K9 bomb detection services declined at the outset of 2020 as initial municipal lockdown brought special events, spectator sports, executive travel and political travel to a standstill. Overseas flights were curtailed, and it seemed that threat levels using explosives diminished due to the shock and danger of the COVID virus.
Bomb detection services usually fall into two categories – a sweep to identify any threats in a protective environment, or a known threat that needed to be located, identified, and removed. With the COVID lockdown in the city, both categories vastly diminished.
There was even a significant reduction in terrorist chatter addressing planned or imminent attacks.
As the year progressed, the lockdown was eased somewhat, but with social distancing still de rigueur throughout the city, the need for bomb detection remained unusually slow.
GSS took advantage of this time to develop protocols for compliance with New York state Forward Safety Plan, including entry of K9 and handler to confined areas that potentially could harbor surface or airborne COVID pathogens.
Our COVID protocols include the assignment of a COVID Compliance Officer (CCO), who is responsible for establishing and enforcing safety protocols, training staff, and monitoring compliance.
As 2020 ended, COVID vaccines made their appearance, bringing hope to the population. Additionally, restaurants were beginning to open at reduced capacity, and outdoor dining. Employers were balancing in-office working and remote working.
Once the vaccines were approved and distribution began the most vulnerable began to get immunized. Concurrently there was more confidence in international and domestic air travel. The impact of increased immunized population and those having recovered from infection resulted in a higher degree of protection for citizens – and miscreants. It seemed that toward the close of 2020 terrorist threat levels increased, as rich target environments again presented themselves.
GSS explosive detecting dogs are critical for bomb search missions. The COVID related risks impact basically the dog handler alone, and common surfaces he comes in contact with before, during, and after the missions.
Therefore, dog handlers are gloved, and wear face protection with double masking. It is possible for dogs to carry COVID viral matter and transmit to humans. With this in mind, at the conclusion of every mission, dogs are washed using a disinfectant proven to kill viral material on contact.
In the event explosive device or devices are located, EOD personnel are briefed by the GSS COVID Compliance Officer on protocol and potential contacts with viral matter. Typically, an EOD operation involves only one or two technicians. These personnel follow COVID precautions as much as practicable in their mission.
With increased sporting events, conventions and trade shows, as well as visiting politicians and heads of state traveling to New York City, there will be an increasing need for K9 bomb detection services.
GSS anticipates a significant return to pre-COVID volume of these assignments in 2021.
Hospitality security is often the most challenging type of assignment. Hotel guests can arrive from anywhere in the world, particularly in New York City. They will touch common surfaces, linger in registration areas, pass each other in confined hallways.
With the onset of the global COVID pandemic, reduced international travel severely impacted the hotel business. Fear of infection also drove a significant decline in hotel stays.
For much of 2020 the hotel industry was struggling to stay in business. Hotel staffing was reduced. Entire floor and wings of hotels were closed.
Subsequently hospitality security assignments disappeared during the first half of 2020.
As the year progressed, with more effective COVID therapeutics, and later the appearance and distribution of highly effective vaccines, states and cities began to ease away from complete social lockdowns to an opening up. International travel was resumed from certain countries, and conventions brought more travelers to New York.
The opening up resulted in resumed need for hostelry, accommodations, meeting areas, dining facilities. These activities always require a consideration of security, particularly considering presence of COVID.
With foresight, GSS developed hotel security protocols, which complied with the New York state Forward Safety Plan, for maintaining social distancing, face coverings, and personal interactions at a distance.
GSS shouldered COVID protection as part in parcel with regular hotel security duties. Each hospitality assignment, in addition to security personnel, has a GSS COVID Compliance Officer (CCO), responsible for establishing and enforcing safety protocols, training hospitality staff, and monitoring compliance. The GSS CCO has successfully completed C19CO training.
Early this year GSS started receiving calls inquiring about our hospitality security expertise. COVID is always a query topic, and discussions with these potential clients indicate planning to resume hospitality with COVID a significant topic.
With COVID threats, the COVID Compliance Officer modifies normal hospitality practices to adhere to the New York State Forward Safety Plan. Social distancing, food and beverages served by properly protected personnel using disposable utensils and plates.
Breakfast buffets are considered unsafe, as are public water fountains. Room service during the pandemic is considered the safest dining option in the hotel, and all hotel personnel engaged in this practice from cooks to delivery personnel are closely screened and monitored. GSS advises clients on sanitary protocol for the safety of hotel guests and hotel staff.
