We have been receiving numerous requests regarding the initiation of, or refinement of, package inspections and bag checks. In particular, there's a growing concern about training staff how to spot explosives or weapons (and how to deal with the discover of such items).
Before initiating bag checks, make sure you have a clearly written, published, distributed policy. What items are restricted? What do patrons do if they have prohibited items with them when they arrive? What is the policy for staff (incoming and outgoing bag checks)? How does staff bring laptops or other personal items into the facility? How would you handle spotting explosives or weapons?
We normally begin by posting a conspicuous notice that states anyone entering the property is subject to inspection/search. This posting should be visible at all public entries. It's possible the notice alone will deter someone from attempting to bring contraband onto the property.
Once the policy is established and security officers and staff have been briefed on the policy (they need to have written copies in advance and at the point of inspection), you’ll want to determine how you're going to conduct the inspection. You’ll need a platform or table of some type on which to place containers, packages, and bags. Placement of this table should not impede flow of traffic or block emergency egress. You’ll also need flashlights, gloves, and/or plastic paddles or rulers to conduct the inspection safely. Officers (or whomever is performing the inspection) should never put their hands into any container, backpack, purse, etc. To look inside, they should use the paddles to move things aside.
Prohibited items should be clearly defined and identified. These include weapons of any type, controlled substances, or any type of explosive or explosive/flammable material. Make sure to decide in advance what to do if prohibited items are discovered during the bag check. Placing these items a locker is not normally an acceptable practice.
Lockers may be provided for other items, as long as you recognize the potential problems that lockers pose, and the fact that they must be cleared at the end of each business day. Under no circumstances should security personnel hold or "watch" any item, for any visitor, contractor, or staff member. The responsibility for storing items is on the owner. Some businesses allow visitors to leave restricted items in coat checkrooms, which we do NOT recommend.
Weapons & Explosives
Explosives, as well as weapons carried by others are another problem all together. Your weapons policy should address the rights of police officers, but only officers in their own jurisdiction (ask us for a copy of our sample weapons policy). For persons with valid concealed weapons permits, but not serving as police officers, we recommend advising them that they cannot bring their weapons onto the property. Where they store them while visiting the business is their responsibility.
Any hint of explosives is a serious problem. Officers should always observe the demeanor of all persons being inspected. Undue nervousness, looking around, acting jittery, not being responsive to questions or looking directly at the person asking questions...all are indicators of potential problems. Attempting to keep all or portions of the bag closed is also suspicious. Any sign of wires, timer devices, or unusual electronics the subject can't explain are worthy of further investigation. The inspector needs to call a supervisor immediately. Ask the subject to wait aside from the queue of other patrons. Separate the subject from the bag. Use a telephone if available, avoiding the use of two-way radios. If there is no doubt that the bag contains a suspicious device or is recognized as an explosive device, evacuate the area immediately.
Customer service is extremely important in the initiation and management of package inspection, and the practice of checking bags requires professional, consistent, and ongoing training. We normally take two hours for this type of training, giving everyone with the potential for serving in that role the opportunity to go through the motions, in a hands-on training session. This whole process, especially if an emergency evacuation is called for, requires considerable discussion, planning, and rehearsal. You certainly don't want to evacuate the building because of an IPAD or DVD player. Walk through realistic scenarios with the people performing inspections. Make sure that senior management has an active voice in determining policy and procedures.
Please contact us if we can provide additional information or assistance.