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The essential guide to private security

Everything you need to know about finding a private security service for your business

Whether it’s a medical emergency, a shoplifter trying to make off with a valuable item or an unhappy employee acting in a threatening manner, there is no shortage of incidents a business can face. Fortunately, private security providers exist to help you manage these disruptions; security officers might administer first aid and call for assistance during an emergency, intercept a thief or de-escalate a tense situation safely.

This guide will walk you through what private security is, how it works, and what you should look for when searching for a provider.

What is private security?

Private security is a service that offers physical protection to businesses. That protection can take many forms, including providing uniformed or plainclothes security officers, installing and monitoring security systems and providing risk assessments and management.

One important distinction to note is that private security providers do not work with the public. They are not law enforcement agencies and don’t receive funding from a local, state or federal government. It’s helpful to think of private security providers much like any other vendor – a private company that works only with other businesses (though they may also be hired as contractors by governments).

Who needs private security services?

All companies with physical premises face some level of risk. Whether it’s theft, assault or an armed intruder, there are many reasons to take security seriously for businesses across industries.

Some businesses, including event venues (stadiums, theaters, arenas, clubs), large office complexes and university campuses are at a heightened risk because they attract large numbers of people. Others, like healthcare facilities, tend to see more violent incidents because they have to manage extremely stressed-out patients and visitors. Meanwhile, retailers with high-value inventory, such as electronics and jewelry stores, as well as those with few staff members (convenience stores, gas stations), are more likely to be targeted by thieves.

If your business operates in one of these high-risk environments, you should consider investing in a private security service.

What are the benefits of private security for businesses?

  • Intervention and de-escalation of incidents: A private security team can help you apprehend would-be intruders who may be aiming to cause harm to your business and employees.

  • Incident prevention: A thorough overview of your premises and risks, along with remediation plans (which can include anything from fixing a door lock to upgrading all your security cameras), can help prevent an incident down the road.

  • Loss prevention: The presence of a security officer can make a would-be shoplifter think twice, and devices such as security cameras and body-worn cameras can also catch thieves in the act, making them easier to intercept in the future.

  • Incident data management: If an incident does occur, a private security company will collect evidence, store it safely and provide it to law enforcement on your behalf.

  • Peace of mind: Dealing with incidents is draining, financially burdensome and can be harmful to a brand’s reputation. Having a trustworthy security partner keeping an eye on things can make you feel more at ease.

For an in-depth definition of private security, read What Is Private Security and Why Is It Important?

What services do private security companies provide?

Risk assessment

Before beginning their contract, a private security provider should do a walkthrough of your premises or event space (if you’re hiring security for a specific event) and provide you with a risk assessment and a plan to mediate any vulnerabilities. One of its team members may also interview your employees, vendors or other persons who have regular access to your premises.


In case a tense situation arises, your security provider should be the first on the scene. Depending on the nature of your business, you may choose to hire an unarmed or armed security guard. Many private security providers use de-escalation tools like TASER conducted energy weapons to minimize the chance of harm when potentially dangerous situations cannot be resolved without force.

Access control

cChecking bags and ID badges, scanning visitors through security gates and searching vehicles can all be a part of your private security detail. Before working with you, a service should make recommendations on how much scrutiny your business requires. If you work at an event space, like a stadium or a convention center, crowd control and restricting access to certain areas may also become necessary.

Safety patrols and remote monitoring

Security officers often conduct safety patrols or monitor high-traffic areas and entrances. They may also offer safety escorts to employees to and from their vehicles. The use of body-worn cameras is also becoming more common for security personnel and can provide an invaluable resource for dispute resolution and internal investigations. Many private security providers also offer remote monitoring of your premises via security cameras.

For a detailed overview of private security services, read 5 Safety Services That Private Security Teams Can Provide.

How to choose a private security company for your business

If you’re looking for a security services provider, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Know what services you need (use the list in the previous section as a jumping-off point).

  • Familiarize yourself with qualifications for security guards in your state so you can make sure the provider you’re choosing has the right certifications.

  • Ask people in your network for referrals.

  • Read reviews for private security providers from people in your industry.

Qualities top private security service companies have in common

Keep these in mind once you’re ready to screen providers:

  • Clear list of services: A few minutes on its website should tell you what kinds of services a provider offers. If it’s difficult to navigate through the company’s service menu, you may be dealing with a less organized provider.

  • Great reviews: Check Yelp, Trustpilot and Better Business Bureau reviews, and ask your network if they have used this service. Consistent, positive reviews are a good sign!

  • Certified, trained professionals: Check the “Careers” page on its website and see what kind of qualifications are required to get a job. You should also check the “About” page to get a sense of who the service’s leadership is and their background.

  • Responsive customer service: When reading reviews, screen for comments that mention outstanding customer service. You shouldn’t have to wait on hold if a security officer doesn’t show up for their shift.

  • Modern solutions: Top-tier private security service teams use up-to-date technology that can be used for live remote monitoring. They are also trained in using the latest de-escalation methods that prevent excessive use of force.

Hiring a private security company? Read How to Evaluate Private Security Companies Before Choosing a Partner.

Private security training programs

Security officers and supervisors can earn a number of certifications beyond CPR and basic security guard training. Your business needs may not require security officers that possess all of these qualifications, but they are useful to know regardless.

  • Crisis prevention and intervention: These training programs teach officers to de-escalate situations without the use of force, usually when dealing with a mental health crisis.

  • Fire safety: Security officers that work in fire-prone areas can benefit by learning about extinguishing methods and fire behavior.

  • Active shooter response: Officers receive instruction on risk assessment, lockdown procedures and intervention strategies, as well as assisting survivors.

  • First aid: Advanced first aid training goes beyond CPR by teaching security officers basic wound care and other techniques for keeping injured people stable until paramedics arrive.

  • Executive protection certification: Executive protection is a separate field in the private security industry. Security officers trained in executive protection are prepared to work with high-profile individuals such as C-suite executives, celebrities and public figures.

  • Surveillance and countersurveillance: Security personnel trained in surveillance often come from special forces or Secret Service backgrounds and receive extensive training in information gathering and tracking persons of interest.

  • TASER energy weapon training: Private security teams who use TASER conducted energy weapons have access to no-cost training resources, including how to use a TASER device to de-escalate adversarial situations. In fact, Axon offers a whole suite of solutions for private security professionals, including body-worn cameras and comprehensive incident management software. Contact Axon to learn more.

To learn more about private security training, read 7 Private Security Training Programs for Advancing Your Career.