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Surviving the nightshift as a security operative

Surviving the nightshift as a security operative is no easy feat. While the world sleeps soundly, you’re tasked with ensuring the safety and security of people and property. The graveyard shift presents its own set of unique challenges, from battling fatigue and isolation to confronting unexpected security threats. The scenarios range from being a security guard in an office building overnight to being a door supervisor at a busy bar venue.

Drawing from the experience of seasoned security professionals who have spent countless nights patrolling buildings, monitoring surveillance systems and responding to emergencies, we have collated a comprehensive set of tips and hints that might be of help to you. None of these suggestions are rocket science, of course, and we are sure you know about most (if not all) of them already. However, it is often helpful to remind ourselves of these things from time to time.

Here are the key considerations we have focused on in this blog – the first six relate mostly to CCTV operators and security guards, and the remainder are more related to door supervisors and close protection officers.

1. Manage your sleep schedule

2. Maintain good sleep hygiene

3. Keep active on your shift

4. Caffeine intake

5. Healthy eating and exercise

6. Clothes and equipment

7. Regular training

8. Communication and teamwork

9. Protection of vulnerable people

10. Personnel planning

11. Route reconnaissance

12. Situational awareness

Surviving the nightshift as a CCTV operator or security guard

Maintaining a high level of vigilance is a critical requirement for high quality security guards, one that we all know is particularly difficult to practice during nightshifts when you are tired and there’s not much going on. It involves maintaining a high level of awareness despite long hours working in the darkness alone. Most people can remain vigilant in daylight hours when they’re well rested and there’s plenty to do, but it’s much trickier in the dead of night with lots of doing nothing…

1. Manage your sleep schedule

The importance of managing one’s sleep schedule cannot be overstated. For security guards on nightshifts, maintaining a consistent and adequate sleep routine is paramount. Sleep is the foundation upon which alertness, focus and decision-making capabilities are built.

Irregular sleep patterns can lead to fatigue, diminished cognitive function and increased vulnerability to security risks. It’s imperative to prioritise quality sleep during daytime hours if you’re working unsociable late shifts. By doing so, security guards ensure they are well-rested and prepared to confront whatever challenges await them.

A proper sleep schedule means waking and sleeping at the same hours every day. Following a routine like this has been found to dramatically improve the amount and quality of sleep you get.

This can be challenging, as you will be sleeping during the day when you may be tempted to make plans with friends and family, but deviating from this approach is a surefire way to wreck your schedule. Make plans for after you wake or for during your time off as, usually when working nights, you will be on a 4-on-4-off schedule.

2. Maintain good sleep hygiene

Two points on sleep? You’re right, there are! Whilst the first thing to look at for is managing your sleep schedule, the other is to maintain good sleep hygiene. This means there are certain things you should do to give your body the best chance of falling asleep in the first place, and then getting high quality sleep thereafter, something which is much harder to do when you’re going to sleep when the sun is coming up.

To reduce light, get some high quality blackout blinds or make use of an eye mask to make things completely dark. If you do have to be outside in daylight prior to getting home to bed, sunglasses can be a good option, especially if the sun is bright. Exposure to bright sunlight triggers hormone releases which keep us awake, something we want to avoid at all costs. Avoid using your smartphone or other devices when you get home too – whilst we understand that you may feel entitled to unwind with some form of entertainment after a long shift, be aware that these devices emit a blue light which will keep you awake for longer.

3. Keep active on your shift

When working the overnight shift, it’s critical to stay active; keeping yourself occupied will help to prevent you from falling asleep. Sitting still in a warm, quiet office staring at CCTV screens is a surefire way to doze off.

First and foremost, this means following your patrolling patterns. These should be regular and comprehensive. If you still have idle time, it often does no harm to complete the patrols more regularly to keep yourself moving your limbs and staying awake. In empty facilities, it’s key to feel intentional about looking for change. An opened door, an unchained gate, that sort of thing. Assuming the worst at all times is a good way to remain vigilant. Once you’ve done your rounds, there are your patrol reports and regular checks to work on. These should be filled in and logged as each patrol or check is carried out. These will help to keep your body and mind busy – both are important to staying awake and being alert.

