Home Security Fundamentals

We’ve become complacent about home security because we rely on a range of high tech equipment to protect us, our home, our families, and our possessions. Many of us are also guilty of thinking ‘it can’t happen to me’. However, the risk of burglary is ever-present and paying attention to the basics will help keep you and your home from becoming a victim of crime.  With Christmas holidays just around the corner, we at Panoptic Solutions thought it a good time for some revision on home security matters.

A burglar’s three worst home security enemies are light, time and noise.

Remembering this can help you protect your home from crime. A burglar won’t find your home an easy target if he’s forced to work in the light, if he has to take a lot of time breaking in, and if he can’t work quietly.

Take the time to ‘case’ your own house or apartment, just as a burglar would. Here are a few questions to get you started:

Where is the easiest entry? How can I make it more burglar resistant?

Trim trees and shrubs near your doors and windows, and think carefully before installing a high, wooden fence around your back yard. High fences and shrubbery can add to your privacy, but privacy is a burglar’s asset.

Consider trading a little extra privacy for a bit of added home security. Force any would-be burglar to confront a real enemy – light. Exterior lights, mounted out of easy reach, can reduce the darkness a burglar finds comforting.

How can I slow burglars down?

Time is a burglar’s enemy, too. A burglar delayed for four or five minutes is likely to give up and try for another, less difficult, location. Simple security devices – including such basic equipment as nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars and bolts – can discourage intruders and keep them from entering.

How about noise?

Try to make the general prospect of robbing your home a noisy job. Noise is that important third enemy of the burglar. Many types of alarm systems are available, with detectors to be mounted on doors and windows. Deciding just how much home protection you need – and can afford – is a personal judgment. Many reputable physical security firms will send an agent to survey your home and advise you about suitable protection.

Some Home Security Specifics

  • Lock the doors and windows to your home, all of them, including the door to the garage.

  • Don’t leave the door to your home that is connected to the garage, unlocked thinking the automatic garage door will protect your home. A change of frequency on a garage door opener could make your home an easy target. What about the windows in your garage?

  • Don’t leave your garage door opener in your car. Breaking out a car window or accessing your convertible with the top down can give a burglar easy access to your residence.

  • Keep your doors locked even when you are at home.

  • How many people do you know who were burgled while they were at home in another part of the house?

  • Install outdoor lighting to illuminate doors and windows. Lights with motion detectors are very effective.

  • Check to make sure all doors are installed properly; hinges to the inside with locks that have at least a 20 – 25 mm throw. Consider installing a peephole in the door.

  • If you have lost your keys, have the locks changed.

  • Sliding glass doors should have special locks mounted. A well-placed piece of dowel in the track will make it almost impossible to open any sliding door or window.

  • Ensure your sliding doors are properly installed with anti-lift capping. Many homeowners would be amazed to learn that sliding glass doors are often installed improperly – all a burglar has to do is lift the door out of the tracks to gain entry to your home.

  • Consider investing in ‘CrimMesh’ – or similar security screening – on all windows and in place of fly-screen doors. If you go down this path, ensure you have an escape device installed on one window in each bedroom to use in event of fire or other emergency requiring quick evacuation.

  • Window air conditioning units give a very easy point of entry if they are not installed properly. If the A/C is not mounted to the frame, and secured so that it cannot be easily removed, have it installed by a professional.

  • Don’t hide a spare key. If you must have an extra key, give it to a trusted neighbour or family member. Never place it under a front door mat or in the letterbox for a friend, vendor or family member. It’s the first place a burglar will look.

  • Remember to require vendors to show proof of identification; uniforms are not enough. Make sure you know who the caller is before you admit him into your residence. If you are unsure, do not open the door and call the person’s company to confirm his / her identity.

  • Don’t open the door to a stranger. Remember, no matter how strong a door is, once it is open by even a crack, you become vulnerable.

  • Never admit that you are home alone.

  • If someone wishes to use your phone for an ‘emergency’, leave your door locked, get the details and make the call for them.

  • Keep your shades and blinds down at night.

  • Don’t rely on others to protect you. Get to know your neighbours, your community and your surroundings. Be aware of who is in your community and report any strange behaviour.

  • Keep a list of emergency numbers near your phone in the event they are needed. Never hesitate to use the emergency telephone number if you are in trouble or are genuinely concerned about your personal safety.

  • Don’t carry your house key on the same key ring as your car keys. Burglars have been known to be valet attendants or car detailers that use clay moulds to replicate your keys – it is a simple matter for them to discover your home address via your vehicle registration.

