Security guard study guide
Use this study guide to prepare for basic testing to become a security guard in Ontario.
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This test preparation guide is designed to assist security guards in preparing for the ministry’s mandatory test. The guide will outline key areas that security guards should be familiar with to ensure they perform their duties in accordance with the Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005 (PSISA) and its regulations.
The subjects covered align with the ministry’s Training Syllabus for Security Guards. Although the guide is meant to assist candidates in preparing for and writing the test, it does not constitute a training manual, and is not a substitute for an in-person training course.
At the end of each section of this test preparation guide, you will find links to external resources that may be of further assistance to you. Many of these will bring you to various laws and regulations; it is recommended that you have an overall understanding of these and how they relate to key topics covered in the test.
Other links will bring you to existing training materials available to the public. While these materials may contain valuable information, please keep in mind that they were not specifically designed for Ontario’s security guard and private investigator training and testing program.
About the test
The ministry’s tests were developed by subject matter experts (SMEs) in the private security and investigative services industry who worked with the ministry’s test development consultant, CASTLE Worldwide Inc. The SMEs developed the test questions using a protocol of writing and review that conforms to the best practices of psychological and test development standards. They comprehensively reviewed and validated each question for appropriateness of the answers and correct answer keys. A panel of SMEs also reviewed and tested the questions and participated in setting the cut scores (pass marks) for the tests.
The security guard test is in a written, 60-question, multiple choice format. Test appointments are two hours in duration, 75 minutes of which is the allotted test completion time.
The licence test fee is $66.50 plus 13 per cent HST for a total of $75.15.
Test results will be made available within five business days of completion of the test. The cut score for the security guard test is 62%.
All tests must be booked in advance either online, or through a call centre agent.
You may only register and complete an examination if you hold a currently valid individual Ontario security guard licence, or if you have completed mandatory training that meets the ministry’s requirements.
Candidates who are not licensed by Private Security and Investigative Services Branch must complete ministry prescribed basic training before they become eligible to register for and complete an examination.
If you are already licensed, you may only take the test for which you are licensed, or for which you have taken a ministry approved training course. It is important to take the test well in advance of your licence expiry to ensure there is adequate time to process the reissued licence.
For information on the ministry’s training and testing regulation, on the topics covered in the training syllabi and the tests, you must contact the Private Security and Investigative Services Branch:
To book a test, and for any information regarding test scheduling and payment, you must contact the ministry’s test delivery agent, Serco DES Inc.:
Section 1 - Introduction to the Security Industry
The Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005) regulates the private security industry. The PSISA was proclaimed into force on August 23, 2007 to help professionalize the security industry, increase public safety and ensure practitioners receive proper training and are qualified to provide protective services. The PSISA and its regulations govern the way the private security industry operates in Ontario.
The Training and Testing Regulation made under the PSISA came into force on April 15, 2010. All security guards must fulfill the mandatory requirements of the Training and Testing Regulation in order to be eligible to apply for a licence.
Individuals are required to have a security guard licence if they perform work, for remuneration, that consists primarily of protecting persons or property. This includes but is not limited to bodyguards, bouncers and loss prevention personnel, and more generally speaking, individuals who patrol premises.
Training Syllabus for Security Guards
Section 2 - The Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005 and ministry Code of Conduct
Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005 and regulations
The PSISA regulates the security industry. As such, security guards must be familiar with the PSISA to ensure they follow the regulations and prohibitions, including the Code of Conduct.
Here are some of the key points that affect individual licensees directly.
In order to be eligible for a security guard licence, all individuals must:
- have completed the required training and/or testing
- be at least 18 years old
- possess a clean criminal record, according to the Clean Criminal Record regulation (note: not all criminal charges or convictions will prevent a person from obtaining a security guard licence. See below for more information on the Clean Criminal Record regulation)
- be legally entitled to work in Canada
People who apply for a security guard licence will be required to show proof that they meet all of these requirements. If they are not eligible for a security guard licence, their application will not be processed. For more information about the identification requirements consult the ministry website.
General rules and standards of practice
These are some of the rules that security guards must be mindful of during their day-to-day activities. They can be found between sections 35 and 40 of the PSISA.
- Security guards must always carry their licence with them when they are working (including “plain-clothes” security guards, e.g. loss prevention personnel or bodyguards). They must also identify themselves as security guards, and show their licence, if a member of the public asks them to do so.
- With the exception of bodyguards and loss prevention personnel, security guards must wear a uniform while working. See below for further information on the Uniforms regulation.
- Security guards are prohibited from carrying any symbol of authority, other than their licence and uniform (for example, a metal badge is prohibited).
- Security guards are prohibited from holding themselves out as police officers, or performing police-related duties. For this reason, they are also prohibited from using the following words when referring to their work as security guards:
- detective or private detective
- law enforcement
For example, security guards are prohibited from referring to themselves as “security officers”.
In addition to the PSISA, there are several regulations which govern security guards. Many of these regulations apply only to employers. However, individual licensees should be familiar with the regulations, particularly those that affect them directly:
Code of Conduct
This regulation defines what kind of behavior is appropriate or inappropriate for security guards to display while they are working. Security guards will find that respecting the Code of Conduct is, in most cases, a matter of common sense – security guards are expected to treat members of the public in a respectful and professional manner. For instance, security guards must:
- act with honesty and integrity
- comply with all federal, provincial and municipal laws
- treat all persons equally (without discrimination)
- avoid using profanity or abusive language
- avoid using excessive force
- not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty
With the exception of bodyguards and loss prevention personnel, all security guards must wear a uniform that complies with the Uniforms regulation. If a guard works for a licensed security agency, his or her employer is responsible for ensuring that the uniform meets all the requirements. Please note, security guards must also be familiar with the regulation, as it is their responsibility to wear the proper uniform on a daily basis. Some key points to look out for:
- The term “SECURITY” or “SECURITY GUARD” must be displayed on the uniform in specific places and specific dimensions.
