The act of performing a “guard patrol” has a long-standing history and how it’s been completed has changed over time. At a basic level, a guard patrol is simply a routine check of locations that have been deemed valuable or classified as requiring an inspection for whatever reason — due diligence, preventative maintenance, regulatory.
In the security and life safety industry, security guards are responsible for patrols, hence the name guard patrol. To fulfill this duty, security guards conduct frequent checks of specified locations such as mechanical/electrical rooms, stairwells and floors under construction.
Documenting guard patrols is just as important as the patrol itself. Technology has come a long way to simplify these processes. To understand where the future of guard patrolling is heading, it’s helpful to step back and recall how it has evolved.
The most primitive form of conducting a patrol is when the security guard goes to each location and uses his or her senses to complete the inspection, and then writes results down on a paper template/checklist.
This style of reporting takes time because the guard has to note each location, when it was visited and its status. A manager would need to collect all records of guard patrols to review and verify that all areas have been routinely patrolled and to escalate problems to the appropriate personnel.
In addition, manually documenting guard patrols with pen and paper can leave room for human error and requires storage/indexing. Over time, technology has evolved to help automate the guard patrol process.
In the 1990s, a cylinder-shaped tool that uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology became available and popular. The guard had to insert the cylinder into a puck affixed at each stop on the patrol to document that he or she had been there. At the end of the patrol, the location results would be downloaded and available upon request.
More recently, technology has advanced to where any modern mobile device can be used to scan an affixed tag or barcode at each location to document that a guard has been there. This technology also provides extra features such as checklists and the ability to add a note or photo, to report locations as requiring attention or service, and to see outstanding patrol stops.
In addition, the technology automatically alerts the right people to deficiencies and allows managers to identify trends and see whether patrols are completed on time and if there are any repeat areas of concern.
This technology is just becoming popular in the market now. There are several emerging technologies that guard patrols will be able to leverage in the future.
For example, virtual reality, a computer-generated 3D world, will be used to provide a two-way real-time assistance channel for locations that require immediate attention. If the guard identified extraordinary conditions during the patrol, he or she could connect with an expert staff member, such as an engineer or manager, who could remotely walk them through how to rectify the issue.
Technology like this would dramatically reduce risk and costs by eliminating the need to have experienced staff members on standby at all properties at all times.
Another example of emerging technology is the use of unmanned vehicles also known as drones. Instead of guards conducting patrols, drones would complete a majority of inspections.
Each drone would be programmed to know what and when to inspect. If the drone identified a problem, the drone would be able to document and notify the right staff members to ensure deficiencies are corrected.
Regardless of the method used, guard patrols must be completed for a variety of reasons, including compliance, due diligence, preventative maintenance and to lower insurance premiums. Conducting guard patrols can be repetitive and mundane at times but is an essential part of protecting properties and people.
As technology advances, the documenting and post-patrol review process will continue to become more efficient so that time can be spent on revenue-generating tasks and other assignments deemed important.
Paul Amendola is chief executive officer of Tap Report, a Toronto-based firm that specializes in creating safer workplaces through software.