How well-trained is that watchman at your gate?

Friday, November 15th, 2019 05:59 |
Julius Delahaije, CEO, SGA Security. PD/harriet james
Julius Delahaije, CEO, SGA Security. PD/harriet james

Tell us about SGA Security. 

The company was founded in 1969 as Factory Guards Limited. The group has grown from its original Nairobi base and today, is well represented in all sectors of the security market. SGA employs over 19,000 personnel in the region with presence in all major towns in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

How have security needs changed over the last 50 years?  

Security and safety was all about stealing of goods in construction sites and logistics 50 years ago. Our founder realised how vital security is, and that’s why he took over a security company. Over time, the business grew faster expanding not just in Kenya, but having huge operations in Tanzania and Uganda 

How different are the security needs in the three countries?

Although, we talk about East Africa as a one region, the three countries are different in terms of culture, state of development and security needs. There are also legislation differences and business competition, which pushes everyone to get the job done. Competition in Kenya is not about price wars among security firms, but quality. In the end you have to pay for quality as cheap security can be very expensive. 

Most people employ a watchman based on cost, but not skills or experience. Why do more? 

The security industry is regulated and minimum wage is controlled too, but there are many security firms offering services at below the minimum wage. If you pay a person half of what he is entitled to, is that person going to protect you? No. The monetary aspect in itself creates unsecure and unsafe situations. It’s easy for people with wrong intentions to pay your guard money to look the other way. If you don’t take security seriously and ask for quality, then most likely the security officer is untrained and clueless. There is a difference between somebody just standing in front of your door and a professional guard. People tend to forget that training costs money. 

For us, we have a training school where we instruct staff based on assignments. They are trained for a month followed by training on the job. Every year we offer refresher and upgrading courses depending on the nature of the job. 

For instance, a bank is different from a school or a factory. It requires all different types of security. All these costs money and if the client is not prepared to pay for the guards, then what am I offering?

What kind of training do your guards go through?

People think that physical exercise is the only thing that’s important, but its just part of it. Increasingly, technology has become an important element so people need to be trained on how to use the gadgets. If you can’t communicate, there is no security. We have special assignments where we use smartphones to take pictures or videos to back-up reports. Also vital is alertness on certain aspects: if you react physically first, then it’s too late. 

Understanding issues that require urgent attention such as ‘why is this man outside my gate for so long?’ You need to be trained to be sharp and alert. 

One also needs to be taught how to deal with remote controls, how to open gates electronically and how to identify and memorise faces. Currently, many doors open automatically and people use finger prints and face recognition for access control, but then you need to be sure that it’s the right person.  

 You might also make a building 99 per cent secure, but people can refuse to go there because the guards are not friendly; balance is key. The engagement with the guards is more than just pay, but creating loyalty with your staff.

Terrorism is a major security threat Kenyans are grappling with. What is your view on how buildings should be guarded?

Compared to Uganda and Tanzania, terrorist threats here are much more severe. We need more engagement with  communities and government because it’s not an issue for one client or company, but for all of us. We need to be alert and to improve communication with all parties involved. If you can’t start with your own communities and families, how can you then secure the broader picture? Currently, there are new regulations, which everyone is looking at. The more rules you have the clearer it is for everyone on how to deal with the situation. 

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