- The uniform must include an identification tag, which shows the licensee’s name, or licence number or both.
- A security guard uniform should not bear any traits that resemble a police uniform, such as rank chevrons, a police-style forage cap, or stripes down the side of the trousers.
Eligibility to hold a licence – clean criminal record
This regulation lists a series of criminal offences which are prescribed under the PSISA. Persons who have been convicted of any of these offences and have not received a pardon are not eligible for a security guard licence, and any application they submit cannot be processed.
Persons who have been convicted of or charged with an offence that does not appear in this regulation may be eligible for a licence. The Private Security and Investigative Services Branch (PSISB) will need to review their file to determine if any restrictions should apply. The applicant may be given an opportunity to be heard in order to discuss their case.
Members of the public may file a public complaint against any licensed individual or licensed company if they feel that a violation of the PSISA or its regulations has been committed.
Public complaints can lead to facilitation. As well, the PSISB may investigate the matter and as a result, charges may be laid against the licensee, a warning may be issued, or the licence may be revoked.
Penalties for contravening the act
Individuals found guilty of offences under the PSISA could face a fine of up to $25,000, imprisonment for up to one year or both. As such, it is crucial that security guards comply with all aspects of the PSISA and its regulations to avoid the possibility of being named in a complaint or facing charges.
Section 3 - Basic security procedures
Security guards need to respond to changes in their environment, which includes actions such as traffic movement, ensuring the safety of persons between and within locations, monitoring and managing the access and departure of persons and vehicles and observing and monitoring people. Security guards need to be aware of the correct way to deal with these situations. They should have the knowledge and skills required to assess the security of physical environments, to apply basic aspects of security in their roles and to assess the impact of drug use in the context of safety for oneself and others. This section represents generally accepted practices throughout the security guard industry.
Important note: In this section a number of activities are discussed which are generally accepted as good practices for someone working as a security guard. Practices may vary from one security company to the next so in addition to understanding the requirements of the legislation and regulations it is important the security guard is also familiar with the policies of their employer and not to rely solely on subjects covered in this guide or the ministry syllabus.
Duties of a security guard
The duties and responsibilities of a guard vary from site to site. Guards must be well attuned to changes and developments within the industry and the expectations and obligations that are owed to the client, the public, and/or their employer.
It is the role of a security guard to protect people, property and information.
This may involve but is not limited to:
- Ensuring premises and property are protected in an appropriate and effective fashion against a variety of natural and man-made threats.
- Preventing, detecting and reacting appropriately to the commission of criminal and quasi-criminal actions on or against the property of the client.
- Interacting with law enforcement officials and the justice system, where necessary, such as apprehending and detaining someone who has committed a criminal offence. Security may be able to supplement the efforts of police by securing crime scenes until the police can arrive. Security personnel may also be a valuable source of information to the police.
- Providing leadership and direction in emergencies and assisting emergency personnel in times of crisis, e.g. directing fire fighters to the easiest/best way to get to the scene of the fire.
- Controlling access to a site, including monitoring entrance & gate passage, escorting people and valuables, inspecting bags.
- Controlling or restoring order to a crowd.
- Preventing work accidents by being aware of potential dangers, reporting safety hazards and following directions to minimize the risk posed to others.
While there can be no doubt that some situations will involve physical intervention, the majority of tasks assigned require a security guard to observe, deter, record and report only.
Access control policies vary from company to company.
Security guards may be required to observe and record who enters and exits a site. A completed log sheet should record the individual’s name and the time of entrance to, and exit from the site. The information obtained will permit guards to locate visitors, either while on the property in the event of an emergency, or at a later time after they have left.
A visitor’s pass also contains information which helps the guards to determine whether a visitor has to be escorted, the name of the person who has authorized the visit, the status of the visitor and their business while on the site.
One of the most sensitive tasks that a security guard will have to deal with is the issue of the removal of materials from a work site. People routinely leave a site with things like computers, computer disks, and briefcases full of materials.
The client (for example, a warehouse owner) must determine what steps are necessary to protect his/her property. Security should follow these instructions carefully. The guard should comply with the rules of access and protocols which should be provided by the security guard’s supervisor when introducing employees to a new site.
On private property, a security guard may have a role in maintaining crowd control and if it escalates, there may be a necessity to call the police. When crowd control is necessary, efforts to restore the peace or to control the crowd should be made with several things in mind:
- the risk to life and/or property whether or not action is taken
- the personal risk to the security guard
- instructions of the guard’s supervisor or the client
- risks posed by leaving the post
- availability of support or backup
- development of tactics or plans for dealing with the situation
After considering these factors and if the crowd threatens to get out of control the security guard may wish to contact the police.
Traffic control and parking
A security guard may be called upon to control traffic on private property at gated entrances to buildings or in parking lots, to ensure traffic safety and to assist in the movement of vehicles. It is important for the guard to use conventional signals and movements in order to be understood and seen by the drivers. Guards should be dressed comfortably according to weather conditions. Proper reflective vests or cuffs must be worn to ensure visibility. This control should be done in a courteous and persuasive manner, trying to make people understand the reasons for the control.
The main purpose of a patrol is to maintain the security of the premises under the security guard’s authority. Preparation for a patrol should always begin with an understanding regarding the purpose of the patrol. For example, is the security guard:
- expected to keep intruders away?
- assist members of the public who appear confused or in need of assistance?
- check boilers and other equipment, to make sure they are still functioning safely?
The purpose of a patrol can change from time to time, even within a single shift. The first time that a patrol is made, security may focus on breaches of the property by an intruder; the second time, to make sure that the safety equipment on machinery in the area is functioning properly; the third time, to check again for intruders and breaches of the work site, and so on.
