Posts Tagged ‘Homeland Security’


Security at the Front Door – Updated

Friday, February 9th, 2018
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Empty roomYou walk through the door of a small business and into the reception area. Surprise! There’s no one in sight! You stand there for a while, then call out: Hello?  Hello?

You have just witnessed a BIG security breach!

Since most workplace violence happens as a result of a robbery attempt, that empty business has certainly encouraged any would-be robber. And whoever comes next into that reception area will be the prime target.

Role of the receptionist in business security

As receptionist, you may consider yourself a customer service representative. That may, in fact, be what your job description stresses.

But you are also the gatekeeper.

Let’s look at some questions you should be asking as you consider taking a job as receptionist. And if you’re the employer, what YOU should be thinking about for that position. It’s a key one.

1-Is your workplace particularly vulnerable?

Some jobs have a higher risk than others. For example, do you . . .

  • Deal with cash or other particularly valuable property? (ex. bank)
  • Deliver or exchange passengers or packages? (ex. hotel)
  • Encounter unstable people (i.e. in law enforcement, health care)?
  • Work alone or with just a small group of co-workers?
  • Work late at night?

The most at risk times for office thefts are early morning, lunch hours, and around closing time, particularly on Fridays or holidays. Is your reception area staffed by just one person during those times? What happens when that person needs to go to the bathroom?

2-Is your reception area laid out in the best way possible for security?

Generally, the receptionist should have a clear view of the entrance, and be able to see everyone in the lobby area. By the same token, good visibility lets the receptionist and other employees be aware of suspicious activities taking place outside.

Good visibility includes keeping doors and windows clear of signs, keeping the cash register in a central place where it can be seen from the outside, and keeping counter tops and displays low so no one can sneak in and hide. And, of course, visibility is improved with good lighting.

Note: if your receptionist deals with cash deliveries, consider a bolted down DROP safe that allows envelopes to be deposited without the safe door being unlocked. Such a secure safe might cost only a couple hundred dollars – and it’s designed for efficient transactions and to keep someone from trying to fish the money back out!

These two drop safe examples from Amazon show different configurations, with costs ranging from just over $100 to around $300, depending on features and size. Amazon also offers expert installation for an additional price. Click on the images for full details and current prices.

3-Are there any physical restrictions on who comes into the lobby and who goes through into the rest of the work area?

Is there a desk or other barrier between the receptionist and visitors? Does the receptionist “buzz” people in from outside or do they just walk right in? Obviously, in a restaurant or retail outlet, as in the picture above, the entrance will not only be unobstructed, doors are likely to be wide open. In an office, however, you’d expect some sort of formal reception area or lobby.

Do staff members and visitors use an electronic keypad or key to get through the lobby into the work area, or are they buzzed through by the receptionist?

4-What responsibilities does the receptionist have for security?

An “entry level” job may be what is being advertised, but as a receptionist you need to know answers to security questions like these:

  • Does the receptionist greet everyone? Keep written or electronic track of who arrives and who leaves, and when? Do you use Visitor ID badges?
  • What policies are in place for regular visitors (vendors) and family members? Does staff insist on identification from repairpersons?
  • Does the receptionist know about any people who are prohibited from entering?
  • Does the receptionist have a map of the property with rooms and escape routes marked, in order to assist First Responders who may arrive in an emergency?

Another question to add to the above: Are temps or subs made aware of all these responsibilities?

5-Does your front entrance have visible surveillance equipment? 

We’ve all seen them from time to time: wide-angle mirrors placed in strategic locations to eliminate blind areas.

And more and more we are seeing both outdoor and indoor cameras placed as an effective deterrent to shady or criminal activity; posting a sign adds to the effect of the cameras. Some people even mount fake cameras for the deterrent effect, although experienced criminals can tell the difference. (After an incident has occurred, of course, cameras are only useful if they are real, and monitored.)

So the question then becomes, if cameras are installed, how are they monitored? From the front desk? From another location?

6-What about perimeter security?

A comprehensive security system might also send an alarm if doors and/or windows are unexpectedly broken or opened. The system shown below, less than $200 at Amazon, is an example of such a system appropriate for a small business.

