Concerns over safety risks are a natural part of the convenience store industry.
Implementing common-sense solutions can go far in securing your operation.
By Jim Callahan
There are few words that go together as well as safety and security. Those concepts make people feel good when they are at work, and uneasy when they are compromised.
It is risks to safety within a store environment that must be guarded against: emergency situations, negligent behaviors and robberies are threats a convenience store operator hopes never creeps up, but must be prepared to stem to protect people and property.
In the November 2018 issue of Convenience Store Decisions, I touched upon a few points regarding theft and suggested prevention measures. This month, store safety is the topic. Safety is a very broad subject indeed, but broken down, with a clear focus in mind, it’s an issue that can be managed properly—with the right strategies in place.
Luckily, there are many resources to take advantage of to bolster your safety programs.
Some safety policies and processes you might want to consider can include these:
• Make sure that you have a thorough training program for all your employees. If you currently don’t have training videos, put it near the top of your to-do list. If you don’t have training videos or related materials, you can contact a representative from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) or a vendor and make the right investment.
• Today’s security systems are light-years ahead of anything that existed just a few years ago and are indispensable in recording events. If you are still using outdated technology, run—don’t walk—to your supplier. The newer digital systems are truly worth their weight in gold. The bottom line is you can’t hope to survive and be competitive in 2019 using 1990’s technology.
• Arrange to have your local law enforcement agencies come in and review your safety and security procedures and talk with your people. Safety and security needs to be an ongoing discussion with a constant review process. Standard operating procedures are needed so employees know what to do in case of an emergency, whether it’s a fire, a storm threat or some other situation. Staff members must have access to emergency numbers and should be trained on how to react when they need to react.
• If you are running your store or travel center 24 hours per day, give serious consideration to bolstering your security measures during slow periods. In my opinion, the most critical times are usually at the end the dead of night or in the early morning hours when it’s the darkest and quietest. It is also a criminal’s favorite time because he has less fear of being seen, it’s easier to get away undetected and harder for witnesses to accurately describe the culprit or a getaway vehicle.
In those hours, customers and your employees also present an easier target as they leave a well-lit store environment of business and venture toward a dark parking lot or begin the walk to a bus stop because they can’t see what lurks in the shadows. People looking to rob a store also prefer these slower times because there are less customers to possibly interfere with their criminal acts.
• In the scenarios outlined above, a c-store operator open around the clock needs to be diligent about protecting people and property. There are simple solutions that don’t cost a lot, but can make a big impact. Ensure that you have adequate exterior lighting, set on timers that come on at a certain time. Also, make sure that parking lots are clear of potential obstacles where would-be criminals can hide.
Even if they aren’t always available, you increase your safety odds by availing yourselves of local authorities. One way is to ask them to attend a local community event at your location. Lastly, don’t forget the free coffee angle to boost police presence.
Always remember to “walk a mile” in your employees’ shoes and work some hours, or just be there for a portion to feel and soak up the atmosphere of the second and third shift. You will gain vital knowledge of what is going on in their lives, and be in a better position to make educated decisions.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CStoreDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678)485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected].