President’s Protective Detail, investigated threats to the President, and identified risk in a variety of locations, circumstances, and appearances.

Leveraging the USSS methodology in your ISS, we evaluate your:
• EP operations, including drivers, vehicles, corporate or private aircraft, airport locations and personnel, risk level where the executive travels, advance and traveling details, and any additional activities designed to safeguard your CEO and select executives
• Physical, technical, procedural, and personnel security at corporate, residential, and transportation-related properties
• Coordination with internal stakeholders including HR, facilities, security, finance, and legal to maximize communication and risk management effectiveness across departments
• Cooperation with external stakeholders to support security initiatives, including local first responders, open source and social media analysts, and response monitoring station personnel

A holistic strategy guarantees your security is greater than the sum of its parts.
As we conduct the ISS, we look at each element of your security environment at corporate properties, private residences of executives, and locations, equipment, and personnel that support air and ground transportation. Because each part of EP is intrinsically interrelated with another and EP in turn is inherently connected to physical, technical, procedural, and personnel security measures at every location and in every function, your ability to protect your executives as well as your employees depends on a holistic security strategy.

The ISS ensures that holistic security strategy as we offer strategic considerations to enhance existing measures. It also complies with IRS requirements to validate employer-provided transportation for business-oriented security concerns and overall security programs and specifically exclude those costs and items from the executive’s gross income.


Safeguarding the President on Inauguration Day

On Wednesday, January 20, the 59th Presidential Inauguration was held at the U.S. Capitol, the site of a recent riot and serious security failure resulting in several fatalities, extensive property damage, and multiple physical injuries. What can we learn from the events of January 6, 2021? As a Secret Service agent, I can offer some perspective having been involved in previous Inaugurations and other major events.

More than a suit—a plan.
Oftentimes, the public’s image of the Secret Service is a federal agent dressed in a suit with sunglasses and earpiece protecting the President. I did protect the President and First Lady, but two other assignments were directly related to protecting buildings such as the U.S. Capitol as well as major events, like the Inauguration. As an agent, I assisted in constructing security plans for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and as Director of Security for the NBA, I participated in security measures for the Athens Summer Olympics.

Just like you, only different.
We can see a lot of similarities in security planning for large scale events and planning at your organization, except, of course one is on a much larger scale. Using best practices, we ensure physical, technical, procedural, and personnel security work together, we coordinate with other internal departments and external agencies, and train so everyone understands their role.

When I was assigned to the Secret Service’s Major Events Division, I designed security plans for events designated as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), including the Inauguration, State of the Union, and the Olympics. For NSSEs the Secret Service designs the security plan, the FBI is responsible for crisis management, such as what we experienced with the riot at the Capitol, and FEMA is onsite for consequence management if an incident occurs. These different agencies work together, share information, and assume delineated areas of responsibility that maximize their respective strengths.

This Inauguration was always going to be different.
Due to concerns with COVID-19, this Inauguration was always going to be different than its predecessors, with scaled back or cancelled events, such as the parade. And after the riot on January 6, the Secret Service and other partner agencies adjusted the security plan even further. They collectively identified potential vulnerabilities by assessing what they had and what they needed in terms of personnel, physical, technical, and procedural security—and all must be optimized and work together in order to be successful:

  • I’m sure you’ve seen the influx of National Guard troops with about 25,000 Guard members on the ground in Washington, D.C. Personnel from other local, state, and federal agencies will also join them and coordinate their efforts.
  • The area around the Capitol and National Mall has physical barriers like fencing with barbed wire on top and bollards to protect against vehicles with explosive devices. Additional restrictive areas have also been set up to limit the flow of traffic and people, also extending to rail stations and airports.
  • Security technologies include cameras that use both facial recognition to identify individuals on watch lists and license plate recognition to spot any reported suspicious vehicles.
  • Procedures, directives, and official orders outline the combined decades of security expertise of members from disparate agencies in the common objective of executing the plan and protecting the President, First Lady, members of Congress, and all visitors attending this ceremonial demonstration of our democracy.

