By: Mark Quimby, MSCJ – Regional Manager, Southwest & Major Projects for Security Engineers, Inc.

Coronavirus (CoVid-19) worldwide epidemic has been temporarily shutting down the world, one country at a time, but first responders continue to put their lives on the line to protect us.

I have noticed a lot of praise being heaped upon medical staff and truck drivers for their efforts during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This adoration is timely and appropriate. As difficult as this situation is for individuals, families, the economy and supporting infrastructure, it would be immeasurably worse without our healthcare and logistics professionals.

It is nice to see this sort of positivity well up in the midst of trying times in support of those who must bear an unbalanced load. We have seen such adoration for law enforcement, military, medical staff, truckers, farmers and others as catastrophic events have captured public attention.

One group, however, never seems to get any praise outside of their own peers and those directly involved with their efforts: private security professionals. That’s right, “security guards” (and their supporting personnel).

The general public perspective of security guards (we call them ‘officers’) is one plagued by ideas of cartoonish caricatures (Paul Blart comes to mind). The assumption being that those in the contract security sector are all geriatric has-beens or ill-trained, ill-equipped and under-performing ‘wannabees’ that couldn’t cut it as real cops. The truth, in many cases, stands in stark contrast to those characterizations.

 Here are some facts you might not know:

  • There are over 1.1 million security professionals in the US (almost 2x that of sworn law enforcement).
  • The FBI in many documents outlining mitigation/response plans for terrorism, natural disasters and other large threat profile incidents, lists private security as a major player in national security.
  • Most states have stringent background/drug screening, training and certification requirements for licensing as a security professional.
  • Security personnel are always deemed ‘essential’ regardless of the circumstance.
  • In 2019, Private Officer International reported 58 Security Officers lost their lives on post.

Having been in the private security industry for nearly 14 years, I have seen front-line Security Officers respond to medical emergencies, bank robberies, active shooter threats, kidnappings and fights. I have seen them perform in post-disaster response to hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, oil spills and fires – rolling into areas right behind the Red Cross and National Guard. I have seen them live out of vehicles, tents, FEMA trailers and hotel rooms for weeks on end. (I guess now I can add viral pandemic to the list.) That does not even scratch the surface of the day to day functions in financial institutions, hospitals, office spaces, apartments, hotels, power plants and the litany of other Critical Infrastructures/businesses they secure.

While one can make a great career in private security, something I have been blessed to do, many of the front-line security professionals making a difference every day are some of the most under-paid and under-appreciated workers in our society relative to their immense responsibilities. These 1.1 million people represent a tireless effort by an industry expected to perform regardless of circumstance, risk, support or respect.

While I have the utmost respect for law enforcement (and anyone expected to run towards the things instincts say escape from) they are often not the “first” first responder on the scene. We are already here. We are always here. We will always be here – ready, willing and capable of being the tip of the spear. We do not come to work for accolades (or there would be 1.1 million openings on Indeed). We come to work to do the job, period.

I am proud to be in the security industry. I love my job, the company I work for and the people I work with. We have great leadership, clients and front-line professionals. I do not need a pat on the back. I am grateful just to be in the position I am in. However, I would be very appreciative if the next time you see a Security Officer performing his/her duties in an exemplary fashion, please say “thanks” as you walk by.

It might be the first time anyone has.