Security Screening with Metal Detectors

 In Blog Postings, Education, Healthcare Security, Hospitality, Places of Worship, Retail Security-Loss Prevention, Transportation, Uncategorized

Are security screening metal detectors becoming the only way to secure many businesses? Is the use of security magnetometers your last resort for ensuring firearms and other types of deadly weapons do not get into your otherwise secure building?

Security Metal detectors are becoming a safety net of sorts for many facilities such as manufacturing, schools, sporting, concert halls, hospitals, and so on, so they must work, right? As a matter of fact even after numerous incidents where firearms were not discovered during security screening, in many cases the magnetometers worked as intended. The actual failure was on the part of the personnel working the screening process.

Continuous Security Training for Metal Detectors

Once your organization has gone through the process of determining the needs for security metal detectors, and where they will be set up, there is the question on who will run the equipment and what their training will be.

Of course there is a lot more to deciding when and where security screening will occur, such as who will be required to be screened, how will you handle those with disabilities that cannot walk through the magnetometers and so on. You also need to determine how and when staff will receive training, and who will conduct the training.

Training for the operation of security metal detectors is NOT a one-time thing. Again with emphasis; training is NOT a one-time thing! Even the best equipment and tools will need to closely monitored to ensure that they are working properly. Part of that ongoing monitoring is so that the security check-point staff recognizing any issues immediately.

The equipment needs to be calibrated as well, and that service needs to be completed by a qualified service technician, not a security officer.

Qualified Security Trainer

I cannot tell you how many times I have been conducting an assessment for an organization where I find that the person that conducts security training or any type is not qualified to do so. By qualified I am referring to that person has received certified training from a qualified professional who fully comprehends his/her materials.

Unqualified would be a security supervisor, or even a security officer, that has not had any formal training to be a trainer. In fact, I have found numerous times that the person conducting security training has no formal training whatsoever. In other cases I found that the trainer was in the military years ago or at one time they attended a police academy and that’s their qualification to train others.

I personally know hundreds of police officers and what training that they have received over the years, however that training does not necessarily qualify them to be a trainer. Being trained as police officer is completely different than being a security officer.

In order to certify that your training officers or managers have the proper training you need to ensure that the people training them are qualified and certified. That may mean that you could have police officers doing the training, but they need to be certified by the state that they are licensed in to be a trainer and their employers need to approve of their training courses. By this I am referring to the fact that if your security officers are investigated for inappropriate touching of a person during security screening, the experts and lawyers will likely be looking at how they were trained. As part of that, if you have utilized a police officer to do the training and he/she has not been authorized to conduct training outside of their agency, you may find that the police officer is not covered by their employer’s liability insurance. If that turns out to be the case, and the police officer has not purchased the proper insurance independently, your organization may be on the hook for all of the liability exposure even if it is found that the police officer was also negligent. It really comes down to conducting your due diligence so as to ensure that whomever you have conduct the security training has the proper credentials, authorization, education and training to train others.

Is Installing Security Metal Detectors A Good Idea?

I get that question a lot and to sum it up quickly, there is no yes or no blanket answer. It all depends on what your needs are, what else you have tried up until this point, and what you expect the outcome to be once they are in place.

There is also the question as to whether or not the metal detectors are temporary or intended for long-term use. Sometimes there is a knee jerk reaction due to a serious security incident that has occurred at the facility or close-by and suddenly metal detectors are being installed.

In one case there were ongoing and well organized labor issues with a manufacturing facility and management feared that there were going to be serious security incidents when layoffs were announced. So immediately they hired a security contractor to install and manage 4 different security screening check-points. The good thing was that the serious security incidents that management were preparing for never occurred. However, the bad thing was management spent a lot of money on the equipment and staffing hours for security officers.

It was determined that the serious security incidents that management was preparing for were not determined based on any sort of risk or vulnerability assessment. Their responses were solely based on their own fears for personal safety and that gut feelings. On the other hand, once they installed the security metal detectors staff felt safer at work.

However, the security contractor hired to install, maintain, operate, and staff the security check-points was not qualified to do so. It turns out that everyone knew that there were ways around the screening process and even tricks that they could do to get the security officers to not conduct extra screening if the detectors alarmed when they walked through.  There were also many days that the magnetometers were not functioning at all.

Another issue was that management had determined a year later that since the serious security incidents they were planning for never occurred, they wanted to pull the magnetometers out and cancel the security staffing contract. However, the push-back from staff was why pull them? They were working. Yet management decided that they did not want to tell staff that they were ineffective. There were also the concerns that if they pull them out and then something does happen, will that increase their liability exposure? Short answer was that it may do just that.

It really comes down to be careful what you ask for, and if you are going to make drastic changes in your security be sure that those changes are being made rationally and are supported with a unbiased security risk and vulnerability assessment.

Can You Beat A Security Metal Detector/ Magnetometer?

Wouldn’t you like to know the answer to that question? Well sorry, but I am not here to tell you one way or another. What I am here to tell you is that there are factors that we have to consider as technology changes. For example, there are composite materials such as carbon fiber and non-metallic items that could be a challenge for the standard magnetometers. We also have to consider what can and has been made using a 3-D printer.

Just remember this, the training of your staff working at the security check-points is critical and should not be left to an unqualified trainer. Also, we cannot rely solely on the magnetometers to detect all items that could be used as a weapon, as they are only tools that we can use and we have to know how to use them as well as their limitations.

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