An emergency management plan protects you from just that—emergencies.
Every event, organization, company, and agency must have a security plan to prevent and mitigate potential incidents and an emergency management plan (EMP) to respond in case something does happen. An EMP, among many things, establishes a reporting structure to manage the emergency, proper response protocols to safeguard people including evacuation, shelter-in-place, and run, hide, and fight, and a communication system to transmit vital information that can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Practice really does get you closer to perfect.
A lot goes into an effective security plan, program, and policy. And that was very apparent when I was designing the airspace security plan for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, four months after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The word on everyone’s mind and from everyone’s lips was “security.” This Inauguration is no different—and neither is your own organization. You must design a plan, put security measures in place that support it, and train your people on it. Just having a security plan, measure, or officer does not make you safe and secure. You must strengthen your security through scheduled training customized to the needs of each stakeholder.

Always be better.
Every plan can be improved. Communicate with partners, share information, and make sure you take the time to review an event, or your own security program, at least once a year so you can update it and make any adjustments to fix what didn’t go well—and be prepared for whatever comes next.

 

We’re here to help.
On Inauguration day, you were able to see me on local Chicago news programs sharing similar information about protecting the peaceful transition of power and our 46th President. When you’re ready to talk about your own security challenges and protecting your people, contact me at [email protected] or 312.515.8747.


What to look for when hiring a Chief Security Officer (CSO)

by Patrick Gray of Raines International and G. Michael Verden of The Lake Forest Group

The Lake Forest Group is working with Raines International in recruiting security professionals for top level executive positions to make an immediate impact in organizations across all industries and functions—because in today’s business environment, security has taken on an elevated role in operations to protect an organization’s people, property, and brand.

Accordingly, savvy business leaders want to build an environment that anticipates vulnerabilities, implements countermeasures to mitigate threats, and creates a backdrop of safety and security so employees can thrive.

When you are ready to hire a Chief Security Officer (CSO), you may not know where to start. CSOs can be an integral part of your leadership team because they understand how workplace violence, outside intrusions and other threats can disrupt business operations, impact employee turnover, and inhibit productivity. While they know how to anticipate and prevent the typical risks that may affect your business, a great CSO will have his or her finger on the pulse of the security world and will think three steps ahead to protect against today’s — and tomorrow’s — challenges.

Raines has found that many CSOs come from the military, law enforcement, or government. While those backgrounds support an organization’s security objectives because military and law enforcement backgrounds tend to bring a proactive approach to security, an outstanding CSO will also bring a variety of soft skills. From the obvious to perhaps the unexpected, a CSO may offer the following soft skills:

  • Adaptable and agile
  • Abreast of the latest industry developments
  • Communication skills
  • Business acumen
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Approachability
  • Organizational skills
  • Team building
  • Leadership

The right CSO for your organization should effectively complement your culture. Depending on the size of the organization, the CSO must also have the right support team and governance ability. Whether presenting an annual budget report to the C-suite or conducting orientation security training for new hires, the CSO should have the ability to relate to both, and, more importantly, be capable of engaging with everyone. This connection allows the CSO to communicate important security education and awareness material to the workforce that best prepares them for an incident in the workplace.

The CSO also needs to foster goodwill by demonstrating that any changes in the workplace are for the benefit of the organization’s people and not meant to disrupt daily business activities. A successful CSO realizes that some modifications he or she might make to a business environment in the name of security and emergency preparedness may be met with resistance by employees if they do not properly disseminate and adequately explain these changes and the reasons behind them.

Just as they do for the other leaders on your team, these soft skills can make the difference in your CSO being a simple placeholder and a real change maker who works to create a safe and secure workplace that supports your employees.

We’re Here to Help
You are committed to protecting your employees. We can help you determine next steps to create or enhance your safe and secure workplace, especially as employees return to your businesses or continue to remain at home. Contact Mike Verden at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to discuss what’s on your mind and visit http://lakeforestgroup.com/.


Why Domestic Violence Is a Factor in Workplace Violence

You Owe Your Employees a Safe Workplace
Even as we paid special attention to this important issue during October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we know that domestic violence affects the lives of Americans every day. And due to COVID-19, domestic violence has become even more dangerous with a tremendous spike in incidents of abuse as victims are forced to spend more time at home with their abuser. We know that domestic violence is a factor in workplace violence and Futures Without Violence gives you several compelling reasons to address it. So what are you doing to protect victims of domestic violence and prevent workplace violence at your organization?

The Centers for Disease Control reports that alarmingly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. In the U.S., an average of 20 people experiences intimate partner physical violence every minute, which equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Domestic violence affects people of any race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, education level, or economic status; anyone can be a victim—or perpetrator—of domestic violence.

