[Updated July 9, 2019]
Writing an effective incident report is crucial to any business or agency, whether the organization is a small agency or a large corporation. Rules and regulations require that business owners, law enforcement officials, and corporate management teams protect their employees, customers, and guests. The regulations also protect the organization from unnecessary litigation, claims, and fines.
Having an incident reporting procedure in place helps provide strong evidence when security departments, management teams, and others need to provide detailed documentation of incidents. If you do not already have an incident report form, it is essential that you create one and require compliance with completing the form after every incident.
Composing and implementing an effective incident reporting procedure requires training on how to write a security report. Training is also needed on the importance of submitting accurate, detailed, and timely reports.
The Importance of Incident Reports
It is easy for management to assume that every type of organization needs its own style of an incident report form. Yet there are essential components that are the same or similar, across all organizations.
Good police writing typically consists of reports that are "Clear, concise, and well organized." explains police veteran, Bruce Razey.
There are several essential components of an incident report, including:
● The date, location, and time of the incident
● Full name, address, telephone number of all persons involved in the incident
● Circumstances leading up to the incident
● Full name, job title, department, and contact information for employee victims or witnesses
● Documents related to the incident or that demonstrate the issue, including interviews, meeting notes, performance evaluations, and letters, memos, and witness statements
● Details of events or circumstances that led up to the incident
● A detailed narrative explaining all relative facts, including the exact location, parties involved, full details damages, and injuries that occurred
● Analysis of the incident, including the primary cause, secondary cause, and other contributing factors
● Action was taken immediately after the incident, including security or police involvement, conversations with or reports to personnel
Writing Effective Incident Reports
Write the incident report as soon as possible after the incident occurs. Use excellent spelling, grammar, and punctuation. In the narrative, answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of the event.
Proofread, edit, and correct any mistakes. Make sure that the narrative is thorough, well-organized and an accurate description of the sequence of events. Include just the facts. Avoid stating any opinions or assumptions of your own, or those of witnesses.
It is important to keep incident reports up-to-date. While some incident reports require a single account of the incident, others require follow-up.
Use an Electronic Incident Reporting System
Investing in incident reporting software allows for the elimination of paper reporting and the risk of lost reports. The software also provides real-time access for further evaluation or updates. Confidentiality is more easily maintained electronically with user access control and audit log features. confidentiality in all reports by sharing the report and evidence with only specific users.
Choosing software over paper provides greater convenience, fewer errors, and allows for a customized approach to incident report writing for your organization.
Incident Report Examples and Comparisons
Not effective Incident Report:
The suspect tripped when he ran from the store where I work as a plain-clothes security guard. He hit his head.
Effective Incident Report:
The suspect, later identified as Donald Brown, refused to comply when I stopped him on March 18, 2019, at approximately 4 PM, after he passed all points of payment at the Jones Department Store. I, private security detective Janet Simms, identified myself as store security and stated that I need him to come back inside with me to discuss the two shirts he placed in his bag without paying for them.
The suspect then ran, tripped over his feet, fell, and hit his head on the parking lot pavement. The suspect sat up and complied at that point. He walked back into the store on his own with no assistance.
I retrieved the two shirts taken without payment and called the police. The suspect stated to police officers that he did not need medical treatment. Officers transported the suspect to the county jail.
Security guard Alex Damon witnessed the incident and assisted with the apprehension.
Not effective Incident Report:
I responded to the convenience store on the corner of Main and High St. on June 24, after the store owner reported a robbery. The store owner received injuries after the men robbed his store and assaulted him before leaving.
Effective Incident Report:
Officer Jack Smith, a patrol officer with the City Police Department, received a dispatch at 10 PM on July 9, 2019, reporting robbery and assault at the MillerConvenience Store, located at 515 Main St., in City.
Officer Smith immediately responded to the location. Upon arrival, the officer encountered the store owner, Max Miller, sitting on a stool, holding a wet washcloth to his bleeding head wound. Complainant Miller stated that three male teenagers entered his store at approximately 9:30 PM. They wandered the store for a few minutes while Mr. Miller rang a customer’s purchase.
When the store was empty, the three teens walked to the counter. One of them pulled a small handgun and demanded money.
Complainant Miller informed the suspects that he does not keep money in a safe. This angered the suspect with the gun and he demanded that Miller open the register. When Miller complied, the suspect with the gun jumped the counter and grabbed all the money from the register. He beat the Complainant about the head with the pistol, striking him several times, while the other two acted as lookouts.
The three suspects fled east on Main St. by foot. Suspect #1 with the gun wore a blue jacket and blue jeans. The Complainant does not remember facial features or clothing of Suspect #2 or Suspect #3. The victim was transported to City Hospital by ambulance.
The responding officer interviewed two individuals outside the store, who said that they did not witness the incident or the suspects fleeing the scene.
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