The Danger of “Narcoleptic Security”

January 16, 2019 - 6 minutes read

Narcolepsy is a neurological condition best characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and the inability to focus at unpredictable intervals. As challenging as this condition can be for individuals in their personal and professional lives, it becomes even more challenging when used to describe a corporation’s approach to preparing for crisis events.

Security Management

Corporations face a myriad of threats that often go overlooked as a result of our “numbness” and potential for “dozing off” at inappropriate times.  Consider the following examples: The Syrians are regrouping as we plan an exodus; a primer to a potentially dangerous confrontation; North Korea is threatening the world with its alleged nuclear capabilities, progress in Iraq continues to be tenuous at best and often overridden by significant setbacks, Afghanistan runs the risk of slipping back into a region controlled by drug dealers and terrorists, and at home, the FBI tracks some forty known domestic terrorists groups at any given time.

Any one of these threats has the potential of impacting our Nation’s safety and security; this is hardly the time to be asleep at the switch, yet many companies, along with local, state, and federal agencies appear to be engaged in the practice of “narcoleptic security.”  We allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep by the erroneous thought that we are once again safe; after all, there hasn’t been a significant attack since September 11, 2001.  We swore that 9/11 taught us valuable lessons about being prepared…it didn’t.  We promised we would never forget…we did.

What priority should we place on security?

Immediately following the fall of the Twin Towers, we initially placed security as our highest priority; now, as in the past, we place convenience as our highest priority.  One needs only to recall our Nation’s response to recent natural disasters to see how little we learned about the importance of being prepared.  All of this unintentional lack of focus is due to our collective numbness, or stupor towards the potential for another catastrophic attack.

Our security related narcolepsy is driven by our remarkable ability to adapt and accept…our strong denial that it could ever be our company or our workplace…and our unspoken bravado that no one would dare take on the Unites States of America!  Unfortunately, none of these commonly held beliefs apply to the realities of today’s global society.  To the contrary, our enemy is counting on our almost predictable narcoleptic approach to securing our borders and our corporations.

What can we do to make security is a priority?

So the question remains, what can you do to insure that your organization does not fall victim to the flawed practice of narcoleptic security?  Consider the following strategies:

  1. Make yourself a history buff in the study of crisis events.  While each incident has its own distinguishing fact pattern, most incidents also contain recurring patterns and characteristics that can be used to better prepare for the next incident.  It’s been proven to be true that the past is prologue…it’s also true that it is up to us to connect the dots and effectively use the information of the past to prepare for the future.
  2. Get in the habit of paying attention to reports and news coverage on crisis events; then imagine yourself in charge of the incident.  Imagine yourself as the incident manager and answer the questions who, what, where, when, how, and why.
  3. Think about the possible connections between what appear to be world events and the potential impact they could have on your organization’s future. Does your organization have a global footprint?  Do your executives travel to hostile countries?  Would your industry be attractive to those who choose to do us harm?
  4. Ask yourself these pointed questions, and provide a list of truthful answers:
    • How does your organization view crisis management?
    • Has your organization established a budget for crisis management?
    • How often does your senior management team discuss crisis management?
    • How often do you provide training in crisis response?
    • When was the last time you engaged in a tabletop exercise?
    • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you score your organization’s level of denial towards the potential for falling victim to a crisis event?
    • When was the last time you honestly thought about any of the above?

Planning for success.

If your team can’t provide answers to the questions above; there’s a possibility your organization is engaged in the practice of “narcoleptic security.”  It’s not easy to maintain a consistent level of vigilance during periods of inactivity, but the price for dozing off can be significant.  Take a look at your sleeping habits of the past and make a concentrated effort to improve your security management in 2019 and beyond…your safety and the success of your organization may well count of your ability to remain alert!


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