Words are a funny thing, and words matter. We use them to define objects, communicate ideas, and describe thoughts and feelings. While there are some words that have a nearly universal meaning, the meaning of other words varies greatly depending on who you ask. For example, the words “law enforcement officer” conjures up a fairly common mental image of someone who is carefully selected, professionally trained, operationally competent and conducts themselves on a solid moral platform of honesty and integrity. The collective impression is that police officers can be depended upon by the public, seemingly without fail, to protect those who are in need or in trouble. The term “law enforcement officer” has a nearly universal meaning to all people irrespective of the agency type (city, county, state or federal) or the geographic location of the agency. The same is true of most other bona fide professions. However, the meaning of the word “security” does not, by any stretch of the imagination, have any type of universal meaning. In fact, there are few other words in the English language that have so many different meanings and interpretations as does the word security. This vast difference in connotations needs to change.
The diverse associations and understandings of the word security is confusing to the public as well as those who are public safety professionals such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, medics, emergency managers, et al. As an example, when a homeowner states they have “security” at their home, what they likely mean is they have installed a fire and burglary alarm system. However, the term security may just as well mean that the homeowner has installed high-security locks on their doors and windows. Still to another homeowner, the installation of motion activated exterior lighting may mean that the homeowner has installed security at their residence. In the business world, the varied meanings of the word security become far more complicated. Security to one business may mean that they have conducted a thorough risk analysis that has resulted in the implementation of perimeter gates, adequate lighting, a CPTED-devised environment, a card access system, alarm systems, high-security locks, a video camera system, layered internal physical barriers, professional on-site security officers, an excellent visitor control system, a tested business continuity plan, AEDs, robust IT security and an on-site emergency response team. Yet, the term security to another business may mean that they have passwords assigned for their desktop computers but have no other security measures, controls or systems in place.