As frontline workers dealing with customers across diverse demographics in the heart of every community, convenience store (c-stores) and gas station employees are exposed to more than the average levels of violent crime and antisocial behavior. In 2022, for example, convenience stores accounted for 10,751 robberies and gas stations 6,781. Combined, this made them the third highest risk locations after residences and streets.
Anecdotally, both convenience stores and gas stations are seen as easy targets for criminals. Lone workers on long shifts that may extend into the early hours prove to be particularly vulnerable. However, by implementing expansive security plans and building failsafe protocols, alongside communication technologies, owners and managers can reduce risk and improve safety regardless of the unique challenges presented by any specific gas or retail store.
With these issues in mind, this article will explore how owners and managers can improve security within c-stores and gas stations by introducing and developing comprehensive security plans and procedures. Read on to learn more and discover how panic button technologies can play a part in a safer and more secure working environment for everyone.
Identifying Common Security Risks in the Industry
Convenience stores and gas stations face a broad range of security risks that are part and parcel of daily operations. They range from relatively benign shoplifting and petty theft to serious gun crimes and sexual assaults. Below, we look at the most common security risks faced by employees within the industry.
- Antisocial Behavior — Disruptive or aggressive behavior from customers, including harassment, intimidation, or vandalism. Additionally, disputes or conflicts among customers that may escalate into physical altercations.
- Robberies and Thefts — Cash registers, merchandise and gas, and employees may all be targets of criminals. In turn, this poses a serious threat to the safety of workers tasked with preventing robberies and thefts.
- Gun Violence — Armed individuals entering the premises is among the most serious security threats faced by gas stations and convenience stores. leading to potential harm or fatalities.
- Sexual Assault — Incidents of unwanted sexual advances or assaults on employees or customers within the store or its vicinity.
- Gasoline-Related Hazards — Potential dangers related to fuel handling, such as fire hazards, spills, or accidents at gas pumps.
- Employee Safety Concerns — The risks associated with working alone, especially during late-night shifts, means that employees are always vulnerable to various threats.
Creating a Security Plan
To tackle the risks associated with gas station and convenience store operations, gas station and convenience store owners and managers should build and implement workplace safety and security procedures that address the above risks in detail. Generally speaking, they should include the following elements.
- Risk Assessment — Beginning with a risk assessment, owners and managers should identify and assess potential security risks specific to the location.
- Physical Security Measures — Plan measures to enhance physical security on the premises. This should include elements such as improving the lighting in and around the premises, installing or upgrading security cameras, and implementing access control systems for restricted areas. Additionally, bullet-resistant glass should also be considered in areas vulnerable to gun-related crimes.
- Employee Training and Awareness — Any security plan should include regular training sessions for employees that include how to recognise and respond to security threats, detailed emergency procedures that cover evacuation and lockdown protocols, and conflict resolution.
- Emergency Communication Systems — Introduce reliable communication systems including wearable panic buttons for employees alongside easily accessible communication channels for emergency situations.
- Collaboration with Law Enforcement — Include contacts and build relationships with law enforcement to share information on security risks and incidents and create emergency response plans.
- Cash Handling Procedures — Detail secure cash-handling protocols within your plan with drop safes and limits held in cash registers. Regular cash pickups to minimize on-site funds should also be included.
- Regular Security Audits — Conduct periodic security audits to assess the effectiveness of existing measures, including areas for improvement and adjustments based on changing risks.
Among the most important elements of an effective security plan is the training of employees, ensuring that everyone understands your approach and knows how to react in case of an incident. Training plans should be comprehensive, and documentation should be given to employees for later reference. Training programs should include the following elements:
- Education on previously defined security protocols.
- Simulations of emergency response scenarios.
- Methods of dealing with difficult or potentially dangerous customers.
- Guidance on using technologies such as panic buttons and video surveillance.
- Frequent updates on all of the above elements.
Give Special Attention to Lone Workers
Lone workers in any industry are often at increased risk, with the simple fact that they have no one to call out to for help in the event of an incident. For this reason, they should receive dedicated training and special attention that gives them the tools they need to feel safe and get help when they need it.
This should include risk awareness, emergency response, and effective communication protocols, alongside communication devices and panic buttons, check-in procedures, and psychological support in the event of an incident. Clear emergency protocols, collaboration tools, and regular reviews may also enhance the effectiveness of safety measures, ensuring lone workers feel supported, secure, and equipped to handle the unique challenges of working alone.
Control access throughout the premises enables employees to maintain secure areas and decrease unauthorized access to sensitive areas. There are a variety of ways to do this, including electronic key cards or fobs, key codes and biometric systems. In addition, visitor management and access controls that are integrated with CCTV systems will provide another layer of security.
Utilize Technology for Surveillance and Monitoring
Technology can provide a broad range of solutions to the security issues facing gas station and convenience store employees. As covered above, control access tech is one way to improve security, however by bolstering surveillance and monitoring systems, managers and owners can both improve security and create a deterrent to criminal and antisocial behaviors.
Introducing technology such as high-resolution CCTV cameras strategically placed in key areas will improve security, while other technologies such as motion sensors, smart lighting, license plate detection systems, and even face recognition and gunshot detection tech can play a role in improved security systems.
Increase Visibility and Lighting
Among the simplest and cheapest ways to improve security is to improve lighting systems and plan the layout of the premises to increase visibility and reduce blind spots. Bright, energy-efficient lighting acts as a deterrent to criminals, while significantly improving the overall safety of both employees and customers. In addition, optimizing layouts, including entrances, exits, and parking lots, enables employees to monitor activity, identify potential threats, and respond promptly to security issues.
Reduce Cash Handling by Employees
Cash handling, particularly when it is in public view, should be managed carefully, as large amounts of cash regularly pass through both c-stores and gas stations. However, by encouraging the use of digital payment methods and contactless transactions, you can reduce the amount of cash on the premises at any given time. This should complement clear cash management protocols and the use of drop safes to reduce the attractiveness of the store as a target for theft.
Emergency Alerts and Response
Effective emergency alert systems and response protocols that integrate wearable panic button technologies should be carefully integrated and implemented. Any panic button solution should include discrete, wearable panic buttons issued to each employee; dead-zone protection using Bluetooth and LTE back-up; and battery-powered beacons for integration in areas without electricity. Additionally, installing an under-desk panic button – ideally one that calls 911 – can be particularly beneficial to lone workers who may need the assistance of law enforcement on call.
Regardless of the specific challenges faced by individual c-stores and gas stations, the introduction of comprehensive security plans can go a long way to improving workplace safety. However, particularly when considering the prevalence of lone working within these settings, technology can also play a crucial role. CCTV and other surveillance systems are important additions to your plan, but in order to provide better support for lone workers, and even individuals who may otherwise be isolated from the rest of your workforce temporarily, the installation of wearable panic button solutions should be a priority.
For more information on how ROAR can protect your employees and provide advanced panic button systems for any c-store or gas station environment, contact us today.