Protecting your product

About one-third of employees steal from their employers, putting employee theft at the top of the list of crimes against businesses, according to a 1998 U.S. Department of Commerce study.

That means protection is important, especially for small- to mid-sized businesses. Whether you’re dealing with missing equipment, consistently late employees, intruders or vandalism, security management systems is a growing industry. It offers integrated programming of security systems while controlling heating, lighting, air conditioning and surveillance.

Watching employees on the job serves two purposes, says Wayne Easton, vice president of sales at AmerAlarm in Cleveland.

“It’s either something that you can use as Big Brother or something you can use to reward employees for doing good work,” says Easton.

AmerAlarm owner Jerry Burger established the security firm because customers from his already profitable computerized telephone business complained of the high cost and complexity of security systems.

“The first premise of business is to find a void in the market and fill it,” says Burger.

One of his products does just that. Vision System, a customized surveillance system, uses standard phone lines and television to access your plant or office from anywhere in the United States. It also allows for two-way audio and can record activity on a standard VCR.

Easton says Vision System gives peace of mind to off-site business owners or managers responsible for more than one location.

And today’s systems help eliminate the human error factor. Cameras can be engaged automatically when door security is activated at the end of the day. Time-lapse motion activated cameras alleviate the need to examine hours of surveillance tapes.

Another type of technology tracks expensive property such as laptop computers when they disappear.

Marc Levine, AmerAlarm operations manager, says a stolen laptop is traceable anywhere in the United States the second it is plugged into a phone line. Software programs installed in the computer send a code and the phone number the laptop is using to a clearinghouse, which notifies the business and the police of the laptop’s whereabouts.

Stationery equipment can be protected with cameras smaller than a loaf of bread which are fully contained, completely automatic and activated by motion.

Protection doesn’t have to be expensive to offer a lot of value. A camera monitoring entrances and exits without illumination is worthless at night. But an inexpensive infrared illuminator lets monitoring equipment do its job.

“Security is only good if you utilize the advantages that are given to you,” says Burger.

Technology to open doors jumped from keys to card readers to hands-off technology. Signal readers send a radio frequency, identifying the person at the door, the time and the date, without the person ever having to use a pass card.

Even with all the technology available, a large part of security still comes down to people.

“Caution and common sense are probably the most important thing about security … It can be as simple as outside lighting and lit hallways,” says Levine. “We don’t think people should be a prisoner to their security system.” How to reach: AmerAlarm, (216) 882-1808

Deborah Garofalo ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Magazine.