Slowly but somewhat surely, several of the 1.5 million security officers in the U.S. are teching up. It’s definitely not like Peter Weller’s RoboCop. And it’s certainly not mirroring Star War’s Jedi Knights, unless a lightsaber is tomorrow’s taser. And hopefully it’s unlike Mall Cop’s Paul Blart.
Of course, many real-life security officers today have traded their two-way radios in for cellular phones. Some carry high-tech electronic guard tour devices. A few tool around in Segways, but are better drivers than batty Blart.
U.S. guarding market experts such as Robert Perry of Robert H. Perry & Associates estimate there are 10-15,000 firms, most of them small companies with few officers and tight coverage, while a couple of dozen of the largest firms boast a solid majority of the total officers and cover all or most the America. Arming these men and women with leading edge technology is a challenge to both the big and little companies. There’s a huge price tag to equip a national force of hundreds of thousands; and, for the small firms, there’s not really a business need to tech up.
Threats and Risk Changes
There is also the dynamics of threats and risks part of all sizes and types of guarding firms. According to officer instructor Charles Thibodeau, owner and senior consultant at Charles T. Thibodeau & Associates, the lower the threat/risk levels, the less security protection that is needed. The higher the threat/risk levels, the more security protection that is needed. “It does not get any more complicated than that,” he said. “What is complicated is the fact that there does not exist anywhere on earth two locations that have the same threat/risk level and all levels keep changing in character and changing in intensity.”
Still, guarding firms are rolling out diverse officer-centric technology, especially for enterprises requiring such gear and for unique assignments where threats and risks outrank the cost. As a corollary, guarding companies continue to improve their training programs while also adjusting the officers’ look and feel.
Changes in technology, training and dress are, not surprisingly, evolutionary; but by the year 2020, there may be vast differences relative to the average officer. Or will there be?
In terms of technologies, Gil Zimmerman, AlliedBarton’s quality assurance manager, who’s attached to the government services division, predicts that the future could be wearable micro-miniature communications and surveillance devices built into the sleeve or cuff of an officer’s uniform. “Today we are somewhat constrained by cost (when considering new gear for everyone),” he said. “You also need to consider the environments – sun, rain, snow, dirt, mud -- in which officers often work.”
Speaking of uniforms, Lew Pincus with G4S Wackenhut envisions security officers having custom uniforms depending on the client and type of assignment. “Their clothing may be heat or chemical resistant, maybe they have a tracking device built in, include certain radiation detection protective fabrics or designed with important wearable safety features,” he said, and added that “Some uniforms will resemble a quasi-military look with the latest gadgetry while others will be more plainclothes in style. Both will be constructed of bomb, bullet and combat resistant fabrics that contain space age breathable materials that are extremely strong, yet comfortable.”
There also may be a blending of law enforcement with security officer in some future assignments, a mixture that will impact carry-around technologies. There’s “a little bit of that evolution today, ports as one example. We will do more of that work. In the future we may be the police or sheriff’s department for certain tasks and they contract out support services,” added Zimmerman.
The Public and Private Line is Blurring
Thibodeau agrees. “Some small towns will eliminate their police forces so they can hire security officers to protect their communities based on the necessity of cost savings. In 2020, there could be an increase in armed security officers taking over most of the day-to-day police duties in some cities and towns while seasoned police officers fight the more serious crimes.”
No doubt, officer tools are also changing.
“Technology software and hardware devices are becoming a huge part of the security officer toolset and capabilities,” observed Pincus. “High-tech communication devices already exist like stealth videocams and PDA units that can perform a multitude of functions.” A while back, Wackenhut introduced Secure Trax, a hardened, hand-held device with real-time incident alert, e-mail mass notification, GPS tracking, safety inspection, and automated check-in/check out capabilities.
Pincus added, “The elite security officer business is becoming more high tech everyday with new technologies designed to work with our highly skilled officers and remote monitoring centers like ‘virtual officer tours,’ ‘video chaperones’ or ‘virtual doorman’ to real-time incident alert and e-mail mass notification of a threat. I think the leaders in the industry will have officers who use technology as a tool for information superiority, that is the ability to gather the right information at the right time and send it to the right people so they can make the right decision and take action before the adversary does.
“One tool may be like a PDA-type mobile device that can do even more than it does today such as sweeping for bombs, sniffing for hazardous materials, swiping and testing surfaces for biological threats,” he said. “They may even be remotely operated from a safe distance.”
