Security Fundamentals: Patrolling

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Getting the basics of patrolling right

Going back to the real fundamentals of the security industry this week with an article about patrolling. While it might seem like a basic topic it’s one that’s often not performed correctly. A lot of people in the security industry assume that patrolling applies only to the static or manned guarding area of the industry. In truth you will carry out some form of patrol in almost all sectors. If you are in a shopping centre, nightclub, factory or construction site  you will physically patrol and even from a control room you will use CCTV to patrol . Whether a walking, driving or using technology to carry out a patrol the key thing to remember is that quality counts just as much as quantity.

Getting the fundamentals right

The security industry is built on the basics. Standards and consistency are huge areas of pride in the industry and nowhere are those virtues more obvious than patrolling. It’s a basic function of the industry and doesn’t need a large amount of training to get right. When done correctly it goes unnoticed but when performed incorrectly it becomes very obvious, very quickly. The fundamentals skills  are usually like that.Done well they form the foundation of a good security service. Done poorly then all of the fancy stuff layered on top means nothing. You can have fancy control rooms, great technology, and state of the art vehicles but if the fundamental principles of patrolling are not followed it all becomes redundant.

Patrol Schedule

One of the most overlooked pages in an assignment instruction manual for a static site is often the patrol schedule. Often only a single line is dedicated to patrolling with something like “walk the entire location every hour” as the only guidance to the security operative. A simple one page patrol schedule detailing the expected times of regular planned patrols, some guidance on snap patrols and the expected route to take for the operative. It might seem obvious what route and what times should be used but detailing it ensures absolute consistency. Obviously this may alter in line with the locations risk level but changes can be made to the template quite quickly.

It’s in the detail

Most security operatives when they patrol use the patrol schedule and the only goal is to make sure you hit all of the patrol points all of the time. This shows that you have done your job right? Maybe on paper but in truth nobody knows the quality of those patrols. All we know is that you showed up at a certain time in a certain place and tagged to say you were present. What we don’t know is the quality of the patrol. How alert was the security operative while moving between points. Did he/she check the area fully and note anything out of place.  This type of attention to detail is what makes the really good security operatives stand out and is the key to good patrolling technique. ATTENTION TO DETAIL.
But when does attention to detail become important? In the general course of your duty nobody will know how alert or detailed you were in your patrolling. Until something happens that is. Then the attention to detail of various security operatives becomes obvious. The guy who just walks around will be compared to the guy who checks and investigates everything out of the ordinary. It will become immediately obvious who is doing quality patrols and who is just getting the numbers in.


One of the key skills of good patrolling is establishing a baseline. The baseline is the normal and expected environment you work in. This is where local knowledge of a site can be an asset. Knowing your site, what looks right, what looks wrong and what looks slightly out of place at that time is a skill that goes beyond patrolling. Being alert on all of the patrols where nothing happens is what builds the baseline for that one time when things aren’t right. Sometimes we will consciously recognise what’s out of place and why. It may be something obvious like a broken window or something like a door left open which usually isn’t. Sometimes it’s at a more subconscious level. A gut feeling that something just isn’t right. This is true baseline knowledge and it’s almost always a good idea to listen to that feeling.  If you want to read more on this subject the book Left of Bang by Patrick van Horne is a great start point.

Document everything

So how do we show that we are carrying out quality patrols? That’s easy,we document it. We document all of the issues we find and what we have done to rectify it. We don’t just record the issues we find. We also document the patrols we do where nothing happens but we check everything regardless. Some will say that this would mean a lot of writing. This is correct. There is a saying I’ve heard a number of times over the years in the security industry and I’ve always believed in it; “You are judged by what you record whether you record it or not”. If your patrol record or log book just shows you checking areas at various times then that’s what you have done, however if it shows the detailed checks you carried out and the issues you found, that shows quality. You may have carried out these quality patrols but if you don’t record it then you don’t get the credit. And in the security industry we deal with enough harsh criticism from certain quarters so we may as well get credit for where we can show that we are doing our job professionally.


To steal a line from one of my favourite writers, patrolling is ‘simple not easy’. Its simple and straightforward task to carry out a patrol but it isn’t always easy though. Its not easy to be alert all of the time or to go out in the cold and rain and pay attention to detail. It’s also hard work  to write up every little detail of what you did. Its also a really important part of any security function In fact it justifies your entire position. If your patrol log is empty then why do we need security on the site. So if I was to leave you with 2 patrolling basics they would be:
  1. Attention to detail shows quality
  2. Accurate recording gets you  the credit for that quality.

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