Why Start with Risk? A Facility Manager’s Opportunity to drive Value


Wendi Walsh, Senior Principal of ADT Commercial’s Enterprise Security Risk Group (eSRG), presented at the Seattle Chapter Education Symposium for the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) on June 19, 2019.

Founded in 1980, IFMA is the world's largest and most widely recognized international association for facility management professionals, supporting 24,000 members in 105 countries. The association's members, represented in 134 chapters and 17 councils worldwide, manage more than 37 billion square feet of property and annually purchase more than $100 billion in products and services.

This year was the chapter’s 23rd Education Symposium. The theme was:

The Business of Buildings - Investigate, Discover, Predict

Initially, Wendi was to focus on one of the most visible risks facing facility directors: the potential for an active shooter. However, she expanded the presentation to encompass crisis situations as well. While active shooter events are devastatingly impactful, they are statistically rare. Some organizations spend a lot of money on security systems and devices to counteract active shooter scenarios when some of that money could be better spent on developing a culture of safety and security. Presentation take-aways included:

‘Before’ is the most impactful and meaningful place to prevent and prepare for a crisis

Wendi discussed the advantages of proactively assessing and deploying a strategy and plan around:

  • Security Culture

  • Security Risk Analysis and Risk Assignment

  • Training (policies) and Drills (actions)

  • Incident Command Structure (ICS)

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

  • All-Hazards Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)

Understanding risk is the key to organizational support

Wendi discussed the advantages of understanding and positioning of risk at multiple levels in the organization such as ensuring that your Risk analysis and risk mapping are focused on the owners of risk. For example, a review of the threat of your own employees or contractors deserves a healthy discussion with the CIO, CISO and the COO. And the threat of workplace violence deserves a discussion with the human resources officer.

Wendi pointed out that an honest and transparent discussion of these topics demands a level of preparation and relationship building. In many cases, you are a student of another language; the language of business.

Technology can play a role

According to Wendi, technology is critical, but more important, is the “Why” behind the technology choice. She recommended to not get dazzled by the bright shiny allure of technology and spend some time knowing what you are trying to solve. Once you develop this “use case” she recommends developing and deploying a methodology for choosing any technology.

Feedback from the audience was positive. The areas that seemed to resonate with the facility managers were moving security (or in their case facilities management) to a strategic partner role instead of a cost-center role, a risk-based approach to technology, an all hazards approach to incidents, and the criticality of communications plans and roles.

One participant said,

“…thought provoking and sensible and practical approach”

In summary, facility leaders will be critical to the advancement of the intelligent, safe and secure building of the future. Principals at eSRG are invested in creating a path to value for all leaders in the risk, resilience and security industry.