9 Physical Security Tips You Need for Your Organization

Posted by Matthew Clark on April 22, 2021

With all the companies making the news because of cyber-attacks and hacks, many organizations have channeled all their security energies into cybersecurity. While it's critical to protect customer and company data, it's also equally important to protect an organization's assets.

This is especially the case with theft and vandalism on the rise since more people stay home to protect themselves from COVID-19. With many businesses allowing employees to work from home, it leaves their property vulnerable to crime.

The Effects of the Pandemic on Crime

According to The Wall Street Journal, the New York City police department saw a 75 percent increase in vandalism and burglaries of commercial properties after the city's mayor declared a state of emergency. The same thing happened in Seattle except its number went up by 87 percent.

David S. Abrams, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has conducted a study of how the pandemic affects crime. Abrams reports the outcome in COVID-19 and Crime in U.S. Cities. The good news is that property crime against homes and non-businesses has dropped. Unfortunately, commercial property crime has climbed.

It does not take much to figure out the cause of the change. As more people stay home, thieves and burglars know their chances of finding a home empty are low. Aside from retail, commercial buildings tend to be empty. This is why it's no surprise Abram reports an upsurge in commercial property burglaries by almost 40 percent in all the cities studied.

Commercial property managers need to monitor more than the buildings. They also need to watch over vehicles and parking garages. Many cities have seen a spike in vehicle theft, especially Philadelphia. Compared to before the pandemic, the city of Brotherly Love has seen car thefts go up by 2.5 times. Austin, Denver, and Los Angeles have also experienced a rise in vehicle thefts.

With people getting vaccinated, can we expect these numbers to go down? It's not likely. Stanford researchers believe the trend will carry on because less than half of the workforce continues to work remotely. Hence, a commercial property remains susceptible to vandalism and break-ins. Here are nine tips for physical security to protect your organization.

1. Document security policies and procedures

Before you can hold training, your organization needs documented policies and procedures. These guidelines will help employees know what to do. For instance, you'll need a process for visitor check-in and check-out. You'll need a process for when an employee leaves the company and for removing their access.

What happens if a visitor gets caught without a badge as required by the process? The policy also addresses this. If there is a flood or someone trespasses, how should employees respond? That needs to be documented. The key is to capture potential scenarios and the responses for each.

2. Require security awareness training

Security is every employee's job. Yes, even those who aren't security or cybersecurity professionals. All it takes to blow security is one employee allowing a stranger to piggyback into the building. An employee may catch a visitor without a badge. The employee needs to know how to handle this situation safely instead of just letting it go.

Every time a new employee joins the organization, they should undergo security awareness training as part of the onboarding process. To further reinforce the importance of completing and understanding the training, require that they sign a document. This document should be easy to understand without the lawyer-speak. Otherwise, they will sign off on it without reading.

All current employees should receive security awareness training at least once a year. They will need to sign off on the training to show they understood and will follow procedures.

3. Limit entry and exit points

The more entrances and exits you have, the harder it will be to track who's in the building. It also makes it easier for an intruder to get inside unnoticed. Windows should be locked and inaccessible.

4. Create a medical preparedness plan

The pandemic gives us a stark reminder that contagious illnesses can bring down a business. We hope there will never be another pandemic. But there is always going to be a contagious illness like the flu.

A medical preparedness plan outlines the steps of what to do when someone in the building becomes ill. It'll also describe what the organization will do if it needs to close the building due to a medical emergency.

5. Add an access control system

An effortless way to manage access and entry is with an access control system. It lets staff enter the building while restricting access to areas or rooms in the building, such as a parking garage. Employees can swipe their badges to enter the garage and then use them again to go into the building.

Unlike other automated entry systems, an access control system tracks who accesses any area with their badges. You gain more benefits from the system when you integrate it with video surveillance. It'll help you verify who entered a room at a set time.

6. Conduct annual security assessments

Your organization's risk assessment and security plan are not one-and-done. Imagine if you created a security plan in 1980s before the Internet came along. Internet security keeps evolving and so does physical security. A security assessment reviews the security program's performance and finds areas for improvement.

7. Use an asset management system

An asset tracking management system can do much more than keep track of your assets and provide information regarding stolen assets. A good one keeps a record of maintenance and alerts you when it's time for maintenance or a replacement. It ensures you optimize your assets to avoid having too much or too little of anything.

If someone needs to locate an asset, the asset management system will show its current status. Anytime an asset goes missing, enter it in the system and report it ASAP. The sooner you report it, the greater chances of recovery.

8. Prepare for an emergency

Fire? Flood? Tornado? Intruders? Your organization needs to have a documented plan on how it will handle each situation. Employees should know what to do for all of the scenarios. That's why it's important to conduct drills a few times a year.

Assign employees to be emergency managers. You'll need at least two per floor. Each one should have a backup for when they're absent from the building. They are responsible for tracking employees and ensuring everyone is accounted for.

9. Use remote video surveillance

You can deter crime, lower liability, and boost productivity by adding a remote video surveillance system. Security cameras can be installed anywhere you need them. That includes all entrances and exits.

Video cameras are one of the few security options that can do multiple things and add layers to your security. The sight of cameras is a deterrent and so is the two-way audio speaker. It does the job of multiple security tasks:

  • Minimizes tailgating and piggybacking.
  • Limits social engineering attacks.
  • Controls external access.
  • Authenticates identities with integrated access control.
  • Provides a strong authentication method.
  • Eliminates the need for keys.
  • Reduces manual security procedures.
  • Incorporates photo identification.

Meanwhile, the system records and saves everything it sees. This comes in handy for liability claims and investigations.

Physical Security: How to Get Started

Don't let a list of physical security tips overwhelm you. Here's where you can start before investing in physical security. Begin with a risk assessment. It'll help you document your strengths and weaknesses in your physical security. In creating this document, you'll be developing your physical security plan.

A risk assessment reviews the factors that may impact your organization. You'll review crime reports to list the types of crimes that occur in your areas. If your location experiences extreme weather, it's also worth documenting weather patterns. This information will include tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, fires, earthquakes, and other situations not caused by humans.

You can pick up free valuable disaster planning toolkits from Ready, a Department of Homeland Security website. The toolkit covers natural, health, human-caused, and technology-related hazards. The website also has captioned videos, a guide for planning a workshop, and more.

Think about who enters and exits your commercial property. Some possibilities to consider include employees, customers, vendors, partners, and delivery. An organization that welcomes all the above will need different entry requirements than one that only has employees and delivery on-site.

A security plan will ensure it's easy for employees to enter and delivery to do their jobs. At the same time, you want to prevent criminals from piggybacking or tailgating. These simple activities can bring down your security.

The risk assessment contains a draft of the property's layout, which consists of the building and the surrounding property including the parking lot, alleys, roofs, and everything inside the perimeter. Note current physical security measures and what needs to be added to close the physical security gaps. Prioritize these as you may not have the budget to implement all of the options.

Commercial property managers have a responsibility for the safety of employees, customers, visitors, and vendors. A well-implemented physical security program with layered security protects your assets and reduces liability risk.

To learn more about commercial property security and how it's possible it can do more than catch criminals, check out the guide to Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals. Contact us to get a customized security plan that fits your needs that maximizes your ROI.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Tips, Video Monitoring