A thorough knowledge of the geography of the area to be patrolled is essential. The security guard should determine in advance where telephones, water shut-off valves, electrical and alarm panels and light switches are located, and where emergency lighting is provided. The guard should also know where emergency equipment, such as back-up generators, first aid kits, fire alarms, hydrants, and extinguishers, is located. The guard should know the best routes to follow in an emergency, selecting the simplest, most direct route with the least number of safety hazards.
The guard should make a list of activities that need to be done while on a specific patrol and devise the route in advance, including a map of the major check points, passageways, rooms, stairwells, doors and windows, and so on. Alternate routes should be planned in case specific areas are made inaccessible due to an emergency such as a fire, explosion, or chemical leak. The timing and route of the patrol should be varied to ensure that it does not become too routine or too predictable. The guard should make sure he or she possesses the proper equipment, including appropriate clothing.
Foot patrol is the most common method of patrol in the security industry. It is normally utilized where it is not possible to provide the same protective coverage through other methods such as motorized patrol or electronic surveillance. Virtually all of the senses of the security guard (sight, hearing, smell, and touch) may conceivably be used during foot patrol.
- highly visible
- knowledge of patterns and characteristics of an area may help to anticipate an incident before it becomes more difficult to control
- all senses may be used
- ability to access smaller spaces such as stairwells
- restricted mobility and area of coverage
- length of time to patrol
- inclement weather prevents or curtails some activities
- difficulty in carrying equipment such as reports, forms, and first-aid kits
- communication may present a problem, unless portable radio or telephone equipment is used
- supervision of foot patrols is difficult
This type of patrol normally covers areas that are too great to be covered on foot. The vehicles may be equipped with radios or mobile telephones and commonly are in constant communication with the dispatcher. Precise instructions are given about the type of patrol required. The patrols will often include parking lots, storage yards, perimeter fence lines, outer perimeters and areas that are impractical to patrol on foot.
When a vehicle is used for patrol, security guards have the added responsibility to check that the vehicle is functioning properly and will not become a hindrance before taking the vehicle for patrol.
- motor patrol is highly visible
- larger areas can be covered in a shorter period of time
- speed in responding to other areas of the site increased
- additional equipment may be carried
- protection from inclement weather – rain, snow, temperature extremes
- the vehicle may be restricted to particular areas, such as roads or paths
- vision may be partially restricted inside a vehicle
- inclement weather may prevent or curtail some activities
- the engine noise made by a motor vehicle may mask some noises or alert others of the presence of security
- sealed cabs on some vehicles may prevent the detection of some dangerous situations (for example, the potentially hazardous fumes that a guard on foot would smell might not be noticed by someone inside a vehicle)
Surveillance (non-mobile patrol)
Also known as visual or fixed patrols, with the assistance of technology, surveillance enables a guard to remain stationary but keep a constant watch over a specific area. For example, an entrance/exit point may be kept under continuous observation, or an entire complex could be kept under guard with the assistance of mirrors, security cameras and fences.
- access and egress (entry and exit) of the site readily controlled
- difficult for individuals to enter the premises and physically attack the guard
- guard station or highly-visible camera placement act to deter would-be perpetrators
- lower number of guards required to contain the area
- cameras and fences may be circumvented or defeated
- all areas cannot be kept under continuous observation – blind spots will exist despite careful planning
- reliance on equipment that may fail, especially in adverse weather conditions
- personnel must concentrate on one area for long periods of time
- reliance on only one sense – vision
- response may be restricted to calling police or internal personnel, especially if the guard is not on site but is monitoring from a different location
Security guards may encounter individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They need to be aware of the signs of substance abuse as well as the impact of different drugs on human behaviour (e.g. suspect going through withdrawal) in order to deal with these individuals in a manner that will ensure personal safety as well as that of the suspect. Guards should have an overall understanding of different types of drugs and paraphernalia, the impact of using drugs on human behaviour and how to address individual behaviour depending on the type of substance.
Section 4 - Report writing
Security guards are required to complete written reports of occurrences, duties performed and comprehensive descriptions of their tasks/observances. They should have an understanding of how to write reports that are objective and standardized.
A notebook is arguably a security guard’s most important tool – it is used on a daily basis to provide an account of the events that unfolded on that day.
A notebook should be kept as neat as possible, be organized chronologically, and should not be tampered with (for example, no pages should be torn out, as it may give the impression that the security guard was trying to remove information). Overall, the accuracy and the transparency of the notebook will reflect the integrity and reliability of the security guard.
It is the security guard’s responsibility to make sure that their notebook is secure (for example, the guard must not leave a notebook unattended in a place where a member of the public could access it). However, the notebook is ultimately the property of the security guard’s employer, so entries should be as legible as possible, with an emphasis on accurate spelling of names and locations.
Reports should stick to factual information and observations, rather than opinions and assumptions, and should contain answers to the following questions:
- who? (names of suspects, victims, complainants, witnesses, etc.)
- what? (description of what happened, what each person involved did, what evidence is available, etc.)
- when? (time, date, sequential account of what happened from start to finish)
- where? (location where the incident took place, where each person involved was situated, where evidence was found, etc.)
- why? (describe the motives for what happened, if they are evident)
- how? (how the incident happened, how each person involved was acting, etc.)
Reports as evidence
Security guards may receive a subpoena and be called upon to testify in court in relation to a situation they dealt with. They may be asked to recall specific details about the situation, so it is imperative for the security guard to keep thorough and accurate notes. When on the witness stand, the security guard may be permitted to refer to his or her notes. However, the notes should serve as a memory aid only: if the notes are clear, they will help the security guard recall details about a situation, but the security guard should not have to read directly from the notes. As such, prior to appearing in court, the guard should carefully review all notes and try to remember as many details about the situation as possible.
A security guard may on occasion be required to take a statement to secure the information provided by a witness. The key purpose of taking a statement is to ensure an accurate record of the recollection of an event or occurrence by the witness. A statement should be taken freely with no threat or promise made to the witness.
