Robbery is a reality businesses must be prepared to deal with. Nearly nine percent of small businesses suffer a burglary or theft annually, according to insurance provider Insureon. Business establishments are one of the most popular spots for robberies, with 39.1 percent of purse snatchings and pocket pickings occurring on or near commercial buildings, Bureau of Justice Statistics data shows. Restaurants and bars and offices are the top locations where commercial robberies occur, and commercial parking lots experience more robberies than any other type of parking lot.

These numbers make it imperative for business owners to include procedures for what to do in the event of a robbery as part of their safety procedures. Here are three essentials business owners should include in their robbery safety protocol:

Preventive Procedures before Robberies Occur

Taking proper preventive measures will both help reduce the risk of robbery and help you better respond in the event of an incident. Visibility discourages robbers by increasing their risk of being seen, so make sure there is good lighting in your parking lot and building entrance, with trees and shrubs trimmed to deny opportunities for concealment. Make sure any on site camera equipment is installed where it can serve as a deterrent or provide greater security to employees, with signs clearly posted to let criminals know they are being watched and recorded. Suitable camera equipment should use the best available surveillance technology such as 4K video and night vision to clearly capture a suspect and identify details such as eye and hair color. Physical barriers such as locks and surveillance equipment such as motion sensors and alarms should be installed properly and tested to verify good working condition.

Cash registers should be clearly visible to police cruisers and customers. Cash handling procedures that limit the number of registers open at one time and the amount of money in each register will reduce potential losses. A working drop safe or time access safe will help limit the amount of cash at risk in registers. Employees should have a secure area where they can store personal belongings. Managers and workers should be trained in security procedures so they know what preventive steps to follow, how to spot suspicious behavior that should be reported, and what to do in the event of a robbery.

Safety Procedures during Robberies

In the event a robbery occurs, workers should be trained to remain calm and turn over money rather than risking physical harm. Rather than confronting a robber, employees should observe the suspect’s description so they can identify them to authorities later. Employees should be trained to notice suspects’ shoes, which are less likely to change than other clothing items. Placing height markers on exit doors will make it easier to estimate suspect height. When possible to do so without risking harm, employees should attempt to get a look at robbers’ vehicles.

A hidden panic button should be installed that workers can use unobtrusively to summon authorities. Emergency contact information for law enforcement, fire and medical services, and company personnel should be clearly posted.

Workers should also be trained to handle abusive customers and shoplifters. Abusive customers should be told to stop abusive behavior and then reported to a designated supervisor. Shoplifters should be observed for future identification rather than confronted.

Follow-up Procedures after Robberies

After a robbery, the first thing employees should do is call 911 to summon law enforcement and any medical services that may be required. After police have been contacted, the supervisor should lock the building in order to preserve the crime scene, and employees should not touch anything. If the robber left any note, this should be preserved as evidence. All employees and other witnesses should immediately begin writing down everything they remember or recording it on their smartphone. Western Piedmont Community College provides a sample description of physical characteristics form supervisors can pass out to collect witness recollections. To avoid contaminating descriptions, employees should not compare notes with other witnesses.

A robbery is an experience no business wants to undergo, but being prepared is the best way to reduce the risk of robbery, increase the safety of your employees, and improve your odds of recovering stolen cash and property. Knowing what to do before, during, and after a robbery will help prevent robberies, keep your workers safe, and make it more likely that authorities can identify suspects.