In our second case study by The Security Institute Chairman, Mike Bluestone, writing in his personal capacity, looks at guarding services from the customer’s perspective, the concept of the ‘Corporate Security Culture’ and the role that guarding contractors can play in developing it. Mike believes that this case study highlights the fact that contract guarding assignments should be a real partnership between contractor and client. “Should clients not expect their guarding contractors to be a source of new ideas and impetus for change? This partnership should be a key driver to upgrading the security culture in any business environment.” The client in this case study, (a leading financial services corporation) suffered a number of crimes (mainly petty thefts) within its huge head office, which is set in a rural, almost idyllic, location. The client’s facilities manager (there being no dedicated in-house security manager) had quite rightly identified that the corporation’s physical security measures were severely lacking, and consequently commissioned an external security review.

The review highlighted a number of weaknesses in the client’s security culture as well as a number of shortcomings in the physical robustness of the site (which is large and sprawling, and comparable to a university campus). What is particular interesting in this case is that the negative impact of the client’s poor security culture was compounded by some strange practices on the part of the guarding contractor. For example, with no physical barriers to prevent or check the bona fides of vehicles entering the site, the tiny security guarding team was deployed to intermittently walk around the car parks and physically note down the registration number of every vehicle on site! The cliché of ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’ springs to mind.   

What had happened here is that deficient security practices were being employed based on historical failings in the Assignment Instructions, which had not been reviewed on a regular basis. The absence of a security culture and lack of security awareness on the part of the client meant that the role of the guarding contractor had never been fully understood. Equally, the contractor, a member of the SIA – Approved Contractors Scheme, needed to invest more time and effort in measuring the effectiveness of their team, and identify changes in their working practices. Of course, the conscientious and discerning facilities manager had acted quickly to remedy the situation. He also faced the challenge of having to influence a complacent senior management to ’buy in’ to an enhanced security culture, and enhancements to the site’s physical security.  Eventually, real improvements and changes to both physical access control and the guarding team’s practices were implemented, including the acquisition and deployment of a high-visibility patrol vehicle which has proved a valuable deterrent to intruders.

We will protect the anonymity of both suppliers and customers, but the facts will be accurate, and based on cases, which are well known to Mike Bluestone. Mike has previously pointed out that the vast majority of contractors strive to provide a good service and it is equally true that not all customers appreciate the challenges which guarding contractors face.

Mike Bluestone MA FSyI MCMI is director of Security Consulting at CIA Excel Group