A Matter of Security
With my last security company, I was forever harping on about and frankly the biggest complaint from clients was that reports from our security staff were inadequate. Not the most glamorous of tasks we undertake but one of the most important as security professionals. But, it’s what can set you apart from the rest.
No matter what the report is for, whether it’s for hand over or incident reports they must be legible, detailed, understandable, and factual before it becomes a valid legal document in court.
Where communication is paramount in our industry, you’d think we would know how to write legible and concise reports. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. Not only is there spelling mistakes or use of poor grammar, misquotes and inaccurately reported events are common place.
I’m no expert about report writing for the security industry. But my fair share over my 25 plus year security career. If you practice and do enough of them it will be become second nature. Let me share what works for me.
Who writes reports anyway ?
Security Operators aren’t alone when it comes to report writing. Every entity in society uses reports in one way or another from Government departments to large business and sports clubs. Not all of them are the same or have the same purpose but they all generally follow the same guidelines.
As security operators our first reporting action usually starts with the trusty pen and pad. That’s right, we should all be carrying this one piece of crucial kit on your person every shift. It all starts with the hand written word and if and when required can be transferred onto an electronic device for storage or emailing purposes.
We are required to raise reports covering a variety of incidents and Situations, Not always directly related to security.
It is important to record the events as soon as practically possible. This way you ensure the greatest accuracy of information. Especially when you’re having to deal with multiple parties involved.
Arm yourself with a notebook
A notebook is one of the most important pieces of kit that a security operator can have. Why?
Well for a number of reasons. Notebooks are used to record details and information to be used later in a report. Also, to note things for future reference or bring to the attention of someone else. Just because its in a notebook there should still be some basic rules about how they should be used.
- Number each page at the bottom of each page
- Have a column down right side of page to record date and time
- Record facts only and be accurate
- Record locations, names, times and dates
- If you make an error put a line through the word and continue, don’t use correction fluid
- Write in simple terms and extend when you’re transferring into a report
- Place a line from the last letter to the end of the line means the entry is complete ensuring nothing else can be added
We also must consider that your notebook may be permitted in court as a means of recalling events and providing you’ve followed the above rules.
The Judge will likely let you refresh your memory of the events by permitting you to use your notebook in court. So please, when you’re recording information in you notebook, make sure it follows the above basic rules of note taking.
Lastly, you should always keep completed notebooks stored in a safe secure place for easy reference.
Why write reports?
We write reports because we have to have a permanent record of an event or incident. We report factors that took place and determine how something happened and why.
Also, there is a timeline and information Police can reference for further investigation. They can be used as written evidence in a court of law but also can be used as a basis to analyse performance and evaluate or improve systems and procedures.
Well-written reports demonstrate professionalism of the security operator and the company they represent.
What can I write about?
Incidents. These are specific or out of ordinary events. As a security officer these incidents could include an assault, theft, emergency, complaint, suspicious behaviour, accidents or potential hazards. Lets have a look at some of these incidents.
An incident affecting security or safety
i. Client’s premises insecure
ii Alarm system down
A breach of safety or security regulations
I. Guards failing to carry out welfare checks as per SOP’s
ii. Company vehicles not used for business purpose
An assault on a person
i Any assault witnessed on or off site
ii Any assault you may have been involved in
A bomb threat
i. Suspicious bag left by itself at airport boarding gate
ii. A phone call you received about bomb threat
A burglary, theft, or other suspicious loss
i. Property disappearing whilst under your company’s care
ii Shoplifter who has run off with grocery items
A disturbance of any type
i. guests at a party having a heated argument
ii.Unauthorised attendance at an exclusive party
A ﬁre occurs or a ﬁre hazard is located
i. Fire extinguishers needing servicing.
ii. Fire Exits continually blocked by rubbish
Damage or Vandalism
i. On or to client’s property
ii. On adjoining property to present client
A Suspicious incident.‘
i. Person litoering around a clients property
ii.someone running away from the scene of a crime
I beg your pardon? Mind your language
Write like you speak. Some of the best advertising copywriters live by this principle. Your report should sound like you’re telling a friend what happened, pretend you’re telling your friend what happened. This helps the report flow and easy to read.
Make sure to use quotation marks and you must always quote what has being said, exactly as it was said. If someone is using profanities then, you must include them in the report.
