Emerging Issues in Security, Facility Security

U.S. Businesses Face Continued Rise in Physical Security Threats

As U.S. companies continue hybrid work in this third year of COVID-19, already-high levels of physical threats are expected to continue to rise; significant health and safety protocol-related conflicts between management and employees are occurring; and workplace violence preparedness at businesses is primarily reactive and inconsistent.

These are some of the findings from a new study commissioned by the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence. The study showcases the collective perspectives of chief security officers, chief legal officers, chief compliance officers, general counsels, physical security directors, corporate attorneys, and physical security decision-makers at U.S. companies with over 5,000 employees to examine how they see physical security challenges and opportunities unfolding in 2022, as well as the potential impact on business continuity.

“The physical threat landscape has significantly changed and expanded, a majority of respondents agreed, which has created an exponential increase in data and pre-incident indicators that will only grow and be unmanageable in 2022,” said Fred Burton, Executive Director of the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence. “But when it comes to approaches to employee preparedness to address threats and workplace violence, just over half cited their company believes training employees so they are better prepared for potential workplace violence will create a culture of fear, wants to take a reactive strategy, and does not see the ultimate risk to business continuity by inaction.” 

Burton continued, “Threats or harmful incidents are occurring so often, a majority agree, that employees are used to erratic and violent behavior and don’t report these as warning signs until it’s too late. This is why technology-based tools and consistent training are more critical than ever.”

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 88% of respondents agree companies are experiencing a dramatic increase in physical threat activity compared to the beginning of 2021.
  • 85% agree the physical threat landscape has significantly changed and expanded, which has created an exponential increase in data and pre-incident indicators that will only grow and be unmanageable in 2022. 
  • When asked what issues “keep them up at night” as they consider their company’s 2022 physical security program, respondents cited increased physical threats and company backlash related to:
    • Rising extremism, social and political issues (32%)
    • Vaccination requirements (31%)
  • 88% have reopened offices and are encountering significant conflicts between management and employees regarding health and safety protocols, as well as work-from-home policies
  • Among 18 physical security challenges in 2022 outlined, most likely to be listed among legal and compliance leaders:
    • Physical security threats to C-suite and company leadership (44%) 
    • Data protection and privacy (41%)
  • After employees were threatened or harmed by former employees or others while working remotely or at company facilities, respondents:
    • Notified HR, legal and security (43%) 
    • Notified the local police and requested enhanced patrol coverages (40%)
    • Enhanced company security coverages for the employee both in the office and at their home (39%)
    • Enhanced intelligence collection around the threat (36%)
  • The top compliance, risk, and regulation issues having an impact on physical security strategy include:
    • Corporations have now become targets and can no longer rely on others for protection
      • (64% rank this as one of their top three compliance, risk, or regulation issues, from a list of five)
    • Closing the gap between physical security solutions and compliance requirements.
      • (64% rank this as one of their top three issues) 
    • Corporate activists are becoming insider threats
      • (62% rank this as one of their top three issues)
    • Increased personal liability for CEOs and C-level executives
      • (59% rank this as one of their top three issues)

The 2022 State of Protective Intelligence Report is available for download here.