Training

Bill Croft

by Mark Rowe

It’s some years since we last met trainer and consultant Bill Croft, though more recently in 2011 we did review his training book, Spectator Safety. We meet him at his Black Country office. This article appeared in the May 2013 print issue of Professional Security magazine. Pictured: Iwona Croft, Bill Croft and trainer and assessor Alan Eccles.

Bill Croft and Associates, began in 2000, offering training, consultancy and quality assurance advice, for instance for companies seeking NSI Gold or SIA approved contractor status; or Cougar Monitoring through British Standards for their control room. A year ago he created another company, APCT and worked with Henry Hislop of MAS Training and Consultancy. He got approval from exam awarding bodies such as IQ and NCFE for security and event stewarding qualifications, and for assessing trainers, besides related courses as in health and safety and first aid. The Uxbridge-based British Training Academy sought a Midlands hub; and Bill’s become the BTA’s Midlands division, managing courses around the country, besides still trading as APCT. Bill also works as an external verifier of courses for NCFE.
So what’s new? For one thing, a course from NCFE in civil contingencies. Bill described it as for people involved in silver and gold command posts; managers, rather than officers; emergency planners in local government; and maybe managers in shopping malls or nuclear power stations. Put another way, for managers who have been through police terrorism awareness courses such as Griffin and Argus. Civil contingencies is, arising from 9-11, the latest official way of describing a calamity, anything man-made or natural, flood, fire, or bomb, something major that goes beyond the normal disruption. A Buncefield explosion. You might think that such incidents are for the 999 services to solve and that they happen to someone else – utilities, railways, hospitals. They may indeed have a part to play in official response to a civil contingency, as some did on 7-7. But what if police cordon off an area and your mall is inside the cordon? And who staffs the cordon? Hence Project Griffin. The course, then, covers preparing and responding, and recovering from, a major incident. It’s a level four qualification, taking some 122 to 160 hours. It takes in check-lists; business continuity; exercises to validate your arrangements; communication with the community (during a chemical spill for instance); and de-briefs after the emergency.
As Bill says, in an emergency managers may have to work together very quickly, after the first people on the scene are, very often, security officers. Those first minutes and hours can tick by. I thought aloud of how incident response has changed even in 20 years. Then, after a chemical spill or industrial fire, say, you might have the local press and maybe TV and radio to handle. Now, social media and camera-phones mean, as on 7-7, that news spreads soon and fast. As Bill says, you have to have to deal with the media, and have a policy. Bill raised the question of a security guarding company; when people on the ground ask questions, what are the security officers to say, and what cannot they say? “Because the last thing you want to do is create panic. Incidents have to be managed and controlled; so it is about setting up cordons; if necessary, knowing what to say to the press, knowing what to say to the public. Because otherwise you end up with a totally unmanaged incident.” In short, get it right at the beginning so that people – the security team, the public, the police, fire and ambulance – know what to do. From his years of work with shopping centres, how retailers and shoppers need informing during an incident; you can give alerts by text straight to mobile phones. But how to know what to do, in the crisis, which always seems to happen when the manager who is supposed to do such things, is on holiday?! “There is a lot of value in putting down on paper and documenting exactly what it is that managers are supposed to do, and partners are supposed to be doing, and get someone qualified to teach it and assess it.”
The qualification may merely show what you do as part of your role; a formal qualification for what you already do. Bill, a former West Midlands Police man, chairs the Dudley borough business crime partnership.
