Which is better for Security: Technology or Manpower?

by todaystrainingblog

This argument is as old as the industrial revolution itself. And of course there are business leaders who will say that technology is better, because it helps to reduce costs and others who will vehemently defend manpower instead, for different reasons. And with the minimum wage bound to go up to astronomical heights soon… Even some restaurants are turning to electronic ordering systems to eliminate personnel.  And with intelligent robots already operating in the security field…


Technology can be a wonderful thing. It allows us to stay in touch with loved ones and friends that are thousands of miles away. Like a good security officer, it helps to protect and save lives in assisting with the development of new medicines & devices.

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. A single officer 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 help. But is there a drawback to this?

There are several issues to contend with the technological aspect of security that you may not have thought about;

  1. What about a power outage. Yes, I know that all primary systems will be on a back-up generator. But if the generator goes kaput, then what? And it is impossible for 99% of businesses to have enough back-ups in place to counter act these. And this dove tails into…


  1. What about the inevitable break down and short circuits of the equipment. Can you really go without alarms on the perimeter fencing, boiler room, or chemical tanks for days or weeks? The fixes don’t always come quickly & sometimes it can take weeks and an outside contractor to get it fixed. And what happens to the productivity of the facility?


  1. The human aspect. Most of you know that the optimum ability of most humans is during the day while being active & studies have shown that attention levels begin to wane severely after just a few hours. 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?


  1. The possibility, remote as it may be, of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which could, literally, knock out every piece of electronics in the business, rendering all of the technological gadgets inoperative. A localized EMP can be generated by an individual just for the business location.


  1. The inevitable question about a disaster, from either internal or external sources. Who will call the police and/or coordinate the plan? Technology can be circumvented by running over the junction box for phone lines and other lines coming into the facility. And without a human voice telling them to remain calm in a soft comforting tone, on the intercom it will make matters worse.



I will grant anyone that replacing humans with machines is less expensive in the long run. But what are the 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: lack of pay and training, background checks, & adequate supervisory controls…


2      And probably most importantly, is that officers aren’t always the most dedicated and observational humans around. Officers absolutely must be observational in order to efficiently do their duties effectively. As with #3, they may be the lowest paid person in your facility and therefore have no incentive to do more than observe & report, which should never be an option.


3    Are 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. Not saying they may be stupid but they haven’t been trained in the logical & reasoning skills needed for problem solving (observe & report only).


4    Is the restraints that management, both company and client, place on them. It’s hard to do your job efficiently and effectively if your hands are tied by overly cumbersome & unreadable legalese. And we won’t mention the soft touch that is needed for employees who are too sensitive to hear the truth or reason around it.


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 quandary, because they provide necessary back-up for each other. If the alarms go down, an officer can patrol the facility to ensure adequate monitoring. If that officer inadvertently falls asleep then you have the technology to back them up with an audible alarm.

Is this all the issues involving technology vs. manpower? Not at all. But it should give you a few things to think about before eliminating officers and moving into the technological wizardry of today’s world. People will always be necessary to supplement electronics and vice versa. But can you & companies do this if it means spending more money that you think is not necessary according to the C-suite?


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

             I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear