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Securing Your Business Over Christmas Holiday

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Ian Ferguson

Before you spend your time and money on Christmas festivities, remember to plan for a safe and secure holiday. While the festive season brings joy and excitement, it unfortunately also sees a rise in criminal activities, especially those directed against the business community. Here are our most effective tips for holiday safety and security:

Test security systems. If your business will be closed for an extended period of time, and will have different operating hours during the holiday season, be sure to test your fire alarms, security cameras, access control systems and more, so you know they are working and reporting properly.

By doing this at the beginning of the holiday season, you will allow ample time to make any needed adjustments or repairs, enabling you to leave your business with peace of mind that it is protected. Also, make sure your monitoring provider is aware of your holiday hours and has an updated call list, should any alarms go off in your absence.

Do not post holiday hours. Instead of posting your holiday hours on your doors or windows, consider posting a sign that says: “Call us for holiday hours.” Similarly, consider using an automated e-mail response across the business that encourages the sender to call for holiday hours, then designate a member (or members) of your staff to respond to these inquiries.

Secure and lock your premises. While it is normal procedure to lock up when leaving, if you will be gone for an extended period of time, I recommend going around to every exterior door to make sure they are locked and secured prior to departing.

If you have an access control system, be sure that any schedules set to automatically open doors on specific days and times are overridden during your absence, so that the building is not unlocked and unattended during the holidays.

Guard how you dispose of trash. During the holiday season, it is common for businesses to receive an influx of inventory deliveries – whether it is for additional stock to sell or gifts to provide employees and customers.

After emptying the shipping boxes, do not just throw away the boxes and shipping labels in your dumpster. Since many of these boxes are marked with the original contents, it is like an advertisement to burglars, letting them know what you may have inside.

Instead, take all shipping and contents labels off the boxes and shred them. Then cut the boxes and put them in trash bags before placing them in the dumpster.

Conduct proper vetting on your part-timers. It is possible that your business will still be open during the holidays, especially if you are in retail. In this case, when you are hiring any seasonal employees, take extra precautions.

First, be sure to do a thorough background check on these employees, so you are not inadvertently inviting in a criminal. Second, provide them with enough training to do their job, but do not offer insights or access that will tempt them to steal from you. Finally, if your seasonal employees require pass codes to enter certain areas of your business, be sure to follow best practices for managing alarm panel pass codes. It is critical that you disable these codes when they are no longer employed.

Secure your premises with proper lighting. It is important that the inside and outside of your business is well-lit, especially when you will be gone for an extended period of time. This makes it harder for intruders to hide and go unseen, and can also deter them from entering your business altogether. You may also consider using timers that turn lights inside your facility on and off at random, instead of scheduled intervals, so it gives the appearance that people are inside even when you are closed.

Conceal your merchandise when closed. When you are closed during the holidays, be cognisant of what can be seen inside your business from the street or sidewalk. Do not show too much merchandise, equipment or other high-value items near the windows of your business. This not only tempts ill-intentioned individuals but can also make it easier for them to do a smash-and-grab.

Unplug unnecessary devices. Prior to leaving for the holidays, you should survey the interior of your business and unplug anything that is not required to be on or running while you are closed. It is not uncommon for employees to leave space heaters plugged in during the winter months, but these should always be unplugged after use, especially when left unattended.

Also consider unplugging electronics, such as computers, copiers, coffee makers and more, so that if an unexpected power outage/surge occurs, you are not returning after the holiday break to electronics that are damaged or destroyed.

Do not leave cash in the drawer. It seems obvious, but be sure to remove all cash from your business so that it is not left unattended during the holiday break. Don’t believe that cash on-premises is secure in any way, even if it is in a safe. Unanchored safes are easy targets for thieves.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

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