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

By Daniel Young | November 11, 2021 | 3 min read
Paper vs digital security records

I am always shocked when I encounter an organization that files paper incident reports. Incident reports aren’t meant to be filed and forgotten. However, if your security department is using paper to file incident reports, you probably aren’t alone. Security organizations are used to paper, and unless they’re encouraged by leadership, may not be willing to give up their old forms.

The problem isn’t that forms can be lost or forgotten, it’s that you get a lot more from an electronic system that lets you easily and quickly search reports. Incident reports are active intelligence your company needs, as may external organizations, like the police, if a situation escalates.

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5 reasons to keep electronic records of incident reports

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.

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.

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 you an easily searchable database of incidents that gives whoever 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.

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.

An electronic incident report can become an actionable list. A paper incident report is just that: a report of an incident that occured 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.

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

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