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How Safe Is Your Retail Store?

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The brick-and-mortar retail business has become more challenging than ever. Life safety lies at the top of the priority list for those who manage a retail space, now more than ever with the frequent retail crimes highlighted by the media, such as burglaries and active shootings.  Taking steps to prevent crime and accidents can lower your likelihood of dealing with liability and bad publicity. Most importantly, it will provide your tenants and shoppers with the sense of security that they deserve. Here, we give thought to some ways to strategize a safer retail establishment.

Each year, the U.S. retail industry suffers $45 billion in internal theft, shoplifting, fraud, and organized retail crime. Crimes like these can also put shoppers, employees and tenants in danger.  Review the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety recommendations for workplaces.

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More to consider: safety isn’t limited to just crime prevention. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims and the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 55 and older. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million falls each year.

Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to build a safer retail space: 

Keep fire safety top of mind.

Always be sure your smoke alarms are in proper working order and contain fresh batteries. Be on the lookout for fire hazards, such as:

  • Exposed wire
  • Improper chemical storage or combustible materials storage

In addition to fire prevention, you’ll want to do what you can to protect the space in the event that a fire occurs. Make sure all tenants and their employees are trained on how to use fire extinguishers and make sure they are inspected regularly. Read about more fire safety tips here. 

Inspect your premises for accidents waiting to happen.

Preventative maintenance isn’t always sexy or exciting, but, believe it or not– many of the unsafe conditions and accidents people run into are caused by the most mundane and routine items. Always be on the lookout for the following:

  • Uneven flooring
  • Spills that can cause slips and falls
  • Misplaced boxes or equipment
  • Clutter
  • Unsafe stair conditions

Train tenants to be on the constant lookout for these hazards. 

Pay attention to your store’s air quality.

Stores in malls may not have proper ventilation. This could collect mold, fungus, bacteria, or vapors from products used or sold. Be sure to perform regular air quality inspections as part of your preventative maintenance. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union recommends installing a mechanical system that cycles in fresh outdoor air and circulates it throughout your store, both in the main floor area and in any back rooms. 

Prepare for natural disasters.

Most natural disasters appear without announcement, and the results can be disastrous. Your best strategy to maintain safety is to be proactively prepared:

  • Don’t stack inventory high if you are in an earthquake zone.
  • Have a tornado and hurricane plan tied to watches and warnings (see our previous blog post on this)
  • Have a sub-room or basement available if possible.
  • Designate an area of refuge.
  • Have safety kits on hand.

Take proactive steps to prevent crime.

Unfortunately, crime and retail often go hand in hand. Because of this, your tenants and their staff are likely to have many precautionary guidelines set in place, but you can’t always assume crime prevention is being handled well. Here are some come prevention items for you and your tenants to consider:  

For a more in-depth look at crime prevention, see our blog post: Combating Crime On Your Property.

Prepare for active shooter safety.

Piggy backing off of the last section to a specific crime you must be prepared for: with an increasing presence and horrific consequences, preparing for active shootings is a non-negotiable.

So far, commercial businesses have taken the brunt of this terrible trend, according to The Institute for Real Estate Management (IREM). There were 280 active aggressor events between 2000 and 2017, taking the lives of 831 people and injuring 1520.

Of course, a large part of this problem is direct and easy access by aggressive shooters, but there is so much more that you should be doing in regards to active shooter prevention and response: Find out more about strategies to use in an active shooter situation.

Shed the light on poor lighting.

You may consider lighting more of an aesthetic aspect, but low or poor lighting can also lead to accidents or crime. Bad lighting can make it easier for shoplifters to commit crimes without being seen, and can lead to customer and staff trips and falls. Opt for brighter light, not just in store areas, but also in your stock rooms.

Don’t ignore your parking areas.

Parking lots are not always kind to pedestrians. In fact, between 1993 and 2003, over 2,000 people died on business parking lots, according to The National Safety Council’s Journal of Safety Research. Current stats are not yet available, but the digital age and its scrolling thumbs are more likely to add to than detract from the issue.

It’s not just about accidents, but crimes too. The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center finds that shopping mall parking lots can be hotbeds of crime. A possible solution: video surveillance equipment and a reliable emergency communications system.

For more specific parking area tips, see the following: 

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Protect your property with an efficient emergency communications system

Another way to protect your tenants and customers is to employ Kings III emergency telephones in your retail establishment. Commonly utilized in elevators, stairwells, and parking areas, they connect to any life safety situation that may arise, whether large or small, and have the potential to save lives, prevent trouble and accidents, and send help quickly and efficiently.Our phones are assigned an automatic location ID, saving time and avoiding any (understandable) panic that may arise from an emergency call. Kings III phones already know where you are.

You’re in touch with a live, professional staff — capable of responding in over 175 languages, ready to answer if you need them 24/7/365. They’ll know where you are right away, and send the right help you’ll need. They’re also trained to help you through any emergency, health or otherwise, until help arrives– this is a level of training that is higher than required of operators in most 911 centers.

Find out more about how Kings III can contribute to the safety of your retail store here.

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