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Expanded responsibility: Private security post 9/11

Since 9/11, keeping stride with the urgent needs and rising expectations of public and private sector clients has required the very definition of a security guard to evolve. Gone are the days when outsourced security personnel only watched doors and elevators.

Today’s security teams are being asked to operate their clients’ most advanced surveillance, communications and security technologies and systems. More and more are being trained to deter, detect or respond to suspicious parcels, chemical spills, public demonstrations, verbal or physical conflicts, and terrorist threats.

Security professionals are also being called on to provide fingerprinting, CPIC background checks, and other identification services, on-site or mobile alarm response, x-ray technician support, as well as security-sensitive administration duties such as the retrieval and shredding of top-secret documents. They are even being asked to conduct threat/risk assessments and train others in occupational health and safety measures.

As governments, businesses and communities continue to invest in security-focused improvements, so too have proactive security organizations continued to raise the bar when screening, training, testing and equipping their security professionals.

Consider the fact that the very raison d’être of security is to prevent incidents before they happen; and if they do happen, it is the security guard who is most often on the frontline. He or she is usually the first to assess the situation, the first to call in the appropriate emergency response, the first to take control at the scene, the first to administer first aid until help arrives, and the first to brief responding forces about the specific details of the incident.

If frontline security professionals are going to respond quickly and competently to an increasingly wide range of scenarios, they must be trustworthy, alert and prepared. The onus falls on security companies to do what it takes to ensure their people have what it takes.

Legislative changes
For security companies that have not yet chosen to evolve with the times, new legislative changes may soon give them no other choice.

For example, in Ontario the Private Security and Investigative Services Act passed in December 2005 and will soon require all private security guards to undergo mandatory training and licensing. Other provinces are following suit. Prior to this long overdue legislation, over half of the 50,000 security guards in Ontario – most of them in the commercial sector – were unlicensed.

If a security guard’s competence and integrity have not been properly assessed, imagine the unknown risks this poses to the people, property and information he or she has been called on to protect.

It will be more reassuring once every province and territory has established or upgraded some basic security standards. With the security industry evolving so rapidly – and with more changes to come – time is of the essence.

Informed choices
Contractual and competitive realities also drive change, but this is where clients need to make informed choices. If the value of security services is only measured in terms of a bottom-line budgeted amount during a contractual bidding process, what about the costs of violence or crime? Can you place a dollar value on human life? Have liability expenses been factored? Legal fees and crisis management costs? Damages and increased insurance premiums? What about the impact of damaging media coverage or lost revenue from business interruption? Is the lowest bidder even meeting the bare minimum standards?

When carefully assessing the discipline, training and experience of bidding security companies, most of the time you will get what you pay for.

Today’s leading security companies are committed to exceeding the very highest quality management, safety and security standards. They are investing in professional and conscientious management teams, world-class ISO policies and procedures, and strong employee programs that help them attract and maintain a reliable, stable workforce. They are also offering far more than traditional security guard services, facilitating their clients’ growth and future needs.

Commissionaires Canada
Although Commissionaires Canada is perhaps best known for hiring veterans and securing government buildings, the private, not-for-profit organization has come a long way since it was formed in 1925. Through the decades, we have evolved to include former members of the RCMP and other security-focused citizens who share a passion to protect the safety and well-being of their fellow Canadians.

There continues to be a tremendous advantage to hiring former members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and police agencies – people who have been trained to think on their feet and react with professionalism in stressful situations. Primarily on the Canadian government side, commissionaires are often working side by side with law enforcement or specialized, in-house security teams who have developed first-rate protection standards and protocols. Ensuring our commissionaires have backgrounds, experience and training that are compatible with those of our clients’ in-house teams goes a long way towards promoting a more cohesive, effective and value-added security presence.

In addition to serving in many government buildings, commissionaires are also counted on to provide security at international and local airports, law enforcement agencies, military compounds and ports.

Over the past decade in particular, the demand for commissionaires to safeguard commercial office facilities, industrial and high tech buildings, hospitals, colleges, embassies, and a wide range of special events has risen significantly. In some major centres across Canada, our private sector clients now outnumber public sector clients.

To this end, where warranted, we also recruit people of all ages and from diverse backgrounds – security-conscious IT specialists, financial experts, business owners, corporate trainers, quality assurance auditors, corporate accountants, HR consultants, fitness instructors, and trades people, to name a few – so that we can match them to the many different kinds of private sector work cultures we serve.

As technical knowledge and military and police background have benefited the government and commercial sectors, so too have they benefited commissionaires who are called on to protect them.

Paul A. Guindon is CEO of Commissionaires Ottawa and a national spokesperson for Commissionaires Canada. Commissionaires Canada has about 18,000 security professionals and 30 offices across Canada. For more information, see www.commissionaires.ca.

Author: Paul A. Guindon from the Aug/Sept 2006 issue published

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