Deter, detect, prevent: A three-pronged approach to safety and security

By Jeff Johnson, Security Pro program director

In a difficult economy, it’s tough enough to make ends meet when running a business. And if theft of property begins to affect your retail operations, it becomes necessary to rethink safety and security strategies. Developing a proactive game plan can make a big difference in profit (and loss).

When Tom Richards, managing partner of Lionsafe, a Security Pro dealer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, moved an indoor/outdoor hardware retailer to a new 18,000-square-foot location, Lionsafe was brought in as a consultant to provide flexible and continuous protection for the operation. And in the process, the way in which the company approached security made a convert of the general manager.

Formerly a proponent of simple hardwire solutions, the customer had his eyes opened to the range of possibilities offered by the company as it developed a holistic approach to the dual challenges of relocation and ongoing protection of inventory and equipment.

“We didn’t look at their needs as installing a panel and being done with it,” said Richards. “We made sure they had the ability to monitor and control the environment from virtually anywhere. And while there was some skepticism at first, they soon realized there were so many options, and our focus was also helping them increase their ability to protect an entire team of employees — that was a big differentiator. This is always a concern in day-to-day operations, particularly when you’re opening and closing the store. Operations like this have to keep really long business hours to serve a large customer base, and that means you can have a lot of people coming and going in darkness much of the time.”

Hardware meets high tech

Gone are the days of simple locks and keys. The high-tech solution that was selected to protect the store includes wireless control of lighting, panic alarms, arming and disarming, and intrusion alarm warnings — all of which are located outside the premises. This is typical of security systems that are now installed in homes, small businesses and large companies all over the world. And it’s the type of system that works as both a sophisticated deterrent and an effective means of monitoring.

At the heart of this total-solution system is a control panel, which stores the intelligence to monitor sensors and touchpads. The panel initiates calls to the central station in any alarm situation. Touchpads located at every doorway communicate user commands to the panel. They serve as the primary vehicle to arm, disarm, and program the entire system. Telephones may be used to operate the system in most situations; however, wireless phones are now the modern preference because the first way for a burglar to disarm a system is to render landlines useless by simply cutting wires.

“It’s important to locate sensors at appropriate locations so, if and when they’re activated, the panel is immediately alerted to a potential problem,” said Richards. “The panel then activates sirens and lights and simultaneously calls the central monitoring station. The central monitoring station operator reports the alarm to the police, fire department or emergency medical personnel.”

This system, like other all-inclusive programs, includes alarm verification technology that greatly reduces the chance of false alarms. Before authorities are dispatched, operators use audio verification to be in voice contact at the alarm location. If the alarm is accidental, the user can cancel the alarm by providing an authorized user code. If the code is not provided, authorities are dispatched.

First steps…and beyond

Every well-planned security program should include three basic elements — deterrence, detection and prevention — to be as effective as possible in ensuring people and property are safe from harm.

Keeping would-be criminal activity away should always be your first order of business when developing your security strategy. Installing well-maintained fences that you can see through and trimming back landscaping so it doesn’t provide a hiding place are basic starting points. Having an abundance of exterior lighting, which is in good repair and located where it provides the most illumination, is also key.

But going the extra step by installing window and door sensors that can be activated after the close of business each day will further protect the perimeter of your buildings. The sensors alert the panel if a door or window is opened, while motion detectors in hallways, offices or storage areas detect a person moving across the field of detection. Motion detectors also can be programmed to activate lighting and surveillance.

Smoke and heat detectors should remain in the “always on” position to alert for the presence of fire 24 hours a day. In addition, environmental sensors can be used to detect elevated levels of carbon monoxide, the presence of water from flash floods or leaky pipes, and freezing temperatures that can cause additional concerns.

Enhanced systems for larger operations

As your business grows, it’s only sensible that how you approach your security program should evolve. Simple padlocks, deadbolts and keys will no longer suffice when dealing with someone determined to enter your premises. To put this in perspective, when was the last time you used a cash register that looked like it came from the hardware store of your childhood?

Today’s business owners are now operating their companies and physical plants more like schools or corporate campuses, and your customers and employees are people you need to protect. You may want to consider including additional surveillance that encompasses closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring and digital recording in coordination with intrusion detection, fire control, perimeter security, inventory control, gate access and operations.

Access control can integrate with badging for employees, CCTV, sensors, gates and turnstiles, as well as locks to control movement, security, access and reporting. While that may seem intrusive, employees can be assured they are receiving protection from both outside intruders, as well as false claims. (And few employees will disagree with being monitored when it’s a workplace safety issue at stake.)

“There are powerful, cost-effective solutions for everything from homes to small companies to multi-location businesses,” said Richards. “Most operate from a single console for all-access control, video surveillance and security management functions. Advanced surveillance technology should have a digital video recording component that gives a business owner the ability to monitor in real-time while also providing a backup record of everything that transpires at any given moment. These are incredibly affordable investments that pay off in terms of peace of mind, decreased insurance claims and reduced premiums.”

The specific security program your company requires can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. But the bottom line is the same: Security, fire and access control systems are effective means in preventing loss of life and property.


Jeff Johnson is security channel marketing director for Interlogix, a UTC Fire and Security Company, formerly GE Security. For information on a dealer in your area, visit


Many insurance companies commonly offer discounts of 10 percent (or more) when business premises are protected by electronic security systems. Following are cues that business owners can use to determine whether property, valuables and employees are adequately protected when open and after close. A brief walk through your business with this checklist may be all you need to prevent a theft or event that interferes with your ability to do business.


High shrubs or bushes that obscure windows and offer cover for intruders as they break in
Windows ever left open at night
Lights left on all day and night
Torn or missing storm windows or screens
Outbuildings left unlocked even for short periods
No address number visible at night from the street
Equipment and other vehicles left out overnight
Fence up but not able to see through the fence (fences are great places for intruders to hide)
No security window signs or lawn signs


Not lighted well enough to see someone inside from outside
Installed window locks can be reached and unlocked after breaking the glass
No motion detectors to sense movement inside the building
No pressure-switch sensors to detect when someone enters a restricted area: near safes, cash register
No drop safe for large bills and periodic deposits
No deadbolts for each exterior door
Antiquated or non-working locks on receiving doors
No smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in danger areas
No escape plan in case of fire
Valuables, firearms and important papers kept on site
Ample fire extinguishers in easy-to-see locations
Non-fireproof safe


No peepholes in your entrance doors
Hollow-core entrance doors
No deadbolts on entrance doors
Less than 1-inch depth on deadbolts
No reinforced jamb
Poor management of keys; locks never rekeyed
Lock that can be opened from inside is within 40 inches of door glass


No locks on windows
Windows left open and unsecured for ventilation
No locks on basement windows
Curtains, drapes or blinds don’t fully cover windows



Doors don’t lock
Poor management of keys; locks never rekeyed
Lights can’t be turned on remotely

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