Conclusion

Get back to basics by inspecting your home today to see what changes you can make to your home security. You will be surprised that there is an area or two of vulnerability to your home. While there is no cause for undue alarm, the simple things we do to protect ourselves will go a long way to ensuring home security.

For more information on this subject, or to discuss your needs in relation to home security, contact Panoptic Solutions on 1300 651 407 or info@panopticsolutions.com

Corporate Travel & Journey Risk Management – Top 5 Problems for Businesses.

TOP 5 PROBLEMS FOR COMPANIES WHEN ARRANGING CORPORATE TRAVEL


1.No Corporate Travel Policy or Travel Risk Policy

Companies without a corporate travel policy may incur unnecessary costs and face unnecessary risks. Depending on the operations and needs of the company, a corporate travel policy will typically cover travel expense request procedures. as well as security and medical emergencies.  Not drafting, implementing, and maintaining a corporate travel policy can result in unnecessary expenses and risks for companies for a number of reasons. Companies may be able to make partnerships with various hotels, agencies, etc. and receive a discount for volume. If this is not coordinated through company policy, it will be harder to reduce unnecessary costs.  In a corporate travel policy, businesses should also write a detailed procedure for different kinds of emergencies (medical, security, evacuations, etc.). Advice from a specialist security and risk management company, such as Panoptic Solutions will benefit travellers.

2. No Pre-deployment Safety Travel Brief or Training

A travel safety brief and training package is essential for businesses that require frequent travel.  This is not only important for travel to countries with higher security risks, but is also useful when traveling to countries considered benign or of “low risk”.  In other words, differences in culture, business practices, or political climate can create risks for travellers that are inexperienced in dealing with them.  It is important for a travel brief to cover any potential risks unique to that country or modes of travel. Panoptic Solutions offers specialisied Pre Deployment and Journey Management training for corporate travellers who conduct business abroad.

3. No Designated Corporate Travel Manager

A corporate travel manager can manage the “bigger picture” of a company’s travelling.  A corporate travel manager should observe the overall pattern of company business trips, taking account of all categories of expenses, risks, and obverse trends and changes. This exercise will help a company see if there are ways to cut costs and lower risks across the board.  In addition to this proactive role, a corporate travel manager should be available to assist in the event of travel-related emergencies.

4. No Pre-arranged or Vetted Secure Transportation

A lack of pre-arranged transportation from a verified supplier can result in high-costs, lower productivity, and, potentially, safety risks.  In some regions, transportation services are not highly regulated and standardized which can mean higher prices and unpredictable quality.  If a company consistently travels to a particular country, finding and vetting one high-quality transportation service can let a company enjoy better, more reliable transportation at lower costs.

5. No Professional Risk Management Advice

It can be a worthwhile investment to seek out the advice of a risk management professional that specialises in travel risk.  The best advisers are in a position to use their broad experience to help identify and manage the risks that are most pertinent to the specific circumstances of a company.  Lower quality risk advisers may have little more to offer than regurgitating a set of security principles.  Being aware of all relevant risks, knowing their probability and cost to you, and prudently managing them can save money over the long run.

 

For more advice on Journey Management, Security & Risk Management or Corprate Pre-Deplyment Training, contact Panoptic Solutions here today.

Executive Protection Recruitment & More with guest Steve Albritton – Part 1

The executive protection industry isn’t one that has a clear path for those looking to get into it. In fact most people find themselves in the field almost by accident, usually after a career in the military or police.

In this post (and this podcast) we tap into the brain of one of the long-term players in the industry. Steve Albritton served in the military and state police in the USA before taking on a role as security manager for a high net worth individual, working out of Seattle, Washington.

Since leaving that role, Steve has established OPStructure, an industry consultancy taking on project work but focussing on executive protection recruitment and team building.

Executive Protection Industry Trends

Steve shared some insights into trends that the industry has seen in recent years and why today is an ideal time to consider a career in executive and corporate security, even if you don’t have a military or police background.

“The paradigms have changed. For many, many years in the US most of the executive protection personnel, or people beginning their careers, came from a law enforcement or police background, and that was probably up until maybe in the mid 90’s.

Then that changed a little bit in 2003 [with] Afghanistan and Iraq. Then the whole hiring executive protection field worldwide changed and those paradigms went towards more military.

Now I believe we’re at a stage where it’s combined, it’s a three-pronged attack. It’s military, police, and then just private sector guys… It’s a terrific time to start, I can tell you that.”

Meanwhile, on the client’ side things have changed dramatically in recent years also.

“At what time in history did we have 26 year old billionaires? This didn’t happen a whole lot. Your typical billionaires 10 years ago, 15 years ago, were all at a certain age and likely mid 40’s into 70’s.

