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Published: July 23, 2008

Pilgrims Group’s Simon Dorset has produced an informative article on the manned guarding industry for this month’s Contingency Today magazine. Find the article below, or click

Over recent years terrorist outrages have highlighted the requirement for constant vigilance within both public and private sectors. It is widely recognised that no area is immune from unexpected attack from a range of threats, all of which underscore the requirement for an immediate, appropriate security response to be in place, without which the potential for catastrophe includes major loss of life, threats to individuals, and business failure.

Corporate buildings, factories, warehouses, offices, transport yards and storage depots are just some of the locations that businesses rely on to function, do business and ultimately make money. Many businesses are well aware of the importance of their infrastructure but how many have really assessed the impact of the varying threats to it?

Catastrophic loss, such as fire or flood, is probably uppermost in any business continuity plan, but there are many more subtle threats to a business that could do enormous damage. The terrorist threat is much talked about but a direct bomb or shooting attack on a business, while a serious threat, needs to be put into context with more immediate threats. Infiltration, information gathering and planning by competitors, terrorists, single interest groups and disaffected individuals is a more likely occurrence. Even more likely on a daily basis is what could be described as ‘ordinary decent crime’ both from employees within the business and criminals targeting a businesses assets. This invariably means developing physical security measures to secure valuable products, intellectual property, computer servers etc, but much of this is often driven by what insurance companies require to meet policy conditions with security budgets set accordingly. This does not necessarily lead to good security solutions.

The first line of defence for many companies is the physical security in place with manned guarding or security staff. But do you know how effective they are and are they of the right quality? What are their backgrounds and can they be trusted? Many of the significant thefts from banks, cash deposit depots, bonded stores etc, have relied on inside information (or cooperation). These high profile raids hit the news, but do you know what is going out your back door or who is walking in the front door unchallenged? While technology can assist any company in developing a security infrastructure it requires human beings to run any system. As security professionals will well know, your security is only as good as the weakest link; invariably this is the human factor. So how do you ensure that you have the right people?

It should be simple. The legislation and regulation of the security industry has been developing over the last few years and the establishing of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) (charged with licensing people working in the security industry) has gone a long way to giving confidence to employers. While there have been some past mistakes made by the SIA, very publically with significant numbers of illegal immigrants being issued licences, when the system works it does it well. The problem is with cross referencing this information so that a comprehensive picture can be built up. It is often left to the employer to co-ordinate SIA, credit checks, employment history and references to achieve this cross referencing. When it comes to security staff employed through a security provider can you be sure this has been done to the correct standard?

Pilgrims Group is one company that does, as providing a quality security solution starts with ensuring that their key asset – the security officer – is screened properly in the relevant time frames to the relevant industry standards. Reputation of companies, such as Pilgrims, is essentially won (and lost) by the individual actions of its staff, so investment, not just in screening but the development of that security officer through good training and active management, all contribute to a quality service. No system is foolproof, but by engaged management by your security provider it will reduce the chance of having a ‘dodgy’ guard, and should one be identified the procedures to remove that person must also be in place and implemented.

As most of the front end of security is outsourced by companies, price is often a key issue in contract award. But as we all know, you get what you pay for. Businesses need to consider the quality angle far more seriously and what a security provider is actually going to offer. Is a ‘bum on a seat’ in a uniform, paid just above the minimum wage, likely to be the right solution to a complex and evolving security environment? Businesses while often seeing security costs as a drain on the bottom line, need to consider that a comprehensive, integrated security portfolio with well trained, motivated and properly screened security staff, is actually a contributor to the bottom line. Pilgrims would contend that security and risk management companies that offer the integrated security solution, bespoke to a client with quality as an underpinning factor to their business are the way forward, as opposed to the traditional manned guarding suppliers.

Today’s manager must demand a security service, not just a person in uniform, and select a company that will give a bespoke service designed around their needs but also a company that has an auditable quality standard for its operations, such as ISO 9000 series. Ask questions, get references, and select a cheap contractor (who may interpret the regulations as liberally as they can) at your peril. It will, almost without question, end up costing you considerably more than the original quote.

So while the regulatory bodies and legislation provide the framework to ensuring only the right people are employed to look after your security, it is the implementation and co-ordination of this information by quality security providers that is key to ensuring the best guarantee to the reliability of security staff. In this way the guards are guarded.

Author: Simon Dorset is Director of Business Development for Pilgrims Group Ltd. He commanded senior posts in the Royal Military Police for 25 years and has an extensive and impressive background in counter-terrorism, close protection and investigations. He has been deployed operationally around the world from Northern Ireland to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa, and commanded the RMP Close Protection Unit during the critical years of 2001-2003 following the 9/11 attacks, the intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq.

Article as published in Contingency Today, July 2008: