Vetting your Security Consultant: Due Diligence in Discovering the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

wolfsheepRegulatory compliance. One of the highest priorities and greatest challenges for organizations competing in a licensing process for a state cannabis program.  Most state programs place a significant percentage (20% or more) of the application scoring on a holistic security plan that incorporates a symbiotic relationship between physical security features, policy & procedures and staff training.  With such high stakes, many organizations rely on a security consultant to handcraft their operational security plan for their application.

But, how do you know what security consultant or self proclaimed ‘subject matter expert’ is qualified, capable or competent to create the intellectual and operational security content to  achieve an award winning plan? Due diligence.

There is an onus on the part of your organization to vet the security consultant and verify their qualifications and successes. Here are six (6) criterion to assess and validate when considering a partnership.

QUALIFICATIONS

What quality or expertise does your perspective security consultant bring to the table? Many times there is a misnomer that a security integrator or guard service has the knowledge, skill and proficiency to design the  system or security system technology and/or security operational master plan that will  fulfill regulatory compliance AND  be conducive to operational workflow.  Ask for the perspective consultants’ pedigree(s) and experience.  Often times, consultants will stretch the validity of their qualifications.  Listing a college or university on a resume does not mean that the consultant graduated from that school. To cite a popular quote floating around the Internet right now’ “Just because you’re a great pilot, doesn’t mean you’re a great air traffic controller”. The pilot is a part of the bigger system, look for a security vendor that has the qualifications to plan for and control all of the moving parts! Lastly, CHECK and VERIFY the pedigree(s) and experience.  This will be a re-occurring theme on all six (6) of the criteria.

PROVEN RECORD

The great Connie Mack once said “You can’t win them all….”, but look for a security consultant that has proven success in state application writing.  The security portion of a state application constitutes a percentage of the total score.  Just because a medical or adult-use cannabis organization did not win a license does not mean that the security portion was not scored high within the application. Look not only at the total successful applications that the consultant was been involved with, but the total number of  clients that the consultants is involved with. This will segue into the next criteria, references. There is a growing trend with ‘consultants’ who purport to have award-winning clients in dozens of states.  Just because the consultant have spoken with a successful organization, does not mean that they were integral in winning them a licence! Once again CHECK AND VERIFY!

REFERENCES

CHECK and VERIFY! The ability for a prospective security consultant to provide a list of professional references  is crucial in the vetting process.  The reference provided should be able to attest to the qualifications, skill and proficiency of the security consultant.  When checking on references, do not be afraid to ask them for limitations or deficiencies of the perspective consultant.  References are critical….don’t rely on reputation alone.  Successful security  leaders of the past may not be verse to the industry standards and environment of today. Call on references to CHECK and VERIFY that the security consultant will  be the right fit for the impression, character and feel of your organization.

FINANCIAL STABILITY

Financial stability may not be the first thing that you think of when vetting a security consultant, but is an important criteria.  The financial stability of a consultant shows not only responsibility, but practical and operational relevance for their business, but can transcend into the operational  security plan for your organization.  A financially stable consultant can also ensure that the firm or organization you choose to represent your security views will be viable for years to come, creating a long-term partnership.  This partnership is essential in honing the security plan for optimal efficiency.  Don’t be concerned about CHECKING and VERIFYING a consultant’s financial position…be concerned if they are not forthcoming with that information.

ASSOCIATIONS

Ask the security consultant about affiliations or associations they are connected with.  Industry leading associations provide current trends, industry standards & norms, case studies, models and specifications .  An affiliation with these associations help ensure that that the security consultant has the accessibility to the newest industry information.  This is critical as the criminal element and regulatory compliance continue to change. Check and verify that the perspective security consultant is current in their membership and in good standing.

INSURANCE AND LICENSING

The last verification one can do to vet a security consultant is to validate the appropriate licensing and insurance at a local or state level.  Horror stories abound of organizations that contract with vendors or consultants to find out at the time of inspection, that they are not licensed or insured to do the work.  This verification should be completed before any contract is signed!

Be cautious of the security consultant wolf in sheep’s clothing. Due diligence on your part prior to entering into a contractual agreement can save time, effort and anxiety in the end!  Feel free to contact us for guidance with any security risk management concerns!

