How COVID affected the security industry as a whole in 2020
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.