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.


To Stay Safe, There Should be a “YOU” in T-E-A-M.

While there’s no “I” in T-E-A-M, there should be a “U” (YOU!) and also an “US” in your security team—so that you can keep your people safe.

You need to surround yourself with a strong team with different skill sets that complement your own expertise so that you can create, enhance, or breathe life into a holistic security strategy.

Who is in charge of security at your organization? Do you have a dedicated security department that regularly conducts training on workplace violence mitigation and response to active shooter incidents, among other topics? Or is security another area added to the myriad of other concerns your HR department is responsible for? And if you are in charge of security for your organization, do you have the support and resources to implement the safety, security, and compliance initiatives you know you need?

Protecting Your People Is Your #1 Priority.
You must have the proper measures in place to protect your employees and visitors, a combination of technical, physical, procedural, and personnel processes effectively in sync to protect your people and warn against potential danger. Start with an assessment of your current security environment so you’ll know what you have and what you lack. And begin to identify people inside and outside your organization who have the skills and knowledge to develop and promote your security strategy.

There’s “HR” in Team, Too.
The scope of the assessment will include HR areas as it identifies the policies you’re missing from a best practice based collection—like an updated drug policy if your state has legalized medical or recreational marijuana, a domestic violence policy that reflects your state’s laws, and an Internet policy that clearly defines company expectations of online behavior and activity. You can work with HR to ensure you have all these as well as safe termination, code of conduct, and access control policies, among others. And be sure you are updating, reviewing, and enhancing them regularly.

“IT” Is Also in Team.
Some organizations give IT oversight of their technical security measures, security improvements might be under IT budgets, or at the very least you might have to coordinate with IT to ensure your alarms, turnstiles, cameras, and card readers are working and talking to each other. Your security technologies systems integrator will also be an important member of your team, confirming, among other things, that all your doors will lock during a lockdown, will deny entry, and will allow your people to exit during an emergency.

Get First Responders on Your Team
You should have a relationship with your local police, fire, and emergency medical personal, which means the first time you meet them should not be during an emergency. These professionals are integral parts of your security team and you can introduce them to your facility so they know how to access it, how many safe rooms you have identified and where the emergency exits are, and who they will communicate with during an emergency.

Plus Consultants, Mental Health Professionals, and Forensic Psychologists
Mental health professionals can lend their expertise to investigations of concerning behaviors that could lead to workplace violence. Forensic psychologists can play a leading role in threat assessments that will contribute to your safe workplace. And if you’re in need of a consultant who can serve as a trusted advisor, we happen to know one. Just call—we’re here to help in whatever way you need us.


5 Areas To Focus On In 2020 To Keep You Safe

You need an enterprise holistic security strategy that protects your people, properties, and assets. Now. Today. If not today then definitely in 2020. Even if you haven’t budgeted for any improvements next year, start envisioning what you want your organization to be like, create your strategy, write your plan, and then start implementing the goals and objectives that will make your vision a reality. These 5 areas will get you on your way to keeping your people safe.

1. Conduct an assessment.
An assessment will tell you what you’re doing well and where you’re exposed to risk. It gives you a baseline upon which to build your strategy and reminds you to align your physical, procedural, personnel, and technical security measures. Plus, you will ensure that your security posture is at a best practice based level by benchmarking with industry best practices, similar organizations, and cutting edge initiatives—all combining to safeguard your employees so they can do their best work.

2. Evaluate your Emergency Management Plan.
When was the last time you reviewed your emergency management plan (EMP)? Or practiced it? Or trained your employees on it? Your EMP should be customized to your location, align with the DHS recommended phases of emergency management—prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery—and incorporate the titles and language of the ICS (Incident Command System). By following these directives, you and your employees will be more prepared in an emergency and able to more effectively coordinate with first responders during lockdown, evacuation, shelter-in-place, reverse evacuation, or whatever response is appropriate for the situation.

3. Enhance your training curriculum.
Without consistent efforts to educate your workforce about how to maintain and improve their safety at work, many of your employees will not know what to do in an emergency. And because training is a perishable skill, you need to implement a dynamic curriculum that encourages active participation from your employees so they can respond appropriately during all emergency events, including active assailant, fire, power outage, and weather. By empowering your employees to develop their situational awareness, they can also learn to identify concerning behaviors that could lead to workplace violence—ultimately serving as contributors to their safe workplace.

