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The SIRA virtual conference in progress Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Amongst other things, coronavirus has changed the requirements of public security.

As top officials and industry experts discussed the matter at a virtual conference organised by the Security Industry Regulatory Agency (SIRA) on Wednesday, the efficacy of everything from disinfection tunnels, thermal cameras and technologies to monitor social distancing and crowd capacities came under review.

To begin with, walk-through sanitising gates, it was felt, needed more research to be used as a lasting solution in combating COVID-19.

As participants debated the efficacy of disinfection gates, being used as pilot projects in some locations, Reem Hassan, head of security systems and equipment testing lab at SIRA, said the installation of the gates is a waste of money as more research was needed before they could be put into use.

“Many institutes are using gates that take 10 to 15 seconds for the person to cross over. We need more research on their safety to see if they might have any negative impact on people’s health. It might be a relief for the person who cross the gates as it disinfects their clothes, but it can’t eliminate COVID-19,” she said at the virtual session that highlighted the role of security against COVID-19 in Dubai.

The question of the gates’ safety if a person passes through them several times a day or if children and the elderly were to use them was also discussed.

“We can’t let kids go inside those gates as they are not like us. They will not understand the instructions. Elderly people over the age of 60 and people with respiratory problems can be adversely affected too,” she added.

Thermal cameras

Engineer Arif Al Janahi, security operations and services manager at SIRA, said that installing thermal cameras isn’t mandatory, but SIRA has recommended it as precautionary measure to detect people’s temperature, a key symptom of COVID-19.

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Eng Arif Al Janahi

“It’s important to buy cameras of high standard as they could give inaccurate readings otherwise, causing confusion,” said Eng Al Janahi.

He said that thermal cameras are very important for big shopping centres and SIRA will issue detailed guidelines on how they must be employed to scan visitors.

Paul Tennent from TenTec Consultancy and Training in the UK said that there are some factors that might impact the accuracy of thermal cameras like heat sources, lighting, air-conditioning and varying body temperatures - all of which needed to be studied. But using the cameras per se did not have any harmful effects on people.

“Thermal cameras work by detecting and measuring the infrared radiation emanating from objects. It is now used on a large scale at airports, hotels, sport facilities, hospitals and transportation,” Tennent said.

Social distancing and crowd control

Eng Al Janahi recommended that major shopping centres reduce the number of their entry points to monitor the number and flow of visitors. Monitoring the number of passengers in every car coming into the mall was also helpful. Using different exit points would also become necessary.

Brian Tarpey, security consultant at SIRA, said that technology can be used to count number of people at any point inside a shopping centre.

“Technology can count the people coming in and going out the mall. Malls can have a monitoring system to know if the capacity reached at any point is more than 30 per cent and accordingly close the entry point until the crowd inside clears. It is not easy, but it’s vital for safety,” Tarpey said.