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Eyes and ears: Intelligence from the trenches

There is much focus placed on training officers in the security industry. One source of informal information that is worth its weight in gold is that of the non-security employee.  In most security settings, security staff are woefully underrepresented, especially in relation to the size of the property. I have worked in facilities numbering in the millions of square feet, and we only had two security officers on per shift.  We cannot be everywhere at any given time, but staff members are. Regardless of the training regimen we put our security officers through, it is not necessarily ample. We can train stakeholders to embrace their own significant role in the security mandate.



January 26, 2009
By Dean Young

Topics

Most security departments rely on printed brochures or web site content
to influence stakeholders to support the security department’s mandate,
but what more can be done? Creating collaborative environments through
open lines of communications and an acceptance of the security
department’s mandate of safety and security by all stakeholders can
provide the security officers with valuable sources of information in
the facility’s general staff and patrons.

One trend I have seen
in my years in security is that of the suspicion placed on cleaners. While I have no comment on the suspicion, one thing I have learned is
that fostering a supportive relationship with janitorial staff will
provide a willing source of reporting for suspicious activity.  Most
cleaners are socialized to be looked upon as invisible, so they usually
keep a low profile, and do not usually volunteer information. If we
train our security members to engage janitorial staff to form effective
relationships, it will open the communication lines.   Remember how I
said that cleaners are treated as invisible? People are willing to
talk candidly when cleaners are present, thus becoming a valid source
of information if they are willing to share it. The only drawback is
that janitorial staff is usually working during evening and night
shifts; limiting the time they are available witnesses to activities on
the property. However, it remains a benefit to train security
departments to foster open lines of communication with this stakeholder
in the protection of the facility’s assets.

 Maintenance staff, on the
other hand, is generally on duty around the clock.  Sometimes all it
takes is a simple “Hello” when passing by, engaging the employee in
conversation, have a coffee, etc.  If cleaners or maintenance are
engaged in social activities during the shift, they are more likely to
disclose information to which security officers may not be privy.

Lunch
and learns are an effective way of influencing general staff in many
security related issues. One of the most beneficial uses of a lunch
and learn is to use the gathering as a means of communicating the
security staff’s interest in the security and safety of facility
staff.  This can lead to an increase in the personal connection to the
security staff. And as discussed earlier, the more personal
relationships are formed, the more willing employees will be to share
information. I was once engaged to attend a health and safety
committee’s week long information session to provide a lunch and learn
regarding Office Safety. Although there was no onsite security (it was
an engineering firm), there was an increased awareness for the
attendees, and the result was an increase in the tendency for employees
to speak up and/ or challenge suspicious behaviour.  

Another
technique available to train employees to report information is the New
Employee Orientation. Most employees are going to be more concerned
with learning the basics of their jobs, and forming relationships with
new coworkers.  To provide a personal connection to the new employee is
to introduce the security department at the orientation.  Usually,
these orientations consist of HR, payroll, health and safety, and
representatives of other such corporate departments.  Security is
typically left out of this information session.  This is one area that
members of the security department can train regular employees to be
vigilant while onsite.

One other such orientation that is a
benefit to the educational facilities, regardless of size, is the New
Student and Parent Orientations. I have taught in a small facility and
currently supervise security in a large facility, and one common
denominator I have seen is the student’s family concern over the
students’ safety.  Parents can be a source of information if they feel
connected to the security department through a personal appearance
during such an orientation. The students may be more willing to
discuss issues with their parents, instead of speaking with security
officers. It also allows security staff to educate students in how to
provide information that contributes to the students’ own well being.

As
we’ve seen, there are a number of methods we may use to refocus our
efforts to train our officers to the benefits of training our
stakeholders. Employee schedules and facility access range 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and from one end of the
facility to the next. When security officers are absent or
unavailable, we still have a human security presence on which to rely.

Dean Young is Coordinator, Campus Security at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.


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