FM Issue: Managing Security Services

Security jacket.
Photo: Thinkstock/Liquidlibrary.

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:

  1. How well are the officers trained, and how often?
  2. Is the company licensed?
  3. Do they have references?
  4. Is the company insured?
  5. Do the security officers present a professional image?
  6. Are they the lowest bidder?
  7. Does the company monitor its guards?
  8. Will I receive a written report of incidents on my property?
  9. Does the company provide other services such as light checks or lock ups if needed?
  10. 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?

Security guards are one of the first lines of defense for a facility.
Security guards are one of the first lines of defense for a facility. In addition, these personnel interact with victors and clients and should be trained as such. (Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte.)

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.

In-House (Pros)

  • 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.

In-House (Cons)

  • 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.

Subcontracted (Pros)

  • 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

Subcontracted (Cons)

  • 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.
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.

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.


  1. My husband and I are property managers for a few different apartment complexes, and security is extremely important to us. We are thinking about hiring security guards, and I didn’t realize there are so many things to think about! Thank you for explaining that we should make sure that the security company we hire is insured, licensed, and provides references.

  2. I thought it was interesting how you said that security officers are often the first contact a visitor or customer has with an organization. My sister works for an accounting firm, and their building was robbed and vandalized last week. It might be a good idea for them to hire a security force to help them protect their building from future issues.

  3. I think that having some kind of video intercom would keep a lot of places safer. As you said here, hospitals have this kind of system to keep the patients and doctors safe. I would for sure want to get something like this for my home as I want to stay as safe as possible.

  4. I like how you said that how can we check right managed security service. the points you share are really helpful for me to hire the right security service provider. Thanks Indeed!

  5. I really like what you said about how security firms should rely on careful threats, vulnerabilities, and risks to come up with an effective security plan. If I were a client to a security service provider, I would definitely want a data-driven paper backing up their security plan for my establishment. That will surely help me feel more confident about these people because they rely on empirical data for their approach.

  6. Nice information you shared about managing security service in professional manner and how to keep business and home safe.

  7. I agree with you that managing security of a building is a difficult task and it is very important for a business to have a security so that one can feel safe. Thanks for your deep information.

  8. While selecting the best security agency for our property one should keep in mind those things. Thanks for sharing such an informative blog.

  9. Thank you for this very well written article about managing security services, especially in the pros and cons section. I appreciate being able to learn a lot from a great website. Great job.

  10. Great stuff. I was looking for this information. I really enjoyed the article. The way you have mentioned small things. Keep doing good work.

  11. Thanks for suggesting that we ask potential security services how often their officers are trained. My work is putting on a large conference early next year, so they’ve been trying to pick the best security service to ensure the executives’ safety. It makes sense that you’d want a service that maintains the officers’ training and stays up to date with new data and methods. I’ll definitely suggest that they ask potential companies how often they train their officers!

  12. Thanks for the information on what to look for when selecting a private security company. I’ll be sure to ask any potential companies if they are licensed, like you suggested. Please keep sharing the articles like this.

  13. I appreciate how you said that a security officer should be part of a whole plan, rather than be a stand-alone force. This seems like it would be particularly important for event security to ensure that there aren’t any holes. That way the people who are performing can be safe and protected from any crazy people who try to mess with them.

  14. I like that you mentioned that the security officers will be wearing uniforms to keep inappropriate behaviors from being acted out since the officers are well visible. I guess my uncle could use this information since he will be holding an event next month. It will be an event about the right way to handle and care for dogs, so I really think they must have security in place to prevent dog bites from happening.

  15. Excellent write-up. Thank you for sharing these useful informations, choosing which private security company is hard task. Thanks for this great article.

  16. Great, your tips are very useful. These Days finding a best security service company for office is tough task. You will need to contract services from a Security Company. There are very few number of trusted companies which are providing all the services. Do check a complete solution of all the security needs.

  17. My fiance and I are actually looking for a great security service that will be able to help us make sure that no shenanigans occur during our wedding. So I really like your tip to ask if all of the guards have a professional image and if the company is licensed and insured. We will definitely be looking for a security service that has all of the proper documentation so that we can make sure we are not breaking any sorts of laws by hiring them and that we are completely covered.

  18. Security officers do not earn a high wage considering what they put into their jobs. A security officer has to undergo training in a variety of areas to qualify to be hired and must also engage in continuous training to maintain his skills. Job of a security officer and security guard management is full of risks. For more info please visit our site

  19. Thank you for all this helpful information about choosing a security guard company! one thing that really stood out to me is that you say that they might be able to maintain a higher visibility presence. It would be nice to know that you are going to ward off people that might want to steal from you.

  20. I could definitely see the benefit of hiring a private service to help keep things safe. I have seen private security guards as I’ve driven through my city. I had no idea they actually want to be seen to deter criminal activity. Next time I see them, I’ll remember why they are so easily seen.

  21. That’s a good point that security officers play a public relations role. I bet just having an officer around communicates that a business cares about safety. I bet businesses research security services to make sure they provide a safe environment for their customers.

  22. I really like your tip about securing entries using video type doorbells. I imagine that especially for a data facility this would be important, as it would be fairly easy for someone who didn’t belong their to inadvertently cause problems. I’m sure a good data facility manager would have security measures like these. It might be good to ask potential candidates about them before hiring someone.

  23. This articile is really helpful in making a choice , thank you for the intresting article and i am sure it will be very useful to anyone considering to be inhouse or outsourcing the security services. In Singapore most clients will consider outsourcing as we work very close with the police in singapore and have to update the police in all movement of the officers deployment and the officers should be approved by the police.
    Tejdeep Singh , Director

  24. It is interesting to know about how these type of companies really work. I have been considering hiring a security service company, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about doing it correctly. For this reason, I greatly appreciate your tips on specific things to look for in a good security company. I will definitely be using this article when I contact a business of this kind near me, thank you!

  25. Well trained security guards are very important for every business organization because they have the knowledge about how to attend or treat outsiders.

  26. Thanks for the good information. My last work didn’t have a security guard, even though it was a large company, so I never felt safe there. As you said, while they prided themselves on security their complete security plan was incomplete without the guard. Plus, there was no one at the building after hours. After reading your post, that something that I look for in new employment opportunities.

  27. Thanks for the information on what to look for when selecting a private security company. I’ll be sure to ask any potential companies if they are licensed, like you suggested. Do you have any other advice for me?

  28. My dad’s company is growing, and he is now considering finding some security guard services. As the facility manager, he has a lot of responsibility when it comes to the safety of the company. Thanks for comparing the advantages and disadvantages of hiring in-house or subcontracted security.

  29. There is a lot that goes into choosing a security force for your company. I liked your section on the pros and cons of in-house versus a subcontract. I think that analyzing your businesses needs and finding the best fit off of that can help. Also looking at what similar businesses in your area do can help to give you ideas into what will work with your business.

  30. I think that the 10 points you make when deciding on a private security company are all incredibly important. Our firm has been looking to the possibility of outsourced security, and in the next meeting we will be going over these points as well. Granted, these are not all inclusive to the questions we should be asking, but it is a great start. Thanks for the tips.

  31. I’ve never really thought about hiring security guards in the past, but the company I work for has been looking into it lately. I think your questions will be helpful as we’re making our decision. I have a question about question 5: do you think that going with the lowest bidder is usually the best option, or how should I weigh that against the other questions I ask?

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