Hotel visitors require completion of NY state approved questionnaires, and temperature scans. Signage is posted at all entrance locations, reminding visitors of social distancing requirements and required face covering. Hand sanitizer stations are located at all entrance and exit locations, as well as in bathrooms.
With vaccinations underway at full speed, and recovered COVID patients also having had immunizations, GSS expects increasing relaxing of COVID related restrictions. We expect to significantly bounce back later in 2021 for a robust hospitality security practice, owing in part to our careful planning for COVID protection protocol for our clients.
Some experts predict herd immunity to be achieved by the end of 2021, signaling return to normal hospitality security business.
2020 severely impacted special events in that for a time New York City was in lock down. Social distancing was strictly enforced, and special events were vastly reduced.
There was real fear, both among citizens and municipal officials of infection and serious illness. Hospital facilities were severely stressed and medical staff struggled with treatment procedures and therapeutics, often seeming ineffective.
Sporting events came to a standstill, conventions were cancelled, meetings were conducted electronically. Executive public evolutions, through a majority of the year, were shelved.
As the year progressed, medical staff were armed with new drugs, and combinations of drugs that were able to treat COVID patients, keeping them out of ICU’s and negating the necessity of ventilators.
Concurrently, citizens adapted to social distancing, wearing of masks, and sanitation practices. Executive protection security assignments cautiously resumed at an increasing pace.
Protocols were developed in the GSS office for compliance with New York state Forward Safety Plan, including reporting and contact tracing for any GSS employee in-office, or during executive protection security tasks.
GSS assigns a COVID Compliance Officer (CCO) to all executive protection planning. This officer is responsible for establishing and enforcing safety protocols, training staff, and monitoring compliance.
At the close of 2020, COVID vaccines were completing testing with astounding efficacy – over 90% - and applications were in process with the FDA for emergency use of these vaccines.
2021 brought approval of vaccines for emergency use. The vaccines were already in production prior to approval and distribution began immediately. This, and the subsequent reduction of infections and deaths brings increased confidence in executive protection security roles.
GSS is well prepared for executive protection, one of our mainstays. Having complied with NY state guidelines through 2020, we are able to smoothly execute security missions with COVID threats present.
Executive protection typically involves layers of protection – travel route screening and selection – with alternate route selections, personal armed bodyguards, pre-screening of destinations which include interviewing local staff, screening invitation lists, and K9 bomb detection. COVID threats add another layer to planning and protection.
GSS offers screening for all planned staff and meeting invitees using NY state approved questionnaires, temperature scans, and supplier-contracted infrared monitoring of entranceways. Signage is posted at all entrance locations, reminding meeting attendees of social distancing requirements and required face covering. Hand sanitizer stations are located at all entrance and exit locations, as well as bathrooms. Public water fountains are closed off, and bottled water is available.
Science has determined that those previously infected with COVID, and recovered, are protected from infection and transmission of the virus. The numbers of these people increased significantly over 2021 – over 748,000 in New York city alone. With the increasing numbers of people vaccinated, the sought after herd immunity is anticipated to be reached later in 2021.
GSS is receiving significantly more requests for executive protection security as 2021 progresses, and we anticipate a robust return to pre-COVID volume of these assignments.
Personal security is always challenging. A myriad of action items must be considered: locale, known threats, travel routes, personnel, team coordination, timing, etc.
GSS top priority is the security of our clients. COVID entered our planning as a distinct threat that had to be managed. All planning meetings incorporated COVID security, affecting manpower, evolution planning, equipment and supplies, and required special expertise.
COVID affected virtually all items of our action planning and altered them for compliance with New York State guidelines. Our clients’ social distancing, always carefully controlled due to security, had to be increased. We had to ensure zero physical contact with third parties with a close eye to sanitation of commonly touched items. Often our clients are preoccupied with business matters or image and needed to be observed for dangerous contact or proximity to possibly contaminated objects or people.
Sanitation of surfaces that might be touched by our clients was crucial. GSS retained professional cleaning crews to sanitize limousines seats, door handles, arm rests, head rests, windows, and light switches. Vehicles used were provided with hand sanitizer and wipes. An adequate supply of surgical masks was available. Similarly, all private aircraft used were sanitized, and aircraft crews were briefed on COVID security guidelines and procedures. Guards accompanying clients carried sanitizers, and back up masks.
