Due to the constant pressures of price from buyers of security our industry is in general focused on minimum or basic standards. Consideration should be given to the creation of a model of that identifies the basic skills sets required by the modern security officer.  An aspirational model could be pivotal in shifting the mindset of the buyer of security towards understanding the true value of a professional security officer, instead of focussing on basic pricing. A key driver of this sea change is the ever increasing skills required by professional security officers in their role as first responders to emergencies. An example of this was underpinned recently when three security officers British Security Industry Association (BSIA) received recognition for life saving acts in the line of duty at the BSIA’s annual Security Personnel Awards. It is not uncommon for a security officer to be called upon to respond to day to day emergencies. In spite of derogatory comments about security officers by the likes of Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson earlier this year in The Times, the modern security officer is evolving into a security professional with improved skill sets including the first responder to emergencies.


Since the tragedy of 9/11 the role of the civilian first responder has become a critical element of any disaster response framework.  This was reinforced in the following extracts from the 9/11 Commission Report;

“The lesson of 9/11 for civilians and first responders can be stated simply: in the new age of terror, they-we-are the primary targets. The losses America suffered that day demonstrated both the gravity of the terrorist threat and the commensurate need to prepare ourselves to meet it. The first responders of today live in a world transformed by the attacks on 9/11. Because no one believes that every conceivable form of attack can be prevented, civilians and first responders will again find themselves on the front lines. We must plan for that eventuality,” and, “… for the private sector controls 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in the nation. Indeed, unless a terrorist’s target is a military or other secure government facility, the “first” first responders will almost certainly be civilians. Homeland security and national preparedness therefore often begins with the private sector. … Preparedness in the private sector and public sector for rescue, restart, and recovery of operations should include (1) a plan for evacuation, (2) adequate communications capabilities, and (3) a plan for continuity of operations. As we examined the emergency response to 9/11, witness after witness told us that despite 9/11, the private sector remains largely unprepared for a terrorist attack. We were also advised that the lack of a widely embraced private-sector preparedness standard was a principal contributing factor to this lack of preparedness. “

“The professional approach to first response by Rick Rescorla, the security chief at Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Centre, saved all but six of Morgan Stanley’s employees after the 9/11 attack. “Rescorla felt it was foolish to rely on first responders (Emergency Services in this case) to save his employees. Morgan Stanley’s employees would need to take care of one another. He ordered them not to listen to any instructions from the Port Authority in a real emergency. In his eyes, it had lost all legitimacy after it failed to respond to his 1990 warnings. And so Rescorla started running the entire company through his own frequent, surprise fire drills. He trained employees to meet in the hallway between the stairwells and go down the stairs, two by two, to the 44th floor,” as reported by Amanda Ripley in A Survival Guide to Catastrophe in TIME Magazine May. 29, 2008


Key to the first response function is the role of the modern security officer who today should have a wider remit than security which could be described as “people safety” It is my belief that First on Scene skills in the area of evacuation basics, first aid and fire, including marshalling and practical use of fire fighting equipment are critical constituents in the DNA of the modern frontline security officer.  There are other areas that require attention in the skills arsenal of the modern security officer which include report writing, counter surveillance, effective patrolling and customer service. Most of the training improvements suggested are currently available in the form of standalone courses. It was therefore surprising to see minimal increase in the modern security officer’s training requirements for the SIA licence this year. When asked by Infologue.com, the SIA said “When we re-developed the specifications, we involved the industry fully in the development process.  We were very keen that we had an industry-led process.”  Another surprising element of the training improvement was the failure to introduce “top up” training for security guards who had previously been trained.


Extra training does not necessarily mean extra time, if creative use is made of classroom time i.e. there are elements of the current training that could be evolved into a theory test which is administered prior to classroom training. However, if extra training time is needed for the SIA required training then all security officers would have to undertake such training resulting in a costs “level playing field”. Another creative method of adding extra training is through “pop up” training sessions, a practise currently been deployed by some security companies, for refresher or top up training. The SIA could also consider using the South African security industry regulatory model which grades security personnel according to the skills deployed. This would allow training skills to be added to security personnel that require such skills in there deployment. What is also interesting is the South African Regulator, the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) provides an illustrative costing model as a guideline for end users and the standard maximum hours allowed to be worked by a security officer is forty eight.


Part of the Home Office public reassurance agenda surely has to be that when people walk into a building they should feel safe and secure when they see a security officer who they know is trained to respond to emergencies. The wider agenda should be developed into a “safer buildings” programme involving the SIA, HSE and ACPO.

Bobby Logue is the Editor of Infologue.com.