10 Tips to Selecting the Right Security Consultant
To find the right person or organization for your project, check references, create a good request for proposal and learn whether or not they will be contracting out some of the work.
Illustration: Ron Rennells
If you have ever considered using a security consultant and found yourself a bit confused by the topic, don’t feel alone. Finding the right consultant, one who will save you money and benefit your campus requires a little understanding. Here are some tips that should help clear up some of the confusion.
1. What is a security consultant?
A security consultant is an individual or group of individuals who have specialized knowledge in some facet of the security industry. A consultant should serve only the interest of his or her client. Persons who work with, for or receive compensation from a vendor, integrator or anyone else who may directly benefit from your project fall into a separate category.
Some vendors may offer to provide security planning free of charge. They may even do a competent and ethical job. The problem remains that in-house experts will always have conflicting priorities: 1. to maximize company profit, and 2. to save money and work solely in the interest of their client (the vendor or integrator). A true consultant works only in the interest of their client (the hospital, school or university) with no potential conflicts.
2. How do security consultants learn their trade?
Security consultants usually begin their career in one of the many disciplines in the security industry. They may start their careers as police officers, electronic engineers, installers, integrators or manufacturers. The list can be extensive.
Knowing how and from where they developed their consulting career can be helpful in judging their compatibility with your project. The area where they began will often indicate the area(s) where they are most knowledgeable.
3. What activities are covered by security consultants?
One of the many difficulties in choosing the right consultant is that the field is incredibly broad. Security is made up of hundreds of individual disciplines, all of which must fit carefully together like pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, no one can be an expert in all of the related topics. Here is just a partial list of specialties: perimeter fences, exterior access control, workplace violence, emergency planning, security force management, security policy and procedure, training, video surveillance, logical access control, intrusion detection, systems integration, key management, door and window hardware, building design issues, crime prevention through environmental design. The list could keep right on going.
Some projects can be handled by an individual, while others may require a team to ensure the proper depth of knowledge in each critical subject area.
4. Should I look for depth or breadth of knowledge in a consultant?
Some security consultants know a little about everything, others may know a great deal about a few things. Your needs will help you determine which is most important.
Consultants with great breadth of knowledge are valuable in seeing the overall picture, identifying all of the puzzle pieces and figuring the best way to fit them together. Consultants with depth of knowledge may be better at providing specifications for specific electronic hardware that will best fit campus requirements and compatibility needs. Finding a specialist with relatively good general security knowledge can be a real plus.
The ASIS International management credential (CPP) was designed to help specialists gain a broad understanding of the other security disciplines that must fit with their specialty. Having a CPP is not a guarantee of competence, but it is a means for a specialist to broaden his or her understanding of overall security.
5. How can security consultants benefit my campus?
Security consultants can provide a variety of services that can be quite valuable. They can:
- Provide an unbiased view of your security needs
- Bring knowledge from solving problems in different environments
- Save money by resolving problems with cost effective solutions
- Bring a fresh pair of eyes to review campus problems
- Provide recommendations that may have more credibility than experts from the campus security department offering the same thoughts and ideas
- Assist in negotiating lower bids by knowing what the labor time and charges should be for individual tasks
- Write comprehensive specifications that make it difficult for unscrupulous vendors to add charges during the construction period
- Provide post construction services to ensure that all aspects of the job have been completed properly as detailed in the specifications
- Help recruit and select a truly qualified vendor
- Provide other assistance
Not all consultants offer these advantages, but they are all possible when the right consultant is selected.
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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!