Keeping your business safe amid violent demonstrations is challenging territory for any business owner. Know what steps to take to help keep you, your employees and your storefront safe from potential looting and vandalism.
Keeping you and your employees safe is of the utmost importance. While you may feel compelled to intervene, there’s no room for heroes under these circumstances. Attempting to fend people off from entering your store could put you and your employees in danger. Businesses can rebuild — people cannot.
It’s safer to remain inside during sustained looting and vandalism. But if your business is broken into and you and your employees are in the store, it’s time to evacuate. Discuss evacuation protocols with employees ahead of time so that everyone knows what actions to carry out should the need arise.
Secure your store
Take steps to ramp up existing security protocols for the safety of your store and employees.
Use security tools you already have
Make the most of any security tools you have at your disposal:
Lock your doors. You can use this simple security protocol during business hours if you feel the security of your employees or store is under threat.
Maximize security cameras. If your store is equipped with security cameras, make sure they’re turned on, positioned well and running as they should. A security camera may dissuade looters from targeting your store and if it doesn’t, it can gather evidence of looting activity with video footage.
Save security footage to the cloud. If your security footage isn’t set to save to the cloud, now is the time for an update. Video footage that is automatically saved to the cloud is more secure than physical tapes that can be damaged, lost, stolen or destroyed.
Invest in additional security
There are many steps you can take to secure your property and business, some more expensive and time consuming than others.
Consider upgrading existing security cameras. New models offer a variety of security-oriented perks, including increased night vision, weatherproofing, two-way voice communication, smart zoom, facial recognition and built-in alarms.
Another option is to hire a security company. Unarmed guards typically cost between $15 to $25 an hour, while armed guards can fall into the range of $35 to $50 an hour. Budget in the two to three weeks necessary to source a reputable team and set up a contract.
If you can’t afford the cost of hired security, speak to other business owners on your block or business park about covering the cost together. If you pool your funds, you could afford more robust security coverage.
Minimize potential damage
Despite the security protocols you have in place, your store may still be at risk of potential theft or damage from violent demonstrations. The following steps can help you minimize potential damage in the event that your store is looted:
Take cash to the bank. The less cash you have on hand, the better.
Remove expensive merchandise. High-ticket items can attract looters, so pull expensive products from your storefront into storage or temporarily store them at home.
Put a local business sign on your door. Looters may be less inclined to target small, local or family-run businesses. Your local community business association may have local business stickers on hand for doors and windows.
Take down window displays. Reduce your store’s visibility by avoiding merchandise on full display in your storefront window.
Board up windows. Boarding up the windows of your storefront can minimize the debris. Tutorials online go over the process, and as far as materials go, you don’t need to look much further than plywood, wood screws, a circular saw and a power drill.
Install window bars. If you’d prefer a more permanent window fixture, explore the costs associated with installing window bars or grilles to your windows. You can purchase the bars yourself, with plenty of cost-effective options available at Home Depot, Rona — even Amazon. Or, you can hire a security firm to have the bars installed professionally. A professional installation will cost more but typically offers better protection.
Research your insurance coverage — and adjust if necessary
Speak to your provider about your current policy and be ready to add or increase your general liability insurance and property insurance so that you’re fully covered.
You’ll pay a bigger premium — but this cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the damages you could incur with an uninsured business that’s vandalized or looted.
Watch our short video on how your insurance can cover you in the event of vandalism or looting:
Follow the news
Set up Google alerts, follow relevant news accounts on social media and subscribe to daily newsletters covering local events to stay ahead of the curve on current events. This knowledge can help you prepare for any upcoming protests and demonstrations in your area.
Talk with community organizers and fellow business owners
Connecting with business owners in your community can help you collectively organize your efforts to keep the community safe. Urge other businesses to identify their stores as local. Seek out formal and informal business associations in your city and state. Establish a local business Facebook or WhatsApp group so that you can stay connected to your fellow entrepreneurs.
And if you suspect a potentially violent event is on the horizon? Rally local businesses to brainstorm ideas to band together before and after the looting and vandalism, including collectively hiring security or seeking out grants and assistance for cleanup.
Do business owners have the right to stay in or around their business after curfew?
Regulations vary by state, but essential business owners are typically allowed to stay open to the general public and in their business after curfew as long as they don’t invite customers onto the premises.
Managing a storefront during times of political and social upheaval isn’t easy. But a proactive approach can help you mitigate damages. Take steps to secure your business and the safety of your employees, and follow the news to stay on top of upcoming events.
Shannon Terrell is a writer for Finder who studied communications and English literature at the University of Toronto. On any given day, you can find her researching everything from equine financing and business loans to student debt refinancing and how to start a trust. She loves hot coffee, the smell of fresh books and discovering new ways to save her pennies.
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