Statement protocols vary from company to company. General good practice is for statements to include the following:
- full name of the witness, date of birth, identification
- employment of the witness and contact information
- address of the witness, location of statement
- date of interview
- time commenced and concluded
- name of security guard and company who took the statement
- an introduction paragraph including day’s events and observations
- verbatim (word for word) transcription of the witness’ recollection of the events
- closing paragraph that ends the statement
For example, the closing statement can read:
“I, (witness name), have read the above six-page statement and find it to be accurate to the best of my recollection. I have been advised that I could omit, delete or change any part of the statement prior to signing it.”
As this example indicates, the security guard should give the witness the opportunity to review the statement and ask for changes to be made before they agree to sign it. If a change is requested, a line should be drawn through the item being removed, with the initials of both the witness and the security guard at the beginning of the correction and the end.
Section 5 - Health and safety
The requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) ensure the occupational safety of security guards and those with whom they interact.
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
WHMIS is a national system that provides information about dangers and safe handling of materials in the workplace, including biological and chemical substances. The goal is to ensure that workers have the knowledge and skills to protect their health in the workplace. Security guards may not work directly with hazardous materials, but may be exposed to them at work. Security guards should be familiar with the WHMIS symbols and how to respond to hazardous situations.
WHMIS sets out the responsibilities of suppliers, workers, and employers. Information about hazardous products should be readily available in the workplace. The employer must have procedures in place that are appropriate for the workplace and conditions of use of a product.
Security guards should have training to understand workplace hazards and know what controls are in place to protect them from such materials, including operational policies or personal protective equipment. Security guards should also be informed by their employer about procedures to follow in case of an emergency with hazardous materials.
Security guards should be prepared to deal with an emergency situation. This includes reviewing any available Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for potentially hazardous materials. Security guards should evaluate the hazards they may be exposed to and consider the tools and equipment needed in an emergency. Emergency response contact numbers should also be posted in a visible location.
When there is a health and safety risk that requires emergency response, security guards should:
- know when to initiate the emergency response plan
- evacuate the area and restrict access
- contact the employer’s WHMIS response team or emergency services
Some examples of situations that may require emergency response include chemical spills or leaks, fires or explosions, or improper exposure to a dangerous substance.
Section 6 - Emergency response preparation
Security guards are expected to respond to emergency situations and to minimize the impact caused where the security guard is working. They may be required to perform a variety of duties during emergency procedures and should understand the importance of scene management.
It is important for security guards to know how to identify potential emergencies and what procedures to follow.
Emergencies may involve fire, bombs, weapons, suspicious packages or explosive devices. The extent of personal injury or property damage that arises from an emergency situation can vary.
Emergency response procedures
Security guards should be familiar with any emergency response procedures shared with them by their employer to ensure an effective response during an emergency. These procedures provide a course of action for preparing and responding to an emergency.
Security guards should be aware of any plans that are in place to respond to any sudden, unexpected action that may cause personal injury or property damage. Plans would be based on the best available information as to the type of emergencies that may arise and the extent of personal injury and property damage that may occur. These plans would determine what equipment should be acquired and what training should be provided in order to respond effectively and quickly to any emergency.
Potential roles of a security guard during an emergency
A security guard’s role in certain emergency situations is determined by the employer or client and should be documented before the security guard begins to work on the site.
For example, the expected response to an intrusion alarm will vary depending on the employer. In some cases, the security guard will be expected to call the clients and the police and await their arrival. In other cases, security guards may be asked to investigate the cause of the alarm and secure the scene.
In the case of a fire, the security guard may be expected to activate the fire alarm and contact the fire department. The security guard may also be expected to assist with the evacuation of the premises, including crowd control, and provide direction to emergency personnel when they arrive.
Prevention and detection of fires
The detection and prevention of fires is an essential part of the duties of a security guard.
Whether on patrol or operating a fixed point, a security guard should be constantly on the lookout for fire hazards. Watching for the common things that are likely to generate a fire (for example, electrical equipment that produces heat or sparks when it shouldn’t, combustibles placed near sources of heat, or routinely scanning for evidence that a fire has already started such as alarms that have been activated or smoke and heat in places where they shouldn’t be found) is likely to assist security guards in the performance of their duties.
Some basic things to watch for:
- explosives or flammables should not be stored near potential sources of ignition
- corridors, particularly those that are likely to be used in an emergency evacuation, should always remain free of obstructions or impediments, and combustible or flammable materials should not be stored there
- exit doors, including the floor area on both sides of the exit door, should be kept clear and accessible at all times
- damage or deterioration of fire suppressors
- fire alarm systems must be operative
Security guards respond to alarms, and should have a basic understanding of the principles of protective and fire alarm systems that they are likely to encounter, with some information on the functioning of such systems.
There are several types of alarm systems:
- infrared (most common) - detects motion in large areas by picking up infrared (heat) changes
- physical contact - detects a door or window being opened when the two parts of a sensor come apart
- photo-electric beams - detects a visible or infrared beam being broken, like garage doors use
- seismic - detects physical shocks in certain frequency ranges like glass breaking
- vibration - detects movement using very sensitive sensors mounted on fences or other structures
- ultrasonic (rare) - detects motion like bats, using bouncing sound waves we can't hear
- microwave (rare) - detects motion using bouncing microwaves
- electric fields (rare) - detects presence using electrical wires, measuring changes in amplitude
- trip wires (rare) - detects intrusion when someone physically bumps a tightly strung wire
During alarm response, guards should stay in touch with the dispatcher, a supervisor, or another guard when possible. The guard’s own safety is the priority. If a crime is witnessed or confirmed from the findings, the guard should call police immediately and back off, observing the area from a safe distance.
