Let’s face facts; it’s a dangerous world out there. Protecting your loved ones, your home, and your bank account are top priorities for most of us. So too is keeping your place of business safe and secure at all times.
Offices, warehouses and other working environments can make very inviting targets for an enterprising thief. The potential gains from a workplace break-in are greater than those of a home invasion – and there’s less chance of running into people late at night.
So what can you do to keep your place of business safe from theft, vandalism, corporate espionage and other crimes?
Here are 9 pointers that should help you out.
Simply look around for any areas that are vulnerable to forced entry. This could be a window with a faulty lock, or an out-dated alarm system.
It sounds a little odd, but it really helps if you try to imagine that you are attempting to gain access to your building illegally.
Ask yourself; ‘if I really needed to get in here after hours, how would I do it?’ the answers may well surprise you.
When surveying the building, look out for areas that are not in plain view (did you notice the darker corners? It helps to keep the building well lit at all times).
Anything that could be used to hide a person (e.g. a darkened corridor, too much foliage outside the building, even vehicles parked too close to an entrance/fire exit) could be used as cover for a burglar.
Roofs can also be accessed, find out if yours is secure. Keep these things in mind at all times when surveying your building.
According to UK Police, a workplace or residence with no security measures is 5 times more likely to be a target for burglars than one that has some security in place.
Remember, burglars are not looking for a challenge; they’re looking for an easy way to make a lot of money at someone else’s expense.
So, by keeping your own workplace secure, you can make sure there’s always an easier target than yours. You can increase your security in a many ways; here are a few of them:
- Ensure that you have an up-to-date security system (a CCTV system is best).
- A regularly updated alarm system is an absolute must (see subheading 9 for more details).
- Invest in some good quality perimeter fencing to keep valuables in and burglars out.
- Always lock all doors and windows, even if you’re only stepping outside for a few minutes. Thieves are career opportunists and, in many cases, all they need is a few seconds to make their move.
- Install deadbolt locks and thick wooden or metal doors set inside steel frames. Windows should be of modern design and fashioned from attack resistant glass.
- Put potential intruders in the spotlight by installing decent outside lighting.
- Register and mark your supplies. In the event that they are stolen, this may help police to retrieve them.
- Store any sensitive or valuable materials in a high quality safe (and keep the combination codes to a few select, trusted employees).
- Don’t leave any valuables on display, there’s a lot to be said for not making your business too tempting a target.
- Try not to leave cash in the building overnight.
- Make sure all storerooms are locked when not in use.
- Be aware that agile climbers may be able to scale your walls using drainpipes (yes, it can/does happen!)
Finally, a word about wheelie bins. It might sound crazy, but the Metropolitan Police actually warn against keeping wheelie bins too close to the building, as there have been instances of people climbing on top of them in order to gain access to first floor windows!
A MAJOR problem faced by many businesses (possibly even yours) is complacency. If you’ve followed all the steps above, it can be tempting to think that your building is secure and that, as long as you lock up at night and take all necessary precautions, you will be effectively burglar-proof and can go about the business of, um, going about your business.
However, this attitude can actually leave you more vulnerable than anything else.
When it comes to security, complacency is a killer. To this end, completing regular risk assessments can be extremely helpful. The UK Government’s official site suggests meeting with your local police in order to discuss the risks you may be facing.
To better assess your security risks, you might take a leaf out of MI5’s book by following a few of these MI5-approved tips.
- Make sure that your employees are aware of potential security issues and make discussing them a part of your company’s security culture (for more on this, see subheading 3).
- If you’re moving to, or opening up in a new location, be sure to include security costs in your initial budget. Yes, security can be expensive, but it is definitely better to pay now rather than later.
- Be careful who you hire (follow up on references).
- Turn off printer sharing. Printers can be used in industrial espionage. Scanned and printed documents are an inviting target for thieves, so stay safe.
It is also essential to brief (or, if necessary, train) your employees so that they know how to respond in the event of a particular threat to security (a bomb scare, for example). Formulating evacuation plans, business continuity plans, and general contingency strategies in response to various hypothetical scenarios, will see you prepared for any eventuality. Planning ahead will greatly lessen the effects of a robbery if one does take place.
