3 Ways to Leverage Mobile Phones to Improve Venue and Workplace Safety

June 1, 2017

Todd Piett

"Technology can only enhance the effectiveness of people and processes and is rarely, if ever, a solution to venue and workplace safety on its own."

As I write this, the horrific terrorist bombing at the Arianna Grande concert has just happened in Manchester, England. Unfortunately, these types of events are becoming all too common. From Paris, Munich, night clubs in Orlando and office parks in San Bernadino, the risk to soft targets across the globe is coming to the forefront of our collective conscience. The need to adopt measures aimed to improve venue and workplace safety has reached an all-time high.

Last month Rave Mobile Safety conducted a survey of safety and security officers across industries. Nearly 70 percent responded that risks in the workplace have grown in the last year, with 30 percent of the 148 respondents stating they felt the likelihood of an active shooter at their company was 50/50 or better! A 2016 Survey by Securitas of Top Security Threats Facing Fortune 1000 Companies revealed Workplace Violence and Active Shooter threats as the #2 and #3 threats facing enterprises behind cyber security. Regardless of whether you think those numbers are overly pessimistic, as an executive charged with a duty of care to your employees and patrons, what impact does the changing threat have on how you prepare and the technologies you look to implement?

First and foremost, safety is not just a technology issue. Technology can only enhance the effectiveness of people and processes and is rarely, if ever, a solution to venue and workplace safety on its own. Having said that, effective deployment of relevant technologies can have a significant impact in securing your facilities, reducing the severity of events, and shortening your recovery time. Since mobile phone usage is ubiquitous across employees and patrons, let’s look at some simple examples of how those devices can be used to help improve safety.

improve venue and workplace safety campaign
Image Courtesy Department of Homeland Security

Empowering your Constituents

For years, public safety agencies have run “See Something Say Something” campaigns. Similar proactive programs can yield significant results for corporations. From early identification of employees exhibiting behaviors indicative of pending workplace violence (or even sexual harassment) to noticing suspicious packages or entrances left unsecured – employees and guests can and should be the first early warning triggers. Rates of engagement rise significantly when people are given the ability to make anonymous reports, especially when it may be about other employee behaviors. Voicemail boxes have been replaced with smartphone apps or SMS tip solutions that allow users to submit pictures or even stream videos of emerging situations to corporate security from their mobile phones. FBI studies recommend that systems be put in place to allow victim initiated response (allowing those closest to an incident to sound the alarm) to shorten the time from incident recognition to effective action by potential victims. Some smartphone apps today will automatically broadcast situational and location relevant messages to those at risk, while also immediately connecting to emergency services.

Enhancing On-Site Communications

Effective communication during an incident is a critical component to improving venue and workplace safety. You can’t assume employees are sitting at their computers waiting for messages during an emergency. Additionally, while some safety plans may consider a mass notification system which can push messages quickly to employee mobile devices, few consider a plan for communication with a broader constituency. In a situation like a concert, the ability to rapidly commandeer the sound system may be the most effective means of mass communication to concertgoers inside the concert hall, but in office buildings or venues with remote parking lots and dispersed groups, other means should be considered. For example, Kentucky Derby organizers recently used an SMS opt-in system where Derby attendees could text a short code to be opted-in to communications about the event. Importantly, to increase the perceived value to the attendee, relevant non-emergency (e.g. traffic issues) communications can also be sent through the system. Surely, many concert goers would opt-in to receive special messages from their favorite musician over the course of a concert – often opting in to receive safety messages is not as strong a message as one that is perceived as having more immediate value.

Locating and Communicating with Travelling Employees

For many large corporations, the first step in any large scale event is assessing the impact to their remote employees. Several years back, a large earthquake hit China and global manufacturing firms struggled to identify not only what facilities may have been impacted but also what traveling employees may have been in the area and in need of assistance. Similarly, in the wake of the Paris nightclub attack and subsequent lockdown of the city, enterprises struggled to locate key resources. Again, the mobile phone provides the unique ability to message, locate, and collect real-time information from employees. Through corporate smartphone apps, employees can elect to constantly share their GPS-location with employers (supervisors, corporate security or third party security firms), or share it in an on-request basis. Corporations can push information, such as event notifications and emergency instructions, to devices based on the users’ location. Having near instantaneous visibility into the location of employees allows corporate security staff to effectively manage a response and recovery plan.

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