Advance GSS personnel would ensure meeting rooms were arranged in strict compliance with NYC social distancing guidelines. GSS provided temperature sensors at entrances to meeting rooms, with various layers of security
Each planned greeting scenario, meeting facility, presentation room or auditorium was prescreened and brought into compliance. Attendees to meetings or events were required to fill out the NYC-required questionnaire regarding COVID symptoms, exposure to COVID infected people, previous infection, and immunization history.
A typical evolution from an event entrance to or from limousine presents security challenges. With COVID in mind all efforts were made by GSS to arrange for this evolution as private as possible, to minimize close contact with the public. In those instances where privacy was impossible, GSS had extra manpower to significantly increase the spacing of the corridor from vehicle to doorway.
New York City has had a total of over 748000 confirmed and probable cases of COVID. Statistically there were distinct probabilities of clients coming in proximity with infected individuals, either by common surfaces or airborne infected droplets. The threat was widespread and needed to be considered at all locations and all times.
GSS utilized decades of experience in planning and execution to incorporate the COVID threat into security planning. The results were highly successful. Our clients were protected against all threats, including COVID, through the entire year of our COVID-affected operations.
GSS demonstrated that incorporating COVID threats into the general threat landscape in personal security missions, results in threat mitigation and successful mission planning and execution.
Our clients can depend on GSS protection at any location, any time, for any duration.
When the virus made its first appearance in the USA early in 2020, Seattle was the focal point. All flights from China were curtailed, but as events bore out, the virus was also entering the country from Europe. Early on, Americans hoped the disease could be contained on the west coast.
Special events at that time cautiously continued. Organizers remembered SARS from China coming to the United States, but being contained by contact tracing, hand washing, and disinfection of common surfaces. SARS seemed to just die out.
In fact, some of the special events in the country turned out to be super spreaders of the disease. Trade shows, conventions, basketball games were continued in the first quarter.
Very quickly, however, the Nation realized COVID was a global pandemic, and the number of severely ill Americans proved that this was no SARS. Special events were cancelled across the nation, baseball, basketball and, later, football seasons were cancelled. Warships were infected. Cruise ships were infected. Even church choirs turned out to be COVID spreading events.
As the special events were cancelled, GSS special event security missions subsequently became non-existent for much of 2020.
From the gloom of the pandemic, a light began to shine at the end of the tunnel of depression. New treatment protocols and successful therapeutics were developed and put into action. Most of the infected were able to quarantine at home, and after infection were considered immune.
Later in 2020 sporting events cautiously resumed, as did conventions and trade shows – all rigorously adhering to CDC guidance.
In addition to CDC guidelines, New York state created their Forward Safety Plan specifically addressing tasks and best practices for functioning in a COVID infected world. Critical to planning were personal protection equipment, personnel interviews, log keeping and storing, and monitoring/reporting staff health.
GSS, anticipating a resumption of special event security assignments, established protocols complying with the NY Forward Safety Plan, which included assigning a COVID Compliance Officer (CCO) to all special events. This officer, having completed C19CO training, is responsible for establishing and enforcing safety protocols, training staff, and monitoring compliance at all special events.
2021 brought approval of highly effective vaccines for prevention of COVID, with rapid distribution begun nationwide.
GSS special event security business is returning in 2021. Attendees and potential clients notice GSS professional screening of attendees, using NY state approved questionnaires, temperature scans, and monitoring of entranceways. GSS signage is posted at all entrance locations, reminding attendees of social distancing requirements and required face covering. GSS provides hand sanitizer stations.
Scientists are predicting, with the widespread vaccination of citizens, and those previously infected and vaccinated, that the country will achieve herd immunity later in 2021. At that time society, and special events, will return to normal.
The best advertising is word of mouth. Having raised the GSS professional profile of successful special event security assignments, the company expects a robust rebound in special event security by the end of 2021. In addition, in July 2020 GSS was tapped by the City to be part of the Citywide Events Advisory Group to strategize best practices, share industry-wide solutions and recommend innovations and protocols. For further information see: https://www.exhibitoronline.com/news/article.asp?ID=20810
Retail loss prevention has been a specialty for GSS for many years. The training and experience of our officers assigned to these details have saved literally millions of dollars for our clients in prevention of shoplifting.
2020, and the associated strict social distancing caused many retail stores to close throughout the city. New York City has an extremely high population density, and as such, the normal interior of most retail businesses reflected this density. With a city in lock down, it was difficult for a business to stay open with no shoppers.
As the year progressed, the sense of fear decreased as people accommodated to social distancing and face covering. Retail began to open and resume business, albeit with shorter hours and strict social distancing in the stores. Our retail loss prevention services still did not see any rebound, perhaps because shoppers felt the need to quickly shop and depart the confines of a store where they felt more vulnerable to COVID infection.
