Canadian Security Magazine

The importance of report writing

By Winston Stewart   

News Opinion Industry View Wincon Security

Documentation and report writing continue to be crucial security skills

The security surveillance tools we have at our disposal today would have been the stuff of science fiction to our grandparents’ generation.

From biometric keypads to facial recognition software, our ability to monitor properties, protect people and either prevent or respond to crime has improved exponentially in the past decade alone. And yet two of a corporate security guard’s most important tools are still their report-writing skills and observational abilities.

While technology is indispensable and has truly revolutionized the security industry, in most cases it merely complements the services delivered by on-site security professionals.

Increasingly, their role is to act as de facto corporate concierges, providing useful information to tenants and visitors alike, liaising with delivery teams or maintenance contractors and generally helping to set and maintain a property’s tenant experience. But their primary duty is still to protect, to pay attention, to remember faces, to respond to slip and fall incidents or accidents or, in a worst case, to be the first on the scene in the case of an emergency or a criminal act. When the latter occurs, they need to be able to document what they see and report to the tenant, the property owner or manager and, in some cases, emergency responders such as the fire department or police.

The occurrence report is their information-laden summary of major events when a more involved response, review and debriefing effort is required.

The importance of the observational and report-writing skillset simply can’t be overstated. A guard’s ability to compose a coherent and comprehensive site report — which documents incidents ranging from building damage to recording observations and flagging potential sources of danger, such as faulty mechanical componentry or icy sidewalks — is vital to helping address issues and ensure they don’t reoccur.

As we note in our training materials, no detail is too small to record and no amount of information is too much to share. If it seems even somewhat relevant, it’s worth reporting.

The general purpose of a properly- written report is six-fold:

  • To recreate an event
  • To prevent the loss of relevant information
  • To provide detailed accounts of events and to eliminate confusion
  • To facilitate easier recollection of an event
  • To inform appropriate parties of what has occurred
  • To reduce the risk of hearsay evidence impacting an investigation

But it’s the quality of the report, the ability to produce a document that covers the 5Ws (who, what, where, why and when), that summarizes key details and is written in a way that aligns with the 5Cs of report composition (clear, concise, complete, correct, chronologically-ordered) that differentiates both guards and the security firms that employ them. Those skills are not always inherent, nor should they be taken for granted.

Firms must ensure their personnel are adequately trained to observe the mundane and the unusual with equal attention to detail.

A guard’s engagement is key, which is why effective recruitment is so important for security firms.

Disengaged guards — spending shifts texting or talking on the phone rather than doing their job, for example — simply won’t see the same situation unfolding as will their more dedicated and attentive colleagues.

Security companies not only need to foster the right employee culture to get the very best from their staff, they need to have management structures in place that reinforce quality control and service expectations.

If poor observational performance is tolerated, it will become the norm.

The same goes for report writing.

If guards aren’t trained and provided with the necessary supports to compose satisfactory incident reports — which is especially important if a portion of a firm’s workforce does not speak or write English as their first language — they won’t be able to perform to expected levels.

Onboarding and ongoing report-writing workshops are essential tactics for maintaining quality, reducing guard turnover and ensuring value for corporate clients.

In the end, we should remember that security firms are essential first responders.

As such, firms have a responsibility to go above and beyond to ensure they’re not only covering the basics as service providers, but also doing what’s necessary to aid investigations, to create an exceptional atmosphere at the properties they protect and to engage with people in a meaningful, positive way.

Observing and recording are still essential tools to achieve those goals. A piece of technology has yet to be invented that can replace the talents of a security guard with a keen eye and strong attention to detail.

Winston Stewart is the president and CEO of Wincon Security (

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