Note the console, magnetic locks for doors and smaller ones for windows, the siren and, the “key fob” (red button) that serves as a portable panic button. For about $15 each you can add extra fobs to this system. Employees can monitor the system as they move about, which allows the control console to be placed out of sight. (Click on the image to get full details and current prices at Amazon.)

7-Have you established any internal policies for managing a hostile situation?

Has your receptionist received training on how to handle difficult people or threats?

Does the receptionist have a “panic button?” (That remote fob, mentioned above? Or a built in button?)

Do you have a “code word” that would let someone know a dangerous situation has developed?

How would you let all workers know there is an emergency situation at the front entrance?

Good suggested answers to all these questions are available online and through professional training. Keep reading for some resources!

What’s the next step for your business?

The questions in this Advisory are meant to stimulate a more thorough discussion.

  • If you’re the potential (or current receptionist) you will have a better idea of what you might want in the way of improved security.
  • If you’re the business owner, you’ll have a better idea of steps to take, too.

Here are some resources.

We have seen incredible TV footage of ordinary people handling dangerous situations with aplomb and skill. However, the rest of us need training for these situations. Many qualified programs are available. For example:

  • Local police may offer security assessment and training for business owners, managers or HR professionals in your area. For example, some of the tips in this article came from the Portland Police Bureau. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/31555
  • Department of Homeland Security offers free courses, materials, and workshops, particularly for schools and school employees.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers specialized training for health workers, hospital administrators, etc. Here’s the link to the complete list: https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/asa/ocio/cybersecurity/security-awareness-training/index.html.
  • YouTube and Vimeo have dozens of free training videos available for your use. Just type in the keywords “violence in the workplace” to see what comes up.
  • Commercial training organizations such as Fred Pryor, HR Seminars and SkillPath offer seminars either online or in locations around the country.

Your business insurance carrier may be a good resource, too. And security preparations may reduce your insurance premium.

“But our business is different.”

Every business is different. That’s why every business requires a CUSTOMIZED plan for security. Consider getting help from a security consultant if you have questions.

But don’t put it off. Every business has a legal duty and a moral obligation to provide a safe workplace.

Take the time now to consider what you can do at your workplace to increase the chances of preventing or lessening the chances of a dangerous situation at the front door.

Disclaimer: We’re not police or security professionals so the information here, while we believe it to be authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. Also, please be aware that laws and regulations vary from state to state – so get advice from your own First Responders.

 Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

If security is something you’re interested in, take a look at this Advisory, too: http://emergencyplanguide.org/intruder/ It provides a more complete overview of different monitoring equipment and basic monitoring systems good for home or small business.

P.S. Business owner or manager? Print out this page and use it to start a discussion with staff. You may not need to follow through with all these suggestions, but you should at least have an idea of what other businesses are doing to protect their workplace — and their receptionist.

 

 

 

 

Survey Tool for Your Group or Community

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
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Preparedness SurveyThis week I came across a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) survey through one of my Google Alerts. (Alerts are a great resource; find out about them here.) The survey is currently being put out to residents in several counties in Washington State.

It turns out that DHS has been conducting similar surveys in different communities since 2001, trying to track trends in preparedness.

And yes, some trends have emerged. For example, the surveys have found that full time employees have the highest level of personal readiness compared with other types of employees. People with children in school also report higher preparedness levels. And, as you might expect, different parts of the country have different levels of preparedness.

Overall, though, American preparedness has not improved markedly since 2001!

We here at Emergency Plan Guide are trying to change that trend!

Can we take advantage of this survey to improve the preparedness in our local groups?

I’m not suggesting that we use it like DHS does. I see some other uses appropriate for your local CERT meeting.

A look at the original survey.

Before I add my comments, here’s (nearly) the whole survey. (I edited it slightly.) Take a look to see what YOU think about it. (It is LONG. Scroll through quickly to get an idea of the scope and format.)

