How well do you understand your security services contract?
Security contracts are often more complicated than other services you may outsource. Instead of purchasing a commodity or equipment, you’re paying for human capital.
To ensure the services you receive meet your security needs, make sure you can navigate contract language, terms of agreement, and scope of work.
1) Conduct a Risk Assessment
It can be difficult to estimate security coverage if you don’t know the threats associated with your property, says Glen Kitteringham, president of Kitteringham Security Group, a consulting firm.
Is your building prone to demonstrations, vandalism, break-ins, theft, or assault? Do you have a high-profile tenant or neighboring building that carries specific risks? All of these factors impact your security coverage and are risks a security provider must weigh as well.
While not required to contract security services, a risk assessment will help you make informed decisions about the services your building needs as opposed to making assumptions.
Risk assessments typically outline assets, identify risks and their probability, estimate the potential impact of a specific threat, recommend countermeasures, and offer a cost-benefit analysis.
2) Look for Vendors
With your risks identified, send out a request for information (RFI), an informal query that allows you to become familiar with potential vendors.
“You want to prequalify bidders instead of blindly selecting one,” recommends Kitteringham. “Look at staffing levels, hourly rates, hiring practices, credentials, training programs, and membership associations.”
After you have a field of candidates narrowed down, you can issue a request for proposals (RFP) for formal bids.
“With an RFP, a property manager can avoid hidden or additional costs not identified in the bidding process and clarify which deliverables are included in the agreement,” says Mike Coleman, vice president of commercial real estate for AlliedBarton, a security services provider.
3) Determine Terms and Conditions
Once you select your contract provider, you need to iron out the scope of work, Kitteringham explains. This includes a host of details involving duration of the contract, liability, insurance, payment, uniforms, and equipment.
You will also decide what your security officers are expected to do. Duties that may be stipulated in your service package include:
- Provide visitor management
- Monitor surveillance cameras
- Conduct patrols
- Oversee access control
- Respond to alarms
- Report suspicious activity
The contract will also specify how many posts are assigned to your property, hours of coverage, use of force policies, and rate structures for wages.
As you finalize your contract, ensure that your expectations are accurately documented. Owners often make assumptions about the extent of their coverage, but if it isn’t specified in the contract, the security company isn’t bound to deliver it.
Furthermore, contract security does not replace the need for police intervention, cautions Kitteringham. Security personnel should not be expected to handle aggravated or potentially dangerous situations, such as removing protesters from a property or subduing an angry employee.
You should also specify the role of security officers in other emergencies, such as medical situations, slips and falls, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters, power outages, and fire. Security personnel may be the first responders on the scene, notes Coleman, so establish protocol for them to follow.
4) Review Often
Even if you are satisfied with your provider, make sure your security contract comes under scrutiny routinely. Contracts commonly have a length of three years, says Coleman, and should be reviewed at least biannually.
Any changes to your risk profile should also prompt a review, including after any major incident, adds Kitteringham.
You should also look for ways to calculate return on investment to justify the continued expense. For example, compare the number of incidences before and after adding contract security, Kitteringham recommends. You can also document tenant satisfaction with officers based on informal feedback or surveys.
“If you look at the cost of providing security vs. risk mitigation, you may never come to the appropriate juncture,” stresses Coleman. “If you implement a security program that provides a safe and secure environment, however, risk mitigation should follow suit in a natural progression.”
Jennie Morton firstname.lastname@example.org is associate editor of BUILDINGS.