FMME sits down with Emrill’s Alex Davies to discuss the technological advances of the FM firm’s security division that helped secure the award for security company of the year at the 2015 Facilities Management Middle East Awards.
Standing out from the crowd is no easy feat, particularly if you’re a security firm. In a market saturated with hundreds of companies, each delivering varying degrees of expertise and physical manpower, it can be a challenge to distinguish yourself.
To earn the title of an award-winning security company takes something special.
Such is the case with Emrill Security Services, recently recognised at the 2015 Facilities Management Middle East Awards, earning the
accolade for Security Company of the Year.
The integrated facilities management (IFM) provider earned the title in acknowledgement of the division’s achievements over the last year, which include the successful evacuation of the Torch Tower in Dubai during a fire last February.
However, it was with the introduction of a technological element across its security operations, a move which has had a profound impact on enhancing the service delivery, which ultimately won the favour of the judges.
“Emrill is constantly looking for innovation… We strive to do things better and to stay ahead of the market and maintain our leading position,” beams Alex Davies, operations director at Emrill.
To date, the IFM provider’s security branch comprises guards, as well as life safety teams. A “security and safety division” as described by the operations director, Emrill Security Services constitutes roughly one fifth of the entire FM business, and includes elements that deliver concierge and lifeguard services.
Active across a hundred different projects and overseeing the management of over 20,000 properties, Davies reveals that the company’s portfolio contains a range of mix-used developments, residential and commercial structures.
It also has large-scale community projects and high-profile sites, such as the Royal Amwaj and Anantara on The Palm, as well as 23 Marina and Princess Tower.
Following its incorporation in 2014, Emrill’s technologic implementation is, at a glance, a rather simple one—the deployment of mobile devices as part of the security teams’ arsenal. What truly sets the arrangement apart however, is the supporting platform and its impact on two aspects of the service delivery.
“The first area is for radios—we’ve got an application that works very similarly to radios. The benefit of using this system is that it actually enables remote access from the control room,” explains Davies.
In addition to remote access, the interface allows FM mangers to issue advisory warnings to all staff members onsite. Furthermore, the platform can be accessed by management at the main control centre at HQ, who can then issue warnings across entire master communities with multiple control stations.
One instance where this feature came into play was with a recent incident on The Palm, where a lifeguard station reported the presence of a shark in the water. After relaying the alert to the community head, the report was then shared across all stations managed by the IFM provider on the man-made island. As a result, staff applied the necessary precautions to ensure public safety.
As communication is a critical part of an effective security strategy, Emrill has gone to great lengths to ensure that its teams on the ground are supported with the latest technologies. This has been accomplished with the addition of the Emrill Guard Tour, an app tied to the firm’s in-house SMS and Email Reporting System.
Designed to enhance both reporting and patrol efficiency, the app comes equipped with a variety of tools, useful for both management and the boots on the ground. For starters, it brings a much needed technical update to one of the most basic practices of a guard duty—patrolling.
The traditional method of conducting a patrol, or rather what is known in the business as a guard tour, is typically done through the use of fixed-points. In this approach, guards would use a device that is scanned by readers placed at each of the pre-planned patrol points around the facility.
Emrill’s Guard Tour, however, rids the necessity of establishing fixed points to begin with, though it can certainly work in tandem with near-field communication (NFC) technology and barcode scanning.
“Through smartphones, we found by utilising the GPS on the devices, you can track real-time where all of your guards are,” says Davies.
“Not only do you know that your guard has walked from point A to point B, but you know if they’ve stopped to look at something. You can make sure they are not walking from point-to-point. You can actually make sure they are doing a full patrol.”
The app allows management to ensure that guards are completing their rounds to the letter and the analytical feedback can assist in planning future patrol routes. Patterns may emerge as guards take repeated deviations from their set paths, which may indicate an exposed spot within the perimeter.
Arguably its most useful application lies with its capability for real-time instrument reporting of incidents, helping to reduce the lengthy process from two-hours to a mere 15 minutes.
“Traditionally, when a guard spots an incident, they would write it in their notebook and then escalate it as required, getting assistance via the radio. Then they would return to write up an incident report,” explains the operations director.
“Using the guard tour, photos can be taken on the device. The guard then creates a pdf and signs it digitally and it goes straight into our system… This increases the amount of time guards are actually patrolling the site and doing what they should be doing, not just focused on the necessary paperwork.”
In the case of an incident that is quickly destabilising, FM managers can also get involved instantly via remote access, directly on to the mobile device. This is useful for security personnel who find themselves unable to deal with the situation at hand, or require immediate support and advice from a person with higher authority.
Looking ahead at how the platform could further evolve, the operations director predicts that interest from local authorities such as the Dubai Police Service, on building security, may eventually push for regulation change and the standardisation of the technology.
Coupled with increased CCTV coverage on projects, which itself will lead to increased connectivity with centralised systems, this could ultimately lead to a scenario where police would have remote access to a property’s security network. This in turn would enable law enforcement officials to get involved earlier and respond faster to incidents.
Considering the ever expanding infrastructure market in the region, and security demands associated with mega event projects as the Dubai Expo 2020, any advancement that reduces response time and cuts down on risks will be highly sought-after.
When asked if he believes technology might one day trump the human element of security, the operation director replied with a resounding “no”.
“Absolutely not. I think people misunderstand the role of a guard. First and foremost, they are there for the safety and security of the people within that community and visitors. They are that welcoming face,” asserts Davies.
“I think the market as a whole is moving towards customer experience. The market is starting to recognise that simply having DPS licence, which is critical to deliver security, is not enough.”
“Security personnel have to be able to interact with the people and the general public,” he adds.
In addition to training their security personnel to the standard of the Department of Protective Services Certification, issued by the Government of Dubai through the Dubai Police Headquarters, Emrill’s Centre of Excellence also focuses on soft-skill training.
This includes English language proficiency, report writing, which is essential for security, as well guidelines for interacting with the general public.
Security personnel attached to public malls for example, are expected to familiarise themselves with the layout of the facility, better direct any enquiries that come their way.
As part of their training, security personnel are also taught the basics of FM. As an IFM business, the company’s security personnel are trained to recognise issues related to MEP or housekeeping, so as to better spot issues while out on patrol.
They are also equipped with specific skillsets to tackle the different challenges associated with their individual assignments.
For example, on larger, open communities, where more grounds needs to be covered, security staff undergo driving licence training and occasionally, bicycle certification.
Eyeing the industry’s development over the next five years, the operations director believes the drive for technology adoption will likely continue.
As more systems related to security, building management and access control come into play though, so will the need for integration of all these processes.
Equally as important however, will be demand for human talent and expertise.
“Expo 2020 is going to put a lot of pressure in terms of training and recruitment, generally across the market, regardless of trade,” asserts Davies.
“But I think in particular with security—as there are going to be a lot visitors entering the country—their position will become the face of Dubai. It is because everyone will have to deal with security wherever they go,” he concludes.
Article Source: FM ME magazine