10 Must-Do Steps to Prepare Your Business for Holiday Risks

December 20, 2017 | 6 min read
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In terms of threats and vulnerabilities, the holiday season is one of the riskiest times of year for many facilities. Usually we like to think of peace on earth and mercy mild—which is definitely necessary in our world. But we can’t let well-wishing make us complacent toward real threats and hazards.

Think about it. The holidays bring a tremendous spike in several conditions that put a company in greater risk of an event:

  • Travel increases. While your employees or delivery vehicles are on the road, so are millions of holiday shoppers and travelers. Accidents will jump from late November through the first week of January.
  • Spending goes up. As shoppers spend more, their debt will increase. Budgets will be stretched thin, and some families will be under more financial strain than ever.
  • Stress boils over. For many of us, the holidays aren’t joyful, but incredibly stressful. Not everyone knows how to deal with stress in a healthy way, and some people react violently.
  • Flu season is in full swing. If your employees are out sick, it can affect your emergency management and business continuity.
  • Weather wreaks havoc. Harsh winter storms can take out power grids, keep people stranded, and shut down businesses.
  • Fraud increases. Shoplifting, credit card scams, and fraudulent returns run rampant this time of year.

Be aware of the particular risks that your business is vulnerable to, and take necessary actions to prepare for the holidays. Consider each of the following types of scenarios to protect your business and your employees.

10 Ways to Keep Your Business Safe

1) Know Your Risks

Assess your risk for the holidays. That’s an absolute must. If you don’t know where your threats and vulnerabilities are, you can’t protect your facilities or your people. Consider all the relevant scenarios—everything from weather emergencies to temporary holiday staffing, to building vacancies during the break.

Do your assessment early—you’ll need time to implement corrective actions before the holiday season arrives.

Handpicked related content: How Often Should You Do a Risk Analysis? More Often Than You Think

2) Communicate with Employees

Raise employee awareness by communicating early and often. Use your holiday risk assessment as a starting point for employee training, and review your company’s security procedures. Make sure every employee knows to be vigilant, what to watch for, and what to do if they see something suspicious. Every person in your company is on your security team.

3) Team Up with Business Neighbors

You can help prevent break-ins by talking with neighboring businesses about your holiday schedule. If you have a good relationship with nearby businesses, keep an eye on each other’s workplaces during downtimes.

4) Decorate Safely

If your business is like most, holiday decorations will go up around the workplace. Decorating can help shape company culture, but make sure your decorations don’t increase risk.

  • Inspect all cords and lights for signs of damage. Fire is the most common reason for loss during the holidays.
  • Don’t block high-traffic areas
  • Don’t block emergency exits, signage, or emergency equipment like fire extinguishers.
  • Don’t stand on a chair to hang decorations. Use a stepladder.
  • Don’t hang anything from fire sprinklers. OSHA regulations state that materials should always be at least 18 inches below fire sprinklers.
  • Don’t block security cameras, motion sensors, windows, or other security equipment.

5) Hire Smart

Hiring temporary staff to keep up with holiday business? It can be tempting just to take on anyone who applies—after all, it’s just for a couple weeks, right? A bad hire won’t be around long enough to make an impact.

Except that they could.

More employees and more inventory mean more opportunities for theft—especially if you haven’t properly vetted your new hires. Some companies give employees access to POS terminals, which can be a point of entry for a cyberattack.

Criminals are counting on businesses to hire in a hurry, without following due diligence. Protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Start hiring early so you have time to fully vet applicants.
  • Evaluate new employees’ experience level before assigning specific tasks.
  • Pair new workers with trusted permanent employees.
  • Implement steps to protect your inventory. Evaluate transactions on a daily basis and pay special attention to voided or deleted sales.
  • Keep supervisors visible on the sales floor at all times.
  • Promptly delete temporary workers from your system as soon as they are let go.

6) Be Smart with Electronics

Smart cybersecurity is smart physical security. It’s amazing that everyone locks their doors but many still don’t do the equivalent when it comes to electronic security. Here’s a few quick tips:

  • Avoid posting out-of-office email replies that state your company will be closed for the holidays. These broadcast that your office will be empty and could invite mischief and hacking into your account. Instead, notify a close circle of contacts that you’ll be out of the office.
  • Don’t use your personal account on public computers, including terminals in cyber cafes or hotels.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi to access anything work-related. Instead, use your smartphone as a local wireless hub or subscribe to a temporary hotspot.
  • Follow the tips from the U.S. Computer Emergency Team to protect your laptop and electronic devices.

7) Beware of Scams

Companies get scammed just as easily as individuals do—and the holidays make an ideal time for attackers to take advantage of your employees. You can help prevent email scams and cyberattacks by communicating the latest threats and scams with your workers. Teach them how to spot the signs of a scam, and review best practices to protect yourself.

8) Commute Safely

Between the wintry weather, Christmas shoppers, and holiday travel, the roads can be more dangerous in November and December. Encourage your employees to play it smart during their commute and other travels.

  • Keep vehicles in good repair. Encourage your people to make sure their lights, brakes, and tires are in good working condition.
  • Drive carefully. The four most dangerous driving behaviors are speeding, aggressive driving, inattention, and drowsiness—and all of them are more common during the holidays. Add winter weather and you’ve got ideal conditions for an accident. Tell your employees to take their time coming into work.
  • Avoid drinking and driving. Encourage workers to be smart during holiday celebrations. Just don’t drink and drive—and be aware of other drivers on the road who might be under the influence.
  • Skip work. If the weather outside is frightful, your employees should take a snow day. Have a policy about when not to come into the office, and clearly communicate it.

9) Prepare for New Devices

After the holidays, your employees will come to work excited about their brand-new shiny devices. They’ll probably still be configuring their settings and playing all kinds of fun new games—but probably the last thing they’ll do is configure the security on the devices. Minimize the risk to your business by reviewing best practices with employees and reminding them of your company’s BYOD policies.

10) Consult a Security Expert

There’s a lot you can do on your own to protect your company, but you won’t be able to cover everything. A professional security consultant can identify your company’s specific vulnerabilities and provide detailed corrective actions to mitigate threats. Hire a consultant early, so that you have plenty of time to tackle everything before the holidays arrive.

Find Some Peace on Earth

Don’t let increased risk spoil your holiday spirit. There’s no need for paranoia, but you definitely shouldn’t be complacent about holiday risks. Prepare your facilities appropriately to have a happy holiday this season.

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