One million security guards in the United States patrol properties, enforce rules, respond to emergencies, and prevent criminal activities. In the line of duty, guards may be expected to maintain order, detain criminal violators, or even issue traffic violation warnings while assigned to a single property or placed on patrol for various locations or territories. Work settings may include retail stores, museums, educational institutions, office buildings, transportation terminals, manufacturing facilities, entertainment venues, and financial institutions. With such a variety of locations and duties, a security guard must put the highest priority on hazard awareness.

Most security work is routine. Hours of watching video monitors and walking a familiar beat may lull you into complacency. Stay alert and attentive at all times. Get the training required and recommended by your professional organization, employer, and the state. Ensure that you have basic and refresher training on job duties, use of force, and firearms. Get training on first aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and universal precautions (e.g., gloves and CPR masks) to protect yourself you from bloodborne disease. Practice and drill what you have learned. Trouble can occur at any time, so make sure you know the procedures along with correct and safe responses to emergencies.

The leading cause of security guard fatalities is workplace homicides: of 31 homicide fatalities, 25 involved a shooting. To protect yourself from this serious risk, use good investigative and entry techniques. Know how to respond to, diffuse, and control behavioral disturbances in the public. Know your clientele—are there potential domestic disturbance spillovers, drug and alcohol abusers, or mental health issues? Consider protective body army and other defensive techniques and training to stay safe.

If you work in traffic or parking enforcement, watch carefully for traffic around you. Wear high visibility clothing. Do not exit your vehicle or approach another vehicle until it is at a stop and all other traffic is clear. Position yourself protectively and safely when making a traffic stop. On the road, wear your seatbelt and practice defensive driving techniques.

Seek site-specific training for the property or territory that you will be covering. Know the materials and processes on site so you can respond appropriately to fires, earthquakes, and spills. Read and understand the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for materials that you may encounter. Understand and follow spill and release procedures for the facility. Ensure that you have the same or better level of personal protective equipment issued to the workers on the site.

Become familiar with your security area during daylight and optimum weather conditions so that you can better focus on safety when you are called to respond in an emergency, at night, or in bad weather. Wear protective footwear with a sturdy heel and a non-slip sole. Protect yourself from sun, heat, and cold exposures and ensure that you wear layers of light and comfortable clothing.

A security guard may encounter a variety of situations, locations, and behaviors. Always stop and assess a situation before becoming involved. While you are the “go-to” person in an emergency, do not respond if it is unsafe to do so or if you do not have the proper equipment. You must first protect yourself in order to protect others.