Policies and Training

Do Your Security Officers Know How to Stop Trespassers?

Security officers can get mixed messages from their contract clients, who often approve of posted orders for the site and the post location, and then ask the officers to contradict them. This is common when it comes to access control issues, asking employees, visitors, and vendors for identification or to check in, using previously approved procedures, only to ask them to skip escort protocols and then get angry at guards who try to follow the rules.

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Good facility security starts with access control vigilance and keeping track of who is where, and why. All employees need to show their employee ID badges, with no exceptions, just like pilots and flight crews do at the airports. All vendors and delivery people need to show their company ID, sign in at the lobby desk, wait to be escorted back into the office, and be prepared to sign back out again. Problems happen when company executives or other employees demand that the reception staff or the security officers make exceptions.

Here’s a common scenario in a busy office lobby, staffed by a receptionist and a security officer, both of whom should agree on what the access control approach should be and not deviate from it. An important-looking man approaches the desk. He’s wearing a nice suit and carrying a briefcase, and he has a look on his face that suggests he’s in a hurry. When the receptionist or the guard asks him for his ID, he berates them both, saying he’s too busy for that, has to be at a meeting quite soon, and for them to buzz him back through, post-haste. To compound his abruptness, a staff employee hurries out and says, “Don’t ask him for ID! Don’t you recognize him as the VP from the Dallas office?”

Not only is this situation embarrassing for the guard and the receptionist, it immediately sets the wrong precedent for the future. The message to the guard is, “Okay, from this day forward, I’ll let anyone go inside the facility if they don’t have ID or don’t want to show it to me, and if they look like a big-shot executive from out of town.”

Even the same delivery people, who come to the site daily, need to show their ID badges. Company employees or executives from out of town need to be told by senior management that there are no exceptions to the “no ID—no entry” (or without an escort) rules. It doesn’t make good security sense to have security officers always second-guessing themselves about access control policies and questioning their own decisions about who has to follow the rules and who doesn’t, especially based on their appearance. As one longtime security practitioner says, “If you’re wearing a suit and carrying a clipboard and have an ‘I can’t be bothered’ look on your face, you can get into nearly any business in America and start walking around, unchallenged.”

Security officers and receptionists need to be commended for their vigilance and praised when they follow company access control policies and posted orders. Training for all concerned—employees and the gatekeepers—is an important and ongoing step.