Understanding Private Security Work

Security Guard work falls into two broad categories:

   A) Guards posted at a specific location, and
   B) Guards on vehicle patrol covering several locations

A) Guarding A Specific Location

Security Guards can perform a wide variety of tasks. Some clients may only need a guard to do a few simple things throughout the course of a shift, and other clients may want a whole list of things to be done every hour. Every site and every situation is a little bit different. Have a look at this list:

  • an industrial site may be concerned about doors, windows, gates, and fences staying locked
  • a warehouse may be concerned about trespassers, break-ins, and theft of product, even the theft of entire tractor trailers
  • a construction site may be concerned about damage, or theft of expensive building materials, tools, and vehicles
  • a manufacturing business may be concerned about fires, pipes bursting, or machinery breaking down when employees aren't there
  • an apartment complex may be concerned about thefts from vehicles, or noisy tenants and visitors
  • a shopping mall may be concerned about retail theft, employee safety, parking lot issues, or even panhandlers and homeless people on the property
  • an entertainment venue may be required by law to keep patrons consuming alcohol inside a specific licenced area
  • a business may want a guard visible at all times to assure employees, customers, and the public that they are in a safe environment
  • sadly, a business may even need security to monitor its own employees for vandalism, theft, safety infractions, or other inappropriate behaviour

With such a variety of security concerns, there are also a variety of solutions:

  • one client may want nothing more than a uniformed Security Guard at a front desk
  • another client may want one guard patrolling a parking lot, one at the front doors, and one at the shipping docks 24/7
  • a client may require guards to monitor security cameras
  • another client may want foot patrols of an entire site every half hour, with detailed reports
  • a client may need a guard posted at each door, or around the entire perimeter of a property
  • another client may only want a guard sitting in a marked car somewhere on site as a deterent
  • coverage for any location is really up to the client, often with advice from the guard company

Duties Of An On-Site Security Guard

Some clients will provide a specific and detailed list of duties for guards, whereas other clients may trust the guards to determine how to best keep their site safe and secure. In any case, you will know what your specific duties are for any site by reading the "post orders".

Post orders are written instructions that explain exactly what Security Guards should be doing on shift. Your duties and responsibilities may be very different from one site to another, and may change over time, so it is essential that you read the post orders when you arrive at any site. Also, any time you are relieving another guard, ask if there are any new instructions from the client or new orders from your own company.

For special events or short-term coverage there may not be any written post orders. Instructions should be asked of your manager or supervisor.

B) Vehicle Patrol

Also called mobile patrol, this type of work involves doing routine security patrols at multiple locations, with some security companies offering alarm response and additional services via their patrol team. A typical shift on vehicle patrol involves driving to different properties either on a set schedule or at random intervals. The vehicle patrol team can be a point of contact for on-site guards at different locations as well, acting as shift supervisors or managers. They may also be a direct point of contact for clients outside office hours.

Specialized Security Positions

Some front-line security jobs are unique to a particular type of environment, such as:

  • bouncers at a nightclub
  • hospital security
  • college and university security
  • loss prevention for a department store
  • airport security

Jobs like these involve unique scenarios and activities that apply only to those settings. These specialized roles sometimes have little in common with more general uniformed Security Guard work.

Bouncers must have a thorough understanding of two things: the Ontario Liquor Licence Act, and appropriate use of physical force. Being able to tolerate and deal with drunk people is a key skill.

The Ontario Liquor Licence Act (LLA) is powerful legislation enforced by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). It defines the responsibilities of not only bartenders and servers, but bouncers as well. For example, bouncers can be liable for negligence if they allow an intoxicated person to drive.

All employees of bars, restaurants, and similar places will take Smart Serve training. It's a few hours of videos and reading that covers the LLA in depth.

  • The legal drinking age is 19, but to handle, serve, or sell alcohol to others you need only be 18.
  • Licenced establishments may serve alcohol from 11:00am to 2:00am (New Year's Eve until 3:00am)
  • Bouncers are responsible for the maximum capacity of a premises, as shown on the liquor licence
  • Bouncers are responsible for preventing entry to anyone who is underage or already drunk
  • Bouncers can be liable for injuries if a drunk, violent, or underage patron must be ejected forcefully
  • Bouncers (like bartenders and other employees) are liable up to $100,000 in fines and/or one year in jail for failing to meet LLA regulations

Hospital Security
Ontario hospital security codes
Hospital security staff can face very unique situations due to sick, confused, scared, medicated, elderly, or angry persons. Common illnesses and infectious diseases are concerns.

