Harris Poll Shows Physical Security is Crucial to Worker Well-being in Large Facilities

By: Anil Chitkara, Evolv Co-founder

Workers are just as concerned about physical safety as COVID protection – and not satisfied with traditional metal detectors.

While effectively dealing with COVID-19 is top-of-mind for facilities managers at large workplaces, a recent Harris Poll survey we commissioned indicates concern over physical threats are just as or even more concerning. And the survey makes clear that, while workers welcome screening measures to promote safety, if such measures create lines and crowding, they simply won’t be acceptable in the COVID era.

New research by The Harris Poll, conducted in mid-Sept. through early October 2020, surveyed more than 500 people who work in a factory, warehouse or distribution center that typically houses at least 100 workers. The survey covered workers in manufacturing, wholesale/retail, and transportation/utilities industries. These are the folks who are moving essential goods and services through our economy, including the pharmaceutical and food industries as well as other essential goods and services.

Concern over crime eclipses COVID

Results show workers are certainly concerned about contracting COVID-19, with 78% saying they are somewhat or very concerned. But an equal 78% are concerned about mass shootings. Other forms are violence are likewise quite concerning:

  • Street crime: 79% somewhat or very concerned
  • Protest-related civil unrest and violence: 71%
  • Terrorism: 70%

78% of workers are concerned about contracting COVID-19, the same percentage who are concerned about mass shootings.

More than 4 in 5 respondents (83%) think crime has increased over the past year and 77% say the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than a year ago.

Those concerns extend to the workplace, with well over a third – 39% – saying they are somewhat or very concerned about their physical security while at work. Fearing for your safety is no way to go through your work day.

It’s not surprising, then, that workers do appreciate steps their employers take to keep them safe, with 92% reporting the safety measures at their workplace make them feel “mostly” or “very safe.” However, the majority of that group, 56%, was in the “mostly safe” camp, along with 8% who report feeling mostly or very unsafe.

More than a third of workers report they are somewhat or very concerned about their physical security while at work.

Part of the problem may be the type of security measures in place, with ID cards and swipe access being the most common, reported by 75% of workers. Only about a third have security or threat awareness training or a staffed gatehouse, and fewer yet have metal detectors (27%) or bag checks (25%).  Clearly, there’s room for improvement.

Protecting the workplace

In terms of what measures would help workers feel safer, when it comes to COVID they include simple measures such as hand sanitizer stations as well as less common ones such as walk-through body temperature measurements (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

For physical security, nearly four out of five workers (79%) think metal detectors are necessary where people congregate, including workplaces. A majority agree such screening provides important benefits, namely:

  • The ability to detect obvious threats: 74%
  • Providing a sense of safety: 73%
  • Acting as a deterrent: 57%

Nearly 4 out of 5 workers think metal detectors are necessary where people congregate, including workplaces.

Traditional metal detector screening involves emptying bags and pockets and potentially being subject to a pat-down. Even in the COVID era, such measures induce more positive feelings than negative – but the negatives are significant. Asked how this type of screening would make them feel, 69% said “calm” but nearly a third (32%) said “anxious.” And while 72% said it would make them “satisfied,” again 32% said it would make them “irritated.” Sixteen percent went so far as to say such screening would make them “fearful.”

It’s clear that COVID-19 is driving up levels of fear and anxiousness. Asked how COVID-19 made them feel about traditional screening methods, respondents reported feeling:

  • Less calm: 33%
  • Less confident: 28%
  • Less satisfied: 30%
  • More anxious: 34%
  • More fearful: 28%
  • More irritated: 33%

Workers report having a number of specific concerns about traditional metal detector screening, including long lines, the touching of their belongings and violation of social distancing guidelines (see Figure 2). Fewer but still significant numbers of workers cite issues such as the possibility for human error, too many false positives (such as a metal detector alerting on a harmless object) and the need for physical pat-downs and searches.

Figure 2

Here’s another stat from the poll that I found fairly astounding: When workers were asked what they would do if they saw a security line in which people were not socially distancing, more than half (55%) said they would not join the line.

