Exclusive: The need for improvisation in security


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While reading scholarly works for my Level 6 Diploma coursework in Strategic Risk & Crisis Management with the Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM), I came across an article that discussed the Mann Gulch fire in 1949 in Montana. The blaze took the lives of many firefighters, known as smoke jumpers, who obtained their titles from parachuting out of planes to fight fires in areas difficult or inaccessible for ground crews to access. One of the smoke jumpers and his team became trapped in the path of a fire that was increasingly getting out of control and headed straight toward them. One of the survivors, Crew Chief R. Wagner Dodge, “set a small escape fire, creating a burned over area that the fire would bypass,” (Forest History Society, 2021, p. 1). Dodge and two others were the only survivors.

Improvisation is the heart of field work, especially when on the frontlines. Improvisation, combined with bricolage, which is making use of or constructing something from a diverse range of available things, is a trait that elevates the acumen of those who protect us such as our security, police, fire, emergency medical service and military. The trick is trying to apply bricolage tactics while under times of stress. This is why a third factor needs to be added…imagination. Security and public safety leadership must trickle down a learning pattern of bricolage that must spread like a brushfire, if you will forgive the pun.  For instance, security teams, whether they be in house or contracted, are often tasked with more then just guarding an access point(s). Bricolage tactics are extremely important for not only the entire security team but also those on shifts with minimal staff. Many afternoon, evening and overnight shifts have a dwindled occupancy in buildings. It is beneficial when security management or supervisors are on site because there are more resources and help in times of emergencies. If one finds oneself working during these wearisome times, why not prepare to be a bricoleur?

  • Know your surroundings and know what is available based on the potential emergency. 
  • Being a bricoleur does not mean dismissing trained emergency services teams. If you find yourself in a situation that you had to improvise until help arrives, (i.e. – using a discarded piece of wood and belts to secure the potential broken arm of a fall victim), have as much information as possible for responding units so him/her/they can tend to the injured.
  • Know what you are using in bricolage and do not rely on what you have seen in movies or television. While playing out possible scenarios on what is available to use and how to use it, use your network and research to ensure that the temporary solution is safe. There is no point in using a bricolage technique if it is going to injure you or someone else.
Matthew Porcelli, CPP

By Matthew Porcelli, CPP

You can connect with Matthew on LinkedIn here

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