A main part of the training work lately has been ‘upskilling’, to use the jargon, door supervisers in physical intervention (PI). For years, to recap, door staff taking a course for the SIA badge did not have to learn how to ‘intervene’ if a customer became violent or would not go quietly. Indeed, to pardon the pun, trainers had to lay off teaching doormen how to lay a hand on customers. As PI has to be part of some pub and venue door work, the regulator agreed to require such a course for newcomers to doors; now, even those doormen renewing their badge have to take an extra course in PI, to be able to keep working (legally). In an example of how an official training requirement prompts interest in other training, as in the mid-2000s when the SIA licences came in, Bill reports the extra PI training has brought more interest in martial arts, how to use handcuffs, and close protection; and indeed interest in teaching security and door courses. “And we get some very good teachers coming through us who have loads and loads of experience,” Bill says. As he says, teaching is not just about putting people through a scheme of work; it’s about passing experience on. You see the difference, he says, between someone very well-qualified who teaches without experience of what they are teaching; and someone who can talk with anecdotes, who can build scenarios into their lessons. Bill puts it into one word: credibility. I suggest to him that door staff are not people who will put up with teaching from the book, by someone they do not find credible. Bill replies that door supervisers have to be very good at communication skills, and at conflict management, ‘and conflict management means customer care, mainly’. That means knowing behaviour, and what might turn someone from being argumentative into violent, ‘and being able to manage that process’: “And then of course if it all goes wrong being able to use the physical intervention skills that are now taught on door courses, to be able if necessary to restrain that person and remove them from the premises in the right way, by using techniques that are taught by experienced and qualified people. The door courses have changed a lot over the last two or three years.” Bill added: “And a lot of security officers take door supervisers’ rather than guarding training.” Depending on role, PI may be something that security officers do: “If you are a security officer working in a busy, busy retail environment or if you are a security officer at a hospital, you are going to need those skills at some stage; you are going to have to know how to intervene physically, if required, and to do it effectively, in a way that is safe for you and the people you are dealing with.” Bill sat on the group that developed the NOS (national occupational standard) in event security. For years, as Bill says, it’s been recognised that stewards, though they don’t fall within SIA badging, may be asked by venues to do security, SIA-licensable, roles: searching people, guarding, denying people entry. Are you a steward or a security officer if you carry keys to gates?! Bill speaks of grey areas, and (in the hope of making some less grey) points out that the new NOS is called event security, rather than event stewarding. The next stages for the NOS are approval; and work with exam awarding bodies to begin training new stewards according to the standards.
The entertainment sector such as music concerts is booming, despite or because of the recession. That said, there is unemployment and traditionally security is seen (including by Jobcentres) as an entry-level job, if only as a stop-gap by the newly-jobless. Hence three-week full-time or six-week part-time courses, to give several qualifications, for instance in spectator stewarding and emergency first aid at work; or door supervision, in some cases including English as a second language. Once in the workplace, such course takers can gain NVQs; as you can only be assessed to get a vocational qualification, once you are in a workplace, such as a football ground for a steward. Football clubs are happy (and the stadium licensing body the FLA is satisfied) to take on such stewards and bring them to qualifications, over (say) a season.
I raise the point that UK training – and the trained security sector, for example in football stadia – enjoy a high reputation abroad, and indeed UK trainers are exportable and overseas security people visit the UK to learn. While it has to be said that, in stadia for instance, the UK has had to learn from tragic experience, it has led to standards, that can and do rise to the occasion; the Glastonbury midsummer music festival can run in mud, for instance. As contingencies arise seldom when you’re newly trained, refresher training matters, for instance for first aiders who may have a certificate but then never even touch a first aid box. Hence a workplace may ask for first aid refreshers to include scenarios, in pub retail, maybe someone falling on glass; in a shop, a mother in distress with a baby. Bill stresses how important it is to have realistic scenarios, when assessing people. It’s all very well to talk of and teach communication skills, in a classroom, but a bar on a Friday night is noisy, and well-lit, or not; how does a doorman even make himself heard?! “You have to be acutely aware of non-verbal body language,” Bill says. Nor is it even good enough for a doorman to sense that ‘Mr Angry’ is going to throw a punch at him – because what if the doorman stands aside, only for a customer to get punched? New scenarios arise; workers have new tools to use, in CCTV for instance; that maybe never were invented or thought of when they did their training. Workers, and trainers, have to stay competent, and up to date; do they read the news, do they visit IFSEC?

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