The security industry has always had an unfortunate public image of being an industry that is a law unto itself and is made up of large numbers of rogues with criminal records. This may indeed be true of some but the majority work hard to maintain a professional product within a professional industry. The purpose of the SIA is to legislate and organize this largely fragmented industry, a task rather like that of swimming uphill in a pool of sticky toffee.
There are some major players within security organization institutes, (of which there are very many) who are incredibly honest and who are trying to bring our industry into a 21st century constructed of Quality Assurance, Health and Safety, Environmental Protection, accredited Training and Education, Duty of Care and Due Diligence. A security consultant is someone organisations turn to for advice and assistance in providing physical and building security in order to protect their employees and their places of business. It would not be melodramatic then to say that the security consultant is someone who quite literally has the power to save lives or, if he or she gets it wrong, to cause loss of life.
Since 11 September 2001, a cottage industry of security ‘experts’ has sprung up around the world. These so-called consultants are often hired on the basis of flashy websites and even false information, so how can the public tell the legitimate security consultant from the cowboy who only wants to make easy money using some scant knowledge he or she has learned from a short career in an institution, such as the military or police, or even gleaned from watching too much TV?
Who decides when a security operative becomes a consultant? What magical thing takes place to convert them overnight from being a senior police or military officer to being a “Security Consultant”? Who are all these so-called security consultants who appear on our televisions after incidents such as 9/11 and 7/7? In order to try and answer these questions it is necessary to first take a look at the security industry itself.
There are many different types of security such as personal, cash in transit, close-protection, house, corporation…. and the list goes on. Is it possible that there is a security consultant out there who can fully advise in all of these areas? Or could it be that the Security Consultant is actually extremely well versed in one or two of these areas and happens to know a little about the other areas, at least enough to persuade some executive with no knowledge of the security industry that he does.
One problem is that the security industry is so diverse and the SIA, whilst trying to legislate it, is not covering the whole gambit of security related work. I know personally of a number of these so-called “experts” who pertain to be specialists in Counter terrorism even though they have never served in that role in their lives. What about the SAS? Surely anyone claiming to have been in that most prestigious of Regiments must be well trained in security matters. Why? The ability to carry out the most hazardous of duties in the jungles of Malaysia, or in the Arctic wastes, hardly qualifies one to be an aviation security manager or to understand the commercial aspects of closing down a business for 30 minutes a day to carry out evacuation drills. In the military, and the police, security is a way of life that is subsidized by the government or other public bodies whilst in commercial life it is not seen as a productive part of any organisation not intrinsically linked to the security industry. There is a divide between commercial security and that supplied by ex military or police personnel. The prime purpose of military security is to protect installations from enemy activity and normally there is no financial implication. In all commercial security there is a major cost imperative.
Don’t get me wrong there is a place for people with special abilities who are experts in their own fields; what I do not understand is the need for some to pretend that they are experts in all aspects of security related issues. Surely it can’t be anything to do with the vast amount of money to be made in certain areas within the security industry?
Consider the gravity of the situation and the consequences of hiring ’security consultancies’ that are here one day and gone the next. Take training and education as an example. Training and education have a vital role to play in our industry as they form the bedrock of professional careers for individuals and, if we train them correctly in the first place, hopefully we will see standards and quality improving. We need to introduce decent Continuing Professional Development and build career structures for people to follow to allow them to enjoy a full and rewarding career in the security industry. In order for this to happen we must work with organisations and employers to get them to understand and support the need for good quality training.
There are a plethora of new training organisations offering training from manned guarding through to IED disposal. How do you differentiate the good training organisations from the bad? This is a very difficult question to answer however I would say that all security education and training nowadays should be accredited by a recognized awards body that undertakes external validation of the training organizations’ education practices to ensure they meet the required standard.
There are sufficient full time organisations offering training in fully equipped classrooms, and with sufficient training aids and practical training areas, to now dispense with the security consultant who offers a training course in a hotel room, gives a nice certificate designed on a personal computer, takes your money and then disappears into the sunset. What happens if an employee enrols on a training course and is injured during the training phase? Has the security consultant conducting the course got sufficient insurance cover? In the main a combined liability in excess of £2million should be held by the trainer/training organisation. What if the training is not to the right standard and there is an incident at a place of work caused by an employee implementing something learnt on a course? Duty of Care and Due Diligence will no doubt spring to the forefront of your mind as the HSE start knocking on your door. We are living in an ever more litigious society so we must strive to get it right every time as, if we don’t, we will find more and more of us answering to charges such as corporate manslaughter and negligence.
I have personal knowledge of one consultant who was sacked by an organisation in the UK for being incompetent. He then appeared at a Consul in the USA where he persuaded the officials that he was an expert and he was allowed to use the Embassy as a base to enter the US market. To my knowledge he is still advising US companies on their security procedures.
So what are the implications of recruiting a security manager based on the fact that he was a good bloke and recommended by one of your colleagues? Firstly, any processes and procedures that he or she has put in place within your organisation, whilst looking good, could cause more damage than having no procedures at all. Secondly, it is unlikely that the procedures will ever be tested unless there is an incident so there will be no harm done. Or will there? What if the security manager has copied the evacuation plans for a fire and just transferred them to a bomb threat? These plans may actually take your employees past the suspect device and place them at the established evacuation meeting point outside the building where the terrorist or criminal may have planted a secondary device. Most experienced and knowledgeable people in the security industry can get access to intelligence information from various sources and then interpret the information to formulate a threat assessment, prior to developing a risk analysis for their particular business model. If your security manager is not producing this on a daily basis then I would question his, or her, ability to manage the security of your organization.
Coming Soon: Part 2 - How do you select the best security manager/consultant for your organisation?