Security Guard 101More than you ever wanted to know about security guards in UE.
Security guards make up the backbone of United States security infrastructure, outnumbering sworn LEOs by tens of thousands. Security Guards are human
elements we face when we explore, and as with anything human, there's a lot of situational nuance to consider in an encounter. In this writeup I'm going to try and tackle some of that nuance and provide an informative look into security, as well as what to do before, during and after an encounter.
I recently posted a more specific guide to Michigan security companies in the Great Lakes regional forum, so some of what I wrote will be regurgitated here. However, that was more about what I've learned specific to Michigan and Michigan companies, this guide is going to be an all-inclusive look at security in the U.S. Mileage will vary outside the U.S. My Background
I worked as a security officer/patrol officer in the Michigan area for the better part of 2017. Throughout my time as a peon I worked at countless lots, a few abandonments and a luxury hotel. I've learned a great deal about the security scene from experience and through talking to my co-workers, and, as you might expect, it isn't rocket science.
A lot of these talking points are either based on my experience, or are general patterns I've picked up throughout my time as a guard. Some of this might be self explanatory, please know that I don't mean to patronize if it is. I just want to cram as much as I can into this write-up. Anyway, join me as I take you on a journey into the world of the hourly report. A Security Guard's Job
A security guard's job is pretty self explanatory. Security exists to act as a private enforcement authority throughout day to day operations. A security guard is not
a Peace Officer. Anyone who pretends to be is committing a crime
, for which the punishment varies from state to state. Security guards are expected to observe, take notes, and report anything suspicious or dangerous. That means faulty lights, tripping hazards, trespassers, etc. Most guards are where they are for liability and insurance reasons. They get paid to hang around so that they can act as a witness in case of an emergency. Some guardwork is very intensive and serious, I'm not really talking about that here.
Most security personnel are contracted. They work for an overarching company that offers services to clients and assigns their employees to different sites. Security companies eat up all of the logistical, legal and accounting hassles that come with the peace of mind a security guard can offer. If you ever run into a security guard in an abandonment, they're contracted and probably haven't worked exclusively in that abandonment, unless "my Uncle Steve owns this warehouse and he gives me five bucks an hour to wear this hat and walk around", which is really weird any way you slice it. In that case you're closer to talking about a property owner than you are a security guard.
Security guards come in a few different flavors. The first and most important variety is armed and unarmed. Armed guards
are licensed, trained and authorized to carry firearms, as well as any other utility belt tool you might expect (OC spray, a baton, etc.) Unarmed guards
don't carry guns. An unarmed guard usually won't have a taser, unless they work in a high-risk location such as a level III+ trauma center. Batons and OC are possible, but generally these guys won't have anything more than a big ol' maglite.
The higher profile a site is, the more likely you are to run into an armed guard, or an unarmed guard with a non-lethal option. The good news is that, in the grand scheme of the logistical world, abandonments aren't high profile. If they are high profile, the police will typically be involved. Armed guards are meant to be a line-of defense for places like banks or chemical facilities that have tangible something to steal or attack. There isn't much sense in shelling out $24 hourly for 24/7 armed coverage of an old hotel. Armed guys are often retired law enforcement or military, and can be really serious. If by some unholy act of god you come across one, maybe think twice about running.
The other distinction is cosmetic, but there's a lot of confusion about it. I've had it explained a few different ways, but there really is no universally accepted truth: Security Guards
are versatile, all-purpose peons. Temporary event security personnel are guards, Security Officers
are peons who are stationed in one continuous place, and typically take on a diverse roll such as patrol officer or access-control officer.
Some say that the distinction is armed or unarmed, or that it's in the licensing, but as far as I've been told, it all has to do with the station. Realistically it doesn't make a difference. Officers don't outrank guards, the 2nd rung on the pole is typically "supervisor". I mostly just use "guard", but in this write up I'll use them interchangeably. Regardless, it never hurts to address a security guard as "officer". What a Security Guard Can Do
A guard doesn't just act as the accident-preventer of a site, they act as the day-to-day representative of the property owner. A warning from an guard is a warning from the owner, and so on. Treat warnings seriously, you can't claim that "two different people told me on separate occasions" and expect it not to count. That responsibility goes both ways though, as the neglect of a guard is the neglect of a property owner. Lazy guards are our friends
This responsibility also includes acting as a lay responder in the absence of a higher power, like a police officer. Their authority over any one situation is minimal, and dissolves as soon as the first responder arrives.