Citizen Expectation Survey (from Homeland Security)

 1. My home is located in the following area

  • ________________

2. My household includes: (Check all that apply)

  • Child (Birth – 5 years)
  • Senior Citizen(s) (65 and over)
  • Disabled Family Member(s)
  • Non-English Speaking Member(s)
  • Household Pet(s)
  • Tribal Member(s) (and Affiliation)

3. What’s your main source of local, state, and national news and information?

  • Television
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Newspaper/Magazine
  • Internet
  • Social Media

4. How do you primarily receive your local weather forecast information?

  • Television
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Newspaper/Magazine
  • Internet
  • Social Media

5. What is the best way of delivering severe weather or disaster news and updates to you?

  • All Hazards Weather Radio
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Television
  • E-mail
  • Phone Call
  • Text message
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Other Social Media

6. Does your family have a Family Emergency Plan?

  • Yes
  • No

7. Does your Family Emergency Plan include: (Check all that apply)

  • I do not have a Family Emergency Plan
  • My plan includes how to contact each other in the event we were separated during a disaster (phone, text, e-mail addresses)
  • My plan includes an out-of-state family contact person for when all local communications are down
  • My plan includes a specific meeting place in the event my family is separated
  • My plan includes how and where to evacuate to in the event we must abandon our home during a disaster
  • Other

8. Does your or your child’s school have an Emergency Plan for disaster?

  • I have no children
  • I have no children who attend school
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

9. Does your workplace have an Emergency Plan for disaster?

  • I am not currently employed
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

10. Do you and all other members of your family, including your pets have a GO KIT, Get Away Bag or similar item? (Check all that apply)

  • Myself
  • Each family member
  • My pet
  • We have none
  • I do not know what a GO KIT or Get Away Bag is

11. I am aware of the risk and hazard to all local disasters, such as, earthquake, tsunami, severe weather, flooding, tornado and wildfire.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure
  • I have no risk or hazard to any of these disaster events

12. I expect an Earthquake to affect my community in the next:

  • year
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • 10 years
  • longer than 10 years
  • never

13. I expect a Tsunami to affect my community in the next:

  • year
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • 10 years
  • longer than 10 years
  • never

14. I expect Flooding to affect my community in the next:

  • year
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • 10 years
  • longer than 10 years
  • never

15. If a disaster is threatening, my expectation is, I will receive warning and instructions from the following: (Check all that apply)

  • Local City Government
  • Local County Government
  • Tribal Government
  • State Government
  • Federal Government
  • ALL Hazard Alert Weather Radio
  • National Weather Service
  • Local Emergency Management
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • Local Fire Department
  • Television
  • AM/FM Radio
  • All Hazard Alert Broadcast Siren (AHAB Warning Siren)
  • FEMA

16. If a disaster situation was imminent, would you evacuate your home if warned to do so by official authorities?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

17. If you had a 10 hour advance warning of the need to evacuate your home, how long would you expect it to take, to prepare and leave your home, once you receive the initial evacuation warning?

  • I would not evacuate
  • Under an hour
  • 1-2 hours
  • 2-4 hours
  • 4-6 hours
  • Longer

18. If you were to evacuate following a warning given by local authorities, would you bring your pet(s) with you?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure
  • I have no pets – I would evacuate
  • I have no pets – I would not evacuate

19. If you were to evacuate following an order given by local authorities, where would you most likely go?

  • I would not leave my home
  • I would stay with family/friends in my County
  • I would stay with family/friends in an area other than my County
  • I would stay in a hotel/motel in my County
  • I would stay in a hotel/motel in an area other than my County
  • If none of the above, explain where you would go.

20. What modes of transportation are available to you in the event you have to evacuate from your home? (Check all that apply)

  • I have no available transportation
  • Private automobile
  • Public transportation
  • Bicycle
  • I would rely on friends or family
  • Other (please specify)

21. I expect emergency response agencies to assist me if I must evacuate my home.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

22. If my County were impacted by a significant disaster event lasting multiple days, I expect Federal and State Response Agencies, including FEMA and the Red Cross, to respond within:

  • 12 hours
  • 24 hours
  • 2 days
  • 3 days
  • 4 days
  • Longer than 4 days

23. If my County were impacted by a significant disaster event lasting multiple days, I expect Local, City and County Response Agencies to respond within:

  • 12 hours
  • 24 hours
  • 2 days
  • 3 days
  • 4 days
  • Longer than 4 days

24. In a significant disaster event lasting multiple days, who would you seek out to obtain food or shelter assistance?

  • School
  • City Hall
  • Local Fire Department
  • Local Police Department
  • Church
  • Hospital
  • Unsure
  • Other
  • If other, please specify here

25. Have you signed up for the Emergency Alert and Notification System in your county?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I do not know if we have an Alert and Notification System in my county.

