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OU guarding

A case study of guarding at the Open University (OU), based at Walton Hall, in Milton Keynes.

The 110-acre site comprises 63 buildings and blocks that provide offices, laboratories, lecture halls, sports and social areas for over 4000 staff. There are also a dozen regional and national administrative centres and two warehouses. For the last seven years Corps Security has been charged with making sure that all of the OU sites are safe and secure.

Corps Security’s regional operations director, Nigel Horne, says: ‘The security operation at Walton Hall comprises a mix of manned guarding and surveillance technology. The manned guarding team consists of 16 core staff and seven relief personnel, with four officers on each shift. We ensure that all of those deployed understand the specific requirements necessary for carrying out their duties on this unique site, which include door locking/unlocking and car park management.’

The roads on site include some public rights of access. While open access to this large and complex site is seen as an essential ingredient of academic life and a positive, this does have risk attached to it. All officers are given Operation Fairway training and a five day on-site awareness course. Sensitive questioning, recognising hostile reconnaissance, post room threats and even sign language training is also delivered to aid vigilance, while staff from Corps Security also carry out regular ‘train the trainer’ style modules to supervisors and team leaders.

As well as manned guarding services, Corps Security now supplies the OU with remote intruder detection, access control and fire alarm monitoring services via the Corps Monitoring Centre (CMC). This Glasgow-based facility’s credentials include National Security Inspectorate (NSI) Gold accreditation alongside BS 8418 and ISO 9001:2008 certifications.

Nigel Horne adds: ‘Security is often viewed as an intangible service, so we have developed a system where it is possible to accurately measure our performance and clearly identify any areas that need addressing. At The Open University we have developed a system to define a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide a comprehensive set of quantitative and qualitative data. To encourage a strict regime of continuous service review and appraisal, regular meetings take place where we analyse achievements against agreed standards and look at where improvements could be made.’

This KPI assessment analyses everything from training and incident reporting to management visits and even the appearance and communications skills of officers. Scores are allocated using a one to four marking scheme – where 1 (0 per cent) is poor and 4 (100 per cent) is excellent. The target for Corps is to score 3 or 4 – and this has been done so, on average, 98.25 per cent of the time in the last rolling 12 month period.
Asked to describe the secret behind the working relationship between Corps and the university, Nigel Horne says: ‘It can be encapsulated in one word – partnership. Both parties demonstrate a willingness to work together in a way that encourages open channels of communication. This means that any necessary changes can be put into effect quickly to achieve common goals and objectives.’

Mary Legge, Head of Operations, Estates at The Open University, who says: ‘Corps Security provide an excellent service across all our sites and are an exemplar of how a manned guarding team should operate. They are an invaluable part of our operation and the positive feedback I receive from staff, students and visitors underscores how highly valued they are.’



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