January 2016 - June 2018
Grupo Irena was hired by a major multinational firm to provide a permanent security coordinator during the construction of one of Mexico’s largest ever transport infrastructure projects.
ROLE OF SECURITY COORDINATOR
Proposing, designing and implementing all security measures needed to guarantee safe working conditions and environment, even at moments of crisis or risk.
Ensure protection of key personnel, sensitive materials and facilities against kidnapping, extortion, theft, infiltration and other security threats.
Before a project starts, identification of potential risks at location and recommendation of needed measures (CCTV, security guards, fences, alarms, lighting, etc.)
INTERVIEW: Here, we provide a comprehensive interview with the coordinator after completion of the project, covering the scope of the role, the risks identified the protocols put in place, coordination between Grupo Irena, the client and the authorities, and more besides.
HIRING A SECURITY COORDINATOR
Grupo Irena: Could you briefly describe the role of the security coordinator? What safety aspects do you monitor before and during the project?
Security Coordinator: The Security Coordinator is responsible for proposing, designing and implementing a full security plan to ensure personnel, materials and facilities are part of a safe working environment at all times.
In this project, the most valuable assets to be protected included key personnel (project and area managers), sensitive materials (attractive targets are theft) and sensitive facilities (covering all buildings, construction areas, offices and warehouses).
Before a project starts, if time permits, a full revision is made of the facilities to identify areas for improvement and the inclusion of needed tools to reduce threats: CCTV, Human surveillance, fences, alarm systems, radio system, lighting, etc.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
– Geographical: access routes, neighboring properties, schedule and intensity of local activity
-Social: location of project, economic activity in area, crime statistics
– Operational: what kind of work to be carried out where, type and number of employees, duration of project, type, quantity and value of inputs
-Criminal: common crime or organized crime, risk of robbery/extortion/sabotage, risk of protests/blockades/strikes
Irena: What factors are included in your initial safety plan?
SC: The geographical element: the location of important access routes, the type of road, lighting, the type of nearby or neighboring properties, the schedule and intensity of activity.
The social element: where is the location (in an industrial corridor, open field, rural or urban setting), what is the main economic activity in the area, crime statistics for the block, neighborhood, city.
The operational element: what kind of work will be carried out where (administrative, operational, production, mixed), what type and number of employees will be where, the duration of the project, what value do the inputs have and what is their demand, who might be most interested in seizing them.
The risk element: common crime or organized crime, robbery, extortion, threats, sabotage, clashes with opposition groups, blockades in the case of public works or extraction industries.
Irena: What advantage does the client obtain in working with Grupo Irena, an expert in Mexico and Latin America?
SC: A full coordinated team backs up the coordinator’s actions and plans through exhaustive analysis of security conditions. The client does not only hire a coordinator, they hire the analysis, planning and knowledge capacity of Irena for an area, region or country. We constantly monitor criminal activity in every state and identify points which need to be addressed.
Once the project begins, however, I am fully empowered to make daily decisions while always reporting back to Irena about the status of the project and relevant challenges.
“The client does not only hire a coordinator, they hire the analysis, planning and knowledge capacity of Irena for an area, region or country.”
RELATIONS WITH THE CLIENT
Irena: How did the client handle the relationship with you and your authority in the project?
SC: The client had a clear idea from the beginning and always accepted the complete autonomy given to me. They understood the role, its limitations and that security is an ever-changing affair.
On some occasions, foreign executives had trouble fully grasping the current criminal situation in Mexico. However, providing them with precise data helped them understand the exposure to critical risks and how to reduce the possibility of being targeted by criminals. Statistics and hard data always work.
“Providing precise data helps to get across exposure to critical risks and how to reduce the possibility of being targeted by criminals. Statistics and hard data always work.”
Irena: A high-profile infrastructure project in Mexico attracts the attention of undesirables. What threats did you face and how did you handle them?
SC: The most common situation, as the project drew to a close, was the theft of common wire. This type of robbery happens without violence and is usually carried out by guards and staff with access to the material. Complicit guards look the other way while the thieves cut and remove the copper. At times, we received indications the thieves might have been in cahoots with small local gangs but no violence was ever seen.
Our protocol details how to handle these occasions and security guards have an action manual explaining what to do, adapted to the type of cable being guarded, the facilities, shifts, schedules, working conditions. Supervisors also carry out regular checks. We also are strict in terms of changing staff who are absent from work, who do not follow instructions, or who we discover have been connected to shady acts in the past.
Some engineers faced extortion threats but within their personal lives. They were provided with counseling support, legal advice and physical protection when required. The extortion threats always stopped, showing good results.