In today’s technological world, the focus of access control and identification are mainly electronic – utilizing identification cards, biometrics, numeric keypads and passwords. One critical component of access control and identification that is routinely over looked is the use of people.

Recently, my new employer reminded me of the role people play in securing facilities, places and entities. From screening persons entering a building to sitting and watching an x-ray machine or TV monitor, the role that people play in controlling access and authenticating identities is enormous, and so very important. This was evident when, recently, a security officer working in a south Florida courthouse identified what she thought was a gun through an X-ray machine and began to question the situation. The individual carrying the bag with the gun wasn’t able to provide any identification, so a deputy was asked to respond. At that same time a second security officer cleared the lobby area of all people. Two deputies checked the individual’s bag and found a loaded .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, an additional loaded magazine and six boxes of ammunition. 

The task of providing personnel to control access and check identification is monumental, and it presents various challenges. Access control work can be very stressful and at times be monotonous for the people that conduct the screening. It takes a special type of person to become and work successfully as a screener, something that is not always considered when hiring a person to screen persons or packages.

In general, we take for granted the work that people do that tends to blend into the routine of our everyday lives until their actions impact us. Access control screeners affect our daily routine when we pack the wrong item into our carry-on suitcases or when we leave our identification at home. In my career I have seen countless people push, shove, kick, scream, spit and even assault access control personnel. I have seen people wave their finger in the access control officers face, threaten officer’s jobs and pull out a gun.

So what does it take to become an effective access control screener? Is it personality, birth order or a specific astrological sign? It could be any of those things, however, more likely, what is needed is knowledge of the job, experience in carrying out the job, perseverance doing the job, objectivity and a clear understanding of why the job is being conducted.

Knowledge means understanding the specific details of each function of the job and the details, such as knowing the procedure when a weapon is discovered, what to say to someone to keep them calm and to stop them from running away or pushing past an access point.

Proficiency entails learning how to deal with people, being comfortable greeting them, stopping them and double checking their credentials. It involves screening each person thoroughly enough to feel comfortable that the building is secure. It also means having enough experience to orient new people on the exact procedures to follow when conducting the screening process.

Perseverance includes consistently carrying out the job functions the exact same way no matter what occurs, even when you have stresses in your personal life.

Maintaining objectivity is important as well, as every person that enters the screening process needs to be treated the same. Sides cannot be taken, and everyone deserves a level of respect and courtesy as they go through the screening process.

Just as you wouldn't hire your next security executive without knowing whether or not he or she has the right skills to be an effective member of your team, successful access control screeners need to properly vetted, as well. Hiring someone who’s not right for the job could mean all the difference in the world.