Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Three Tips for Reducing Correctional Officer Stress

Inmate takes keys from guard
Correctional facilities are stressful places. Correctional officers (COs) must deal with the worst society has to offer on a daily basis and face one of the highest rates of nonfatal workplace-related injuries in the nation. Though pay rates have improved in recent years, they still lag behind the national median.

These things contribute to high turnover and chronic understaffing — and stressed COs. Excessive stress can be detrimental to professional performance and personal lives. And of course mistakes inside a prison can have dire consequences.

For example, a key left unattended can be quickly and quietly swiped by a passing inmate. Depending on what that key goes to, that inmate could have easy access to a cell, a medicine cabinet, or any other number of mission-critical assets that can be used against a CO.

Managing stress can improve your staff's effectiveness and prevent mistakes, helping to make your COs happier, healthier, and safer.

So what can be done to prevent mistakes and reduce stress? Here are some tips.

Automate Processes

One of the simplest ways to make life easier for COs and prevent mistakes is to take a look at your current operating procedures. Many of your processes were probably set in stone years ago and haven’t changed much since. Are you certain those processes are the most efficient way for your COs to do their job today? There are tools available to help you automate certain tasks, giving your COs a break and making your facility more secure.

One area you can automate is securing and checking out keys or assets like radios. Using pegboards or cabinets with paper access logs can lead to big headaches when the logs aren’t being completed correctly every time. Consider using an electronic key and asset control system that automatically logs every time a CO accesses a key or an asset secured in a connected locker, preventing mistakes and giving supervisors a quick and easy way to run audits and know exactly who has items.

If you do introduce a new tool for improving operations, be sure you keep staff trained to get the most out of it, which brings us to the next tip.

Offer Targeted Training

Training plays a critical role in everything that happens at a correctional facility, but unfortunately the immediate need for guards has sometimes led to extended training falling to the wayside as COs are rushed into duty. Training must continue after orientation, especially if new policies and procedures are introduced.

If you bring a new tool into your facility, be sure the vendor offers a way to keep staff trained on the system. You also need buy-in from your supervisors, who will make sure the tools are being used correctly and in a secure manner. Failing to use a system’s features, such as alerts when keys or assets aren’t returned in time, can still leave you in a dangerous spot if a key were to go missing.

If you aren’t addressing your staff’s needs, including training on new processes, you’re simply setting yourself up for more turnover.

Promote Staff Wellness

Hollywood’s depiction of COs is often that of a tough and burly man who doesn’t back down from anything. While your COs are certainly tough for dealing with what they do day in and day out, they are still human. Stress and pressure can get to them as much as anybody else in any other line of work.

If possible, offer further training courses on managing stress and de-escalating problems with other people, including inmates and fellow staff members. The more effectively people can work together, the more efficient your facility will be. Also consider coordinating discounts with local gyms or health spas to promote a healthy and well staff.

Correctional facilities can be a tough place to be every day, but you should keep an eye toward make life easier for your COs. Tools that work for them and not against them, proper training, and a focus on improving general wellness can equip your COs for a safer and more enriching job experience.

Read our whitepaper “How Key Control Helps Corrections Staff Cope” for more information on improving your guards’ lives inside.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Do your base housing key control practices make life difficult for staff and soldiers?

Soldier sitting on dorm bed
Being a soldier isn't an 8-5 job. Even on stateside military bases, soldiers often have overnight guard duty and training missions or provide mission-critical support for operations on the other side of the planet. At your base's unaccompanied housing (UH), soldiers are in and out of dorms at all hours.

However, day-to-day management of your unaccompanied housing certainly is an 8-5 job — or at least you have an office with set hours of operation. So what happens when a soldier is locked out after hours? Who is responsible for making a late-night trip to the base to let a soldier in or check out a spare key? What happens when that spare key isn't where it's supposed to be?

Key control is a 24-hour mission, and even one misplaced key or after-hours trip can cause a litany of headaches for several people. While you've probably taken some steps to manage keys, whether with a pegboard or a locking drawer in your office, these practices do little to make your staff's lives easier, whether during office hours or late at night.

