We’ve all found ourselves in uncomfortable situations at work, from office politics to the endless power struggle over the thermostat. But what happens when you’re confronted with suspicious activity coming from a guest, customer, or vagrant?
You want to believe the best in everyone, and you also assume that every person who enters your lobby is there with good intentions. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some people with bad intentions enter through your doors, and then what happens? Do you confront them? Do you call security? Do you observe?
How do you even know that they’re suspicious?
On one hand, you have to trust your gut because it’s there for a reason. Your unease may come from a legitimate cause for concern. Perhaps you’re picking up on subtle red flags that could lead to immediate danger for you and others. However, on the other hand, you also must be careful to avoid acting on unconscious biases that unfairly stereotype others.
It can be difficult to know how to navigate these situations. However, it’s important that you have a plan in place for when (not if) you find yourself in an uncomfortable scenario.
Let’s discuss how to prepare and what to do.
What Classifies as Suspicious Behavior
First, let’s discuss how to recognize suspicious behavior.
While we can’t describe every possible behavior that can elicit suspicion, we can highlight the more common worrisome behaviors:
- Loitering for a lengthy amount of time
- Constantly looking around (most people find something to hold their attention as they wait, such as tv, magazine, or phone)
- Creating a huge and unusual distraction by one party in their team
- Coming into the lobby a few minutes before your office closes or right after it opens
- Clenching their fists
- Crossing their arms
- Arguing with someone in the office or on the phone
- Wearing inappropriate clothing
- Hiding in the corner or behind an object
- Concealing their face in some way, such as looking down pretending to tie shoes or looking for something in a bag whenever someone walks by
- General nervousness
- Acting aggressively
- Displaying erratic behavior
- Making threats
- Constantly staring at you, your staff, or someone else in your office lobby
- Having a flushed appearance
- Taking a threatening stance or posture
- Talking to themselves
- Trying to force entry into your building
- Taking photos of areas that aren’t particularly remarkable
- Sketching floor plans of your building
- Pacing back and forth repeatedly
- Appearing after an unusual noise (such as pounding, glass breaking, or gunshots)
- Entering or exiting from a secondary door, not the main entrance/exit
- Repeatedly entering and exiting the building
- Not checking in with your front office
- Leaving packages or bags and walking away for a long time or exiting the building
- Asking detailed questions about your security protocol or where your cameras are located
There are several types of crimes, from theft to terrorism to vandalism to kidnapping. But there’s usually a sign that something is about to happen. So be vigilant and if you spot any of the above signs, then plan your next steps accordingly.
Also remember that you’re not profiling a person. Instead, you’re observing a behavior. A person cannot be defined as suspicious based on their race, gender, age, or nationality.
How to Prepare for Suspicious Activity in Your Lobby
Let’s discuss how to prepare for suspicious activity, and then how to handle it if it happens.
Create a Security Plan
Before creating a security plan, you must first assess your risk factors.
What are your physical risks?
What are your most vulnerable assets?
Do you need to protect personnel, supplies, technology, company data, etc.?
Will you keep cash on premises? If so, how much, and where will you store it?
Finally, what are the best ways to keep your assets safe? Will you create a safe zone for your office staff? If not, where will your employees shelter in case of an emergency?
With those questions in your mind, create a customized security plan, if you haven’t already done so.If you haven't already, now's the time to create a security plan. Here's why: Click To Tweet
Create an Access Control Policy
Your security plan should indicate which areas in your building are open to the public and which need to be restricted. Also, you should outline which employees can access those restricted areas. Do you have employee only areas? How will you prevent others from accessing those areas? Will you restrict access through digital locks?
Also consider adding wayfinding signs throughout your office to prevent guests from accidentally getting lost. Wayfinding signs are especially helpful if your guests will be making their own way from the lobby to another part of your office. Signage can deter misunderstandings which can happen when a guest gets lost.
Keep a Log of Who’s In Your Office
It’s so important to know who’s in your office at all times. You have the responsibility to protect your physical office, your employees, and your guests.
One of the best ways to do that is with The Receptionist.
The Receptionist is a cloud-based visitor management system with a robust set of features that allow you to control access while also learning more about who’s in your office at all times.
Here are some of the top security benefits you’ll gain by using The Receptionist:
- A cloud-based visitor log so you know who’s in your office
- Searchable visitor reports
- The ability to capture images of your guests
- Access to an up-to-date emergency evacuation list
- Eliminate paper guest logs (which protects your visitors’ privacy)
In addition to all of the above benefits, The Receptionist also allows your front desk staff more freedom to observe their surroundings.
Learn more about The Receptionist’s security and compliance features here.
Install a Camera
Another tool you need in your lobby is a security camera. You can use a security camera to record who’s coming in and out of your facility. Remember to keep the footage on file for a while. Often, criminals “case” an area and then return at a later time to commit a crime. By having footage on file, you may find out more information about the suspect.
You can also observe suspicious behavior on the camera, if you feel uncomfortable doing so in person.
Security cameras also help you monitor the most sensitive areas in your office. Also, invest in more than one camera and have those cameras obviously placed as an easy visual deterrent to criminal activity.
One of the best ways to respond to suspicious behavior, especially one that’s escalated, is by activating a silent alarm. This silent alarm will notify the relevant parties, such as your security staff or the local police, without tipping off the suspicious person.
Be sure to test your silent alarms periodically (at least twice a year).
How to Respond to Suspicious Activity
It’s important that you and everyone on your staff take an observant posture at the office, especially if your office is open to the public. It’s important that you and your staff are on the lookout for any suspicious activity, and know what to do next.
If you observe suspicious behavior, remind yourself to stay calm and don’t over-react. It’s crucial to keep a calm head during these scary situations. That assures that you don’t panic and forget your plan.
Alert Your Security Team
As they say, when you see something, say something. If you have a security team in your office building, it’s always a good idea to alert them of suspicious behavior as soon as you feel uncomfortable. Don’t let it escalate to an unmanageable state before you reach out.
Create and Use an Alert Code Phrase
It’s a good practice to create a code word or phrase to alert your team of suspicious activity. Choose a word or phrase that sounds innocuous to others. Be sure that everyone on your team knows what to do if you use that signal. Should they go into alert mode? Contact security? Call 911? It’s important that everyone is on the same page.
Approach the Suspicious Person With Good Intentions
If you work in the front office, you’re the first line of defense for your organization.
A simple step like approaching a suspicious person and offering your help can give you the power in the situation. First, talking with a person who’s acting suspiciously can immediately clear up any misunderstandings that you may have. One of two options is true: They are actually behaving in an alarming way, or you may have mis-read the situation. Either way, the confrontation will provide clarity on next steps.
Remain calm and polite with your tone and facial expression.
Have a Plan of Escape
In a particularly tense situation, be sure that your staff knows where to go. If you have a safe room in your office, your staff should know how to get to that location. Stock your safe room with first aid, bottled water, flashlights, and the ability to call out. It’s also a good idea to include a television with a security feed in your safe room so that you can see what’s happening outside.
The above tips will help you handle suspicious activity at your office. Remember to remain calm and stick to the security plan you’ve put in place.
In addition to empowering your staff, one of the best ways to manage your lobby is by implementing a visitor management system like The Receptionist. With our visitor management system, all guests can check in right away. And you can require visual identification for each guest so you can put a face to a name.
Click here to see how The Receptionist can improve your office security while delivering a better experience to all of your visitors.
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