The Silvertrac Extra

Is Observe and Report Obsolete for Today's Security Guard?


This bonus episode answers a question posed by Robert Sollars, author of One is Too Many: Preventing Workplace Violence and Never to Grow Up: Preventing Violence in Our Schoolsin the wake of recent events within the security industry that have challenged the traditional "observe and Report" approach. 

Robert shared the following question in a Linkedin discussion:

"With the recent verdict against U.S. Security Associates in Philadelphia ($46.8M) because the security personnel on duty did nothing but observe & report during a workplace violence incident, do you believe that the simple philosophy of observe & report is obsolete?"

You can view the time line of events for this incident here.

Listen, Rate, and Review this Episode in iTunes or Stitcher Radio:

Listen to the Silvertrac Extra on iTunes Listen to the Silvertrac Extra on Stitcher

Comments Worth Noting

Johnny Page:

"I believe it depends on the site and the scope of service. And in this case the failure to report the issue while it was in progress had a major influence on the decision. I don't think many people would expect security guards making close to minimum wage to risk their lives in a situation like this.

However, if these were armed officers who were capable of stopping the situation, it would be hard not to agree with the jury here."

Bram Bottfeld:

"...Johnny and I both handle incident management software... These are investments that need to be made by the industry to back up the security staff. If, please note I say if, the guards had been equipped with a real time reporting tool, they could have input the incident which automatically triggers communication to predetermined contact groups. This could be by email, text or through the device. Its discreet so no voice worries or drawing attention."


"For the most part the USSA did what they were supposed to do as their job details. Nothing more nothing less, except that they didn't do anything remotely to protect the safety of their clients which is part of their job. They could have potentially saved a life but ran.

There needs to be better training and pay and that is the responsibility of the company to provide the training. The security guards didn't fulfill their obligations and people died. So to answer your question Robert.. Yes it is obsolete. We need better trained and better equipped security guards to handle the ever present threat of workplace violence."

Michael Zak:

"Observe and report" has, in my opinion, been obsolete since at least Columbine. I believe it should be amended to "Observe, Report and when necessary, Respond." The "respond" can be anything from calling for law enforcement (while directing people away from the incident), to deadly force as appropriate and applicable to company policy and local laws. Calling for law enforcement should never be the only response. Directing people away from the incident, continuing to observe from a safe distance, reporting to dispatchers on a continuous basis, or pulling the fire alarm are all ways which an unarmed officer can respond to a live-gunfire incident without unduly endangering themselves.

In this case, as reported by the news, it seems as if the security guards could and should have done more..."

Bram Bottfeld:

"There are just too many that operate without anything and, as an industry, this needs to change. The same way in-car laptops and cell phones became more common, so too will the use of incident management software as well as other modules. But they have to have true solid use and capability. They have to be designed for the benefit of the end user which is, of course, the field security officer who is working on site."

Johnny Page:

"Bram, thanks for speaking on behalf of the tech companies out there serving the security industry. Incident management software has to make the individual and the company more efficient. 

Thousands of security operations around the world are now using some form of incident management software because it is more efficient, in regards to time and money, than traditional methods.

I'm not sure what the security guards at USSA were equipped with, but it seems realistic to expect, at minimum, that the officers would notify management as soon as the incident took place. With so many cost effective solutions available to make that possible in an instant, you can understand why they lost the lawsuit."

Luis E. Rodriguez

"Like everything else in life, the Security industry has evolved. Everyone out there who’s been doing this job for a long time knows that Observe and Report doesn’t cut it anymore. As a hospital security supervisor I constantly have to get involved in situations that requires a lot more than observe and report, same goes for my subordinates.

We don’t have the powers the police have and yet we are the first line of defense when dealing with certain situations. We do have a police Officer on duty most of the time in case something that requires their expertise arises, other than that we have to take care of business ourselves. Our security leadership is taking steps to provide us with better technology including new software for report writing, and they working very hard to convince the administration about more officer skill training and more effective equipment (tasers, handcuffs, tablets for instant access, etc.)

Times have changed and eventually all these companies have to realize that as much as they don’t want to spend the money and/or take the risk, the police are not always going to be there on time."

Melvin E. Key Sr.:

"Observe and report is a thing of the past. Sort of like Afros and bellbottom pants. Times have changed so we must change. With threats like ISIS and the increase of active shooters, security guards must become more than your typical watchman. Observe and Report should now be Observe and React, which means that security companies have to invest a significant amount of time and/or money into training, which by the way eats at a company's bottom line. Understanding that, security guards and CEO's must have the courage and facts to support an increase in rates to accommodate and justify hiring qualified persons to effectively do job. When government entities and big corporate businesses are presented with the facts and the potential for death by the countless threats that we face in society, then and only then will they stop looking for the lowest responsible bidder and start understanding the complexities and nuances of providing effective security services. The lowest responsible bidder means that the company can only present the client with the lowest irresponsible security guard!

On the contrary, guards trained to observe and react, respond with the minimal amount of force relevant to their training and equipment to resolve incidents. A part of observe and react is to alert. If the incident is outside of their capacity to handle (suspect is armed) guards should be notifying law enforcement and medical staff, providing audible alerts to other employees, moving or encouraging employees to move to secured areas, etc.

So in my opinion observe and report is no longer reasonable. If you are a owner or manager of a security company and observe and report is your standard, I highly recommend that you change it or you too can be faced with a hefty lawyer tab and be held accountable in court for millions of dollars if your company is ever faced with a tort lawsuit."

What Do You Think?

Leave us a comment below, we'd love to know what you think!

Schedule a Live Demo with Silvertrac


Subscribe for updates

Johnny Page

Johnny is a Customer Success Enthusiast for Silvertrac Software who is passionate about business, technology, and (of course) our customers! Johnny spent time in the security industry in Business Development, Marketing, and Operations before joining the Silvertrac team.