In emergency or criminal situations, security guards are tasked with:
- Alerting the authorities
- Accounting for the safety of everyone in the area1
- Following post orders2
This varies. A security officer isn't sworn to protect and serve like a police officer, so if Jason Voorhees is after you, a security guard isn't required to get in between you and the machete. If it comes down to the personal safety of the guard, they have been urged to save themselves. Heroes do exist, but a guy making nine bucks an hour to wave his flashlight around every few minutes isn't outright going to risk his life for his site or for you. Again, they aren't peace officers. 2
Post orders are worked out between the client and the company. They're written lists of protocol to follow in case of X. "Is the building on fire? Follow these simple steps:" Most post orders start with an instruction to attempt to fix the problem, then end with an instruction to either alert the authorities, company dispatch or the property owner. (Some flip the priority) As with above, in extreme situations these will tell the guard to "get to a safe location" before proceeding. Trespassing post orders definitely exist.
The point of the above information is to emphasize that security guards have an emergency authority, and, unless their lives are threatened, their job requires them to contact the police. As with any emergency in UE, there comes a point where your safety has to take precedent over the sanctity of the abandonment. Please don't argue with a security guard over contacting emergency services
If it's gotten to this point, they have the say. Ideally, don't let it get to this point. Both for your own good and for the good of the site. But that's another ramble. If a guard has made it known that they called the police because of your trespassing, screw the post orders and run. You're perfectly fine to run from a security officer as long as no police are on site. So! What can't a guard do?
Just about everything a civilian can't do. Guards are just civilians with uniforms and a certificate, sometimes a shiny badge. Their duty is not incredibly far reaching.
A guard cannot make an arrest, unless they witness
being committed. Even then, my company's instructions were to obtain permission from the property owner as to whether or not I could make an arrest as a guard. A guard making an arrest is performing a citizen's arrest; its no different from our arrest powers as everyday folk. The penalty for screwing up an arrest is really steep, so guards are encouraged to let the authorities handle it, while observing and reporting everything they can about the situation.
Guards cannot detain you. If a guard approaches you and is about to give you a big ol' lecture about how much trouble you're in, you're free to leave any time. Don't let the uniform fool you.
It's meant to intimidate you and deter crime.
Guards cannot attack you unless with the absolute certainty that they are in danger, which usually means you'd have to attack them first. Guards really can't touch you at all. Interpretations vary, please don't try and use my explanations as legal aid, but also don't count on being ambushed by Paul Blart.
Guards *typically* cannot chase you. My company had a very specific "no chase" policy and this seems to be the norm throughout most contract security providers. However, I can't claim this never happens, because chasing you on the property isn't really illegal. It's one of those gray areas. Just run fast.
Guards can ask you to leave, and can "escort" you off the premises. If a guard asks you to leave, your stay is pretty much up. If you don't comply, the next step in their playbook is to call the police. A guard is not able to physically haul you past the property line, but they're within their rights to follow you until you're off the property to make sure you've left and don't come back. Again, expect police if you resist. (Removals were the most stressful part about working in that hotel. Do yourself, us, and the guards a favor, if you're asked to leave, leave. No one wants the police involved. If you're feeling daring, channel your energy into a different spot. Just my 2 cents) Does an Abandonment Have Security?
This is an interesting question, and one that I've seen be overlooked a few times. Here are a few questions you should try to apply to each scenario, and the thought process behind each one: Do I see any guards?
Obviously if there are guards, an abandonment has a security presence. An hourly patrol route was considered standard between my coworkers and I, but smaller abandonments might see more frequent patrols. If you're not sure, get to a distance and lie low for an hour to see if anyone comes around. Keep in mind that patrols could happen in a vehicle. Do I see any supporting equipment?
Supporting equipment could be anything from security monitors, sensors, flood lights, or patrol vehicles. Sometimes, guards will use company cars or golfcarts. These typically have big stickers, bright red company names and yellow/white/green lights affixed to the roof. Red and blue colored lights are outlawed on non-emergency vehicles in most states.
