Is Funding Harming Public Safety and Security?
Financial constraints and overly generous budget allocations can both compromise safety and security in public buildings, says Karen Trigg, Allegion UK business development manager.
Addressing budgetary restrictions in public, government-owned buildings has become a challenge.
When stories hit the news about failing fire safety standards or poor security, the root of the cause is almost never linked to financial restrictions.
Granted, however, a lot of the time there are other, louder contributing factors. These may include lack of sufficient knowledge, training, emergency preparedness and so on. Addressing budgetary restrictions is one thing. Breaking it down, and forming practical, legitimate and effective solutions and answers is another. How do facility managers and safety and security teams improve their current protocols if they don’t have sufficient budgets? The answer starts with proactivity.
A rock and a hard place
Last year, a study at Allegion UK found that more than 40 per cent of healthcare facilities that felt their current security measures were compromised say this was because of underfunding or budgetary constraints.Budget cuts within the healthcare sector in particular have left many NHS practices and hospitals stuck between “a rock and a hard place”, where the lack of funding has resulted in a number of issues beyond just safety and security concerns.
It’s becoming clearer that these types of facilities may be struggling when it comes to certain fire safety measures. Recently, East Sussex Healthcare Trust requested to be granted a bulk of capital funding to improve its fire safety measures following a “recommendation” from its fire service. The Trust initially planned to invest a significantly less amount (£750,000 a year) on its fire safety measures but decided to take action after the fire service expressed concern over the pace of work.Therefore, with many of these types of facilities left grasping at straws, it’s necessary to start thinking about what to do if funding falls short.
The circumstances above indicate that, whilst the desire to better current protocols may be present, budget or other constraining factors may be limiting progress. Therefore, if this is the case for most, is it time we started raising greater awareness of the issues that come with budgeting pressures? Or perhaps it’s time to shift the focus entirely, and bring the industry back to basics. That way, we can be sure complacency won’t creep in no matter the budget size and proactivity will pave the way to productivity.
Even the biggest safety and security budgets won’t succeed in removing all risk. In fact, technology isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to heightening security. It’s actually the intangible measures which help to tie up the loose ends and glue the entire system together. A full and comprehensive approach is key.
Jerry Irvine, CIO of US IT-outsourcer company Prescient Solutions said that improving protocols has become more about implementing effective “security policies as opposed to simply buying security tools.” Whilst he speaks within the context of internet technology, this statement rings true across safety and security within the construction industry, too. This can include assessing current protocols so you can work out what needs altering or improving. One aspect that’s often overlooked is how all occupants within a building are integral to the success of safety and security. This is the one area which doesn’t require large budgets, but is perhaps one of the most effective and important aspects.
A clear, effective emergency evacuation procedure - or lockdown protocol - can be helpful with safeguarding a premises against any potential risk including unauthorised entry. Many facilities are still without a lockdown procedure even though including one within a security strategy means heightened preparedness if any emergency situation were to occur. Involve allIt’s easy to leave safety and security protocols up to facility managers or managing teams. However, it’s useful and worthwhile to involve staff or any of those who regularly use the building. This can include making sure staff are trained up on aspects such as general fire safety regulations and emergency evacuation plans. Beyond this, in facilities such as hospitals or schools, simple things can be helpful with keeping people in the know where it counts the most. This could be clearly signposting evacuation plans, or fire safety tips such as not propping fire doors open.
Solutions for all
Although these measures are incredibly effective when implemented correctly, they aren’t standalone solutions. In fact, these intangible measures are even more successful when combined with appropriate physical measures, too. Again, however, some may shy away from upgrading old systems (or implementing new ones) for fear of improvements not being budget-friendly. Schools, for example, have always felt the pressure of intense underfunding. However, the industry has developed considerably in recent years and high-quality products and solutions are becoming increasingly accessible. This means that, whilst these types of facilities may be up against the restrictions of budget, they’re still able to find and implement well-rounded and effective solutions. And they’re able to do so in such a way that benefits their specific requirements rather than opting for solutions purely based on cost-effectiveness.
Last year, one of the most pressing issues in the industry was a lack of sufficient knowledge. This came off the back of news stories such as the Grenfell Tower fire and Inquiry, which served to be a wake-up call within the industry. However, there continues to be a certain lack of proactivity to make things better or even just make things right. When restricted by things like budget, it’s important to remember that, not only is there trustworthy help out there, but that budget isn’t always a testament to safety and security standards. As discussed, adopting a fully-integrated holistic approach can improve protocols to no end. What’s more, feeling in the dark doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no help out there; sometimes the best results can be achieved by choosing to actively and collaboratively search out the right solution.