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Resuming Investigations Safely

Resuming Investigations Safely

Even as the nation begins to loosen stay-at-home policies, we’re far from returning to normalcy. Business will resume but it will likely look different than it did before. If you have a physical office and staff, this may mean taking precautions to keep you, your employees, and your clients safe. Even if you’re a one-man show, the way you conduct interviews or surveillance may change drastically. Whatever this shift looks like for you, here are some tips that you can use to investigate safely and efficiently in the midst of COVID-19.

Protect your Office

As a private investigator, your role is to minimize the impact of the disease on your clients and peers as you reopen your business. Keep in mind that completely eliminating risk altogether is impossible. Your goal should be to use protective measures to decrease the risk as much as possible. Familiarize yourself with suggestions made by the CDC, WHO, and the Department of Health.

While governments and public health professionals do their work to save lives and slow transmission, it’s our work as investigators and entrepreneurs to protect our colleagues and clients as we resume business operations." - Robert F. Granzow, Security Preparedness for Invisible Risks in the Covid-19 Era

For those with physical offices and staff, here are some basic policies you can implement:

Handling Staff

  • Before you actually implement any changes to procedure, notify your staff and make all changes clear and consistent. If you are able, provide a brief training on preventative behaviors such as proper hand-washing, desk sanitation, and respiratory etiquette. Make sure to follow all rules yourself in order to set a good example and encourage compliance.
  • If someone is sick or experiencing symptoms, don’t allow them in the office and encourage them to stay home. If you’re nervous about sick employees, take the temperature of everyone who enters the office.
  • Minimize the number of people allowed in the office at one time. You can stagger schedules to achieve the desired number or allow certain staff to remain remote at all times. When staff does come in, make sure they remain at least six feet from each other.
  • Make sure your staff is aware and trained on how to deal with agitated clients. This time has been rough for many as they have lost their jobs and even loved ones. Treat everyone who comes into your office with empathy and grace.

Handling Clients

  • Communicate openly and clearly with your clients about the changes your making for safety reasons. It’s important that they know when/if they can come into the office and how this might impact their case.
  • Also communicate with them how social distancing guidelines might introduce challenges to their case. While surveillance cases can largely proceed normally, the quarantine might affect findings as subjects are less active and less likely to see people. The more clients understand upfront, the more they will hopefully adjust their expectations. You might also suggest they postpone their investigation and follow up with them at a later date. While you may lose money upfront, you will gain the client’s trust in the long run.
  • After every office visit from a client, disinfect all surfaces clients have touched.

Handling the Office

  • Hang up signs that promote and instruct on social hygiene and distancing such as how to wash your hands or use your face mask. Make sure your signage is consistent with the rules you have put in place for your office.
  • Clean surfaces, whether it’s tables, desks, or keyboards, daily.

Handling the Equipment

  • Whenever you go out in public or interact with others at your office, wear a face mask that meets CDC recommendations and is sourced outside of medical supply chains so as to not impact healthcare workers. Once the mask is on your face, avoid touching the part that covers your nose and mouth as much as possible. Remove the mask using the elastics on the side. Since masks can look intimidating, remember to still smile as it will show in your eyes. Remember also that wearing a mask is less about protecting yourself and more about protecting and respecting the people around you.
  • Keep a supply of disposable gloves in both the office and your car. Learn how to use them correctly as misuse can still spread germs. Avoid touching your face and dispose of the used gloves properly and without touching the outside of the gloves.
  • If you don’t wear gloves, make doubly sure you use hand sanitizer regularly. A good hand sanitizer will contain at least 60% alcohol in order to be effective. Keep in mind that soap and water are still more effective at removing most kinds of germs, but hand sanitizer can still quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces like cars, desks, and other equipment. Remember to consistently clean your phone which has the potential to carry more germs than any other piece of equipment. Also, make sure to follow the instructions on the label as some may tell you to keep the surface wet for a certain amount of time.
  • Have protective equipment available for your staff and set expectations to use it. Set up stations with everything they need to keep their space clean from aerosol disinfectants to hand sanitizer. If your staff needs masks or any other equipment, provide them as much as possible.

Protect Yourself

  • Switch to virtual interaction as much as possible. Use video conferencing apps like Zoom or Skype to conduct interviews or meetings with staff. Learn how to conduct these calls without compromising sensitive information or becoming a victim of Zoombombing.
  • Become a professional in investigation areas that allow you to work remotely. This could mean replacing actual fieldwork with things like asset searches, people locates, and background checks.
  • Prepare yourself by looking ahead to the kinds of cases that will likely increase due to the crisis such as fraud and litigation.
  • As mentioned earlier, COVID-19 has impacted a lot of people in very negative ways whether it’s the loss of a job or a loved one. When interacting with clients, speak with patience and empathy, listening to clients’ specific needs and fears. Train yourself on how to deal with the array of emotions your client could potentially be feeling. As much as you’re able, bring positivity into your cases. You can also view this time as an opportunity for pro bono work, personal growth, and a shift in personal priorities.
  • Perhaps most importantly, take time to check in with yourself. Your mental health directly impacts how you handle your cases so take care of yourself in the midst of this health crisis. Address anxieties with meditation or time in nature. Stay active with walks or home workout sessions. Communicate with friends and family. Whatever brings you joy, even if it’s binge-watching shows on Netflix, invest in yourself because you are an essential part of your own business.
As private investigators, we’re used to changing our focus in order to meet the market’s needs. So whatever comes next in our careers, we’ll do what we always have and always will: adapt." - Brian Willingham, Diligentia Group

Join the Discussion

Do you have advice for other private investigators during this pandemic? Share your experience by joining our groups on LinkedIn and Facebook or contact us.

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