However, toward the end of the year, with vaccines appearing, and people without work, retail noticed more losses, and GSS phones began to ring once again for loss prevention services.
GSS helps our customers reduce inventory losses. These losses involve shoplifting – averaging 36% of losses, and employee theft – 30%. GSS works with retailers by background screening of store employees, installing signage, and advising on optimum layout of merchandise to minimize easy shoplifting.
GSS found that the mandatory masking encouraged shoplifting as it gave thieves a sense of anonymity. Store employees can minimize this by interacting with shoppers, good eye contact and reminding them of store security surveillance.
Even so, the masking in the pandemic caused a significant uptick in shoplifting as more stores opened, resulting in more calls to GSS for retail loss prevention assistance.
As more people are vaccinated against COVID and previously infected people with vaccinations are similarly protected, there will be a greater desire to shop for essentials and luxury goods, particularly after being locked down for so long.
Some experts are predicting a boom in spending beginning later in 2021 as herd immunity is reached and restrictions are eased throughout New York.
There will, unfortunately, also be increased inventory losses. GSS feels that this environment will significantly increase the need for GSS retail loss prevention services.
Of course, all anticipated employee interviews, and interaction with management on merchandising will require strict adherence to GSS New York State Department of Health Forward Safety Plan.
GSS can also provide security personal to the retail store locations, to augment employee surveillance of shoppers and observe employees for theft. The high profile of security guards also acts as deterrent to theft.
With the experience, knowledge, planning and resources GSS offers the retail sector, GSS has every reason to expect retail loss prevention services to significantly increase in 2021.
The security industry is extremely broad, encompassing most facets of personal security, business security, and threat mitigation. All these pursuits involved human interaction, many at close quarters.
Obviously, human interaction was significantly changed by the COVID pandemic, and the impact was felt throughout the security business.
2020 saw varying phases of human response to the COVID threat. When the virus first made its appearance on the US West Coast, most thought it would be arrested there, similarly to SARS in past years. The rest of the country continued “business as usual” until it became apparent that the virus would become widespread.
People learned of new concepts such as social distancing and the need for facial coverings and extreme hygiene. Cities were locked down, businesses were closed, public events were cancelled.
All these venues pre-COVID needed security services. When executive travel dried up, executive protection security needs did likewise. When special events and general travel significantly diminished, the need for security services at special events and hotels nearly disappeared. Retail stores had no customers, very few employees working, and those that managed to stay open saw a significant decrease in retail loss. Subsequently there was no need for retail security.
As the year progressed and it became apparent that the scourge of COVID would persist for many months, citizens adapted social distancing routines, wore face coverings, and adopted many other practices that minimized their potential exposures. Thus they were able to work remotely, shop carefully, cook and eat at home and minimize social interactions.
With this adaptation over the last months of 2020, some travel resumed, hotel reopened, retail saw increase of sales – and the need for security services slowly increased.
There was a difference, however. COVID considerations were incorporated into all security planning. Indeed, in some instances COVID was itself a security issue. Security companies developed COVID related security protocol and advised clients on their adoption and use in the workplace.
For the other aspects of security, COVID impacts, and mitigation, were incorporated into the previous protocol. Executive security needed to include social distancing, common surface sanitizing, personal protective equipment and the like. Special event security included screening of participants for COVID exposure, screening entrances, removing access to commonly used items such as water fountains, social distanced seating, dining protocol in adherence with COVID guidelines. Even bomb detection services had COVID constraints that extended to K9 assets and handlers.
The involvement of COVID planning in all aspects of the security industry was necessary, and that impacted timing for security execution, personnel needs, pricing for COVID precautions and protocol, and organizational changes both in office and in the field.
COVID compliance officers became a new position to be filled. Training of all personnel in COVID compliance and emergency planning needed to be included.
COVID ultimately adversely affected the volume of security business in 2020. It affected the level of effort needed to provide security services and increased the costs of services. Security industry had to adapt, scientific methodology was paramount, and training of personnel in COVID protocol was essential.
GSS emergency action planning adheres closely to OSHA guidelines.
- Considers all potential natural or man-made emergencies that could disrupt a workplace or security assignment location.
- Considers all potential internal sources of emergencies that could disrupt or endanger a workplace or security assignment location.
- Planning to tailor all responses to emergencies to the workplace.
- Plan contains names, titles, departments, and contact information of key personnel as well as contact information for local emergency responders, agencies, and contractors.
- Plan will address how rescue operations will be performed.
- Plan will address how medical assistance will be provided.
- Conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary, with a clear chain of command and designating a person authorized to order an evacuation.
- Specifying necessary shut down operations and involved personnel, and identification of evacuation routes and alternatives.
- A preferred method of reporting fires and other emergencies.
- Training and drill protocol development.
This emergency action planning is broad and meant to encompass all scenarios from office environments, industrial settings, security assignments, hospitality security, and executive protection.
At the beginning of 2020 GSS had in place effective emergency action plans for our security services. With the appearance of COVID-19, it became obvious that many components of our plan would be seriously affected.
Considering the OSHA guidelines above, the appearance of COVID needed to be incorporated as a natural emergency impacting the safety of all work locations, that indeed disrupted and endangered the workplace and security assignments.
The presumed presence of the COVID virus everywhere caused what could be considered a shutdown of operations for our clients, and lockdowns could be similarly considered a permanent evacuation.
This situation through most of 2020 severely impacted GSS operations – both in the field, and in our offices.
During the year, citizens became adept at following social distancing guidelines, covering faces, and sanitary habits to minimize exposure to COVID. Hospitals developed protocols for handling and treatment of infected patients that in many cases minimized serious illness, and therapeutics were developed that proved to be highly effective in treatment of the disease.
Vaccines with unbelievable efficacy made their appearance late in the year and were approved for emergency use. By 2021, millions of Americans were receiving vaccinations for COVID, minimizing the pool of potential infections, and gradually bringing the population into a herd immunity situation.
2021 saw an increase of emergency action planning roles for GSS in New York as companies cautiously reopened. In fact, the experience of an entire year of an illness-caused emergency was a great stimulus for GSS clients to review and implement emergency action planning.
GSS has provided guidance in emergency action planning for our clients, and our experience with COVID and related protocol is proving invaluable in incorporating this experience for a comprehensive plan that would provide plans for any future pandemics as well.
We see our emergency action planning business bouncing back in 2021 as a result of lessons learned through 2020 and application of sound security practices.
The COVID-19 Compliance Officer (C19CO) is a newly designated position by Health Education Services. responsible for establishing and enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols, training staff, and monitoring compliance on all security projects. This position is intended for a person who is educated in the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, disinfection, social distancing, CDC, local, and New York state guidelines, and other information related to preventing the spread of infection. This person is responsible for safety compliance and enforcement of rules.
The C19CO does not have to be a trained medical professional. He or she is a stand alone position with no other project responsibilities other than COVID-19 issues.
The C19CO will develop all project COVID-19 protocol. He or she will follow and enforce all local, state, and CDC guidelines for executing the security project.
Send COVID-19 screening survey, testing information, and Covid-19 protocols to all project personnel, including those of Client so all know their duties and responsibilities.
The C19CO will be the first person on project site and be present during all working hours. Before work is started the C19CO will ensure COVID-19 signs are in place reminding personnel of the need for social distancing, face covering, and hand sanitizing. The C19CO will position and maintain hand sanitizing stations around the work location and inside/outside of bathrooms.
The C19CO will screen all personnel entering the project area, and maintain a roster of all GSS personnel as well as Client personnel.
Our COVID protocols include the assignment of a COVID Compliance Officer (CCO), who is responsible for establishing and enforcing safety protocols, training staff, and monitoring compliance.
Once vaccines are widely distributed it will take many months for Americans achieve her immunity, so the need for the C19CO will continue. It is unclear when state and local health departments change their requirements. It has become obvious that the work environment must remain hygienic - cleanliness will remain a priority.
The C19CO is a stand-alone position. He or she will not be required to fill any other duty other than COVID-19 compliance on the work site and office.
In actuality, the C19CO position was originally created in California for film production casts and crew. It was applicable specifically for:
- Set entry screening
- Positive test protocol while on the filming set
- Return to the set after exposure
- Crew COVID training
- Setting up social distancing on set
- Setting up social distancing for meals while shooting
- Setting up social distancing during transportation
- Film and audio equipment usage and sterilization
- Wardrobe COVID protocol
- Talent and actor protocol
- Casting protocol
- Disinfecting best practices
Obviously, even though C19CO was developed for film crews, it is immediately obvious that the same procedures and philosophy can be applied to any industrial, hospitality and security setting.
GSS assigns a C19CO to all our security assignments. In doing so we feel we are able to minimize exposure of employees and clients to COVID-19 and in so doing broaden our security services spectrum over all assignments.