Stress in the Security Sector

Self care in a high stress security sector

For this weeks article I want to discuss an area that we can all suffer from but don’t like to admit it. It’s something that has just been accepted as a fact of life in the industry but which has led to more incidents, accidents, job losses and resignations than any other factor I’ve come across. It’s ever present and driven by the environment we work in. We are surrounded by risk factors contributing to its development, actively resisting measures to manage it and we brush off its effects as a bad day, bad week or bad job. In reality we suffer on without realising the impact this hidden issue has on our skills, our mood, our health and our relationships inside and outside of work.

Today we are going to talk about STRESS. Continue reading “Stress in the Security Sector”

Back to School – Protecting the next generation of students

So, it’s that time of year again and as the schools head back, college years start up again and the security industry gears itself up for a busy few weeks of work. The schools returning usually marks the end of the festival season and this weekend’s Electric Picnic brings another big summer to an end for the event security sector. It’s down to business time now for us all, students and professionals alike. The security industry plays a huge part over the next few weeks in educating the new student population in the way things are done as they venture out into the big bad world. However, it’s also important to note how important the student sector is to the security industry both in terms of providing work and talent to the sector. Over the next few weeks we as an industry have an opportunity to create a brand-new pool of customers for our venues, influence a brand-new set of talent to our industry and we need to do the right thing on both counts.

The Value of Students

The value of third level education to the Irish economy is huge. Overseas students alone contributed over €300 million per year in recent years. They contribute to the rental system, retail stores, restaurants, pubs and clubs in a huge way and are the reason behind a significant amount of security jobs throughout the country. Consider how many door supervisors, retail security, campus security and other event security operative jobs are supported by the student economy. On top of this consider the number of new entrants to the security industry that come from the student population. Young educated and eager to earn money, new entrants who support a significant portion of unsocial hours in addition to college to make ends meet. The reality is that in college and university cities the student population and the security industry are intrinsically linked. Without students, we lose jobs in the industry and without security parents don’t send those kids to those colleges.

A new opportunity

This September represents a whole new opportunity for both populations. While the members of the security industry in campus security teams, night time venues and retail stores attempt to babysit a whole new set of first years into life in big towns and cities we also have a fantastic opportunity. Of course, sometimes students are wild, silly, irritating and downright crazy but we were all young and adventurous once and we (mostly) all grew up . Most of these students will secretly be a little nervous, a little scared and trying to fit into a whole new world of friends and experiences. Our opportunity as a security industry is in taking these new group of students and creating a group of loyal customers for our workplaces for the next 3 to 4 years at a minimum. It won’t be easy and patience will be tried at times but it can be worth it. Developing a supportive rapport with this new group not only means repeat business this year but for the next few years and not just from this group but in the word of mouth to next year’s cohort and the year after that.

Change the culture

I’m glad to see the culture of the security industry change. I don’t want to see an industry which is feared, disliked and ridiculed by another generation. I know it hasn’t always been our fault but we haven’t marketed ourselves that well to young people over the years either. We need young people to view the security industry as adding value to their lives. Whether that’s in a shop, a club or walking on campus we need to be a support service as well as an enforcement service. Safety and not fear is the concept and we all have a part to play in that. We all try to professionalise this industry every day we go to work and this is an opportunity to show what we can do. New year, new start and new opportunity

New talent

If we want a bright future for this industry the student population is a great starting point for talent as well. Students have always made up a percentage of the security industry but over the past few years that portion has grown. I see it on training courses every week and we see it played out in the decreasing average age in the industry. Now before everybody jumps on the ‘the industry is full of kids nowadays’ bandwagon can we just put a little perspective on it. I started in the security industry as a teenager and so did many of you, if not then soon afterwards. I was naïve reckless and a little stupid at times but I’d like to think I got better with experience. Attracting young third level educated people to a growing security industry can only make it better.

Educating the new flock

Another group of new students we will have in the coming weeks is the large bloc of people who got PSA licences in the summer and have come through their first long summer of major events (congratulations to those who made it) . While a lot of these will head back to other careers a certain group will look to continue in the industry. After the glamour of standing in the sunshine, rain and mud of the summer concerts it’s down to the nitty gritty of regular security work for the next few months and an opportunity to learn some new skills. While they will have learned the value of hard work and some good security principles over a busy summer the real security fundamental will be learned when they venture into the world of door security and static security in the coming months to make ends meet. When this happens, the onus is on the more experienced operatives out there to be a role model for the next generation. That means not looking down on the new guy, not giving them all the crappy jobs until they got frustrated and leave and not dropping them in at the deep end. A little time spent with the newer members and a little advice and mentoring when it’s needed goes a long way. We were all novice students of this industry once after all.

Summary

If we want to make this industry better the best way to do it is to make the next generation better than we were. That means the next generation of employees and the next generation of customer. This week’s first year students will be the engineers, teachers, solicitors, parents and security operatives of the future. Let’s leave them with the correct impression of our industry while we go about earning a living.

Campus Security

In Ireland in 2014 there were over 196,000 students enrolled in third level institutions. This figure includes over 40,000 first year enrollments. This is an enormous number of worried parents sitting at home worried about the safety and security of their children. While the children will have chosen their third level education based on criteria such as choice of course and size of university bar the parents will undoubtedly have considered how safe their children will be for the 4-5 years they will be there. The job of safeguarding these 196,000 students fall to the campus security teams of our universities and colleges. In this article we will take a look at the changing role of the modern campus security team. While they keep thousands of young people safe daily they tend to stay out of the limelight even within the security industry. We will look at some of the challenges facing these teams and the changing nature of the role in line with the expectations of our third level population and society.

