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Perceiving is believing.


OKAY, SO YOU'VE INSTALLED an electronic security system and instituted other security procedures necessary to protect your business and personnel. Is that enough? Maybe, but have you thought about how secure your facility appears? That's right, how does it look? The perception of security, or how your business appears to employees and outsiders, is an important part of any security program.

Alarm systems alone don't prevent robberies, burglaries, or employee thefts. No matter how well designed your security program is, you may never totally eliminate the risk of these crimes. But you can create an atmosphere of security consciousness, so your facility appears as secure as, or even more secure than, it actually is. Let your employees and the public know that excellent security measures are an important element in the overall operation of your business.

This concept isn't exactly new. People quickly develop opinions based on their visual observations. Most people work hard to create an image of how they would like others to perceive them, by wearing accepted clothing or hairstyles, acting a particular way, or driving the right car.

You may have already used perception to create an atmosphere of security at your home. For example, when you go on vacation, don't you have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers every day and put some lights on a timer to help create a lived-in look? You want criminals to think someone is home so they'll commit their crimes elsewhere.

As a security professional, you can create an atmosphere of security consciousness for your business. Take a walk around your facility using the following checklist to determine how your facility might appear to someone targeting your business for a crime. The idea is to look for vulnerabilities that a criminal could exploit.

* Is the perimeter neat and clean, or is trash strewn about? Keep your facility neat and clean, because an orderly exterior gives the appearance of a well-run operation.

* Are pallet racks stacked next to the building, giving easy access to the roof? Are trees that are close to the building large enough for someone to climb to the roof? Even if trees are small now, they might be large enough in five years. Is there any other access to the roof, such as a steel ladder attached to the building? Burglaries where criminals gain entry through the roof are common.

* Does low shrubbery around the building provide easy hiding places? Keep all shrubs trimmed at least six inches below the window line, low enough to allow police cruisers an unrestricted view of the entire building perimeter. Trees and shrubbery are attractive, but they also can aid a criminal, especially in a high-crime industrial area.

* Inspect all of the building's perimeter doors. Are all door frames solid and all door locks adequate? To prevent tampering, all perimeter doors should have metal sleeves on the outside to cover and protect the locking mechanism. Exterior hinges should be pinned or brazed to prevent removal of the hinge pins.

All solid doors leading directly outside should have peepholes. Instruct employees to use the peepholes to identify who is outside the door before opening it, and direct the visitor to another, safer entrance if further identification is necessary. If the intruder has ill intentions, he will probably leave, since his perception of your facility's security has been heightened.

* Are warehouse personnel doors left open or unlocked? Employee traffic should be restricted to one entrance and exit and routed through an area where management personnel are present. This policy should be strictly enforced.

All doors that lead directly outside from the warehouse should be kept locked, equipped with panic or crash bars for emergency exit, and monitored 24 hours a day by the alarm company. Each door should also be equipped with a local annunciator that alerts management of unauthorized openings.

* During normal hours of operation, are the warehouse roll-up doors left open, exposing employees and merchandise and enabling unrestricted access? If steel security or scissor gates are installed on the roll-up doors, are they kept closed and locked when not in use? If the roll-up doors must be kept open for ventilation, the security gates should be closed and locked.

One popular method for burglars to gain entry is the "cut and peel" method. The intruder cuts a hole through the roll-up door using heavy-duty tin snips, then peels the cut part away, making a hole large enough to crawl through. The alarm is not set off because the door alarm contact is not separated. Think about the perception of security an intruder has when he sees such a formidable barrier as steel security gates.

AFTER COMPLETING YOUR EXTERIOR walk, proceed to the building entrance and walk through the front door. For a high-risk business, direct access to the offices should be restricted by using a small lobby with an interior door. The interior door should have an electric strike mechanism controlled by a switch at the receptionist's desk. A Lexan window with a nondirect pass-through tray will give the receptionist the ability to safely observe everyone entering the lobby. If this configuration is not possible, design a counter area to serve as a partition between visitors and employees.

A visitor badge and in/out log system will help restrict the entrance of strangers or unwelcome guests. Employees should be trained to watch for strangers in the facility and to challenge any individual not escorted or wearing a visitor badge. An added benefit of this system is the ability to review the log later to determine who was at the facility on what dates.

Come back to the facility at night to complete your inspection. You'll notice the business takes on an entirely different personality. If interior lights have been left on, drapes or window coverings should be closed so no one can see into the offices and examine their contents. Even if the lights are off, an uncovered window could allow a burglar to use a flashlight and survey the contents of the office. Remember, "smash and grab" burglaries are extremely common; the thief knows he or she can smash an office window, grab expensive personal computers or typewriters, and be miles away by the time the police respond.

A LIGHTING SYSTEM CAN BE A FACILITY'S foremost protective measure. Its purpose is twofold: It illuminates an area and permits observation of suspicious activity, and it serves as a psychological deterrent, making an individual believe he or she would be observed if entry were attempted.

Walk around your facility again and answer these questions about your lighting:

* Is your facility well lit on all sides?

* Is the lighting sufficient to permit observation of anyone loitering or attempting to gain entry? Pay special attention to the shipping and receiving doors and the doors used by personnel.

* Do roll-up doors have lighting under the awning or overhang, or are the doors dark because the wall-mounted lighting is installed above the door awning?

* Does the lighting create any shadowed areas where someone could approach, hide, or work undetected?

* Are employee and visitor parking lots, as well as nightime employee entrances, well lit?

* Is the area where delivery trucks are parked well lit? Vandalism can be an ongoing expense if you park your fleet on-site.

Lighting is vital as a psychological deterrent to crime, and statistics over-whelmingly support the theory that more light means less crime. Also, the courts have held employers negligent and liable for injuries sustained due to insufficient lighting.

These suggestions are not expensive. Addressing potential vulnerabilities in your facility sends a message to criminals to look elsewhere and positively affects everyone's safety and security. Adopt the philosophy that creating the perception of security is an important as any other security measures you might take. And then do it . . . every day.

Gregory L. Brouse, CPP, is manager of corporate security for the Bergen Brunswig Corporation in Orange, CA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:how a facility is perceived to be secure
Author:Brouse, Gregory L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:The key to OPSEC.
Next Article:Accounting for lost documents.

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