Social Lockdown – But is Security an Essential Service?

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The closure in Australia of state and national borders and implementation of social distancing shutdowns has raised the ill-defined term of ‘Essential Service’.

It is not clear if ‘private security services’ are included, but a degree of common sense should prevail.

Public safety and security (physical and cyber) should be explicitly included as a defined essential service, not implied. Indeed, the terms ‘public safety’ and ‘security’ is not mentioned on the Australian Government’s COVID-19 advice for public gatherings.

In a statement, the peak security industry body, Australian Security Industry Association Limited (ASIAL) confirmed, “ASIAL has called on Government to clarify essential service status in the event that a lockdown is implemented as concern in the security industry mounts. We have also written to federal, state and territory government to explore how available capacity and capability in the industry can be harnessed to support law enforcement resources and other measures in responding to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.” A written confirmation is still to be received.

In our (MySecurity Media) open survey to readers, with over 70% of respondents indicating they are on the frontline (Security Officers, Crowd Controllers), over 48% of respondents are losing work prospects and over 44% expect less engagement over the next six months.

The Australian Government’s list of non-essential venues which were restricted from opening as of midday 23 March 2020 were:

  • pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs
  • restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies)

In Western Australia, the State Government has formally declared use of the Emergency Management Act to empower state border closures.

In a statement released by the WA Premier Mark McGowen, “Unless exempted, arrivals from interstate will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. This will be enacted through a formal declaration under the Emergency Management Act. Exemptions will apply to essential services and workers, including health and emergency services, defence and policing, mining industry workforces, flight crews and freight of essential goods, via ports and trucks – with strict guidelines in place to monitor and manage this.”

Notably, ‘public safety’ and ‘security’ is not explicitly included though may be implied by ‘health and emergency’ but clarification is needed.

The WA Police Force is the lead agency for the Emergency Management Act and we have written to the WA Police Force Security Licensing Enforcement Division to seek clarification on whether licensed security services are exempt under the border controls and how applications are to be made.

Updated 27/03/2020: There is currently not a formal process for awarding essential status, nor does the Australian Government envisage declaring it for individual businesses or industries on a case-by-case basis. Unless your business activity has been specifically banned on the following list there is a need to ensure that those who service and contribute to the continued operation of manufacturing supply chains for food and health, or support the provision of those services or other vital community infrastructure, must remain operational at all times for the benefit of the community.

The Health of NSW Hospital Security

Survey Results

Key Australian Security Distributors – COVID-19 Update

David Lenz CEO & Managing Director of Hills has confirmed branches and distribution warehouses will remain operational. To minimise any disruptions Hills is taking the following steps;

  • Ensuring each branch has the appropriate communication in place for staff and customers
  • Ensuring each site is focused on following all cleaning and hygiene polices and procedures for COVID-19
  • Moving stock of our most popular items to key offices in each state to lessen the likelihood of a supply chain breakdown occurring from a single point of failure
  • Proactively monitoring stock and are working closely with our suppliers to ensure we have the stock we need to continue to service our customers in this time

Wayne Krahner, Director of Security Distributers Australia has confirmed, “Most of our suppliers are still operating even if in a reduced capacity, so we do not foresee any major stock shortages in the near future.

Currently, we have adequate stock provisions for the next 2-3 months on most items and we will try to maintain these levels moving forward.  At this point we would encourage you to place any orders for stock you will be needing in the next few weeks in plenty of time to try and avoid any issues. There seems to be no restrictions on shipping product out to you at present, bar the fact couriers are not requesting signatures at the moment.”

Emerging bio-threats: The age of the invisible enemy

Robots Are Immune

Backed by over 7,000 investors, the US security robot company, Knightscope identified early the developing trend surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and has developed Public Service Announcements to communicate in both virtual and physical domains.  This entailed creating encouraging and uplifting reminders that were posted on all of social media accounts.  Themes included practising social distancing, proper hygiene and common sense consideration of others.  In support of the social media outreach, Knightscope is working offline to add numerous similarly themed, pre-recorded broadcast audio messages for their Autonomous Security Robots (ASRs) to announce when a person is detected and/or on an hourly basis, depending on client needs.

The company is also actively investigating the reinstatement of a detection strategy previously under development which may be useful in identifying persons at risk of carrying COVID-19. In a release, the company stated, “ Remote monitoring will be the new norm – and keep in mind that robots are immune to disease and danger and are working today 24/7/365 across the country helping keep the places you work, study and visit safe – even during a pandemic.”

New face of Access Control – Facial Recognition, Temperature Scanner and IoT based Door Sensor technology

Singapore-based Ramco Systems’ has released a Facial Attendance System embedded with Temperature Recording. Designed to detect and match the faces of staff members or visitors and mark their attendance along with their body temperature, in checking again Fever indications.

Entry can then be declined should the temperature be higher than normal and includes the ability to automatically apply leave on behalf of the employee and communicate the information to HR and management in real-time.

This can be applied to tracking the movements of a high-temperature staff or visitors across a facility or within a precinct vicinity. This provides reverse tracing based on data around positive COVID cases from external environments – for instance, a positive case of COVID can alert all employees who have met with or spent time near the COVID case and ensure they can be informed and if needed,  quarantined. The Track and Trace system is capable of reading Outlook calendar, Credit card spend data, trip details from Uber Lyft and Grab (subject to permission) to identify people met, Hotels stayed, Flights taken, Taxi drivers used and use this information to help identify employees at risk. Complete with chatbots, voice, and facial recognition-based workforce management, organizations can deploy Ramco HR with Global Payroll on-cloud, on premise or leverage as a managed service.

“We built this application to help better address a crisis through technology. Robust containment through a robust attendance and access system with zero contact and temperature measurement can be key to avoid easy spread of the virus that may take place with Biometric access system” said Mr. Virender Aggarwal, CEO – Ramco Systems.

“The launch of the advanced facial attendance system by Ramco Systems is timely, given global concerns over pandemic threats. We continue to see companies undertake a spectrum of innovation activities from Singapore, as they develop new products and solutions to address the needs and challenges of today,” said Ms. Junie Fo, Director, Investment Facilitation, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

TraceTogether App launched by SGUnited, GovTech and the Ministry of Health to combat COVID-19

HxGN Content Program provides aerial imagery in response to COVID-19

Hexagon’s Geosystems division announced the HxGN Content Program is making its aerial imagery library of the entire United States and Europe freely available to any government agencies and non-profit organisations managing the COVID-19 outbreak.

Aerial imagery from the HxGN Content Program has been made free to stream for 90 days to support the response efforts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The orthorectified high-resolution aerial imagery can be used by first responders, healthcare departments and GIS professionals to assess the spread of the virus, visualise the scope of affected areas, plan coordination efforts, and improve responses. The imagery is also beneficial to create maps, spatial data products and geo-information for those responding to national emergencies. Hexagon will make the data available for 90 days through WMS/WMTS protocols directly into all GIS or enterprise application including Esri, MapInfo, and Global Mapper, not requiring any additional software.

“As we are all going through these uncertain times, we are keeping those directly affected by the virus in our thoughts, from family and friends to co-workers and neighbours to partners and customers,” said John Welter, President, Geospatial Content Solutions, Hexagon’s Geosystems division. “With the release of this high-accuracy aerial imagery, our hope is it will be used as a key source of information for effective response by authorities and others working to contain and treat the virus.”

For those wishing to stream the HxGN Content Program aerial imagery in support of COVID-19 response, please contact info.content@hexagon.com

By Chris Cubbage, Executive Editor

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