This is a general essay intended as a series of informal guidelines for writing plausible and concise Special Containment Procedures for SCP articles. As with all of the essays in this series, this essay is subjective and represents the opinions of the author and not a set of hard rules.
The Special Containment Procedures section of an SCP article — for which the SCP Foundation itself is named — is an important but often times unrewarding element of the overall Foundation fiction framework. While often times readers will simply skip over the Procedures section entirely in pursuit of what they perceive to be the "meat" of the article, other readers can and will downvote for the slightest perceived implausibility in the Procedures.
As outlined in Dr. Mackenzie's Common SCP Pitfalls, the Special Containment Procedures for an SCP object or entity should be Special, meaning they should be directly related to the specific anomalous properties of the object or entity in question. This means that such Procedures should only detail how this particular containment scheme deviates from the norm; unless the article is a "format screw" (see Containment-centric Documentation below), the reader is generally only interested in what differs from standard procedure if anything at all.
Arguably the standard method of writing, Description-centric Documentation places emphasis on the Description and Addenda of an article, leaving the Procedures as minimalistic as possible. In this format, the Procedures are generally left as an afterthought, and should consist of the smallest amount of content possible.
The reason for this is twofold: firstly, because in such a format, you want to guide the reader towards the actual content of the article as quickly as possible. Secondly, you want to avoid putting any significant content in the Procedures section for the benefit of those readers who will simply skip over them.
Often times, Procedures for such articles can be extremely short, consisting of little more than "lock this in a box and don't worry too much about it". This is perfectly normal; in fact, unless you have a very good reason to, it helps to worry about the Description of your article first and leave the Procedures for last.
Containment Lead-In Documentation
The second type of writing style uses the Special Containment Procedures as a hook and lead-in to the main Description. SCP-106 is a good example of this style, as it has some esoteric containment procedures that do not make much sense until you've read the rest of the article. If you use this tactic, it's important to keep in mind that concision is still very important; if the Procedures are too long to comfortably read, then it will not serve this purpose very well.
The final style and a common type of format-screw, Containment-centric writing emphasizes the creation of a complex or convoluted containment scheme as the primary content of the article. Such articles are often easily identified by the sheer length of their Procedures, which can rival or exceed the length of the actual Description (see SCP-579 for an extreme example). As such articles are by their nature exceptions to the normal framework, what applies in such situations is limited only by what you as the author can get away with, however some rules still apply.
Even if the Procedures section contains the bulk of your article's content, you must still emphasize plausibility and minimalism, leaving only that which is an exception to standard containment schemes. Even in such cases, the reader doesn't want to be bored by endless paragraphs of repetitive content or boring minutiae; it's your duty to stay on track and keep your reader interested by not making this section too bloated.
As with all format-screws, this kind of article intentionally violates some aspect of the standard framework and thus can be significantly more difficult to write if you are a new and/or inexperienced site author.
Standard Containment Procedures
While it goes without saying that all SCP objects and entities have some degree of unique containment requirements due to their anomalous nature, that doesn't mean that there's some degree of their containment procedures that can't be considered standard and implied through omission.
General Facility Security
For any Foundation facility that contains multiple objects or entities, it can be safely assumed that there are basic security protocols in place for the general safety and security of the facility itself. For such facilities, you can safely assume that there are basic measures intended to keep civilians off the premises, prevent inadvertent access to restricted areas such as those housing objects or entities in containment, and contingencies in place to ensure the safety of facility personnel and maintain operation in the event of a breach.
It is generally safe to assume that the following are part and parcel of a Foundation facility's Standard Containment Procedures and as such they do not need to be explicitly mentioned in the Special Containment Procedures:
- Guards — A standard Foundation facility likely has sufficient security personnel and/or armed response personnel to handle most non-catastrophic breaches of contained objects, and must have enough such personnel to handle shift changes so that such protection is maintained around the clock. Such facilities will likely have multiple guard stations, at the minimum at each entrance to the facility and restricting access to the research and containment sections. A facility of sufficient size may have dozens of such stations, and possibly hundreds of security personnel.
- Locks — A modern Foundation facility can safely be assumed to have measures to ensure that unauthorized personnel don't accidentally or intentionally stumble into areas for which they do not have sufficient clearance or so that contained objects or entities do not inadvertently escape. Such facilities likely have magnetic card readers, biometric scanning systems (such as fingerprint or retina identification), as well as mundane locks utilizing combination or key access. Facilities containing dangerous objects or entities will also likely have fail-safes such as heavy bulkhead doors that can be used to seal sections of the facility in case of a serious breach.
- Surveillance — All Foundation facilities have automated security systems such as surveillance cameras with microphones, generally in sufficient quantities to cover all approaches and exits to the facility as well as all major interior corridors, research laboratories, and containment sections. Foundation facilities with more stringent security concerns may also have more sophisticated measures in place, such as air or floor pressure sensors, laser tripwires, motion sensors, or more esoteric devices.
