Confessions of an Industrial Security Guard: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

security guardBeing a security guard can be fun, exciting, or downright boring. It depends mostly on the assignment.

Though some companies have their own security staff, more often than not, security is hired on a contractual basis. I worked on and off for several years as a contract security guard while pursuing my degree in criminal justice at a local college. Most of the jobs involved asset protection: construction sites, car lots, even the farmers market. This was part of the "bad": Guarding watermelons and potted plants can get fairly monotonous at 3 a.m. The good parts were the occasional concert, carnival, or local community event. These type of assignments usually mean better hours, seeing people -- and every now and then, a free hot dog.

-- See hourly rates for security guards.

After I spent almost a decade as a police officer, a local chemical plant decided to "professionalize" their security following the deaths of 3,000 people in India from the release of one of their chemicals. Though the company never admitted fault (they never do), there was a general feeling that some type of "vigilante" revenge may be coming their way. So, they decided to hire a staff of security guards who either had a degree in criminal justice or five years of experience in law enforcement. I had both. I also had a close friend who worked in the company's employment division. So, it seemed to be "destiny."


The good

Great pay. No more fighting drunk people and women. Piece of cake job. Twelve-hour rotating shifts with a seven-day break once a month. Six hours on the job were spent in the guard shack signing people in and checking passes. Six hours were spent as the "rover" -- unlocking gates, taking reports and walking through buildings.

Midnight shifts in the shack were the most boring part. A creative co-worker on a different shift told me that he would run a string across the entrance road that he ran up to the door. He tied a key on the end of it and placed a coffee can underneath the key. He could go to sleep, and if a car would drive up, it would hit the string and cause the key to fall in the can and wake him up. I forever idolized him.

-- Compare your pay to a security guard's.


The bad

As part of the security department in a facility that manufactures chemicals, one of the responsibilities included being a part of the Emergency Response Team. At first, our role was traffic control, and fairly simple. Then someone in management realized that we were almost always the first to arrive, and felt we should have more training in first aid, firefighting, and hazardous- material containment. This job was becoming less and less the piece of cake.

The worst I saw was on a New Year's Eve. A tank at the steam plant exploded and one of the operators happened to be right next to it. For the sake of his family, friends, and shift partners, who may somehow stumble onto this article, I will withhold the graphic details. Suffice it to say that it is hard to see someone you shared a laugh with two hours earlier, literally, blown to pieces. The only comfort to be found is that he felt no pain.


The ugly

The plant had a rule that no one could come on the property with a beard. (In the event of a leak, someone with a beard would be unable to get a sufficient "seal" with a respirator mask.)

Let me tell you: Some of those truck drivers did not like to be told that they had to shave. I had one show up and I kid you not, he looked just like Kenny Rogers. His beard was magnificent, and I dreaded and regretted giving him the news. He said, "Son, I have had this beard for 23 years, and I will be damned if I am going to shave it off because I have to come in here for 30 minutes and drop this load." I told him that I didn't blame him one bit. I was sure his boss would understand too if he just turned around and left, but "rules are rules." He made a phone call and learned that he could either shave, or leave the truck and find himself another way home to look for another job. We cried together.

Now comes the "really ugly": Five minutes later, I and the bitter, clean-shaven driver discovered that he was at the wrong plant. He was suppose to be at our other site -- which of course, had no such no beard policy.

Generally speaking, working as a security guard is a great job for a young person who is going to school or preparing for a career. It is also a great job for retirees trying to either supplement income, or just looking for a way out of the house. However, it is not the best way to make a good living. Homeland Security priorities were forever changed on 9-11, and some decent-paying jobs have resulted. So, if you're interest is in this field, go government.

-- Find Security Guard Jobs


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October 11 2011 at 5:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Martha

"No more fighting drunk people and women"???? What does that mean? It sounds like he's saying that women are as unpleasant to deal with as fighting drunk people.

April 20 2010 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Hm. I find it funny that so many people are commenting that they don't believe this story. What's not to believe? It's not like the guy said he fought off daily terrorist assaults. I worked as an armed military security guard at a major installation and this story is perfectly believable. Some days are incredibly boring, but once in a while something happens. My hat's off to the writer. Nicely written and without any glaring grammatical errors - unlike most of the comments following the story.

April 19 2010 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
charles

My most memorable experience was when I was a contract security at a brewery. yahoo free beer. I trained 3 of my supervisors but I wasnt qualified for the job when I applied. the AQMD would make unscheduled inspections and I could not allow them on the property until I notified a warehouse supervisor . Once some potentual home buyers ask me how many trucks drove down the service road behind their future backyard , They didnt buy the house.

April 19 2010 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DAN BUSHEY

I can vouch, that the "gate guard" story is in all likely-hood is true. As a OTR truck driver, I have met thousands of gate guards. Here is a for instance. When making delivery to a Walmart warehouse, NOT A RETAIL STORE, but to the warehouse. Here is the REQUIRED procedure.

