Working With Customers Who Live In High Crime Areas - IE3: Business Tools for HVAC & Plumbing Contractors  

Working With Customers Who Live In High Crime Areas

In tough economic times, one of the priorities of the contracting sector is how to ensure the safety and security of not only their employees; but also their equipment, vehicles, and physical buildings.

Crime rates tend to increase in a worsening economy, and as financial restraints kick in, police departments endure personnel and budget cuts. Community programs that help direct at-risk youth away from crime and violence also suffer from financial restrictions. All of these conspire to endanger the safety of your colleagues and your property.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. There are several solutions you can implement based on your company’s individual budget and risk factors.

START AT HOME BASE. Protect your company’s building and storage yard. Many companies are located in industrial parks or other areas that do not have regular night patrols. Take a look outside your building. Are there overgrown shrubs or other hiding places that should be eliminated? Is the outside of the building well illuminated? What about the storage yard and parking lot?

Does your building have a surface that is graffiti resistant? (If not, there are various grades of commercially available remedies such as graffiti resistant coatings.)
Consider installing a security system. Many companies put off this expense until after their first burglary. When they realize the replacement costs, an alarm system fee seems small in comparison.

PROTECT YOUR TEAM, AT HOME AND IN THE FIELD. Do you have an ongoing relationship with crime-prevention groups in the community? Can your employees call for immediate help in the event of impending violence? Are there established procedures to follow regarding threatening circumstances?

It is prudent to have a process to ensure employees are informed about specific high-risk locations or clients. Are there actions for workers to follow when dealing with aggressive customers? Are employees armed with personal protection alarms or personal defense items? (If so, they should be trained by a professional on how to use them.)

Employee training should touch on several safety points, such as keeping the service vehicle gassed up and in good working order, and keeping windows shut and doors locked. Employees should know to be observant of the safety of the immediate environment. If the situation is threatening or openly hostile, they should feel comfortable calling dispatch to report the problem and awaiting management’s advice or resolution from a safe location.

PROTECT YOUR EQUIPMENT. There are numerous ways to keep your equipment large, and small, safe from theft or vandalism.

Vehicles: One of a company’s major investments is in its service fleet. Make sure you have adequate insurance on these vehicles. Many insurers provide a discount if the vehicle is alarmed and has extra security measures, such as extra exterior door locks. An inexpensive tool to keep thieves from stealing gasoline, or keep vandals from adding unwanted substances to gas tanks is a locking gas cap.

It is also wise to have a tracking device installed to allow the police to recover the service truck more easily in the event it is taken.

Randy Gibbs of Brody-Pennell Heating and Cooling in Los Angeles, CA, says “Our employees take the service vehicle home with them at the end of the shift if they have a secure place to park it, such as behind a gate. If not, they store it overnight in our fenced yard.”

Instruct colleagues to always keep the doors locked and the security measures engaged, even if they are just making a quick stop. Valuables should always be kept out of sight. In the event of a carjacking, employees should be trained that the loss of equipment is always preferable to employee injury.

Large Equipment: There are several ways to outsmart thieves and vandals at job sites where large equipment might have to be stored overnight.

  • Create a temporary fenced, well lighted storage yard with a lockable gate
  • Paint owned equipment distinctive colors, with logos and identifying marks (even on roofs to allow police see it being towed away on a trailer)

Tools: Small, portable tools account for some of the greatest loss in the contracting sector. Consider insuring these items.

Paint tools company colors and die stamp tools in multiple places with identification numbers. Take an inventory of all tools–don’t forget cords and ladders. Keep a master inventory (including the serial numbers on power tools), and an offsite copy of the inventory if possible.

Randy Seaman of Seaman’s Mechanical advises, “We have our employees take their small tools inside before parking the vehicle for the night.” As to tools for an ongoing job, Seaman says “We use industrial lock boxes on the site for any medium to small tools we will need on a continuing basis.”

A small amount of forethought and planning regarding safety can have you and your employees reaping big rewards in confidence and security.

Melinda Wamsley

Melinda Wamsley

Melinda Wamsley is a freelance writer with a background in telecommunications, facilities management and office management.
Melinda Wamsley

Latest posts by Melinda Wamsley (see all)

Melinda Wamsley

Melinda Wamsley

Melinda Wamsley is a freelance writer with a background in telecommunications, facilities management and office management.
Melinda Wamsley

Latest posts by Melinda Wamsley (see all)

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