Another solid strategy against complacency is the storage of sensitive materials off-site. There is a high demand for things like employee records and financial data – and a secure storage method totally away from your workplace could be very useful indeed.
A ‘security culture’ in the workplace is achieved by fostering a set of shared values, attitudes, perceptions and practices among your employees.
By its very nature, the creation of any new workplace culture is likely to be a disruptive process, at least for some.
Old habits based upon easiness, improper training or simple necessity must be challenged and changed in order for a more efficient, security-conscious culture to evolve within your business.
In order to minimise the discomfort and maximise effective training, this should be made as enjoyable as possible for your staff. Here are a few tips.
- A positive security culture will not emerge organically. If left to their own devices, most people will find ‘shortcuts’ or develop bad habits that could potentially be exploited by opportunistic would-be thieves, so security measures must be adhered to and kept fresh in the minds of your workforce. Don’t allow standards to slip!
- A strong security culture affects almost everything you do, every day. It is persistent.
- Instil the concept that security doesn’t begin and end with the security department, but is actually a shared responsibility. Everyone has a role to play in the overall security of your business, as well as a vested personal interest in how well it performs financially.
- Increase awareness of security through extra training. Offer additional help to those who need it.
- Take any problem or crisis your company faces and try to use it as a teaching opportunity.
- Reward those who go above and beyond, or seek extra training. Small cash bonuses are an excellent motivating tool.
- Make security a worthwhile goal within your organisation, allowing your employees to grow towards rewarding roles in this field. If you really want to take security seriously, what better way to prove it than by creating new roles within the company for those who have demonstrated an aptitude for it?
- Try to ensure that workers in different areas understand the security responsibilities facing each other. This is key to building and sustaining a security-savvy community. ‘Security sponsors’ (with extra responsibilities and motivation) can be appointed to ensure that this is accomplished.
- Create a Secure Development Lifecycle (SDL) for your business, an SDL effectively formalises your company’s security protocols and codifies them into company law. This is absolutely essential for creating a strong security culture.
- Including your employees in the creation of your SDL is a worthwhile move.
Cultivating a security culture is an essential part of any modern business. In a working security culture, an employee’s security responsibilities should be included in the employee handbook, along with all other responsibilities, so that these can be easily referred to at all times.
An effective, security conscious workforce should always feel empowered and valued as contributors to the safety and security of your shared working environment. It is your job to make this happen.
Finally, find security leaders within your own staff and ensure that these people are trusted with the responsibilities befitting them.
The more involved with and engaged in the security process they can be, the better it is for everyone.
Sometimes, it pays to be paranoid. The image of a would-be burglar, clad from head-to-toe in black and sneaking in via an open window is probably the most prevalent in your mind right now (either that or it’ll be a guy in a stripy shirt-and-mask ensemble carrying a black bag marked ‘SWAG’).
In fact, these stereotypes are often misleading and potentially dangerous. There are actually a number of ways that a dishonest person can gain access to your workplace, most of which seem innocent at first, despite being anything but!
Here are a few, courtesy of the Security Magazine:
- Tailgating – A simple, but effective strategy. Here, the intruder poses as a staff member/customer and simply follows one of your staff through the front door, often as your staff member conscientiously holds the door open for them! Staff should be encouraged to check for ID, or question potential visitors, reporting them straight away if they have any suspicions.
- Door Propping – In this example, the intruder places a small object underneath or in front of a key entrance (or else takes advantage of a staff member doing so for convenience) and simply walks in when nobody is looking. This type of activity can be cancelled out with the creation of a strong security culture (see subheading 3 for more).
- Door Levering – This is an old trick that simply involves prising a closed door open with a simple tool (a screwdriver, pocket knife or chisel, to offer a few possibilities). It is easy to do and often can be quite effective. The good news is that most modern security doors are immune to this type of break-in attempt.
- Stolen Keys – Intruders taking advantage of lost keys, picking up unprotected keys or simply copying keys and discreetly returning them to their original users are all methods that have been employed by thieves in the past. Be on the lookout!
- Finally, always be vigilant against suspicious activity. Here are a few pointers, straight from the US Government’s Department of Homeland Security.
A person who asks a lot of questions at a level beyond simple curiosity is behaving suspiciously. These questions may concern security measures in the building, the building itself, or general inquiries about the company.
