I was always amazed how many different hats property managers have to wear – lawyer, accountant, engineer, politician, psychologist, and, lately – of increased importance, security expert. When you award your security contract to a security company, you delegate all responsibility for hiring and training security personnel, providing a secure environment and various other services, i.e. parcels, amenity bookings, etc. Security is normally on site 24/7 and often act as an extension of Property Management outside the normal business hours.
How do you audit your security company to make sure that they are doing the job properly and that you are getting value out of what is, very possibly, the largest contract of your business? Don’t forget to ask questions….
This starts before the contract is awarded. Check that the company can legally provide security services in the Province of Ontario. There are many unethical and unprofessional companies out there and there are cases where companies were taken to court for operating illegally. As you may know, the security industry is governed by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correction Services (MCSCS) under the Private Security and Investigative Services Act (PSISA). Under that act, all security companies must meet 2 requirements: they must have an agency licence granted by the ministry and they must have a minimum $2,000,000 liability insurance. Both requirements are not inexpensive but necessary to be legitimate. Ask to see the company’s insurance certificate and check if the security company is, indeed, a licenced agency on the MCSCS website.
Check that the scope of the company’s insurance reflects the needs of your building. For example, if your security guards are doing valet parking, does the company’s insurance include valet parking? If your site requires guards to have defensive equipment on them, i.e. batons or handcuffs, your security company must be insured for that. Is alcohol served at your venue? If so, this must be included in the insurance.
Would you like your security guards to be able to issue police parking tickets? If so, your security company must be authorized by the municipality your business is in. Ask to see the licence from the city. Note, all parking enforcement licences are municipal. A company would need the Toronto licence to issue police tickets in Toronto, Brampton licence for Brampton, etc.
Now you have hired a company and they are now sending their guards to your site. Are the guards licenced? Under PSISA, all guards must have a valid security guard licence and a valid first aid certification. Security licence expires every 2 years and first-aid expires every 3. You have the right to ask the security guards on duty for their licence and, by law, they are required to produce it on the spot. It must be on them at all times. Not in the bag, not in the winter jacket.
Are security guards properly trained? This is a big one. Companies often underinvest in training their personnel, as this is an added expense. Do security guards know what to do in case of elevator entrapment, fire alarm, trespassing, black-out, etc.? Do they know how to handle normal day-to-day operations, i.e. parcel deliveries, amenity bookings?
Another very common flaw is the absence of site-specific Post Orders or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Post orders are documentation that contain all information a security guard would need to conduct their work, including emergency procedures, desk duties, contractor information, and more. Many companies have standard Post Orders with little to no difference from site to site. This is not acceptable, as having standardized standing orders does not account for site-specific rules, policies, locations, etc. I have often went into a building and saw items in the standing orders that have no relevance to the site. For example, in standing orders for a large townhouse complex, I saw procedures for dealing with elevator emergencies, when there are no elevators there.
Sure, certain procedures are standard across-the-board and can be copy-pasted. Other procedures have to be edited to the site-specific needs and there would likely be entirely new procedures that have to be written for your site. Is your security company doing that? Below, in point form, is a list of topics that have to be covered in the standing orders. This list is not comprehensive, but does cover the major points.
SITE-SPECIFIC TOPICS TO BE INCLUDED IN THE POST ORDERS
- Detailed site-specific training checklist
- List of all emergency contacts, i.e. companies looking after the elevators, garage doors, electricity, HVAC system, emergency generator; property management emergency line, etc.
- Contact information for the fire alarm monitoring company, including the site ID and password, if applicable
- Exact locations of mechanical rooms and emergency equipment. Just the floor number of garage level will not suffice. Normally, when the mechanical room is on a floor, location is referred to by the number of the closest unit. When the room is in the underground parking, best way to describe the location would be the closest parking spot. A guard must be able to find the location within minutes, should there be a need. Of particular importance are generator room, fire panel room, annunciator panel, gas and hydro shut-off, main telephone room, sprinkler room, fire safety plan, elevator machine room, compactor room/s
- Locations of all amenities and detailed rules for booking them.E. is there a deposit required for elevator reservations. If so, how much? Does it have to be a certified cheque or just a regular cheque will suffice? Who should the cheque be made out to? Is there a fee for the booking? What times are bookings allowed?