4. Update your policies and procedures.
Your policies and procedures are only effective if they are up-to-date, comprehensive, and shared with your employees on a regular basis. If they are sitting on a shelf in a binder, they might have checked a box at one time, but they are most likely outdated. Do you want the policies that protect your employees to be a secret? Or ineffective? From code of conduct, drug and alcohol, and social media use to bomb threat checklists, visitor management, identification badging, and access control, your polices and procedures exist to keep your organization running smoothly and safely—and you need to make sure they are doing their job.

5. Don’t be complacent. Strive for excellence.
Do you want to just be “good enough” when it comes to safety and security? Your employees expect more and deserve better. Your security posture is only as good as the detail and effort you put into it. No one can be satisfied with an EMP downloaded from the Internet that’s not updated with the actual emergency exits and safe rooms at your location—because your employees need to know where they are during an emergency when time is of the essence and lives depend on them knowing where to go and what to do. Update, enhance, review, benchmark, aspire, inspire, evaluate, assess. Your employees will thank you.


3 Ways to Make Your Workplace Safe

An effective, holistic security strategy ensures your workplace is safe for all employees. It controls access to unauthorized people, includes policies and procedures that establish guidelines for appropriate behavior and operations, and prioritizes safety and security in all messaging, training, and documents. So how do you know if the security presence at your organization is at a best practice based level?

Think about what you currently have in place. Do you have a security strategy that includes policies, procedures, and measures designed to protect your employees and visitors? A holistic security strategy covers all the bases by combining the strengths of an assessment, emergency management plan, and training—a security assessment identifies what you have and what you need to protect your people on a daily basis, an emergency management plan outlines how to care for your people in an emergency, and training educates your people about workplace violence, risk factors, and the proper response to different types of incidents they might face. Your objectives, budget, and timeline determine your next steps.

A Security Assessment Establishes What You Have—and What You Might Need
A safe and secure workplace reflects best practices in physical, technical, procedural, and personnel security. And they must all work together to protect your people, property, and assets. That means your access control system, cameras, duress alarms, and other technical security devices are aligned with physical security measures like doors, locks, gates, and fences—and that these security disciplines are supported by trained security professionals and policies and procedures that prioritize safety and security. A security assessment will evaluate your current security posture and offer strategic considerations for improvements to achieve a best in class security environment.

An Emergency Management Plan Safeguards Your People When the Unexpected Happens
You can then use what you learn in the assessment to determine how well your organization addresses the four phases of emergency management as supported by the Department of Homeland Security: prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. A clear, comprehensive, and detailed emergency management plan focuses on these four phases and their critical emergency-related priorities during all hazards including natural (weather), accidental (power outage), and criminal (active assailant). A plan tailored specifically to the circumstances of the emergency and your property helps to ensure safety for staff, visitors, clients, and contractors when the unexpected occurs. The plan also ensures coordination with local first responders.

Workplace Violence Mitigation and Active Assailant Response Training Creates an Educated Workforce
A holistic strategy is stronger when you educate and train your employees on workplace violence mitigation and the proper response in an emergency. By enhancing their situational awareness, your people can take a proactive approach to identifying concerning behaviors in the workplace to keep everyone safe. They will understand the importance of “if you see something, say something”—and what that “something” could be—and how your current policies and procedures protect them. By exploring DHS-recommended principles of emergency management along with Run. Hide. Fight., they’ll know what to do and where to go in an emergency.

A 3-Part Security Strategy Protects Your People
Each service can stand on its own with its specific goals and objectives, but their individual strengths combine to help to ensure a safe workplace during daily operations as well as in an emergency. Ideally, an assessment would first establish your overall security presence, the plan would tailor the four phases of emergency management to your specific location by identifying safe rooms, assembly areas, and relocation sites and coordinating with local first responders, and the training would help your employees recognize signs of concerning behavior and show them what to do and where to go if the emergency calls for lockdown, evacuation, or shelter-in-place.

When you learn how each service interacts and builds upon each other, that understanding leads you to more informed decision-making that determines next steps based on your budget, priorities, and timeline. While the ideal sequence is assessment, plan, and training, you may choose to manage the project differently based on your current capabilities. We’ll work with you to customize each service to maximize its effectiveness and provide options to assist your decision-making process.


Be True to Your School: Keep It Safe and Secure.

