The Crotega team has studied security systems for years and has been repeatedly confronted with an institutional flaw. For many security personnel, perceptions of what constitute a secure environment are inaccurate.

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crotega blog Unarmed Guards

Security guard services, for example, exist for good reason and guards are an expected and important part of the security posture of any facility. They have their assigned responsibilities and, when done properly, can add a measure of protection and give occupants a sense of security.

Perhaps that sense of security is too replete to be accurate.

The Reality of Unarmed Security Guards

Many end-users do not understand the severe limitations that the security guard role presents. Unarmed security guards are not paid, trained, or expected by their employers to stand up to armed aggressors. Yet so many who contract with those services believe they somehow will and should. This can and has been an unrealistic and disastrous expectation.

The Kraft Manufacturing Shooting

A workplace shooting at a Kraft manufacturing plant outside Pittsburgh in 2010 brought this to light. An aggravated employee was placed on suspension and was ushered out of the gated, locked plant by unarmed security. She went to her car, drove around for a few minutes, and returned with a .357 magnum which she pointed through the gate at the guard manning the entrance. The guard opened the gate for her as he was ordered to do, then he watched as she walked calmly into the building where she proceeded to shoot several people, killing two before surrendering to the police.

The Unarmed Security Guard’s Actions

What did the guard do? When faced with a loaded .357, opening that gate was about the only choice he had. It’s what he did next that was the real problem. He walked away and quit the job without bothering to notify anyone of what was happening. No 911 call. No call to the main office. Nothing. The first call to the police was from the shooter herself.

Kraft was of course horrified by these events. They filed suit against the guard services for failing to act. They felt the guard could have and should have stopped the shooter and/or denied her entrance.

Unrealistic Expectations

That was an example of a complete failure to grasp the reality of what your security dollar had purchased. In no way should anyone who is unarmed be expected to stand up to an armed aggressor. When planning for security at the location they believed that the unarmed guards and fencing would be sufficient. This presumption was sadly and drastically unaligned with the reality of these situations. Kraft won a sizable judgment against the guard company, but their unrealistic expectations played a part in the deaths at their plant.

Security Measures Today

In the ever-evolving world of security technology, it has become commonplace for manufacturers to advertise that their product will save lives — especially against active shooters. Building owners can sink money into myriad solutions like gunshot detection systems, locking doors, AI camera technology, access control systems, advanced CCTV systems, alert notification systems, and yes, guard services.

Each of these components is capable of certain things, and each can be used as a part of a smart overall security posture. But it’s important to be realistic about their limitations. Faulty assumptions about what they can achieve can have serious consequences.