Here are some ways modernizing your processes with electronic key control can help improve your management office.

Run an Efficient Office

Whether your UH office's employees are non-commissioned officers (NCOs), civilians, or a mix of both, virtually all of them have job duties that aren't specific to maintaining a key cabinet 24 hours a day. Even if you do limit key management to one employee, every time someone needs a key, the key manager must stop whatever else they're doing to check it out. And who has that responsibility when that employee is out sick?

Key control doesn't have to be a tedious process for all involved, disrupting productivity every time someone needs a key. If you're looking for a better way to manage keys, consider an electronic key control system that restricts access to authorized user with proper login credentials. Such a system should make the key checkout process quick and painless, freeing up employees to focus on other tasks rather than constantly monitoring a pegboard.

Know Where Keys Are

Regardless of how you manage the keys in your UH office, you've certainly had to deal with a situation where a key that should have been on the pegboard or in the cabinet wasn't there. If you use a paper access log for tracking key use, it might indicate that the key wasn't checked out, but it's clearly missing. How many staff and soldiers would you have to question to find the key? How long would it take to find it?

You can eliminate the need for tedious and often flawed paper access logs by using an electronic key control system that automatically tracks every transaction in the system. A simple report should tell you exactly who took keys and when, giving you a verifiable audit trail and preventing employees from wasting time on a wild goose chase to track down a key. You should also use automatic alerts to let managers know if a key hasn't been returned to the system in a reasonable amount of time, ensuring keys are where they belong at all times.

Reduce After-Hours Trips

Now consider the scenario where a soldier is returning from an evening training operation and is locked out of his or her unit. Not only is that soldier going to be stuck waiting for an office employee to drive to the base to check out a key, that employee must also take time out of their personal life to take care of the problem. Does that sound like the model of an efficient military operation?

Equip your UH residents to help themselves in a secure way by using an electronic key control system that offers a total lockdown solution for every key in the system. Using a secure biometric fingerprint reader gives soldiers access to the system, while the total lockdown capability limits their access to their specific key only, protecting other units in the building. This eliminates the need for office staff to make a late-night drive to the base and gets soldiers in their units in a timely manner.

Key control doesn't have to be a headache for your office and can even be used to give your staff a break. Visit our website for more information about choosing a key control vendor or how electronic key control helped the housing office at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Best Practices for Dealership Key Control During the COVID-19 Crisis

Person wearing protective gloves and disinfecting a car key
In a dealership, keys change hands frequently between sales consultants, managers, and of course customers. But as the world is faced with the rise of COVID-19, businesses everywhere are implementing new prevention measures to protect both employees and customers.

If your dealership is still able to continue operations in some capacity, integrating recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) into your key control will show customers that your business prioritizes their health and safety.

To ensure your key control systems remain secure while keeping your employees safe, here are tips you can follow:

Minimize Contact With Customers

When recording a buyer’s information, take a picture of their driver’s license rather than scanning or photocopying it. This will prevent possible contamination of your hands and various surfaces around your dealership.

In the service department, encourage staff to wear gloves and masks when interacting with customers and handling their keys and vehicles. (Be sure to follow best practices for personal protective equipment use or else they won't be effective.) Before returning a customer's key fob, disinfect it and place it in a sealable bag (see the sample customer letters in NADA's "20 Group Best Practices: COVID-19").

To further reduce customer contact, some dealerships are providing touch-free pickup and drop-off services for test drives, vehicle purchases, and service appointments.

Link Your Key Control Data to Customer Records

Automatically linking key control data to customer and prospect records by integrating your key control system with your DMS allows sales associates and management to see which cars are off or on the lot. Associates can confidently practice social distancing and allow prospects to take solo test drives, while still maintaining accountability and security of the keys.

If you’re offering any kind of vehicle delivery service, it’s important to secure customer keys and maintain a record of who handled each key and when. Unfortunately, thieves in some areas are exploiting the coronavirus situation and stealing keys and vehicles from local dealerships. Taking steps to protect the keys in your care and keeping an accurate audit trail will help prevent theft and protect your dealership from liability.

