POST BY: Charles Broers, Head of Security at the BSN
I will begin by saying: Hello, my name is Charles Broers. Since the 1st of June 2018, I am the proud, new Head of Security at the British School in the Netherlands (BSN). I use the word ‘proud’ because whilst doing my background check (a part of the new applicant process), I discovered that the BSN and I share the same key values, namely ’head, hand, and heart.’
Head, Heart and Hand
In the world of security, we use the ‘head’ as our library. Education, training, experience and common sense, in combination with our intuition, are the main ingredients to spot unwanted situations and/or persons.
Similar to teachers, we use the ‘heart’ as our engine. You cannot perform at your optimal level as a security guard if you are not committed to do your job whole-heartedly. You will not see, notice or be able to respond if you are not vigilant.
As a physical tool, we use the ‘hand’ to prevent the unfavourable from happening. Prevention is indeed necessary, but, personally, I think we need to be pro-active as well. Not only must we take the necessary measures for safety – such as fences, identification, sign-in forms, cameras, and so on, but we should also be willing to go out of our way to address someone and wave, shake their hand or escort them elsewhere, if necessary. We should prepare to be active, rather than relying solely on prevention.
A School as a Small Village
I started my career in security after I resigned from the Special Forces. I wanted to do something to make the world a bit of a better (heart) place to live in. After being hired by a local security company, I was assigned to cover several asylum centres in the Netherlands. After one year of intense security work, I started to work for several international hotels in the Amsterdam and Schiphol region. This is where I really developed my security and safety profession, because a hotel is like a village – everything that happens in a small city, happens in a hotel. Once I left the hospitality industry, I spent the last nine and a half years working for Europol.
Which brings you to present day, where I am taking care of another small village: the BSN.
Talking With Children
For my first blog post, I would like to talk you about a video I watched, titled ‘Every Opportunity’. It is an American promotional video about the behaviour of adults towards children in a school environment. The reason I appreciate this video, is that it points out the difference between talking to and talking with children.
This seemingly minor detail is one that separates regular schools from excellent schools. I am happy to say that, even in my brief time at the BSN, I have found that we do exactly that. Every morning BSN staff welcome the students and their parents at the entrance of each campus, but, more importantly, we notice the children.
From the moment they step foot on campus, in class and throughout their day, we notice how the children are responding to us and each other. We notice if they are they happy or sad, tired or appear to have things on their mind. The teachers will then communicate with them and guide them in the best way possible.
Welcoming Guests and Visitors
This approach also applies to guests and visitors. On my first day at the BSN, I was acknowledged three times in less than 10 minutes whilst waiting for my appointment. You can imagine the big smile on my face when I thanked the staff for doing this (head, hand and heart).
It is this unique way of approaching students that can be fully integrated in our BSN security-awareness culture. The power of ‘hello,’ ‘good morning,’ ‘how are you,’ and ‘can I help you” is the single, most powerful defense mechanism in security. It is very impactful when we ask someone if we can help them. People with negative intentions don’t want to be noticed, and for sure do not want to be addressed.
Wearing a badge
It is for this reason that all BSN staff ensure they are easily identified by wearing their badges and address those who do not have one. Non-staff will be easily identified this way, but they can also see immediately who is a staff member. It really works both ways. This simple initiative makes the school much safer, and those with bad intentions are identified early and will most likely leave without succeeding in their intentions.
So, next time you’re in one of the BSN campuses, I hope you feel a safer after a greeting or two.
Thank you, be safe and say hello.