However (and unhelpfully), some companies will ask their guards to use their own vehicle to go to work, and usually in these cases, as their office. I personally used my car throughout the earlier half of my job, and all of the guys at these sites did the same. It can be miserable in the summer if your AC doesn't work
but remember the possibility when you see a random car. Do I see any branding?
Security companies love to advertise themselves on their properties. Look in the corners of windows and on doors for big stickers that say things like: "Secured by UER Security". A lot of security and alarm company names are similar, and some companies offer both services. Do a quick google search of "Whatever Security" to check out their website. If they only offer alarm installation and seem to advertise that as their main schtick, you likely won't deal with any security guards. If they offer both, be wary. Do I see any booths or vantage points?
Some bigger sites will install booths or trailers, or sometimes guards will find the best natural viewing spot to set as a central office. This one is just a good one to remember, and the absence of an obvious booth shouldn't be treated as the absence of security. What do I hear?
Always remember to listen. Close your eyes if you have to, and listen for sounds of radio chatter, cars or footsteps. One of the factors in effectiveness from site to site as a security guard has to do in footwear. Some worksites promote clompy shoes to create presence, whereas in an abandonment, big steel toed boots, which admittedly are safest, can be a stealthy guard's hubris. Personal radio chatter might indicate that there are two guards communicating, or that there is a guard communicating to company dispatch, though those conversations are done over the phone now. What's at this place?
One of the best things I learned about working security is that it's not necessarily about what the place is, but rather what the place stores. If a property owner is sitting on an empty warehouse with no buyers lined up, a good way to offset ownership costs is to rent the building out for companies to use as storage. This was the majority of what I protected when I worked at these random, arbitrary sites.
Farming, road work, power line equipment, you name it. This stuff is worth a lot, and it often ends up in these weird places for convenience's sake, so that a company like Consumers Energy can send 4 linemen to X old metallurgy building so that they can pick up the trucks they need there, rather than risk sending the trucks on a giant 2 hour long trek from headquarters in a storm. If you see equipment being stored or see equipment being moved on a regular basis, there might be more to the place than the history.
Consider previous owners as well, and what a place might have been. If a company has moved and still has assets in the office wing, they might station a temporary patrol until they've moved fully. Finally, a deactivated power plant might be worth securing compared to a long abandoned strip mall. Evading Security
Of course the best part of all this is playing cat and mouse with the nightwatchman. Here's my list of tips for best approaching a patrolled bando:
-You can almost always count on a security guard to use artificial light. This gives you the leg up if you practice effective light
and noise discipline
. Please be safe in doing this, I personally wouldn't recommend sacrificing situational awareness for stealth. It also gives you the chance to follow the guard's movements using your eyes.
-As said above, if a guard fails to use effective noise discipline, you can use the sound of their footprints as an indicator in their route. Listening in general is a good skill once you're inside a bando. Listen for radio chatter, conversation, music, TV sounds, etc. Even just hearing a guard start to pee could be all you need to give you those few precious seconds.
-Don't count on a guard to take a constant patrol route. We're encouraged to do a quasi-aimless wander, making sure to cover all of the ground at least once per patrol. Patrol orders vary from location and company, but don't plan on running around like solid snake while the dofus guard walks in his predictable circle. It can
happen, but don't count on it. Humans aren't machines.
To give a little insight, if I ever walked a pattern, it was at my hotel job where we were required to scan specific electronic points throughout different rooms and hallways to prove we actually patrolled regularly. They didn't have to be scanned in a particular order, it was just
most efficient in terms of covering ground. I didn't do it all the time though. They tell us not to for the exact reason you might think, so that criminals/friendly explorers can't memorize our routes and use them to their advantage. Mileage will vary, I'd be interested to hear about everyone's experiences.
-Due to a few reasons, a guard might position themselves in a set location throughout their shift. They could be:
- Avoiding the elements
- Expected to use their own car as an office
- Stationed at a booth due to post orders
- Positioned at an advantageous spot (a gate, a tall overlook)
Most of these help us, and can be used to our advantage. Depending on the site, a guard's "stagnant activity" can vary. If a place has CCTV's, a guard might be expected to monitor the cams. If the cameras are fake, only record or don't even exist, they're probably not staring at a gate for eight hours a day. Books and tablets are great pals; I binged House of Cards in three days as soon as Netflix launched their offline function. It was awesome, I really miss working those sites. Anyway
, the point is that lazy guards are good for us. Some things that tend to determine a "lazy guard" site include:
Do's and Dont's
- The size of the site (smaller tends to be more conducive to laziness, as a guard might feel more at ease being responsible for a smaller building)
- The equipment on site (CCTVs, alarms, radios)
- The payload (As mentioned above, why is the guard there? To protect thousands of dollars of stored equipment, or to keep those pesky kids out?)