Duty of care
Security guards need to be familiar with the concept of duty of care (what a reasonable person should do in a particular situation) and be capable of securing and protecting a crime scene until the appropriate personnel arrive.
Section 7 – Canadian legal system
Security guards work within the Canadian legal system. They need to be familiar with the Criminal Court System, the Ontario Evidence Act, the Canada Evidence Act and how these apply to their positions to ensure the information they obtain is admissible in court. They should have an understanding of the differences between federal, provincial and municipal law and the differences between criminal and civil law. They should have an understanding of the hierarchy of the court system and the requirements for the admissibility of evidence.
Canada's court system
Security guards may be required to prepare for legal proceedings, present evidence, prepare themselves and/or witnesses for testimony and follow up on the outcome of court proceedings. Security guards need a general understanding that all investigations should be concluded as if the case could potentially go to trial and therefore handle themselves accordingly to ensure that no procedural or administrative mistakes are made.
This chart provides an overview of the hierarchy of Canada's court system. It is arranged as follows:
- Supreme Court of Canada
- Court Martial Appeal Court
- Military Courts
- Provincial/Territorial Courts of Appeals
- Provincial/Territorial Superior Courts
- Provincial/Territorial Courts
- Provincial/Territorial Superior Courts
- Federal Court of Appeal
- Federal Court
- Tax Court of Canada
- Court Martial Appeal Court
Administrative Boards and Tribunals
- Provincial/Territorial Administrative Tribunals
- Federal Administrative Tribunals
Evidence handling techniques
Where police are not immediately available, security guards may be called to secure evidence that may be used in court. They should know how to collect and preserve evidence while preventing it from becoming contaminated. They should also know how to present admissible evidence in court. The six core steps for containing evidence are collect, secure, preserve, identify, ensure continuity, and log.
Care and control of evidence
In the event of an incident security guards should treat all evidence as though it could potentially be used in a trial. When physical evidence is presented at a trial, a chain of custody of the uninterrupted control of evidence must be clearly shown; the evidence must be properly identified and must be relevant to the case before the court. If the security guard must collect the evidence, the bag in which it is contained should be marked with the security guard’s initials and the time and date when gathered. It is important to limit the number of individuals who handle the evidence to the smallest number possible and properly document each transfer in order to maintain the chain of custody.
Criminal law is the standard of behaviour that governs all people in our society. Its main purpose is to protect all citizens, keeping communities peaceful and safe by regulating our conduct. A person accused of committing a criminal offence is entitled to appear in a court of law to answer to the accusation. The Court must be satisfied that the person is guilty of the conduct – that is, an offence detailed in the Criminal Code has been committed – before punishing the person. The Court can be satisfied of this in one of two ways: by the accused person admitting guilt (a guilty plea), or by finding the person guilty after trial. The federal government has the responsibility of creating criminal laws and has placed the bulk of them in a comprehensive piece of legislation called the Criminal Code.
Provinces have passed acts which create provincial offences. Provincial offences in Ontario are prosecuted under the Provincial Offences Act and are processed much like summary conviction offences under the Criminal Code.
By definition, these laws are specific to each municipality. Security guards need to be aware of the by-laws that are specific to their area. Typically, each municipality will have by-laws in place to regulate things such as noise limits, occupancy limits, traffic rules, etc.
Security guards can access the list of by-laws in their area by contacting their municipality’s town or city hall, or by visiting its website.
Section 8 – Legal authorities
The section focuses on the broader legal context of private security including the rights and limitations when performing duties as a security guard. This includes understanding where a security guard derives his/her authority to carry out job functions. An understanding of legislation in addition to the PSISA that impacts on the job of a security guard is recommended.
Handling information and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a law designed to protect personal information. If while performing duties as a security guard you are handling personal information, you should not use or disclose it. There may be other privacy legislation that relates to the handling of information by a security guard, such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).
Trespass to Property Act
This Ontario law allows occupiers of private premises to determine who is or isn’t allowed on these premises. An occupier may also designate individuals who are authorized to act on the occupier’s behalf when it comes to allowing individuals on their premises. By nature, security guards often fill this role, as it is usually their responsibility to control access to a specific location.
According to subsection 2(1) of the act, a person may be found guilty of a trespass offence if:
- they enter a location where entry is prohibited
- they engage in an activity that is forbidden on the premises
- they refuse to leave when asked to do so by the occupier or an authorized person (e.g. a security guard)
If entry is prohibited or restricted, notice must be given to the individual, either verbally, in writing, or with the aid of signs or markings.
Persons in violation of section 2 of the Act may be arrested without a warrant. A security guard who arrests a person under the authority of the Trespass to Property Act must contact the police as soon as possible and deliver the individual to a police officer.
Security guards may also want to familiarize themselves with the following legislation:
- Employment Standards Act, 2000
- Labour Relations Act, 1995
- Liquor Licence Act
- Provincial Offences Act
- Residential Tenancies Act, 2006
Security guards may encounter situations in which they need to deal with indictable or summary offences. They need to be able to accurately identify and categorize offences when on duty and understand when they are able to conduct a citizen’s arrest according to the Criminal Code.
Powers of arrest
Security guards have neither police nor peace officer powers. They have the same powers as any member of the public under the Criminal Code. Specifically, section 494 of the Criminal Code describes when it is appropriate for a member of the public to make an arrest.
If a security guard is guarding property and is authorized by the owner of the property or the person in lawful possession of the property, they may make an arrest for any criminal offence that is committed on or in relation to the property, as long as the security guard witnessed the offence being committed.
If the offence is an indictable offence, they may make the arrest, even if the offence is not committed on or in relation to the property they are guarding, so long as the security guard has witnessed the offence. Security guards should therefore understand the distinction between an indictable offence and a summary offence. Typically, indictable offences are more serious; a lot of the offences that security guards normally encounter are indictable, e.g. theft.
Once an arrest has been performed, the security guard must deliver the individual to a peace officer as soon as possible.
