Effective Techniques to Improve Observation Skills for Security Guards

Effective Techniques to Improve Observation Skills for Security Guards

Security guards must possess strong skills that will help boost their productivity, grow their expertise, and help them handle situations more efficiently. There are several fundamental skills that every security guard needs:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Organization
  • Critical Thinking
  • Observation

You must understand why these skills are so crucial and how you can aid their development to become a much better guard. We dive deep into this article with the emphasis placed on observational skills.


Observation is the article's primary aim because this is one of the essential skills that any security guard should have. Observation and surveillance work together to form a fundamental building block of a security program. Some of the situations you would employ this skill include:

  • In the examination of any activities from the camera monitoring rooms. 
  • The monitoring of any activities from the office building's front desk. 
  • Watching for any questionable activities, especially at night.
  • Monitoring the behavior of individuals in event venues, especially when in crowds.

Observation requires you to pay keen attention to detail so you can notice any activity in the area you guard, no matter how small. Practical observation will make it much easier for you to see any potentially dangerous situation before it even swings into action.

Boosting Your Observation Skills

A security guard's observation skills can be their most potent attribute in detecting and deterring any potential dangers or risks in the area they're guarding. Surveying and observing any unusual occurrences that could threaten the security and safety of people and property in the area is an essential skill for any security guard.

When you are on duty, you need to engage all your senses to make detecting security hazards and risks much easier and quicker. Four of these five senses are a vital part of your surveillance skills. The senses include:

  1. Sight: Using your eyes to watch unusual activities through visual perception.
  2. Hearing: Using your ears to listen to unusual sounds in the area.
  3. Smell: Using the nose to detect abnormal fragrances or odors in the environment.
  4. Touch: Using the skin to feel surfaces, people, and packages and identifying potential risks or hazards.
  5. Taste: Rarely used.

What Do You Need To Observe?

You should observe and note specific details as a security guard. These include:

  • Movement: This is possibly the most vital detail to watch because it can help you detect the possible intent of people and objects.
  • Silhouette: Identifiable or familiar figures can easily be spotted in the area you're guarding, so you should watch out for the unfamiliar ones.
  • Spacing: You should also watch out for any space between the object and the environment you guard.
  • Surfaces: Watch out for surfaces, and keep note of the contrasts and textures of any surfaces in the area.
  • Shadows: It is also essential to keep an eye on shadows, especially at night.
  • Shapes: Watch for irregular shapes and detect any objects by their profile.

As a security guard, it is also crucial that you can remember things in detail. You can practice and train to help in developing this skill. Ensure you involve every single piece of information involved in the story in detail. 

Exercise Your Memory Muscle

One key factor in practical observation is to possess strong memory skills. Memorizing the normal condition makes it easier to observe and identify an abnormal state. To improve your memory skills, you first must understand how memory works. The human memory comprises three parts: the sensory register, short-term memory, and long-term memory. 

  • The sensory register is where information is first stored. The initial processing of information occurs when you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something. 
  • Short-term memory is what you use to remember information for a short period. It can hold about seven pieces of information for about 20 seconds. 
  • Long-term memory is where information is stored for a more extended time. It can hold an unlimited amount of information.

You can improve your memory skills by using different techniques to improve your observation skills. One method is called chunking. Chunking involves breaking down information into smaller pieces and then putting it back together again, focusing on one piece at a time. Practice makes perfect; the more someone practices recalling information, the better they will become at doing so. Finally, staying mentally active and engaged helps keep the mind sharp and improves memory skills.

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events regarding time or space, comprehending their meaning, and predicting their future status. In its most basic form, situational awareness is understanding what is occurring within the environment, the people, time, vehicles, and the potential threat those variables pose. 

The Three Stages of Situational Awareness

  • Perception: Knowledge of the familiar sources of information available. 
  • Comprehension: Be able to extract the information from the collected information. 
  • Anticipation: Have the ability to anticipate how an incident will develop and evolve.

