Security Glossary - P

This glossary has been created to assist security professionals in defining security terms commonly used by the profession and the industry, worldwide. It is a developing list that will be maintained, and where appropriate, modified, and changed over time. Terms borrowed from related fields, such as engineering, investigations, safety, etc. will be included when deemed necessary for the security professional.


The definition's source is cited in brackets [ ] following the definition. View the key to all cited reference sources.

It is NOT our goal to publish this glossary in print since it is intended to be a current online reference (on the ASIS website) to serve the security professional on an ongoing basis.

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​Private Branch Exchange. The telephone network used by an organization to allow a single access number to offer multiple lines to outside callers and to allow internal staff to share a range of external lines.
[ASIS GDL TASR 04 2008]

perimeter protection

​The safeguarding of a boundary or limit. 

physical protection systems (PPS)

​The integration of people, procedures, equipment, and technology for the protection of assets.
[ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

physical security

​That part of security concerned with physical measures designed to safeguard people; to prevent unauthorized access to equipment, facilities, material, and documents; and to safeguard them against a security incident.
[ASIS GDL FPSM-2009]  [ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

physical security measure

​A device, system, or practice of a tangible nature designed to protect people and prevent damage to, loss of, or unauthorized access to assets. 

physical surveillance

​A form of monitoring where the subject is kept under physical observation.
Note:  May be augmented with technology but requires constant human monitoring.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]


​Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

i. On the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
ii. Against a ship, aircraft, persons, or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

b) Any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
c) Any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b). [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 101]

    • Note 1: Crews or passengers of a private ship or aircraft refers to a ship not under the control of the state.
    • Note 2: Acts of violence in the maritime environment, including intentional and unlawful acts against ships, those on board and its cargo – as well as armed robbery and attempts to board and control the ship – conducted in areas that are beyond the territorial waters or effective jurisdiction of any state, as well as against offshore installations and other maritime interests.
    • Note 3: For purposes of this standard, armed robbery at sea and terrorist acts are considered acts of piracy.

[ANSI/ASIS PSC.4-2013]


(1) ​Part of management focused on setting quality assurance objectives and specifying necessary operational processes and related resources to fulfill the quality assurance objectives.
[ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012]

(2) Part of a management process focused on setting objectives, projecting risks to these objectives, and ensuring resources and systems are in place to ensure objectives are achieved.


​(1) Overall intentions and direction of an organization, as formally expressed by top management.
[ASIS SPC.1-2009]  [ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012] 

(2) A general statement of a principle according to which an organization performs business functions. 

pre-adverse action notice

​FCRA § 604(b) (15 U.S.C. § 1681b) provides that anyone  “using a consumer report for employment purposes, before taking any adverse action based in whole or in part on that report …, shall provide to the consumer (i.e., the applicant) to whom the report relates: (i) a copy of the report; and (ii) a description in writing of the rights of the consumer under this subchapter, as prescribed by the Federal Trade Commission under §1681g(c)(3) of this title.
This notice normally consists of a letter or other document informing the applicant (or employee) that the employer intends to take Adverse Action based upon a Consumer Report provided by a Consumer Reporting Agency.  The statute requires the employer to furnish the consumer (job applicant or employee) with a description of their rights in the prescribed form entitled A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Before the adverse action is taken, a second and additional notice entitled the Adverse Action Notice must be provided to the consumer within a reasonable period of time after the Pre-Adverse Action Notice is given.  A prospective employer should determine what is a reasonable period of time based upon the facts and circumstances of each particular situation, and must consider affording the consumer the opportunity to receive and respond to the Pre-Adverse Action Notice.  Accordingly, the time it takes to deliver the notice to the consumer must be considered.  The FTC’s staff counsel in a FTC Informal Staff Opinion Letter (Weisberg, June 27, 1997) responding to an inquiry regarding the amount of time that should elapse between the sending of the Pre-Adverse Action Notice and the subsequent Adverse Action wrote that a period of 5 days appeared reasonable.

preemployment screening

​A form of investigation used to verify the identity, personal history and credentials of an employment applicant.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]

preparedness (readiness)

​Activities, programs, and systems developed and implemented prior to an incident that may be used to support and enhance mitigation of, response to, and recovery from disruptions, disasters, or emergencies.
[ASIS SPC.1-2009]  [ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

preponderance of the evidence

​The amount of evidence needed to prevail in most civil matters, which is based on a finding that it is more likely than not that an alleged event occurred.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]


​(1) Plans and processes that will allow an organization to avoid, preclude, or limit the impact of a crisis occurring. The tasks of prevention should include compliance with corporate policy, mitigation strategies, and behavior and programs to support avoidance and deterrence and detection.
[ASIS GDL BC 01 2005]

(2) Measures that enable an organization to avoid, preclude, or limit the likelihood and consequences of an event.
[ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

(3) Measures that enable an organization to avoid, preclude, or limit the impact of an undesired or potentially disruptive event.
[ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012]  [ANSI/ASIS/RIMS RA.1-2015]

prevention of harzards and threats

​Process, practices, techniques, materials, products, services, or resources used to avoid, reduce, or control hazards and threats and their associated risks of any type in order to reduce their potential impact.
[ASIS SPC.1-2009]

preventive action

(1) An action to eliminate the cause of a potential nonconformity.
[ASIS SPC.1-2009]  [ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

(2) Action to eliminate the cause of a potential nonconformity or other undesirable potential situation.
Note 1: There can be more than one cause for a potential nonconformity.
Note 2: Preventive action is taken to prevent occurrence, whereas corrective action is taken to prevent recurrence.
[ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012] 

(3) Proactive change or improvement implemented to address a weakness that is not yet responsible for causing nonconformity.
Note 1: A potential nonconformity which may have one or more root causes.
Note 2: Preventive action is taken to avoid occurrence whereas corrective action is taken to rectify a problem and prevent recurrence.  


