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Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned with commercial security

“I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart”…William Shakespeare

Ten years ago when I began a career in the corporate security world; I noticed quickly that the security industry was extremely reactive in nature. Every security policy, contract, major company culture change and even many government laws stemmed from an incident which forced the question “How can we prevent this from happening again?”

Don’t get me wrong, I think you can be a very proactive security professional; constantly auditing your facilities, ensuring government and industry standards are met and keeping policies updated and current. But the proactive measures taken by security today are almost guaranteed to have first begun as a reactive measure.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in security over the last ten years; some firsthand, and some from industry colleagues. I have at least a dozen which I use in training and awareness presentations, but I’ve narrowed it down to my top three to share with you here. If you are responsible for security at your company, you may have heard some of these but hopefully I offer a different perspective. Just to make sure I keep things interesting…I’ve posted a few pictures and a video clip.

Situation: $$Millions in product stolen from a warehouse

Reason this made the top three: Most embarrassing.

It makes you bury your face in your hands and say quietly “Ohhhhhh noooo”, even though it didn’t happen to you.

I actually have pictures from this incident, taken from the CCTV footage.

The criminals broke the lock on the office door, went straight for the IT room (typical bad guy M.O.) and tore out the alarm panel and DVRs, although they missed one.

They were in the warehouse for nearly four hours walking around looking for the right product. Basically shopping. When they found what they wanted; the thieves used the facility forklifts, backed up a facility truck and trailer to a dock door…and loaded up a full trailer. Can you imagine being the security representative having to tell THAT story to company executives or (gulp) the customer?

So, what went wrong? Did the alarm company not dispatch police? Was the alarm disabled before they came in?

No. All this was able to happen because the alarm was never even set.

Lesson Learned: Put a system in place to ensure all facility alarms are armed upon closing.

Situation: Loaded trailers stolen from facility yards

Reason this made the top three: Most Valuable Lesson

It’s the story that stuck with me all these years and makes me play “devil’s advocate” in every security assessment.

Trailers stolen from freight & logistics yards is not a new problem, but eight years ago one logistics company in Miami had an unusually high occurrence of events. The investigation uncovered that tractors were coming in the lot bobtail (without a trailer), hooking up to loaded trailers and driving right out.

The security manager implemented new rules for the guard checking in trucks. Every truck driver who entered had to present their drivers license so the guard could record it. The guard also logged the tractor license plate & description. The security manager’s theory was this would deter a thief since their information would be recorded. If he could control who was coming in the yard, problem solved.

The bad guy work around? They cut a hole in the fence at night, hot-wired a tractor and hooked up to a trailer with millions in product and drove straight out without having to be checked by the guard.

Needless to say, the security manager immediately began checking in AND out…and installed an electric fence.

A few years ago I visited with the security manager, who shared with me he has had no reported thefts from the yard since the new procedures and fence. He has, however, had a few truck drivers touch the fence to “test it”. He had videos of them slowly going up to the fence with their finger out…

He wasn’t willing to share the videos for liability reasons.

Lesson learned: Cover your bases. In this situation, all entry and exit points.

Situation: Armed Robbery

Reason this made the top three: Most Shocking. Most Memorable. Most a lot of things….

This story is sobering reminder that as security professionals, it’s not just product we protect.

This armed robbery wasn’t a convenience store hold up with one guy in a ski mask and a shot gun. This was a full on army of 16+ men armed with machine guns taking over a warehouse…in broad daylight during working hours. I’ve got a short clip of video from the CCTV recording below.

This particular facility had all the security bells & whistles. CCTV, alarms, perimeter fencing and even armed guards. None of that security deterred or stopped the gang of thieves.

There was a lot of roundtable discussion within the entire organization as to what could have helped prevent this situation or possibly caught the robbery in progress. In the end, it was agreed that nothing could have prevented it. When criminals want to commit a crime, they find a way to do it.

A panic button in these types of situations is 50/50. If you have the opportunity to press the button, it’s great. But, when 16 men barge in with AK-47’s and shout “Put your hands up”, that’s exactly what you do.

The one sure thing the security team could think of implementing to help catch an event like this in the future was a “Check In” from the facility. All of this company’s facilities were instituted an hourly “check-in”. If a check-in was missed, emergency response protocol began with a phone call to the facility and then escalated if needed.

  • Have a variety of methods to ensure facilities are safe during business operating hours

  • Provide employees “Active Shooter” training

  • Be prepared & have emergency contingency plans in place to include medical care. One contingency plan can cover a lot of situations.

  • Have police contacts for every facility. 911 dialed locally only works locally and the network is not connected nationally.

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