Set up Remote Access to Your Systems

If you’re working from home, don’t forget to set up remote access to your key control system so you can manage user access and view various system reports. For example, key activity reports will provide a picture of what is happening in the dealership, and keys out reports can alert management to any problems.

Disinfect Keys and Hardware

Using EPA-approved products, disinfect keys, key tags, and key control systems before and after each person touches them, or at least every hour. Please check the manufacturer’s cleaning and disinfecting instructions for electronic key cards, fobs, and hardware. Print a copy of our key control system cleaning guidelines and keep it near the system as a reminder.

For key control systems that use a fingerprint scanner for user authentication, consider temporarily switching your login method to a fob and/or password. While fobs, keyboards, and fingerprint scanners are all high-touch surfaces, you can use a broader range of cleaners and disinfectants on fobs and keyboards. If you do use a fingerprint scanner for system access, make sure you follow proper procedures for cleaning the device and wash your hands thoroughly after each use.

Doing your part to protect everyone during this time will build trust and confidence in your employees and customers. Improving your dealership’s preparedness against widespread illness will not only benefit your business but your customers as well.

For additional guidance, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about adapting your key control practices during this time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Three Reasons Your Assisted Living Facility Needs Key Control

Man in wheelchair with nurse
If your parents or grandparents moved into an assisted or senior living facility, what level of care and safety would you want them to receive? You shouldn't go to bed at night worrying about an employee of the facility using their access to steal from your family members.

Yet, we repeatedly hear stories in the news about assisted living employees taking advantage of our loved ones.

Take, for example, the employee at an Alabama senior living facility who was charged with stealing drugs and other items from the facility. Or the employee at a Texas senior living facility who misused a key to access a resident's room and steal cash. At the Texas facility, the family wasn't notified of the theft and an arrest wasn't made until three months later!

Elder abuse is a serious crime, but as you can see, some facilities still fail to provide residents the level of safety and security they deserve. When you can't hold your employees accountable for their access, you put your residents and your business at risk.

Here are three reasons your facility needs better key control.

Managing Your Reputation

In an age where everybody has a smartphone and a social media account, how the public perceives your facility is incredibly important. Don't fall for the idea that the elderly don't have smartphones or use them to talk about their experience on social media — many do! Even if they don't, they will certainly complain to relatives, who will take to social media and review sites to vent their frustrations.

If your employees are abusing their access or your facility isn't safe, the internet is going to hear about it. Key control isn't simply about keeping keys secure. It helps you provide a safer and more secure living experience. Using an electronic key control system that automatically tracks access will hold your employees accountable and ensure that keys are returned promptly. Such systems should also be capable of notifying those smartphone-using residents or a family member when a key is checked out, giving them peace of mind and the knowledge that you respect their property.

Reducing Liability Risks

When something goes wrong at your facility and you can't hold your employees accountable, residents will hold your business responsible. An employee might be arrested for stealing from a resident, but the lawsuits will follow if you didn't do enough to prevent the employee from abusing their access.

You must take steps to better control your keys and track employee access to residents and their rooms. Manual access logs are often rife with errors or ignored outright, and keys left on a pegboard are not much more secure than leaving them on a desk. An electronic key control system will give you a verifiable and accurate audit trail, helping you reduce risk and know exactly who is responsible for a key at any given moment.

Keeping Up With an Evolving Industry

The landscape of senior and assisted living is evolving, giving people a number of options outside of traditional nursing homes. It's more important than ever for your facility to provide top-notch service and be a safe and secure place for your residents to live.

The industry has recently seen the growth of home healthcare options, as well as the emergence of multi-generational housing, senior-friendly neighborhoods, and senior cohousing. While you provide an important service to our society's elderly, the reality is it is still a business and you must remain competitive with the variety of options available. When you make your facility a safe place to live with employees who care about your residents and respect their property, you'll be able to set yourself apart.

Don't the residents of your assisted living facility deserve the same level of care and safety you'd want for your own family members? The industry is changing, and it's time to step up to the plate for all your residents. Take a look at our eBook "5 Steps to Make Your Facility More Secure" to learn more about key control.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

How does your dealership find value in tools that don’t directly generate revenue?

