Imagining the Unimaginable: A Letter From Executive Director Fred Burton


As we think about the unique challenges that we have faced over the past few months, it’s a good time to scan the horizon for what lies ahead.

The Omicron variant arrived during a holiday season when many, not including myself however, had anticipated a reemergence from the pandemic. Supply chain issues led to a line of cargo ships waiting outside of major ports and experts say a return to a “normal” supply chain is unlikely in 2022. And as many states end mask mandates, the potential of new variants of Covid still exists.

Experienced security leaders might recognize something of a paradox. Economic stress usually coincides with social upheaval and a rise in threats. But as the economy breaks records, social upheaval and threats against companies persist. Just last month Homeland Security issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin regarding the continued heightened threat environment across the U.S., its fifth bulletin in the past year, noting the convergence of multiple factors “has increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the threat environment.” More so than they did in 2021, our research shows, security professionals “feel less” prepared to handle the greater frequency and volume of physical threats coming at them in 2022.

Our newly released 2022 State of Protective Intelligence Report which surveyed physical security, legal and compliance leaders at large American companies, shows how they are responding to conflicting signals of the world around them. One bright spot: 93% of respondents told us that their company has programs in place to address mental health issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, which is good news and compassionate response to an issue that many security experts have worried might spur workplace violence. 

On the other hand, 39% of respondents said their company has never conducted workplace violence prevention training, and 51% said their company resists workplace violence training because “it could lead to a culture of fear.” We frequently see that the inability to imagine the unimaginable, which has resulted in passive, reactive stances and inconsistent actions that ignore risks to business continuity. Our latest research supports this. 

Our study also finds that while companies anticipate an uptick in threats, the percentage of security executives that said they expected to miss more than half of the physical threats their companies face jumped from 23% in 2021 to 42% this year. In past surveys, we found that a lack of unified intelligence contributed to missed threats and harm. Now, we’re seeing an almost universal adoption of technologies that consolidate and integrate intelligence feeds from the security department, with inputs from security, cyber, human resources, legal, and compliance. In sum, creating a unified, holistic system of record.

Yes, the world continues to present new challenges to physical security teams. But what we see, again and again, is that they continue to adapt, leveraging new technologies to build a more secure and situational aware environment. On the whole, I think that’s cause for optimism.

Executive Director, Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence


Hear security leaders share insights from the 2022 State of Protective Intelligence report in the 2022 Security Outlook webinar on-demand. To learn more about our findings, download the report here