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If your community if fortunate enough to be utilizing a security service, here’s a few tips on how to get more for your money’s worth!

  1. DETAILED SERVICE AGREEMENT - Have a very specific accounting of your expectations: how many patrols per shift, what areas and buildings need more attention, what to do when an incident arises, clear access control procedures, & how to handle exceptions, what additional duties besides access & patrolling, etc….also stipulate minimally accepted turnover rate, required random SA screenings and national (not just state) criminal background checks. The more clarity, the more ammunition when issues arise.

  2. SPECIFIC TRAINING REQUIREMENTS – Specify how many hours a new guard has to have prior to being on solo duty – and it’s NOT billable to you. Many contractors will give them a crash course in less than an hour with another site guard – even if it’s a basic site, issues & incidents will arise and your newbie needs good core information. Require at least two hours for the most basic duties (gate guard – sign everyone in & out, open the gate, etc.); do four to eight for meticulous rigors (checking trucks in & out, working seals & cargo manifests, inspecting undercarriages, verifying empty containers, etc.). This gives ample time for both instruction and OJT under supervision. Insist a FTO or field supervisor always does the training – guards only pass along their bad habits. If you skimp on training , you’re going to have constant issues.

  3. DETAILED REPORTS – This is the biggest failure in the industry. The shift report is their validation for existence – insist on substance in every report. Eight lines of “All normal” for an 8-hour shift means either they were asleep all night or they don’t want to justify they did anything but watch TV or video games. Request patrol start and end times, exact locations & buildings patrolled, noting any lights out or unsecure areas, etc. It’s also a legal record of their presence – and your liability, if they missed the open gate and all the new cars disappeared when everything was reported “All normal”.

  4. DECENT WORK STATION – if they work in a hole, they’ll act like a mole. Have a reasonably functional, clean and heated/air conditioned gate house or guard station with a desk, chair, file cabinet, lamp and rest room access (“Port-a-Johns” on construction sites are typical, but don’t use one if indoor plumbing is available); options could include a small microwave and/or fridge.

  5. COMMENSURATE WAGES – You WILL get what you pay for and Minimum Wage doesn’t buy squat. Offer a decent wage with Holiday Pay on the “Big 6” days. These days, if you’re not paying at least $10/hr. you’ll continually lose a lot of good people to the burger joints and big box retailers (they usually have better bennies). After all, they ARE your front-line “insurance” against loss, damage and disaster.

  6. SUPERVISION – This is the 2nd biggest failure of the industry. Specify a minimum number of spot-checks each week with a report of more than just a few check boxes for “uniforms, license and being awake”…and at least a couple by branch management (and maybe your CAM, too) each month – they also need to see where the rubber meets the road.

Although this seems like a daunting task, if you’re spending residents’ money (the average security contract is around $45K (1 guard, 8 hrs./7 days), shouldn’t you be ensuring the value justifies the cost? I can assure you, the night a unit catches fire and the guard is the one calling 911 right away, you’ll be happy; if no one was there, it would’ve spread to several buildings before someone called in the alarm. That $45K just saved you at least that much in your master policy deducible!

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