Writing Good Incident Reports: Tips For Security Guards And Companies
By: Kim Brown
Date Published: February 23, 2021
When something unexpected occurs in a residential condo building, security and concierge staff are often the first to know about it. Moreover, they can help to ensure a small incident doesn’t morph into a big problem.
Whether it’s a broken treadmill or a report about a car break-in, security is expected to investigate all resident complaints, and document incidents using formal reports.
The importance of a well-written incident report
There are several reasons why condos and condo security companies need to keep clear and detailed incident reports. These reports provide key information to management, senior executives, and board members. For example, boards or managers may need these reports to prove to their community that there are too many Airbnb incidents occurring, and will make amendments to their current short-term rental bylaws or rules based on the incident reports. Similarly, security managers use the reports to keep track of what’s happening in each building. If reports are digital and submitted right away, managers can even use them to determine if they need to attend a building to help the staff on duty.
Incident reports also help fellow staff members get up to speed if an incident has not been resolved during the last guard’s shift.
Finally, reports may be used as court evidence if an incident requires legal intervention. So, it is vital that your entire team understands how to write security reports effectively.
1. Standardize reports
An incident report is based on interviews, investigations and evidence, but if there is no standardized way for your team to record the information they collect, reviewing these documents becomes very difficult and time-consuming. Management will get all sorts of reports that vary in detail and length.
In order to ensure your team is writing down the essential details, create a standardized incident report template and ask every one of your guards to use this document. If there is something that guards routinely forget to include (time, type of incident, etc.), you can add a designated section to the document.
Security guard software can help streamline reports for your entire team. Many platforms offer premade incident report templates that can be customized. Best of all, reports are automatically saved in one location, and can be reviewed as soon as they are submitted. Each building gets its own workspace to allow for simplified security management. Management can easily check reports from each building in less time.
2. Document incidents sequentially
There’s no need to get creative when it comes to writing incident reports. Encourage your team to write about incidents as they occurred. Taking this approach generally helps guards remember the important details, and it also makes it easier for the reader to follow the incident.
If there are a number of important events that occur during an incident, they can even number them. By recounting incidents in a straightforward, step-by-step manner, it will be far easier for readers to understand what transpired.
3. Common abbreviations are okay if they are widely understood
Abbreviations can be a small point of contention for management companies if everyone isn’t using the same ones. Some managers prefer that guards use abbreviations in order to save time, while others worry that they will only make reports more confusing. Abbreviations are useful for longer reports, or if there are multiple police officers or fire marshals involved in an incident. Instead of writing out “constable” or “officer” ten times, guards could use “PC” or “PO”, and write their last name after the abbreviation, instead (ex PC Smith). By avoiding extra words, incident reports can be completed in less time. They also become clearer and easier to digest. If it all helpful, management can make a list of common abbreviations for guards to refer to so that there aren’t any mystery abbreviations included in reports.
4. Avoid unsupported conclusions
When investigating a situation, guards may be tempted to jump to a conclusion in order to close the matter. For example, a guard may have seen one person punch another outside of the condo building, and based on what they saw, determine that the person who threw the punch initiated the fight. But the guard cannot know this for sure, especially if the people involved in the fight haven’t each gotten the opportunity to share their side of the story.
Remind your guards to stick to the facts so that reports remain as accurate and objective as possible.
5. Make each word count
It can be a bit challenging trying to balance detail with concision. This is a skill that gets better with practice. As such, encourage your team to document the details that matter, but resist writing long reports if it’s not necessary.
Ask your guards to answer the following questions in their report as concisely as possible:
- What happened?
- Where did the incident occur?
- When did it occur?
- Who was involved?
- How it happened (if possible)?
- What did you do to resolve the matter?
Feelings, opinions and suggestions should be left out of reports. There’s nothing wrong with a lengthy report, and sometimes multiple paragraphs will be necessary, but work with your team to ensure incident reports convey the essential details and aren’t full of fluff.
6. Don’t use “I”
Using the 3rd person point-of-view might feel a little weird, but doing this reduces confusion over who did what. Furthermore, if this report is required for legal evidence, it is much easier for any reader to follow the incident, especially if the guard isn’t available to explain the report to a judge. Guards can use “the writer,” or “SG _________________” (security guard and the guard’s last name), or any title that works for the company and management.
7. Review twice, submit once
Guards never know what their shift will be like, and some workdays are far busier than others. But, unless they are dealing with a high-risk situation for the entirety of their shift and need to send the report out immediately, guards should always take a few minutes to proofread their reports.
The best reports are usually those that have been reviewed and edited for clarity. Does a typo or forgotten word really make that much of a difference? Usually not – but it can. Submitting error-free, professional reports will not only make the review process easier for management, it makes the entire company look good. Details matter when it comes to condo security. Doing something as simple as editing reports before submitting them is one way to prove to your clients that your team cares.
Incident reports help condos and security managers understand what occurred in the building on any given day or night. They should be stored and saved in one centralized location so that others can refer to them when necessary. This is one of many reasons why it helps use security software that saves and stores premade templates.
A good report is concise, informative and explains all of the key details about the incident. It also explains how the guard on duty handled the particular situation. Remind your staff that if the issue or problem is particularly difficult, or if it cannot be resolved without assistance, they should contact the emergency line or local enforcement right away.