How Remote Global Security Operations Centers Can Help Campuses Navigate Times of Crisis

Virtual GSOCs and EOCs can be leveraged to address gaps in the protection of all types of organizations in the event of a partial or full shutdown.
Published: March 27, 2020

While so many campuses — whether healthcare, business or education — are focused on keeping employees, providers and students safe, there’s a large contingency of security, public safety and emergency management leaders tasked with providing guidance on ways to provide oversight across facilities. Right now, many organizations are nearly empty as they face shutdowns, mandatory quarantines and the fact that many workers and students have begun to work remotely to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, organizations are tasked with finding a balance between security and safety for their employees.

Within a campus environment, business continuity is critical. There are two options that should be considered with regards to continuity in light of the COVID-19 crisis that has brought so many business functions to a standstill:

  1. What is the plan when we have to evacuate suddenly, but for a short duration? How do we maintain the monitoring during such events as a bomb threat or weather-related incident? Is there another space that can act as an operations center or do we need to go virtual? How quickly could we fail over or resume operations at a secondary or virtual location?
  2. What do we do when we have to vacate the premises for an extended period of time, such as a quarantine, or mandatory shutdown with a furloughed staff? Are we able to go beyond a virtual environment to establish continued oversight?

In both instances, a remote global security operations center (GSOC) or emergency operations center (EOC) can be leveraged as a means to address perceived holes in the protection of these facilities in the event of a partial or full shutdown. This strategy is gaining traction as the needs of these organizations change on a near-daily basis in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Today, a police chief, security director or emergency manager might only need to have remote access to cameras across a facility while operators respond to alarms, but tomorrow, they might have a furloughed staff and all oversight must be done remotely.

Integrators Can Help Campuses Make Most of Their GSOCs/EOCs

At a basic level, a remote GSOC/EOC meets a central goal for an organization: communication. But this can encompass a number of things that require more than “freeware.” Enlisting the help of an integrator partner who understands the ins and outs of a control room is a helpful first step as they can provide added value into the discussion and implementation of:

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  • The need for clear video and audio feeds with the ability to activate any alerts
  • Bringing visual capabilities to a remote site
  • Ensuring the networks used are reliable to reduce or eliminate downtime
  • Detection and action on breaches, both physical and cyber.

A fully managed and outsourced GSOC, often dubbed “GSOC-as-a-service,” can work in a number of ways to provide immediate support and assistance in the campus environment. Campuses can leverage this service by allowing it to become a redundant part of the team, or as part of an overall plan to provide security operations continuity in the event that an on-site GSOC/EOC is unable to perform its basic functions.

Additionally, a remote GSOC/EOC can be used outside of regular hours when an organization has onsite staff for a set amount of time (for example: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) but then turns over monitoring to an outside provider after-hours. This can make a huge difference in the security posture of an organization in challenging times.

Remote Monitoring Offers Many Advantages

Some of the biggest advantages that a remote GSOC/EOC can deliver include:

  • Consistently monitoring security devices. This effort includes the ability to identify offline cameras or other Internet of Things (IoT) devices that require additional troubleshooting to get them up and running.
  • Access control monitoring and support. When access is restricted during a period of time, there must be a way to monitor when someone is accessing a facility in order to respond and protect people. This can be especially important in the healthcare market right now as visitor restrictions are implemented to keep workers, patients and supplies — such as surgical masks and respirators — safe.
  • Remote guarding. Implemented to help monitor a perimeter, as well as indoor and outdoor spaces, remote guarding can serve to limit physical contact between individuals, which has an added benefit when dealing with the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Virtual GSOC/EOC operations. Onsite operations centers must have the ability to assess incoming alarms and notifications in the best, most effective manner to reduce harm.
  • Situational awareness and analysis around physical facilities. Remote GSOCs/EOCs equipped with video data and layered with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities can take simple monitoring from reactive to more proactive, allowing for enhanced predictive capabilities that can go further to identify potential anomalies across a facility and potentially speed up response.
  • Mass communications for employees. In times like these, hearsay and rumors are the enemy of campus business, and a virtual GSOC/EOC can better combat these with the ability to leverage mass communication tools to inform employees and other stakeholders about the status of a facility. If a lockdown is taking place or the facility is closing, it is essential for communication to be clear, concise and strategic so that panic does not take hold.
  • Social media monitoring. The ability to analyze incoming data from social media sites for sentiment and threat detection is essential in today’s threat landscape, as so much information is being shared via these platforms and changes happen on a daily basis. State and local governments leverage these platforms as a means to communicate important messages related to shut downs and public service announcements, solidifying the importance of adding this kind of analysis to an overall security, public safety and emergency management posture. Add in the ability to analyze potential threats, and this functionality becomes a valuable tool in protecting critical assets.

Offsite GSOCs/EOCs Support Business Continuity

The core goal of transitioning to or leveraging a remote GSOC in times of crisis is removing the risk to employees and visitors and limiting the potential for added health issues that can be damaging to an organization. Being able to continue to manage the security and safety of a campus, while complying with government mandates and regulatory requirements provides an added value. It also helps take stress and pressure off employees who may be at risk.

Dan Gundry is director of sales and marketing for Vistacom, and Ryan Schonfeld is co-founder and CEO, RAS Watch.

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