26. Do you have a NOAA All Hazards “Alert” Weather Radio?

  • Yes
  • No

27. Which news headline would likely interest you enough to read the associated article?

  • A Huge Winter Storm is Approaching With Winds Exceeding 150 mph and a Large Storm Surge.
  • We’re Awaiting One of the Most Extraordinary, Mind Boggling, Meteorologic Marvels, Never Before Witnessed by any Earthbound Creature.
  • Neither Headline Would Interest Me Enough to Continue Reading the Article.

28. Please indicate if you would like more information on any of the following:

  • Evacuation
  • Disabled/Functional Needs Disaster Preparedness
  • Livestock Preparedness/Evacuation
  • Pet Preparedness/Evacuation
  • Family Preparedness
  • Business Preparedness
  • School Disaster Preparedness
  • My Local County Emergency Management
  • Disaster Mitigation
  • Disaster Response
  • Disaster Recovery
  • FEMA/Flood Programs
  • Evacuation Routes/Shelters
  • Communications
  • Earthquake
  • Tsunami
  • Severe Weather
  • Disaster Volunteer Organizations
  • My Local County Emergency Notification System

29. Do you have suggestions, comments, questions or constructive criticism? Please write your comments or concerns here. (If you desire a reply, please leave your name, email, and phone number).

How to use the survey as training material. 

I’m usually an enthusiastic survey taker (or interview giver), but this survey is so long that even I felt like abandoning it halfway through.

Therefore, my first idea would be to divide the survey up into several sections or themes and use each one as part of, or the main focus of, a group meeting. For example:

  • Ask group members to complete a section of the survey themselves, and then use that section for discussion.
  • Assign sections of the survey to sub-groups and have them prepare background material or collect samples to share with the others.
  • Create still another version of the survey for neighbors who aren’t yet part of the group. You wouldn’t collect the surveys, but would design them as “eye-openers” for your neighbors!

Family Needs – Questions 1 – 5

Every family is different. Poll the group to detect commonalities. Share resources, such as the best TV channels for weather news, etc. What particular challenges would you have associated with children, older people, people not speaking English, etc.? What actions can your group take to help meet some of these challenges?

Individual Family Plans – Questions 6 – 9

If your group is not likely to have plans, whether family or work related, perhaps you can focus on providing step-by-step instructions on what should be included. At Emergency Plan Guide, we devote about half our Advisories to one facet or another of planning! Here’s a recent article on building a Family Plan and a one-pager for increasing workplace preparedness.

Building a Go Bag – Question 10

Provide people with a list; call a meeting that focuses on “show and tell” using one of the leaders’ bags. At work, make copies of “What to take with you” and distribute them. Check out our new custom survival kit workbook for families, too — it works for all families and can be an excellent benefit for employees.

Likely Threats – Questions 11 – 14.

We’ve had good luck getting experts to train us on different natural and man-made threats. YouTube has great resources, too. Stick with the threats that are most likely; no need to overwhelm everyone with EVERY possible threat! People will have their own amazing stories to share!

Warnings and Evacuation – Questions 15 – 26

Traditionally, about half the people, when asked, say they will NOT evacuate! Be sure people understand how and when to evacuate, and the fact that once they’re out, they can’t come back. Don’t forget to discuss how people with disabilities will be assisted to evacuate, and how to handle pets and large animals. In particular, note how long it might take for “authorities” to show up with help. (Check with your local Red Cross.) “Evacuation Realities” would be a popular topic to attract all kinds of visitors to a group meeting.

As for the “warnings,” you can help people know what to expect locally, show them how to sign up for local alert apps, and see if you can arrange for the purchase of NOAA Weather Radios.

Not sure I’d include – Questions 27 – 29

Caution: You may find some of these questions ask for information that you consider “too personal” to share openly. Feel free to remove or adjust those questions. In any case, be sure to discuss with your group the importance of privacy and how to maintain it.

Training is an ongoing challenge. (That’s why I pulled together my book on CERT Meeting Ideas.)

Finding already-developed materials like this survey is a boon to CERT group leaders. While this particular survey wasn’t designed for groups, it can certainly work as a refresher, as a discussion starter, or even as an agenda for several separate meetings.

Let us know if and how you find it useful!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team