Security's role in public responder safety

Sep 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Captain Theresa L. Martin


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Today's private security professionals can make a big contribution to responder safety when reporting an incident. With traditional tasks of law enforcement officers now being performed by the private sector, the law enforcement community is looking to private security officers to assist in responder safety. This article outlines briefly some areas in which private security can have a positive impact on responder safety. Security professionals should, however, seek specific protocol from their local telecommunications or law enforcement center.

Reporting emergencies to 911 The role of the private security officer in reporting emergencies is a vital link between the citizen and the emergency services providers. With these private security professionals becoming more sophisticated in terms of duties and equipment, they are often the persons called upon to report crimes in progress. Generally, the awareness priority is the type of emergency, the location of the incident, and information relating to responder safety. The telecommunicator will typically ask for standard information to cover the first two awareness priorities. Responder safety is the area where our private security professionals can provide additional essential information.

Responder safety information Because the private security officer is often assigned to a particular site, he or she knows the site better than most of the occupants, and particularly better than the responding emergency personnel. Awareness of these details makes the security officer a particularly valuable resource when seconds count. Critical safety information may often include: Weapons information. What type is used? How many weapons are there? And, who has them? Violence information. What type of violence? Are there injuries? Is the violence still occurring? Is the suspect still at the scene? Alcohol and drugs information. What type is present or has been used? Are there hazards, such as meth labs? Premises history information. Is there a history of violence toward responders at the premises? Are there dogs present? Is the premises fortified or a lock-out? How and where can responders access the premises? Is there security equipment such as cameras and access control systems that can help isolate an area? Safe route information. Are there wires down across entry points? Are wires in contact with a vehicle, person, or building? Are there hazardous materials present? What do the Department of Transportation decals look like? Which way is the wind blowing? Is there a road or access to the incident that is not affected?

Fast and efficient information gathering When a private security professional makes an emergency call, it is important to keep in mind several basic pointers for fast and efficient gathering of information. By using these tips, the telecommunicator, and subsequent emergency responders, can serve the community in a more timely and efficient manner. Be prepared. Have information ready such as the specific address of the incident, the cross streets, and the apartment and location at the address. Use clarity. Avoid jargon. Use clear and concise wording. Identify yourself and give your location. Clearly distinguish between your location and the location of the incident, if different. Give the telecommunicator your full attention. He or she may be asking for additional critical information. Closure. Ensure the dispatcher concludes the call, not you.

Reporting changes in incident Often when an emergency call is made, the caller becomes caught up in the excitement and their attention is divided between the scene and the telecommunicator. When an incident is in process, meaning the suspect is still on the scene or a medical condition is changing, it is important to relay the incident changes to the telecommunicator. This may affect the type or number of emergency responders dispatched. As an example, imagine a two-car blocking accident. Depending on what other calls are on hold when this incident is called in, this may be a secondary priority and only one law enforcement officer may be dispatched. However, if one of the drivers flees a scene, other law enforcement units may be dispatched. The potential of a stolen vehicle, or the fleeing driver with outstanding warrants, is present. If the apparent non-injury accident is reported, but while awaiting the police, one of the drivers collapses, medical emergency responders will be dispatched. What if the driver who fled the scene returns with a weapon? Relaying this information to the telecommunicator may delay the arrival of the medical personnel until law enforcement has secured the scene. Remember, the private security professional reporting the incident is the eyes and ears of the responders - an important and critical role.

Providing a description When providing a description of a person, to ensure a complete description is made, a standard method is to describe the person from top to bottom. As the private security professional describes the person, the telecommunicator records this and passes it along to responding law enforcement units. A visual image is created, and the likelihood of a person matching the methodically detailed description increases. Provide the most obvious features such as: sex, race, height, weight or build (thin, medium, heavy), hat or head covering and hair color. Also describe: distinct facial features (glasses, mustache, injuries), shirt or jacket (remember they can discard clothing as they flee), pants and shoes.

When providing a description of a vehicle, again, provide the most obvious first. A standard among many law enforcement agencies uses the acronym CYMBAL: - Color of vehicle; - Year of vehicle (over 5 years, under 5 years); - Make (Ford, Chevrolet, etc.); - Body (model, two-door, etc); - Anything else (primer paint, damage, etc.); - License plate (state and numbers/letters).

Crime scene protection How can a private security officer assist in protecting a crime scene while awaiting the arrival of the emergency responders? A general rule of thumb is to determine the parameters of the scene, then double it. When police arrive and assess the situation, they can reduce the scene, but it becomes difficult to maintain integrity of the scene by reducing contamination if the scene later needs to be enlarged. The best method is to contain the crime scene using tape or other barriers. Often, however, this is not possible. Recording who enters and leaves the scene if it is large, or open to the public, aids law enforcement in reconstructing the scene and eliminating shoe or fingerprints.

Evidence protection Clearly, the best way to preserve evidence is to contain and protect the scene to ensure that the evidence is not disturbed, even though this may not always be realistic. For evidence to be admissible in trial remember two important factors: - The evidence must not have been altered. - The evidence must have a clear and unbroken chain of custody.

Witness handling While witnesses may be encouraged to remain at an accident or crime scene, private citizens do not have the legal authority to detain them. Proactive steps can be taken by private security professionals such as handing out company business cards and asking citizens to write their name, address and phone number on the back, and advising the citizens they can assist by handing the card to the responding police officer. This dispels concerns about providing personal information to a security officer. Private security officers are an important and integral part of providing public safety to the community. By continuing to partner public safety disciplines with private security on appropriate levels, we can all benefit.

For the Record Focusing on integrating security equipment and technology with the human element - private security officers - to maximize security system effectiveness, the column draws on the expertise of members of the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO). The column features different writers addressing aspects of the roles security officers play in today's systems. The author of this month's column, Captain Theresa L. Martin, works with the State of Oregon, Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Captain Martin has 18 years of law enforcement experience, and is currently serving as the program administrator over the stateregulation of private security for the state of Oregon. Prior to accepting her current position with the State of Oregon, Captain Martin worked with the Seattle Police Department for 12 years. She then served the City of Salem as the Gang Intervention Coordinator with oversight over several programs. Security Honor Roll

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