You need to educate yourself and your organization about domestic violence in order to design an effective workplace violence prevention program that protects your employees. From defining it, identifying signs of it, and supporting your employees impacted by it, we’ll get you started—and help you incorporate the policies and procedures you need to ensure a safe and secure workplace.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in a current or past intimate relationship where a partner uses actual, attempted, or threatened harm to gain or maintain control by using different types of violence:
• Physical: intimidating partners with weapons like guns, knives, bats, or mace with intentions to injure, harm, or disable them
• Psychological: actions, comments, and behavior that insult, demean, or shame the partner, especially in front of other people
• Sexual: pressuring the partner to have sex or perform sexual acts they’re not comfortable with by force and without consent
• Financial: controlling finances in the household without discussion, including taking a partner’s money or refusing to provide money for necessary expenses
• Social: preventing or discouraging partners from spending time with friends, family members, or peers
• Spiritual: preventing participation, ridiculing beliefs, or using beliefs to manipulate partners
• Stalking: engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress

Domestic violence is about power and control. If someone feels they are losing that power and control over their intimate partner, they might proceed on a pathway to violence to maintain power and control. Domestic violence falls among the fourth type of workplace violence—personal relationship—which occurs when someone unrelated to the workplace but personally related to someone at the workplace comes to the workplace with intent to do harm to their intimate partner or anyone trying to protect that person.

According to the Department of Labor, domestic violence accounted for 27% of violent events in the workplace. Based on that statistic and those already mentioned, it’s likely that some of your co-workers, and your friends and relatives, are currently experiencing or have experienced domestic violence.

You can mitigate the threat of someone with a personal relationship to an employee coming to your workplace to do harm by understanding some warning signs of this type of violence:
• The victim could show symptoms such as increased fear, emotional episodes, and/or signs of physical injury.
• Victims, as well as perpetrators, could also show signs of work performance deterioration.
• You might be aware of threats or concerning posts on the perpetrator’s social media.

Additionally, workplace violence prevention training teaches your employees how to use their situational awareness to recognize the importance of “see something, say something”—and what that “something” is—how to and to whom to report concerning behavior, and how your policies and procedures protect them all. An anonymous hotline can make it easier for employees to report, a workplace violence policy emphasizes your commitment to employee safety and well-being, and a top-tier employee assistance program (EAP) provides support and resources for employees to get the help they need.

Whether you see signs of domestic violence at your workplace or not, you know it’s happening. Your safe workplace environment is built on all employees demonstrating compassion and understanding in a judgment-free zone where victims feel comfortable disclosing information to management without fear of reprisal, understand their access to medical and legal services, and are able to succeed in a workplace that prioritizes the safety and well-being of every employee. Your consistent goal is to support victims by providing a safe place for them to seek help, without stigma, the fear of losing their jobs, or experiencing negative consequences at work.

To ensure a safe and secure workplace, you must protect all employees from workplace violence and help employees affected by domestic violence:
• Implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program that focuses on protections for victims of domestic violence and includes training for all employees.
• Assure employees you will maintain confidentiality so they feel comfortable disclosing information to management without fear of reprisal, adverse effects on their job status, or retaliations of any kind.
• Recommend a workplace safety plan to protect the employee with accommodations for workspace, hours, projects, and escorts out of the building, among other things.
• Create a supportive environment so employees inform you of existing restraining orders and escalations in threats, violent behavior, or other information that could lead to violence at the workplace.
• Ensure your employees understand the laws in each state that specifically protect victims of domestic violence as well as applicable provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
• Offer information on the EAP and national and local resources such as:
• National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800.799.7233, https://www.thehotline.org/
• National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 303.839.1852, http://www.ncadv.org/
• Futures Without Violence, 415. 678.5500, https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/
• Safe Horizon: 24-hour hotline, 1.800.621.HOPE (4673), https://www.safehorizon.org/

What Can We Do?
As many organizations are operating with a combination of remote and on-site employees, your workforce must understand that the new workplace extends to the home. More people than ever before are working from their residences or quarantined, and employers need to prepare for an increase in their employees’ need for mental health and domestic violence support. Accordingly, EAPs are responding to more requests for mental health resources and domestic violence hotlines have experienced an increase in calls. Virtual training allows employees to train from their homes and can increase awareness about COVID-19-related and workplace violence safety and security measures.

Safety Is Your Top Priority
Domestic violence thrives in a culture of silence. Workplaces and communities can support victims, their children, and families by working together to create a safe work environment through awareness, education, and a commitment to safety and security as part of a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program.