- Are there obvious property entrance points? (It's much easier to sit in a booth and watch a single entrance than it is to cover a 360 degree perimeter)
- How many guards are there? (A single guard tends to be unmotivated, whereas guards working in pairs will often split between sentry and patrol duty and keep each other going throughout the shift)
- Where/what is the "office"? (Again, there will almost always be a centralized office. This could be a booth, a personal car, a company car or a room inside the building. Guards are less likely to patrol with their own personal car down a sketchy overgrown road than they are a company car)
On the offchance you encounter security, there are a few things you should and shouldn't do. Mileage will vary, this isn't a checklist, but rather my advise on making through a security meeting with optimal results. Do
Understand that keeping people away from an abandonment is basically their only function when they work an abandonment. If a guard isn't cool with you being there, take the hint and take a hike. Imagine what they'd be thinking if you were the first person in the world to try and explain UE to them. This one goes for police officers too. Do
keep cool, and be personable.
Security is a good job, a lot better than stacking boxes in a grocery store. However, security in abandonments can be lonely and dreary, and not everyone is powerful enough to absorb their energy from the 40 year old ruins like us. A security guard might be startled to see another person, you could be their first encounter. Try-hard guards (and I hate that term, it implies that vigilance is bad) generally put in the work to move up to better areas of the world.
As with a lot of human encounters, UE or not, being nice and polite will get you a long way. Vinegar/honey, you know the mantra. It won't hurt to ask the guard how the shift is going, how long they've been working or how they like it here. Showing the guard that you understand the rigors of their job and the authority they have is a respectful move. Most of them just want to get their shift over with and leave, so by taking active steps to appreciate what their past 5 hours have been like, you can, more often than not, open them up to more conversation about the place, which is always cool. Lonely guards would rather make friends than foes. Of course, it's a lot easier to have a meaningful conversation if you're holding a camera vs a bolt cutter. Do
keep your hands visible.
While a security officer isn't a police officer, trust goes both ways and it's a lot easier to trust some random guy in an abandoned building if the guard can see your hands. Making a move to shake their hands when you first come in contact might catch them off guard, but in a good way. Shaking their hand as you leave would be appropriate as well if you had a productive chat. Do
offer the guard a snack.
Snacks are good Do
run if you want.
There is no penalty for running from security. If police are on site, the situation becomes a little more dicey. Personally, I was encouraged to never chase anyone, for my own safety and for liability's sake. You aren't required to be nice or let the guard see your face, just make sure they're not a police officer before you run. Some uniforms are designed to look similar to LE. Don't
attack the officer.
tell the officer your name.
You aren't required to show the security officer your ID, or tell them any personal information. Understand that it might be frustrating if they ask and you don't comply. Be ready to talk them down, but don't take any grief. In certain circumstances like concert venues, your antecedence is consent to undergo random security searches, or random bag searches. That right shouldn't ever extend to a security guard in an abandonment, and if it does you might just want to excuse yourself from the situation. (Again, I'm no legal expert) Don't
admit to anything.
Your words could be used against you if the guard happens to hear you say something incriminating. Think worst case on this one. Don't
sneak up on a guard.
The job is likely really stressful and nerve-wracking as is. Don't give someone a heart attack. If you plan to make yourself known, do it before they pass within inches of your dark corner hideaway. (This is just a personal plea, I wouldn't want this to happen to me
) In Closing
Thanks so much for reading this guide. Security truly isn't that complicated, but if it's your first time approaching a patrolled abandonment, a little insight can go a long way towards having a safe and non confrontational explore. Please let me know if there's anything I missed, or if there's any point you'd like to chat about I don't condone breaking any laws of any kind, and will not be held responsible for your personal actions. Nothing I've written should be considered legal guidance. Please be safe, and say hi to Steve
Edit 1: Clarified by adding "citizens arrest" and "U.S."
Edit 2: Grammar and spelling