Just one of the articles from Pet Care Pro Quarterly, IBPSA’s digital magazine for pet care services professionals. Read the current issue online here.

By Ben Day

Earlier this year, a pet boarding facility in Osceola County, Florida, was robbed at gunpoint. According to law enforcement reports, two men walked into the facility and struck up a conversation with an employee behind the check-in counter. Moments later, they drew handguns, pointed them at the employee, and demanded money from the register. They were able to make off with an undisclosed amount of money, but no one was injured during the incident.

The staff at this boarding facility was lucky – or was it prepared?

Workplace violence is one of the leading causes of job-related death and a growing concern for employers and employees. Are you and your staff trained in the warning signs, how to prevent it, and how to react if it happens?

Workplace violence comes in many shapes and forms.  There are the domestic disputes that spill over into the office, the inter-office disputes that spill into the parking lot, and the angry, dissatisfied customer furiously demanding to see your boss. Then there is the individual, desperate for funds, who sees your bustling facility with all those high-end clients pulling up in their expensive cars to spend a bunch of money on their pets, and he or she just knows that the place must be loaded with cash on hand.

Robbery is a crime of opportunity, accessibility, and ease of escape. Pet care facilities can be prime targets thanks to readily available cash, probably not a large number of people in the facility at one time who could be potential witnesses, and a casual, inexperienced, and young work force that probably will not resist.

Robbery risk factors to consider

  • Facilities exchange money with people
  • There are few workers on-site
  • Workers are in close proximity to customers
  • Some facilities may be in a high crime area
  • Valuable items carried by customers (cash/jewelry)
  • Limited observation of passers-by
  • Minimum protection for staff
  • Probably a backdoor exit from facility

Rules of thumb to help protect yourself and your employees

Know your gun laws. If your state has a law about carrying a gun (concealed or open carry laws), it will also have signage requirements. It is important that you not only post the signs as required by law, but also state in in your HR manual as to the allowance – or not – of employee gun possession at work.

Don’t engage unless absolutely necessary. In most cases, whether the robber is armed or not, it is best to comply with their demands and not engage, unless absolutely necessary. If a threat is made, do not argue with the person and don’t make any sudden moves that might cause the perpetrator to feel threatened.  If threatened by a weapon, put as much distance between yourself and the robber as possible.

Be prepared to summon help. If the facility has a hidden panic button, it should be engaged at the earliest possible detection of a threat.  There should be a pre-arranged code word or phrase that makes sense for your business that will alert other employees that help must be summoned.

Stay put and get secured. Once the robber leaves, call 911, secure all doors, and do not chase the suspect. Do immediately write down the description of the suspect making it easier to recall when the police arrive.

Minimize the cash. It is best to keep very little cash on hand and consider posting signage to that affect on the front of the building. Always discuss in advance the procedures you wish your employees to follow in a robbery situation.

Be ready. Take advantage of available resources to prepare for workplace violence. IBPSA, for example, offers Workplace Violence Prevention through its online store, a ready-to-go PowerPoint presentation for training your staff with information on violence prevention, warning signs, and responses.

Remember that cash and property can be replaced!

Ben Day, owner of Ben Day Business Consultants, has worked in the safety profession for over thirty years. His company enables business owners to cost-effectively outsource the management of human resources, employee benefits, payroll, and workers compensation. Contact Ben at benjaminlday@icloud.com.

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