If you run a small business, then you have a strong appreciation for how important it is to secure your property. There are numerous methods you can keep your possessions out of the hands of thieves: silent alarms, security bars, glass breakage detectors, motion sensors and deadbolt locks are just a few possibilities.
However, no security measures taken, no matter how sophisticated, can protect your property if thieves can access your property by simply unlocking your doors. That is why it is so important for you to exercise the utmost of care and caution when you have keyed locks as part of your security plan. Here are some best practices for reducing the risks associated with using keys:
Change the door locks
If you purchased a business or are leasing property, you likely inherited a set of keys that matched a variety of door locks. The wisest thing you can do upon taking possession of the property is to immediately change all of your door locks. Since you don't know who may still have keys to the locks, leaving them untouched is tantamount to inviting theft.
Be sure to choose a professional locksmith for your door locks, though, as the hardware store-grade locks available at most retailers aren't sufficient for securing commercial property.
Maintain strict control of keys
Another essential practice is to maintain strict control of keys and those who maintain possession. From a practical standpoint, you can utilize a variety of systems to make this happen; however, the most important thing is to know at all times where each specific key resides.
That requires that each key possesses a unique identifier that cannot be changed or erased. The identifier can be a simple sequence of numbers, or it can be derived from some other convenient coding scheme. However, it is important that you never use key location descriptions as part of your identifier scheme. For example, marking a key as "FRT DOOR-1" might be easy to identify for you and your staff, but it also provides a quick way for a burglar to know where it fits.
Incorporate such key control systems into your business human resources procedures, as well. Make signing-in and signing-out keys an integral part of your hiring and separation processes so each employee is accountable for each specific key. In addition, be sure that key handling procedures are explicitly spelled-out in employee procedure manuals and that appropriate consequences are in-place for violators.
Reduce the number of keys in use
Another way to reduce the possibility of a key being misused is to reduce the overall number of keys in use. For example, you may discover your business has an "extra" exterior door that is redundant. Don't assume that just because a door is in-place that it must be kept available for use; a careful study of your operations may demonstrate that you can eliminate a given door without any negative consequences.
Another way to reduce the number of keys in use is to install keyless access panels that utilize numerical codes for unlocking doors. These keyless systems enable you to change the codes as necessary or desired, and the future need to change locks is also eliminated.
Lockboxes offer another alternative for the small business that doesn't want to make the switch to keyless panels but still wants to keep the number of keys at a minimum. Key lockboxes are accessed by inputting a code which unlocks a small container that holds a key. Lockboxes can be securely mounted to a convenient exterior location, and they provide similar advantages offered by a keyless access system at a lower cost.
Reconsider the use of master keys
Master keys are nice to have if you are the owner or manager of a business, but they can be disastrous if they fall into the wrong hands. That is why you should greatly restrict, if not eliminate altogether, the use of master keys in your business.
If the particulars of your business make getting rid of master keys impractical, then you should consider using an area master system that divides the number of master keyed areas into smaller segments. This helps prevent the large expense incurred by re-keying all of your locks, and it also reduces the potential for loss by keeping thieves out of at least some of your business areas.
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