Price vs. value scale conceptIf you spend $1,000 on training and it helps your sales team generate an extra $2,000 in revenue, most people would agree that the training was a good investment.
There are a lot of tools, services, and other investments your dealership can spend money on that will have obvious returns. There’s training, marketing, salaries, dealership management systems. You can usually correlate such investments to sales figures, reinforcing why you made the investment – or why you shouldn’t have.

But what about those things you pay for that don’t have an obvious ROI?

For example, consider the new coffee maker you purchased for your service lounge. Can you put a dollar figure on the ROI of a new coffee pot? Probably not. But it does have subtle value to your dealership.

Like a mini-fridge stocked with bottles of water, that coffee maker gives your customers an extra little perk — pun not intended — for spending their time and service dollars with you. This improves their experience and their perception of your dealership, making them more likely to return for future service or even to buy a car.

Consider also your employees who get their day started with a little coffee. That coffee maker helps them attack their day feeling more alert, efficient, and productive. That’s a win-win for your staff and the dealership.

As dealership profit margins tighten and you look for ways to cut costs, you might look to avoid purchases of tools, services, and other items that don’t directly affect your revenue. However, while making healthy budget decisions is always a smart move, you should consider what such purchases would mean for your dealership.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before moving forward:

Does the tool or service make your dealership more efficient?

Recall the coffee maker? It might not seem like it on the surface, but that purchase can help your employees be more efficient. You could see a similar boost to efficiency with other tools, such as an electronic key control system that secures keys and keeps employees from wasting time tracking down missing sets. Tools that automate processes and smoothly integrate with other systems in your dealership would also save employees time, allowing them to focus on their core jobs. Make sure the tool or service you’re purchasing actually makes your dealership better, even when the dollar ROI isn’t obvious.

Does the tool or service improve the customer experience?

Some purchases you make, like back-end software or an electronic key control system, won’t even be obvious to your customers, but those tools and services can certainly affect how the customers feel about your dealership. The more efficient and effective your sales and service teams are, the happier your customers will be about their experience. Just as the dollar ROI won’t be obvious on these purchases, the effect on customer experience won’t be either. Be certain that the tool or service actually helps you serve customer needs better.

What kind of support does the vendor provide after the purchase?

Many vendors will promise you the world then disappear after you sign on the dotted line. In order for a tool or service that disrupts your processes to really serve its purpose, you’re going to want continued engagement with support and training professionals. Avoid being left twisting in the wind and make sure the vendor can help you get the most out of your investment. Your success with the tool or service should be as important to the vendor as it is to you.

If you’re considering a big purchase for your dealership and you’re questioning the ROI, review these questions before you make a decision. The tool or service you’re evaluating might not have an obvious dollar impact beyond the cost, but a more efficient workforce and happier customers will pay dividends in the long run.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

IoT and Smart Locks in Multifamily: 10 Statistics to Think About

Mobile phone controlling a door lock
With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) — everyday objects that are connected to the internet — physical security and cybersecurity are intersecting. Smart locks are a prime example of that. In the multifamily industry, IoT-enabled locks are joining properties’ list of amenities. Before your property trades in its traditional locks, take a look at the following statistics and consider whether smart locks would be an asset or a liability.

The Growth of IoT

1. IoT devices will generate up to $35.6 billion in revenue by 2028.
2. By 2025, there will be an estimated 75 billion IoT devices worldwide.
3. Approximately 127 new devices connect to the internet every second.
4. IoT household penetration is projected to increase from 7.7 percent in 2019 to 18.1 percent in 2023.

People’s Attitudes Toward Smart Locks

5. 65 percent of baby boomers and 86 percent of millennials would pay more for an apartment with intelligent upgrades, such as locks.
6. 61 percent of millennial renters look specifically for apartments with smart locks.
7. 72 percent of smart device owners say the technology makes them feel safer.


8. 63 percent would move out of an apartment due to lack of security.
9. 43 percent of households experience internet outages at least monthly, which could affect smart lock effectiveness.
10. 64 percent of IoT networks in a study had unencrypted passwords traversing the network.

