Supervisor on Duty

Planning for emergencies

Tony Security 1 Comment

Following on from the previous two articles around risk assessment and preparing an emergency response kit I want to continue on a similar theme in this article. In this weeks rant I want to talk a little about planning and preparing for emergencies. Far too often we see security teams first piece of emergency planning happen in the midst of a real emergency and when those plans crumble there is no plan B. I want to discuss the 3 elements of emergency planning which I believe are :

* Mindset
* Procedures and training
* Equipment

They are all important but I believe that they fall in that order of importance.

Developing a mindset of confidence and capability among the security team is the first essential part of planning for emergencies. You can provide all of the equipment and training in the world but if your team aren’t mentally prepared for dealing with an emergency then it all means very little. Of course those 3 things are integrated quite closely in that providing high level training and proficiency with equipment can enable a proper mindset but they are only parts of the puzzle.

One of the things which helps with mindset and confidence is repetition and habit building. One of the areas where that can be influenced is at the daily briefing. I strongly believe in the daily briefing as a tool for building a solid security team. Talking about emergency response and each persons individual immediate actions in an emergency every single day builds memory and habit. Saying things like “you all know what your doing” when it comes to the emergency  actions section helps nobody. Saying things like “tell me what you’re doing if the fire alarm goes off” or ” Michael tell me where the gas shut off point is” ensures that emergency plans are at the foremeost in everybody’s mind every single day. The idea is not to make people paranoid but to make them vigilant.

Having a security team mindset starts right from the recruitment phase. I had a post on Facebook last week asking what the industry thought of aptitude testing as an interview technique in security. The reaction was largely negative and while I can understand the points made by the respondents I believe that this is where aptitude testing may have a place. Putting a person in a stressful position or having to solve a complex situation during an interview gives an idea of how a person may react in a real emergency. If you get recruitment wrong then it’s much more difficult to train mindset into a person.

A third way to build a resilient mindset is realistic training scenarios . We will talk about training in the next section but training only provides knowledge and skills at the end of a course. Being able to apply those skills under stress requires practice and repetition under stress. Even if the whole building doesn’t do a fire drill every week the security team should be practicing every week. Timed drills, problem solver drills and darkness drills (safely) all help to equip the security operative mentally for dealing with emergencies.

This might sound over the top but in today’s world this is the level of expectation placed on top level private security teams particularly in crowded places or corporate settings.

Procedures and Training
The next step in the framework is procedures and training. Procedures give us a framework of guidance to base our actions on. Procedures should cover a wide variety of ‘what if’ scenarios and provide broad guidance on immediate actions in the event of an emergency. They should not be stifling or over engineered though. Similar to my last article they should provide enough room for a professionally trained security operative to make instant informed decisions in an evolving situation.The procedure should detail:

1. The overall scope or aim of the procedure,
2. Who it will effect,
3. Equipment required to carry it out
4. Content of procedure
5. Contingency plans,
6. Escalation  table
7. Reporting  and documenting process for each section

I will link my own procedure template here for anybody who may wish to use it to design their own procedures.

As above procedures should be tested regularly to make sure they work under simulated conditions. If they fail or a situation arises that isn’t covered it should be reviewed and updated.

In today’s technology environment there really isn’t an excuse for unskilled security operatives. There is a wealth of free and low cost information out there that can be availed of. Security supervisors and team leaders should be constantly running workshops on various topics that relate to the role of their security team. It doesn’t  have to be anything formal or certified. Just 15-20 minutes with each person each week showing, explaining and practising a skill or knowledge area each week. It could be trespass law this week, applying a pressure dressing next week and using a fire extinguisher the following week. Security supervisors, managers and leaders are the people who can take the lead and set the culture and mindset through training and procedures.


The final piece of the jigsaw is equipment.  I’m not just talking about security operatives personal equipment here although that is a key part of it. I’m  talking about having the correct equipment on site to prevent, manage or respond to an emergency. This can include things like a fit for purpose fire alarm system (you would be surprised at how many systems are no longer fit for purpose), cctv systems which are working, fire equipment, emergency response kits, communication equipment and the list goes on. Obviously some places will have budget constraints and may not have high levels of cutting edge equipment and others will have a large budget. The level of equipment is something you can influence but not effect. The main priority for the security team is to recognise what equipment is available, know where it is, maintain it as best as possible and be proficient in its use.

Like I said above if the fire extinguishers haven’t been serviced due to budget cuts the security team cannot force the employer to do this. They can however influence it by highlighting the issue every single shift until it’s sorted. Knowing the equipment is essential. I’m no longer surprised when I go to venues and the security team don’t know where the cctv and radio blind spots are or stumped when asked a question like “where the nearest dry powder extinguisher is”. Even less common but still vital information. What’s is the average response time for the fire services, ambulances and law enforcement? All easy information to find out and important to know when planning for emergencies. What do we do with this type of information. Put it all on a large site map at the control room so it’s visible every single day and use it for training. Mark in all of the locations of all of the equipment. Even take high resolution photographs of it and store them in the security teams phones for reference during an emergency.

While we may not be able to influence extra equipment we can take care of what we have. Simple maintenance task on equipment such as blowing dust from cctv housing, cleaning radio battery connections  and general equipment checks go a long way to improve equipment effectiveness.


Some of the stuff in this article might sound a little over the top to some people but as I said earlier this is the modern expectation of the public and of organisations. I know you might say that for €11.05 basic is it really worth it but building these habits at the start is what gets you recognised and what will stand to you when working in a role worth far more than €11.05. More importantly than that is the reality of an emergency. Once the fire alarm rings or the major incident happens it won’t really matter how much you are being paid. You are either prepared or you are not. The answer will easily be found out in your response. Your reputation, your liviliehood, your life and the lives of many others may depend on your mindset, your procedures, your training and your equipment. You owe  it to yourself, your dependants and your team to be as prepared as you all can be.

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  1. Pingback: Emergency Plans: Do yours work? | The security operative

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