A touchless screening experience

I discussed this issue, along with many others, in a webinar with Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll. “When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [workers are] not interested in that,” she said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.

The vast majority of respondents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.

That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screening system; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives, which means there’s almost no need for pat-downs.

All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.

New workplace requirements

The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for workers, their physical safety is just as important. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep workers safe and secure.

Workers will appreciate facilities that implement a touchless approach, as 83% agree that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a workplace makes them more comfortable. And more than three quarters (77%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.

With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and ensure employees you value their safety, making them more at ease at work – and, likely, more productive. Click here to learn more.

Watch Digital Threshold Live Episode 3 here:

Download our infographic for additional statistics.

What Role Can Technology Play in Building and School Security?


By Christian Wilson, MarketScale – August 12, 2019

Building security continues to be an increasingly important issue for business owners and building managers. Over the last decade, everywhere from commercial office buildings to retail centers and college campuses have been subject to violent attacks taking place within their walls.

With a wave of modern technology taking over workplaces in America, building managers are beginning to utilize things like Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition software to improve security measures and as a result help save lives.

Drone Surveillance

While smart security systems have played an important role on the ground, many companies are exploring how to better secure premises’ from buildings’ immediate airspace using unmanned aerial surveillance, more commonly known as drones. Security firms like Nightingale Security offer a Robotic Aerial Security Service that provides clients with drones to provide a new-level of aerial surveillance.

There are several benefits corporations can gain from drone security. This service utilizes drones for autonomous patrol missions, autonomous threat response, and manual surveillance missions. This application can be critical not only for quick response to a significant event like an oil spill, break-in or locating a trespasser, but also helps security officers on the ground have a quick and reliable perspective of the events with a birds-eye view.

Facial Recognition

Advancements in building security have been especially imperative for school districts nationwide. On this front, every second is critical when it comes to assessing a threat and protecting the safety of countless children and staff. While most schools have some sort of security team and camera infrastructure in place, the Putnam County School System in Oklahoma has gone above and beyond. It has invested $10 million over the last four years, and in a recent major upgrade, installed facial recognition software in its security camera systems.

According to KFOR News in Oklahoma, “Campus police plan to use the system to track a short list of people prohibited from entering the building. The software allows users to input a “watch list” of suspects, that is, anyone who’s not supposed to be in the building. In practice, the cameras with facial recognition are able to positively identify an intruder within 15 seconds of entering the building. Within 30 seconds, campus police are aware of the presence of the suspect.”

The main purpose of this is to add an extra layer of security to ensure people like ex-employees and their spouses, expelled students, or runaways don’t cause any harm or distractions in a place they aren’t supposed to be.

Artificial Intelligence

The high-capacity data processing power AI holds translates into big implications for large-scale access and crowd control. Companies like Evolv Technology offer physical security systems comprised of an AI-powered screening system working alongside facial-recognition to help enhance security and ease accessibility for patrons in places like sporting events and airports.

The systems are set-up at a checkpoint in a building and the video surveillance uses machine learning algorithms to match a face placed on a “watchlist” from the cameras. The system even has predetermined threat levels set for individuals on the watchlist. For example, if a red flag is displayed on an unauthorized person, they are immediately located, detained, and removed from the property. If a person brings up a yellow flag, meaning they are an undetermined threat, a person is physically dispatched to monitor the person and make a determination on a proper course of action. The company claims this process takes a matter of seconds.

This technology can help make patrons in large crowds feel safer, keep staff in these high-volume areas better prepared, and help mitigate bottlenecks and long-lines so many are accustomed to in large crowds.

Technology is Driving Modern Security

Now more than ever there is a renewed sense of urgency for companies and building managers to make sure the people occupying these buildings -are the safest they can be. The marriage between data, surveillance, and security has proven to have some serious benefits behind it. There are, however, still challenges these security firms face in this new era of security. The balance between personal privacy and general security has and will continue to spark debate and it is up to those in charge of security to make sure no line is crossed at the expense of someone’s privacy. In the meantime, any advancement in security is a needed one because at the end of the day, the better the technology in a building, the safer people inside of it will be.