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“HOTWASHING” a Cannabis Crime

For this week’s Employee Crime Response Training blog, we sat down with Viridis Security Group’s Director of Professional Services Chris Hinnershitz and Corporate Security Specialist Jim Minninger to “hotwash” the details of a recent robbery at a Sonoma, California medical cannabis distribution center.

According to Wikipedia, a “Hotwash” is… the immediate “after-action” discussions and evaluations of an agency’s performance following an exercise, training session, or major event. The main purpose of a “hotwash” session is to identify strengths and weaknesses of the response to that given event, which is intended to guide future response direction in order to avoid repeating errors made in the past.

For this week’s Employee Crime Response Training blog, we sat down with Viridis Security Group’s Director of Professional Services Chris Hinnershitz and Corporate Security Specialist Jim Minninger to “hotwash” the details of a recent robbery at a Sonoma, California medical cannabis distribution center. You can read the full details of the story here.

In a nutshell, this case involves a cannabis distribution center employee closing the business in the evening and exiting, by herself, to her car in the parking lot. cannabis robberyOnce in her car, she was blocked in by the perpetrators’ vehicle and forced at gunpoint to re-enter the business and open the vault, where, due to cannabis banking laws, there was a stockpile of cash. The criminals quickly canvassed the business before emptying the vault and exiting the property.

Obviously, the growing number of all-cash cannabis businesses presents the opportunity for criminal activity; but with the right combination of employee training and physical security measures the team at VSG believes that risk can be dramatically reduced.

So what details about this CA case stand out for the VSG staff? First and foremost, why was this employee exiting the business by herself?

“The opening and the closing of the facility; going from the parking lot to the building and building to the parking lot is a time when situational awareness has to be elevated,” said Minninger.
“We would obviously want there to be security personnel on duty to escort employees from the building during those times,” Hinnershitz agreed.

And don’t the details of this case scream “inside job?” It certainly seemed like the perpetrators had some cursory knowledge of the exit protocol if not an exact schedule of when employees left the building.

“I’ve been recommending security staff be there an hour before opening and one hour after closing but that shift varies,” said Hinnershitz. “One day it’s 15 minutes, one day it’s 45 minutes.”

This staggered schedule helps to reduce the possibility that a perpetrator can recognize a pattern of behavior in the closing procedure.

What about the behavior of the employee? Was she correct in re-opening the business and vault for the gun-wielding assailants?

“Material or money is never worth losing your life over,” said Minninger.

Once a firearm is added to the equation, compliance is the best procedure.

What COULD have turned the tide in this case were some basic security measures built into the business’s policy and procedure. Things like a “duress button” on the employee’s phone or a secondary alarm code or button on the vault keypad to alert law enforcement of the robbery in real time, are standard features in Viridis Security Group’s physical security offerings.

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And training, lots of training! Included in the VSG list of services is probably the most important piece to preventing criminal activity, Crisis Response Training.
The Viridis team has a proven track record of integrating top quality security policies and procedures in other highly regulated businesses, like pharmaceutical distribution centers, schools and nursing homes; but also training those businesses’ employees in crisis response.

This, often neglected, Crisis Response Training allows legal cannabis businesses to…

  • Clarify roles and expectations
  • Reinforce knowledge
  • Improve individual and team (facility-wide) performance
  • Evaluate the policy/procedure, plans and staff knowledge
  • Identify what works
  • Show areas in need of improvement or additional resources

Are you a legal cannabis business owner looking to improve the training of your employees and reduce risk at your business? Check out Viridis Security Group’s list of services, which include both didactic and practical training for these types of situations and others.

“You always revert to your lowest level of training,” Hinnershitz noted.

Why not contact Viridis Security Group now to make sure you (and your employee’s) level of training is adequate to reduce the many risks that accompany this new industry? Request a Free Quote

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Four Security Considerations for New Cannabis Businesses

Whether you’re starting a grower/processor facility or a dispensary, there are an overwhelming number of issues to be addressed; but we, here at Viridis Security Group, believe that the following Security concerns have to be at the top of your list.

