Securing Schools

fmME checks out the school security operation ADEC has put in place

The G4S team: Sultan Al Marzouqi with G4S security personnel at Al Ezzah School in Abu Dhabi.
The G4S team: Sultan Al Marzouqi with G4S security personnel at Al Ezzah School in Abu Dhabi.

fmME checks out the security operation that ADEC has put into place at over 255 schools in Abu Dhabi, which includes an Emirati Security Workforce

Khaled Al Ansari remembers a time when the concept of security for a school under the purview of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) would involve having a guard simply sitting by the door of the building, keeping a lazy eye on who comes in and who goes out of the school.

But given the increased number of potential risks an improperly guarded facility faces in the world of today, Al Ansari, in his role as division manager for school services at ADEC, made a decision in early 2012 to improve and upgrade the security services provided at the schools in the emirate.

To say that the project was a challenging one would probably be seen as an understatement. It began with Al Ansari, together with his team at ADEC, embarking on a requirements gathering process at the schools under ADEC to figure out the loopholes in the security arrangement that was in use at that point of time.

Al Ansari also made it a priority to find out the newest technologies and methodologies available in the security market that they could put to use at their institutions.

“We sat down with school principals to first find out their requirements from a security service,” Al Ansari remembered. “We then talked with a number of security contractors in the market to find out what were the latest technologies available in the market.

“Based on what we learned from all our discussions, we drafted a new plan for security services at our schools, giving it a much broader scope and defining very exact SOW, SLA and KPI requirements for the tenders that we eventually issued.”

After a long planning and development phase, the project was officially launched on November 1, 2012, with ADEC employing two service providers, Spark Security Services and G4S, to take care of the security services at more than 255 schools in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, along with an additional 75 facilities that housed gyms, swimming pools, etc.

More than 900 security guards have been deployed for the operation, which has been segmented into six areas; two each in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region.

“The goal, for us, was to have our schools equipped with manned security services, with a touch of style, service delivery and performance management,” said Abdul Razzak Shaikh, senior facilities management specialist at ADEC, who, under Al Ansari’s guidance, designed, developed and launched this enhanced version of school security services. Shaikh was also responsible for the project’s mobilization and the coordination of its various operations.

“It was a very good launch, since it was planned, organised and coordinated,” Shaikh said.

“It was a smooth handover. Each and every school was well-informed in advance about what we were doing, and we heard—and answered—a lot of requests, grievances and queries from the concerned parties.”

Shaikh explains that the provisions of the security service were manually communicated to all of the schools under ADEC, so that their staffs were also tuned in to what to expect in terms of changes at their facilities.

Last month, fmME went to visit two schools in Abu Dhabi to take a look at the security services that ADEC, with the help of G4S and Spark, provide there. Security personnel man the entrances to the buildings, making sure that all visitors log in their details in a register before entering the premises.

24-hour guards patrol the premises all through the day, and they are required to punch into a guard tour system, whose tags, which are placed all around the school, must be electronically “punched” at two-hour intervals. Reports from the guard tour system are then sent to ADEC every month.

Vehicle tracking systems have also been installed in the supervisors’ vehicles, which again allow ADEC project managers to virtually manage the operations happening at the actual school locations.

The managers also get reports to review and assess at the end of every month, which include details about training exercises, incident reports and other information. Besides ensuring that all PSBD guidelines are met, a monthly checklist on customer satisfaction is also maintained.

“At the beginning, we faced problems with the kind of restriction we were putting into place; for instance, the log sheet at the entrance,” Al Ansari said. “Parents and others visitors used to be able to go inside and outside of the schools without any questions earlier.

But with the new process, everyone—even if it is ADEC management—needs to stop and register themselves and the purpose of their visit before they actually enter the school premises. It was a big change, but it was appreciated because of its usefulness.”

While Al Ansari sits at the helm of the school services operation, there are three ADEC managers looking after the emirate’s six segmented regions. While Sultan Al Marzouqi is the Abu Dhabi area in-charge, Khaled Al Ahbabi looks after Al Ain and Ahad Imran Khan takes care of the Western Region.

Besides security, the three also manage other facilities management services, and their functions include liaising with service providers, making flexible changes and undertaking sample checks for performance monitoring.

With respect to the service providers, G4S and Spark both agree that given its scope and scale, the project was a very exciting one for them.

“A safe, secure learning environment is at the center of successful 21st century educational strategies,” said Abdulla Mohammed Al Mulla, chairman, Spark. “For today’s schools, creating this kind of campus takes diligent effort and is critically important to ensuring students feel comfortable enough to focus on learning.”

