Business owners are often the first ones in and the last ones out, so locking the doors is second nature. But it takes more than a key to protect your small business from theft and other breaches that can wipe out everything you've worked to build.
Many small business owners turn to business alarm systems which can be helpful in securing valuable assets, including people, equipment, customer records and intellectual property.
For business owners, installing a business alarm system is one way to stay a step ahead of the criminals.
"The FBI says there is a burglary every 15 seconds," said Robert Siciliano, a security consultant. The statistics do not favor businesses that have been victimized, he said. "Police only catch one out of 10 burglars. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics show about 16 million property crimes annually. Burglaries result in over $4.5 billion in losses annually resulting in over $2,000 in losses to the victims. The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association determined property crime averages above 75 percent of all crime. "
He suggested hiring a third party to do a cost-benefit analysis of installing a security system, which should include a security risk assessment. "Otherwise, learn to think like a thief and determine what vulnerabilities you have and research the best way to secure your establishment," he said.
The type of business dictates security measures, experts said. "One of the biggest indicators for security system requirement is compliance," said Steve Surfaro, security industry liaison and business development manager for Axis Communications, a provider of video surveillance equipment. "Should you maintain or process personal identifiable information, such as credit card transactions or maintain patient health records, you already have a requirement to secure this information or access to the servers that might maintain this information. High-value assets of many types, from cash to jewelry, are drivers for protecting the containers or areas containing negotiable or transferrable assets."
He said identifying, distributing and securing assets throughout your facility will reduce risk.
The actual location of your business will itself be a driver for securing your office or facility, security experts said. "One measurement is the time it would take a thief to breach your facility's perimeter and gain control of assets," Surfaro said. "Many crimes occur as a result of a thief's ability to commit the crime and leave within a very short period of time. Therefore, if you are close by locations of criminal behavior, or if your store or office is easily breached within a short duration, you need to consider methods of making your facility less appealing to the criminal. Simple measures like surveillance notices, backed up by an actual surveillance system, together with an intrusion detection system with exterior notification will go a long way toward discouraging criminal behavior."
Small businesses that lease office space in buildings that are not already protected by security alarms should make the investment in a scalable security system. "If office windows are on street level, then attention should also be paid to what can be seen through the windows," said Annie Searle, principal, Annie Searle & Associates, a risk consulting firm.
She said employees should be trained to re-lock internal doors that lead to common space shared with other businesses. Employees should also be trained to be alert to persons wandering into the office with no apparent business except perhaps to scope out the facilities for a robbery.
Security experts said small business owners need to ask themselves how a security incident could disrupt their ability to conduct business and serve their customers. Or, worse, could it potentially put employees' safety at risk?
"It is always important to protect a facility after hours or protect certain areas during business hours," said David Gottlieb, director of marketing communications for Honeywell Security Group, a security equipment provider. "The idea behind installing a security system is reducing the risk of loss, as well as saving money that might potentially be lost due to a security breach. With no security system in place, a small business owner is risking anything they have inside the business, both hard assets and soft assets, like digital information regarding employees or financials."
Gottlieb said small business owners should follow the "3 D's" — detect, document, and deter. "First, an alarm system should detect a breach in security," he said. "Going a step further, it should be able to document activity happening in the facility, either by real-time alerts or video surveillance. Finally, a security system should deter, utilizing access control to prevent unauthorized people from entering the business or granting limited access to certain areas of the facility."
Business owners should check with their insurance providers, as they sometimes offer discounts to businesses that have a professionally installed security system, experts noted.
While no security system is perfect, information from the system can be crucial in filing an insurance claim if an incident occurs, experts said. "Insurance firms want to know if there was a security system in place and if it was active during that time," said Rod Lima, general manager of Nexlar Security, a security system integrator. "And since estimates are that one-third of all business bankruptcies are a result of employee theft, access controls, alarms and cameras can help identify and reduce these security issues."
Editor’s Note: Considering a video surveillance system for your business? If you’re looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:"