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  • James Willis, Jr.

Certifications, Budgets, and PowerPoints; The benefits of hiring a security consultant

When considering security training for your staff, it is only natural that you look for the best method to deliver the information they need. Security training is complex and to be effective it must be done well. Today there’s are an over-abundance of options out there including, correspondence, self-study, and online courses. But, the two “go-to” options for most managers are to do “in-house” training or to have an “outside” trainer brought in for professional assistance. But which of these two options is the best? This is seldom a simple question to answer.

The option to provide “in-house” security training is both a popular and simple choice for many managers. It has a major advantage of cutting out the cost of bringing in a qualified consultant. The money saved can possibly go towards other co-op safety needs. Another potential benefit of providing in-house training for safety managers and co-op trainers is the opportunity to gain a better grasp of the subject-matter themselves. Ideally, they would also achieve a better perceptive on their staffs’ security competency levels. An intimate understanding of your subject and audience are crucial elements of effective training.

But, in-house training does have its pitfalls. As mentioned above, safety managers and trainers often choose to provide in-house training with the intention of becoming knowledgeable on security issues themselves; yet, intent is not the same as achievement. Co-op safety managers and trainers seldom have the time required, or access to the specialized training needed, to provide highly effective security training. The time it takes to be certified as a security specialist can be enormous, requiring years of experience and dozens of certifications and qualifications for endorsement as a true security expert.

Most co-op safety managers have received subject-matter training that allows them to be well versed in dozens of subjects, no one can be a true expert in everything. Intention aside, the reality is that any training being conducted by someone without a thorough understanding of the subject is not going to accomplish the training objective and will do a disservice to the participants. Another element that’s often overlooked, or ignored, is that being a good manager doesn’t necessarily make you a good teacher. Effective teaching requires a certain skill-set and temperament (i.e. talent) to accomplish true knowledge transfer, and not everyone has this talent. The object in security training should be to improve the knowledge and understanding of the participants and increase their chances of surviving hostile encounters. So, providing less than optimal training should never be an option.

Ok, what about the second “go-to” option, bringing in an “outside” trainer? Well, this option as its own set of pitfalls. Many managers first thought is to turn to the local police or sheriff’s department, or community college for a “security expert”, and request a deputy or other “expert” to come out and either conduct a class or meet with their safety team. This seems like a common-sense approach; law enforcement officers are expected to have some level of security training and be knowledgeable about security topics. Also, they have the advantage of knowing the community and provide information from a “local” perspective.

However, there can be serious flaws in this approach. First, there’s a reason they’re called “law-enforcement officers”. With no disparagement to the men and women “in blue” that daily to protect and serve their communities, the reality is that few local departments have the wherewithal to keep security experts on staff. The typical officer’s expertise is in law enforcement, not security which is a vastly different subject. In many ways they’re more like the co-op’s safety manager, they have to be a “jack-of-all-trades but master of none”. They have to be proficient in a myriad of subjects and issues; anyone of which, if focused on to an expert level, would easily take up all their time.

A key issue that separates law enforcement training from that needed by the average co-op employee is the objective. The objective of officer training is to develop the skills needed for effective tactical response. Police officers are trained to advance into the situation, not to extricate themselves from it. Their training focuses on gaining quick and decisive control of the situation and taking away the aggressor’s ability and opportunity to do harm. This does not easily translate into the type of training that is effective for co-ops or other organizations.

For example, responding officers are trained to forego assisting the wounded, injured, or frightened, and focus on stopping the threat. Their singular focus will be on neutralizing the aggressor and bringing the violence to an end. The job of helping the wounded and extracting people from the building comes later.

The main take away from this example is that; while most law enforcement officers have received active shooter training, their training is vastly different in approach and perspective from that needed by most employees. This is seldom an effective method of information transfer for general public audiences. When brought in to provide training, law enforcement officers commonly focus the bulk of their presentation on the approach and tactics that the officers will use when they arrive. Though there are segments in these topics that are important for employees to know, most if it is of little use to them. And this type of presentation can quickly become overly intense and stressful.

Co-op employees need training in how to protect themselves and escape harm. It’s important for co-op employees to be able to recognize and respond quickly to dangerous situations before law enforcement officer arrive. This takes more than a quick look at a “Run-Hide-Fight” video and reading a PowerPoint presentation. Employees need effective training in: what to do in an active shooter event, how to escape dangerous situations, how to calm down irate customers, and what to do in the field when facing potentially dangerous hazards. This requires a specific training approach that few understand or and fewer can deliver.

OK, so what does InDev recommend? First realize that you get what you pay for; a free program by a local “expert” will seldom meet your training objectives. Be willing to bring in a qualified consultant. Look for someone that can effectively coordinate with regional police to bring local law enforcement knowledge into the mix. Secondly, shy away from those offering a cookie-cutter service to all businesses, instead seek out a security consultant/trainer that understands the unique needs of utilities and electric co-ops. This will pay dividends in the long run in a better prepared staff and fewer potential litigation issues.

What is the InDev difference?

Our methods are real-world tested. InDev fuses combat-honed security skills with years of corporate experience and electric cooperative understanding. This gives InDev the unique ability to adapt and refine security and incident response techniques developed for security operations in Afghanistan to the needs of our US clients.

Jim Willis, CEO of InDev, realized early on that, whether preparing teams for security operations in hostile areas or providing security training for corporate employees, “you can't accomplish real training by scaring your audience, being too intense, or applying unnecessary stress. People learn best in through understanding and repetition. You then slowly increase the intensity until you to reach the appropriate levels of stress and proficiency to be effective; but NEVER overdo it.

InDev has developed a series of training programs that focuses on the specific needs of electric cooperatives and public power systems. These are delivered by a qualified security expert that has an intimate understanding of electric cooperatives.

These programs bring together differing elements, including local law enforcement representatives to speak on their response approach and tactics, but the bulk of the training focuses on what to do before and after help arrives. How to effectively manage the crisis and deal with the resulting aftermath.

Jim Willis, is a Certified Master Anti-terrorism Specialist, security expert, and speaker. Jim used his extensive knowledge of electric cooperatives combined with his security operations expertise to develop ASSIST, InDev's proprietary active shooter and violence prevention training series.

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