They may have a cover story as to why they are asking, but become insistent if the answer is not forthcoming, or else ask they may ask somebody else if you refuse to provide the answers they seek.
Unknown vehicles in the area may also be suspicious. The same for an open window that is usually closed, or a person in the building that you’ve never seen before. It pays to be observant.
Somebody who appears to have something concealed under their clothing (or perhaps in a bag) is also acting suspiciously.
A person caught attempting to access a restricted area may laugh it off as simply being lost or confused, but even if this is genuinely the case, their behaviour should be treated as suspect.
Unattended packages or mysterious parcels should also be treated with suspicion.
As an aside, it should be noted that a person’s race, gender, dress or apparent religious affiliation are NOT, in and of themselves, indicators of suspicious activities. To imply otherwise or to accuse a person of suspicious behaviour for these reasons alone can be construed as bigotry and could be highly damaging to your business and your professional reputation, as well as hurtful to those accused.
If these scenarios or anything similar need reporting, you should speak to the security department as soon as you can. In more clear-cut cases, it may be prudent to inform the police.
Finally, the creation of a sign in/sign out policy is a very good idea, as it can deter unwanted characters from entering your building in the first place. A security guard could potentially handle such responsibilities (see subheading 6 for more).
It is essential that part of your company’s security culture (see subheading 3), to encourage your workforce to report any suspicious activity in a judgement free environment. Workers should not feel silly for reporting something, even if it appears to be slightly tenuous.
According to Forbes, it is important for an employer to create a safe, comfortable working environment. The type of atmosphere generated by the actions of those in charge will directly affect what sort of employees you are likely to attract (as well as how long you’ll be likely to keep them with you).
Creating a safe, non fear-based environment is actually highly conducive towards workplace security. Not only will employees feel better about coming forward and offering any information that may be of use, they will also likely be more vigilant due to a sense of company loyalty based on the level of trust and reciprocity that they have experienced.
The ‘See Something, Say Something’ initiative is used for bus, tram and rail travel, enabling concerned passengers to report anti-social behaviour via text message.
In the West Midlands, where the scheme was first deployed for buses and trams, it resulted in a 65% decrease in anti-social behaviour on public transport. A similar method may be used to help keep your business safe.
Employees should always be able to contact security safely, discreetly and efficiently. If managers are ‘checking in’ with their staff regularly, this is good. If they aren’t, they should be. Discussing security openly and frankly with the staff is essential to the overall security of both your workplace and the people in it.
Any security contractors you hire are going to be doing a very important job, so it is a good idea to secure the services of the very best you can afford. Ensure that all contractors are properly Licenced and that the company you use are professional, reliable and have a good reputation.
Here are a few benefits of hiring dedicated security personnel:
Peace of mind. Although it is important to ensure that your employees are aware of and active in the preservation of workplace security, having a security guard/service operating in the workplace makes everyone feel safer. There will be less pressure on your staff overall and it will be easier for them to report any suspicions they may have.
The deterrent factor. Very often, the mere presence of a security guard is enough to make a thief think twice (remember, they are always looking for the easiest target), so seeing security personnel going about their business all day can prevent a lot of crimes before they’ve even been attempted.
Customer service. A security guard at the front desk of a workplace can act as a customer ambassador as well as fulfilling their primary function. A guard can help customers, but also use their training to detect any suspicious activity. This can help prevent ‘tailgating’ (or most of the other suspicious activity detailed in subheading 4). A thief may be willing to try their luck by following an employee into the building, but they’ll be less likely to try and fool a security guard!
Crime Prevention. A security professional with the proper training can actually arrest a suspect, but not all security guards have enough training, so make sure you find out exactly how much your guard is legally allowed to do.
An extra pair of eyes. A large part of a security guard’s job is surveillance. This will definitely help to keep your business safe.
If you are wondering whether or not your business needs a security guard/service, here are a few signs that suggest that it may be a good idea, Essentially, you may need to hire a security guard if
- Your place of business is situated in a high crime area.
- Your employees do not feel safe in the car park at night.
- You are experiencing theft.
- Buildings near to your own are suffering from break-ins.
