A guard tour system is an integrated network of wireless sensors connected to a central software dashboard you use to manage and log their guards’ rounds. Reliable real time security guard tour systems improve the speed and effectiveness of your security patrols. They also help mitigate human errors that might otherwise creep into your operations.
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This article covers some of the best practices for designing and deploying your guard tours that we’ve identified in our nearly 30 years in the security industry. While these practices are best applied when designing new real time guard patrol systems, any security team can use them to improve existing security plans. They are meant to be adapted to each organization’s strategic needs and their facility.
Why You Should Use a Real Time Security Guard Tour System
Guard tour systems use a network of sensors strategically placed throughout your facility that actively or passively monitor guard locations as they conduct patrols, escort visitors, or carry out any other activities you want to track. You can use several different wireless technologies in guard tour systems. For example, Real Time Networks’ product uses radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which provides several key advantages.
Automated non-contact checkpoints
On patrol, guards carry active RFID badges detected by the wireless checkpoints. They can either be active or passively powered. Active RFID badges have a built-in battery to extend their read range. Passive badges draw power when they’re brought close to sensors. For example, with tap-to-pay credit cards.
The checkpoint sensors automatically timestamp a guard’s approach and relay their location to the control center. No line of sight is required, and checkpoints can be hidden or relocated for greater accountability. And guards do not need to stop and check in on their patrol manually, so they can better maintain situational awareness.
Real-time incident reporting and alerts
Guard checkpoint systems automatically raise alerts for different incidents to help improve your security team’s response times. For instance, when a patrol does not start, takes too long to complete, or when a guard misses a checkpoint. In each of these instances, your team will be alerted right away, allowing you to investigate and address incidents quickly when needed. For example, if you’ve deployed a real time security guard tour system in a casino, you could configure the system to alert you when a cash cart does not reach a checkpoint on time.
No additional equipment required
Aside from the RFID badges and sensors, not much other physical equipment is needed to run an RFID guard tour system in your live facility. You can simplify your guard tour service even further with other technology.
For example, many security guard checkpoint systems today use Near Field Communications (NFC) sensors that communicate with electronic devices, such as smartphones. This method allows tracking a guard's movement as long as they carry their phones. However, guards may not be allowed to carry personal devices in high-security environments.
What to Look For When Evaluating Automated Guard Tour Products
Managing on-site security guards, especially in the wake of the pandemic, is challenging. Organizations of all sizes are looking for tools to make this work easier. If you’ve spent a lot of time evaluating different RFID guard tour systems, they can all start to look alike. But four key qualities can set a system apart. We recommend investigating each system’s usability, customer service and support, tracking capability, and reporting options.
If the new technology you introduce into your workplace is clunky, awkward, or time-consuming, your personnel will find ways to work without it. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on new technology or how strict you make your policies. If the system makes someone’s job more difficult, they’ll find ways to avoid it.
When comparing guard tour patrol systems, look for usability. You want a system that is easy to use and will fit into the workflows that make sense for your guards' existing patrol patterns. Don’t settle for a square peg solution in a round hole.
Security guard tour systems aren’t bits of technology you drop into place and decide you’re done with them. They require ongoing management and support. They’re living technologies that must change and adapt as your workplace grows. Evaluate the design and support options offered by each provider you’re considering.
Will they help you customize hardware for your facility’s unique needs? Will they update your guard tour system management software when you need additional features? Are they available for ongoing support requests when you need to modify your system?
Busy worksites require real-time tracking capabilities. Evaluate how each tracking system will work in your existing facility. Will you receive real-time results on guard locations? Is each system's wireless standard compatible with your facility’s security requirements? Will the signals work in your environment without interference?
Real-time reporting & alerts
One of the key benefits of digitally automating guard tour management is the amount of new, actionable data you can collect. Every tag signout, checkpoint reached, and real-time location logged feeds into the central management system. As a result, you’ll collect a massive volume of new data. But that data is only as useful as the new insights you can generate from it.
Compare the reporting capabilities of each RFID guard tour system. Do they collect data in a meaningful way? Do they offer reports that allow you to monitor KPIs? Do they provide data to meet regulatory standards?
Best Practices for Designing Your Own Tour Program
The guard tour system you buy must fit within your greater security program to be truly effective. To achieve your security program's strategic goals, follow these best practices for designing your guard tour system.
First, Define Your Security Goals
Whether establishing a new tour plan or updating an existing one, you must start the process by defining your organization’s overall security goals. You have unique security needs and unique risks that you must protect against. That usually leads to unique patrol requirements.
What are your priorities? Are you deterring theft, detecting intruders, or managing emergency response? Identify your priorities and determine how they align with your overall strategic objectives.
Align Checkpoint Deployment with Your Security Goals
Now you can plan out your system layout and tour checkpoints. If your priority is to deter theft from an administrative space, place checkpoints at the back of each store room. If you have office space where staff work on proprietary materials, place checkpoints at opposite ends of that space to ensure guards can observe visitors anywhere. If there’s a heavily-trafficked doorway that must remain locked off hours, place a checkpoint right at that door and include a documentation check in your automated guard tour system for guards to confirm it is secured.
Digital systems also allow you to quickly and easily customize patrol routes that maximize coverage and are unpredictable to attackers. Random patrols are essentially force multipliers against attackers looking to bypass your physical security routines.
Address Your Security Guards’ Needs
Remember, the guard tour monitoring system is there to supplement your human security guards and make their efforts more effective. Therefore, you should build the system around them. That means an effective guard tour plan must address their needs for better communication, management, and equipment.
If your business implements these best practices, ensure your guards and other security personnel know the new objectives. Get them into the planning process early. Then, keep them updated throughout the process. Keeping staff invested in a project is an easy way to help ensure success.
You must strike a balance between having your guards familiar enough with their routes to identify concerns but not so familiar that they become desensitized to the environment. Use your guard tour control system to adjust or randomize patrol routes to reinforce guard awareness.
If you’ve assigned other duties like alarm inspections to your guards, ensure you’ve scheduled sufficient time for them to complete those tasks and properly complete their patrols. Adding inspection tasks without increasing overall patrol time creates a situation where your guards are compelled to cut corners.
Just as important day-to-day is supplying proper equipment for your guards on patrol. That means defensive and protective gear appropriate for your environment, lights, and other tools to enhance their awareness. Guards should be focused on the environment, not distracted by walking conditions or temperature.
Integrate With Existing Security Systems
Guard patrols are one of the most effective risk management practices businesses can deploy. But they are still just one facet of an effective security program.
Ideally, your business’s security should have an integrated design with complementary camera deployments, key control, access control stations, patrol routes, and tools for managing everything efficiently. For example, knowing how your access control will route foot traffic through your facility can be useful in planning guard patrols to monitor unauthorized access. Likewise, knowing where you have your most and least reliable camera coverage can also inform your patrol planning.
Remember, best practices are proven across an entire industry, on average. That means not every practice will be right for your business. Only you and your trusted security advisors can determine the best plan to meet your individual security needs.
Do you think a Real Time Networks’ Guard Tour System is the right fit for you?Contact Real Time Networks today for a FREE 30 mins consultation.
About the Author
Vice President of Marketing
Jay oversees marketing and strategic partnerships at Real Time Networks and has over three decades of experience in leadership roles in the financial services and technology industries.