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The Importance of Physical Security at Your Empty Commercial Property

The Importance of Physical Security at Your Empty Commercial Property
The Importance of Physical Security at Your Empty Commercial Property

Less…Is More

In a challenging business environment, not least a tough time for retailers and higher inflation rates, it would appear that there has been an increase in vacant property rates since the pandemic.

Perhaps the working-from-home preference has contributed, too.

Having hit a low of 4.6% in the first quarter of 2020, in early 2024 this figure has gone up to 7.6%, the highest in nine years. Worryingly, that’s about 100 million sq ft of unused office space. And that doesn’t include unused shops, factories and warehouses. What does this mean? Well, it’s pretty obvious, really: let’s call it an increase in bandwidth. There are now more options and more choice for intruders, theft and vandalism, fly-tipping, arson, flooding.

And, further chances of longer-term building dilapidation.

This boils down to a greater potential for damage and, therefore, a need for the right strategies and tools to address the vulnerabilities that these properties present.

Now could be the time to act.


The Three Ds

At Clearway, as specialists in empty commercial property, we often refer to the Three Ds:

  1. Detect. Sophisticated systems designed to spot intruders: CCTV and other high-tech security products to sense and record trespassers at your site. In addition, regular property inspections to identify any potential weak spots or issues.
  2. Deter. Visual deterrents, such as lighting, fencing and signs. And, barriers to entry. In other words, measures that put off your would-be intruder and send them in the opposite direction.
  3. Delay. Measures such as parking controls, alarm systems, roadblocks, and interior barriers to slow down an intruder and give your staff the time to alert you or the emergency services to the incident.

They work together and are a force to be reckoned with. However, in this article, we need to add two more:

  • Deny. Think: an upheld electronic hand communicating a “Hard No”.

These are products and services that deny unauthorised entry to your site or building. The process may involve access control solutions or manned security gates. Alternatively, steel doors and windows, perimeter security, concrete blocks, security gates, etc.

  • Defend. Protecting and safeguarding your empty commercial property and shielding it from trespassers, squatters, thieves and arsonists. Defending a building creates a conceptual forcefield, safeguarding your assets and keeping them in good condition until the next commercial tenancy.

While you will need a complete security strategy that includes digital surveillance and automated alarms, this piece focuses on these last two objectives: deny and defend – actual physical security – tangible, practical and substantial.

What is Physical Security?

Broadly, it’s the preventative measures and practices you may put in place to protect physical security assets and resources from unauthorised access, theft, damage or harm.

These are the essential solutions that can help to thwart and prevent breaches from happening in the first place. These types of physical security are a must-have. They are a material, impenetrable obstacle between your property and an invader.

They’re preventative problem-solvers in their own right.

Let’s start with:

A Risk Assessment

Do you know what you don’t know? No, you don’t.

It’s impossible to protect your vacant commercial property adequately until and unless you’re aware of a) what you need to protect, b) how effective or otherwise your current security measures are, and c) what actions your consultant recommends you take. Clearway offers an unbiased, independent assessment of all of the above, and we’ve referred to this critical early-stage part of our engagement in this article.

After your risk assessment, you’ll recognise which areas of your business premises are more likely to be vulnerable to intrusion or possible problems.

What could be your biggest threats? You’ll know your priorities. These could include measures to secure your property against squatting, trespass, fire, wire tampering and public liability risks. Also, you will have an inventory of any vehicles, storage sheds or bays that may need stricter protection.

Types of Physical Protection

  • Locks

A suitable starting point, of course.

Entry points are the first thing an illegal intruder will look for. This means that basic physical security, such as high-standard door and window locks, offer a sound, straightforward solution. Locks may be all that is required for your insurance cover – but it IS somewhat “plain” and you may need to implement extra steps.

We recommend that you contact Clearway for advice.

Construction Site Security from Clearway

chain and padlock on gate at construction site – lock on closed fence

  • Steel Screens and Steel Sheets

Trespassers often enter vacant commercial buildings through windows, sometimes forcing even the largest and strongest locks. Step forward: steel screens and sheets

Made from steel, security screens are fitted to the outside of the property, entirely covering each window and frame. They’re secured to an internal steel frame, so there’s little if any, damage. Regarding steel sheets, there’s a slight difference. The prefabricated, painted “box-folded” screens are made from the same 3mm galvanised, perforated sheet steel. But where required, the sheet steel is hand-cut to fit difficult or awkward openings, such as arched or lancet church windows.

Clearway Steel Screens

These products offer, quite literally, nothing to the commercial burglar or trespasser.

Tools such as crowbars cannot be inserted, and the screens are impossible to remove. Nothing can go through them, so fire starters with lit materials had best go elsewhere. They’re heavy, sturdy and a true security stalwart. Equally exceptional, as they’re perforated, they allow light and air to come into the building and circulate.

Super-safe, yet great for ventilation.

And talking of steel…

  • Keyless Steel Doors

Clearway offers the Keyless Toreador Steel Security Door, which is tested and certified to LPS1175 Issue 7, and is of such high quality that it’s the only steel door in its class to be approved by the UK police for its security excellence.

Access is via a unique five-digit code, which releases a multipoint frame-locking mechanism, and the door is opened by turning a recessed handle. The door is made from stainless steel, is 1/5mm thick, and is reinforced to 3mm in key areas.

Quite simply, once it’s in place, it can’t be removed, forced or tampered with.

You can read more about them here.

  • Perimeter Fencing and Access Controls

A property’s perimeter, by the simple fact that it’s at your boundaries, is relatively large.

So, there could be weak areas or specific places where CCTV may miss lawbreakers. In short, its defences may not be as robust as they should be. Once someone’s in, they’re in. The edges of your property could be susceptible to ram-raiding, fly-tipping or illegal encampments. Therefore, your perimeter security solution could include monitoring systems and manned guards – but solid physical barriers to access should also take precedence.

Security gates are a prominent, clear choice for your perimeter. They can be intimidating and play a significant role in managing the comings and goings of cars, vans, lorries, staff and visitors.

Access Controls on security gates are ideal if you have a main entrance or just one point of entry.

Do also consider your other access points, such as fire doors, rear doors and windows. The technology in these systems is pretty next-level: facial recognition and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) deliver streamlined sophistication. Digital passes, security passes, and key codes are another practical layer of physical security.

Perimeter Security Systems from Clearway
  • Bollards and Barriers

No vehicle is going to get past these.

Concrete barriers can be configured in any size or shape, stretching across footpaths, lanes and property frontages to prevent entry. Heras fencing, often installed with barrier blocks, cannot be climbed on and can extend for as long as you need it.

Clearway Barriers and bollards

In Summary: What Clearway Thinks

Physical security is crucial.

Business CCTV, although astute and highly technical, records the event and works in perfect harmony with our product security range. Nevertheless, it cannot prevent incidents or stop a crime from happening.

Making your unused commercial property an unattractive prospect and safeguarding it from damage and intrusion is a double-win. For substantial, demonstrable and vigorous first lines of security, prevention should be high on your agenda.

Gideon Reichental

Vacant Property Security Consultant

Gideon is an experienced property specialist with a commitment to excellent customer service and support. With over eight years dedicated to the niche field of vacant property security and services, Gideon has been at the forefront of developing and implementing best practices and successful strategies for safeguarding vulnerable properties, demonstrating a profound understanding of the complexities involved. His hands-on experience includes managing portfolios of over 200 vacant properties directly, alongside senior management roles overseeing broader portfolios that encompass more than 2000 properties.

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