We’re Here to Help
You are committed to protecting your employees. We can help you determine next steps to create or enhance your safe and secure workplace, especially as employees return to your businesses or continue to remain at home. Contact Mike Verden at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to discuss what’s on your mind and visit http://lakeforestgroup.com/services/workplace-violence-services/.


Training Communicates COVID-19 Safety and Security in the New Workplace

We’ve all become familiar with the term the “new normal” because of the impact COVID-19 has had on our society and on our businesses. As people gradually return to their workplaces, they will find many changes as organizations ask them to adjust their behavior and expectations—and patience—to ensure safety in the new work environment, built in response to the global health crisis.

So, how do you acclimate your employees to the new workplace? Training, the most proven and trusted methodology, serves as the primary instrument for communicating critical post-coronavirus workplace information, such as safety and security procedural changes, to your employees. Because this public health crisis is unprecedented, many workers are anxious about the future and concerned they or someone they care about will contract this disease. Training can inform employees about the preventative measures you’ve implemented to protect them, educate them about risks and how to improve their safety at work and home, and make them aware of resources available to support them.

As the crisis moves from the response to recovery phase, businesses need to prepare people for their return well before they take their first step back into the workplace. You can accomplish this by communicating your training, education, and awareness information through virtual forums like webinars and videos to educate your employees on preventative measures, including social distancing and sanitization, as well as reactive procedures, such as quarantining and contact tracing.

Because security is more important than ever in the post-pandemic workplace, you can protect your employees by responding to this emergency as you would other incidents—by maximizing your security protocols. You’ll create a safer and more secure workplace when you take special care to design your security environment using best practices in physical, procedural, technical, and personnel security—and incorporating the unique measures that COVID demands.

Organizations will need to adapt their workplace by identifying COVID-19 symptoms, requiring face coverings, implementing personal hygiene requirements, and ensuring proper social distancing. The new workplace will incorporate unprecedented practices including, among others, temperature screening, COVID-19 testing, antibody testing, health questionnaires, and barring people who have tested positive or who have come in contact with someone who tested positive from the workplace for 14 days. When you clearly and consistently communicate safety information, employees will feel safe, secure, informed, and prepared when they return to work—and you can thank your comprehensive training program for that.

Physical Security Measures
The new workplace will incorporate hand sanitizers, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), hand washing areas, and surface disinfectants. You can also consider physical modifications such as reducing the number of access points, increasing the distance between workspaces, communicating procedures with signage, instituting one-way directional paths, installing plexiglass, and limiting elevator occupancy.

Policy and Procedure Modifications
The safe and secure post-pandemic workplace will reflect procedural changes such as limiting on-site personnel to only essential individuals, staggering work shifts and days, prohibiting employees from sharing equipment like laptops and headsets, and decreasing occupancy capacities for workplaces.
You’ll also need to consider modifying current policies to communicate COVID-19 protocols to visitors, including clients, contractors, suppliers, vendors, and delivery personnel, such as limiting the number of visitors, controlling visitor access to restricted areas, and providing escorts for the duration of the visit. In addition, your policy should clearly state that employees have a responsibility for reporting concerns to management and maintaining compliance with company as well as local, state, and federal agency guidelines.

Technical Solutions
Security technologies will play an important role as organizations implement virtual training to educate the workforce on what to expect when they return. Your training can outline how your employees will enter the building using contactless biometric access control systems such as fingerprint matching, retina scanning, and facial recognition to help avoid bottle necking and maintain social distancing. Training will also educate them about how contact tracing technologies, such as Bluetooth devices, global positioning systems (GPS), and card readers, record location and proximity to trace infected personnel to further protect them. Organizations can also train their workforce regarding manual contact tracing that incorporates sign-in sheets, work schedules, shift logs, and time and attendance documents. Employees, security, and management all have a vital role to play in your safe and secure workplace.

As many organizations are operating with a combination of remote and on-site employees, your workforce must understand that the new workplace extends to the home. More people than ever before are working from their residences or quarantined, and employers need to prepare for an increase in mental health issues as well as domestic violence. Accordingly, employee assistance programs (EAPs) have seen a spike in requests for mental health resources and domestic violence hotlines have experienced an increase in calls. Virtual training allows employees to train from their homes and can increase awareness about COVID-19-related and workplace violence safety and security measures.