These were the type of clients we were dealing with, which dictated the type of executive protection or close protection personnel it took to support them, and that’s changed.”

This has an impact beyond just a different playlist being shared in the limousine. Typically the younger individuals will want to be a bit more flexible and spontaneous with their schedules. And while executive protection agents need to be ready for anything, this adds a whole new dynamic to the role.

Preparation is Key

This shouldn’t be an excuse to not be prepared though. Steve makes the point that while most business travelers just ‘show up,’ that’s not a luxury that those in the risk mitigation field can afford. In many cases, the travel with the client only represents about 10% of the preparation work that’s gone into a particular journey. The rest of the time is taken on travel ‘advances’ and due diligence work, with the goal of pre-empting any issues that might occur when the client is due to travel.

The scope of an advance can vary significantly but almost always involves a ‘dry run’ of the trip detail where possible. Having the team familiar with the location can make a big difference to the outcomes of the journey – in some cases even the number of steps on a particular path might be critical to know. In most cases, the client will have little awareness of the details of the advance as it’s the role of the security team to manage such things. This keeps the client free to focus on what’s important to them.

Where possible, this preparation work should be done within the scope of the client corporation’s travel or security policy. More often than not though, clients don’t have such a policy or, where they do, they may not have consulted sufficiently on the security aspects. Steve works with some of his clients to put such policies in place (as do we at Panoptic Solutions).

In some cases this may require a generic advance, one that’s not for a particular journey but to check out a location for multiple visits. This will include scoping out hotels, routes, cafes and restaurants, providing transport recommendations and other points that might be relevant for a travel and security policy document. Such a document can be priceless for the business as it protects them from possible liability cases if staff deviate from the guidelines and find themselves in trouble.

Steve points this out to serve as a reality check to those looking to get into the executive protection industry. It isn’t about black cars, dark sunglasses and being surrounded by beautiful people. The Hollywood version of the bodyguard is a long way from the reality of being an executive protection agent or operative.

Family Matters

Having already mentioned the 26 year old billionaire client scenario, operatives also need to understand the demands of working with a family. Whether it be holiday travels, where the key client is out to relax as well, or whether it be a business trip where the family has tagged along, the level of complication and unpredictability can increase four-fold (or more).

Steve compares the difference between travelling with a single client vs a client and their family as being similar to the difference between checkers and chess. Much more is required in the way of resources and, no matter how far you look ahead, you need to be ready to change plans at a moment’s notice.

A Service Culture Makes the Difference

He also makes the point to those looking to enter the executive protection field that it’s not just about security:

“Success in covering clients in the executive protection world is not just about securing; it’s so much about customer service and people getting their money’s worth.”

Customer service and getting their money’s worth can often include running errands or other small tasks that would pose a bigger security risk if the client were to do it themselves.

Another skill of executive protection is to be readily available but not intrusive into the client’s life. This means adapting to their program rather than having them adapt to yours.

Local Knowledge Helps

Where possible, those entering the field should learn to capitalise on local knowledge, or knowledge of areas they are familiar with. Our (Panoptic Solutions) expertise in Australia and Asia has given Steve’s business and others not familiar with the area a partner who can do the legwork and save on having to learn a new territory.

“From a corporate standpoint it’s using companies like Panoptic to do the dirty work for us. I say the dirty work as in there’s no reason for me to go to Asia and try to recreate the wheel, if I can hire a company and contract services that are going to do all that for me.

Which consequently would be the same if Troy has a client that wants to travel to Florida or anywhere in the US, it would be very advantageous for him to contact our services back.”

Albritton warns clients to be cautious of security companies that claim they can take care of anyone, anywhere in the world. If they are doing it without partnering with local experts it’s unlikely that they are delivering the best service available.

“You’re only as good as your support network!”

In part two of this piece, Steve shares his expertise on how to build a security team from scratch, how to factor medical issues into a risk mitigation task, why staff sometimes need to be at more risk than the principal client, what really goes on behind the scenes of a travel task, what the options are for companies that cannot afford a full security team or to have advances done for them and more.

Business & VIP Travel Security and Safety in The Philippines

The Philippines is becoming a more common destination for business travellers. As well as being home to the Asian Development Bank, the rising use of Filipino personnel for international call centres makes business travel to the area more frequent.

We’ve also had the good fortune to work locally in The Philippines and internationally with a high-profile international Filipino sportsman and have considerable experience with the country and its people. While we’ve had no drama, so to speak, that’s as much due to our high level of preparedness as it is due to the good nature of the Filipino people. In this post, and this podcast episode, we share some of what we know to help make your business trip to The Philippines safe and enjoyable.

