What’s The Scenario?

A local Head of Security and I were discussing a variety of topics the other day and the subject of training came up. And while many security teams in other fields – Executive Protection being one – practice scenarios on a regular basis (or at least they should), I have rarely seen a Nightclub Security Staff working any type of training drills. Some of my readers might argue that scenario training is unnecessary in a nightclub environment. “You see the same situations all the time, why train them?”

Easy answer: Proper Prior Planning Prevents P*ss Poor Performance

Any field of work that requires an immediate or urgent response should do some type of scenario training. Scenarios will show where there are gaps in response time, failures of action, failures of inaction, overreaction, and any other issues. Many people, when placed under some type of pressure, will freeze up. The pressure could be something as basic as your boss asking you an unexpected question or as terrifying as having to respond to a choking child. In an fluid environment, filled with intoxicated individuals, having the correct response can mean the difference between life, death, a lawsuit…or vomit on your shoes. Training can help to minimize dangers and shorten the response times to a variety of incidents.

A basic game of question and answer is a great start when building Scenario Training. Think up 3-5 scenarios that your crew might run into on a given night. During the night or at the pre/post shift meeting, throw out a scenario and ask what your Staff would do. You can ask them individually or have them brainstorm as a group. Then, break down and evaluate the answers. Point out conflicts with policy or procedure and ask for other options or solutions to the scenario. And always remember to give them what your response would be. You might be surprised to find that your crew has come up with responses you had not considered.

Another possibility would be to actually put your crew through some physical Scenarios. Place them in their respective positions, grab some extra Bar Staff, and act out the Scenarios you have imagined. The mere fact that your crew is being tested will usually bring up their heart rates and adrenaline level – even if they know it is only a Scenario. Run the Scenario multiple times with different people in each position. Observe their reactions, take notes, and review what just happened. Discuss aspects of Situational Awareness that they could use to their advantage.

Scenario evaluation should be an opportunity for you to positively reinforce your crew’s actions. If you find yourself constantly berating your Staffers, it might be a case of your original training not being up to par. Evaluate yourself and your skill set as well. Put yourself in the mix once in a while. Don’t ever think that because you are the one presenting the problems, your skill set is miles above that of your trainees. Again, you might be surprised what you discover about yourself..

The one type of training that I would avoid with Security Staffers is physical ejections. While it is necessary to discuss how to physically remove someone from an establishment, showing things like wrist locks, arm bars, and chokes WILL open you up to liability. The Use of Force continuum is one that should be discussed and re-enforced regularly, but there are plenty of ways to move a person besides being hands-on. Aside from the risk of liability, the mindset of some Security Staffers will prevent them from working an ejection Scenario safely. They will be more likely to act out against their other Staffers, “Oh yeah, well you’ll never take me down! Try it!”, and this can lead to sparring and other ridiculous behavior. These are training sessions, not tough guy sessions, and anyone that can’t work in an environment of learning is probably not someone you want working for you to begin with. Scenarios are used to train your brain, not your brawn.

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 5) – Head of Security

The Big Cheese. El Jefe

The Top Banana. Big Boss Man.

Numero Uno. The Chief.

You can call the person at the top what you will, but the responsibility list is long and detailed regardless of title. Most people think of the Head of Security (HOS) in a nightclub or bar as being the biggest, baddest, most dangerous individual in the crew. The person who can step in to pick up the pieces when things have completely fallen apart.

And in some regards this is true. The Head of Security does need to know the most and be able to handle just about any situation. Both more often than not, especially in today’s overly litigious society, being the biggest and the toughest can be a liability if you can’t first start with diplomacy and conversation. Let’s take a look at the responsibilities and chief concerns of the Head of Security.

Your “chief of staff’ must have knowledge of all pertinent Roamer, Floorman, Door Out, Doorman, responsibilities. That means they know how to do it all, from picking up glasses to escorting troublemakers. In order for the Head of Security to be an efficient member of the team they must be proficient in every aspect of security.

Formulation and implementation of  Security Staff Policies and Procedures is one of the keys to the HOS position. The HOS should meet with the Bar Manager(s) and Owners on a regular basis to go over policies and procedures and continuously re-examine existing policy to find gaps and flaws. These meetings are also a good opportunity to voice any concerns, go over upcoming events, and review recent incidents, events, issues.

HOS should also be in charge of interviewing and hiring potential Security Staff candidates, and conducting their initial walkthroughs and training. A disinterested HOS sets a bad example for a Staff. Your new Staffers need to know not only who the HOS is, but that they can look to him/her for direction and guidance. It is important that your HOS feel as comfortable talking to Staff and Management as they are talking to Patrons. Communication is extremely important to this position.

Job performance and disciplinary reviews also fall under the cloak of HOS responsibility. This set of responsibilities places the HOS as liaison between Staff and Management. This bridge between the two “cultures” is important as it helps to not only diffuse any tensions, but allows for more easily mediated conversation if there are problems or concerns. And while Management is often involved, HOS should be the individual talking to Security Staffers regarding their job performance. And while it is uncomfortable to discipline Security Staff, HOS must be directly involved in not only any disciplinary action, but in explaining to the employee why the action was taken.


The HOS should be one of the first to arrive on busy nights and one of the earlier arrivals on a regular night. This is to not only ensure adequate security (after all this individual should technically be able to run the place single handed, right?) but to take care of any pressing concerns for the upcoming night. Upon arrival, it is key that the HOS check in with his Staffers and Management as soon as possible. If posts for Staff are not set, HOS can then take the time to assign them or call for extra Staff should the evening require them.

HOS should be constantly roaming the establishment. (As a matter of fact, HOS Staffers are sometimes referred to as “Super Roamers”) They need to continuously check-in with Bartenders, Servers, Security Staff, Management, and every position that might have issues or concerns. A weak HOS spends their time locked in an office or schmoozing Patrons instead of actually making sure things are running well. The HOS needs to be prepared to insert themselves into any incident, complaint, or altercation scenario. More often than not, the appearance of the HOS will ratchet up the importance of any situation. Patrons know that things are now being handled by Management, not “just a guy in a security shirt”. 90% of the time this will diffuse tense situations, especially if the HOS is level-headed and talks to the Patrons in a calm, collected manner.

As the night progresses, the HOS must also be prepared to meet and greet Law Enforcement (for club walkthroughs or complaints), help the VIP Host with any VIP security needs, and if necessary, fill in any empty Staffer positions. And as if this wasn’t enough, the HOS should also be watching Patrons for misbehavior and excessive intoxication!

Post-shift, it is important for the HOS to meet with Security Staff and Management. Security Staff meetings do not need to be long, but the HOS must find out how the night went, if there were any incidents that were not reported, and most important: HOW THE STAFF IS DOING! This is the only time that the HOS can really get the low down from their Staff and they should make the most of it. They should also take this chance to let the Staff  know of upcoming events, schedule changes, notes from the night, etc. Once they are finished with Staff, they need a quick de-brief with Management to get/give even more information. After these end-of-night meetings, the HOS can then focus on any outstanding Incident Reports, paperwork, or Scheduling issues.

Being Head of Security is an extremely difficult balancing act. It is equal parts customer service, diplomacy, politics, and security. Your HOS needs to know when to step in to a situation and when to let the Staff handle it. The HOS must rely on training and brains first, for if they do not, disaster will surely ensue. Make sure that your HOS is level-headed and patient. Make sure they hold the safety and security concerns of your establishment as their main areas of interest, not meeting girls and being a tough guy. They must also remember that they are a member of a team, not a Lone Wolf out to protect their own interests. A team with a competent and fair leader will keep you protected all the time, every day.

Until next time…