Christmas should be a time of relaxation with family and friends, however, the joy of the season of goodwill can be spoilt if you are called out to attend a break-in or other incident at your site. Here, David Ward of Ward Security offers some advice on safeguards.
3 December 2015 | By David Ward
Although Christmas is a time when many businesses and staff wind down and take a well-earned break we should never forget that the criminal element will see the festive period as a bumper opportunity.
Many business premises will be vacant or operating with a much-reduced staff and therefore will present an easy target for burglars and others. And as Christmas tends to affect all businesses, you cannot rely on neighbouring businesses to be vigilant on your behalf as they will similarly be vacant or operating with a skeleton staff.
The other complication at this time will be the unusual behaviour of the Great British Public. You will see people at Christmas behaving in ways they don't throughout the rest of the year. People will be out and about at odd times during the day and night, and it is behind this general confusion that burglars and others can operate without attracting attention.
So what simple steps can you take to help to make sure your Christmas isn't ruined by a call from the police to tell you of a break-in or another emergency?
1. Alert staff to security
Make sure that staff don't overlook security in all the pre-Christmas excitement. Staff will often be focused on office parties, Secret Santa, tying up loose ends and tidying desks before the Christmas break - and wishing customers, partners and each other a Happy Christmas. As the final week before Christmas is typically very busy with such activity, it is easy to forget the basics. So make sure you remind them to be security aware and think about scheduling a mandatory time when all staff conduct a final security check of the site to make sure doors and windows are closed and locked.
2. Create a 'lived in' look
Giving the appearance of occupation can be a useful deterrent. The use of timed lights, semi-open blinds and arranging for third parties, such as cleaners, to make regular visits to the property can help. There are other practical measures that site managers can take, such as removing articles of value, both internal and external, which can draw attention to the building. It is also good practice to schedule somebody to collect any post, which can be a clear sign to potential intruders that the building is vacant. Remember, over the colder winter period a great many homeless people will be looking for shelter and some will consider a vacant office a more attractive option than sleeping rough on the street. Even if intruders do not intend to steal items they could still cause damage. Taking steps to give an impression that the site is, at the very least, periodically visited can deter them.
3. Prime the keyholders
If you have an intruder alarm make sure your keyholder details are up to date and your alarm-receiving centre or helpdesk has an updated list of approved contractors. The last thing anybody wants is to be called out on Christmas Day to attend an intruder alarm, particularly after drinking wine over Christmas lunch. A relatively inexpensive keyholding contract for the year will be far more cost-effective than a driving ban.
4. Check on utilities
Make sure that the keyholding company and contracting staff are fully aware of locations of key items like stopcocks, gas and electricity supply and other essential services. This is vital if there is an incident such as a burst pipe or fire caused by intruders. Giving contractors this often overlooked information could be invaluable if there is an incident and you are not available to attend the scene.
5. Intruder alarms
If you do not have an intruder alarm or fire protection system, consider installing a Wireless Intruder Detection System (WIDS) for the Christmas period that can be rented on a weekly basis and can be easily installed and set to report back to a control room to make sure your premises are monitored. This WIDS system can tie in to your keyholding service to give a better level of security cover.
6. Temporary cover
If you don't currently employ a security company it may be a good investment to book temporary security staff to cover on a short-term contract basis. Make sure the company conducts a proper risk assessment of your site, no matter how small it is, and that you receive a breakdown of its operations procedure that shows who is on site and when, plus details of its planned activity. Finally, don't leave your security until last minute as security companies and their staff are already booking in their additional Christmas work. The closer it gets to Christmas, the harder it will be to find a good-quality service provider.
David Ward is managing director at Ward Security