American Companies Are Not Prepared for Physical Threats


The threat landscape has changed dramatically. As a nation, we’re seeing an uneven recovery, with masks and social distancing in some places, while others are wide open. Concerts and outdoor events are selling out in record time, even as law enforcement agencies warn that domestic extremists could exploit them for violence.

The pandemic spurred 15 months of economic anxiety and isolation. A spike in gun violence serves a reminder that an undercurrent of stress has been slow to recede.

Ontic’s 2021 Mid-Year Outlook State of Protective Intelligence ReportThe Escalating Physical Threat Landscape: A Clarion Call for Corporate Protective Intelligence found that 75% of physical security and IT executives say that, based on current unmanageable physical threat data, physical threats will increase exponentially as they begin to re-open and return to the office. Additionally, 60% feel less prepared to handle physical security for their company since the beginning of the year, and 74% saying they are under more pressure than ever before to keep their CEO and employees at the company safe.

The cadence of threats is unrelenting: One-third of respondents said they had investigated one physical security threat at their facilities each week this year alone, and 22% said they had investigated between two and five physical security threats. This puts companies on pace to receive hundreds of physical threats and pursue investigations in 2021.

One challenge facing the security industry is how to balance the remote, but legitimate risk of an active shooter situation with company culture. Despite warnings from federal law enforcement that the easing of pandemic restrictions could further spark an uptick in mass shootings, survey respondents shared that 55% of security executives say their CEO believes training employees to prepare for potential workplace violence will create a culture of fear, and does not see the ultimate risk to business continuity.

Twenty-six percent of respondents say that their company has never addressed the potential for workplace violence and employees would not know what to do if an active shooter entered their facilities.

On the other hand, 19% say their CEO does not believe their company will ever be a target for significant physical harm and does not value employee training and preparedness for dealing with such crises.

Promisingly, 51% say they have a physical threat action plan in place and employees receive regular training and 36% do training for workplace violence from time to time but have no formal program.

Yet, there are signs of progress.

Companies are beginning to integrate physical security, HR, and cybersecurity teams with an eye toward access control, visitor management systems and threat actor identification software integration. They’re hiring protective intelligence analysts, integrating tools to identify threats, and they are building fusion centers to handle operations.

But even then, security professionals agree with the characterization of transformation at their company as moving at a snail’s pace. More than nine out of 10 agree that the industry needs a technology driven platform for managing security threats. At the same time, 72% agreed their firms were still managing physical and cyber threats independently through a hodgepodge of disparate manual and digital solutions.

Can companies catch up? Crucial to this effort is a coherent plan to turn raw information into intelligence. Security teams need tools and processes to identify, assess, and mitigate threats to their organization, and the only way they can get there is through the use of cross-functional teams that share information. That’s the nature of protective intelligence. It’s never been more important than in this era of unmanaged threats.