The thought for this article came to me when I was asked by a fellow security professional in Australia about the training requirements for campus security operatives in Australia. I began to consider some of the campus security teams I had worked with here over the past few years and the issues they faced. It also made me think about the diverse training needs that they have which are specific to the role of campus security.

Challenges on the campus

If we think about the range of activity, we find on a college campus we can start to envisage how broad the campus security operative’s skills set needs to be. Everything from access to buildings in the mornings, visitor controls, patrolling, traffic management, dealing with student issues, control room duties, large event management, monitoring bars and campus recreational activities, lock-down processes and loss prevention duties all merged into one daily role.

The challenge of keeping thousands of students safe as they go about their daily activity and ensuring the smooth running of a fully operational campus (effectively a small self-contained town) is huge. The diversity of students with their own issues, concerns and needs adds to the size of the task. All of this is before we can begin to deal with criminal or anti-social behaviour issues.

Like every role in the security industry the campus security operative has had to adapt to ensure it remains at the cutting edge of student safety. Across several campuses this has seen a re-brand of the security teams to a more safety and well-being based approach to students. Like many security functions in previous years campus security was often viewed as the enforcement arm of the university or college who arrived to enforce the rules and regulations or replace a lost key. The re-branding of the campus security teams has been in keeping with a modern holistic approach to student safety.

In addition to student needs there is also the logistical nightmare of traffic management and parking on campus. Most of our campus facilities in Ireland date from a time when traffic volumes on our roads were smaller and third level students couldn’t drive to and from campus. This leaves us in a situation now where we have many more cars entering and leaving campuses than the campus can accommodate. This creates logistical and safety issues which must be managed daily.

If we add to the almost weekly occurrence of large social, sports and fundraising events ran by student bodies it can lead to a hectic security planning cycle.

 

Security Operatives training needs

After outlining the challenges involved in providing campus security my colleague asked me about the training needs  for a campus security team. Of course, based on the work I have already done with numerous campus security teams I had some insight in this area. I began to consider what I would include in a training curriculum for a college or university campus security operative. I’ve listed some of my thoughts below:

  • Basic guarding skills: Obviously, the starting point is the entry level training required to attain a security licence in Ireland. While this is mandatory for private security operatives in Ireland this does not mean that all security operatives have this training. What I mean is that we have universities and colleges who have directly employed security staff. This means that they are employed by the state and they fall outside of the licencing requirements. While many of these security teams have undertaken other training to upskill themselves I believe that basic entry level training to the same level as their private sector counterparts is an important starting point.
  • Traffic Management training: As we discussed above the management of traffic and vehicles is one the biggest concerns for campus security teams. Security operatives are often tasked daily to direct, control or manage large volumes of traffic. This can include dealing with large vehicles such as trucks or buses or even dealing with minor traffic accidents. While they may carry out these duties to the best of their ability both the individual and the organisation are placed at huge risk by the lack of training is this area. All security operatives who are required to manage traffic should receive training in the legal, safety and technical aspects of the task.
  • Crowd Safety Training: Campuses by their nature contain thousands of students and non-students daily. Regular large events on campus often add greatly to these leading to issues of congestion at access, egress and circulation spaces. Like the traffic management section the security operatives will often respond to these situations to the best of their ability but at significant risk. Crowd safety is a specific technical discipline with its own risks and all campus security operatives should have a detailed knowledge of crowd movements and behaviours as well as the legal and safety aspects of dealing with crowds.
  • Mental health awareness: In line with the trend towards a more holistic approach to ensuring student well-being this is an essential part of the training curriculum training. Training in recognising students who are  suffering from mental health issues or at risk of suicide or self harm and point them in the correct direction is a core training requirement. Also, recognising students who may be in a vulnerable state due to alcohol, drugs or medical conditions and having the knowledge to assist in the correct way goes a long way to creating a professional campus security operation.
  • Disability Awareness training: In 2014 in Ireland 6% of all third level students had some form of disability. This means that 6% of the students who are interacted with have some form of complex need. Identifying those needs and knowing how to best assist those student is an important tool in the campus security operatives tool kit.
  • Conflict management: While this is covered in basic training the time given over to it on the basic guarding programme doesn’t do the subject justice. A specific conflict management programme built to include the exact requirements of the campus is an asset to the security team. The student population will create a broad range of conflict incidents including potential violence. Advanced interpersonal communication skills and risk reduction awareness give security operatives the tools they need to prevent and manage conflicts.
  • First aid: First aid is often seen as a prerequisite for working in the security industry. I am always surprised by the number of security staff who are not trained. I believe that every security operative should have this training but it is particularly required for campus security teams. Due to the large size of most campuses the security teams are often at static posts throughout the area or mobile in vehicles or on foot. They are almost always the first responder when a call comes for assistance or an accident. Without having the proper skills to at least control a first aid incident until further help arrives we are simply wasting time and resources. Dealing with basic accidents without the need for further assistance or managing more complex issues until assistance arrives are all situations which enhance the professional image and reputation of the security team.

 

So, those are my thoughts on the basic training curriculum for campus security teams. If we add this to the basic site specific training such as induction, manual handling and evacuation training I think we could create the foundations for a professional campus security team. Of course, we could then layer on top of this with more advanced programmes in subjects such as risk assessment, control room operations and supervisory level modules but that’s outside of the scope of this article. Some will say that this level of training creates a significant cost for the campus. This may be true on the short term however if we consider the long-term value of investing in this type of curriculum then the return on investment. The enhanced professional reputation and capability of the security operatives and the overall security team is intrinsic value before we even include extrinsic value in liability reduction and resource reduction. Another perspective is one of how much value do we place on the safety of the young people entrusted to the professional campus security operatives around the country. Most parents would probably support the investment.

 

After writing this article I think the next few articles will look at various areas of the security industry and discuss the basic training needs for each. Anybody with any ideas for these feel free to drop me an email.