- Are there any commercial facilities associated with the building?e. convenience store, barber shop, offices on the ground level? If so, what are the rules for associating with them? What time do they close? Is the place armed after-hours and who arms it?
- Visitor parking policy. What is the site parking policy? For example, are parking permits required at all times? Or only if the visitor parks after 2 am? Is there a monthly per unit or per vehicle limit for the parking permits? If a car is parked illegally, what are the instructions? Issue a ticket? Call parking enforcement to issue a ticket? Parking warning? Towing?
- Site parcel policy. Are security guards allowed to accept packages? Is there a waiver that must be signed? Where are the parcels stored? How are they logged? How is the resident/tenant notified of a parcel (i.e. mailbox notification, phone call)?
- Real estate policy. Do real estate agents have to sign in? Are key boxes allowed anywhere on the premises? Are open houses allowed? Is any signage allowed on the property?
- Contractor policy. What keys can security issue to the contractors? What is the process of making security aware that certain contractors are coming in, so that security knows they are authorized? Is there a pre-authorized contractor list?
- Bicycle policy. Are bicycles allowed through the lobby or in the corridors? Are there places on the property where bicycles can be tied to? If so, is a bicycle tag required from the management? What is security supposed to do if bicycles are tied without a tag or in an unauthorized area?
- List of all keys in possession security.
- Site policy on master keys. In what cases are master key allowed to be used? If a resident/tenant forgot/lost his key and asks the guard on duty to open their unit door using the site master key, what is the procedure? What paperwork is required? Is there a form for the resident to fill out authorizing security?
- Lost and found property
- Fire alarm procedures
- Water testing procedures (if you have a pool)
- Instructions for using the security equipment. Procedures for operating cameras, viewing playback and any other software/hardware security may be using, i.e. Front Desk, Concierge Plus, patrol tracking systems.
- Detailed, site-specific procedures (preferably with pictures) for operating equipment in the CACF (Central Alarm Control Facility), also known as Fire Panel room. This equipment includes the fire panel, communication panel, mag-lock reset, elevator reset.
As mentioned, the list above is not all-inclusive, as every site is different. The idea is, your security company must write detailed site-specific procedures for your site. Certain procedures such as noise complaint procedures, elevator entrapment procedures, and dealing with trespassers are fairly standard and should be included in the standing orders as well. The list above mentions some items that are, generally, site-specific.
SECURITY GUARD TRAINING
All security guards must receive site-specific training before they start working, even if the guard has years of security experience. Ask your company how do they make sure that their guards are properly trained? Do they have a site-specific, detailed training checklist, where a guard would have to initial every item as trained and understood? Who trained the guards? Were they trained by the site supervisor or a senior guard? Did the security manager follow-up to ensure every guard was trained properly?
Also, is your security company able to fill day-off requests, vacations and last minute call-ins with quality, trained personnel? Do they have a few back-ups trained for the site?
EXTRA GUARDS FOR AMENITY BOOKINGS
It is often a good idea to get an extra guard for certain amenity bookings. Particularly, party room bookings and move-ins/move-outs. Both of these events often bring about a security breach. When somebody is moving in or out of their unit, they would be leaving outside doors open for long periods of time. If in your building a moving room that is outside of the main lobby is used for elevator reservations, this could mean that anybody will be able to come into the building from the outside without the security guard noticing them.
During party room reservations with guests from outside the building, it could be beneficial to hire a security guard to look after the party. The extra guard will ensure that the guests are not wondering around the building, escorting guests from the lobby to the party room, making sure all rules are being followed, i.e. no drinking, no smoking.
UPDATED CONTACT INFORMATION
Does security have the most up-to-date contact information for the Security Company, property management company emergency line, and emergency contractor information? It is also very important to have accurate and updated resident/tenant information. In case of a condominium, the information sheet for every unit should include the names of all the residents, information about pets, and information about people with disabilities. Contact numbers and emails for both owners and tenants (if applicable) must be included as well. I often see resident information lists with no tenant information. Updated, complete and accurate contact information is needed for 2 reasons:
- Access control. When visitors, contractors, deliveries arrive, security guard would at times have to contact the resident/tenant to ensure that the visitor is legitimate.
- Should there be a flood, security may need to contact residents/tenants who may either be affected by the flood or who may have caused the flood.