Ask the Expert: Paper Incident Reports Work for Us. Why Should We Go Digital?

By Daniel Young | October 18, 2023 | 4 min read
Paper vs digital security records

Incident reports aren’t meant to be filed and forgotten. However, if your security department is still using paper forms to take reports when an incident occurs, there’s a good chance that is what’s happening. An officer is likely filling out a form, putting it in a drawer, and planning to get back to it. Do they? Well, maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

If you’re using digital reports, filing and forgetting becomes a lot more difficult. For one thing, your records become searchable. For another, notifications are harder to ignore than a piece of paper in a drawer. (Ask anyone who has to immediately check their phone when an app pings them.)

If your security department is using paper to file incident reports, however, you aren’t alone. Security organizations are used to paper, and unless they’re encouraged by leadership, they may not be willing to give up their old forms.

So what exactly do you gain from using digital reports? Read on to learn more.

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5 reasons to keep electronic records of incident reports

1. You need the historical data. While incident reports tend to be internal documents that aren’t released to the police by your company’s security department, it’s important to have the information included in such reports at your fingertips. For example, what if a violent crime occurred at your site, or one of your workers were implicated in a violent crime? You would then be able to easily look up historical data in your incident reports and give that information to the police who are investigating the crime. Such historical data can give you (and law enforcement) a better picture of the trends that may have led to a crime.

2. Electronic documents allow you to compare data. A paper report captures one incident, but an electronic report offers you a layered view of your security. These layers are based on a floor plan approach rather than on a narrative report. Let's say you have a large number of vehicle break-ins in your parking area. Using a site map or a floor plan, you can overlay that report with security assessment data, like the location of lights or cameras. Are there dark spots or gaps in camera coverage? This comparison may help you understand the reasons behind the incidents you’ve been recording.

3. Electronic records offer greater searchability. Yes, you can technically search through paper records, but often paper reports aren’t searched unless someone who was there when the report was filed remembers the incident. Electronic records offer an easily searchable database of incidents that gives whomever is taking the report greater insight into security trends at your site. If a Silver Malibu was involved in an incident in the parking lot of your place of business, you can search for any other incidents that included the same type of car. Human memory is important, but if your staff turns over quickly, a database is more reliable.

4. Electronic incident reports capture more information. Sure, you can include plenty of information in a paper incident report, but a digital report can capture several different kinds of information, including floor plans, photos, and even videos. This means a stronger, more detailed incident report that shows anyone, at a glance, more information than they’d get from a piece of paper. It’s also worth noting that some security officers may not be strong writers. Technology will enhance their narrative, and help deliver a more coherent report. You also won’t have to worry about trying to decipher anyone’s handwriting.

5. An electronic incident report can become an actionable list. A paper incident report is just that: a report of an incident that occurred at your business. An electronic report, however, can become a list of remediations you should undertake to improve your security. Electronic tools allow you to choose, assign, and track remediations to improve your security posture based on the event that occurred.

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What do your incident reports look like?

If you were about to look at your incident reports right now, how would you do it? Would you open a filing cabinet? Do you know where the filing cabinet even is? Do you keep old reports or do you purge them after filing a report with your insurance company?

If you’re using electronic reports, however, chances are you can look up any incident right now, from whatever device you’re using. While going digital may seem like a hassle at first, it puts every incident at your fingertips.

The importance of going digital

Incident reports are active intelligence your company needs to improve your security posture. Security tends to lag behind other departments when it comes to going digital; sometimes there is the sense that learning a new technology is a waste of time, or that “the old ways are the best ways.” However, your organization gains so much when you start using an electronic system that lets you easily and quickly search reports. Maybe digital reports work for you, but a digital system has the potential to work so much better.

Don’t know where to start when taking your security reports digital? We can help. Talk to an expert now.

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