Since early 2020, the COVID-19 viral pandemic has left a powerful impact on physical safety across industries and influences the way we conduct business today. At DK Security, we consider personal health to be a crucial part of the security industry; our commitment to providing physically safe spaces extends to the health and well-being of our clients, employees, and communities.
In this case study, we reflect on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic from outbreak to recovery. Our experience shows that even under the most challenging circumstances, DK Security persists among the Midwest’s most dependable and resilient security providers for various industries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, less than three months after its discovery in China’s Wuhan, Hubei province.
Spreading quickly, the respiratory virus posed a major health crisis and began disrupting the operation of industries worldwide. Among the most affected industries were those that traditionally relied on physical proximity and interaction, including medical care, on-site customer service, and more.
Hospitality and customer service are in our DNA – our security officers are the first point of contact for many businesses and let visitors know that we take the well-being of customers and employees seriously. It is a role that cannot be easily eliminated by technology and automation; security guards are an inherently human position with consistent and continuously growing demand.
Just like with any other industry, however, the COVID-19 pandemic would shift the way we manage the health of our employees. How we would address the continued need for physical security in a changed world became a primary and immediate focus for our operations.
An Immediate Security Response
On March 19, 2020, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency announced 16 critical infrastructure sectors that would continue necessary operations during the pandemic. With security partners in healthcare, energy, critical manufacturing, and more, it became clear that DK Security employees would be among the front lines of those continuing to report to in-person work.
During Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s March 11 press conference regarding the WHO’s global pandemic announcement, our leadership team received a high priority security request from a major hospital network. Despite the short notice, we were successful in staffing the network’s eight locations on a 24/7 basis near-immediately.
At a downtown facility, DK Security officers manned shut-down areas of city roads, directed vehicles for emergencies and COVID-19 response, and monitored medical tents for tampering after-hours. At other hospitals within the network, our officers assisted nurses and staff with the flow of patients and visitors. Short-staffed medical personnel continued to operate at a high level alongside our security coverage.
In addition, DK Security staff were also dispatched to multiple field hospitals implemented early into the pandemic. Beginning in April 2020, we fulfilled requests for up to 26 officers per day at Detroit’s TCF Center and 15 per day at Novi’s Suburban Collection Showcase. While the use of these field hospitals was never maximized, our people were on-site and prepared to respond in high-alert situations.
With the onset of the pandemic came a sudden need for organizations to conduct regular health screenings. Especially in the manufacturing industry, which remained operational with in-person work, we succeeded with client entry screening needs for both employees and visitors.
Temperature checks, COVID-19 screening question administration, and capacity limit monitoring all fell under our purview in this environment. In other settings, like West Michigan grocery stores, our officers supplemented existing staff at entryways with the enforcement of face mask policies.
Health screenings were often not the only additional security need of manufacturers. This was especially true for those involved in the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. For one particular vaccine developer, we were called upon to augment existing coverage with gate security, parking lot patrols, and construction project protection.
At another Michigan operation related to the manufacture of Johnson & Johnson’s SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, we built a security team from the ground up. There, our people checked-in employees, conducted security rounds, monitored equipment, and coordinated with federal agencies.
DK Security proudly provided security for the vaccine from development to distribution. In fact, some of the first vaccines were flown out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport, a partner of ours since 2013.
Next, we were present at medical clinics created to administer vaccines. Notably, DeVos Place in Grand Rapids was rented as a regional clinic; we provided 12 security officers every day for the duration of the project. Styled like a convention (a regular responsibility for us at DeVos) our staff performed roaming patrols and assisted medical professionals while the clinic remained active.
For two different hospital networks that also established vaccination clinics, DK Security officers helped smoothen operations. We directed visitors, patrolled parking lots, provided emergency medical and transportation response, and were available to assist often-understaffed medical rosters.
“We are very proud to assist these organizations, which are playing a critical role in our communities,” said Director of Marketing & Business Development, Johnny Kendall, in a press release about our temporary security requests in April 2020.
Despite some existing clients having to cut down on security (special event security, for example), DK was able to continue employing all staff interested in security work. We had great success in supplying additional training so employees could transition to other client sites that remained active.
It was extremely important to us that we continued to provide employment opportunities for security staff despite disruptions that occurred in client environments. Human Resources, Recruiting, and Operations personnel were all attentive to the changing needs of the security industry and instrumental to our high rate of employee retention.
All these efforts were helmed by CEO Sindia Narber, a guiding light in uncertain times. In 2021, she told the Grand Rapids Business Journal that “dealing with the pandemic and running a business” had been her toughest challenge as an executive. “We continue to learn each day how to handle various COVID-related challenges and as a team, we all work together to overcome those challenges.”
Pandemic Policy & Procedure
The necessary action of staffing our workplaces was conducted with full attention to the safety for our clients and employees.
On April 2, 2020, DK Security published a press release that announced continued hiring initiatives amid the pandemic and related labor shortages. “Our first priority is the safety of our employees,” our Director of Recruiting stated at the time, adding that we were “also focused on being able to meet the increasing security needs of our clients.”
For one, employees displaced due to closed workplaces were given additional training so they could continue employment with DK Security at other sites. Apart from site transitions, current and new field employees were instructed on the following preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19:
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Exercise social distancing of at least six feet.
- Wear a company-supplied protective face mask.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces in your work area.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Follow the current Governor’s Executive Orders as it relates to travel and other restrictions.
- Avoid using public transportation and ride sharing services when possible.
- If you are experiencing any symptoms of acute respiratory illness, notify your supervisor or operations manager immediately.
- Employees who test positive for COVID-19 shall not return to work until given official approval.
- Employees are encouraged to stay updated on current COVID-19 information by visiting CDC.gov and Michigan.gov resources.
DK Security monitors directives made by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to inform the creation of public health related protocols. An internal management team is responsible for monitoring the instructions that the CDC and OSHA continue to update and make available to the public.
When DK Security management is notified of a positive COVID-19 case, they immediately conduct contact tracing with the affected employee’s coworkers, client, and local public health authorities to establish whether others were exposed to infection. If necessary, additional action to protect all parties from potentially infected individuals is taken at that time.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is encouraged for security officers at many client sites and required for others. This determination is based on the medical and vaccination policies of each DK Security client; we stay in constant communication with our clients to ensure that their specific needs are being met. Separate protocols for response to positive COVID-19 cases have been established for both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.
Ultimately, DK Security acts in accordance with the latest guidance from the CDC and OSHA in all work environments and processes. From preventative measures to positive case response protocols, our leadership team continuously reviews official agency directives, responding suitably given the most current set of pandemic-related information.
While security services (namely, security guards) are an inherently human role and not easily disrupted or replaced, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unquestionable influence on our operations.
DK Security is wholly dedicated to the health and safety of our clients, employees, and patrons. Our viral risk mitigation procedures remain active; for one, we encourage the regular use of personal protective equipment, disinfectants, and social distancing when possible.
When a positive case of COVID-19 is identified, we remove the employee from work, monitor their health, perform contact tracing, and return them to work as directed by relevant public health agencies.
Our management team closely follows the guidance of these public health agencies at the state, national, and international levels, and are prepared to respond to policy shifts as they occur.
Personal safety and public health are at the center of what we do – our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic to date has resulted in stronger and more refined work processes across the board. Dependable and resilient, DK Security is well-positioned to meet the needs of clients across industries in the next chapter of public health and essential in-person work.