As some U.S. states relax their shelter-in rules, businesses prepare for a slow recovery due to the uncertainty of COVID-19’s almost certain resurgence. The questions arise for those physical businesses in need of unarmed or armed guards: what precautions are to be taken by guards, and what kind of interaction is there going to be with their customers?

The prescient film ‘Contagion’ by director Steven Soderbergh, released in 2011, highlighted the possible effects of a pandemic on society. Terms such as social distancing were bandied thrown about by actors like Laurence Fishburne, portraying a chief Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist. What stood out to me, among other things in this meticulously researched depiction, was the utter chaos that emerged from the virus. Stores were looted, people’s personal security was in danger. Where were the security guards? It occurred to us that organizations break if they are not prepared; chaos reigns if we are not organized.

For context, we are a Veteran owned security firm based in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. We provide well-trained security personnel to physical operations. These operations range from commercial, retail, corporations, to private events.

Like many of us, security firms know you can never be too prepared. However, a black swan-like COVID-19 took many by surprise. Many had to contend with the reality that clients would have to cancel their services. The other stirring issue was the new CDC or Health guidelines that seemed to emerge on a daily basis. This left many confused and underwhelmed. But as the guidelines became clearer and more stable, businesses as a whole began to adjust, some quicker than others. This article attempts to elaborate on the methods and tools used by security firms like ours to safely protect your clients' operations in a pandemic situation.

The death toll (as of the writing of this article) has unfortunately climbed northward of an astounding 90,000. The measures of social distancing have become a term we will be all too familiar for a long time to come. How do security firms enforce these social distancing rules on their client’s patrons without risking infections on ourselves? How do we handle a scuffle if it occurs? How do we embark on a minimal face-to-face verbal communication between staff members in a world warning us about distancing?

We approached this carefully and pragmatically. Firstly, we educated our staff on the dangers of COVID-19. We advised them to visit the CDC website and rely on its official directives alone. (Don’t distract or confuse your staff with multiple sources that may have varying guidelines, thus creating distrust and division. It is important to create a safe and unified environment.)

Secondly, we fitted our staff with the proper and required safety gear. Trainings are performed regularly, in which we address interactions with possible thieves – be they shoplifters or looters – in a time of a pandemic. In a thief scenario, we assess the situation, before engaging with a primary/initial goal to de-escalate. Always have your mask on, and if you have an exposed hand-wound wear gloves. After the resolution always clean your hands with sanitizer. Leaving your desk duty would prove troublesome so providing staff with sanitizer or encouraging them to purchase them is strongly advised.

Technology has been a fortunate tool that has aided in our process and social distancing protocols. Crowd control is a complex procedure, especially during a pandemic. The lessons from the 1918 flu pandemic should be heeded. The year 1918 to 1919 saw three waves of infections that took the lives of 675,000 Americans. According to the CDC, we are expecting a second wave of infections, likely before year’s end. With re-openings occurring at pace it is imperative to address crowd control. We use a tool that provides the following: Waitlist, Reservations & Appointments, Assignments, Self Check-in, Analytics and Reports, Flexible Customization, Simple Management. This software called Waitlist, INC, or its website, has been a valuable tool in the cultivation of social distancing. Software like Waitlist fosters organization and minimizes face to face social interactions. Encouraging and adopting such tools create a speedy and fluid process among your staff members and clients. Our team meetings are conducted with Zoom. Other platforms such as Google Meeting or Microsoft Team make for good video meetings. Slack helps with assignments.

Former ways, of conducting business no longer apply. The advent of virtual office tools has changed our business. We will no longer have the privilege of performing meetings the same way for a long time. Technology is our friend and the former ways of doing business no longer apply. Until a majority of Americans feel safe the life we knew will not resume for a while.

The pandemic also effects the type of clients we will be procuring. Twitter recently announced that its employees will no longer need to work in the office. A myriad set of businesses are following suit, many opting to work from home. As these businesses have found, the need for a physical office wanes in their requirement to perform their duties and ultimately saves them money. If that trend continues the obscurity of security guards for office buildings will then follow. Perhaps now more home guards will be needed? There will be a rush from security firms to work with banks, grocery stores, and other businesses that require physical offices.

With that in mind, what we do now matters. Establishing long term relationships with your current clients, by reacting responsibly during this pandemic. Using available software tools to ease and advance your process. Educating your staff about security features. Many security firm owners have a military background, where leadership and organization are hailed as enduring traits. So let this unfortunate time usher in us the leadership traits we have been trained for.

Remember these steps not only help your staff and improve morale but also help your clients.