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January 4, 2022


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Security and fire excellence awards

KAUST – On why continued investment in the latest technologies is crucial to the progression of security teams post-COVID

IFSEC Global catches up with Sulaiman Al-Thunayan, Vice President of Government affairs and security at KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), to discuss their recent Security Team of the Year Award win at this year’s Security and Fire Excellence Awards. 

Sulaiman Al-Thunayan, Vice President of government affairs and security at KAUST

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns that followed, KAUST, under the leadership of Vice President, Sulaiman al-Thunayan, implemented a strategic approach to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

This approach focused on three distinct problems:

  • The risk of transmission of the virus from outside to inside KAUST
  • The risk of an outbreak inside KAUST
  • The risk of mutual infection when providing security services to the community.

Responding to KAUST’s recent win for Security Team of the Year at this year’s Security and Fire Excellence Awards, Sulaiman says: “Given the large number of competitors for this award in the security industry, it was a surprise. We felt so proud to be recognised with such a prestigious award that proves KAUST’s government affairs and security department superiority and excellence in the security arena.

As part of KAUST’s plan to tackle the risk related to COVID-19, the security department implemented several measures including:

  • Hosting an adequate number of security personnel and leaders at KAUST to run the security operations, and ensure they are not infected outside.
  • Allowing entries to pre-approved list of persons’ names of vendors and suppliers for retailers who are monitored and checked regularly by their companies for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Allowing entry to construction workers to work in isolated construction projects, preventing them from accessing or interacting with the community.

Sulaiman comments: “Given the high number of KAUST community members, with more than 7000 residents and thousands of contractors entering on a daily basis, it was a challenge for the security department to ensure compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

“Another challenge was to provide security services without making security personnel and community members susceptible to COVID-19 infection, which could lead to a large-scale spread of the disease in the community.

“Nonetheless, we proved that nothing could stop us from succeeding in our mission.”

One factor that proved to be crucial to the company’s management of COVID-19 was their choice to digitise a large portion of their services.

Sulaiman argues that: “With the advancement and the continuous development of technology in this era, each organisation and business must keep pace with this progress to meet and exceed customer needs.

“We digitised nearly 80% of KAUST’s services, and adopted the latest technologies, including robots, drones, facial recognition systems and many more. Our community, visitors, and customers appreciate and praise the great development of our services.”

Digitalising services has meant that the security department has been able to prevent people from gathering in the security department, its office, and/or contacting security in the field to receive security services.

Digitised security services include:

  • Using facial recognition technology to check the identities of people at the gate.
  • Establishing a ‘E-check in/out’ where officers scan QR codes, verify identity and security approval and allow entry for workers, vendors and suppliers.
  • Automating non-emergency incident reporting
  • Monitoring traffic violation inside KAUST and conducting Traffic rules enforcement through the online security portal
  • Digitalising the KAUST ID, allowing users to display ID without physical contact
  • Providing all security services through a security online platform.

Sulaiman concludes: “We have a vision and a strong strategy that we are constantly reviewing and revising to ensure that we keep up with our progress and bring the latest security systems and technologies based on our needs and regular risk assessments.

“We believe that improving processes and investing in technology is important, however, planning to track success, assigning responsibilities to sustain gains, conducting employee training on the new changes, and performing regular audits and customer surveys is important too.”

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