A previous article dealt with the threat to store security once the threat was in the door (Cooperative Grocer #12-13, Aug-Nov. 1987). Unfortunately, shoplifting and employee or vendor theft are but a few of the problems that co-ops and conventional groceries must guard against.
Less frequent, but certainly as serious, is the threat to the security of the physical plant and its occupants.
Robbery, burglary and vandalism and fire pose very real threats, and the best deterrent remains the ageless maxim, "be prepared." Naivete, often a co-op's greatest weakness, has no place in providing for a secure future.
Robbery, perhaps the most frightening security threat, is potentially the most hazardous. The element of fear makes any robbery situation potentially disastrous and life threatening. Rural isolation does not guarantee security, nor does any other particular location. Don't be caught unprepared.
- Check with your local police regarding recommended procedures. When dealing with robbery, general guidelines include:
- Do not resist; comply with demands.
- Do not attempt heroics. Insurance will cover your losses in most cases.
- Make a mental note of any description that will help identify suspect(s); hair color, eye color, height, weight, clothing, sex, scars or other physical characteristics.
- Notify authorities as soon as possible, including insurance company.
- Protect yourself and your potential losses by making frequent but irregularly timed cash pulls from your cash register. A drawer bristling with $20 bills is a temptation to any potential thief.
- Count your money in a secure, private location, and choose a secure safe with an alarm if the cash is kept on the premises overnight.
- If you make your own cash deliveries to the bank, vary your time and route frequently.
- Keep all entries and exits locked at all times when you are not open for business.
Burglary is a far more common occurence than robbery in the retail trade, yet it is an alarming occurrence nevertheless. As with robbery, however, there are a number of preventive measures that you can take that will greatly reduce the likelihood of being hit.
- Establish a closing "security checklist," and be sure that a responsible employee locks all doors and secures all windows.
- Do not leave valuable office equipment in plain view; this type of merchandise is easy to "fence" and may be too great a temptation.
- Limit the disbursement of keys to supervisory personnel, and be certain terminated employees turn in their keys upon dismissal. Immediately rekey all entry locks if keys are lost or stolen.
- Check to be sure all customers are gone before leaving for the night; check storage areas, restrooms, etc.
- Leave lights on in vulnerable areas such as loading docks, rear doors, office areas and at locations throughout the store.
- Request occasional police "cruise bys" to deter would-be burglars.
Vandalism is a difficult problem to deal with; it's usually random and senseless. While common to certain urban areas, this needless destruction has spread to all areas. Probably the best defense against vandalism is a positive community image. Keeping your lights on around the exterior of your store may deter mischievous destruction, but if your neighborhood is prone to this type of violence, it may be unavoidable.
Damage from fire can destroy everything you've worked so hard to build. Insurance cannot replace "sweat equity" that you've acumulated through years of growth and development. Once again, the best defense: "be prepared." In this case, being prepared means taking necessary precautions to avoid catastrophe.
- Remove all burnable trash and litter from storage areas daily.
- Keep all electrical panels clear of combustibles (refer to your area's specific regulations).
- Have fire extinguishers inspected regularly and train all employees in their use.
- Unplug toasters, coffee makers, hot plates, etc. at the end of the day.
- Prohibit smoking in all storage areas.
- Train employees as to fire escape procedures, and post exits clearly.
- Check with your insurance agent; most are eager to provide more detailed information regarding commercial fire prevention.