What does your training curriculum include? Do you offer virtual sessions to communicate the most critical information to your employees—namely how to keep them safe and secure so they can be happy and productive? You can also consider addressing these topics in your best-in-class curriculum: clinical and work-life support services for employees and their families, policies and procedures that address workplace violence and support victims of domestic violence, and enhanced new policies that focus on access control, work from home, and OSHA requirements such as Duty of Care. Your training curriculum can further protect your employees at home and at work by focusing on workplace violence mitigation, threat assessment, active shooter response, and return to work protocols.

We’re Here to Help
The Lake Forest Group is committed to protecting your employees. We can help you determine next steps to create or enhance your safe and secure workplace, especially as employees return to your businesses or continue to remain at home. Contact Mike Verden at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to discuss whatever is on your mind in a free 30-minute consultation and together we can create a strategy that supports and prioritizes your employees.


It’s Time to Focus on Your Employees’ Mental Health and Security Needs

We’ve all heard about the “new normal” as states are opening up. But what does that mean? 

It depends on your responsibility in the organization. If you’re in HR or Security, you know as employees begin returning to the workplace, you face many challenges: putting physical barriers in place to ensure social distancing, modifying or creating policies and procedures that address safety and security concerns due to COVID-19, supporting a workforce that is dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, and creating a culture of wellness at your organization, among others.

The organizations that top the Best Places to Work lists understand that employees who feel safe, secure, and cared for are happier and more productive–whether they’re working from home or at the workplace. These companies provide numerous resources to improve their employees’ experience at work and to ensure their well-being as they face the challenges of life, both professionally and personally. What have your employees been feeling for the last several months, as they’ve had to face, with virtually no notice, the disruptions from COVID-19?

Some employees could be dealing with loss of child care and the accompanying home schooling responsibilities, intensified alcohol or drug dependency, increased anxiety due to a spouse’s job loss or their overall reaction to the uncertainty of their own situation, and the tragic death of a loved one, whether to COVID-19 or some other illness.

Security professionals are concerned about these types of stressors every day, and, with the added uncertainty and anxiety caused by the pandemic, that concern only intensifies. When employees are dealing with life stressors in their personal lives, they bring those stressors to work, which experts tell us can lead to incidents of workplace violence—from harassment and verbal abuse to physical altercations and active shooter incidents.

Domestic violence is also a factor in incidents of workplace violence. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience some form of intimate partner violence at some point in their lifetime. The enormity of that statistic compounded with recent stay-at-home measures gives you an indication of how many of your people could be further traumatized by staying in an unsafe home for months with an abuser. Accordingly, domestic violence hotlines have experienced an increase in calls during the pandemic.

A recent article in Employee Benefits News (EBN) through partnership with the National Behavioral Consortium (NBC) discussed the importance of mental health services and resources. “We see work-life services as a prevention and early intervention tool,” says Stacie Westhouse-Milam, LPC, Vice President of Operations for Perspectives LTD, an employee assistance program (EAP) provider and fellow Chicago SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) member. “Everyday life issues can be precursors to more serious behavioral or medical problems. By recognizing the problem early, we can provide the appropriate counseling and address the issue before it spins out of control.”

Your employees depend on you to ensure a safe and secure workplace where they can do their best work. Begin your pandemic-related safety, security, and well-being initiatives by asking a security professional to conduct a needs assessment that identifies what you have and what you need.

  • Do you have an employee assistance program (EAP) that provides a variety of clinical and work-life support services for your employees and their families? 
  • Do your policies and procedures address workplace violence and support victims of domestic violence?
  • Have you created or enhanced new policies that focus on access control, work from home, OSHA requirements such as Duty of Care and recently released Guidance on Returning to Work, etc.? 
  • Do you have a Threat Assessment Team (TAT) to identify behavioral indicators of employees on a pathway to violence, tools for the assessment of threats and violence risk, intervention strategies, and relevant threat assessment research and statistics? 
  • Does your training curriculum include workplace violence mitigation, threat assessment, active shooter response, return to work protocols, and other measures to protect your employees on a daily basis and in an emergency?

Your EAP, HR, and Security teams can work together to ensure you are doing all you can to support your employees. Now more than ever during these challenging times, your employees need to feel safe and secure at work.

