The Lessons of Ferguson: How to Protect Your Small Business

627px-ANG40InfantryDivisionLosAngelesRiot1992While the national media focus mainly on the bigger stories surrounding the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, I’m certain that small business owners understand the heavy toll being exacted on local commerce.

The news crew from St. Louis’ KSDK talked to the manager and some employees at Feel Beauty Supply store in Ferguson and heard first hand how the unrest there has devastated their business and their jobs.

“They tried to get into the cash register, stole hair items and some jewelry. I’m just frustrated because these people are not understanding how this affects others when they come with this foolishness. There was a tragedy, yes, but this is not how you deal with a tragedy,” related Benny Billups, who does some maintenance repairs at the store.

Safety the priority

Feel Beauty Supply manager Tanya Littleton said the store is shutting down. “It’s not worth it. Right now our safety is more important than anything,” she said adding that she doesn’t know if Feel Beauty Supply will ever reopen. The owners fear for their lives and right now just want out, she explained.

The fear and loss underscore how important it is to be prepared for the worst imaginable disasters – both natural and man-made. I should also note that tragically, many business owners felt they had to protect their property themselves, as police pulled back in an effort to ease tensions.

Two armed store owners standing outside their businesses told the local Fox affiliate that when they called 911 they were transferred from one police agency to another and never received a response.

Get ready now

As Littleton said, protecting employee safety is the first priority in any threatening situation, but if small business owners want to be able to recover from extreme situations, they need to be thoroughly prepared.

“Security is about being proactive. That means putting systems in place ahead of time to ward off bad things from happening,” explains Robert Siciliano, CEO of Siciliano, a personal security and identity theft expert, offers these five tips that should be implemented far in advance of any civil unrest:

  1. Invest in alarm systems equipped with cameras and signage. In some cases this will prevent intrusion and in others it may help catch offenders. 
  2. Invest in roll-up security doors, metal folding security gates or window grilles. All have their pros and cons and vary in price. 
  3. Board up. Search “emergency window board up” to determine what materials are needed and how to board up as if a hurricane, or in some cases a mob, is on the way. 
  4. Firearms as defense. The Rodney King L.A. looting brought out the worst in many people and American media witnessed many store owners inside and out with firearms ready for battle. Honestly, I don’t know how worth it it is to protect a storefront with a firearm. First, it’s not worth putting your own life at risk for “stuff” and second, if you kill someone you better have at least $50k for lawyers to defend yourself in court. 
  5. Check your insurance policies to make sure you are covered for such events. Be sure you have sufficient coverage, including the losses you would suffer if your business is interrupted for a prolonged period of time.

I would also add that your data should be backed up to an offsite location; you don’t want to be navigating your way through an angry crowd or rising flood waters to retrieve a hard drive from your place of business.

So be prepared, be proactive, maintain good community relations and support one another as local small business owners.

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Image: “ANG40InfantryDivisionLosAngelesRiot1992” by unknown, US Army Field Artillery School – Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.