To help you in your decision about whether or not to implement smart locks, download our whitepaper “Are Smart Locks a Smart Move for Your Multifamily Property?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Preventing Food Contamination: Who Has the Keys?

Ice cream factory tankManagers in the food production and processing industry already understand the importance of preventing contamination. It's not simply a case of complying with federal and international regulations. Even one injury or illness that's traced back to one of your facilities can have a long-lasting impact on your business.

There are, of course, the financial implications of having a facility shut down for extensive cleaning and repairs, or the variety of legal settlements and court cases. It could also take years for a brand to recover from the loss of public trust after a recall or other incident.

That's why it is imperative for food production facilities to operate at peak safety performance at all times and to take all reasonable steps to prevent contamination — incidental or not. Especially the not.

Whether it's perpetrated by a disgruntled employee or a foreign terrorist, intentional adulteration is a real and terrifying concern in the food industry. Government regulations are leading businesses to beef up their security as plants put locks on tanks, install more surveillance, and invest in security training.

However, one area that many in the industry might be forgetting is how these extra locks and keys are being handled. Locking up an easily accessible liquid tank is a great step, but who holds the keys? How many copies of that key are floating around your facility? Do you know when the tank was accessed? And who did so?

Here are some ways an electronic key control system can help you make your facility more secure and mitigate the risk of intentional adulteration.

Controlling Access to Sensitive Assets

Access control is the front line — and sometimes the last defense — of security for your entire facility. A gate manned by a guard, an exterior door unlocked by a key, or a storage tank secured with a padlock are all examples of controlled access. However, many businesses fall for the dangerous mindset that once somebody is inside the facility, that person must belong there and whatever they're doing is acceptable. Of course that's not always true.

Vendors and other approved guests might have basic access to a facility, but that doesn't mean they should have complete freedom. Likewise, not all employees inside the building need unrestricted access. A custodian shouldn't be able to open a locked food storage bin, for example.

That's why it's important to take your basic physical defense measures, like security gates and locked doors, a step further by controlling who has access to keys. When granting user permissions in an electronic key control system, only employees who need access to certain keys to perform their jobs should be authorized to use such keys. If the system locks keys down individually, employees who use the system can't take keys they're not supposed to have. This better controls access to sensitive areas and prevents inappropriate key use.

Holding Employees Accountable

Brewmaster checks tanks in a breweryDespite all your best efforts, mistakes happen. In fact, human error is often cited as a cause of all sorts of business headaches — data breaches, damaged equipment, and even food recalls. Even when somebody is doing their best, trying to make sure your company is performing at peak efficiency and meeting federal regulations, a key can still be misplaced.

The important thing is how you react to a missing key, if you know to react at all. Replacing a padlock might be inexpensive, but what if that key lands in the hands of somebody who isn't supposed to have access and is predisposed to abuse that access? How long would it take you to be aware the key is even missing? Your electronic key control system should have alerts when keys aren't returned so you can react quickly and prevent potential problems.

This also lets employees know they'll be held accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. If they know management will be alerted if a key isn't returned, they're more likely to be a good steward of their access and not simply grab an unused copy of a key from a pegboard. Misplaced keys are a thing of the past when every access point is automatically logged and securely backed up.

Protecting Against Insider Threats

You might not be aware you have a disgruntled employee until it's too late, which is why it's important to minimize access to items that can be easily adulterated. This is especially true for employees who were recently terminated or resigned. An employee who left on good terms but still has access to the facility is a potential threat.

Be sure you remove secure access rights from former employees as soon as possible after their termination or resignation. Whether they have access to physical keys or electronic key cards, they should be unable to reach secure areas or tanks without an escort. Any keys they're carrying should be returned to an electronic key control system immediately and their login credentials revoked.

Whatever method you take for securing your food processing facility's keys, be sure you commit to the process and actually hold employees accountable for how it's used. Enforce new rules consistently and continually, otherwise you leave your company at risk of intentional adulteration.

For more information on protecting your business, check out our eBook 5 Steps to Make Your Facility More Secure.