Finally, a note on entertainment. It’s tempting to put some earphones in and listen to music or watch a video, but you need to be careful with this type of approach. While we understand the desire, it’s important not to engage in something too immersive as this can entirely distract you, meaning you fail to notice if an incident is unfolding. Avoid putting earphones in at all times – some low volume music when sat at a desk can be nice for short periods and help wake you up if you’re feeling sleepy, and keep your spirits high – but make sure the volume is low, and don’t spend the entire shift doing this. Whistling a tune or humming as you make your rounds indoors can also help you stay entertained.

4. Caffeine intake

The best sleep schedule in the world is sometimes not enough when battling your body’s sleep hormones, such as melatonin, which are naturally released in the nighttime darkness.

Careful use of caffeine can be a useful asset. Avoid loading up too much with energy drinks or strong coffees, as you can then struggle to sleep following work, plus they can leave you feeling wired and are not great for your health. But kickstarting a 12-hour shift with a caffeine boost can be a powerful way to keep you on your toes for a while. Sometimes, it’s the first bit of the shift which is the most difficult to get into. Caffeine can help you get through that block.

Alternatively, drink plenty of water – being well hydrated is another good way to stay awake and alert – and of course a healthier option than caffeine!

5. Healthy eating and exercise

One of the most important ways in which our bodies naturally regulate their sleep schedule is through good eating patterns. It’s a sensible idea to avoid large meals that are dense with carbohydrates or fats just before or during your shift, as these can leave you feeling sluggish and exacerbate a sense of tiredness and fatigue.

Try and eat a smaller meal prior to work, one that is rich in protein and nutrient-dense veggies. During work, some light healthy snacks – such as nuts – will help keep you feeling energised and alert. After the shift has ended, you can enjoy a heavier meal if you have been left hungry from work.

A final note on this is that working nighttime hours has a strong correlation with unhealthy eating and weight gain. It’s important to keep on top of this, not just to help you to do a better job as security guard or CCTV operator but, much more importantly, to maintain your long-term health.

6. Clothes and equipment

You can be working in the rain, snow, freezing cold or clammy summer heat as a security operative. Whatever the weather, whatever the season, take a moment or two to plan out the clothing you want to take on a shift. You’ll feel smug and proud if you’ve planned for every contingency, uncomfortable and miserable if you have not.

Waterproof safety boots, waterproof top layers and an assortment of underlayers will help keep you warm and dry, and let you manage your heat depending on the temperature outside. Being soaked through with rain or being so warm you start to fall asleep are both poor outcomes that come through lack of forethought. If you’re indoors at an office facility, say, a suit may be your assigned uniform. But if you need to go outside at any time, best not to get cold and wet if you can possibly avoid it.

Equipment-wise, a good handheld flashlight is an essential item, one that provides lots of brightness to light up unlit areas if you need to. We’re a big fan of Ledlenser, though of course they are not cheap. The Ledlenser P5R Work is a good allrounder if you want to make a sound investment in this regard.

It can also be handy to bring a lighter if you work outdoors – in the colder months, locks can freeze up and stop working, so a little heat can go a long way.

Surviving the nightshift as a door supervisor

While the above tips all have a degree of relevance to door supervisors, there are some additional considerations if you work in the nighttime economy dealing with members of the public. While you may not be so much at risk of falling asleep on shift, you are much more likely to encounter dangerous moments and significant risks that can often seem to occur out of the blue, or that escalate quickly without prior warning.

7. Regular training

Regular training comes first, as you should always be focused on continuing professional development (CPD) on an ongoing basis. Whether it’s top-up courses to ones you’ve already completed, regular retraining or learning new skills – such as emergency first aid – you need to be training regularly for all sorts of good reasons. Ultimately, it’s an investment in yourself. Surely is all about professionalising the marketplace, and this means that better qualified security operatives will get more work and earn more too.

Regular training also keeps you sharp, keeps important skills and techniques top of mind, and makes you more effective at your job. In stressful situations, we don’t tend to rise to the level of our ambition, we fall to the level of our training. Put simply, that means you’re only as good as your commitment to professional training. Keep yourself and everyone else safe by making CPD a priority.

