What is the Role of a Security Guard?

Explore the vital role of security guards in ensuring safety and protection in diverse environments. Learn about their responsibilities, skills, and challenges.

Security guards help you feel safer, deter dangerous activity, and protect the people, property, and territory under their watch. Their critical role in modern society reduces the risk and improves the safety of businesses and locations that can attract thieves, trespassers, or other shady characters. Yet security guards aren’t just on the lookout for criminals and crooks. They’re also there to help the organization run smoothly in various other ways.

Of course, security guards are often the first line of defense in an unpredictable world. Whether they’re protecting homes or high rises, retail stores or construction sites, offices or schools, hospitals or airports and other transportation hubs, security guards ensure a safe and secure environment for the people who live, work, learn, and do business at their location.

Security guards are responsible for:

  • Controlling access to establishments

  • Operating security and surveillance equipment

  • Patrolling assigned areas

  • Protecting against theft, vandalism, and disaster

  • Enforcing regulatory, safety, and emergency processes are followed

  • Resolving conflicts and contacting authorities

  • Monitoring entrances and exits

  • Conducting security checks

Armoured car guards, corporate security officers, private investigators, and retail loss prevention officers have specialized duties ranging from guarding and delivering valuables, investigating unlawful acts, and conducting investigations, to preventing shoplifting and theft in retail settings.

In the face of potential or actual threats to people and property, security guards — just by being there — can scare off those looking to harm. That means the location could be less likely to be robbed, vandalized, or otherwise damaged. And if there’s an emergency like a fire, flood, or medical crisis, security guards are often the first to respond, offering immediate assistance and guiding the necessary emergency services to the scene.

More types of businesses, organizations, and areas hire security guards than you may think. In fact, security services are a $9 billion industry in Canada, employing almost 120,000 people. The scenario could be as mundane as patrolling a parking lot to make sure no one leaves without paying or taking responsibility for a door ding. Or, the situation could be as extreme as guarding important people or expensive goods being targeted by known crooks. Most security guards spend the majority of their time calmly, carefully keeping watch on their domain and having polite engagements with people they encounter in the span of their days. But they always have to be ready to handle danger, uncertainty, and chaos, should the occasion arise.

From calmness to calamity, here are the types of roles security guards take on in the line of duty.

New job roles of a security guard: onboarding, training, and certification

When starting a new security guard job, the first stage is onboarding: getting “on board” with the company’s policies, schedules, teams, and duties. This typically involves shadowing a manager or top-performing employee to pick up the rhythm and flow of the security guard’s to-do list. This stage also tours the premises and goes over everything the guard will need to know about the specifics of their location.

Training typically goes beyond the onboarding stage, lasting days or weeks into the first month on the job. While the guard is new, they may need to be trained on various procedures and areas of the organization, such as those that need special instructions for securing or patrolling. If the business is in a specialized industry — factories, hospitals, dispensaries, banks, for example — the security guard may have to go through industry- specific training on the job and sometimes through third-party programs.

These duties might require additional certifications and training.

While security guards learn a lot in their onboarding and training roles as they get started on a new gig, certification happens before they even get the job. Getting licensed as a security guard is a prerequisite to getting the job, but maintaining the certification is a role the guard continues as long as they’re employed in the job. Industry-specific certifications are sometimes okay to acquire after starting a new job, within a certain time frame, but having the certification ahead of time can give a job applicant a leg up against other candidates.

Training others: subordinates, employees, and more

After they’ve been on the job successfully for a while, typically at least a year, a security guard will then start training others. They will help train new security guards, of course, but may also be recruited to train others, like the residents and employees they protect, on what to do in emergencies.

Identifying and reporting suspicious activity

The primary role of a security guard is to watch for concerning activity and make sure it doesn’t become a bigger issue — whether that means peacefully intervening or calling for help. They also need to write detailed reports of incidents, which may be supplied to victims, law enforcement, insurance companies, lawyers, and others.

Security guards are like the eyes and ears of a place, always on the lookout for anything odd or potentially harmful. When they spot something, they can step in calmly or call for backup. It's also their job to write down everything that happens in detailed reports. These reports can be really important for police, insurance companies, and others who might need to know what happened. By keeping track of all the incidents, security guards help make the place safer for everyone in the future.

Monitoring and protecting property and goods

Not just deterring and catching thieves, security guards are also watching for natural disasters, structural concerns, and even dangerous animals. Every type of property and inventory can have its own unique vulnerabilities and predators.

Furthermore, security guards play a crucial role in the early detection of potential hazards that could lead to significant damage or loss, such as water leaks, electrical faults, or fire hazards. Their vigilance extends beyond the immediate safety of people and property to ensuring the continuity of business operations and minimizing financial losses. Monitoring the environment can mean using two-way radios to communicate with others as well as video surveillance and alarm systems.

Emergency preparedness

Natural disasters might not just pose a threat to a building or warehouse stock, of course — they can put people’s lives in danger. From hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and earthquakes to terrorist attacks, break-ins, and mobs, security guards are ready to face, fight, and protect others from emergency situations.

Security guards also take on the role of first-aid provider, giving help to those with minor injuries and standing by until an ambulance or other medical professional arrives. Another situation in which a security guard would step in is when a paramedic is trying to locate a victim in a large building. The security guard will escort the paramedic along the quickest route, using their security clearance to bypass any delays.

Keeping calm, cool, and professional

One of the trickiest parts of the security guard job? Keeping a cool composure. Not everyone can steady their mind and hands in a scary, dangerous, or fast-paced situation — but security guards can and do, every day. The role of calm, reliable leader helps the guard keep others calm by giving them peace of mind that they have the situation under control.

They also tamp down bad behavior and diffuse tense situations to make sure uncomfortable scenarios don’t get out of control.

Balancing safety, security, and customer service

Security guards are not just there to handle chaotic situations, but to make sure everyone who enters the premises feels safe. It’s a special kind of customer service, but an important one. Especially at places like jewelry stores, airports, hospitals, and sporting events, security guards are a big part of the experience, so they need to live up to the same service standards as anyone else working in the business.

One job, many roles

Security guards take on many roles, but the most important is to protect people. From monitoring the area to reporting thefts or fires, a security guard’s day can go from quiet to chaotic in the blink of an eye. Their ability to adapt to diverse situations, coupled with their training in surveillance, risk assessment, and crisis management, makes them an integral component of any organization looking to protect its interests and those under its care.

Their role extends beyond mere surveillance. They are ambassadors of peace and safety, ensuring that businesses and public spaces remain welcoming and secure for everyone.

They’re some of the most valuable employees for thousands of businesses, especially those in high-risk industries, which means there’s ample opportunity for a thriving career as a security guard. The first step to getting started? Get your security guard license from a reputable provider licensed in your area.

Quinn Smith ·

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