This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 8th June 2014

They started out by patrolling the neighbourhoods on foot blowing a whistle periodically. As things changed they went mobile with a cycle and were given a baton to protect themselves. Then overnight they were made to wear a uniform and given a gun, a majority of them not being taught how to use it. Now, in the city of Karachi alone, there are reportedly 55,000 private security guards, as compared to an operational police strength of 27,000.

Today security guards fall into two broad categories: those who’ve retired from the armed forces and those with a civilian background. Service quality depends mostly on how much one is willing to pay for a guard and not upon individual qualifications. A guard with an armed forces background generally costs more but is considered disciplined and knowledgeable and will object to illogical requests. A guard from civilian background costs less and is willing to do non-guarding tasks if it enables him to earn a few extra bucks.

Regulation of the guard force industry is far from ideal; therefore, standards vary from company to company, even within a company from city to city and province to province.

Once a decision to hire a security guard is reached, several questions arise: What exactly does one do about it? Where does one find a guard? What does one know about him or the company? Are you required to provide meals? What happens if he goes on leave?

Feeling insecure at home and on the road and thinking of hiring a private guard? Read on to know how to go about it
There are so many questions and very few easily available answers. Suddenly you aren’t as convinced as before about getting a guard.

Here are the answers and some tips to what one needs to do when hiring a guard.

Where to hire from?

Consult with neighbours, friends who already have guards or acquaintances in the security field. In this industry personal experiences are the best reference you can get.

Consult with All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA) U This site will be able to guide you to a reputable security agency and even clarify questions on a company you may be considering.

Tip: If your needs are limited then work with smaller organisations. Large security companies prefer to work with clients who need a larger volume of guards as it’s more profitable for them.

How to know if the company or the guard is reliable?

Have a detailed discussion with the company representative about your requirements. Always interview the potential guard, especially when hiring for your home.

A sign of a good organisation is one that maintains a proper file on the guard that goes as far back as to the day they were initially hired by the company. Absence of such a file is a strong indicator of potentially poor service levels.

The file, at a minimum, should contain:

• Copy of ID card

• Police clearance

• Background check

• Training tracking (Situation handling and weapon handling)

• Certification and/or license

How much does a guard cost?

The cost of a guard depends on the service you need and where you need it. A guard for a residence may cost more than a guard required in a commercial area. Do ensure that your guard’s take-home salary will be above the government fixed minimum wage. Company overheads of a guard tend to be 30-40 per cent of the price quoted and the rest forms the salary.

What type of guard should one get?

Once more, the choice of the type of guard depends on your needs.

A home-based guard should:

Preferably be between 40-50 years old (younger guards in homes with females present alone can be a risk)

Be living at a close distance from your residence or have company-provided transport

Have views similar to yours or not rigidly opposed to them. Your religious beliefs, dress, mannerism, food and drink, pets, should not provoke them. Therefore, it’s important for you to always interview the guard personally or have someone trusted do so.

Escort guard:

In addition to the requirements of a home-based guard your escort guard must:

Have experience of five years in a similar role with close protection training replaces

Knows how to handle small weapons (shot guns may look scary but cannot be used from a car)

Have a functional cell phone at all times

Know how to drive a vehicle (not a must have but good to have)

Tip: If he sits in your car: then when seated in the front he can only protect himself and the driver at best. Seat him in the rear and place yourself in the front and he can respond to a threat from all directions. If this is not possible then a guard in a follow car is best suited

Guards for your business:

Get a needs assessment survey done by the company and a professional auditor

Have proper post order written up and agreed to (post orders ensure any deviations can be penalised)

So now that you have the guard what do you need to do?

Provide written orders to the guard in a language he understands. (The company should have already agreed to these and must provide the translation if needed)

Clearly define who is authorised to enter your premises (family, friends, clients, etc)

Ensure that weapons are handled with care and never stored within the reach of children

Do not task the guard to open the gate, wash the car, etc. These actions distract him from the core duty and lead to lapses that could be expensive and even fatal

Provide access to a toilet within your facility. This may sound obvious, but incidents often occur because the guard has left his post to go to the washroom in a nearby restaurant, the roadside or even someone else’s place

Sponsor meals or permit the use of a stove to heat meals brought from home. It’s not uncommon to hear of incidents that have occurred when the guard has left the post for meals at the nearby restaurant which in some cases can be at a significant distance

Establish a proper security post. Overhead covering to protect from the elements must be provided when positioned outdoors. A comfortable chair, not stool, must be given

Discourage the guard from carrying out lengthy discussions with outsiders at your premises or even in front of it

Ensure that he works no more than 12 hours a day and gets one paid leave a week and two paid weeks a year off. Companies are known to discourage this by deducting pay for weekly/annual leaves. Aside from it being a violation of law, the guard is also ineffective if subjected to extensive hours.

As a person hiring a guard, understand the limitations under which a guard can operate both legally and humanly. Set the right expectations and be involved in ensuring that they’re met because he’s your first line of defence.

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