Armed vs. Unarmed Security: How to Determine Which is Best for Your Business

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Determine the Difference Between Armed and Unarmed Security Guards

Every business owner should be thinking about the security environment that they’re providing for their employees, customers, and guests. You’re a leader in your community, and it’s up to you to make security decisions that are ultimately going to keep your people safe. Plus, it’s going to help deter potentially costly incidents such as theft, vandalism, or arson from occurring. 

One of the most effective ways to make your business safer and protect against unnecessary losses is to hire security officers. Unlike other types of security — such as surveillance equipment or access control devices — in-person security officers provide both a powerful deterrent and give you the ability to immediately and effectively respond to a security incident. 

This guide will walk you through how to assess whether your business needs armed or unarmed security officers by evaluating your company’s specific risks, budget, and individual needs and goals. 

The Differences in Armed and Unarmed Security Guards 

Armed Vs. Unarmed Security Guards

If you’ve decided to make security guards a part of your business’s security plan, then you need to choose whether or not those guards should be armed or unarmed. Most security services providers offer both armed and unarmed solutions, so it’s up to you to decide which will benefit your business the most. Here’s what you need to know:

Armed Security Guards

An armed security guard’s primary purpose is to respond quickly to a life-threatening security incident, using lethal force if necessary to do so. They are licensed to carry firearms and may also have less-lethal tools, depending on their skill sets and training. 

Unarmed Security Guards

Unarmed security guards do not carry firearms and are not equipped to use lethal force. They may carry less-lethal tools such as OC spray or a taser, and their primary purpose is to monitor and report potential security risks or provide other services such as access control, traffic management, or general surveillance. 

It can be tricky to know which you need for your particular situation. Working with a security solutions provider can help, as the team will be able to walk you through the pros and cons of armed and unarmed security so you can select the best solutions for your business.

Assessing Your Business’s Security Risk

Business Security Assessment

The first step in determining whether to hire armed or unarmed security guards is assessing your organization’s individual needs by analyzing your risks. While bad actors can target any business, some are at increased risk due to the nature of their operations. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when assessing your business’s risk. 

  • Does your business handle large amounts of cash or other expensive assets?
  • Does your company often host high-profile people such as public figures, entertainers, or business leaders? 
  • Does your place of business house sensitive information?
  • Is your business located in a high-crime area? 
  • Does the general public have easy access to your facilities? 
  • Does your business operate late into the night/early into the morning?

Businesses with an increased risk of attracting armed attackers will want to have armed responders. Those that carry a low risk of inviting armed attackers may prefer an unarmed security guard who can keep an eye on the property and deter petty thieves and vandals.  

Consider the Costs and Benefits

Security Cost-benefit analysis

Every business owner is familiar with cost-benefit analysis, and it applies to security just like it does to other expenditures and projects you’ve undertaken. While the costs involved with hiring security personnel vary significantly between providers, one thing will nearly always remain true: armed security guards cost more than unarmed ones. This is because:

  • Armed guards require frequent training to ensure their skills stay up to date. 
  • Carrying a firearm is a massive responsibility, and you want these people to be some of the most highly-trained professionals on your property. 
  • In addition, these guards will generally come from ex-military or prior police backgrounds, and that experience has value. 
  • Armed security guards also incur greater insurance expenses due to the potential liability resulting from a deadly force incident. 

On the other hand, unarmed security personnel require significantly less training, need not be as experienced as armed guards, and carry minimal liability risk. These factors make them a much more affordable security solution. 

Think About Your Image 

Security Posture

Your security posture says a lot about your company and may affect the way your customers, employees, and guests feel when working with you. Armed officers make everyone safer, but some people will feel intimidated or uncomfortable when firearms are present.

An armed security presence might also make visitors wonder if they’re in a safe area, for example. They might think that having armed guards means that your business is a frequent target for robberies and other violent crimes. Unarmed security guards provide an authority figure with a watchful eye to make people feel safer without making them uncomfortable. 

Armed vs. Unarmed Security: Which is Right for You? 

Whether armed or unarmed security is right for your business depends on your risks, budget, and business goals. Generally, armed security should only be employed where necessary. Businesses and organizations that carry a medium to high risk of being targeted by violent criminals need armed guards to provide an effective response to those threats. If your business faces these types of threats, you can’t afford not to have armed security. 

Businesses with low risk are unlikely to need an armed responder and will save money by hiring unarmed security guards. However, these guards will still create a safer workplace by providing access control, traffic management, and surveillance without the need for expensive training, licensure, and insurance requirements. 

Choosing the right security for your business isn’t easy. If you need any help conducting a risk assessment for your business or with the process of hiring security personnel, feel free to get in touch with SMART Security Pros today. We’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have and find the perfect security team for your company. 

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