By Robert L. RubinRecent heightened needs for building security have driven many facility managers to seek advice from security professionals on strategies to strengthen their security programs. With only minimal industry experience, facility managers can choose an effective security personnel partner by seeking the answers to a few critical questions.Should security staffing be the only service provided by a qualified firm?Quality security companies are multi-faceted providers of services specialized to the security industry. They perform threat and vulnerability assessments; custom design security programs; and deliver active, involved, and responsive management. Quality security companies also have in-house training facilities and perform thorough background checks on potential employees. Employ a security provider that offers numerous levels of officer services, from access control guards to officers in law enforcement roles. These firms possess added personnel depth, giving them staffing flexibility to provide comprehensive and dependable service.What are you paying for?Your security provider needs to be able to post effective and reliable officers. An officer’s training and wages, along with the firm’s management structure and available staff, are determining factors in the cost of security services. First, comprehensive training ensures that the officer will serve as more than just a body standing on post. With proper training, the officer will be knowledgeable, courteous, and competent. Facility managers should ask about a security firm’s training programs: How much training do officers receive and what are the instructor’s qualifications? Also, inquire about how much training is video-based vs. live instruction.Additionally, companies must employ a reserve pool of trained officers who will be available on short notice to fill posts left vacant due to sickness, vacation, or other circumstances, as reliable service is largely a function of quality staffing. At the same time, facility managers should select a firm with a management structure that is proactively involved in daily procedures and is responsive to all staffing needs.Lastly, consider the wages and benefits included in a provider’s cost, as these factors contribute to officer retention.Should background checks on security personnel be required?Security personnel must be reliable, dependable, and at all times, must display good judgment. In order to ensure that your security staff possesses such qualities, facility managers should require that their security providers diligently pursue background checks on every employee, including research in criminal, residential, and drug history, as well as an “integrity” interview.How can one learn about a security firm’s past performance?Security firms should provide, upon customer request, evaluations of performance on previous and current contracts. Contracts that are similar in size and scope to the proposed project will bear the greatest relevance to a firm’s ability to deliver the requested service, and facility managers should feel free to directly survey the clients provided as references.Robert L. Rubin is senior vice president corporate development at MVM Inc. (www.mvminc.qpg.com) a $110 million security service provider based in Washington, D.C.