Hospitals normally provide specialized training for all employees, including security staff, to recognize, understand, and deal with these issues.

Hospital security staff are often responsible for the overall safety of the premises - patrolling the property inside and out, escorting or accompanying medical staff, watching unpredictable patients, and possibly monitoring cameras.

Privacy and confidentiality are of utmost importance, as patients in a hospital are generally there due to unfortunate circumstances.

College & University Security
Colleges and universities can be huge environments with multiple buildings, facilities, and properties. Security staff can have a busy schedule of foot patrols, vehicle patrols, parking enforcement, checking doors, and ensuring the safety of hundreds or thousands of students, employees, and visitors.

Like hospital security, college and university security teams are able to develop a thorough familiarity with the premises and other employees. They're normally the first contact during both minor incidents and major emergencies.

Tools Of The Trade

Here are some of the tools, equipment, and other items you may come across as a Security Guard. Of course someone sitting at the front desk of an office building won't be wearing a hard hat, and someone handing out parking tickets on a day shift won't likely need a flashlight. But in the broader scope of private security work, these are some of the items you may encounter due to the wide range of jobs and tasks that Security Guards perform.

Cell phone or 2-way radio (walkie-talkie) Typical security guard radioBasic and essential items. Cell phones allow Security Guards to call police, clients, supervisors, or others, and are normally provided by the security company. Cell phones are likewise necessary for patrol units and supervisors so that alarm companies, clients, guards, and others can reach them anywhere at any time.
Radios are common for special events and Security Guards working in malls, hospitals, and other self-contained places, since they don't allow outside communication. At industrial sites, security may share a common or supervisor channel.

Flashlight Heavy duty flashlightA flashlight is a common necessity because so much guard work occurs at night. For industrial buildings without windows, a small flashlight can be handy even during the day. Your employer may provide one, but a quality flashlight is a good investment, not only for security work but for camping and home use as well. You can get a C or D size Maglite with LED bulbs for under $40, and you'll probably have it the rest of your life.

Notepad or Notebook Security guard notepadThis is a common item for Security Guards, especially supervisors. Some sites may have report sheets to fill out and some may not. In either case, it never hurts to have a notepad of your own to record things. Note taking is an important skill, and anything you write down could end up being unexpectedly valuable in the future. Security companies typically provide notebooks, but you can also buy them for a few dollars each.

Proximity device or Guard Tour system Security patrol proximity deviceThere are various types of products known as "guard tour" devices. A hand unit is touched or waved in front of an electronic tag, and this records the time a checkpoint was patrolled. Tags are placed by doors and other important areas that are checked during patrols. Each tag is individually identified by computer software and detailed reports prove to clients that patrols were done correctly and on time.

Steel-toed boots or shoes Steel toed bootsSimple black steel-toed boots or shoes are standard for most security companies. This allows a Security Guard to work in any environment or workplace, in compliance with any sort of Health & Safety policy. Boots are often preferable to shoes (tip: get ones with protective toe caps). Shoes provide very little comfort in wet, cold, dirty, muddy, slippery environments. Also, shoes leave your ankles exposed and susceptible to injuries and insect bites. But it really depends on your post and the footwear policy of the premises. If you have full-time work in an office building, then shoes may be allowed.

Duty belt Security guard duty beltDuty belts aren't always required, but help finish the look of a professional guard uniform. They are also far more durable than other belts for carrying flashlights, radios, or anything with a clip or holster. They help support good posture as well. A simple black belt may be suitable in some situations, but heat, cold, moisture, and wear can quickly cause one to rip or break. A duty belt will end up costing you less over time than replacing standard belts as they wear out.

Hard hat Hard hatConstruction sites normally require hard hats, but there are many other workplaces where Health & Safety policies require they be worn as well. Industrial facilities, overhead storage areas, even parts of a retail store or mall under renovation may require a hard hat. Security companies most often have their own hard hats with their logo and "Security" on them. Since many people may use the same hard hats, you might want a hair net or something to wear underneath.

Safety vest Security safety vestSecurity Guards must follow the same rules as other workers at construction sites, commercial properties, and other places. Safety vests are common. Security companies generally have their own safety vests with their crest on the front and "Security" on the back.

Safety glasses Safety glassesSafety glasses are another common item found in places like construction sites and manufacturing plants. Either the guard company or the client will provide them, but you can also get your own for around $10 and not have to worry about sharing them with others and getting a pair that are dirty, scratched, etc.

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