Safety is always a concern for convenience-store owners. Not only is crime a worry, but other disasters and crises, including the threat of shooters and terrorism, are worth considering.
It’s helpful to have a plan for a crisis.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a one-hour online course you and your employees can take called “Active Shooter: What You Can Do,” which addresses the problem of a shooter threatening you, your employees and customers.
“An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and other populated area,” the course description says. “In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.”
Your options come down to three actions: Run, hide, or fight. If you can escape the situation, you should. Encourage others to leave with you, but don’t wait for them to go if they hesitate. Call 9-1-1 at your earliest opportunity.
If you can’t escape, you should try to hide, remaining quiet and calm. Try to formulate an exit plan. When law enforcement arrives, raise your hands and follow instructions.
Fighting a shooter should be an absolute last resort, when your life is in imminent danger.
Learn more details on how to deal with a shooter in the course linked above.
Convenience store robberies account for about six percent of reported robberies.
Your first strategy should be prevention through store layout and design. A guide by the National Association of Convenience Stores , which also offers further training, suggests that you define your space with landscaping and fencing and limit entrances and exits to your store and lot. Use good lighting and maintain visibility so your clerks can see outside of the store. Employ surveillance cameras. Keep the amount of cash available in your store low and consider using a drop safe for large bills.
When you close the store at night, leave the cash drawer open and empty of bills. If a burglar sees it’s empty, he may not bother breaking in. At the very least, he won’t destroy an expensive cash register trying to find out what’s inside.
If a robber does approach you, be cooperative and don’t argue or threaten him. Tell him the actions you are taking and if anyone else is in the store so he is not startled. Observe what he’s wearing and his height so you can report the details to police. After he leaves, write down those details and call 9-1-1 as soon as it’s safe. Lock the doors until police arrive and, if you’re an employee, call your employer.
If someone else is in the store, make sure they’re OK and ask them to stay until police arrive. If they want to leave, get their contact information or at least their license plate so they can be a witness later – or in case they turn out to be an accomplice.
Florida has a law called the Convenience Security Act that establishes minimum security standards for convenience stores. The Florida Petroleum Marketers Association has a video to help store owners meet those standards. See it here.
Among other things, it addresses situations that are threatening to employees, such as a shoplifter or a hostile customer. If people are loitering and won’t leave when asked, call the police. Write down a description of the suspicious person and their license plate if relevant.
Keeping calm and having a plan are your best defenses when it comes to threats to the safety of you and your employees. Train everyone so they’re prepared for any eventuality.