Who’s Responsible for Training Security Personnel to Respond to an Emergency?

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Training Security Personnel to Respond to an EmergencyQuestion:

Who is responsible for ensuring that security officers are appropriately vetted and trained for emergencies?


Ultimately, the property owner (possessor).  There is no wiggle room on this.

Could the bombing in Boston been prevented? Not likely! It is one of those incidents that are hard to imagine much less predict or prevent. The tragedy in Boston should be driving home to property owners and those responsible for public and worker safety that duty of care must be demonstrated in order to use due diligence as a legal defense.

Whatever the emergency is: fire evacuation, bomb threat, natural disaster, or man-made incident (crime i.e. active shooter, assault, civil demonstration…) as a property owner, you are responsible for the safety of visitors and workers while they are on your property.

It makes no difference whether you are utilizing proprietary or contract security personnel on your property, you must ensure they are trained in all aspects of safety and security and their training must be documented.

See the definition of “Premises Liability” as supplied here, “Premises liability means a landowner’s liability for certain torts that take place on an immovable property.  Premises liability law refers to the set of laws that make an owner or possessor of land or premises responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are present on the premises.”

Emergency management law in the US is rooted in all three levels of government—federal, state, and local. While all three types of legal responsibility may result in liability, the most likely source is state law, specifically the tort concept known as negligence.

Another frequent cause of liability is the failure to comply with a legal duty, such as OSHA law. A violation of law may be used as proof in a civil suit requesting damages for personal injury or wrongful death. When the elements of the violation are the same as the elements required for civil liability and the burden of proof is the same for both, the only issue in a civil trial may be the measure of damages.

Here are five reasons why you should integrate exercising into your emergency management program:

  1. Apply your training. Exercises, like tabletops and full-scales, are some of the best ways to simulate emergencies to better prepare employees for the real event.
  2. Identify important training and skills gaps. You may think you have covered all your bases with your training program, but is a real emergency the right time to put that to the test. Run drills, tabletop, or full scale exercises to help identify gaps in your training program, and roles that require more skills training.
  3. Develop the right skills to manage complex and stressful incidents. Reading about how to respond to or support an incident does not cut it; however, simulating a real-life event with specificity having various inputs and emergency details thrown at the trainee is a much stronger training experience.
  4. Pinpoint resource needs. Are there enough workstations at your Emergency Operations Centre? Do you have enough security officers to effectively evacuate the building? A training and exercise program will help identify missing resources, so you can make sure you have everything you need should a real event or disaster occur.
  5. Better, engage your team and improve learning. Is your team just going through the motions with your training program or are they engaged and active participants? Integrate a functional exercise to get your team out of their seats and engaged in learning.

The result is a more effective response when an incident occurs.

In an emergency people, not effectively trained can shutdown or become irrational because they are overwhelmed. In Boston the immediate incident response came from people who were trained in the military and they defaulted to their training. Effective repetitive training will condition the trainee to avoid or control the “amygdala highjack”, or fight or flight response.

About The Expert

Jim Foston is the CEO and Founder of The Foston Group SafeWork Consulting Inc. “Protecting the Protectors” www.thefostongroup.com

Jim’s focus is on health and safety in the private security industry. He also provides health and safety training and consultation to private, and government sector, clients and educational institutions. Jim has personally trained or overseen the training of approximately 6500 security workers in BC, over the past 18 years. In 2010, he delivered training to 900 security workers and venue managers for the Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Games.

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