5 Easy Steps to writing a Great Security Report
We have all, in some way or another run into a security guard in or daily lives. Some are friendly and some maybe not so much so. Maybe you yourself have been one or have considered becoming one?
Do you ever wonder what it is exactly these men and women do? One very important function, if not the most enjoyable is to write reports. There are two main types of reports, one which is a daily occurrence log which will closely mirror the guards memo book notes and the second which we will discuss here which is the incident report.
There will be variations from private company to private company and from site to site in some of the specifics of the report writing system in place, but there will always be some elements that remain consistent. If you can grasp these five key elements you will be well on your way to writing your own great reports, or at least knowing what those security guards are getting up to when they aren't giving you a hard time!
What is a Security Report?
A security report, in the simplest terms is a factual retelling of an incident, event or observation.
The purpose of the report is so that it is possible to access details of an occurrence long after memories have faded. This can be useful for issues as serious as court cases and insurance claims or to simply provide information which can contribute to improving the policies or procedures on a site.
Let's take a look now at the five steps involved in making a great report!
1. It is a security report, not a security diary
This means that you should never personalize the report and write in the first person. You should write in the third person and refer to yourself by name, or if you have established your name and that you are the writer you may refer to yourself as 'the writer'.
To show how that might look,
"While on routine patrol the writer, Security Guard (S/G) Joe Blow discovered that..."
From this point on the report may refer to security guard Joe Blow as 'The writer' and not have to write out his entire name each time.
It can be a bit tricky for some writing in the third person but you'll get used to it!
2. Who, What, When, Where ,Why and How?
Sometimes, especially if a complicated and very dynamic event has occurred it can be a little intimidating trying to figure what to write or even where to start.
In every instance it is best to remember that you will be trying to answer the following questions.
WHO: Who were the people involved. Did you get all their information?
WHAT: What were the actions and events that took place during the incident?
When: What was the date and time the incident took place?
Where: What is the specific location(s) where the incident took place?
Why: Describe and explain the purpose of your own actions as it pertains to the incident. Subject persons may also volunteer motivations for their actions.
How: The vandal broke a window, but did she do it with a rock, or a stick, with her fist?
3. Paint a Clear Picture.
If you answered all the questions in #2 you are well on your way, but there are still a few things to be mindful of.
- Not everyone who reads the report will be from the world of security, so write the report in plain language and avoid security jargon.
- An acronym or abbreviation may be used only if it's meaning has first been established. You will see that this has been done for 'security guard' and 'S/G' in #1.
- Avoid slang unless it is a direct quote from a subject person.
- Proper grammar, punctuation and syntax all count and not only make your report easier to understand, it makes it more credible to the reader.
- Resist the urge to be poetic or erudite.
- Include as much detail as possible and remember you can't assume the reader will know any of the details unless you describe them.
- Include photographs, or failing that sketches. A picture tells a thousand words,after all.
4. Be Objective
While it is virtually impossible to be a 100% neutral observer in what are sometimes very emotionally charged events, every effort must be made to remain objective.
This means reporting the facts of your observations and not inserting your opinions and biases. To keep your opinion out is not so hard a task, but to keep out your personal biases can be a little trickier and maybe harder for you to see for yourself that you are doing it in the first place.
You might be tempted to make it clear in a situation who you think was in the wrong by how you word your report, but most readers will be savvy enough to detect this and while it may be well intentioned it could very well backfire.
5.Get lots of information!
The more information you can provide the better your report will be. This does not mean to go on for pages and pages of descriptive prose, but rather that a person who is reading your report who wasn't present at the time it occurred will only know as much about that event as is written in the report. Be concise but also information rich. Think back to #2, and if you are pretty sure you have done a thorough job of answering all of those questions you should do just fine.
Also, it must be stressed that as uncomfortable as it can feel when asking your report will be much stronger if you verify as much of the information as possible in regards to the persons involved. There is a difference between knowing someone is Joe Smith because they told you so, and knowing it because you have seen their passport or driver's license.
There you go. This guide wont make you an expert as you will need years of experience in the field and to be able to develop your professional observation skills and ability to retain and relay information, but it will provide you with a solid foundation and have you well on your way to writing reports that make you look like a pro!