We’re Here to Help

You are committed to protecting your employees. We can help you determine next steps to create or enhance your safe and secure workplace, especially as employees return to your businesses or continue to remain at home. Contact Mike at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to discuss whatever is on your mind in a free 30-minute consultation and together we can create a strategy that supports and prioritizes your employees.home. 


Protecting Your People Post Pandemic—with a Plan

What are you and your employees feeling while coping with the COVID-19 crisis—disruption, uncertainty, fear, sadness, stress, anxiety, empathy, community, cooperation, or a combination of any, all, or other emotions? A devastating emergency like the coronavirus pandemic teaches us how important it is to work together. In all emergencies, we must integrate individual functions with multi-entity operations. That means we have to collaborate internally with all departments of our organization as well as externally with first responders like police, fire, public and mental health, and medical services in order to protect our employees.

Especially during May’s Mental Health Awareness month, business psychologist Dino Signore, PhD puts our emotions in perspective in 8 steps to navigating uncertainty. “We want to regulate our emotions and behavior when it’s appropriate and to surrender when it’s not,” he writes. “A psychological term, ‘surrender,’ shouldn’t be mistaken for helplessness, giving up or becoming a victim. Instead, surrendering means you make the decision to let go of things you cannot control and focus on the things you can control.”

So what can you do during these uncertain times? You can focus on controlling your response and recovery efforts to the pandemic and its impact on your operations and employees by creating or enhancing a holistic all-hazards emergency management plan (EMP). In fact, the EMP not only addresses your response and recovery initiatives but also the prevention/mitigation and preparedness measures you’ll need for the next emergency you’ll face.

An Emergency Management Plan Covers All Hazards

Before, during, and after emergencies caused by all hazards including weather, criminal activity, accidents, and public health crises, a plan implements the four phases of emergency management as defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA to prevent injuries, save lives, minimize property damage, decrease liability, and help restore operations.

Phase 1: Prevention and Mitigation

Prevention and mitigation includes any activities that are preventative, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or mitigate the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Beginning with an assessment of your current security capabilities, you’ll identify what you have and what you need. By reviewing the physical security measures, security technologies, policies, procedures, incident reporting protocols, emergency management documents, and personnel staffing and support, you’ll also understand your level of risk and how your workplace exposes your employees to potential harm.

Think about your organization and how well you protect employees with:

  • Physical measures including barriers, keys, locks, fencing, and landscaping
  • Technical systems including cameras, card readers, alarms, and biometrics
  • Procedural processes including active shooter plans, workplace violence policies, and background screening
  • Personnel support including from your security department, security officers, and liaison with first responders.

Phase 2: Preparedness  

Preparedness details the measures you need to prepare for an emergency and an updated plan details how you can properly prepare, plan, and train to respond to a crisis. If your organization has an emergency management plan and you train your employees on it, your people will know what to do when they face the unexpected. After determining the resources and skill sets you need from internal partners including security, legal, emergency management, and HR and external stakeholders including police, fire, and emergency medical, you can establish a training curriculum that prepares your workforce for their roles and responsibilities during an event and how they will coordinate and integrate with first responders.

Training is at the heart of preparedness—active shooter and fire drills familiarize employees with the emergency evacuation routes, safe rooms, and lockdown and weather event exercises involve stocking items like water, food, and blankets for shelter-in-place. Your training strategy focuses on how employee activities, building management, daily operations, access control, visitor management, emergency preparedness, and incident response work together to ensure safety during and after an emergency.

Phase 3: Response

A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey in April found that most organizations were not prepared to respond to the pandemic and 1/3 did not have an EMP—making them vulnerable to loss of productivity, operational lapses, and potential tragic injuries or death to any emergency they will face. We’ve heard that some organizations have downloaded their plans from the Internet, haven’t updated their plans for years, or don’t train their employees on the plan. Those are not holistic all hazards EMPs.

In order to keep your employees safe, your EMP must be customized to your location and:

  • Specifically identify evacuation routes, assembly areas, and safe rooms
  • Outline roles your emergency management team will assume in an emergency
  • Coordinate with first responders, specifically police and fire
  • Ensure effective communication with employees, first responders, and stakeholders

A comprehensive plan focuses on many more areas you’ll need to consider to accomplish your mission of protecting your people.

Phase 4: Recovery

Because all emergency incidents cause disruption, possibly across an entire enterprise or institution, an effective recovery strategy and continuity of operations planning will increase resiliency and ensure you can continue to provide essential functions and services during and after an emergency.

