One thing you learn early on in the personal security field is to be alert to your surroundings. When you are in the military, that might mean scanning for unoccupied vehicles or suspicious packages, but it can look very different in your hometown. Here are some general tips to help you stay safe as you go about your day:
- Trust your instincts. Your subconscious mind may pick up on danger before your brain can process where the threat is actually coming from. Do not discount this feeling. If you get a “weird vibe” from someone, be wary of spending time alone with them. Listen to that voice in your head telling you to get away from someone instead of feeling socially obligated to be polite. If you are uncomfortable walking alone somewhere, find the closest public place to duck into and call a friend or travel with someone else whenever possible. Stick to well-lit areas when you are walking at night. If nothing happens, do not think you were being paranoid. The threat may have moved on to another target or opportunity. Just because something didn’t happen does not mean that it might not have.
- Plan escape routes. This is true for emergencies like fires in your own home or place of work, or if you are somewhere new and feeling uncomfortable. Knowing how to get out in any scenario will put your mind more at ease, and can help you if it is necessary to leave abruptly for any reason.
- Be aware of the people around you in public places. Does anyone stand out? Why? There are big red flags, like someone wearing a winter coat in a mall in the middle of the summer; and much smaller red flags, such as people sweating excessively and constantly looking at their watch. It could be easily explained, or it could be a threat. Note any security in the area and notify them if you have any suspicions. They can determine the severity level of the threat and act accordingly. They can also keep a closer eye on someone that is acting suspiciously.
- Many people wear headphones or chat on their cellphones when they are in public places. You make yourself a potential target when you openly advertise that you are not paying attention to your surroundings and cannot hear someone coming up behind you. If you must use headphones, keep the volume as low as possible so that you can still keep an ear tuned to your surroundings. When talking on your phone, move against a wall and stay stationary so that people have to approach you from the front.
- Be smart with valuables. Don’t flash a lot of cash around or leave any valuables unattended. This includes purses or briefcases that are left visible and/or in an unlocked vehicle. Don’t leave the engine running or the keys inside your car and walk away. The same goes for leaving your purse or valuables in a shopping cart and stepping away from it. You want to make it harder to become a target, not easier. Don’t put the temptation out there.
Remember, it is better to err on the side of caution than to put yourself in a dangerous situation!
Most of the time, when you tell someone that you are in personal security or that you are a bodyguard, they imagine that you have an action-packed job filled with car chases and flying bullets. Hollywood has definitely had a hand in making the field look exciting and dramatic. Thankfully,though, that is not usually the case. Most days are uneventful and even surprisingly routine, depending on your clientele. While it is not necessarily the safest profession, most days usually are pretty safe.
In the military, other than being a police officer, you might be an escort for political officials, high-ranking military personnel, or contractors who either do not or cannot carry their own weapons. It’s not the easiest job but it’s a necessary one. In the civilian world, your tasks will likely be more routine. For example, if you are a bodyguard, your job might consist mostly of walking someone from the door to their car and driving them to and from any place they may need to go. Other than that, it is probably a lot of waiting for your client to be done with whatever they are doing so you can take them to the next location or waiting until your relief shows. There will rarely be a need to jump in front of someone to take a bullet unless maybe you work for the secret service, and even then it doesn’t happen often. If you are a security guard at a venue, you may spend all of your time on your feet with your back to concerts and sporting events, watching crowds of people. Occasionally something will happen, but mostly you are watching other people have a good time. Some larger venues have a “jail” to put perps in until law enforcement arrives and can remove them from the premises. Small amusement park security guards deal mostly with petty theft and ejecting line cutters. Everything else usually revolves around the parking lot—cars either parked illegally, breaking down or getting flats, broken into, or stolen. There is usually that one guy who swears his car was stolen but actually just did not remember where he parked. The same usually goes for stores or malls—mostly thefts and problems in the parking lots. A bank security guard can spend his whole career without having to thwart a single robbery.Sincethat kind of thing is not newsworthy, you would never hear about it.
Then there are the shifts that most people think you don’t want: the late night hours. The lack of activity there can work for you, especially if you have any ambitions. Many of our friends have put themselves through college by doing their coursework or projects while sitting through graveyard shifts as either a security guard or body guard. Some stay after receiving their degrees, and others move on. When you face an uneventful eight hours nearly every night, you need to occupy yourself when you aren’t watching monitors or doing rounds. What you do with that time is completely up to you as long as it is in the confines of your employee guidelines.
It can be hard to determine whether you need to enlist the help of the police or if you would have more success using a private security company.On further examination, the decision can be fairly simple. The two needs can be broken down this way: the job of most police officers is to respond to criminal activity, to find and arrest those responsible, and to preserve law and order. The job of personal security, on the other hand, is to protect a location or individual(s) and to prevent–or stop–crimes from happening in the first place.
Police officers can’t, and shouldn’t, be everywhere at once. So their job is more after-the-fact. If you don’t know who committed said crime, the police have access to databases and tools that will hopefully help them find the person or persons responsible and help you receive justice. Security guards have no access to the judicial system the same way police officers do and would need their assistance once a criminal has been apprehended. Police training is usually in-depth and standardized in an area, which may not be the case with a personal security agency. On the other hand, they may be limited by financial resources or politics. On the whole, though, most of their duties can only be performed once a crime has occurred because their job is to enforce the law. Their crime deterrent methods are typically only their physical presence somewhere (note we are talking about a typical police officer here and not someone in a specialized unit) but their real power comes after the fact.
Private security, on the other hand, is paid to maintain safety and to deter crime based on their presence. Whether the job is to protect someone or specific property, it is much easier to stop or prevent a crime when you are already physically at the location. While they cannot arrest or charge anyone with a crime, they can hold someone until law enforcement arrives as well as testify to that person’s crimes in court. Also, because private security is not under the same scrutiny as police officers, their hours and techniques can be more flexible. Since they also run as for-profit companies, they can also invest in state of the art equipment to help them better perform their duties. Likewise, they can also offer their employees incentive and performance bonuses that a police force simply cannot. In addition, since they tend to be smaller and lacking in bureaucracy, private security companies can more easily modify their training and continuing education programs for their staff.
The police do their best to keep people safe and help them once a crime has been committed. For the average person, that is usually more than they will ever need. However, if you or your company’s needs fall outside the duties of law enforcement and more in the realm of crime prevention, you should definitely sit down with a private security firm to discuss your concerns.