With school starting this week in the city of Chicago, I was interviewed by Fox 32 Chicago about school security as school shootings have become part of our society as demonstrated by tragic incidents in Florida and Texas earlier this year. Some school shooters have posted material on social media websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram that in retrospect warned of trouble. Behavioral health professionals working with law enforcement, school administration, teachers, parents, and counselors can collectively assess, manage, and help individuals exhibiting signs that indicate a potential path to violence.

Since emergency events can happen anywhere, we need to be prepared to protect our schools against any type of nefarious incident, whether intentional like an armed assailant, accidental like a power loss, or natural like a weather event such as a tornado, hurricane, or snowstorm. And since most emergency plans rarely cover everything that might be required for an incident, the plan needs to be adaptable to circumstances, innovative, and, when necessary, improvisational.

Back to School
When it comes to protecting your school, now is the perfect time to evaluate and compare your policies, procedures, personnel, physical measures, technology, and training against industry best practice standards in security, safety, emergency preparedness, incident response, compliance, and legal requirements. A campus-wide security assessment can identify your current assets, staffing, and resources so that you will know if you are prepared for any emergency you might have to face.

You should also evaluate your technical security solutions to determine their effectiveness, such as closed-circuit video surveillance equipment, exterior and perimeter security systems, electronic access control systems, automated alerts, and information-sharing capabilities. Understanding your security capabilities can determine if adequate measures are in place for protection, safety, and security, if they are functioning properly, and if your staff is trained properly to operate these technologies.

Teach Your Children Well
Teaching in an academic environment is not limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education in security includes awareness and education materials, as well as training initiatives to develop a multimedia approach that best meets your institutional needs. Emergency preparedness, fire prevention, and active shooter drills, among many areas, are examples of training specifically designed to enhance security and safety at your school.

All departments involved in daily school activities should work closely together to provide guidance and training in the areas considered sensitive to the well-being of students whether on- or off-campus. You can also offer presentations on subject matters such as social media etiquette, toxic relationship warning signs, and sexual assault prevention to students, teachers, staff, and parents.

Move to the Head of the Class
There is no singular solution to preventing school violence. An armed security officer and metal detectors are strong countermeasures that offer mitigation; however, other practices and procedures need to work in concert for your overall security program to be holistic. You’ll feel poised to handle threats to your school when you feel confident in your security. And you’ll feel confident in your security when you work with a security professional who can help you determine where you’re meeting industry best practices in securing campuses—and where you can enhance your current environment to reach a higher level of safety.

After you evaluate and modify your safety and security policies, processes, programs and systems, you can roll out changes immediately. Don’t wait until an incident occurs to start. You can schedule an orientation for your constituents—students, employees, contractors, visitors, and parents—and include police, fire, and other external stakeholders so you can work together and everyone understands his or her role in an emergency.

You Never Stop Learning
Training is a perishable skill and you need to keep educating yourself to stay up-to-date with emerging threat scenarios as well as the most current and innovative measures to counter these dangers. Training enables you to become familiar with individual and collective responsibilities in preventing and responding to an emergency. No single person is able to memorize every step necessary to take during a crisis; however, education, awareness, and recurring training will prepare you—mentally and physically—to respond quickly and decisively. Since most of us act—and react—differently in emergencies than under normal circumstances, training conditions people through simulated high-stress events to learn the appropriate response based on the nature of the incident.

In the event some type of incident, emergency, or other activity occurs that requires outside assistance, subject matter expertise in crisis management can provide counsel to your leaders and decision-makers for the duration of the incident. Experienced security consultants can participate as trusted advisors or active contributors, working closely with all parties including law enforcement, public relations, judiciary, media, and select stakeholders. This support ranges from preemptive to reactive, and your response can be tailored to the incident so that your programs, policies, procedures and partners will all work together to create a safer school.

We’re Here to Help
G. Michael Verden, founder and CEO of The Lake Forest Group (www.lakeforestgroup.com), is a former police officer, Director of Security for the NBA, and retired Secret Service agent with 21 years of experience protecting the President and First Lady as well as large scale events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, Inauguration, and national conventions.


Before Run, Hide, Fight: Prepare, Respond, Recover

Power in Numbers
With active threat incidents top of mind for many of us due to recent events and continuous media coverage, I contacted a select number of professionals in my network to ask for their insight on current best practices to mitigating an active threat, whether the attack came from a firearm, explosive, or vehicle.

Fortunately, my colleagues stepped up in a big way—thank you!—and I received more than 100 responses, a real testament to their dedication and professionalism. So in an effort to continually share relevant and informative content to help keep all of us safe, I have condensed, highlighted, and organized what I learned from them and now pass along their expertise. The key to mitigating an active threat comes down to three critical components: 1) Preparation, 2) Response, and 3) Recovery.

Run, Hide, Fight
Thanks to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the public is familiar with its safety recommendation of “Run, Hide, Fight.” Also the acronym “ALICE” (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) has become common language to many of our citizens. Both responses are dynamic and can save lives, which is the paramount goal of all emergency management planning. While this information is invaluable, it is not enough to craft a holistic approach. In plain language, you need to mitigate an active threat before, during, and after an incident and here’s why.

Prepare
Preparation begins with an assessment of current capabilities to determine the difference between what you have and what you need by reviewing the physical security measures, security technologies, policies and procedures, personnel numbers, emergency management documents, and incident reporting protocols to understand your level of competency. Based on this knowledge, you can make educated decisions regarding procurement as well as support to enhance areas not yet considered at a best practice level according to industry standards.

After determining the resources and skill sets internally (security, legal, emergency management, HR) and externally (police, fire, emergency medical), you can establish a training curriculum that will adequately prepare your workforce and first responders to coordinate and integrate your mitigation disciplines. Your training strategy focuses on how employee or student activities, building management, daily operations, access control, visitor management, emergency preparedness, and incident response work together to ensure safety.

Respond
Training can also teach how to integrate individual functions with multi-entity operations. You should ensure all stakeholders train to, exercise, and become familiar with response—because successful response implementation depends on the key measures necessary to mitigating casualties in the interval between the time of an attack and the point when first responders arrive on the scene. If properly identified, planned for, and practiced, the emergency medical and first aid capabilities of internal staff can also benefit your response efforts.

Response also requires a coordinated joint approach among response partners to deliver crisis information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible, and consistent communications across multiple stakeholders, to minimize confusion and dispel rumors during an incident. Messaging should take into account the challenges of your organization to ensure successful communication, including different languages spoken, hearing and visually impaired personnel, and technology used to share information. Also, you can use social media to distribute information rapidly to prevent inaccurate or misleading news.

Recover
Any emergency incident disrupts essential functions, services, and capabilities across an entire enterprise or institution. Even if the incident did not occur on your property, you can still be affected. Organizations, both government and private sector, located in and near the incident may experience disruptions of routine operations and/or loss of infrastructure or critical systems. Effective recovery planning and operations increase resiliency and ensure you can continue to provide essential functions and services after an incident.
Examples of questions you need to answer to determine your organization’s competency level for mitigating an active threat:
• Do you have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) or mutual aid agreements (MAAs) in place?
• 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)?

We’re Here to Help
Protecting human life is the paramount goal of any active threat incident. We can work with you to construct a tailored active threat plan that addresses specific areas of concern, like an active shooter or bomb threat, and provides you with a planned response and recovery to protect against all hazards, such as accidental (chemical spill), intentional (armed assailant), or natural (weather). Emergency preparedness is a 24/7 mission and we’ll partner with you to ensure protecting your people is always your top priority.


P-L-A-N: the Four-Letter Word that Keeps You Safe    

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” may be an old saying but it’s never been more important than right now. I have found that in my experiences as a security professional a plan is at the heart of every dynamic and efficient security program. A holistic plan in its most basic form encompasses multiple entities including forecasting, collaborating, coordinating, integrating, and pooling resources. These efforts effectively produce documentation that provides direction, instruction, and metrics that need to be followed in order to implement a collectively designed strategy and course of action.

Train the Trainer

Recently, I hosted an eight-hour training workshop on workplace violence in healthcare settings. With an audience of professionals representing various backgrounds such as emergency managers, security leadership, HR managers, and emergency medical personnel from hospitals, medical centers, and clinics, the workshop shared the step-by-step strategies necessary to prepare, protect, and respond to an incident of workplace violence.

The recurring point and major takeaway of the entire workshop was today’s favorite 4-letter word—plan—and how critical it is to creating a current and diverse training curriculum. A best practice based training program combines research, collaboration, institutional knowledge, and professional experience to produce training tailored to the experience level of your employees that engages them by providing practical and hands-on tools they can implement immediately.