How soon will you recover from an incident? You need to determine your organization’s competency level for mitigating an emergency:

  • Do you have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) or mutual aid agreements (MAAs) in place with public and private organizations to provide the necessary resources?
  • Do your strategies align with the four phases of emergency management (prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery)?
  • Do you have a property-specific emergency management plan in full compliance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS)?
  • Through either training or an actual event, are you constantly reviewing the effectiveness of your plan by testing, reviewing, evaluating, modifying, implementing, and repeating the cycle?
  • Do you have a process in place to implement an after action review to identify lessons learned from the current crisis and apply them to your updated plan to address all hazards?

We’re Here to Help
You are committed to protecting your employees. We can work with you to construct a tailored emergency management plan that does just that. Or we can discuss whatever is on your mind in a free 30-minute consultation. Contact me at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 and together we can ensure a safe workplace where your employees can do their best work.


An After Action Review Helps Your Business Continue

The impact of COVID-19 on our country affects not only the health of our citizens but also the strength and well-being of our business community. The results of our survey last month coupled with continued conversations with colleagues reveal that most organizations are concerned with how to move toward recovery.

After the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and business activities resume, organizations will need to evaluate how well they responded to this emergency to determine if they were adequately prepared to continue their operations, support their employees, and service their clients and customers.

One essential tool that helps companies of all types and sizes, across all industries, assess their preparedness, response, and recovery to COVID-19 and all emergencies is the after action review (AAR) process. We’ll show you how to use this process to improve the performance of your entire organization regarding not only emergency incidents but also events and projects.

The AAR process provides an opportunity for you as part of your organization’s leadership to assess what worked, what didn’t, and why, the current resource capabilities in place and those you lack, what you need to change, and how you can move toward improvement. Simply put, this learning-focused process is designed to help you discover what went well and what could be done differently. The nature and size of an incident determine the amount of time you need to complete the AAR process and move toward recovery.

The AAR process generates improved communication and feedback between departments within an organization as well as with external stakeholders such as first responders and specialists including subject matter experts. Because the focus is on lessons learned, the process leads to an improved understanding of organizational performance and helps decision-makers think about how best to work together to produce better results. While the AAR process does not seek to find fault, it emphasizes learning and review to achieve maximum involvement, openness, honesty, and improvement as it renews the cycle—test, review, evaluate, modify, implement, repeat.

So, when do you begin your after action review? You can implement it as soon as possible, even during an emergency or an event, so that your team’s observations and feedback are fresh and accurately describe what happened and how you responded.

And how do you get started? Your review process will produce an after action report that summarizes what took place during the event, analyzes the actions taken by participants, and identifies areas of improvement. The after action report can follow this suggested framework and you can improve data collection and analysis by distributing a questionnaire to each department so that you receive pertinent information uniformly:

  1. When the review was completed (during an incident, after it, or both)
  2. Who participated in the review including job title and department. You’ll need to get feedback through interviews of key personnel from all departments of your organization, such as HR, IT, facilities, security, sales, marketing, operations, and finance.
  3. How the incident impacted the organization with a summary from each department that includes a timeline of events, the response procedures that the department took, who did what in each department so you can identify roles and responsibilities, the recovery measures each person rolled out, and the effects of the incident on continuity operations.
  4. Identify what went well and why, specifically the successful steps each department took in response to the incident.
  5. Identify what could have been done better and the deficiencies that you must address to ensure an improved scenario in the future. What advice would you give to future AAR process stakeholders?
  6. Determine your improvement plan and how you will implement corrective actions and the responsible parties and estimated completion dates.
  7. Prepare to repeat the cycle with this incident and the others that you will inevitably face.

I have participated in a number of AAR meetings, and one of the most memorable occurred after the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. As you can imagine, it was quite an extensive process and we reviewed an exhaustive list that covered a multitude of security measures including equipment requirements, air space restrictions, badging procedures, and security post positions. The bottom line is you can use the AAR process as an invaluable resource to prepare for any emergency or evaluate any event or project because the fundamentals are the same no matter how large or small the incident is—identify what worked and what didn’t and continue with what worked and fix what didn’t.

Many organizations have found that an outside professional with an AAR process background can facilitate the process more effectively because they can be objective and focus on best practices from their previous experiences. Because you lived through your incident, you are more influenced by emotion, personal connections with your co-workers, and the potential trauma of the incident itself. Your goal is to evaluate effectively and learn—so you are prepared.