When the Security Guard’s Job Stops

AttackThe fifth annual Horizon Scan Report published by the Business Continuity Institute, in association with BSI illustrates that physical security and related issues are growing concerns amongst business leaders. This renewed interest appears in studies and surveys throughout the industrialized world.

My own recent experience in Canada includes many executives asking questions about what they can do to prevent and manage active shooters, gang violence in their facilities, and terrorist attacks. Of course, they demand secrecy to surround their queries and the answers they receive. If I were to summarise the questions, they would display a surprising lack of knowledge about violence and Canadian law. I know the answers surprise the enquirer due to his reaction upon learning how helpless he is in the face of such low-probability but high-consequence threats. What follows should help to explain the most fundamental causes of, and reasons for, our inability to deal with these threats.

The recent awards for bravery related to the October 2014 attack on parliament hill should highlight our society’s irrational approach to managing armed attacks in public and private work places.

The outcome of this attack informs us that we cannot stop attackers at the front door due to our irrational aversion to armed security guards. That is apparent from the utterly inept response to the attack on parliament hill.

Most Canadian security operations stop short of actually managing an armed attack. Once something violent or dangerous starts, the normal response entails calling on somebody else to do the heavy lifting. In this organisational culture, when an attack starts, the security guard’s job stops. However, calling the police is not an emergency response procedure; it is an act of desperation and an admission of incompetence.

With this entrenched mindset, it does not matter how many resources have been devoted to the security operation, when an armed attack begins, security guards, employees, or guests will suffer serious injury or death.

Sign-in procedures, searches, and metal detectors have limited utility when violent intruders come calling. Intruders like this will not calmly line-up and politely follow orders.

The notion that technology and security theatre can supplant incompetence is common in the chancelleries that extoll the virtues of their most recent purchasing decision, but those worthies never face armed terrorists, gangsters, or homicidal lunatics themselves. On the other hand, unarmed guards exposed to armed intruders have a limited number of responses: run, hide, attempt moving people away from the attacker, die in place, or confront the attacker. As illustrated by the attack on parliament hill, unarmed guards are utterly ineffective in the last response option.

Most Canadians do not understand that self-defence is not so much a right as it is a defence in law used to enrich lawyers through endless prosecution and litigation. As a result, the government has embraced the union-shop mentality that sees the preservation of life and self-defence as something only government bureaucrats may do under the supposed ‘social contract’ and nobody has the money, power, and the perseverance needed to change this mindset. Demonstrating this needless and restrictive attitude is the fact that security guards may not get a pistol permit to defend life and limb; they may only get one to protect money. This promotes the perverse belief that the private sector is more interested in money than lives. Even worse, it demonstrates that our government does not believe that any class of private citizen should actually have the right to defend themselves.

Explaining to a public official or company manager that this aversion to armed security guards is irrational does not change his viewpoint but rather creates an enemy. Decades of propaganda and indoctrination against firearms ownership and the right to self-defence has produced an ignorance and unreasoning terror of weapons, which also manifests itself in the firm belief that only government bureaucrats have some magical ability to use weapons. Explaining,  if that were the case, then management of the parliament hill attack would have been quite different does not make any friends either.

In the 2014 Ottawa attack, the police did not sit on their hands outside as they did at the École Polytechnique shooting in 1989. Instead, they advanced to contact rather than waiting outside for specialized response units. This is termed Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD), which is a fancy acronym for common sense.

The IARD protocol is to swiftly locate and close in on the attacker(s) to neutralize the menace at the earliest opportunity, thereby preventing further mayhem. However, this protocol has one critical flaw—the time between recognising the problem and having someone come by to resolve it. This delay causes further casualties. Would it not be more effective to stop or disrupt the attackers plan at the door? Should the attackers make it past the front door, would it not be more effective if on-site security personnel immediately employed the IRAD protocol rather than wait for police to arrive?

The federal government is slowly addressing these issues on parliament hill but do not expect any provisions for the private sector to address the very same threats.

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