Security Guard Tour Systems
If your security department does not have supervisors on all shifts, do you know for certain that the security officers are making their rounds as required?
Security guard tour systems can be an impressive management tool, measuring the effectiveness of security patrols, but it can also be a conflict-ridden piece of technology when it comes to security staff when it is first implemented. Although in most cases management may decide to implement such technology for accountability, and maybe even as a means to reduce security risks, sometimes the technology is viewed by officers as being as adversarial in nature.
At first security officers may be very suspicious of the technology, in some cases they may even try to sabotage the system so that they do not have to use it. However, the benefits of such security guard tour systems can result in a substantial reduction in security incident and risks over time.
The important part of implementing such a system into a security program is education and training of the security officers. Educating the officers on the intended use of the system which will include the purpose of proactive patrols, assisting them with ensuring that they get to all areas of their posts, and the intent to reduce risks based on your organizations security risk assessment.
Training is also important, even though the equipment is fairly easy to use, management needs to allow for initial and ongoing training especially when the system is first implemented to show the officers what information is recorded and if they missed stations during their patrols so that they can improve their rounds.
Guard Tour System History
In 1878 Abraham A. Newman began to manufacture and sell stationary “watchclocks,” which lead to the security first watchclock that was introduced to the market in 1902. Eventually the company was sold several times which resulted in name changes each time, and then about 1923 the company name was changed to Detex Corporation. Since then the term often used when referring to a mechanical guard tour system was a Detex clock.
Computerized systems were first introduced in Europe in the early 1980s, and in North America in 1986  and although you can still find the old versions of the systems still in use in some locations, for the most part the mechanical “watchclocks” have passed into the history books.
Security Risk Management
For hundreds of years security officers have been making patrols of their assigned areas to observe for things that are out of the ordinary. It goes back to the Observe and Report post orders, where security guards patrolled areas in search of security issues such as unlocked doors, open windows, unauthorized persons, or possible crimes in progress.
However for many years and in most businesses there was no real accountability to ensure that the security guards were making rounds and patrolling security sensitive areas. Security guards were in many cases assigned to conduct certain inspections and patrols throughout their shift, often unsupervised and alone, and there are plenty of cases where there were no patrols or inspections conducted and management was not aware of it.
The reason that patrols were never made are many, but suffice it to say that without accountability of some type, whether it is supervision on every shift or some type of security guard tour system in place, it all comes back to the integrity and professionalism of the security officer on duty.
That is not to say that no security guards could be trusted because that was not the case. It is just that history has shown us that management oversight and accountability is an important part of a security risk management program.
If you want to ensure that patrols are being made, when and where you need them most based on your security risk assessment, you need to have some form of measuring your security program’s effectiveness, and a security guard tour system can be that tool and it can be substantially less expensive than hiring a security supervisor for every shift and every location.
Proactive Security Patrols
As part of most security programs there are predetermined locations that security management wants their security officers to patrol. For example, in a university setting security management will likely want their security officers to check parking areas, campus buildings that are closed at night, and numerous other areas.
In just about any type of business the security officers may be assigned to check all exterior doors to all buildings, and even interior doors of security sensitive areas to insure that the doors are closed and secured during assigned times. There are also numerous other examples of spaces where security would be assigned to check such as mechanical rooms, stairwells, basements and so on.
There are many past examples of where security officers located major issues such as fires, water leaks, assaults in progress, and people in medical distress because they were assigned to patrol an area as part of the security guard tour system. That is not to say that security officers have never found such issues when making regular rounds without a mechanical or electronic security guard tour system because that is just not the case.
Security Management Use of Security Guard Tour System
Security management often finds that a security guard tour system can be very helpful in managing security staff’s duties and effectiveness. The devices can also become a vital part of an investigation into security incidents and personnel matters. In fact, over the years I have seen several cases where security officers were exonerated of claims of serious matters such as harassment and stalking.
In one such case a security officer at a university was accused by a female student of harassing the student and doing so in a sexual manner. The victim filed a detailed security incident report and appeared to have very detailed facts of the incident, so detailed that the university’s Dean of Student Affairs moved to terminate the security officer for cause. However, this same university had in place an electronic guard tour system, and the records of such were reviewed during the investigation.
Although the future employment of the security officer appeared to be ending, and the claims made by the student were likely going to result in criminal charges as well, the facts as presented by the security guard tour system were very clear and ultimately proved his innocence.
From the very beginning of the investigation the security officer claimed he was not in the location of the alleged incident during the time it was reported to have happened, yet there was not one independent witness that could substantiate his claim. That is other than the security guard tour system that he was carrying as part of his job.
In the end, the records of the guard tour system proved that the officer was on the other side of the campus at the time of the incident. When the victim was shown the evidence she recanted her statement and admitted that she made it all up because of a failed relationship between her and the security officer. In this case the electronic guard tour system saved a security officer’s job, reputation and possible freedom and from that day forward the security officer had no doubt as to the value of the system.
Security Guard Tour System Patrols
Setting up patrols can take time, and in many cases management will set up different patrols depending on time of day and day of the week. For example, exterior doors to buildings may not be checked during regular business hours.
So where should an officer patrol as part of these systems, and how often should they make their patrols? That is for management to decide, but there are plenty of guidelines that will help make those decisions.
As part of most systems there are RFID tags or barcodes that are places in key areas where the security officers must go to during their shifts. Those areas might include mechanical rooms, stairwells, loading docks, administrative offices, parking lots or garages and numerous other locations. Once the security officer arrives in those areas they will use a hand-held device to record their presence at the RFID button or barcode positioned in that area or space. That information will remain in the handheld device until such time it is downloaded onto a computer, either by the officer or management.
As far as where to locate the buttons or barcodes, it is a generally accepted practice to locate them at the far end of a room or parking area. In other words, you want the security officer to enter a room and walk through the entire space to get to the button, verses having the button at the door which means that they only need to be near the entrance to record that they were present.
When it comes to how many times a tour should be made, again as general rule of thumb management should require multiple tours during each shift. It is a good practice to require an initial tour within the first hour of an officer’s shift, this way they can check the status of their entire post when they come on duty. It is also a good practice to conduct another tour during the last hour of their shift to ensure that their post is secure prior to the next officer coming on duty. As for how many tours should happen at other times throughout their shift that really is dependent on the exact duties of the security officers and the facilities in which they are assigned to patrol.
Management may set up several different tours depending on known risks or security needs, but keep in mind that if a full tour of all buildings and parking lots takes 1-2 hours, management will be limited on the number of rounds that an officer can make during an 8 hour shift. Management will also have to allow for breaks, escorts, responding to calls and so on, so in many cases the number of rounds possible during an 8 hour shift may only be 3-4.
Electronic Guard Tour Systems – Conclusion
Security guard tour systems can be a very effective security management and risk management tool, and in some cases can result in insurance savings. However, they can also be an issue for security officers when they are first implemented so you need to plan for that.
So if you are looking for a way to ensure that security patrols are being made 24/7, and you cannot afford a security supervisor on every shift, these electronic systems can give you the assurances that you need to know that security patrols are being made.
 Clark, Bill; Robert R. Macdonald (March 1991). “High-Tech Touring”. Security Management 35 (3): 25.