In June 2021, the Singapore government announced plans to start moving towards a “living with COVID-19” strategy, focusing on tracking and treating outbreaks with vaccinations and hospital admissions – toning down on the strict lockdowns, border closures, and work-from-home orders that have been the defining feature of much of their pandemic-afflicted peers across the globe.
In wake of the implemented measures, this has accelerated businesses to step up and rethink the way to manage and engage both their employees and external stakeholders. The pandemic in the past 2 years has threatened the lives and livelihood of the population, with survival being the most literal meaning of the word, entwined with the increased scrutiny on organizations’ responsibility towards both public health and the business at large.
The added burden of responsibility has altered the approach towards managing access control and coping with occupancy thresholds, with facility and operational management strategists facing the urgency to re-evaluate their touchpoints across their facilities; both in the short- and long-term.
“With constant talk of office life changing irrevocably and dramatically, we’ve encountered public-facing business units such as security and sales asking the difficult questions that we, as leaders, are expected to answer,” said Toby Koh, Managing Director of Ademco Security Group. “There is an added expectation for establishments to not just secure the health and safety of their own staff and clients, but also to the general public; a single misstep in the public eye can have damaging consequences on public safety and confidence in the organization,” he added.
However, with the rapid acceleration of technology, organizations now have access to tools, combined with the right systems and security measures, that can help mitigate the risks the pandemic presents. Here, our security experts weigh in on the changing security landscape and how organizations can safely navigate the murky road ahead with confidence and assurance.
Preventing Outbreaks: Reducing Touchpoints
Over the last 18 months, increasingly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus such as the Delta and C12 variants are surfacing, and in the face of surging infection rates have prompted stricter preventive measures to be taken to curb the spread. This includes aggressive disinfection protocols at high-traffic premises with a high number of touchpoints, and implementing screening measures for stricter access control.
Although studies show that risk of transmission on contaminated surfaces, known as fomites, is not thought to be a significant risk, businesses continued to invest in sanitation services as transmission from fomites cannot be ruled out entirely. Further studies have lent support to the airborne transmission hypothesis, though some local experts suspect fomites as the basis for a recent cluster outbreak.
To minimize risk of transmission, facilities are exploring the use of zero-contact biometric readers such as touchless fingerprint sensors utilizing 3D technology to capture biometric data for maximum security and convenience. Contactless fingerprint solutions can scan and verify fingerprints in less than a second with just a simple hand wave, streamlining traffic flow and preventing bottlenecks at key access points, adhering to social-distancing measures. Next-generation access control touchpoints also allow employees to use their mobile phones as access keys, significantly reducing surface contact without compromising on safety and security.
Inhibiting Spread: Social-Distancing
Recent super spreader events point to crowd gatherings at indoor premises risk increased exposure to the virus, in congruence with studies concluding that areas with high population density and crowd gatherings are associated with aggravating the spread of viral respiratory infectious diseases.
At high throughput workplaces, traffic is often hindered by COVID-19 policy-driven safety checks, potentially creating a bottleneck and flouting social-distancing measures. “We’ve seen situations where social-distancing was not observed at some facilities, even though protocols were followed. Often this is due to some premises being ill-equipped to handle the sudden influx of visitors while trying to enforce safe-entry checks,” said Lim How Kiat, General Manager of Ademco Singapore. “By implementing proactive protection protocols, security personnel can effectively manage and expedite traffic flow with visitor management solutions such as integrated self-assessment tools and entry control systems,” he added.
Recent changes to workplace arrangements have also added a layer of complexity to managing occupancy in a shared workplace. Social gatherings and interactions have been limited due to “lax” safe management measures in areas such as pantries and staff canteens contributing to the rise of clusters at workplaces, according to a recent statement from the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore.
To enforce safe management measures, businesses are opting for occupancy management software to effectively track facility occupancy thresholds and even restrict access to areas at maximum capacity. These applications can also support contact tracing efforts, and individual users can assess their health symptoms and receive real-time reminders to maintain social distancing.
Alternatively, quarantine facilities in Singapore issue single-use access cards, programmed to be able to enter the premises only once, a concept which could see wider adoption for commercial facilities as Singapore gears up for the “living with COVID-19” plans. Some places also found new uses for existing systems; one instance saw a business tweaking what is traditionally an access control system into an impromptu occupancy tracking system to determine the number of occupants at a workplace to prevent overcrowding.
Safety Management: Technology-Driven Centralized Security
With heightened security in light of the pandemic, there is collective consensus in a recent study that physical security plays a much more important role than ever before. In the same study close to 30% of respondents indicated that they do not have centralized security solutions and struggle with managing day-to-day operations, while a quarter of respondents felt that technology for enforcing contact-tracing, social-distancing and healthy building compliance requirements is critical for pandemic response.
With 61% of respondents indicating security integration being the most important goal, businesses can opt for managed services with Security-as-a-Service playing a larger role in their security operations. Operating as a subscription model and with no upfront capital expenditure, integration of centralized security solutions is a much more cost-effective and safer investment in a challenging business environment. With a centralized command centre with round-the-clock video surveillance monitoring and virtual patrols, there is a lesser dependence on physical manpower, thus reducing human error and physical touchpoints.
Tapping on managed services also leaves the maintenance and upgrading of security systems to the service provider, reducing costs of maintenance and allowing organizations to focus on their core business operations.
Ademco Security Group is Asia’s leading security provider, serving and safeguarding people, processes and technology of more than 8,000 institutions since 1977. With a regional footprint that extends across Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and India, Ademco’s suite of security solutions and integrated service offerings can be found in military bases, government facilities, financial institutions, and chemical, oil, and gas installations.
With an extensive partner network and long history, Ademco Security Group is well positioned to meet the increasingly challenging demands in Asia’s ever-changing security landscape.