SMEs: How to protect your unoccupied business premises

 fire extinguishers

SMEs: How to protect your unoccupied business premises

The coronavirus has turned the world upside down: many SMEs have had to temporarily shut down their operations or leave their offices and work from home. This makes it all the more important to protect your business premises.

How to prevent burglaries

  • In times of social distancing, there is a huge reduction in social control. Be aware of an increased risk of burglary – also during the day. 
  • Accordingly, if your employees are hardly using a location or not using it at all, you should keep existing security equipment running during the daytime as well. 
  • It is sensible to adapt and scale up your use of an external security service in line with the current situation. If necessary, also have a guard on duty during the day. Make sure that your chain of alarm continues to function and that all responsibilities are also clearly defined for the current situation. 
  • Clarify the following: Are all owners of main entrance keys and visitor badges known to you and are all entry authorizations still up-to-date? 
  • Ensure that there are no materials or wooden pallets lying near fences, walls or windows: These can make it easier for an intruder to get onto the premises. 
  • Check whether the fencing around the premises as well as doors and windows etc. can be locked without issue. 
  • Regularly check internal and perimeter lighting. 
  • If you already have a burglar alarm system: Are all settings correct and is the alarm in good working order? 
  • If you do not yet have a burglar alarm system: Investigate whether it may be necessary to install one

How to protect your inventory

  • Keep valuable materials or machines under lock and key – if possible, also keep them in well-secured cellars or safes.  
  • However, just as important to keep in mind is the risk of flooding – if your site is located in a high flood risk area, you should store as little material in the cellar as possible. The Zurich Natural Hazard Radar can tell you whether your location is at risk.    
  • Ensure that valuable goods are not immediately visible or even visible at all from outside. Remove valuable items from store windows and display cases and store them in containers if possible. 
  • Jewelers, watch retailers and all boutiques that sell expensive goods must store these in safes or vaults or at least in well-­sealed containers in the back office. Please bear in mind that it is best to store your highest value items in a safe. If you do not have sufficient capacity, you can have an external security firm or a bank store them for you if need be. 
  • Keep guarantee certificates for watches separate from the watches themselves to ensure that the full set (watch with box and papers) is not taken in the event of theft. 
  • Boutiques offering expensive products should appear as empty as possible from the outside. 
  • Do you have roller grilles or roller shutters? If yes, then you should keep them permanently shut. Adjust the autotimer accordingly. 

How to protect your machines

  • Take machines out of operation following the manufacturer's recommendations. Also disconnect them from the mains. This prevents malfunctions and removes sources of ignition. Of course, you should keep safety systems such as fire alarms, sprinklers or burglar alarm systems in operation.  
  • When disconnecting multiplugs, make sure that you are not unintentionally disconnecting a safety system from the power supply at the same time.  
  • Set up an internal standby service in case of malfunction. 
  • Carry out regular safety inspections.  

How to protect your premises from fire

  • Ensure that your sprinkler and fire alarm systems are still in working order. 
  • Switch off all non-essential electrical devices and disconnect them from the mains.  
  • Remove all flammable materials such as paper, plastic or cardboard from potential ignition sources such as heaters or electronic equipment. Please note that they must be at least two meters away from the potential ignition source. 
  • Turn the heating down to the lowest level and remove all flammable objects from the boiler room and all other sensitive rooms. 
  • Dispose of all waste and ensure that the site is kept clean.  
  • Close all doors inside the premises to prevent additional air supply in the event of a fire.  
  • Depending on what you have installed and whether the possibility exists, it may make sense to shut off the power supply to entire buildings or halls. However, make sure that your security systems such as fire, water or burglar alarms still receive power and are working. 
  • If there are any gas pipes on site and you do not need gas for the time being, shut off the gas at the mains. 
  • If you have any gas cylinders (propane/butane, welding gases), store them in a safe place outdoors where they are protected from direct sunlight. 
  • All flammable liquids should be properly stored in a hazardous materials area or cabinet. 

How to detect water damage at an early stage

  • Water detectors sound the alarm in good time and allow you to intervene quickly. They help you to prevent more extensive damage. Install water detectors in crucial locations such as basements, the IT server room or on flexible water hoses that are under pressure. If possible, you should connect water detectors to the alarm system. 
  • Close open windows, carry out regular security patrols and ensure that you visit basement floors.   

To prevent cold or heat damage

  • Switch off all process heat systems that are not absolutely necessary or turn them down to the lowest possible level. 
  • Keep tabs on the notifications of the temperature monitoring system and define an upper and lower limit value for an alarm.  
  • If temperatures may drop below freezing, you should turn the heating back on to ensure a minimum room temperature. Doing so will avoid damaging water pipes.

How do you prevent damage caused by other hazards?

As an entrepreneur, you should take note of the following additional hazards: 

  • Systems that must continue to operate should be checked regularly and inspected in accordance with the maintenance plan. 
  • Take the appropriate safety precautions when shutting down and restarting a system. We recommend that you follow internal operating procedures or the manufacturer's specifications. 
  • Don't forget your emergency lighting system and check that it will still function in the event of a power failure. 
  • Have safety and maintenance officers make regular rounds of the premises. 

What must you do to avoid any breaches of duty?

  • If anyone is still working on site, you should contact them regularly. If possible, equip them with personal emergency signal devices (PESD): This will enable them to get help quickly in the event of an accident. 
  • Companies with larger sites guarded by an entry gate should continue to staff this in order to get an overview of what is happening on site and to allow them to react quickly should anything out of the ordinary occur.  
  • External employees whose work requires them to be on your site should be made aware of on-site instructions. This applies in particular to security service employees. 
  • Take care not to commit any unintentional breaches of duty or acts of gross negligence even during the lockdown. For example, do not leave doors unlocked and, if you have massively turned down the heating in spite of the fact that temperatures may drop below freezing, empty the water pipes just to be on the safe side. 

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