Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
March 27, 2018

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Mobile access series #1: What you need to know

NSI SUMMIT

How not to protect your premises: Risk assessments gone wrong (or not done at all)

Graeme Dow at the NSI Summit 2018

When it comes to protecting your premises – especially if it’s a prime target for criminals – a risk assessment should not be optional.

That was the message delivered at the NSI Summit in Birmingham last week by Graeme Dow, director of Safeguard Security Consultants, which provides expert witness reports for installers, insurers and courts.

Case studies where things went horribly wrong are, let’s face it, more engaging and therefore educational than tales of perfectly executed plans.

An engaging speaker, Dow applied this principle in covering the lessons of the Hatton Garden raid at last year’s NSI Summit. This time round he furnished a further four examples of the consequences – fatal, in  one instance – of negligence in protecting premises and their occupants.

Two major security flaws were exposed by a well-drilled gang of thieves who emptied a jewellery store of its products in two minutes flat.

First, it was too easy to gain entry. One of the gang posed as an elderly person before raising themselves too their full height upon being granted entry. Once in the outer door the inner door was breached in seconds because the door frame was not conformant with relevant standards.

Glass fit for such a high risk environment should withstand 30 blows from a sledgehammer before succumbing

Glass fit for such a high risk environment should withstand 30 blows from a sledgehammer before succumbing. Few criminals would have the strength, patience and – in broad daylight – rank stupidity to persist for that long.

Once inside the first robber was followed by several other masked men armed with sledgehammers. Security fog or smoke was dispensed immediately but failed dismally in its job.

These daylight robbers were in and out in two minutes flat, in which time the fog had still not obscured the shop anywhere near enough to impede the robbers, who made off with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of jewellery.

What went wrong? Subsequent investigations found that the installer (not the manufacturer) was at fault: the fog dispenser was too close to the fog sensor, which turned off the smoke too early to protect the shop’s contents.

To see fog machines work effectively, watch the video below from SmokeCloak, which protects all types of environments – from banks to military stores, police stations to schools, shops to offices, houses to castles – and was the first electronic security device to obtain police approval.

The second case study regarded the tragic story of a security guard patrolling overnight, alone, an empty building with vandalism problems. In freezing temperatures the guard was provided with a petrol-powered generator in the absence of electricity in the recently refurbished premises.

The guard, who was used to a warmer climate, made the fatal decision to close all the windows. The company employing him had failed to properly risk assess the site or provide guidance and assistance to the guard, who died on the job.

In another jewellery store raid a robber forced entry with his scooter.  The door gave way as soon as it was rammed by the front wheel – probably to the robber’s pleasant surprise, suggested Dow. Investigations revealed that the laminated door had withstood, but sustained damage from, a previous attempted attack.

While the glass was replaced the door hinges and frame weren’t

However, while the glass was replaced the hinges and frame weren’t. Like the person who can’t open the jam jar but loosens it enough for the next person to open easily, the first robber’s failure was the next criminals’ groundwork.

Security smoke was again a problem, with the risk assessment finding that it was dispersed too slowly.

The findings exonerated the architect who was initially on the hook with the insurers.

Finally, Dow – also a director of the Association of Security Consultants (ASC) – highlighted a case where the surveyor or installer fitted shock sensors to the lower bare brick wall in front of a warehouse instead of the warehouse cladding above.

The intruders had clearly done their homework in this instance, he suggested. Indeed, most cases involve some insider knowledge, said Dow, with Hatton Garden being a case in point.

Criminals also conduct their own risk assessments, he said – often over the course of several weeks – and tend to enter buildings via walls and roofs but rarely doors.

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