Corporate Offices Deserve More Than the Same Old Thing in Security

Office Building Security

By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO, Evolv Technology –

In April, Nasim Najafi Aghdam walked onto YouTube Inc.’s Silicon Valley headquarters and shot three employees before killing herself, because she was angry about company policies she felt limited views of her videos. A few days later, Jimmy Lam walked into a United Parcel Service office in San Francisco and killed three and wounded two more before killing himself. In June, Jarrod Ramos killed five staffers of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis over a long-running dispute with the newspaper.

These are just three tragic signs of the growing scourge of mass shootings in corporate offices. While horrific school shootings have understandably dominated the news in recent years, workplace attacks have been more common. According to the FBI, 43 percent of mass shootings in the U.S. between 2000 and 2016 (the most recent data available) occurred in workplaces and other commercial buildings, compared to 22 percent in schools and on campuses.

Given the wide availability of guns and little chance of meaningful gun control, it’s safe to assume the frequency of such tragedies will continue to increase. Yet the tools available to companies that want to take proactive action remain unchanged: invest in metal detectors, and in the security staffers to operate them. While better than nothing, this combination of investments will never deliver the effective, affordable and operationally viable security systems companies deserve. Having been in the weapons detection business for over twenty years, here’s why I say this:

Metal Detectors:  Before I tear it down, I want to give this 90-year-old technology its due. If you want to find a small Saturday night special or box cutter, even a middle-of-the-road metal detector will find it. And metal detectors definitely deliver an effective deterrent. If one would-be killer decides to scrap his plan after seeing the metal detector at the front door of your company, the investment was worth it.

Screening with metal detectors is slow and cumbersome, they don’t provide security designed for the pace of life.

That said, metal detectors on the market today were not designed for the modern corporation. Most remain optimized for detecting small bits of metal, even if it causes long delays as workers queue up to empty their purses, pockets, backpacks and briefcases to be screened. With increasingly mobile, fluid workforces that include a high percentage of contractors and part-time workers, companies cannot afford the level of acuity that is required at an airport or other “hardened” facilities.

We took a very different approach. Along with optimizing for detection, we optimized for throughput and operational efficiency – in other words, a better visitor experience. Systems need to focus on actual threats, not every coin or key—and do so without requiring people to empty their pockets and purses, take off their shoes or remove laptops from their briefcases.

For today’s offices, embracing a risk-based security approach that recognizes the difference between low risk items like pen knives and actual threats, along with deploying high throughput screening systems is necessary to create lasting and effective security.

Screening with metal detectors is labor intensive and the units themselves are uninviting.

Staffing Up: Having more people working at checkpoints doesn’t necessarily make your environment safer, but it will make your company somewhat poorer. Capital cost—the price tag for the metal detection systems—is not the problem. According to the Department of Justice, a middle-of-the-line metal detector will cost around $3,500. The problem is that it typically takes at least three people to man each system — one to make sure individuals divested of anything metallic that might create a false alarm, another person to check the bags, and a third person to do secondary searches in the case of an alarm – legitimate or otherwise.

Venues, airports and office buildings need to consider technology that does the heavy lifting with fewer guards required. One that can differentiate between everyday objects and possible threats, where there’s no divestment required. A screening system that is powered by software results in more than an unspecified alarm. Instead, the location of the suspicious object is highlighted to facilitate faster, less guard intensive, and less intrusive alarm resolution.

Screening with metal detectors does not ready you for tomorrow’s threat.

And finally, there’s the question of future-proofing. I believe that any piece of equipment that operates as a stand-alone piece of hardware will have limited utility in the future. As of now, this describes nearly every metal detector on the market. Effective inspection systems today and in the future will need to be software-based, networked and have enough on-board computing power to watch out for a wider array of threats.

Read more here about six ways to prevent soft target attacks.