“Spark was charged with balancing this accessibility for students and staff with protecting them from physical and virtual intrusion,” Al Mulla explained.

“The job was noble and of very high importance. We set about the job in a very professional manner in organizing the mobilization, training, taking-over from the outgoing service provider and winning the hearts and minds of the stakeholders, without prejudice to the stringent security concerns.”

Mohamed Ezzeldin, managing director, G4S UAE, said, “To G4S, this project was an extremely exciting opportunity, and one that was not to be missed, as it perfectly fit within the group strategy in serving the community and sharing the wider G4S knowledge and best industry practice with the local market.

With a large presence already established across the UAE, and a very significant footprint in the Western Region and Al Ain, we were confident of winning this prestigious contract. G4S currently deploys 478 personnel for ADEC, which is one of the largest manpower contracts that we have in the UAE.”

Recently, with the guidance of ADEC management, Al Ansari also set into motion a new initiative at ADEC schools, which was to have Emirati security guards stationed at these institutions during school hours.

As per this new scheme, which is in line with the Emiratisation campaign of the UAE government, local men and women have been given the opportunity to be trained as security guards and thereafter be stationed at ADEC schools in the emirate. It’s a novel enterprise, and is one of the first of its kind in the region.

According to Al Ansari, the need for Emirati security guards at schools came about because of ADEC’s aims to have the community play a bigger role in the educational process.

ADEC’s new schools have an open, welcoming design, which is meant to encourage its surrounding communities to interact more with the institutions. Although the guards at the entrances would monitor this flow of people into the schools, Al Ansari realized that they needed personnel on the inside as well.

“There was a need to have guards who have access into the facilities,” Al Ansari explained. “We needed someone who could go into the classes, move around the corridors, be in touch with the students, and interact with both them and their parents.

We needed people who would be able to speak in Arabic (80% of students in public schools are local), so that parents wouldn’t have trouble communicating with them.”

Given the requirements, getting UAE nationals on the security workforce was an obvious solution to the problem. 46 Emirati security guards have now been deployed at ADEC schools in Abu Dhabi, all of whom have been trained under PSBD guidelines and are also under the payroll of the security providers.

This Emirati security workforce has been largely female so far, as most of its staff within a school’s premises are women as well.

They have been allotted to schools that lie close to their own neighborhoods, which adds to the sense of community ADEC is trying to develop with its institutions. In addition, Ruqaya Al Dhaheri, an FM engineer with ADEC, has designed uniforms for these women that fit in with the social and cultural norms of the UAE.

Commenting on the Emirati initiative, Al Mulla said, “Seldom have Emiratis joined private security companies as security guards in the past. It is a novel concept by ADEC to boost the program by enrolling local guards for some ADEC schools. This is absolutely brilliant and gives Spark, a 100% local company, to contribute positively in the government initiative through ADEC.”

Ezzeldine added, “It is always our aim, and will remain as a target and commitment from G4S, to promote the concept of an Emiratis guard force in all our future and current projects. We are very confident that ADEC’s initiative will significantly contribute to the success of such an approach.”

Al Ansari hopes to attract more Emiratis to careers within ADEC, and thereby bolster the security service provided at all of ADEC’s schools. With such measures, his ultimate aim remains to ensure that the students at ADEC institutions in Abu Dhabi are given the best kind of education.

“We are trying to introduce services that will help schools concentrate solely on their work, i.e. the education of their students, and leave the school management part to us,” Al Ansari said. “We want to be more proactive, and reach a point where we are able to offer all services to the school before the staff even thinks of it. Once we reach that point, then, alhamdulillah, that means we are doing our work in the right way.”

Project details
- 255 schools + 75 other facilities
- 900+ security guards, 6 areas segmentation, two each in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region, including Delma Island
- Operation with two service providers, G4S and Spark
- One project manager with three supervisors per service provider manage the project
- Technology support to deliver and measure service performance
- Tour guard system at each school; 10 points to be punched every two hours; full reporting on monthly basis
- Vehicle tracking system for the supervisors to review the visits to schools on daily basis
- Basis risk assessment
- Monthly reporting on project development, incident reporting, training and other related aspects
- Each service provider has a helpdesk-phone desk, and each school security guard room is equipped with one dedicated mobile number
- Monthly checklist on customer satisfaction is linked to payment
- PSBD Guidelines fully implemented

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