State of the Nation

Travel to The Philippines does however come with risks. Some areas, particularly in the south, are exposed to radical guerilla type activity caused by extreme religious views. In some cases these activities are funded by kidnap for ransom so foreign travellers are especially at risk.  , while others have a relatively high level of kidnap risk purely for financial gain. This activity has also included open warfare on the streets of some cities and villages and the occasional bomb in other parts of the country.

And while it hasn’t posed an imminent risk as yet, the presence of US forces in The Philippines and recent disputes with China over islands in the South China Sea put the country at risk if things escalate further.

Risk Management in The Philippines

For travellers who are high-profile, or well known, or people of influence, we would obviously advocate travelling with a security detail at the moment with everything that’s going on over there. Equally, companies sending journalists over to explore (or freelance journalists traveling under their own steam), either to research or conduct interviews, would be wise to reach out to a risk management provider who has experience operating in the Philippines.

Even organisations who are active in the country providing charitable aid are at risk and shouldn’t assume that their mission, so to speak, makes them less vulnerable to threat than others.

Everyone’s budget is obviously different but professional security or risk management company won’t oversell the requirements that each of those individual’s organisations need. It may be as simple as a single security advisor, or a project manager with a driver, or it might be something that’s a little more detailed depending on the situation at hand. Obviously, you’d tailor the response to the perceived or actual threats that are at hand for that particular traveller.

Whichever way you go, choose a company with local experience and/or a local security team. No matter how much international experience your usual team may have, nothing matches local knowledge. Obviously we’d be happy to discuss your needs. Please reach out to me directly if you have any questions.

Local Risks in The Philippines

Specific risks in The Philippines can include limited mobility. With the population spread over 7,000 islands, you’ll often find yourself having to use airplanes or ferries get to your destination. The standard of some of these may be lower than you find at home plus you can also be at the mercy of the extreme typhoons that can sweep through the country during the latter months of the year. Even during fair weather, you’ll usually find flights between cities in the country are routed through Manila so don’t assume that you’ll always be heading in a straight line. As Manila airport also serves the President, you can expect at times that it will be shut down to facilitate his travel.

Speaking of the President, keep in mind that there is currently a hard line government in place. If your business dealings and conduct are above board then this shouldn’t pose a problem but if corruption or drug use are on your to-do list, don’t expect to wriggle your way out of it too easily. The government currently has a shoot to kill policy for drug dealers who resist arrest so that gives you an indication of how seriously they look at drugs.

And even if you are playing by the rules, you could find yourself caught in the crossfire if law enforcement agencies happen to be active in the same area that you are. Be cautious about where you wander and try to stick to main thoroughfares and venues.

Mobility and Accommodation in The Philippines

As with many cities in the region, plan for travel delays in Manila and other Filipino major cities and have your travel manager put you in a pre-screened hotel close to your meeting locations. And by pre-screened we mean a hotel that has been reviewed by a security and risk management professional. Hotels may claim to have 24 hour security but in some cases this security leaves a lot to be desired.

Avoid the use of jeepneys or three wheelers for travel. They may be an iconic part of The Philippines experience but they don’t offer the same safety advantages as a professional driver with a suitable vehicle for secure travel.

Rounding off, we’d reinforce our usual warnings – travel with a grab bag and make sure you have contact details of local embassy and consulates on hand as well as details of pre-screened hospitals in case the need arises.

For more details on these, download our Business Travel Safety and Security Check List by signing up below.

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Safe travels!

Australias new terror alert system

Australia has changed its terrorism alert system, effective 27 November 2015, to give the public clearer information about attacks being planned by extremists, under a proposed new threat hierarchy unveiled in February 2015.

The current four-tier alert system which describe levels of risk from “low” to “high” and “extreme” are replaced with a system that says how likely an attack is at any point. The highest threat levels are now that attacks are “expected” or “certain”.

 Each level would be based on a specific type of advice provided to government by security agencies. For example, a threat level of “probable” means the government has been advised terrorists with the capacity to carry out an attack have a specific target.

The new system combines the existing “threat level”, which is an assessment of the overall threat to Australia and its interests, and the “alert level”, which is about public preparedness, into a single system. Figure 1 depicts the new alert levels.

The current Terror Threat Level for Australia is ‘Probable’. Credible intelligence, assessed by our security agencies indicates that individuals or groups have developed both the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia. The public should continue to exercise caution and report any suspicious incidents to the National Security Hotline by calling 1800 1234 00. Life-threatening situations should be reported to the police by calling Triple Zero (000).

More public information regarding this Threat Level is available at the Australian National Security website.