Section 9 - Effective communications
Security guards encounter a wide range of situations and are required to act professionally under all circumstances. Effective communication is an essential skill for security guards in order to adapt to different scenarios and defuse situations when required.
There are many different mediums for communication, including writing (reports, company policies), in-person, by phone, by e-mail, through two-way radios, and by video recording.
Security guards must be able to communicate with a wide array of individuals both orally and in writing to obtain information. Information provided by a security guard, presented orally or in writing, should always be clear and concise, and use appropriate language. Information should be conveyed accurately and without personal bias or opinion.
Communication also uses non-verbal cues, such as body language. A security guard’s posture, gestures, facial expression and eye contact can all convey information.
Security guards should check with their employers about communication protocols for specific situations, such as fire alarms, and the use of special communications equipment like two-way radios (See Appendix B for Association of Public Safety Communication "10" Codes).
Some general rules applicable to all communications are:
- be brief
- be explicit
- be concise
- make sure you are understood
- do not be antagonistic
It is important to adjust a communication style to accommodate a situation or an audience. Security guards should be able to adjust their behaviour and demeanour accordingly. Assisting an injured individual will not require the same communication tactics as controlling a rowdy crowd. Effective communication also ensures that security guards can be assertive without being confrontational.
In any situation, it is important to communicate in a clear and concise manner. The tone, volume, and cadence with which a message is presented can have a significant outcome in how it is received by its audience. Tone, volume, and cadence are especially important when dealing with people over the telephone where nonverbal cues are not available to help them interpret your reaction to the situation.
Security guards must frequently interact with others, whether it is their employers, peers, clients, or the public. Being courteous and professional are always essential and help to establish rapports and build trusting relationships. Strong interpersonal skills also allow security guards to relate well to others and prevent or defuse difficult situations.
See Appendix B: Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) "10" Codes.
Section 10 - Sensitivity training
Security guards interact with the public on a daily basis. It is important that individuals are approached with respect.
Security guards should have an understanding of the different types of prejudice that exist as a result of differences between people, including (but not limited to):
- ethnic background
Security guards should learn to identify their own biases in order to prevent them from affecting the way they interact professionally with members of the public. They should also understand the ways in which miscommunication and misinterpretation can take place between two people who come from different backgrounds, and should therefore be sensitive to differences when dealing with a person.
Legally, security guards must comply with the Code of Conduct Regulation under the PSISA as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC), and are therefore obliged to treat all persons equally and without discrimination.
The OHRC is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination.
Security guards should also be order to ensure they provide appropriate service to those with disabilities.
Section 11 - Use of force theory
Security guards may find themselves in a situation where they need to use force. An understanding of use of force theory, the components of the use of force model and how to maintain composure during potentially stressful situations is required.
Where a security guard is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law, section 25 of the
It is important that security guards have an understanding of use of force theory in order to avoid using excessive force. Security guards should also be familiar with the concepts of excited delirium syndrome and positional asphyxia; these may occur when a person is being physically restrained, and may lead to sudden or unexpected death.
Typically, a person suffering from excited delirium will display signs of severe mental disturbance, and may act violently and aggressively. If a person appears to be delirious, the security guard should avoid agitating or exciting them. Excited delirium can be caused by a variety of factors (or a combination of them), such as drug use, mental illness, brain injuries or tumors, heart disease, high blood pressure, high or low blood sugar, respiratory problems, or fever.
Positional asphyxia could happen to any person being physically restrained, but the risk of it is much higher for individuals suffering from excited delirium. When being restrained, a person should not be placed in a position that may prevent them from breathing properly – they should not be held face down, and there should be no pressure on their chest.
The National Use of Force Model is a situational model which may help security guards understand the appropriate level of force to use in a given situation. Based on the situation and the behaviour of the subject (black and white/inner circles), the security guard should assess the situation and determine what type of response is appropriate (coloured/outer circles). For example, a security guard would not use hard physical force against a subject who is being cooperative.
Section 12- Emergency level first aid
Emergency Level First Aid training and certification is a requirement of the basic training program for security guards. The equivalent to St. John Ambulance course Emergency Level First Aid is the standard.
Upon completion of an emergency level first aid course, security guards should be familiar with:
- emergency scene management
- treatment of shock, unconsciousness and fainting
- choking – adults
- severe bleeding
- one rescuer CPR – adult
Note: This section is not a substitution for in-course training and certification.
First Aid is made up of both knowledge and skills. Some of that knowledge can be found in this study guide, and it can be learned by studying it. The best way to acquire First Aid skills is to take a recognized First Aid course from a qualified instructor. Emergency Level First Aid is a mandatory component of the training program for new security guards. For more information consult the “Training and Testing” section of the ministry website.
What is first aid?
First Aid is emergency care or treatment to an injured or ill person using readily available materials before regular medical attention can be obtained. First Aid is intended to preserve life, prevent further injury and promote recovery.
Anyone can take charge of an emergency scene and provide first aid. Ambulance personnel, police officers, and firefighters may be called to the scene of an emergency and are known as “first responders”. It is their job to respond to an emergency. They are trained to take charge of a scene as soon as they arrive. You can expect them to ask direct questions about the scene, the casualty and your involvement. If a security guard is trained in First Aid, they may tell them ‘I am a First-Aider’; give the history of the scene and the condition of the casualty.
In addition to providing first aid, a security guard on an emergency scene may also:
- protect the casualty’s belongings
- keep unnecessary people away
- reassure family or friends of the casualty
Security guards should familiarize themselves with their employers’ First Aid policies, including accident reporting, in order to respond to emergency situations as effectively and quickly as possible.
Typically, a recognized First Aid course would include training on:
- emergency scene management
- treatment of shock, unconsciousness or fainting
- treatment for choking – adults
- one rescuer CPR – adult
Test preparation tips
Some candidates express concern that they may not do well on the ministry’s basic private investigator test because they have not written one before, have written few multiple-choice exams of any sort, or have not written any tests recently.