People do not need an essay so its important to be concise and factual. Also refrain from including your personal opinion about anything. It is unprofessional.
Think before you start writing your report. Make sure your thoughts are clear in your mind. Think about the person you’re writing for. Include all the necessary details and information and use simple language with simple constructed sentences.
- Use language appropriate for the reader
- Avoid jargon and slang unless of course when you are quoting someone
- Quoting must be accurate and exact
- Profanities and expletives should only be written when quoting someone
Avoid abbreviated words and do not use words shortened like your sending a text to a friend. If you must abbreviate, spell out the word in full followed by the abbreviation in brackets. Remember we want the report to be readable and flow.
You should always record the times when you have learned about the incident. Best practice is to record this information into your notebook immediately although this is not always possible.
Make sure the report is in chronological order or in correct time sequence. it’s one reason why its so important to have your notebook ready to write and record events as they unfold.
Depending on what’s happening around you writing in your notebook isn’t always possible. You’ve got to make sure something is recorded as soon as possible. It is not uncommon that sometimes events will be made known to you a couple of hours after an incident has happened. If an incident occurs at 0400hrs but not made known to you until 0600hrs, then entry in your report should be timestamped at 0600.
Always use the 24hour clock. This will eliminate confusion when thinking time lines. What I’ve been taught and to protect yourself from the scrutiny you might endure about the accuracy of your reports, I always use “Approx.” E.g. approx. 0700hrs.
Write your reports in 3rd person point-of-view. It will reduce confusion over who did what, where, and when especially if you have multiple people involved.
As long as you following guidelines,ensures you’re always presenting the information in a way authorities and clients find the most helpful.
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation should be monitored closely. Poor grammar will have clients questioning your intelligence. You should always have a dictionary close at hand. Paperless incident reporting software often has spelling and grammar checkers built-in, and there are plenty of apps and websites out there to help you improve.
Completing The Report
Fill out the report form completely. Leave no spaces unfilled. If you have empty spaces when you’re finished, then place something like a line or and X through them. This makes the form look more formal and complete, and it prevents someone else from writing things in those spaces.
It’s All About The Customer
These above guidelines are just that, guidelines. Although formats will differ from company to company following these guidelines will put you in good stead. It is important that some clients want their reports is the way you’ll write them a certain way and again the fundamentals do not change.
Good Ingredients make a good Report
Lets have a closer look at the ingredients that make up a report.
This states the details of the day, date, year and time.
e.g. Monday 20′” January 2010 approximately 0900 hours.
20.01.10 at 0900 hours (This is okay for notebooks)
Always give approximations for time. Dates however, must be absolutely accurate.
This describes the location the incident occurred. Where it took place.
You must be as precise and accurate as possible. In every case it helps to include a diagram or sketch in your book that will help you recall events later. It would also be helpful to show on the diagram where you were at time of the incident.
Include significant landmarks, infrastructure, street names, buildings, etc.
This is the main part of the report and explains what happened. Its important to describe details about what happened as they happened and as precise and as accurate as possible. State facts only and leave out unnecessary information and personal opinions or what you think happened. It is important not to leave out any critical details.
Describe vehicles, weapons used, what was said, who said it etc.
This is where you identify everyone involved in the incident.
It reports who was involved, Who did what, who they did it to and who else was there at the time of the incident.
Its important to get details like names, age, height, ethnicity, significant tattoos, marks, type of clothing, contact details, etc.
You must outline the KNOWN reasons for the incident.
This at times can be the most difﬁcult part of the report to complete.
You cannot guess, if things are unknown or you are in doubt, leave it out. Do not speculate.
If the information has been made known to you by a witness, clearly state exactly and who the statement has come from.
This explains the events of the event in chronological or sequential order. You have to be factual and accurate in everything you report if you did not hear or see any detail then it should not be reported. Details will include;
How the incident occurred
How the person or property was handled
How the victim, the alleged offender and witness behaved throughout the incident.
This part of the report explains what you and others including other security ofﬁcers, police, emergency services, members of the public did as a result of the incident.
All actions should be documented. Who did what, when did they do it and who they did it to. Again be sure to get names and badge numbers and contact details.
These details are very important should any further action result from the incident including court action.
I’ve included a form for you to practice on. Create a scenario and fill in the form. They say practice makes perfect lets get writing.
As always your comments and feedback are critical for my improvement and learning. Thank you for your time.Incident Report