- Permissions — As outlined in Security Clearance Levels, the Foundation has a system in place for controlling what personnel do or do not have access to a contained object or entity.
For objects or entities that cannot be moved and must be contained where they are found, containment can be slightly more involved, depending on exactly how much room is available and the location's proximity to civilian populations. (See also Provisional facilities.)
By their very nature, on-site containment facilities may be limited in what resources are available to them; after all, an object contained on-site in a downtown apartment in a major city won't have the room to house several dozen security staff, much less keep it secret from the general populace.
Since this constitutes a mild form of format-screw, it is up to your best judgement as to how to most plausibly implement on-site security. As with all Procedures, however, it's best to keep it as simple as possible and only address points if feedback given by your readers suggest that such procedures are too simplistic to be plausible.
Standard Secure Lockers
For a significant number of inanimate SCP objects with no autonomous capability, plausible containment consists of little more than "lock it in a box and don't mess with it". For such objects, it's fine to simply state that they are in a "standard secure locker".
If you need to visualize what this might consist of, think of a room full of school locker-sized sealed safes, where each locker contains one and only one anomalous object. For a facility with standard secure lockers, surveillance needs are generally minimal; one set of cameras can easily cover the entire room without the need to place one within each safe, and a single guard post can plausibly restrict access to the entire section without need for a guard at each safe.
Standard Humanoid Containment Cells
Humanoid SCP objects are by nature autonomous and unpredictable and can often times require specialized containment procedures, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a set of basic requirements that almost all humanoid or humaniform have in common.
The following may safely be assumed to be standard for humanoid containment:
- Air — Unless the entity in question explicitly does not need oxygen or otherwise respire, its cell will likely be connected to the facility's central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. If the entity runs the risk of contaminating such a centralized system, then it is likely to be placed in a sealed, self-contained cell and this would be mentioned in its Special Containment Procedures.
- Water and Sanitation — Unless the entity explicitly does not need to drink water, urinate, or excrete waste, its cell likely contains a sink, toilet, and basic shower. Again, if the entity runs the risk of contaminating such systems, the cell may be self-contained and sealed.
- Food — If the entity can subsist on a normal human diet, it is likely provided food from the main facility's cafeteria, delivered via a slot in its cell door such as you would find in a prison (for the security personnel's safety). If the entity requires a special diet or if it must be fed by automated systems (either because the presence of security personnel agitate it or poses a risk to the personnel), then that should be mentioned.
- Surveillance — Surveillance cameras and microphones within a humanoid containment cell are generally standard and wired to a central guard station where they can be constantly monitored (and the footage recorded) unless such observation poses a threat to facility personnel (such as in the case of entities exhibiting auditory or visual cognitohazards).
- Security — A facility with standard humanoid containment likely has a dedicated security staff for internal containment needs, akin to and likely in excess of that which would be normal and expected for a maximum-security prison.
- Medical and Psychiatric — Facilities with standard humanoid containment will generally have a full staff of cleared Foundation medical and psychiatric personnel on-site for the safety of both the contained humanoid entities and on-site research and security personnel. Such personnel are trained to watch for and detect changes in behavior in both the contained entities and containing staff, as well as counseling sapient humanoid entities and mitigating the psychological effects of long-term imprisonment.
Finally, here are some general tips for writing plausible Special Containment Procedures.
- Check your facts. For Procedures involving scientific processes (biology, chemistry, physics), technical knowledge (computers, electronics, engineering), or military procedure (combat, tactics, weapons), you are obligated to make sure that the Procedures are plausible to someone who's trained and well-versed in the subject. Botching the science or math is a great way to get your article downvoted by subject matter experts, and we have plenty of experts in the SCP community.
- Don't use unnecessary measurements. Another common problem involves specifying exacting measurements for objects that don't plausibly require them. If an object has a kill radius of five meters, then it makes sense to have it stored in the center of a chamber at least ten meters to a side. If no such anomalous property exists such that such a chamber is required, then it should not be mentioned.
- If you do use measurements, make sure they make sense. Don't specify vertical clearances unless there's a plausible reason to require several meters of height.
- Don't require permission from extremely highly ranked personnel unless there's a good reason for it. O5 Council members in particular seem to be susceptible to this pitfall; the O5 Council members of the Foundation are akin to the executive officers of a company. You wouldn't require the CEO or President's permission to get into a common filing cabinet, so there should be a good reason for requiring their permission to experiment.
- Don't use specific names in Containment Procedures. Not only does it kind of break the tone, but if such personnel are transferred or hurt, then you have no idea who to go to next. Use titles such as Senior Researcher or Site Director instead, and you can safely assume that anyone cleared to know about the object or entity knows who's in charge of it as well.
- Don't censor anything in the Procedures. The Special Containment Procedures are akin to emergency instructions detailing how to safely maintain or re-establish containment over an object or entity; it makes zero sense to have this information redacted or expunged. The only exception to this rule are facility designations, as it can be safely assumed that anyone needing to utilize this information knows what facility they're standing in.