Management of A Security Vendor
Contract Security Services
In many cases businesses do not know how to start a security program, or just do not want to deal with it, so they retain a contract security services vendor to provide those services. That happens all the time, and in many cases there are not any issues and everything goes as planned. However, there are just as many cases where a vendor is retained and then the business “washes their hands” of the security concerns.
My first encounter with this mentality was 25 years ago when I was speaking with a Dean of Students at a University. He advised me that he retained a contracted security services vendor to “manage his headache”. He explained that he got tired of trying to find competent security officers, so he turned that over to the security vendor, thus his headaches supposedly became theirs.
Security Staffing Issues
I do not think that anyone would argue about the difficulties that security staffing can involve. Especially if you are paying them minimum wages or not providing them with any type of benefits.
The officers are also required to work all hours, often times exposed to the weather, continuous walking, very limited equipment, and little or no quality security training. On top of that, if they are not trained, have no written Post Orders, and have no supervision for hours on end, the security officers will become complacent and this could result in numerous behavioral issues such as sleeping on the job, and many other management issues.
Do not get me wrong, there are thousands of well trained and motivated security officers out there today, and their intentions are great, and their loyalty is always present. However, they are not the ones that make the news. So how is it that we can ensure that our security officers have our support and confidence?
One of the main reasons that numerous businesses use to justify the contracting out of their security program is that they do not have anyone on staff with a security background. Also, they have no clear understanding of how to setup and manage a security program.
There is also what is perceived as a cost savings advantage by hiring a security service contractor. Basically, the business does not have to pay for the uniforms, training, equipment, liability insurance, licensing, payroll taxes, employee benefits and so on. The reality is that the number one reason that I hear from businesses that they retain the security of a security staffing vendor is the perceived transfer of 100% of the liability risks associated with all things security when they contract with a security vendor.
Transfer of Security Liability
For example, one of the main reasons that the Dean mentioned hiring a security contractor, was that he believed that the university would absolve themselves from all liability and risk exposure by contracting out the security services. Sorry, but it is not that easy. The security contract services companies have lawyers too, and the contract that you signed without fully reading it or understanding it will often indemnify the vendor. The University was no different. The contract that they signed was so vague and one sided, to the security vendor’s benefit, that it was not worth the paper it was written on.
Another example is with a large healthcare system that had retained a security contractor to provide security staffing for several sites. When reviewing their program it was found that the vendor had no formal training program in place, did not ensure that their officers were trained for the duties at those specific sites, had not written post orders, and had no onsite supervision for entire shifts. In addition to that the officers were paid minimum wages and had no benefits. When I asked the property owners why they hired that security vendor, they stated it was the low bid.
Security Services, You Get What You Pay For
It is my opinion that the number one deciding factor for hiring a security staffing contractor is the “Low Bid.” It is not always based on their training program, employee benefit packages, uniforms, management oversight and so on, it is mainly what is this going to cost me?
Security contract services come and go all the time, and I have personally seen security companies fold as soon a serious security incident occurs and they know lawsuits will be coming. One such firm who had a lot of business in a large geographical area did just that. It became obvious during the litigation phase that they were not going to prevail. In fact, their training program was non-existent, there was very little record keeping, and ongoing management and oversight often involved a 5-minute check during an 8-hour shift to ensure that the security officer was onsite. When the vendor’s client asked for budget cuts, the security vendor said that they could provide the same level of security but do so with fewer officers and therefore fewer billable hours. Really? Well we now know that that did not work out well for them or their client.
Management of a Security Vendor
Each of the above examples, and numerous other ones that occur daily throughout the country could be reduced dramatically if business owners would only learn how to manage their security contractors. We are not talking about co-employer type of oversight, but you need to hold the security contractor accountable, and not just cut them a check every time they invoice you.
The first thing you need to do is to properly vett their company and give their contract a very thorough review. Verify that they are providing the services that they promised you. Ask to see the training records of the officers that they are sending to your properties and require that any officer assigned to work on your property has any site-specific training before they work alone.
Other things that you should be doing is asking for monthly reports of all security incidents, complaints, issues, and so on that the officers generated or that the vendor’s management complied. If the contractor tells you that they have 160 billable hours per week, verify that you actually received them. If the vendor says that they use a guard tour system, get weekly/monthly reports and learn how to read through them and understand them.
Ask them also for a copy of the Post Orders. I have had several vendors tell me that the property owners never provided them in writing, and many property owners tell me that they assumed that the security contractor had those in place because they were told that prior to signing a contract. The fact is that probably more than 95% of businesses that hire security services vendors to provide guard services, have no clue what Post Orders are. That being the case, how would they, the property owners, know what you write into those orders. It is not a stretch to say that the security contractors that told me that the property owner never provided Post Orders were just trying to deflect the incompetence on the client, when in fact they owned the blame. It is like I asked them, why did you not meet with the property owners to advise them on the importance of such Post Orders?
It is understandable that most businesses do not fully understand security, what is needed, how to measure security’s effectiveness, or how to write Post Orders and security policies. However, there are trusted advisors out there that are highly trained in this field and can be your expert at the table when negotiating a contract with a vendor.
The same holds true for those times where you want to audit your security contractor, retain the services of a trusted advisor/security expert that knows what to look for, what questions to ask, and know when something is not being done correctly or completely. So, if you do not have someone on staff that has the background, experience and training to audit your security vendors, retain a security expert so as to ascertain if there are any liability risks, exposure, and negligence issues that might be present.