Security management consultant Dennis Shepp of Dennis Shepp Security Management Professional Inc. shares a similar vision.
Portable Devices will Dominate
Shepp said that, “Protection officers will carry sturdy, but very portable devices that will be combination communicators capable of several wireless communication capabilities and will also be integrated with the command and control center to send and receive visual and voice images and messages, incident reports, manage tours and inspections, scan identification badges, integrate with GPS/GIS mapping and tracking as well as provide language translation along with other various unimagined capabilities.
“The same device will be a personal computing device to provide all the capabilities of a modern personal computer by the year 2020,” he said. “Such powerful integration features will provide seamless communication among the PC of the day, the portable device and organizational management systems.”
When it comes to such on-the-horizon officer devices, voice will beat out touch says author Mark Beaudry, who is a senior security professional at IBM-SWG. “Much of the emerging handheld technology will be in the form of nanotechnology that’s voice activated as opposed to touch used today with text-messaging,” he said. “This also will be true for vehicles and other mobile utilities (eyes in the sky, i.e., similar to the predators used in the military). On this note, look for officer tools similar to systems such as Cha-Cha, where you dial a number and ask it a question, and within seconds it gives you the answer.”
Shepp points to transportation as a leading indicator. “I couldn’t have predicted something like the Segway transport ten years ago; but something simple as this transporter has made the security officer more mobile without insulating them from the community by being inside a metal cocoon-style automobile,” he noted. “Ten years from now, protection officer transport will revolutionize the ability to safely move in rugged outdoor environments and provide rapid response to incidents in a wider variety of circumstances. These transporters will also provide environment-friendly functionality and serviceability. Security organizations will become more environmentally sustainable.”
Unique Tech Solutions
Often, as budgets are squeezed, fewer officers patrol larger areas with diminished effectiveness. So even today, innovative security companies are blending and integrating security technologies with guarding services to add greater value.
For example, Securitas Security Services USA is combining guarding and new wireless “remote sentries,” called Motion Viewers, which integrate PIR motion detection, a video camera and illuminators for night vision into a single fist-sized device. The wireless outdoor MotionViewers detect intruders and transmit a ten-second video of the incident over the cell network to Securitas’ monitoring center, where personnel review the video and alert the security officer for a coordinated response. The approach from Videofied can be installed and moved instantly. Keith Jentoft of Videofied said, “We are working with the top five guarding companies in the United States.”
Concerning weapons, Shepp said he sees a new-age arsenal hanging from an officer’s belt by 2020. “New technologies for non-lethal weapons will evolve,” he predicted. “Officers will be better trained and equipped to each carry devices depending on their protective role. These will be non-controversial alternatives to firearms and tasers, but effective tools offering extreme portability and deployment without permanent damage to the ‘stunned’ adversary. Portability will be the key to all protective tools.”
Added Thibodeau, “It’s possible the security officer of 2020 will look more like a well equipped National Guard soldier or U.S. Army soldier than a security officer.”
Or maybe assignments in the future will be in the hands and wheels of robots. While Japanese robot developers report that today’s economic atmosphere has led to robot layoffs and the shelving of further research, it’s just as obvious that robots on patrol has a cost-effective ring to it.
What about Robots?
“Many companies have been working on robots for years,” remarked Beaudry. “The future will include those types of robots that can perform routine activities such as patrolling and surveillance, both on the ground and in the air. Many systems are converting already to intelligent network video systems since everything will be run on an IP base. Many security officers today carry Blackberries already programmed to call up any security video within their site.”
Things change, but some things will remain the same, no matter a futurist view.
“A lot of things are constant, such as the assignment to help people feel secure and comfortable by observing and reporting,” commented AlliedBarton’s Zimmerman. Education and training are areas where most see continued emphasis in the years to come.
“In 2020, I can imagine security officer’s having much more specialized security education. They will be highly skilled in specialized areas (chemical, nuclear, public events, hospitals, as examples) and be part of a growing profession. They will be required to have certain clearances from the government and various other agencies,” added Wackenhut’s Pincus.
Better Training, More Certifications
Shepp concurred that the protection officer in 2020 will be a highly trained and certified member of a growing vocation. “Globally recognized training and certification will be sought by the leading organizations, which will value and strive toward international standards of training and certification,” he said.
“Security management will themselves appreciate the investment potential toward this goal. Having a more qualified and motivated protection team will complement an evolution toward the security organization assuming more responsibilities and expanding beyond traditional roles and responsibilities. It will be organizations of this nature that will become models to others.
