The world is changing fast. As leaders in business, government, education, healthcare, entertainment, and social services work to stay prepared for both common and extraordinary threats, more and more are turning to private security firms for support, guidance, and protection.
Selecting a new security agency is not always easy or straightforward. As stakeholders assess their options, they also inventory needs, share fears, and inevitably learn more about their security options during the search. While each situation is unique, there are some commonalities in every process. We recently asked Pete Curcio to share tips organizations can use to evaluate potential security firms.
Curcio is well qualified to weigh in. He has accumulated a lifetime of security experience in a variety of positions, ranging from acting as an hourly security guard at age eighteen to managing thirteen prisons as a Bureau Chief for The New York City Department of Corrections. For the past decade, Curcio has acted as the Chief Operating Officer at Arrow Security.
Tip #1: Make Sure Your Security Firm Adds Significant Value to the Process
The selection process often starts with a conversation about expectations. An organization begins with a well-defined need. They have identified risks or challenges in some area of their firm or agency and are searching for a private security firm to address, manage, or even eliminate those threats. “When you talk to a security firm, they should know more than you do,” says Curcio. “You need an expert who adds to the process. You hire a doctor, lawyer, or landscaper because they know more about their profession than you do. The same rule should hold when choosing a security firm.”
Curcio finds that clients often ask for specific solutions instead of discussing the underlying problems. “For example, I might get a call from a potential client who says their employees’ cars are getting broken into, and they request a security officer as a deterrent,” he says. “After some discussion, I discovered the vandalized cars were left unlocked. Somebody simply pulled the handle and got inside. That requires a different security approach. If the vandal sees a guard or patrol car at a site, they wait until the guard passes, and then they pull those same door handles. In a case like this, covert surveillance is needed. Your potential security firm should listen to your needs but also think about the best way to handle the risks and present an effective solution that’s even better than the client envisioned.”
Tip #2: Check What Happens When a Security Guard Doesn’t Show
A security company needs to demonstrate reliability and be able to handle additional clients. A potential client can evaluate a firm’s processes and resources by asking what happens if a guard doesn’t report to their post. After all, even the best-run security firms will occasionally have a security guard who calls in sick, has a flat tire, or is otherwise detained. “While it’s inevitable that a guard will occasionally be unable to report to their post as planned, that doesn’t mean the security firm is off the hook,” says Curcio. “Arrow maintains a 24-hour command center, always staffed by three operators and a shift supervisor. If one of our security guards can’t be at their post on time, a security supervisor is available to step in. They are familiar with the post and duties; it’s seamless. The supervisor will be there, in the correct uniform, and hold the post until we find another team member who is trained for that client and that position to take over. You don’t want to hire a security guard company who must leave the post vacant while they call around to find a replacement, any replacement, who may or may not understand the duties of the post.”
Tip #3: Ask About Backup Resources and Redundancies
Whether your security needs are modest and confined or large and far-reaching, you need a firm you can rely on, especially when things go wrong. That’s why it’s essential to ensure that your potential security firm has backup plans and redundancies in place. “We know that it’s our responsibility to provide system redundancy,” Curcio explains. “So, we have things in place like backup generators in case the power fails. We have a fleet of vehicles that well exceeds the need at any given time. So, if the client asks for a car to come by because of an issue, we can quickly address their request. For example, Arrow has an ongoing response contract with one of the largest alarm response companies in the nation. This vendor pays Arrow to supply highly trained, uniformed guards in patrol cars to respond to alarms. They pay us because we have bandwidth. We put redundancies in place. This helps us remain very prepared, capable, and reliable.”
Tip #4: Ask About Range of Services
As your organization changes and grows, its security needs may also change and grow. It’s wise to choose a security firm with a range of services, even if you don’t need them right now. “When your security needs change, they tend to change quickly,” explains Curcio. “You may have immediate needs, and if you don’t have a firm in place to meet them, you’re at risk. Many of our clients retain us for one set of deliverables but also hire us because they know we can step in quickly if other services are suddenly required. And many services are needed only occasionally. Arrow Security has a private investigation division. We can do background checks. We do security side assessments. We offer personal security for executives or high-profile individuals. We provide customized courses for school employees on school safety and what to do in a crisis. This is a common need for schools as they change their security plans and procedures.”
Arrow now offers an armed response team called Arrow Elite. “Sometimes armed guards are necessary,” Curcio explains. “For example, if a company is terminating employees, and it becomes a hostile situation, or there are threats, armed guards not only assist but can also provide a show of force that stabilizes a situation. We also utilize a set of strategic partners that can provide services such as full-scale metal detectors, electronic sweeps, eavesdropping devices, and even attack drones if needed.”
Tip #5: Demand a Customized Security Plan
Some security firms ask clients to choose from a set of package deals. Maybe they promote these packages as cost-efficient solutions. However, very few organizations have standardized needs. Each location has different challenges, risks, floorplans, and access points.
“If you’re looking for security, you probably have a well-identified issue,” Curcio notes. “There is a lot at stake now, and there are unknown risks out there. While everyone must be aware of costs, this is not the time to go bargain shopping. Your security firm should develop a plan for your needs. Arrow creates a customized program for each client.”
Tip #6: Look for References or Proof of Performance
It’s also essential to ask for references and review a security firm’s past performance. “Arrow Security has a series of marquee clients. These types of clients demand top service, so the fact that we service them successfully year after year is a sign of top performance to potential clients,” says Curcio. “When you’re looking at a security firm, they should have a client list that impresses you. So, ask which clients have engaged their services and the length of the relationship. It’s normal to be told that some clients are confidential, but not all are. For example, though Arrow Security can’t say which part of the federal government we work with, we are approved for government work, which is an arduous process. We’re also approved to do work for New York City, so we work with some city agencies. That’s another complicated approval process. Because we have obtained these two formidable clearance procedures, our potential clients can be assured that our company is sound, our processes are solid, we are trusted, and Arrow Security is a reliable choice.”