1. Stop at gate house stop sign. Required. Only ONE (1) driver allowed in gate house, at ANYTIME!

2. Present bill of lading, with Appointment time conformation number.

3. Signature ALL Walmart entry forms, including RULES of Personal Conduct and procedures to comply with.

4. Drive to assigned dock-door. Drop trailer. Chock trailer wheels. Pull COMPLETLY out from under, and away from trailer. Then, depending upon Walmart orders, tractor to remain, or drive tractor to "bob-tail" parking area.

5. Park tractor. Walk to receiving office, wait in line, do NOT approach "glassed-in receiver's window, until so instructed.

6. Present bill of lading AGAIN,to receiver.

7. A driver may either PAY MONEY to Walmart to unload, or driver may unload truck, by themselves. If driver elects to unload, then you MUST be ESCORTED to the dock-door to unload. When unloaded and freight is on dock: separated unto pallets: counted, and your ESCORT arrives, you may return to receiver's window, or "drivers area" to await processing of bill of lading and approval from receiever. If driver elects to pay Walmart, then you pay AFTER ALL unloading and bill of lading and Walmart paper-work is COMPLETE. While Walmart unloads, driver may go to "break room" (vending machines), to await unloading until called. Or driver may reutn to tractor,and monitor CB radio, for "further instructions while, and when unloaded.

8. After approval, driver signs Walmart delivery conformation forms,and then receieves bill of lading from receiever. It is at this time, driver returns to tractor. Hook-up trailer, remove chock,and IF a GREEN light is lighted on dock-door, may depart. HOWEVER, as Walmart rules REQUIRE, "GREEN DOES NOT MEAN "GO". What this means, is IF ANTHING GOES WRONG, or A Walmart employee is INJURED, while driver is pulling away from dock, the DRIVER IS SOLEY RESPONSIBLE!!

9. When driving on Walmart property, ALL Walmart vehicles, and employees,have right-of-way,and driver MUST yield right-of-way!!

10. When arriving at gate house, driver MUST get out of truck,show guard your SIGNED bill of lading, and give Walmart Release form to guard. Driver then MUST open trailer doors, for inspection by gate guard. Driver then closes doors, then returns to truck, AND THEN DRIVER IS FREE TO DEPART!!!!!

So, you want to be a OVER THE ROAD (OTR) TRUCK DRIVER, AND DEAL WITH GATE GUARDS!!!!! I got MORE TRUE stories than you have time to listen to. And they are all TRUE!!!!

April 19 2010 at 9:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sid

So many dumb-ass people on here, got no clue what the truth is, but they are hasty to bash articles and resicule others.
Maybe some of the bashers on this subject that doubt the facts should call up UNION CARBIDE and inquire about BHOPAL ...

Excellent and eye opening article.

April 19 2010 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DAN BUSHEY

I recently retired from OTR trucking,than God!! I have more stories of Gate Guard crap, then there is space here to write here. You name it, and it has happened!! One time, I was "refused entry", and "ordered" to "back out, the same way I came in", for "not stopping at a "stop sign", 50 feet from the gate. Well, when I tryed, of course I backed-up incoing traffic, including the "roach-coach" tying to get thru, for the "employee break" period. A white shirt guy came out, and after explained to him, that the gate guard "refused delivery" because I did not stop at sign, but did stop at gate,he stated,"you mean he refused delivery, because you did not stop at stop sign BEFORE the gate? Then he said, "you drive thru, and make delivery". Another time, I was "15 minutes late" for appoint time. I was told,"We will "work you in some time today". Well, I had some really choice words for him, and of course my boss was called. But I told the boss the same thing, as I told the gate guard. Neither the gate guard,and SYSCO, and my boss was happy campers, but I felt better. I got a story about my "truck dog",a 9 pound poodle, that is REALLY wild, but you fellow drivers can guess how that goes!!!!

April 19 2010 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jerry

after retiring from a large town police dept, i aquired a job as a security guard at a large utility co. having been a member of the U.S.Army and a policeman I played the job as I would have regardless. It became known off my past occupasion and i was continualy reminded that I was no longer a policeman. There was one person who would continue to break mychops Untill i found that he was selling fireworks from his auto that was parked in the company paking lot.I took appropriat police action and that fellow is no longer talking to me.

April 19 2010 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
VINNY

Incompetence exists in every form of employment. I’ve encountered the best and the worst in many of them. Watch THE PRICE IS RIGHT and view contestants look to the audience to determine which hole to punch out. Like they have x-ray vision?
I SPELL CHECKED INCOMPETENCE AND IT PRINTED IMPOTENCE. SEE EVEN SPELL CHECK MAKES ERRORS!

April 19 2010 at 8:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Max

I have no doubt that the author of this article is being truthful. "Security" is a very subjective term at best.
There are "security" guards out there who are actually highly trained professionals. However, most are contract vendors hired to a price and not a standard. Over the years,I have dealt directly or indirectly with them...with few exceptions, I was always LESS than impressed with either the guards or their companies. I dealt with them because I had to.
The basic contract security guard is hired to serve many functions and most of those are not even related to "real" security functions and duties. Usually the only "security" function is to be a visible deterent. Other than that, they are hired to take the fall for the people that hire them.
Getting what you pay for? Not necessarily true, I've found the "quality" is the same whether the guard is making $5.25/hr or $25.25/hr regardless of the billing rate involved.

April 19 2010 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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