Written By CSLA HQ

When emergencies happen, security professionals make all the difference

“When we responded to emergencies in commercial or industrial structures, we were always glad – and a little relieved – when we saw security guards on-site. They make such a big difference in our ability to successfully contain and put out a fire while minimizing casualties and property damage.” Those are the words of John Collie, a former firefighter and now the President of Rescue 7, a Canadian provider of first-aid training, AEDs and life-saving equipment.

It’s true. Trained security personnel can make a huge difference in how well an emergency is handled in a large commercial or industrial space, and in some surprising ways.

These days, less than 5% of fire departments’ calls are for actual fires. Instead, firefighters are called upon to be first responders in all kinds of situations ranging from medical aid to hazardous materials spillage or leakage, from bomb threats to water and power breaks – and even some cat-in-a-tree rescuing once in a while. The more information they have about the situation on the ground, like the layout of a building or where power sources are located, the more effective they can be. That’s where security professionals come in.

Before the emergency happens

Security officers are trained – and it’s their job – to notice things in and around the places they’re working. That means they can be an effective preventative line of defense in all kinds of ways:

  • Noticing and reporting unusual people or traffic patterns in a facility
  • Noticing hazards that may cause physical injuries, such as broken railings or slippery stairs
  • Documenting structural damage like loose windows or cladding that could turn into an emergency if it isn’t addressed
  • Ensuring that emergency and life-saving equipment like fire extinguishers and AEDs are appropriately placed and maintained
  • Addressing potential hazards like obstructed exits

At the outset of an emergency

The first few minutes of an emergency situation can be crucial to ensuring a good outcome. Security professionals can assist by:

  • Providing 911 operators with clear and complete information (without panicking!)
  • Providing immediate first aid and CPR until firefighters and paramedics arrive
  • Ensuring that entrances closest to the emergency are unlocked and unobstructed, preventing delays in arrival of firefighters
  • They can advise of unusual or unexpected hazards such as open worksites or faulty elevators
  • Conveying clear, concise and complete information to the first responders upon their arrival

During the emergency

On-site security guards can be a huge help during the active part of emergency response in a number of ways:

  • They can provide first responders with directions to specific locations within the building
  • They know the location of equipment and access, including things like standpipes, lock boxes, Siamese connections, utility rooms, etc.
  • They can provide information and advice regarding staging areas
  • They can help ensure people in the building are accounted for and extracted
  • They can assist with first aid and CPR as required
  • They can be an important conduit of information to users within the building while providing a sense of calm and order

After the emergency

Again, using their training in observation, reporting and documentation, security personnel can be an important part of incident analysis and process improvement after an emergency has occurred.

A ‘security guard’ is so much more than ‘the guy at the front desk’

“During my almost twenty years in fire services, I personally witnessed dozens of incidents and emergencies in which security personnel made a demonstrable difference,” says Collie. “Sometimes their quick action and calm under pressure meant that they were able to save lives; sometimes their attention to detail meant we could save valuable property or structures that might otherwise have been totally destroyed. In every case, they made our jobs easier, and more effective.”