7 questions every business should ask before hiring a contract security company

March 15, 2018
Choosing a guard services provider requires proper due diligence

Choosing a professional security guard vendor is not an easy process. If a business fails to perform a due diligence inquiry on the prospective vendor, it may result in considerable personal and financial liability for their organization. There are numerous problems that can be encountered and there must be no assumption that advertising material is factual and will protect you from negligent security litigation.

Several factors need to be considered when choosing a security guard vendor. Most security guard vendors are honorable, ethical and perform their responsibilities in a professional manner. The problem arises when dealing with the less-professional vendors. A business owner or operator, by law, cannot relieve themselves of liability for the safety and security of his or her property or individuals on his or her property by hiring a guard services firm. The business owner may outsource the operation of the security program to a vendor, but the wise business owner makes a business decision that only a professional security vendor will be responsible for security operations.

Unfortunately, the security guard industry is price driven and may not always meet the necessary legal standards and training required to protect the business owner. Organizations must be wary of the claims of professionalism stated by some contractors that may be found on a website or other marketing material which may be exaggerations or outright falsehoods. 

Key Considerations and Questions

The question every business owner must ask themselves is: how do I protect myself from unscrupulous security guard vendors? Companies should realize that the lowest bid may not always be the wisest bid. As in any business decision, return on your financial and personal investment must be the primary decision factor. As the old adage states— “you only get what you pay for.” Quality is not an inexpensive consideration.

There are several critical items that should be considered when selecting a security vendor, including:   

  • Does the company have the required professional and business licenses?
  • Does the company have professional liability, workman’s compensation and automobile insurance?
  • Are the individual security officers licensed as required by law?
  • Are the individual security officers trained as required by law and your business requirements?
  • Are the individual security officers properly equipped and do they present a professional appearance?
  • How are the individual security officers and security operations supervised and managed?
  • Has the security company or its individual staff members and officers been defendants in a security negligence litigation matter?

Does the security company have the required professional and business licenses?

Each state and local jurisdiction has a licensing requirement that normally mandates the minimum standards for a security company operation. In some jurisdictions, the mandate may require an accomplishment of minimum requirements for a security agency license and/or individual security officer licenses. Also, many jurisdictions require a business license for tax and revenue purposes.

Business owners should consult with the proper authorities to determine the license requirements and the vendor’s compliance with the requirements. The vendor may state that his business and employees are appropriately licensed but independent verification is necessary. The vendor should be required to provide the business owner with a certified copy of the necessary licenses.

Does the Vendor Have the Necessary Insurance Coverage?

Consultation with a qualified insurance provider by the business owner will enable him or her to decide what types of insurance are needed and if the security vendor is compliant. If the vendor does not have worker’s compensation insurance and one of the vendor’s employees is injured during the course of his employment, the business may be responsible for the injured security officer’s compensation and medical expenses. Automobile insurance should state that the coverage is related to business operations and not “pleasure.” While business automobile insurance may be costlier, the insurance company may be able to deny a claim for misrepresentation of vehicle usage, which could transfer the claim responsibility to the business owner. The organization should require copies of the necessary insurance policies, and when appropriate, proof that the policies are linked to the business being protected.

Are the Individual Security Officers Licensed as Required by Law?

Individual states have a variety of requirements mandating the licensing of security guards. Some states have minimal requirements, while other state’s requirements are extensive. The licensing laws may require specific experience, initial training, periodic retraining, and if the officer is armed, additional requirements may exist.

Are Security Officers Trained as Required by Law and Your Business Requirements?

Diverse training methods and philosophies may vary and can create issues, so it is important that training follow mandated topics and additional topics that meet minimum state requirements and conform to the client’s business. These might include situations specific to the client, such as handling of hazardous materials, blood borne pathogens, and specialized equipment operations, etc.

Some security guard vendors have professional training program, while others are basically “hit or miss” operations. The security vendor should be required to identify and provide documentation for his particular training program, including the following:       

  • The specific training topics and the learning objectives for each topic.
  • Copies of all initial and recurring training topic lesson plans, including the length of time of each topic presentation.
  • The manner in which the training was presented--lecture, online, group exercises and discussions, problem solving, etc.
  • The identification and qualifications of each topic presenter.
  • Proof that the individual actually attended the training, preferably with the individual’s signature acknowledging the training.
  • A testing program to determine the topic comprehension of each security officer.
  • Proof that the individual security officer attended mandatory continuing training sessions.

Are Security Officers Properly Equipped and Present a Professional Appearance?

The security officers should be equipped with distinctive uniforms identifying them as security officers. They should also be equipped with flashlights, appropriate keys and communications equipment. There should be a mandated standard for the cleanliness and appearance of all uniforms and equipment. Additional equipment as necessitated by specialized business operations must be provided.

How Are Individual Security Officers and Security Operations Supervised and Managed?

The lack of adequate supervision and management of the security officers and security operations are significant causes of negligent security claims. A negligent security claim can result in an average judgment of $600,000 plus attorney’s fees and loss to the reputation of the business and its owner or operator.

At a minimum, there should be at least one supervisory inspection on each shift that includes all security posts and activities. A security supervisor should be utilized on-site when possible; however, a single on-duty security officer cannot be considered a supervisor, as by definition a supervisor must have someone to supervise. When an on-site supervisor is not feasible, the security vendor should provide an off-site supervisor who is required to inspect the business at least once per shift. A security vendor manager should inspect the security site at least monthly. The business owner or his representative should inspect the security operations on a random basis to ensure compliance with contractual requirements. Each inspection should be documented and provided to the business client.

Has the Security Company or Its Employees Been Defendants in Security Negligence Litigation?

If a security company, its staff and officers have been defendants in a negligent security litigation claim that should not be an automatic disqualifier. It is necessary to review the court records to determine the circumstances of the claim and the outcome of the litigation. It is not unusual that a negligent security claim will be made but either dismissed at a later date or found in favor of the defendant. If the action is a justified claim, the matter will provide insight into the security vendor’s operations.

*Note: This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

About the Author:

Grayling D. Livingston is the founder and president of Get A Security Quote (GASQ), a search for hire, lead generation, and sales support-type service that support contract security firms, to include security consulting, sales and marketing activity. GASQ work with end-users of contract security services who don’t want to own (or own) a full-time security staff and are looking for the best value for their money and expect the services to match the fees or services. For more information, visit www.gasq.us