8. Communication and teamwork

Working the doors in hospitality venues is a risky job, one in which you’re often lucky to have an uneventful night without any safety issues. It’s critical you remain in control of your own actions at all times, so that you can positively influence the behaviour of others in dangerous situations in order to create a safe environment and outcome for everyone involved.

High quality communication with customers can prevent most incidents. Clear instructions, firm but polite reasoning and non-threatening body language will go a long way to stopping things from getting out of hand. This represents the best option for everyone involved. Our SurelyPro Conflict Management badge goes into this in more detail. To have it on your Surely profile, demonstrates your commitment to this issue with potential clients.

Coordination with your team about situations as they’re developing is also important. While you will typically be outnumbered by those causing trouble, solid coordination and good communication within the team can prevent escalation and a serious problem occurring. The goal here is to remove people from the venue, or ideally to prevent entry without use of force. This will be much easier with a coordinated team who present a united front. Preventing people from entering, or being allowed to re-enter when asked to leave, requires everyone to be on the same page – and if you need to eject people from a venue, this will be much more safely achieved with a team of two or more door supervisors working together in a skilled way to execute the goal as efficiently and effectively as possible.

9. Protection of vulnerable people

While working the doors, one of your most important (and often overlooked) roles is the protection of vulnerable people. This is people inside your venue and can extend to those close by it late at night.

You are likely to experience some people in the venue drinking to excess and possibly even consuming illegal substances, especially at busy times – such as the weekend, promotional events and seasonal occasions. While you have a duty to the venue to complete searches and for the seizure of drugs, in the event that someone comes to you in an unwell state, the most important outcome to bear in mind is their health. Leaning on your first aid training here is key.

Most people just need some water and somewhere to sit down for a while. It’s important you try to offer this to begin with, rather than immediately ejecting them, even if you have to give them some water and ask them to sit down outside the venue. It’s dangerous to send someone in a vulnerable state out into the night alone, so try to be empathetic. We know it’s difficult, but it’s not just the right thing to do morally, it’s also an essential requirement of the job if you want to do it as well as possible.

If someone’s condition is rapidly deteriorating, seek a member of staff with medical response training if you don’t have it yourself, or contact the emergency services if you think it’s appropriate to do so. Quick, considered and confident action will make a big difference to achieving a positive outcome.

Surviving the nightshift as a close protection officer

If you’re a close protection officer, then you’ll probably know all of this stuff already. But it’s still important to refresh yourself about the basics, especially if you have been busy or stressed recently. After all, it’s not that unusual for CPOs to seek additional income as a door supervisor or security guard on occasion, especially in times of significant financial challenges such as we many of us are facing at the moment.

10. Personnel planning

To maintain vigilance and capability, you should strive to avoid working longer than 12 hours. It serves nobody well to have an exhausted close protection officer on the go, though sometimes we all know that this is unavoidable. In such instances, sleep, diet and exercise are good fallbacks, as well as the odd shot of caffeine to keep the eyelids from dropping. Water too is great at keeping your body hydrated and feeling energised.

11. Route reconnaissance

Prior to night shifts, close protection officers should conduct thorough route reconnaissance. This includes assessing potential ambush points, escape routes and areas of vulnerability to pre-emptively become aware of and to address any security concerns in advance. Threats can be harder to spot in the moment, but especially at nighttime, when it can be harder to find a way out on the go. That’s why it’s even more important to have a well-researched route when travelling, with alternative routes lined up so you can make sound choices about where it’s safe to spend time, given the risks to your principal.

12. Situational awareness

Maintaining heightened situational awareness is non-negotiable. Operatives must constantly assess their surroundings, anticipate threats and adapt to changing conditions – all while maintaining a discreet and professional demeanour to uphold a client’s confidence in their security. Good breathing and relaxing the neck and shoulders can help with this. You can also use some of our other tips to help you stay alert and enable you to effectively maintain your situational awareness.

Have your say!

So, we’ve listed 12 suggestions here on how to stay alert on the nightshift as a security operative, whether you are working as a CCTV operator or security guard, or as a door supervisor or close protection officer. We’re sure you’ve got your own nighttime hacks to stay alert during the graveyard shift, and we’d love to hear them – we’ll use the best tips and hints to create a follow up blog to this one. Please send in your recommendations on how to perform well as a security operative on the nightshift to info@surelysecurity.com.

 

 

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