Congratulations, you’ve recently acquired a coveted legal cannabis business license and now, you have just months to accomplish your application plans and make your new cannabis business “operational.”
Whether you’re starting a grower/processor facility or a dispensary, there are an overwhelming number of issues to be addressed; but we, here at Viridis Security Group, believe that the following Security specific concerns have to be at the top of your list.
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We sat down with Viridis Security Group’s Director of Professional Services Chris Hinnershitz and Corporate Security Specialist Jim Minninger to discuss four commonly overlooked points for maintaining top-notch security while moving towards “operational” status. For more info on Viridis Security Group’s list of services, including physical location risk assessments and security integration please visit the VSG website. Viridis Security Group

1. Temporary Security Measures
Especially in states like Pennsylvania, where cannabis grower/processor and dispensary license winners (and proposed locations) are listed publicly, it is imperative that temporary security measures are adopted.
Any enterprising individual can check out the PA Dept. of Health’s website or search the deluge of recent news stories to see where new cannabis businesses will be located. Award winners can expect to see an influx of mail, an ongoing media presence and the occasional “lookey-loo,” as they build out.
Although stories of pre-operational vandalism or work disruption from “protesters” are few; new cannabis businesses owners should be aware of the public perception of legal cannabis in the proposed build location and be prepared for the influx of both positive and negative attention.
Even before the actual business security systems are installed there should be some form of temporary security in place to protect the location. Included in these build out security measures are camera systems, a secure perimeter fence, regular patrolling as well as lighting. Minninger suggests making sure the location is well lit from day one.

“You can’t protect what you can’t see,” he said.
lighting
This added illumination not only makes the location a less desirable target for crime but also perpetuates the feeling of openness and professionalism to the surrounding community.

Have you established a strong, temporary security plan for the length of your build out? Why not let VSG do a preliminary risk assessment of the proposed site and see what specific security measures are right for your business?

2. Communication with local law enforcement
After 20 years of service as a police officer in Montgomery County, PA; VSG’s Chris Hinnershitz, suggests there is an immediate need for new cannabis businesses to make contact with local authorities during their respective build out processes. With increased publicity, comes increased need for patrols and regular police presence on site. The best way to ensure this police presence is to make an early, concerted connection to those that will be patrolling the area.
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“Having a good relationship with local law enforcement is imperative to providing a safe and secure environment for employees and guests at your legal marijuana organization during and after the build out,” said Hinnershitz.  “Coordinating your emergency operations procedures with local law enforcement allows for a better response in a time of crisis.”

While not common, a recent article in the Reading Eagle Times newspaper (PA) suggests Muhlenburg Township (PA) authorities are investigating the idea of a “host tax” for incoming businesses that require extra police patrols.

Have you reached out to the local law enforcement officials in your prospective business location? Why not let a former officer handle the introduction?

The Viridis Security Group staff boast law enforcement connections throughout the country and have helped a number of cannabis businesses make positive relations in their respective communities. VSG would be happy to offer consultation or be the lead voice as you guarantee a positive law enforcement relationship during your build out.

3. Properly Vetted Contractors
Whether your new cannabis business site requires some updating or you’re building from scratch, it’s assured that there will be quite a few contractors entering and exiting your location. These contractors will have access to information about the structure, the systems, the layout, intellectual property and any number of other specific details of the business.

construction zone

According to VSG staff, it is imperative that all contractors (and their employees) be strictly vetted before they have access to the property. This is especially true for entities coming from out-of-state to open businesses with the help of service vendors who they may not have had a previous relationship.

All those with access to the facility should have updated State and Federal criminal background checks and carry appropriate state contractor’s licensing/insurance.

All Viridis Security Group clients are provided with processes to ensure their employees are properly vetted and trained during their cannabis-industry employment. These same standards can be applied to contractors during build out.
Contact Viridis Security Group for more info on how to ensure your build process is completed by properly vetted contractors.

4. Specific Cannabis Industry Insurance
There are unique challenges and risks associated with the burgeoning cannabis industry. With those unique concerns, comes the demand for an industry-specific insurance package catering to the needs of new cannabis businesses. Combined with a robust security plan, a comprehensive insurance offering is the final piece to maintaining a foolproof security plan during the life of your cannabis business. Viridis Security is currently working with strategic partner Viridis Insurance and Benefits to provide this holistic approach to business security.
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For more info on Viridis Insurance and Benefits and how these two entities work together. Check out the Viridis Insurance website.
Viridis Insurance and Benefits