We have had some enquiries from Lone Worker Safety Live Community members who own small (and large) businesses, asking for advice on how to keep their properties (and businesses) safe whilst they are closed or working from home in social isolation.
Not strictly our area of expertise, but always willing to help, we approached Mike White, Head of Risk, Compliance and Assurance for a major international security provider and one of our Lone Worker Safety Live Community for some expert advice to pass on.
Mikes shares his ideas and some great ‘good practice’ ideas below.
In addition you can download a PDF of information from the Metropolitan Police that was provided by Chief Inspector Patrick Holdaway of the National Business Crime Centre if you follow this link. Patrick is one of our speakers and long time supporters.
Thank you to both Mike and Patrick for their help.
In these unprecedented times of mass closure of business premises and huge uncertainty, a number of business owners are rightly concerned about the security of their once bustling but now standing idle premises.
This guide offers some useful advice that can help mitigate some of the risks associated with leaving buildings unoccupied for any length of time.
Firstly, the ‘small print’, following any or all of this guidance won’t make your premises invulnerable and can’t guarantee you that won’t become a victim of criminality or anti-social behaviour. If in doubt, business owners should talk to their insurance providers and have a discussion around what might be the most appropriate requirements for them.
Reviewing the security of your premises
OK, let’s get started. The first thing to say is don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t get bogged down in detail. Try to step back and take an overview rather than focus on one particular element when the bigger risk may be elsewhere.
Try to think like a bad guy, look at the entire footprint of the premises and its surroundings rather than just the MD’s office, stock room or the production line.
The risks to your premises will come in two guises, threats and hazards and the trick will be to try to identify all of them.
In doing so it’s also important to remember impact as this will vary according to the threat or hazard and may be short term (e.g, the impact of a broken window) or much longer term (e.g. the loss of intellectual property). Finally, what are you trying to protect against? Illegal occupation (building and or adjacent spaces), theft of valuable contents, theft of infrastructure (e.g. copper piping), vandalism or all of the above. Consider the most appropriate response to achieve your security aims.
The Three “D”’s
Your aim should be to deter, delay and detect anyone targeting your premises. Bluntly put, you want them to look at your premises, decide it’s not worth it and move off to look for a softer target elsewhere. In its most basic form, a strong fence will deter intruders and cause delays but in combination with, for example, a locked safe and a monitored alarm there is a greater degree of protection. Visible CCTV will deter (don’t forget the requirements for correct signage under GDPR) and movement triggered exterior lighting will also help (mount the lights in such a way that they can’t be easily targeted).
Increase the Effort Required – Increase the Risk of Being Caught – Reduce the Rewards
Go through the following list and see if you can implement as many as possible (or apply to you):
Make it harder for them
- Upgrade your locks or if too late for this, ensure all locks (including window locks) are used
- Immobilise any vehicles that must remain on site
- Remove valuable items offsite including company vehicles
Control potential burglary tools
- Lock up ladders
- Secure wheelie bins away from the building (and the fence line)
- Remove pallets from site or lock them away
Deny them access
- Make it clear where public space and private land begin and ends. If you can add a fence or chain – even a low one denotes a boundary line
- Erect clear signage confirming private property
- Restrict any rooftop access
- Block off parking bays next to the building so bulky items can’t easily be removed
- Consider anti-climb paint for downpipes and walls
- Secure letterboxes (where applicable) to prevent anyone pouring in, for instance, petrol to start a fire. Clever burglars using ingenious tools can also use letterboxes to open doors from the inside.
- Thin trees out
- Remove excess shrubbery growth
- Ensure all exterior lights are functional
- If you have a public right-of-way across or through your property, ensure the route is clearly marked and separated where possible
- If it looks like your building might have to remain closed for an extended period, you might want to consider contacting a professional alarm monitoring business and negotiating for a short –term contract.
- Have alarms linked to designated keyholders (keep this up to date with available staff)
- Have interior lights on time switches
- Tell the police your premises are unoccupied (no guaranteed response but you never know)
- On a managed estate? Tell the estate -– they may have their own security provider engaged
Ensure the place still looks inhabited as far as you can
- Remove any graffiti as it appears, to prevent more springing up
- Remove any accumulated litter and detritus thereby removing a potential fire risk
- Regularly visit (if you can) to remove post etc.
- Hide removable and valuable objects (or remove them to another site)
- Empty display cabinets of trophies and awards. Store these out of sight and remember to check your home insurance for suitability if you decide to store them at home.
- Place the most valuable objects / equipment at the furthest point from points of entry
- Don’t leave vehicle keys at the front reception desk
Security mark your property
- Consider forensic marking of key items (accurately maintain a register)
- A visible mark may be the most appropriate mark in some cases
Make it too hot to handle
- Take pictures of valuable items to share if they are lost/stolen (and leave a note for any would be thieves to let them know you’ve done this)
- Always let the police know you have these pictures (share them if they ask for them)
- If the worst happens report any losses to local trade and auction houses
Looking slightly further outward, what are the levels of business crime in your area? You can confirm that on this website – https://www.police.uk/. Perhaps consider the level and types of crime, look at your premises and shape your response accordingly.
To prevent potentially very serious loss consider draining down of all water systems as well as switching off other utility services as, in the event of pipe theft, the damage caused by systems not drained down could be enormous and add to unbudgeted costs at an already difficult trading time. Do check first that in switching off power that no systems in the building will be compromised.
Finally, this shouldn’t be considered a definitive list of security do’s and don’ts, but it will hopefully trigger your thought process and get you thinking about what you might reasonably be able to put in place. Whatever you do decide to do though, don’t just put a plan into place and then “walk away”. Periodic inspections should be undertaken to check for any signs of criminality, to test the effectiveness of your plan, to demonstrate to anyone watching your premises that someone is still coming to and from site, to remove any rubbish and collect any post that might build up.
There are a lot of security professionals, consultants and service providers who know their subject extremely well and if the thought of trying to comprehensively analyse your security requirements leaves you in a cold sweat then you might want to engage the professionals. If that’s the case then, as a first stop, consider checking the British Security Industry Association’s (BSIA) website at www.bsia.co.uk or contacting them via email@example.com and they will happily point you in the right direction.
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) – https://www.cpni.gov.uk/physical-security
Metropolitan Police Crime Prevention Advice – https://www.met.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/ (most police forces will have a similar advice page on their respective website)
Secured by Design – https://www.securedbydesign.com/
National Business Crime Centre – https://nbcc.police.uk/
British Security Industry Association (BSIA) – www.bsia.co.uk
This is a non-exhaustive list and many Chambers of Commerce, Business Improvement Districts and other representative bodies will offer advice, often tailored to reflect local experiences Also, most police forces have specialist business crime advisors whose services are free-of-charge if you reach out and make contact, their details will be accessible via your local police force website.
I hope this helps you and your business to stay safe and secure.