It is crucial for security guards to have proper situational awareness. Advanced situational awareness training aims to improve an individual's ability to predict potential threats and act accordingly. Situational awareness is more of a mindset than a skill. Ignorance of potential danger makes it unlikely that you will see the threat.

The Cooper Color Code 

The United States Marine Jeff Cooper developed the four levels of alertness and focused on a correct combat mindset. 

White - Unaware and unprepared to take action. 

Most people spend much of their lives in this state of mind. If attacked in condition white, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy of your attacker—if suddenly confronted. In contrast, your immediate reactions to this condition will probably be surprise and denial.

Yellow – Prepared, alert and relaxed.

The individual watches their surroundings in the Yellow stage and constantly assesses their situation. It's not that they cannot trust their surroundings, but the individual tends to be more vigilant.

Orange – Alert to probable danger and ready to take action.

A threat has been identified, and a solution is being formed. Orange has a severe drawback that the Yellow mentality does not. When determining the danger, the individual goes into a state of tunnel vision where they focus on the threat. This tunnel vision completely obscures any possible secondary threats from the individual's mind. In that lies its shortcoming; it would also be insanely exhausting to attempt an Orange state of awareness at all times.

Red – Action mode, focused on the emergency at hand.

A plan has been formed, a decision has been made, and the individual is dealing with the threat. This state is primal brain activity well within the flight or fight response. Adrenaline is in full swing, and individuals carry out incredible feats despite extraordinary circumstances. Red is where human beings carry out lethal action.

Black – Panic, and breakdown of physical and mental performance.

Another stage was added later, Black, defined as a complete shut down of the brain due to a system overload due to an excessively elevated heart rate or mental stimulus. A person in the Black cannot function in any fashion.

Documenting Observations

Noting any observations you make is very important. It allows you to quickly and easily recollect any vital thing you have noticed. When recording your observations, ensure you only put facts and methodically order them. Do not reflect any assumptions in your notes, so anyone that reads them will get access to only the facts. Avoid any assumptions in your notes because it can lead to a bias. 

A fact is a detail that can be proven to have happened. In contrast, an assumption is interpreting a situation without specific proof. 

As a security guard, you often need to record details of people and vehicles in the area you're guarding for incident reporting and investigation. There are several different methods to capture the valuable information you get about people and vehicles. 

Recording Details About People

A quick and efficient method that you can use for recording details about people is the A to H method. You can do this in your security method, and it implies writing down these qualities about the people you notice:

  1. Age (child, teenager, adult, senior citizen, etc.)
  2. Build (either muscular, thin, fat, etc.)
  3. Cloth (the outfit they wear, especially if there is anything unique about it)
  4. Definitive features (scars, tattoos, piercings, etc.)
  5. Elevation (the individual's height)
  6. Face (shape of the face as well as facial features)
  7. Gait (the way they walk, especially if they have a limp or unique movement)
  8. Hair (this includes length, color, etc.)

Recording Details About Vehicles

There is a technique known as the "SCRIM" format to record details about vehicles, and it is easy for you to note important information about the vehicle. SCRIM stands for

  • S. Shape (the type of vehicle, whether a truck, SUV, sedan, etc.)
  • C. Color (the vehicle's color)
  • R. Registration (plate number, expiration month and year, State, and County)
  • I. Identity features (any unique features on the car like upgraded parts, a smoking exhaust, dents, scratches, etc.)
  • M. Make and model of the vehicle

Observation is more than simply paying attention to details you already have an answer to; it also entails:

  • Interacting with your environment through mindful observation.
  • Actively observing details.
  • Using logic and imagination to envision possible consequences. 

Having good observational skills is more than just seeing or noticing something. You must also understand what you have witnessed and know how to record it efficiently. The observation you acquire from the environment you're guarding can be the key to ensuring its security. You always need to know what is happening in the surrounding areas. Any important observations you witness should be recorded in your security notebook, so you always have a record. Boost your observational skills with these tips, and you will become a better guardian of people and property.

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Angel Rodriguez CPP

Article by Angel Rodriguez CPP

Published 19 Jun 2022