Test anxiety is an uneasiness or apprehension experienced before, during, or after a test because of concern, worry, or fear. Anxiety can be experienced either as worry or through physiological signs (e.g., rapid heart rate, sweating, shaky hands) or both. Almost everyone experiences some anxiety. It is important to know that you do not have to eliminate it entirely. Your goal should be to reduce test anxiety to a manageable level, so that you can focus on the task at hand.
Below are three general strategies for managing stress in our lives.
- Build a Support Network
Social support has been shown to reduce people’s stress levels. There is a lot of research to suggest that social support buffers the effect of stressors, which increases people’s overall well-being (Viswesvaran, Sanchez & Fisher, 1999) but, an over reliance on this support at the expense of problem-focused strategies, such as actual studying, can impair test performance.
Your personal support network of family and friends are important to consider as you plan study strategies (e.g., managing schedules; creating distraction free time and space for study) as well as for emotional support.
Your professional network includes relations with your supervisor, mentors within the organization, colleagues, your work team as well as previous colleagues and organizational support services such as the training unit. Tap into those individuals whose area of expertise relates to your specific areas of study.
Create opportunities for both formal and informal learning, whether it’s a study session offered by your service, a scheduled debriefing with a supervisor, or informal gatherings with other members preparing for exams. Sometimes just asking a question or explaining a problem to others can bring a solution into focus or provide the clarity you are looking for.
Although emotional support may be helpful, it is vital to focus on “problem-oriented” support when preparing for tests.
- Rest and relaxation
Preparing to write a test requires considerable commitment, in particular with respect to time. A sustained level of hard work over a long period of time without relief can cause ill health and burnout. If we are short of sleep then our concentration, effectiveness and energy levels decline. Strive for balance!
When we are stressed and anxious we often find that thoughts keep running through our head making it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep. If this is the case, ensure that you stop doing mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed – give your brain time to calm down before you try to sleep. Try reading a calming, undemanding book to tire your eyes and take your mind off the things that are worrying you. Should you find that your sleep is distracted by important thoughts or questions, write them down in a notebook (to be reviewed later) – get them on paper and put them out of your mind until it is time to deal with them!
Doing frequent effective exercise is one of the best stress reduction techniques. There is evidence to support that physically fit people have less extreme physiological responses when under pressure than people who are not (B. Probert, 2003). Exercise not only improves your health and reduces stress caused by unfitness; it also relaxes muscles and helps you sleep. If you have a workout routine, do your best to maintain it. If you do not have a workout routine, consider starting one!
Identify study goals
Preparation for a test can be a significant task, but one that is much more manageable with an organized approach.
- Setting short and long term goals can help keep you on track and have been proven to improve results when specific and challenging (yet realistic) goals have been chosen.
- Try to set both a long term goal, one aimed at overall achievement, as well as short term goals which apply to daily / weekly / monthly objectives. This will help motivate as well as provide the smaller steps necessary to achieve the desired results.
- Break down your approach by topic (report writing, Canadian Legal System, Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005, surveillance, etc.).
- Set specific goals (i.e. I will read and understand topic x on Thursday from 1700 to 1900 hours).
Schedule study sessions
- Set aside specific times in order to study. Set yourself deadlines and stick to them in order to avoid last minute cramming.
Organize study material
- Keeping all study resources, texts, and supplies in one place will help you to maximize your study time.
- Maintaining a ‘study kit’ with the materials to be used will ensure that you are not searching for necessities when the time to study comes.
Choose a good study place
- Choose a space that fits with your schedule and plan and that will be available to you whenever required.
- A space with sufficient room to work, free from distraction and interruption is ideal.
- Make sure you have good lighting, a comfortable chair, and agreeable temperature. When you have selected a good space, try to conduct all your studying there.
Take good notes
- Write clearly and legibly.
- Make summaries.
- Creating or using abbreviations and acronyms can aid you in recalling material, especially lists and processes.
- Keep separate points on separate lines and leave a wide margin in your notes for later questions and notations to yourself for follow-up research.
An effective part of any study plan is to set aside time for review.
- Try to review your study materials on a regular basis, in order to keep the information fresh in your mind.
- Discuss the topics and content with others preparing to take the test or who have already taken the test. Being able to discuss the material with others is often a good benchmark of understanding and will make you feel more at ease when it is time to write the test.
- Try to relate what is being learned to actual job experiences and visualize how the information may help you in the future in your work.
Preparing for a test takes focus and commitment. At times it will be a challenge, so reward yourself when you feel you have accomplished one of your major tasks.
Writing the test
Getting Ready to Write
- Be sure to use all available strategies to help you succeed – visualization, logic, talking to yourself.
- Dress in layers so that you may remove or put on a layer according to comfort in the test location.
- Give yourself a good rest buffer before the test. Make sure to get enough sleep.
- Try to do something to clear your mind so that you will be focused and able to concentrate fully on the test day.
- Eat well before the test. Avoid fasting or taking stimulants you are not accustomed to (coffee, soft drinks, chocolate).
- Approach the test with confidence.
- Stay away from others before the test, particularly those that may not have prepared properly. Anxiety can be contagious and you will do better focusing on what you know rather than what you do not.
Be on time
- Arriving early will help to alleviate any anxiety. Select a seat where you will feel comfortable (good lighting and minimal distraction).
During the test
- It is natural to be a bit nervous or stressed. You can channel this into positive energy.
- Try to take a couple of short mental breaks during the test. It is good to clear your head for a second and focus your eyes on a distant spot in order to refresh.
- If you find yourself experiencing a lot of anxiety close your eyes and take deep breaths.
- Small stretching exercises can also help – shoulder shrugs, leg stretches, neck rolls, etc.)
