By J. Kelly Stewart
From the October 2014 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
An important component of facility management (FM) is the administration of managed security services. It is key not only to safeguarding the facility, but also to its operation and profitability. However, in order to understand some of those areas, it is necessary to define “managed security services” due to the various definitions that exist. In computing, managed security services are network security services that have been outsourced to a service provider. In the context of FM, it is a systematic approach to managing an organization’s security needs.
These security services may be conducted in-house or outsourced to a service provider. Traditionally, these are contracted security officers who are paid to protect property, assets, and people. Security officers are generally uniformed and act to protect property by maintaining a high visibility presence to deter illegal and inappropriate actions, observing (either directly through patrols, or by monitoring alarm systems or video cameras) for signs of crime, fire, or crisis; then taking action and reporting any incidents to their client and emergency services as appropriate.
In leased and owned Class A, B, or even C buildings, the primary function of private security officers is to gather information, control access to and maintain order on the property where they are contracted as well as, and most importantly, protect people, property and assets against any type of hazard that may affect the facility. Specifically, these security services could entail enforcement of policies and procedures of security, access, and asset control as well as employee safety. They could provide a secure workplace environment, protect assets and technology of companies, respond to on-site incidents, and report unsafe or threatening security conditions.
So, what should facility managers (fms) look at when hiring a security guard force for their facility? First and foremost, fms should consider hiring an experienced independent security consultant to assist in assessing the facility regarding its security needs. Most managed security service providers offer this service; however, one should be cautious since this might be a more self-serving assessment. Fms should bear in mind that an independent study and assessment of the facilities’ threats, vulnerabilities, and risks will allow for a more effective and efficient use of resources that need to be allocated in not only hiring the managed security service, but also in determining what responsibilities they will have within the facility.
Choosing the right managed security service is a very important decision. Asking the following questions will help to make the right choice when selecting a private security company:
- How well are the officers trained, and how often?
- Is the company licensed?
- Do they have references?
- Is the company insured?
- Do the security officers present a professional image?
- Are they the lowest bidder?
- Does the company monitor its guards?
- Will I receive a written report of incidents on my property?
- Does the company provide other services such as light checks or lock ups if needed?
- Does the company have 24-hour communication in place for emergencies if you need to reach them?
A Comprehensive Approach
Security officers should be as part of a complete protection plan rather than a stand-alone resource. The security plan is based on an understanding of the risks it is designed to control, and officers are but one strategy in the plan. Because they are expensive, their use should be evaluated periodically. Other protection resources, such as hardware and electronics, should also be considered. Fms can most effectively demonstrate to other stakeholders the need for security by quantifying and prioritizing the loss potential with a strategic plan that applies to the entire organization.
In fact, security officers are being used in more environments than ever before. In some cases they are replacing public police or soldiers. Security officers may patrol downtown areas or military installations; monitor heavily populated facilities like stadiums, shopping centers, or large apartment complexes; or transport prisoners or detainees.
Meanwhile, security officers play a public relations role when they perform their protection duties and represent an employer. They are often the first contact a visitor, customer, vendor, or employee has with an organization. The way they deal with people has a marked effect on the initial impression made by the organization.
Security officers can also help form and maintain good relationships between the security department (in-house or contract) and others in the organization. By being involved in a security awareness program, officers can impact the attitude of employees to report or decrease security risks. Equally important is the continuing training that these officers receive and how tailored it is to the particular facility. While training does involve cost, the long-term benefits can be charted in order to identify the proper course of action as well as indicate the return on investment.
Further emphasis needs to be focused on managing guard services by a concept known by “Management by Objective.” This allows an fm to establish a performance-based management tool to manage the security service contract.
The plan should further include having management identify meaningful goals and metrics for contract staff and establish a system of rewards for service providers when those goals were met. After extensive collaboration with the service provider, an fm can determine proper metrics that concentrate on indicators such as job knowledge, customer service, customer satisfaction, innovation, turnover, building stewardship, appearance, and standard operating procedures. When combined, these measures provide a representative mosaic of the overall quality and performance of the security staff.
Security officers who can understand and articulate not just what they do but also why they do it will exercise better judgment when faced with unforeseen events and circumstances that force them to act without a “script.” Typical training programs in the industry consist of a series of building-block lessons designed to provide an officer with increasing competency in a specific skill set or area of knowledge. Often, however, officers learn the “how” without the “why.”
In-House Or Subcontract?
Another critical decision is determining whether to use in-house guarding staff or subcontracted guard services. If working with a security consultant, this would be identified in the risk assessment process, but fms still need to be cognizant of the following pros and cons of each.
- Greater control of quality and appearance of officers
- Customer service and response times are monitored.
- Guards can be trained to solve basic security system problems.
- Can be marketed as a bundled service
- Enables better communication with customers. Information is delivered directly to the dealer rather than through a third party.
- Liability exposures
- Increased insurance costs
- Requires different management and personnel skills. Patrol officer work requires a different mentality than that of a security technician.
- Cost increases in worker benefits and compensation
- More vehicles may need to be purchased for patrols.
- More supervision required
- Dealer is directly responsible for background checking, training, and licensing of guards.
- Greater control of quality and appearance of officers
- Officers may have greater loyalty to a dealer.
- Enables better communication with customers due to direct communication
- Guard services may not be available in certain areas.
- Less control of quality and appearance of officers. Customer service and response times not easily verified.
- Guards usually are not as well trained in electronic/physical security.
- Potential for unscrupulous subcontractor to provide confidential information to competitors or steal business
- Contract between the dealer and subcontractor is needed. Legal expenses will be incurred if counsel is hired to draw up contract.
- Because a third party is involved, there may be a delay in communicating customer issues to the dealer.
Success is dependent on continual Improvement of the program. Planning and preparing for security services goes to the very essence of assessing the facility first with an independent security consultant. This will allow fms to plan appropriately for where security services are needed, determining whether or not in-house or subcontracted services should be deployed and how then to maintain and increase the level of competency of those security services.
Stewart is managing principal and CSO of Newcastle Consulting, LLC, a Leesburg, VA firm that provides strategic security management services. He has 25 years of experience in both the public and private sectors as a security practitioner and physical security systems designer.