FMD security officers step up to the challenges
As COVID-19 unfolded, the Facilities Management Division developed a strategy to manage changing security needs in the county.
The county originally contracted out security to help secure about 18 locations that were set up quickly in the pandemic, including Isolation and Quarantine sites, Assessment Centers/Recovery Centers, de-intensification sites for the homeless, and other COVID-related sites.
“As part of our effort to ensure the highest level of service and support, FMD began a recruitment process for security officers to augment contract security at the sites. We’ve been able to recruit a broad range of individuals and backgrounds who stepped forward to assist in our time of need,” said Aaron Bert, deputy division director of FMD.
“The quality of applicants with deep security experience, knowing how to work with people with mental illness or homelessness, shot through the roof,” Bert added.
The county has now hired 13 temporary security guards to provide security at multiple sites during the pandemic. While this isn’t enough to staff all the COVID sites 24/7, it’s a big improvement.
“We’re sprinkling FMD security into key locations,” Bert said.
“It has paid off,” added Gloria Fontenot, security supervisor. “On site staff feel much better, more comfortable with our FMD security there.”
When the protests over racial injustice and violence occurred in Seattle after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, security became even more complicated.
“When the violence happened, we had one FMD officer (Jebryan Jackson) and Gloria (Fontenot) and Collin (Sanders) there while people were smashing down the doors,” Bert said.
“It was pretty intense,” Fontenot said. “We were trying to make sure they didn’t come all the way into the Administration Building.”
While a good portion of county staff are working remote, FMD security are at county buildings and various temporary COVID sites, many of them covering shifts over a 24-hour period.
“Our staff have been at their security posts, monitoring cameras, still engaging the public,” Bert said.
One of the temporary staff, Terrell Carrington, was quickly promoted to COVID TLT Sergeant.
“He’s level-headed, he has a lot of military experience and he brings calmness and laughter,” Fontenot said. “He’s very professional. He brings a lot of administrative skills as well.”
“It’s a great example of stepping up in a time of need,” Bert said about Carrington. “We told them of the potential risk of exposure. They’ve taken on risk to support these sites.”
For example, one officer served at the Shoreline Assessment Center/Recovery Center in full personal protective equipment.
That site is being taken down for now and some of the COVID sites are going on “warm standby.” Fontenot said all sites are still staffed with security to deter vandalism. And as COVID cases increase, FMD must remain flexible.
“My hat goes off to my direct reports and how they are planning for COVID upticks,” Fontenot added.
With the County assessing how work will be conducted in post-COVID environment, FMD Security will continue to evolve as well to ensure they are creating a safe and secure environment for the public and staff.