Undoubtedly, training for security officers will be longer, deeper and more complex than it is now.
It’s a key theme in an upcoming book, “Security in the Year 2020”, to be published by ASIS International and coauthored by Larry Fennelly, Mark Beaudry and Louis Tyska. “As we also know,” pointed out Beaudry, “training has yet to emerge in the sense of a formal academy format. If certification and standards are to be the requirement for the future, there will need to be formal academies in the private sector that mirror the public sector. This will require formal security instructors who will also need to be certified as professional security instructors.”
‘Do Almost Everything’ Officer Tracking Tools
Call it convenient convergence. Cellular telephones, global positioning and unique backroom and on-the-job software are coming together to help security officers, their employers and the enterprises that contract the service.
One example: AT&T and TeleNav just expanded their technologies into a GPS-enabled mobile resource management service. AT&T and competitor Sprint now bundle and sell TeleNav’s Track LITE to help businesses improve their field service, delivery or sales operations through real-time visibility of employee locations. The approach is attracting contract guarding firms.
To provide a more secure environment, some of these firms use the real-time reporting software and tools to “time and date” stamp each patrol performed. "All of our patrol officers use TeleNav GPS tracking," said Reed Nyffeler, president of Signal 88 Security Group, which has 15 or so franchises with about 450 officers while more are planned this year. “This system identifies where an officer has been within three feet in any given shift.” According to Nyffeler, true and accurate details of the officer's records in each report validate the actions taken the previous night. In the event an officer does not clock in or out at a specified time, leaves a job site without authorization or deviates from assigned orders and company policies, a manager receives immediate notification.
“Implementing technologically advanced tools allows a security firm to streamline the logistics of managing their personnel and assists them in holding their officers accountable,” Nyffeler said. “It’s also critical to recruit higher-quality personnel and train them in dealing with the most crucial security issues facing clients today.” The tracking feature is always on and cannot be disabled on the device.
According to Keith Halasy of TeleNav, the technology boasts a menu of functions. “Of course, there’re location awareness, tracking and reporting. But you can set up ‘crumb’ tracking, wireless clock in/out, wireless dispatch and geofences. A geofence is a virtual boundary on a geographic area, a location-based service for the process of setting up a virtual perimeter that someone or something might cross,” he said. “It becomes an essential and handy officer communications and patrolling tool and a business tool for security guarding firms.”
Post Orders: An Officer’s Firm Foundation
Even in the face of tech dazzle, enterprise security leaders and contract security guarding executives should not overlook post orders. A post order book should outline all the important key points in operating a security post, according to Brian Taylor, who has solid advice.
He urges consistent updating of the document. Establishing a cross functional team of subject matter experts and key stakeholders is an excellent way to prevent any oversight during the review of post orders. Electronic copies of post orders should be maintained for easy and quick revision with the revision date in plain view. Taylor places the revision date on the front cover.
When a new officer trains on a post, he or she trains with the aid of the post order book; an inaccurate post order book equals inaccurate and ineffective training. It's often harder to unlearn inaccurate information than to teach accurate information the first time around. So post orders should be simply written, easy to read and understand and use basic sentence structure along with clear and concise language.
An end of training cycle final exam is a must to objectively substantiate the officer’s readiness to assume the post. Those needing additional help can quickly be identified and given an opportunity to re-study and re-test. The exam should be closed book and properly monitored.
Taylor uses a four part outline for writing post orders: general orders, site orders, emergency orders and appendices.
The general orders section covers the basic expectations of all officers and includes basic items such as uniform appearance and standards, reporting on time for duty, the use and nonuse of client property and distractions not allowed. The general order section addresses conduct and basic do’s and don’ts.
The site order section deal with the operation of that specific post which may differ from another post at the same facility. An example of this would be site orders for the main gate of Acme and the dock of Acme. Both may have different opening or closing times, access control procedures or even emergency contact information, according to Taylor.
The emergency orders section consist of the instructions that management require of officers to effectively respond to an emergency. Taylor’s topics include:
- Medical assists
- Fire alarms
- Electrical outages
- Bomb threats
- Blood spills -- blood is a biohazard and proper response is a must
- Weather emergencies
- Workplace violence
- Elevator entrapments
- Media arrival on the property
Additional emergency procedures may be included depending on the particular location of the post and its environment.
The appendix section is where you can attach such items as security incident reports and time sheet samples, copies of human resource policies along with any memos that are generated.