Citizens and business owners agree on one thing: they both have rights. Citizens have a right to assemble peacefully, and business owners take a proactive stance to protect their properties.
Peaceful protests are usually the norm. But when tension escalates out of control, small businesses, shoppers, and staff get caught in the crosshairs of angry protesters. What usually follows is looting, damaged property, and possibly injury to bystanders.
No one wants to be on the frontlines of a violent protest. However, business owners—rightly so—want to keep patrons, employees, and property out of harm’s way.
To do that, they must stay prepared should a peaceful public demonstration erupt into violence.
In this article, you’ll find out how to protect your business and people by taking preventative actions to neutralize civil disobedience.
How to protect your business during a protest
This checklist serves as a guide to know how to protect your business during a violent protest.
1. Stay informed
Depending on where you live, protest organizers are required to get a permit before demonstrating publicly. Most protesters advertise those events to garner more participation and coordinate the protest with police officials.
Keep up to date on events in your community by contacting local officials or viewing your city’s website for posted information on upcoming events. Moreover, stay abreast of emergency protocols in your area.
2. Reduce building weaknesses
Determine what makes your storefront more vulnerable.
Are there dark alleys and large windows?
A building should have adequate lighting at all entrances along with security cameras with alarms to capture intruders on tape and notify police automatically. Don’t invest in fake cameras and bad lighting.
Keep plywood boards that fit large windows on hand so you can install them quickly to restrict access. Another option is to install window bars or grilles or a permanent metal security gate that you can slide open or closed. Windowless doors made from steel and deadbolts help to deter vandalism.
Furthermore, see the section below on how to protect your business from looters.
3. Hire a security guard
In most instances, the presence of an armed guard will make rioters think twice before they enter your property illegally. Customers also feel safer when they come into your business. If a problem arises, you have a trained professional to handle any safety issues.
Businesses can pool their resources and hire more than one guard to protect a strip mall or row of shops.
4. Close your store
Sometimes closing your store is the best decision to ward off losses. Your prime concern is the health and safety of employees and consumers, as well as preventing physical damage to property. You can also adjust store hours and reduce the number of employees who work based on city curfews.
Gain guidance from governing officials as to the safest time to remain open.
5. Revise your schedule
If you expect deliveries, reschedule them for a different day or week. You also don’t want to be meeting with clients or staff when a protest is ongoing. Keep staff members informed of safety plans, so they know what to expect.
6. Call the police
If trespassers look suspicious and won’t leave your property, get police assistance immediately. A police officer should remove someone who is causing a disturbance, not you. It’s not advisable to take matters into your own hands or use firearms as a means to protect your premises.
7. Review your insurance policy
Make sure your business policy includes coverage for property damage incurred during a protest. Take note: business interruption insurance may not cover physical damage by protesters.
You should meet with your insurance agent to verify what exactly your liability and property insurance policy covers. Insurance should cover the building, merchandise, inventory, and equipment from protest damages. Policies usually are subject to limits and deductibles.
8. Take legal action
If you do sustain losses and have surveillance footage available, you may be able to prosecute individuals for offsetting losses. Contact an attorney and find out what’s required when someone damages your property or threatens bodily harm.
How to protect your business from looters
Uncontrollable looters don’t hold back their anger. They resort to breaking windows, stealing store merchandise, burning dumpsters, or setting buildings on fire.
You can’t control their behavior, but you can reduce your losses.
- Don’t store money or your most valuable merchandise in your store. Keep those items in a safe location. Post signs in your store window that anything of value has been removed from the premises. Leave cash drawers open, indicating there’s nothing to steal.
- Sometimes protests are race-related, protesters may not target your store if you’re a minority-owned business. Display a sign that notifies of this on the front of your building.
- Double-check that your building has a sprinkler system and that it works should a looter turned arsonist set a fire.
- Make sure that you never put yourself or your employees in danger. It’s crucial that at no time should a business owner or employee attempt to stop a looter.
- Post warnings that looters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Plan and Protect your Business
Protests do happen, and sometimes participants’ behavior becomes erratic and out of control. Knowing how to protect your small business safeguards your valuables, investments, and people. After all, you didn’t build your business to see it be damaged or looted.
At Camino Financial, an article like this one is how we enforce our motto, “No Business Left Behind”. We’re aware of the challenges small business owners face and provide a library of valuable information you can access at any time.
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