Increasing Security Officer Efficiency with Extra Training
Every job has new hire orientation – you get the employee handbook; discuss the dress code and benefits; take the tour of your new workplace. But for security officers, training usually doesn’t stop there. Security officers have to be the front line of an organization’s security force, prepared with all the tools necessary to handle the worst situations.
Training is not the easiest thing to fit into a schedule or budget, and it can often be one of the first things to go, especially when training for situations that rarely, or never, occur, such as terrorist threats or, in Darrell Clifton’s case, cage robberies.
Darrell Clifton, Director of Security for Circus Circus Reno, is very proud of his training program at the Reno casino and resort hotel, and it’s justified. He has 54 in-house security officers in his force, and in their first week those officers face upward of 70 hours of classroom academy, which is followed by three weeks of field training with another, more experienced officer.
Clifton’s force also uses several types of refresher training.
“We used to have six-minute briefing training, but now we’re using a ‘pull-out’ training style,” he says. “They’re like mini-tabletop exercises. We pull three, five, seven or even one officer off of their post for a meeting on the floor about different events. We train most for the uncommon events – a cage robbery, for example.” Clifton has never experienced an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist before, but security personnel have to be ready anyway.
“Things involving people – the dynamic events – those are the ones that it’s hardest to train for, but the most necessary,” he says.
Clifton had to make sure, when designing the security officer training protocol for Circus Circus, that he was training the right people, starting with the hiring process.
“We worry about excessive force colliding with customer service,” he says. “We have to get the response level consistent – we’re in the hospitality industry, so we can’t handle incidents like cops or prison guards.
“We used to hire based on experience, but experience has taught me that we can train skills, but we can’t train attitude,” says Clifton, who has recently published a book on the subject (Hospitality Securityfrom CRC Press), and who was named one of Securitymagazine’s Most Influential People in Security in 2011.
But at Hearst Tower in New York City, security officers have to receive additional training to ensure they stay professional, even when Oprah walks in the front door.
In charge of keeping the officers from being “star struck” is Bernard Shaw, VP/Director of Corporate Security at the Hearst Corporation. The building is home to the offices of top nationwide magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeepingand Harper’s Bazaar.
Hearst is a family-owned company with an atmosphere of treating everyone as family, including its 50 security officers, says Ted Lotti, Deputy Director of Security at the Hearst Building, who has been with the company for six and a half years. The officers are considered part of the organization, even though they are contracted through AlliedBarton Security Services. Partly because the work environment is so positive, Lotti says, the program has had less than a 12 percent turnover rate during his tenure there.
The AlliedBarton security officer training program, as used in the Hearst building, has five stages. Ninety percent of the security officers at Hearst are at level five of the training programs, but Lotti also operates an in-house training system.
It’s a fully customizable and ongoing training system – Lotti picks a topic, and supervisors work through it with the officers. These topics can range from customer service to medical emergencies and natural disasters, such as the recent Hurricane Sandy.
The security officers appreciate the extra training, Lotti says.
Beyond greeting visitors, the security officers can help out with special events held in the Hearst building, which are often attended by celebrities and VIPs, which is where that “star struck” training comes into play.
Lotti also believes in self-empowerment, so he encourages further education in fire and medical training.
“The better they are the easier it makes my life,” he says. “I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving them the best training.”
In Nevada, Clifton is taking his security training even further by extending its benefits to non-security personnel.
“Like everyone, we’re downsizing a little bit,” he says. “So we can still handle business as usual, but what about emergencies? The goal here is to deputize regular employees to man elevators during fires or watch stairwells.” By training the non-security employees to complete these simple tasks in the event of an emergency, Clifton frees up trained security personnel to perform the mission critical tasks around the casino and hotel.
While he is still in the process of establishing a structured training regimen for hotel and casino staff, Clifton plans on giving each employee a brief overview of all tasks they could be asked to perform, as well as pointers on what to look for.
For example, he says, housekeeping staff know what each room is supposed to look like or have in it, and they can catch on fairly quickly if something is amiss, such as a bag left unattended or unusual or dangerous material left out in a room. Similarly, personnel on the Midway or casino floor can see if there’s a minor wandering through an age-restricted area. The training would give these personnel the intervention skills to confront the minor immediately, instead of waiting to call backup.
There are other factors to consider – cost, for one. Every hour of training is still an hour on the clock, and for several hundred casino employees, that adds up. Also, all of the training material would have to be developed in multiple languages to accommodate all employees. Still, Clifton can see this sort of deputizing used across multiple sectors.
“Anybody can do this – offices, warehouses, malls, especially,” he says. “I just want to beef up security a little bit, and using these extra, trained forces when necessary helps.
“They know what to look for, and the training helps them know what to do about it, which helps fewer officers get the job done and keep the place safe.”
Measuring Training in Virtual Environments
By Shelby Beard, Partner-VP of Sales and Marketing, Iomnis Surveillance Solutions, LLC
When training security forces, virtual reality has become not only practical, but cost effective. Virtual reality provides more complex training possibilities for dangerous and difficult tasks and it eliminates many of the hazardous environments that real-world scenarios put security forces in. Total immersion training blurs the line between reality and the virtual world, providing the opportunity for real-time behavioral analysis as well as detailed policy and procedure analysis.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages virtual reality training has over traditional training programs is that it allows users to improve their job capabilities and performance without going on-site without interrupting business. Advanced technologies now make it possible to increase performance and education while keeping cost down.
Virtual reality training scenarios allow for a plethora of input devices for different types of interaction between the user and the virtual world. Some of the VR (Virtual Reality) input devices commonly used are 3D stereoscopic head mounted displays (HMDs), LCD/LED displays, controller based input devices and wireless options. Choosing the right VR input devices is very important as the devices help stage the interaction between users and the virtual environment, completing the way we feel and react with the software. Full-body motion capture, face and finger tracking for fine motor skill task and large volumes for big virtual worlds and multi-user simulations are readily available for scenario building.
Cost-effective scenarios have been made possible by advancing technologies. The most impressive technical change in virtual reality has been in the speed in which virtual worlds can be created. By introducing technologies that limit the required programming and modeling time, high programmer labor cost can be controlled, which produces a lower overall product cost. Users now have access to technologies that were considered unaffordable a few years ago. VR worlds can be created from modeling, blueprints and pictures, each providing a real-world approach.
VR training environments should score users and provide several different types of analytical data. Simple scoring can be accomplished by looking at the user’s accuracy, the time it takes the user to make decisions, and the sequence in which users perform multiple tasks. Higher level data such a heart rate, blood pressure level, and the way users react to loud noises, sudden light changes, smells, pressure changes, and temperature changes will help analyze the user’s overall reaction to scenarios.
Whenever users are scored on performance, looking at the way users improve and learn with repetition will help determine the overall effectiveness of the user and the training.
This article was previously published in the print edition as "Getting Schooled: How More Training Increases Security Officer Efficiency."