With Olympic fever building, there has never been a better time for retailers to review the security measures they have in place to safeguard their premises during the Games. Steffan George, development director of the Master Locksmith’s Association (MLA), examines the security issues which face retailers and looks at the possible impact of the Olympics on security:
“The Olympics are going to bring a huge influx of people into the UK, and not just to the site of the games.
“Many people will use their visit as an opportunity to explore, both within London and throughout the country. It’s paramount the retail sector is prepared for the effects of this sudden increase in footfall and the appropriate security and safety measures are in place.
“Engaging extra staff is well worth considering; both to manage the extra customers and to boost vigilance, ensuring the shop floor, tills and surveillance cameras are adequately monitored, and if you’re expecting a significant increase in volume of people in your premises, you may want to check your fire risk assessment and ensure emergency exits meet requirements.
“Retailers may also find themselves at risk from opportunistic crime and even targeted attack, at a time when police attention and resources may be stretched.
“I always advise working from the outside in when reviewing the security of your premises – it’s important to assess the perimeter and access points as well as interior of the building.
“These factors determine what physical security you will need for your retail outlet – ranging from locks, reinforced doors and window glass to grates, shutters and access control systems. It’s especially important to get the security protecting your premises right in the light of last summer’s riots and as a deterrent against spontaneous attack during the Olympic period. On that note, ensure you remove any bins, ladders, scrap metal and delivery crates that could be used as tools to gain access.
“It’s worth investing in a surveillance system (and ensuring you have enough staff to monitor it), so you can be vigilant for any suspicious behaviour, whether on the shop floor or outside the premises. If you already have CCTV installed, you might consider calling out an expert to ensure it’s fully serviced and the cameras are in the correct location and the DVR securely stored, or external monitoring functional. It’s also worth having your alarm system checked and ensuring you regularly change the code.
“If your stock room is on the ground floor, it makes sense to block the windows to stop visibility and perhaps add bars or grilles. Conversely, a property in a shopping centre with its own security staff may not require shutters but would benefit from reinforced glass. It’s all about tailoring the security to suit your premises.
“If you take large volumes of cash in a working day, review how often you bank the cash to check you aren’t laying yourself open to risk. Alternatively, you could look into having a safe of the appropriate cash rating professionally installed. It’s also worth checking your staff are trained to identify counterfeit notes.
“It’s a good idea to enlist an expert to check your locks and any safes meet the requirements stipulated in your insurance. In the unfortunate circumstance of having to claim insurance after a theft, you do not want to discover you’ve inadvertently breached the contract.
“One vital point is to consider when your locks were last replaced and how many copies of the keys to your shop are out there. It’s an unsettling thought copies of the keys to your premises could be in circulation without your knowledge.”
Technical manager for the MLA, Justin Freeman, offers a practical solution to the problem of un-accounted for keys: “You can control who has access to your premises by selecting locking systems where keys can’t be easily copied. Patented keys carry legal protection, preventing copies being made.
“An MLA locksmith can install a patented system for you, meaning if keys are retained by an employee or go missing, the existing key can be deleted from the database, the lock re-configured and new keys issued, ensuring no rogue keys are in circulation. This means locks do not need replacing, saving time and money. Although your initial investment might be a little higher than with off-the-shelf locks, the long-term benefits far outweigh the output.”
George added: “Of course, prevention is better than cure: key chains are readily available and issuing them to all staff can minimise the chances of a key being lost in the first place. You can use a master key system to restrict access to strong rooms or cabinets, with only a trusted few staff being given keys which open all areas.
“On the topic of trustworthy staff, now is a good time to review the vetting procedures you have in place. You may want to screen employees to BS7858 if the individuals employed are in an environment where the security and safety of people, goods or property is a requirement of your organisation’s operations or where such security screening is in the public interest.
”It’s also essential to look at how customers enter the building. For many retailers it’s fundamental customers can wander in freely to browse, so obvious access control systems can be off putting. A discreet surveillance system combined with adequate staffing is often a better option.
“One of the most cost-effective ways to increase retail security is to work alongside neighbours to share resources.
“Retailers can join forces to boost security: good quality locking systems and secure external doors, grates, fences, lighting and CCTV can be installed throughout a promenade of shops so all outlets are protected and cost can be divided. CCTV and dusk-to-dawn lighting, in particular, can act as deterrents as well as monitoring aids, which in turn helps create a good reputation for the area.
“Experts are able to provide accurate and cost effective advice on where to invest, based on your specific needs as a retailer. We would always recommend selecting members of recognised trade associations such as the Master Locksmiths Association as they have stringent vetting criteria. When choosing your supplier, always ask what third party accreditation they have and what it actually stands for. Unfortunately there are a lot of “pay your money, get your badge” outfits whose “accreditation” means very little in the real world.
“By seeking expert advice and ensuring all security measures are up to date, you can rest assured you are not only acting responsibly towards your staff and customers but you’re also safeguarding your assets.”