Are You Ready For Some Football? 

As this time of year marks the kickoff to the college and professional football season, an effective stadium security plan ensures safety when its design, creation, and implementation address four main categories:

  1. Personnel security: law enforcement, private security, ushers, bomb technicians, canine handlers, emergency medical, and fire department personnel
  2. Technologies: video surveillance, intrusion alarms, access control, X-ray screening, metal detectors, and monitoring
  3. Physical security: fencing, gates, barriers, barricades, lighting, locks, windows, and hardware
  4. Processes: security policies, operational protocols, delivery operations, parking, transportation, player/performer protection, crowd control, guest management, and emergency preparedness

Ultimately, successful stadium security planning focuses on a preventative protective security methodology that balances ends, ways, and means, using the appropriate personnel and resources to identify and assess targeted threats and create enhanced countermeasures to mitigate risk.

All Hazards Emergency Plan Covers It All

The four phases of an all hazards emergency management plan embrace a shared understanding about exactly how to address these phases and their critical emergency-related priorities. You cannot address these priorities—in fact, you cannot take a single step forward—without having a clear, comprehensive, and detailed plan tailored specifically to the circumstances of the emergency.

Should an incident occur, a plan helps individuals and organizations understand these four phases, which can prevent injuries, save lives, minimize property damage, decrease liability, and help restore operations with minimal delay:

  1. Prevention/Mitigation: preventing emergencies and mitigating the risks of their occurrence
  2. Preparedness: preparing to handle an incident
  3. Response: responding to an incident
  4. Recovery: recovering from an incident

To get a complete picture of your security profile, you should schedule a professional assessment that will evaluate the technical, physical, personnel, and procedural security measures currently in place at your organization. You’ll find out what you’re doing well and where you’re exposed to unnecessary risk as well as receive recommendations and strategic considerations with next steps to protect critical components of your business—especially your people.

We can also work with you to construct a tailored plan that addresses specific areas of concern, such as active threat, workplace violence, and executive protection, and provides you with a planned response and recovery in case the unexpected happens.

Do you have a plan or plans to protect your people, property, and assets? All plans start with an assessment to ensure your operations reflect best practices in safety, security, and emergency management and protect against all hazards, such as a weather event, accident, or intruder.

We can design a plan that’s right for your culture and, most importantly, protects your people. Contact me, Mike Verden, Owner and CEO of The Lake Forest Group, at [email protected] or 312.515.8747 to find out more—or share this article with anyone who needs to create their plan to safeguard their business, staff, and visitors.


Residential Security: There’s No Place Like a Safe Home for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us and millions of people will be leaving their homes to travel around the country and across the globe to spend time with families and friends. We like to think of this time of year as a celebration of everything that is good in our lives, but we still can’t ignore the obvious—crime doesn’t take a holiday. According to the Department of Justice, summer and winter vacations indicate seasonal patterns as the likely times of year for residential property crime.

These annual rituals leave many residences unoccupied for an extended period of time that could expose them to unnecessary risk. A vacant residence is an attractive target to criminals, especially to burglars who specialize in invading people’s privacy. With the proper planning, preparation, and protective countermeasures, this threat can be minimized and this risk mitigated. Protecting your private property begins with a residential security assessment, an integral part of your tailored security strategy that safeguards your family, property, and assets.

There’s No Place Like a Safe Home

Your home is your sanctuary, a safe haven for you to enjoy life, protected from the outside world. But are you doing all you can to protect yourself? A residential security assessment provides a thorough evaluation of the potential threats to the day-to-day activities of your private residence by independently and comprehensively evaluating risk to the home, property, perimeter, and the contiguous area.

In order to implement the security strategies necessary to protect your home and family, a residential security assessment evaluates numerous areas:

  • Systems technology: alarms, cameras, and fire life safety
  • Network architecture: Internet connections, wireless network, and ports
  • Physical security: fencing, gates, windows, doors, and locks
  • Emergency preparedness: safe rooms, evacuation, and relocation
  • Liaison with critical third parties and first responders

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

CPTED, a multi-disciplinary approach to crime prevention through environmental design, relies on the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts. Research into criminal behavior shows the decision to commit a crime is influenced more by the perceived risk of being caught than by the reward or ease of entry—so that means you should do whatever you can to make yourself and your home less vulnerable.

The three most common CPTED strategies are natural surveillance, natural access control, and natural territorial reinforcement. The following are examples of CPTED that enhance the protection of your home and property without dramatically changing its appearance:

  • A single, clearly identifiable point-of-entry
  • Landscape designs that provide surveillance, especially in proximity to designated and opportunistic points-of-entry
  • The least sight-limiting fence appropriate for the location
  • Windows overlooking sidewalks
  • Signage reinforcing property boundaries

Lights, Cameras, Action

Industry best practices recommend an external video surveillance system, Internet protocol (IP) platform, closed-circuit connectivity, digital technology, motion detection, and night vision capability. Your updated system will allow you to view the video feed though your phone, tablet, or TV, making it really easy to see the view from select cameras, like who is knocking at your front door.

You’ll also feel safer and more secure by being able to track movements in emergency situations, such as a trespasser outside your home. You can also easily determine safe evacuation routes and locate individuals in need of assistance. The entire or partial video feed could be connected to an off-site monitoring station or shared with emergency personnel, police, and other first responders, which helps them get there faster to help you.


Uncover the Secret to a Comprehensive and Dynamic Investigation

Maybe you know your employee is stealing from you but you don’t have the personnel in place to resolve it properly. Or maybe your company is expanding quickly, you need to add several executives to your team, and you can’t afford to hire the wrong person. Or what if an employee has been threatened by a former spouse and you want to protect your people and organization from a possible workplace violence incident. You need to investigate but how do you begin?

Let’s face it—practically any private detective or security consultant can conduct an investigation. What separates a rudimentary and traditional investigation from an innovative and cutting edge methodology is understanding and implementing all the resources and tools available in the security and investigations industry. And by combining a consultant’s experience, background, qualifications, and institutional knowledge with that methodology, you’ll uncover the secret to a comprehensive and dynamic investigation— that will keep you safe, secure, and compliant.

Power in Numbers

An investigation done correctly and thoroughly is a collaboration between different skill sets and disciplines that results in the implementation of the very best fact-finding processes, possibly ending in prosecution, but always restoring peace of mind. When law enforcement and security professionals leverage their combined talents and respective expertise, they acquire information that most private investigations cannot locate. A highly skilled investigator can get results that others can’t through knowledge, experience, and contacts that are not accessible through online searches. And those particular skills and access benefit you and your organization to keep your company, people, assets, and reputation safe.

You might need assistance with investigations such as:

  • Asset search and recovery
  • Background investigation
  • Background research
  • Court testimony
  • Due diligence investigation
  • Expert witness report
  • Financial investigation
  • Fraud investigation
  • Internal investigation
  • Legal deposition
  • Legal support
  • Threat assessment

By outlining the scope and specific objectives of the investigation, you’ll help tailor the engagement to fit your particular circumstances, culture, and business.

Pathway to Violence

When I was an agent in the Secret Service, we developed a three-step process for threat investigations, especially threats against the President, which The Lake Forest Group still uses today.

  1. We identify the threat by determining the person responsible and reason behind his or her actions.
  2. We assess the circumstances. What caused this situation? Does the subject have the means and the motivation for violence? Does the subject have a history of violence or access to weapons? Is he or she dealing with a financial or personal loss, marital issues, drug dependency, alcoholism, or some other issue?
  3. Working with you and mental health professionals, we collectively determine the most effective way to manage the person, which might include incarceration, institutionalization, counseling, or monitoring.

Most importantly, the person is continuously managed so that over time he or she can be rehabilitated and no longer present a threat.

Discretion Is the Better Part of Valor 

If your organization conducts business overseas, investigations of foreign entities may require knowledge of local laws, languages, or customs, which can be particularly helpful to a corporate compliance department and general counsel for an investigation related to a merger or acquisition. In many countries and situations, information is not available and accessible online or through a computerized database so your private investigator’s contacts in foreign countries can assist your investigation by retrieving information through an on-site visit to a courthouse or records building.

We’ll Help You Get It Done Right

We can design an investigation strategy that’s right for your culture and, most importantly, protects your most valuable assets—your people. Our experiences in the private sector provide you with an independent voice, benchmark best practices in investigations, and share the necessary insight and hands-on advice to ensure a successful investigation—that lead to the proper course of action and tangible results. Our global network of law enforcement and security professionals further supports you by allowing us to conduct investigations both here in the United States and internationally and utilizing expertise and resources that are not available to most private sector organizations.