In times of uncertainty when there is a threat to routine, feelings of unrest amongst minority groups or groups of citizens with a sense of belonging to the minority can result in violent outbursts against governmental authorities, and populations considered to be ‘elite.’ Localized incidents of violence can even lead to widespread rioting, looting, and destruction of property, as seen in the United States, Europe, Israel and other countries around the world.
Unfortunately, leaders often choose not to acknowledge the problem, nor to invest in the minorities and neutralize their sense of resentment, thinking that the feelings will simply disappear. In reality, absence of dialogue can lead to a real lack of integration of minorities within countries. This phenomenon can lead to an increase in anti-institutional feeling, to the extent that even business owners are seen as part of the institutional elite - even if those business owners belong to the minority itself.
The larger and more well-known the business corporations are, the more they attract attention and are a target when an outburst of rage occurs. Chains and corporations (food, markets, retail, etc.), non-operational institutions and government authorities (ministries of health, welfare, law, etc.) become the punching bag of the rioters for several reasons: they are found everywhere, their level of security is usually low, the potential for looting desirable goods is high, and the police are usually not present in these places because they are preparing to protect more high-profile targets, namely government institutions such as heads of government, mayors and municipalities, vital institutions, etc.
What is security’s role in looting and riots?
In the event of violent demonstrations that are accompanied by the destruction of property and looting, the role of security personnel at these organizations is critical in several areas, in particular:
- Preparing the organization to identify unusual events, in times of routine
- Preparing the organization for a rapid response in times of emergency
- Rapidly restoring the organization to functional capacity, during and following an emergency event.
One thing is clear. It’s important to create a rapid process for ensuring functional continuity of both types of organization: given the importance of the services they provide, governmental institutions (municipal offices, welfare agencies, courts, etc.) are required to provide a response, both during the emergency itself and immediately after; and civilian organizations may suffer great financial loss if they are unable to provide services to the public in the immediate aftermath of such a situation.
Preparing the organization to identify unusual events, in times of routine
There are several key methods security personnel can employ in their organization to identify and be prepared for unusual events, such as:
- Ensuring mental and operational preparedness for all members of the organization, not just security personnel;
- Rehearsing and conducting training in emergency response protocols;
- Establishing emergency action plans, at an infrastructure level (barriers, gates, narrow passages, etc.) and at a technological level (warning systems, etc.), so that the organization can close quickly, cut off contact, and block rioters’ ability to damage property;
- Making advance preparations of renovation plans and contracts, in case property is damaged or demolished;
- Assessing the organization’s ability to operate with minimal staff, including securing alternative outsourced services;
- Constructing areas within the organization’s buildings for storage of critical equipment, away from possible points of conflict or friction; and
- Monitoring open and visible sources, such as social networks, to identify any intention to cause harm to the organization.
Preparing the organization for a rapid response during an emergency event
To best prepare an organization for a quick response during an emergency, it’s vital to:
- Quickly close the facility, and remove employees from dangerous areas;
- Remove critical equipment to remote facilities;
- Disconnect critical infrastructure (electrical, gas, diesel, etc.) to prevent destruction or physical damage;
- Place security guards at critical points where they are secure and well protected; and
- Create means for open communication with all employees in order to relay information about the situation, reduce tension, and respond to employees who need physical and mental assistance.
Rapidly restoring the organization’s functioning during an emergency
In addition, there should be plans in place for rapidly restoring the functional capacity of the organization, even during the emergency event. For this, it’s important to:
- Debrief organizational responses to the emergency event, in order to learn and draw lessons;
- Monitor social networks to identify threats and stay updated with current information;
- Conduct a situational assessment with the organization's management, to understand their needs in light of state guidelines;
- Examine what employees require in order to resume work (from caring for their mental and emotional states, to reopening employee childcare facilities);
- Engage construction and renovation teams to restore facilities to normal conditions;
- Carry out inspections of all facilities to ensure they are operational;
- Reinstate the minimal critical equipment required to operate the facility; and
- Bring in a minimum number of staff to operate continuous shifts, with the minimum customer contact required.
Over the years, during periods of severe waves of violence, in ongoing states of emergency and even in routine times, we see that an organization’s emergency preparedness is crucial. Assessing beforehand how an organization can remain functional in the event of an emergency improves its capabilities, enables the identification of vulnerabilities in security and safety systems, saves lives and property when emergencies occur, and allows employees to quickly stabilize and return to routine.