- Before you begin the test, take a short glance through its entire contents.
- Try to budget your time, try to approximate how much time you should spend on each question.
- Read the instructions carefully.
- Answer questions you readily know the answer to.
- Do not struggle over questions that seem difficult – circle them and come back to them afterwards. Sometimes you will find that an answer will occur to you simply from being more relaxed after having successfully answered other questions.
- Read the test question carefully, two or more times if required.
- Circle and underline important words or points.
- Eliminating obviously wrong answers can help you to focus on the correct one.
- Change your answer only if you have a good reason for doing so.
- Do not be distracted by other individuals leaving the test before you – there are no prizes for finishing first. Use the time you are given.
- Do not expect to know everything on the test – you are likely to see some items that you are not prepared for.
- Leave yourself some time to review your work before leaving the test.
After the test
- A good strategy is to make notes of any questions and areas that caused difficulty and to research them at a later time.
- Now that you’ve completed the test, it’s a good idea to do something to reward yourself and to relax after all your hard work!
Given your work and life commitments, preparing to write the ministry’s basic private investigator test is a huge endeavour. We hope that the variety of test preparation tips and strategies detailed in this guide assist you in accomplishing this undertaking, while minimizing test stress.
As many candidates have expressed, preparing and writing a test is a learning experience unto itself. We hope that the process of preparing for your basic security guard test serves you well.
Morris, Ramona, Jelley, R.B. (2008) Preliminary Report on Candidate Reactions to the 2008 Ontario Police College Promotional Exams.
Hrabluik, C., Jelley, R.B., McCarthy, J.M. (2007) Report on Candidate Reactions to the 2007 Ontario Police College Promotional Exams.
Jelley, R.B. (2006) Report on Candidate Reactions to the 2006 Ontario Police College Promotional Exams.
Locke, E. A. & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717.
McCarthy, J.M., Jelley, R.B. (2005) Report on Candidate Reactions to the 2005 Ontario Police College Promotional Exams.
Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Collins, K. M. T. (2001). Writing apprehension and academic procrastination among graduate students. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 92(2), 560-562.
Probert, Barbara (no date). Overcoming Exam Anxiety (no date). Retrieved December 1, 2005 from: http://www.counsel.ufl.edu.
Study Skill Checklist: SQ3R – A Reading/Study System (no date). Retrieved December 1, 2005 from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University website: http://www.ucc.vt.edu
Viswesvaran, C., Sanchez, J. I., & Fisher, J. (1999). The role of social support in the process of work stress: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 54(2), 314-334.
Appendix: Association of Public Safety Communication (APCO) "10" Codes
- 10-0 Use caution
- 10-1 Signal weak
- 10-2 Signal good
- 10-3 Stop transmitting
- 10-4 Message received
- 10-5 Relay
- 10-6 Station is busy
- 10-7 Out of service
- 10-8 In service
- 10-9 Repeat
- 10-10 Fight in progress
- 10-11 Animal problem
- 10-12 Stand by
- 10-13 Report conditions
- 10-14 Prowler report
- 10-15 Civil disturbance
- 10-16 Domestic problem
- 10-17 Meet complainant
- 10-18 Urgent
- 10-19 Go to station
- 10-20 Advise to location
- 10-21 Phone _______
- 10-22 Disregard
- 10-23 Arrived at scene
- 10-24 Assignment complete
- 10-25 Report to ________
- 10-26 Detaining suspect
- 10-27 Driver's license information
- 10-28 Vehicle registration information
- 10-29 Check records for want
- 10-30 Unauthorized use of radio
- 10-31 Crime in progress
- 10-32 Person with gun
- 10-33 Emergency - all units stand by
- 10-34 Riot
- 10-35 Major crime alert
- 10-36 Correct time
- 10-37 Suspicious vehicle
- 10-38 Stop suspicious vehicle
- 10-39 Respond with siren and flashers
- 10-40 Do not use siren and flashers
- 10-41 Beginning shift
- 10-42 End shift
- 10-43 Information
- 10-44 Permission to leave
- 10-45 Dead animal
- 10-46 Assist motorist
- 10-47 Emergency road repair
- 10-48 Traffic control
- 10-49 Traffic signal out
- 10-50 Traffic accident
- 10-51 Request tow truck
- 10-52 Request ambulance
- 10-53 Roadway blocked
- 10-54 Livestock on roadway
- 10-55 Intoxicated driver
- 10-56 Intoxicated pedestrian
- 10-57 Hit and run accident
- 10-58 Direct traffic
- 10-59 Escort
- 10-60 Squad in vicinity
- 10-61 Personnel in vicinity
- 10-62 Reply to message
- 10-63 Prepare to copy
- 10-64 Local message
- 10-65 Net message
- 10-66 Cancel message
- 10-67 Clear for net message
- 10-68 Dispatch information
- 10-69 Message received
- 10-70 Fire alarm
- 10-71 Advise nature of alarm
- 10-72 Report progress of alarm
- 10-73 Smoke report
- 10-74 Negative
- 10-75 In contact with _______
- 10-76 En route to _______
- 10-77 Estimated time of arrival
- 10-78 Request assistance
- 10-79 Notify coroner
- 10-80 Pursuit in progress
- 10-81 Breathalyser report
- 10-82 Reserved lodgings
- 10-83 School crossing assignment
- 10-84 If meeting… advise estimated time of arrival
- 10-85 Arrival delayed
- 10-86 Operator on duty
- 10-87 Pick up
- 10-88 Advise telephone number
- 10-89 Bomb threat
- 10-90 Bank alarm
- 10-91 Pick up subject
- 10-92 Illegally parked vehicle
- 10-93 Blockage
- 10-94 Drag racing
- 10-95 Subject in custody
- 10-96 Detain subject
- 10-97 Test signal
- 10-98 Prisoner escape
- 10-99 Wanted or stolen