- You feel the need for an independent record keeper (effective and impartial record-keeping is part of a security guard’s job).
- Your place of business serves alcohol.
- You have building traffic concerns (especially if there are multiple companies operating out of the same building).
- You would be especially vulnerable in an emergency situation (e.g. a fire, a bomb threat or a break-in).
If your business situation meets more than a couple of these criteria, then you should probably make use of a security service.
The next step in this case is to ensure that the company you choose actually meets your needs.
- How highly trained are their personnel?
- Are they trained in customer service?
- How will they affect your company’s image?
Ensuring that your eventual choice is ‘the right fit’ for your business is essential.
There are numerous ways that you can safeguard the area around your business address (besides the methods discussed beneath subheading 8, of course). Perhaps the most effective way is to propose a system of cooperation with other businesses based in the area.
On the surface of it, such a strategy amounts to little more than a business-based ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ scheme, yet in practice, such alliances can be much more effective.
- The entire area is kept secure, not just the perimeter of your building.
- Businesses in alliance can share information about suspicious people or activity in the area.
- Mobile patrols offer round-the-clock protection (with costs shared evenly between multiple businesses).
- Mobile patrols can cover a lot of ground very quickly, so if an incident does take place, the perpetrator will have a far harder time escaping. Multiple guards can communicate via two-way radios, sharing information in order to intercept a would-be thief.
- Mobile patrols have shown to be a great deterrent.
- Security guards on the ground can manually investigate areas that aren’t covered by CCTV.
- Mobile patrols can offer peace of mind to nearby residents and the community in general.
- Mobile patrols are often carried out at random times, making it even harder for criminals to plan their crimes.
Of course, most of the above is also applicable if you just require mobile patrols for your own business.
In conclusion, whether allying with others or going it alone, mobile security patrols are definitely something to think about.
UK law says that no business may operate in the country if it puts the public at risk. The punishments can be severe. So, if the proverbial buck stops with you, it is your responsibility to ensure that your place of business is safe for the public as well as your workers.
Boundaries between customer/client friendly spaces and ‘employee only’ areas should be clearly shown. Often, a subtle border such as a small fence or velvet rope is effective enough to make the point.
However, measures such as these will only deter honest people. The methods listed above and below this section will be far more effective against those who would steal from you or otherwise seek to harm your business.
Below are some tips for keeping non-workers secure on or around your premises, as well as ensuring that intruders are kept out.
- Be sure that all employees know which areas are off limits to the public and that those areas are inaccessible to unauthorised personnel.
- Be aware of any adjacent land usage. Who is using the land around yours? What are they using it for? Is it safe? Knowing the area around your place of business is almost as important as knowing your place of business itself.
- Ensure that anything going on in the area around your workplace does not limit customer/client access to your place of business.
- Find out what measures are being taken to exclude unauthorised personnel from your workplace. Can they be improved upon without putting off existing customers?
- Make absolutely sure that members of the public are at no risk from any activities carried out at, on or around your site.
Basically, the aim is to protect your business (including its customers) from the outside in!
Your alarm system can be as elaborate or as simple as you need it to be, but you should always keep in mind how important it is to the overall security of your workplace.
Most burglaries occur via the front door (weird but true), so it is worth connecting an alarm to every entrance on the premises.
Contact sensors on windows are also of great use, as most intruders won’t risk the noisy and difficult process of breaking a window in order to gain access to your building.
Also recommended are internal motion sensors that will react to any unauthorised presence in the building.
Ultimately, the better your alarm system is, the greater a deterrent it is likely to prove.
Everything mentioned above can be installed by hand, but it is obviously preferable to have your alarm system installed professionally.
Finally, a word about dummy alarm systems; thought it may be tempting to save money by buying one, they are to be avoided.
Although a fake alarm system can act as a deterrent, most are not nearly good enough imitations to fool a seasoned burglar.
In some cases, burglary is their livelihood and a clever thief will be able to spot the fake from even
the subtlest of differences (such as the positioning of the alarm, or even if the LED lights flicker on and off in the correct manner).
For the most part, dummy alarm systems are a prime example of false economy.
In summary, the threats to your workplace may be more pressing (and more varied) than at any other point in recent history, but there have never been more available solutions or a wider range of security options, either. Stay safe.
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