Security guards play an important role in protecting public and private property. These professionals work in a variety of settings – from malls to casinos to condominiums. While expectations and requirements will vary based on location and employer, there are some ground rules that apply to almost every security professional.
Types of security guards
Contract security guards
Contract guards are trained to perform basic security duties. Private contract security guards are the most common type and are employed by security agencies. Since guards may be working in a number of locations, they should be prepared to respond to a variety of different situations. However, they will be matched with jobs that best suit their skills and experience.
Companies may prefer to hire contract guards instead of hiring their own security staff as it’s often cheaper and easier. The contracted security agency handles all of the payroll paperwork and works with the company to develop an agreeable security policy for the guards to implement on site.
Proprietary security guards
Proprietary guards, sometimes referred to as in-house security guards, are hired directly by the company or organization that needs security. These professionals are not contracted through an agency; they are paid by and report to the company that hires them.
While it costs more to hire an in-house security team, companies know exactly who will be on the premises, and they can create their own security policies and procedures for staff to follow.
Armed vs. unarmed
Armed security guards carry guns and may also be equipped with other potentially lethal weapons. If violence or valuables are part of the job, then guards may be required to carry weapons.
The requirements for armed security guards are stricter than requirements for unarmed guards. These officers must complete additional training and enroll in state-mandated firearms courses to gain certification.
Due to the significant responsibility armed guards are given, they are generally paid more than unarmed guards.
Unarmed security guards are the preferred choice for most companies. These guards aren’t seen as less valuable just because they do not carry weapons. In fact, most people need unarmed security more often than not.
People are less likely to be fatally injured when unarmed guards are on the premises and may feel more comfortable around weaponless officers. Tasks for unarmed security guards include surveillance, patrolling, access control, policy enforcement, and general crime deterrent.
Some clients require guards to patrol large locations. This may include an event, a university campus or a residential building. Oil or construction companies also hire patrol guards to protect the site. Guards may conduct patrols on foot, use a vehicle, or do a combination of both.
Remote video surveillance agents are trained to observe video footage and see things most people would overlook. These guards will report anything out of the ordinary. They may work with another team that is situated on the premises, or they may be required to investigate incidents themselves.
Alarm response guards
These guards remain on standby and respond if an alarm goes off. If criminal activity occurs on the property, the guards will be ready to take the appropriate steps to stop the perpetrator.
Different roles will require different skills and experience levels. However, there are some core expectations that will apply to all security guards:
- Do come dressed for the job. In order to do their job effectively, security guards must come to work with the appropriate attire and equipment; some states even have uniform requirements. Guards should be able to run in their uniforms. They may need additional heavy-duty gloves, or outdoor coats if they will be spending most of their shift patrolling the outside of a building or venue during colder months. If you are unsure whether this additional gear will be provided to you, ask your supervisor or manager well in advance of your next shift.
- Do check equipment regularly. While good training is a key factor to a guard’s safety, their equipment also plays a vital role in keeping themselves and others safe. To be at the top of your game, avoid using damaged or unsuitable equipment whenever possible. If you are given equipment that could pose a risk to you or someone else, raise these concerns with a manager.
- Do come mentally and physically prepared. Regardless of the type of facility or business a security guard is protecting—or the role they have—guards must always be alert and aware of what’s going on. You should be familiar with the most common issues and threats before your shift begins. If you have recently joined a security team, or are unfamiliar with the property you’ve been asked to protect, make sure you are briefed on the potential dangers and how to best handle those situations.
- Do approach high-risk situations with caution. Some people may think that security guards should do whatever it takes to defuse a tense or dangerous situation. However, guards should be mindful of their own safety, and should not be expected to take risks that would put their own lives in danger.
- Do take advantage of opportunities to learn and improve. Like any job, the security industry is always changing. There is new technology emerging, better security processes being developed and more efficient ways for security teams to achieve goals and objectives. Those who take the initiative to continue learning are more likely to advance than guards who do not take the time to enhance their skills and knowledge.
- Don’t purchase cheap footwear. Security guards are on their feet for long periods of time. If you’re wearing footwear that was not designed well, you’ll start to feel uncomfortable and may even sustain an injury.
- Don’t forget water. It sounds insignificant, but it’s important to be hydrated for your entire shift so you can stay focused and alert. Guards may want to have small snacks available too. You never know if your lunch break will be interrupted by some unexpected incident.
- Don’t diminish the value of your health. If a thief runs off with stolen goods, or someone is vandalizing property on the other side of the school, the security guard might have to run to stop the activity from occurring. They may even have to scale a wall or fence to reach the perpetrator. While it can be hard to prioritize mental and physical health after a long day on your feet, it is important to take care of yourself.
- Don’t hesitate to call for additional help. Guards are hired to deter criminal activity and help keep people safe, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ask police or other professionals for help when they need it. If a situation is escalating and cannot be managed by you or your team, contact local authorities as soon as possible.
Security guards are asked to perform many different roles. Depending on your training and skills, you may work in many different environments throughout your professional career. Nevertheless, there are some practices and guidelines that will benefit every security guard. If you know of anything else that security guards should always do, or always avoid, please share below.