“When there’s something strange, in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?” So went the refrain in Ray Parker Jr’s Oscar nominated theme song for 1984 hit movie Ghostbusters. That was just around the time I started my long career in hotel security. In those days, our large hotel had a relatively large internal corps of dedicated security officers. In the 1990’s, security, like housekeeping, maintenance and even accounting, became increasingly outsourced. This added flexibility on personnel costs, but it also added a sometimes-complicated reliance on a single external provider.
The partners at NorthPoint International have a combined history of over 50 years leading global security for world leading hotel groups and understand the challenges of managing security at the individual property level. There are high levels of staff turnover, both internally, if you have them, and among the security staff provided by each property’s individual contractors.
Hotels, event venues and other semi-public places where large numbers of people gather present a truly dynamic challenge to operations, safety and security managers. Not only do they have to understand, monitor and manage a threat and risk environment that fluctuates daily, but they are also responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all their guests, visitors, staff and property, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Some days it’s crowd control, other days it can be ensuring an empty venue is secured. When events are held, the event itself or the visitors the event caters to may bring added risk to the property through their perceived wealth or property that nefarious threat actors target.
Most hotels or conference centers today don’t have dedicated, in-house security teams that can be scaled up to meet needs when they operate at full capacity. Needs can change quickly and, especially in today’s challenging labor market, the contracted provider may not always be able to provide services in sufficient numbers or on short notice. From the London Olympics in 2012 to individual hotels today, there are countless stories of hotels and event venues scrambling to find manpower when plans go awry or needs change on short notice. This isn’t a new phenomenon.
For example, less than two months before New Year’s Eve, 1999 a large hotel received a letter from its external provider informing them that the 12 security officers confirmed for the celebration party would not be available to support the event that was expecting 3,000 partygoers. The provider invoked a clause in a poorly written contract allowing them to cancel on short notice and deploy its people-power to better-paying clients.
In many places around the world, hotels and event venues still find themselves facing similar vulnerabilities today. When you need security support, and your provider can’t provide, what do you do? In the old days, you’d probably grab the Yellow Pages and today, most would likely go to Google, check the reviews, start calling and hope for the best.
The UBER of mobile security and guarding services
The idea behind RSPNDR was born when someone asked the question, “as long as the security officers are licensed and competent, does it matter what uniform they wear?” RSPNDR has been called the UBER of mobile security and guarding services. With software that links alarm companies and other users to accredited security guard service providers, RSPNDR allows the users to find the guards they need when they need them. They can schedule their needs in advance or call them out when an urgent need arises.
In urgent cases, the software alerts the closest available mobile response units. When one accepts the callout, they receive the location information and response protocols directly on their phone and can go directly to the location where they are needed to provide support. Reports, including pictures or videos, can be completed and sent directly from the guards’ phone, adding to the speed and efficiency of the response. The RSPNDR portal also allows customers to monitor and instantly review the digital incident reports.
The RSPNDR platform provides customers with data insights that help them adjust their plans and preparedness based on intelligence and trends. When hosting a planned event, scheduling of guards can be planned and managed in advance. RSPNDR can help with that too and allow customers to find the most appropriate people for the task. Additionally, RSPNDR can allow adjustments to be made if the threat environment changes ahead of the event and an increased or immediate need of extra support arises.
Of course, a property could choose to have multiple contracts keeping different security contractors on retainers, but that can be complicated and cause administrative headaches to manage both the agreements and the costs. RSPNDR removes the pain point by directly paying the guard and response companies, so their clients deal with one contract and one invoice.
Many hotels and other hospitality businesses operate seasonally. During the off season, they can be targeted by burglars of thieves. When intrusion alarms go off, who responds and how long does it take for them to arrive? Imagine if the alarm automatically went to the nearest available mobile security unit. Imagine if it included location data and an immediate response protocol. Imagine if the responding security patrol could check, document and report directly from their phone.
RSPNDR’s software equips security with the protocols they need when they need them and they can document their activity and incident reports directly from their phones. That simplification of reporting and documentation is another innovation RSPNDR brings to the table. That’s beneficial both for the client property as well as for the efficiency of the security company operation.
How else can RSPNDR benefit security providers?
When every security company is competing to become the exclusive provider for every venue, bidding is often focused around meeting the required needs at the lowest possible cost to secure the contract. This can exclude smaller providers that can’t meet required needs to scale people-power on short notice or it can exclude providers that specialise in mobile response and don’t employ enough people on their own to provide static guarding services.
In many cases, these challenges leave clients with a limited number of choices. In many cases, their only choice is to contract a larger company that provides “everything” when it comes to man guarding and response services. This excludes smaller providers and lessens the leverage a small to mid-size client has when tendering for offers. RSPNDR allows smaller companies to provide their specialized services, so they become part of an improved guard and mobile response solution that hotels, hospitality businesses and event venues haven’t had before.
If there is an immediate need for a mobile response, by allowing RSPNDR to find the closest, licensed and available response unit, there’s no need to worry whether your single provider’s response units are available or if they’re within a reasonable distance. RSPNDR ensures that guards respond dramatically faster than the industry average. Research conducted by RSPNDR showed that as more people started to work remotely, the number of alarm responses in city centers, industrial and commercial zones increased, with the food and retail sectors triggering the largest numbers of alarm responses.
As travel continues to rebound, for individuals and businesses that have traveling personnel, safety and security remains a key priority. To secure contracts, hotels and event venues should increasingly expect to be required to document their capability to provide competent security and incident response capabilities, including the ability to provide manned security and mobile security alarm response.
RSPNDR’s CEO Mark Zimmerman believes the travel and tourism sectors will also benefit as challenges and expectations increase during uncertain times. “We are fortunate to have NorthPoint as a partner as we bring the RSPNDR solution to the travel and tourism industry,” he says. The hotel and hospitality sector has been accused of lagging when it comes to security, innovation and technology. RSPNDR may be a big step in closing the gaps in all three areas.
This article was originally published in the December edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.