In Small Companies Awareness Is Security

June 21, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Steelcase Corp.’s protection services department operates out of its own 16,000-square-foot building.

The facility is computerized from top to bottom, with instant access to floor plans and access doors in all the Steelcase plants — plus the telephone of every employee and police, fire, and medical facilities.

The department is equipped with a security patrol, investigations, an electronic surveillance system with 758 alarms, plus medical emergency response and manned entry checkpoints. 

The department also has two fully equipped ambulances, and can respond to any emergency — with a doctor if needed — in less than three minutes.

Of course, Steelcase’s 1999 revenue was $2.7 billion dollars.

“Most smaller companies don’t have the budget for much, if any, security personnel or equipment,” Bill Brown of Bill Brown Security Consultation said.

“And those who do have equipment usually don’t have the means to properly use it.”

Brown’s company handles security for companies in the 500- to 1,500-employee range, companies that do not employ full-time security staff. 

He provides consulting and education on a variety of issues including theft and workplace violence, as well as conducting investigations and arranging for contract security when needed.

“A lot of companies will go out and buy a security system, and think they don’t have to worry about security,” Brown said.

“But alarms will only protect a building at night when no one’s in it.  And they can have cameras in every corner, but it won’t do a thing if they don’t have staff to monitor them.” 

Brown equates the camera in the workplace to a robbery at a convenience store. 

Suppose the store is robbed and the surveillance tapes are checked, he said. The tapes may disclose that the robbers were in the store two days before, checking the place out.  Had the tapes been monitored, he said, the robbery could have been prevented, but without personnel to do so, the surveillance system is ineffective.

“For companies that aren’t a Steelcase, Amway or General Motors, companies that don’t have the staff for security, it is really left to the employees.  The most important thing is that there is an awareness with the employees.  Everybody needs to buy in.”

He said this is typically true in cases of violence and theft.

In cases of violence, a series of predictable events usually leads up to a confrontation.

Likewise, thefts can be prevented if employees learn to recognize suspicious situations.

The best security method, Brown said, is to simply educate employees on the significance of awareness — knowing what’s going on around their workstations and how to recognize suspicious activity, and then report it.

These methods, which have reduced theft and workplace violence for Brown’s clients such as Cascade Engineering, a leading plastics manufacturer with 650 employees, are just as useful in deterring the more dangerous activities associated with terrorism.

“Security is not a high priority in a lot of companies; in our free society people are just not accustomed to it.  Now we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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