For many, cyber breaches are considered to be the big bad wolf. Do a quick Google search for “business security” and you’ll find endless lists of how-to articles that plot out steps for evading hackers and preventing data breeches. And while digital security measures matter for small businesses, physical security threats can just as easily blow the house down.
From theft and vandalism to accidents and natural disasters, physical security presents so many different variables that could financially and reputationally harm a small business if handled improperly.
Every small business owner wants to protect his staff, property, and assets, but not every small business owner is equipped with insight into how to prevent these types of dangers. Here are just a few tips to help you as you begin putting physical safety measures in place for your business.
As a first step, conduct a physical security audit to identify what areas of your business might be most vulnerable to security risks. Kattie Willie, marketing director at LockNet, put together several great questions to ask as you begin taking inventory. Some that are especially pertinent to small businesses include:
- Access Points: Do all doors, gates, and windows latch and lock properly? Are windows protected with a security lamination to prevent breakage? Who monitors (in person or via camera) access points?
- Access Methods: Are access points secured with key locks, swipe cards, or codes? Who has access to keys, cards, or codes? How frequently are codes updated? Has the access of former employees been revoked?
- Lighting: Is your premises well-lit, or are there shadowy recesses which might provide concealment? Are doors and other access points well-lit? Do lights turn on automatically at nightfall?
- Surveillance Cameras: Do you have adequate camera coverage for your premises? Is footage continuously monitored, or only infrequently reviewed?
- Alarms: Have you installed adequate smoke, ﬁre, water, intrusion, tamper, and motion detectors? Are the sensors in good working order? Have you set up notiﬁcations to be sent to your mobile device?
Protect Your Business Against Internal and External Threats
Going through the process of doing a physical security audit can help protect your small business from one of the most common threats faced by many small businesses: theft. Studies indicate 80 percent of thefts happen in organizations with fewer than 100 employees. More than half of those thefts happen in organizations with less than 25 employees.
And while shoplifting is the leading type of theft, employee theft is becoming a growing problem. Some reports show employee theft attributing to a third of small business bankruptcies.
Surveillance cameras help deter both types of theft. Surveillance cameras can help dissuade thieves, catch the crime in action, and/or identify suspects after the fact. However, it’s important to consider surveillance cameras work best when in plain view.
Place surveillance cameras in areas like entries, the register, back office or storage closets and at the outside of fitting rooms. Also, let it be known to employees that the footage is monitored regularly.
Additionally, you might consider putting more than one employee on the clock at all times. While this might seem costly because of the added resources, it can pay off from a security standpoint and customer service perspective. When one employee is at the register checking out customers, a second employee can walk the store and interact with other shoppers.
Safeguard Against On-Premises Liability Issues
Dealing with on-premises accidental injuries is another common and significant safety threat small businesses face. Independent or family-owned restaurants are especially susceptible. According to an article from the Georgia Restaurant Association, nationally, the average restaurant has between three and nine slip-fall accidents annually. And multiple sources report the average cost per incident for businesses being upwards of $20,000.
Unfortunately, patron or employee violence does occur and can be the liability of the small business owner. Like theft, surveillance is key to protecting small businesses from liability issues. Having a camera capturing the incident can serve as unbiased documentation that can aide in your defense against claims.
Putting a physical security plan in place is also critical. Having written policies that document what to do when something happens and training employees on the procedures can deescalate problems and reduce the backlash on your business.
Prepare for Emergencies
Natural disasters such as storms, ﬁres, or earthquakes can compromise security for small businesses. While these instances are incredibly difﬁcult to predict, preparedness can minimize the impact they can have on your business.
Create an emergency preparedness plan that outlines how you and your staff should respond in the event of direct and sudden scenarios and run through it at least annually. This plan should be available both electronically and in print, with copies stored in a separate location in case your business ever becomes inaccessible.
Much like smart home technology, smart business technology – like integrated detectors and alarms – can alert you in real-time on your mobile device when something is going wrong so you can instantly put your emergency plan in action.
Create a Safer Small Business
Even though physical security can sometimes play second fiddle to cyber security, small businesses need to pay more attention to it. Identifying what vulnerabilities are present and taking proactive measures to thwart against common physical security issues can pay off in peace of mind and less hits to your bottom line.
McConnell oversees small business security strategy at Cox Business. He is tasked with launching the security solution in all Cox markets by end of 2017. Before Cox Business, McConnell worked at Protection One and ADT Security Services, where he spent nearly two decades in key leadership positions and was responsible for significant growth during his tenure. Over the past several years, McConnell served as vice president of both residential and small business for ADT North America. He started his career there in 1990 as a small business sales representative and also spent time in residential and commercial sales.