In my last column I wrote about the “Human Factor” of access control and identification. I now recall several negative incidents that I experienced as a security director involving security staffs screening persons entering the lobbies of hospitals.
The first incident involved a female security officer who was spit upon while asking employees for their identification cards when entering the hospital. An employee who forgot his ID card lost control. He started yelling at the officer – accusing her of being incompetent and singling him out. When he was denied entry, he spit in her face and walked past to his workplace.
The second incident involved a visitor who was denied access because the employee he wished to visit could not be found. The furious individual pulled out his licensed firearm and brandished it at the officer and others in the lobby, threatening to harm the officer. This man and the employee he wished to visit were later identified, and the individual, the employee’s boyfriend, was arrested. The security officer who denied the gun-wielding boyfriend access requested not to be stationed at that post again.
Throughout my career, security staffs uniformly stated that the most stressful job was access control, rating it higher than restraining an extremely violent person. They cited the large number of employees’ and visitors’ lack of respect to the security officers and the policies of presenting identification as the main stressor.
In order to lessen stress and to maintain an access control process that works effectively, officers assigned to this function should have specialized, detailed and continuous training. Appropriately conducted training reduces the stress associated with access control and provides clients, employees and guests with a pleasant, hassle-free experience.
Providing training for access control and identification needs to contain specific methods that teach staff to properly and effectively screen persons entering the facility. Training should be interactive and classroom-based, not computer- or workbook-based. In order for students to truly understand their role and retain information, live training with student feedback is the most effective method.
The training should be based on real-life scenarios and include group discussions. Scenario-based training allows participants to feel and review these situations, reducing on-job stress. Group discussions allow the students to ask questions and work through real-life situations, concerns and personal experiences.
Access control training should complement the job, not complicate it. It should include detailed instruction of the post orders along with policies and procedures that were written for the access control function.
The training should be competency-based, containing assessments conducted immediately pre- and post-training, and at midpoints between formal classroom sessions to reinforce training and to analyze student retention.
Not unlike emergency management, periodic exercises and drills should be conducted with staff. Exercise-based training runs staff through worst-case scenarios, helping them feel more comfortable with situations and policies. Staff should immediately be informed and trained in changes to orders and policy.
Training is not just about instruction, but also review of actual adverse incidents. Adverse incident briefings should be a standard part of the training process, and included in group discussions, exercises and drills.
Although classroom training is expensive, it is the best for access control and identification because it requires live interaction between student and teacher. It allows for immediate changes and updates of information that computer- and workbook-based training cannot always accomplish. Changing computer systems can be expensive and time-consuming, as is printing hundreds of workbooks. Classroom-based training is adjustable and widely distributed in one session.
Education is important for the building occupants as well. It is necessary for building users to understand the company philosophy and what is expected of them as part of access control and identification. This education can make the security officers’ job much easier, and should also be classroom-based. This allows occupants to ask questions so they can understand the rationale behind access control and the behaviors required of them to keep the system running smoothly.
In conjunction with a strong education program, clear signage helps educate visitors on the access control function, as well as reinforce policies among building occupants. Signs should be posted in lobbies and at all entry points so that staff and visitors are continually reminded of the access control and identification policy.