We have all had to face significant challenges from the COVID-19 lockdown process, but the Leisure industry has been amongst the hardest hit by the 2020 restrictions. Leisure clubs, sports venues, gyms, theme parks, concert venues and cinemas have all been closed for an extended period due to the fears of infection being spread across large numbers of visitors and staff.
However, with restrictions starting to be lifted in the UK (and even more advanced in other parts of the world) the Leisure industry needs to be thinking about how security can be a key part of the ‘New Normal’.
Protection during lockdown
Like many other businesses restricted during COVID-19, the Leisure industry has had to deal with the security of premises largely lying empty. Unlike a lot of Retail outlets, which often have an online presence, there are few options to run any operations like that for Leisure providers.
Obviously closed facilities need good automated security and it has become very obvious which sites have the right protection in place and those which need extra help. If nothing else, the COVID-19 restrictions have been a good indication of just how well automated and remote security systems work (or struggle, as the case may be).
In some cases (especially theme parks and entertainment venues for example) this has been an ideal opportunity to make repairs or to install upgrades (assuming the budgets allow), but there has still been a big demand on security systems to monitor sites which could be a target for thieves or vandals.
Return to operations
The return to the ‘New Normal’ will see security and safety take centre stage for many venues. As we have seen with Retail, new social distancing measures need to be in place to protect people from potential cross-infection. Security systems are well placed to be a key part of this.
From surveillance systems to monitor people traffic flow (and possible proximity issues), to contactless access control for employees to move around restricted areas, automated security systems will be key in protecting people. With many Leisure venues having to work with restricted access to preserve social distancing, these solutions are perfectly placed to enforce strict new safety guidelines.
We have already seen this technology in action to manage Leisure facilities during ‘normal’ times. For example, footfall and people counting information from CCTV and monitoring systems give site managers an indication of busy periods and where people congestion is a problem. This approach (which is normally used to make operations run more smoothly) is perfect for monitoring and enforcing social distancing too.
We have already seen security systems become the automated ‘eyes and ears’ of a business, elevated well beyond their core role of security. The inclusion of powerful analytics and AI-powered software has ensured they are a game-changer when it comes to understanding and managing the needs of Leisure businesses and their customers.
This makes intelligent systems the perfect partner to assist Leisure facilities with the gradual return to operations. Obviously, the use of protective equipment (such as PPE masks, Perspex screens, one-way directions and antibacterial/cleaning products) are key, but automated security systems are perfectly placed to oversee these in action, enabling staff to avoid direct contact wherever possible.
Leisure facilities need to protect employees as well as guests, so it will be especially important to employ non-touch access control and security wherever possible.
At TDSi we are already well geared up for this approach, from non-touch access systems (such as facial recognition) to non-touch door switches (which replace a big green exit button with a motion-sensitive version), there are plenty of alternatives which mean staff are better protected as well.
Adapting to evolving needs
The Leisure industry will be one of the last to emerge from lockdown restrictions because of its very nature – catering for large groups of visitors in a relatively confined area. It is a prime location for a virus to spread and affect a large number of people, so Leisure managers will be looking to minimise the potential dangers.
Security systems are proving to be a key weapon in the fight against COVID-19 for many sectors and the Leisure industry will be no different. Whilst operations are likely to be restricted for some time to come, there is a clear onus on businesses to prove they can effectively manage and mitigate potential risk points, whilst keeping visitors and their own staff safe.
The Leisure industry is not only important for the economy, it is also a key part of our social lives and mental wellbeing, so needs to be available (but safe) for us all to enjoy again as soon as possible. Undoubtedly ‘eyes and ears’ security is already proving its worth in terms of commercial security and facilities management, but it also has a crucial role to play in protecting people’s safety as well.