Technology vs. Manpower: Which is better for Security?

by todaystrainingblog

This is an argument as old as the industrial revolution itself. And of course there are business leaders who will say that technology is better and others who will vehemently defend manpower instead.

Technology is a wonderful thing. It allows us to stay in touch with loved ones and friends that are thousands of miles away. It saves lives because it helps to develop new medicines and devices. And for those of us that are disabled, it allows blind people to use the computer to write & communicate.
And in the security field it allows a reduction of the security staff because one person can watch the entire facility from a control room. This allows for resources to be spent on other projects. But is there a drawback to this?
A single person can now monitor alarms, cameras, speakers, and environmental controls within one little room. And in the same room, they have access to the entire world to attract attention and assistance if needed.
There are several issues to contend with the technology aspect of security that you may not have thought about;
The first is a power outage. Yes, I know that all primary systems will be on a back-up generator, hopefully. But if the generator goes bad then what. Look at what would happen at a nuclear power plant that suddenly loses power and can’t replace it for a few days. It could be catastrophic and for an individual business the loss of environmental controls can be just as deadly and financially fatal.
#2 would be the human aspect. Most of you know that the optimum ability of most humans is during the day while being active. What happens if your 3rd shift control room person falls asleep during their shift because of a hard day with the new baby or bill collectors?
#3 is the possibility of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which could, literally, knock out every piece of electronics in the business, rendering all of the technological gadgets inoperative. From fence alarms, to motors that control gates, to security equipment, cell & landline phones, computers (and its assorted portable relatives).
#4 would be the inevitable break down and short circuits of the equipment. Can you really go without alarms on the perimeter fencing or the boiler room for days or weeks on end? I’ve worked in industrial plants that had a dedicated & licensed electrician to take care of these things. The fixes don’t always come quickly, sometimes it takes an entire week and an outside contractor to get it fixed. And what happens to the productivity of the plant in that time while they track it down and either replace or repair?
#5 is that inevitable question for a disaster from within or outside the facility. Who will call the police and/or coordinate the active shooter plan? Technology can be circumvented by running over the ‘junction box’ for phone lines. And without a human voice on the intercom it may make panic worse.

I will grant anyone reading that replacing people with machines is much cheaper in the long run, maybe. One electrical short-circuit can cost a company the equivalent of a year’s pay for an officer. Are there many drawbacks to using officers instead of technology exclusively?
#1 is the officers themselves. If they are contracted how do you know you’re getting the best people for your location? There can be a myriad of issues with using contracted officers, including (not all inclusive) lack of pay and training, background checks, adequate supervisory controls, and such.
#2 and probably most importantly, is that officers aren’t always the most dedicated and observational people on the planet. Officers absolutely must be observational in order to efficiently do their duties effectively.
#3 is that officers don’t always reason logically when they need to. Whether they are contracted or proprietary they may be the lowest paid person working at your facility and not necessarily the most intelligent to be able to reason through a problem.
#4 is the restraints that management, both company and client, place on them. Like my blog post last month on observe & report. It’s hard to do your job efficiently and effectively if your hands are tied.

So what’s the solution to this dilemma? I know that most security professionals will disagree with me and want to go with more technology instead of training officers correctly. But the truth is that a mixture of the two is the best approach to this question. Mainly because they can back each other up.
If the alarms go down and stop working, then you have an officer to patrol the perimeter and check on the chemical tanks. If an officer inadvertently falls asleep then you have the technology to back them up, hopefully with an audible alarm to awaken them.
Is what I mentioned above all the issues involving technology vs. manpower? Not by a long shot. But it should give you a few things to think about before eliminating officers and going with all the electronic wizardry or a watchman who may snore.

Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security field for 32 years, and 24 studying workplace violence issues. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV and other security issues, as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.