Technology and a New Caliber of Security Officer

In this era of technology, a security officer must adapt to evolving industry requirements to rank among the top contract personnel.
Requirements for security personnel are as varied as the companies they serve. The term “generic” no longer applies to the role of security officer. Rather, each is an individual who reflects the sum-total of their training and experience. It benefits the contract security industry to recruit the most competent personnel and to carefully match their abilities to customer needs.

The work of security officers in a range of industries throughout the country has become more specialized and refined as industry technology has evolved and been tailored to specific environments. There is tremendous value in the collective efforts of the contract security industry to protect a range of businesses and institutions throughout the United States.

Changes in the security market are being driven largely by technology, but underlying security needs have not changed. Technology merely provides important tools to meet those needs more effectively, efficiently and economically. As technology improves the security marketplace, so should demand for a corresponding improvement in the quality of security personnel.

Sector-Specific Skills

It is critical that security personnel working in various business sectors have specialized knowledge. One contributing factor is the need for increased compliance with government regulations, which often outline sector-specific industry requirements. Here is an overview:
Colleges and Universities: Security officers must be aware of the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act’s campus crime reporting requirements. The act, also known as the Clery Act, ensures that information reflecting the effectiveness of campus security efforts is readily available. Compliance with crime reporting requirements is mandatory for an institution to receive federal student financial aid. Requirements include maintaining a public log of reported crime and providing timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees. Thus, it is important for public safety officers to be aware of how their work relates to federal compliance mandates. (Editor’s Note: Details of the Clery Act and other regulation impacting school security can be found in this month’s Compliance Scorecard column, on page 49 of this issue.)

Chemical Plants: Security personnel may be required to help ensure compliance with Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, which are comprehensive federal security regulations for high-risk chemical facilities imposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Security officers may be asked questions about security measures as part of the federal inspection process.
Critical Infrastructure: Security officers employed at critical infrastructure locations may be part of yet another group of specialized teams. DHS has identified 18 critical infrastructure sectors — including agriculture, food, emergency services and cyber-networks — that it considers “critical” because if they were compromised or incapacitated, it would impact national security, the economy, or public health and safety. Security officers working at these critical locations must undergo the specific training and exercises required for these industries.

Medical Facilities: Security officers at hospitals and healthcare facilities should be versed in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements, which include specifics related to the security and privacy of health data.
Requirements for Joint Commission health care specify the need to ensure that patients are provided a safe and secure environment, including training of staff.

A required Environment of Care Risk Assessment evaluates the potential adverse impact of the external environment on the security of patients, staff, and others coming to the facility. Security officers are a part of these efforts.
Trade and Commerce: Many security personnel are performing specialized security activities for clients that participate in the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program, and other clients that operate within the U.S. Department of Commerce-designated Foreign Trade Zones. Each sector carries its own requirements with which security officers must be familiar.

Ports and Transportation Facilities: Security officers at ports, airports and rail systems must carry out Coast Guard-enforced Port Facility Security Plans (PFSPs) and meet the requirements to carry the Transportation Security Administration’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).

There are also other sector-specific requirements beyond the impact of regulations. For example, security officers in government face the possibility of terrorism and other challenges. Additional sectors requiring specialized security expertise include utility and energy providers, oil and gas facilities, financial institutions and logistics.

Commercial Buildings: These security officers often serve as ambassadors and public-relations professionals. In commercial real estate or manufacturing facilities, it is essential to recruit experienced, customer-service-oriented professionals to provide security, fire, life and safety-related services in the commercial marketplace, such as high-rise office buildings and corporate campuses.

Leisure and Tourism: While the customer experience is paramount, there is also an expectation of security in this industry. Well-trained, personable security officers help customers enjoy their leisure and recreation in safer and more secure environments.
Retail: The benefit from retail security extends beyond a uniformed officer stationed at the storefront. Security personnel should be as knowledgeable of in-store security processes and technology as they are of the cash cycle and the retail world. Security officers with training and awareness of these processes enable retailers to focus on their main priority, the customer.

Training programs for these and other sectors must ingrain a variety of standard security officer skills while also catering to specialized needs. The job of security officer can differ from one industry to the next, and candidates for those positions must be matched accordingly. The new role of security officers now offers candidates a wealth of choices that reflect the expanding opportunities of the market.

Technological Know-how

Technology is becoming common in the corporate security world. As a result, today’s security officers must be able to interact efficiently and effectively with various technologies. Antiquated guard-tour systems have been replaced by devices and software that provide real-time communication, incident reporting, and responsiveness. This shift has changed the job of security officer for the better.

Today, security officers may be equipped with software-enabled PDAs that network wirelessly with command-centers in real-time; capturing incidents, sending pictures, recording time-and-attendance, and verifying patrol activities. These systems provide clients with dynamic views of their sites’ security environments.

Security officers must now be able to operate, interpret and respond to data made available through the technology in place, including: advanced video-management, intrusion-detection, alarm monitoring, electronic communications, access control and visitor-management systems. Training on these systems allows security officers to make faster, better-informed decisions when responding to incidents, and when identifying, investigating and responding to causes.

Security officers trained to be observant of site-specific variables can have a tremendous value-added impact beyond security. For instance, a security officer doing a tour can observe and confirm that various systems are working as intended. He or she can survey fire extinguishers or report maintenance issues such as problems with building and site lighting, door hardware, perimeter fencing, and safety issues. The more officers know about the company and processes in place, the more value they provide.

Drew Levine is President of G4S Secure Solutions USA.

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