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THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS: Almost always, security rates are determined on an hourly basis. Large cities generally cost more for service. Security guards in Los Angeles, for instance, are more expensive than Fresno. If you attempt to hire your own officers ('in-house' as it is commonly referred to) special licensing is involved. It's easier, and usually more cost-effective, to use security companies for security staffing.

Currently, most California security companies will charge, on average, $14.00 dollars an hour for an unarmed officers. (note: keep in mind that this $14.00 rate is what a security company will charge, not what the officer actually makes.) More than $15.00 an hour should be considered quite high for a security guard rate, especially in this economy, unless there is unusual training and/or skills required for the job. Few security guard companies will offer $13.00 an hour for their unarmed guards.

Below $12.00 an hour is very rare and is cause for suspicion, since operating expenses are almost always too high to allow that low of a margin. Unarmed security guards under $13.00 an hour should cause you to ask the guard company how they can operate with so low a rate. How about the guards themselves? Well, unarmed security guards average only about $9.50 an hour for most California cities.

For armed security officers, security companies will charge, on average, $15.50 an hour. Higher than $17.00 an hour is expensive, and below $14.00 an hour is suspiciously low. The average armed security officer earns (himself) $12.00 an hour.

Use the above rate information to negotiate better deals on your security guard vendor contracts. Also consider:

TRAINING: The California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) oversees all training standards for California security guards. They detail specific standards, which can be found on their website.

Officer training must be on-going, but many security guard companies do not comply with training requirements as they are time-consuming and expensive. On-site training is perhaps most important since every account has unique security needs. Make sure your security guard company shows you documentation of ongoing guard training.

Written tests taken by security guards must be completed. The questions of the test should pertain both to your specific account and general rules and regulations, mandated by BSIS. Keep in mind, the more well trained security guards are, the better prepared they are to protect your business.

SECURITY GUARD'S PLIGHT: Because many security officers are low income earners and have limited education, they can be taken advantage of by unethical security guard companies. Most common pay problems include shorting officer hours and failing to pay overtime, which is a Labor Board requirement.

Additional security staff mistreatment includes harassment and safety violations. To minimize security guard abuse, consider having an open-door policy where officers can speak freely about their concerns to you.

POOR RECRUITMENT: Because it's expensive and time consuming to hire security, many security companies do not take the necessary steps to screen and interview properly. The client invariably pays the price. Have your security company put in your contract how they conduct drug screening and background checks, and ask where and how they recruit.

POOR SUPERVISION: It's also expensive to hire good supervisors and sometimes short cuts are taken. Security staff must be supervised. Without supervision, security staff are more likely to make mistakes. Policies and procedures must be checked. Get to know your supervisors. If not part of the daily crew of guards, find out how often supervisors visit. Request supervisory reports. When mistakes happen, find out what corrective actions the supervisors took. The more involved you are, the safer you and your workplace will be.

NO GUARD CARDS: Security officers must have current BSIS guard cards on them when working. There are no exceptions. Any security staff working without a valid guard card subjects the business to a pricey fine. It easy to check online to verify security card status. Simply Google it and it will come up. It is perfectly appropriate for you to check your security officer's guard cards. Because forgery of guard cards happens, ask your security guards for a second ID so you can cross-reference.

NO INSURANCE: California armed security staff are required by BSIS to be under a $500.000 general liability insurance policy. Also, worker's compensation policy must be in place for both armed and unarmed officers. Have your security vendor provide copies of their workers compensation and general liability insurance. To save money, some security companies either don not have full insurance or get insured and then quickly cancel their policies after a new contract is signed. You can protect yourself and company by requesting copies of insurance certification every now and then, without warning. Also, make sure your guard contract has an indemnification clause.

LICENSE: All California security guard companies must also be licensed. You can check license status by visiting the BSIS website.

DOCUMENTATION: All security-related problems should be documented. Reports are sometimes used in lawsuits and they must be well-written, thorough, and legible. Confirm that you have incident reports, know where they are kept, ask to read them. If you work with a security company, it is their responsibility to ensure all security guards write competent report, but, remember, the more involved you are, the safer you will be.

THERE'S MANY CHOICES: There is well over a thousand California security companies. Fierce competition to earn your business allows you many options so take your time and choose wisely.

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