​A state or federal facility of confinement for convicted criminals, especially felons.

privacy, the right to privacy

​A human right and an element of various legal traditions which may restrain both government and private party action that threatens an individual to be free from being observed or disturbed by other people, or having their affairs made public.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]

private investigations

​Investigations performed for and by the private sector.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]

private sector

​The part of the economy that is not under direct government control.
Note 1: Run by private individuals or groups either for profit or not for profit.
Note 2: Those suspected of a workplace offence may be the subject of a private sector investigation conducted by their employer or agents, and if determined responsible, disciplined by their employer.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]

private security

​(1) An independent or proprietary commercial organization whose activities include safeguarding the employing party’s assets – ranging from human lives to physical property (the premises and contents), responding to emergency incidents, performing employee background investigations, performing the functions of detection and investigation of crime and criminals, and apprehending offenders for consideration. 

(2) The nongovernmental, private-sector practice of protecting people, property, and information, conducting investigations, and otherwise safeguarding an organization’s assets; may be performed for an organization by an internal department (usually called proprietary security) or by an external, hired firm (usually called contract security).

private security companies and private security service providers (collectively known as PSCs)

​Any organization whose business activities include the provision of security services either on its own behalf or on behalf of another.
Note 1:  PSCs provide services to clients with the aim of ensuring their security and that of others.
Note 2:  PSCs typically work in high risk environments and provide services for which personnel are required to carry weapons in the performance of their duties in accordance with the terms of their contract.
Note 3:  Example of security services provided by PSCs may include: guarding; close protection; physical protection measures; security awareness; risk, security, and threat assessment; the provision of protective and defensive measures for compounds, diplomatic, and residential perimeters; escort of transport; and policy analysis. 
[ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012]

private security officer

(1) An individual, in uniform or plain clothes, employed by an organization to protect assets.  Also known as a “guard”.

(2) An individual, other than armored car personnel or a public employee (federal, state, or local government), employed part or full time, in uniform or plain clothes, hired to protect the employing party’s assets, ranging from human lives to physical property (the premises and contents). The definition excludes individuals who are not employed in the capacity of a private security officer.


​A legal protection which permits the lawful withholding of information or evidence from an opponent during the course of litigation. May be used in both criminal and civil cases.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]


​The extent to which an event is likely to occur.
Note 1: ISO 3534-1:1993, Definition 1.1, gives the mathematical definition of probability as “a real number in the scale of 0 to 1 attached to a random event. It can be related to a long-run relative frequency of occurrence or to a degree of belief that an event will occur. For a high degree of belief, the probability is near 1.”
Note 2: Frequency rather than probability may be used to describe risk.
Note 3: Degrees of belief about probability can be chosen as classes or ranks, such as: rare/ unlikely/ moderate/ likely/ almost certain; or incredible/ improbable/ remote/ occasional/ probable/ frequent. 
[ASIS SPC.1-2009]


(1) A specified way to carry out an activity. 
Note: Procedures can be documented or not.
[ASIS SPC.1-2009]  [ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

(2) Specified way to carry out an activity or a process.
Note 1: Procedures can be documented or not.
Note 2: When a procedure is documented, the terms written procedure or documented procedure are frequently used. The document that contains a procedure can be called a procedure document.
[ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012]

(3) Detailed implementation instructions for carrying out security policies; often presented as forms or as lists of steps to be taken prior to or during a security incident.

(4) An established or specified way to conduct an activity or a process.

progressive collapse

​Occurs when the failure of a primary structural element results in the failure of adjoining structural elements, which in turn causes further structural failure. The resulting damage progresses to other parts of the structure, resulting in a partial or total collapse of the building.

proprietary information

​Valuable information, owned by a company or entrusted to it, which has not been disclosed publicly; specifically, information that is not readily accessible to others, that was created or collected by the owner at considerable cost, and that the owner seeks to keep confidential.

proprietary security

​(1) Any organization, or department of that organization, that provides full time security officers solely for itself.

(2) Typically, a department within a company that provides security services for that company.
[ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

proprietary security organization

​Typically, a department within a company that provides security services for that company.


(1) The strategy of forming layers of protection for an asset.

(2) The strategy of forming layers of protection for an asset (see assets).
[ANSI/ASIS PAP.1-2012]

public safety

​Support mechanisms that sustain the life and vitality of a community’s health, safety, and social stability by performing such services as law enforcement, fire prevention, personal and facility security, disaster preparedness, and emergency medical assistance. In some instances, public safety may refer to law enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue squads, and ambulance crews. In other instances, public safety properly encompasses private security officers, as well.

public sector

​The part of an economy that is controlled by the government.
Note:  Composition of the public sector varies by country, but in most countries the public sector provides services which benefit all of society rather than just the individual who uses the service.
[ANSI/ASIS INV.1-2015]