Have you controlled access to the building you are tasked to secure? Check.

Ensuring that only people who belong in the office building is the obvious and essential first step to security.  All of the side doors are locked and have alarms to make sure that no one goes in or out through anywhere but the main entrance.  You have placed signs directing people to the clearly marked front of the building to make sure that no one can bypass your security measures.  You have installed turnstiles in the lobby that are operated with a unique key card to make sure that only people who belong inside can get inside.  You have security guards manning the visitor’s desk to check the bags of anyone who doesn’t work in the building and to issue them a temporary pass once they have an escort.  Regardless of how elaborate the system your building uses to control who can get into your building, controlling those entry points is only the first step to actually preventing outsiders, crime, and violence from occurring within.

Access control measures make it easy to observe every person that enters the building by forcing them through a single point of entry.  However, this also makes it difficult to do your job as a security professional because you now have people with violent intentions and those with a legitimate reason for entering mixed into one group.  You have created a situation where criminals can blend in with the people who enter the building every day, making detection increasingly challenging.

If you own that building or are the building’s Director of Security, you have to ask yourself, are my security guards trained to separate those two groups from each other?  Can the officer watching the people move through the turnstile read the nonverbal behavior of every single person and identify those that could be potential threats?  Can they read the body language and other indicators of a person trying to conceal their intentions as they make their way through your barrier plan?

I’m not saying that all of the access control measures you have taken are ineffective.  Far from it; these steps are essential to setting the conditions necessary to read behavior and separate the criminal from the crowd.  The security guards and keycard readers help to create the perception of authority, which, if seen as a threat by a criminal or attacker, can trigger a person’s freeze, flight, or fight response to an increasingly stressful situation.  If the criminal or attacker is worried that the guard will see them or stop them before they get to their target, it will cause the changes in nonverbal communication that we need to identify them.

You have already done the heavy lifting in establishing a security plan – you have implemented the access control plan, but have you gone the last ten-yards and educated your guards on what to look for as people go through that process?  This is often overlooked and prevents a company from maximizing the benefits offered by the technology that is put in place.

If your guards are not trained to read body language and other types of behavior, it is likely that your security plan will fail at some point.  I’m not saying that your building will experience a workplace shooting, those events are still statistically improbable, but there are weaknesses that criminals can exploit.  Think of the education in your security force as you helping to reduce the opportunities available for criminals.  Educating your security guards requires teaching them the cues to look for, why they can be confident in their observations, and how to communicate their reasons for taking whatever action is necessary.

Unfortunately this education is overlooked by many guard companies and building owners.  Building owners can “see” the technology put in place and assume that the rest will simply work itself out.  As the number of shootings in our nation’s offices, schools, malls and places of worship continue to attract a high level of media attention, it is likely that these events will continue to occur.   The question that business owners, security directors, and building management have to ask themselves is whether or not they have trained their security personnel to actually secure the people inside their buildings and take full advantage of all of the other security measures already implemented.

If the answer to that question is not the affirmative but you know that violence prevention starts with a fully integrated security plan, take a look at the training options available in behavioral analysis here to complete your security plan.