Business Protection Tips
Part II: The Office (Lights and Doors)
This is the second of a series of articles discussing business and personal protection tips for the lawyer, judge, and other professional who deals with people in emotional crises or with people who are just plain dangerous.
As I said in the introductory column, this column is not interested in merely telling the reader to buy a weapon or a dog or whatever. These tips are basic, they work, they are generally not expensive and they usually have a “whack!” factor. (A “whack!” is the sound of your hand hitting your forehead as you say “Why didn’t I think of that?”)
This column will begin a discussion of security tips for your Office. Why am I concerned about your office security? Several reasons: First of all, never forget that for most of us, we spend more time at the office than anywhere else. Second, everyone knows where our office is located. They have to since we sell our services to the public. Third, I don’t know about the “usual” lawyer (if there is one) but most of use are at the office more than 40 hours a week. Plus, we come and go early and late, on weekends, and we usually have lots of “goodies” like money, easily disposable electronic goods (laptops, phones, etc. etc.). And we should never forget that we are also intended targets of disgruntled clients and others.
So, how can we protect ourselves at the office? . Today we discuss lights and exterior doors. In the next column we will talk about interior doors, windows and other thing to provide physical safety in your office.
First, always leave at least some of the lights on inside your office. In an office, in the hallway, somewhere. But if the lights don’t change over time, a careful observer will notice that fact. So but a cheap timer (or two) from Radio Shack or Target or somewhere that runs your lights. They aren’t very expensive--I think each one goes for less than $5.00. Then set them to go on/off at different times. If you are truly paranoid, change them around every week or so. (This is what I do, but then the difference between being paranoid or not is whether there *really are* people out to get you. With my history of antagonizing people, there is no question that there are people out there who *really* don’t like me.)
Outside lights should be bright and not leave any shadows people can hide in. If you are not sure, I absolutely guarantee you that someone can hide in it. You would be amazed. They should be set up so that you can see at a glance what is outside and you should be able to see this *before* you step outside the safety of your office’s front door.
Something that always seemed intuitively obvious to me was brought to my attention by a young female professional when I was teaching a class in office safety: she had a ground-floor office and never closed the window blinds when she was working at night. CLOSE THEM. That way people walking buy cannot tell if you are alone or not. With varying lights as described above, a passer-by won’t even be able to tell if you are there or not.
The Door. Such a simple thing. Or is it? A door is supposed to hold others out, provide security for those inside it and allow you to control who you let in. But doors can also conceal. With the door closed, you don’t know who is outside or what they are doing. This is not good. But there are solutions.
First, let’s talk about the door itself. Most offices that open directly into the outside have a solid wood door. (Called a “wood core” door.) This is good. It is hard to break through a solid wood door. But offices that open up off a common lobby frequently do not have a solid wood door. They use interior doors which are hollow. These doors are worthless for keeping a determined intruder out. My daughter can kick a hole in these doors without trying too hard. A big man can punch through them. So be sure your outside door is either solid wood or steel covered with a veneer.
Second, when the outside door is installed, be sure it has a deadbolt. This is not expensive, I think the cost of a deadbolt lock versus a regular lock is about $25.00. And make the door installer use 3" screws when installing the flushplate and lock. Shorter screws can be forced out of the wood with a crowbar or tire iron and the lock is “popped”. 3" screws are *much* harder to break through.
Third, the inner door to your office should also be solid wood with a deadbolt and 3" screws. If there is an intruder or irate client you want to be able to seal your office. I know 2 offices where staff is protected from the public by a ½ wall. To get in from the foyer you must be passed by the staff or an attorney. You may not wish to go this far. But I urge you to have some secondary barrier in case you need it. Some people have found it useful.
Last (for this column anyway) be sure to install a peephole and use it. I am always surprised at how many people have peepholes but never use them. Words fail me. By the way, most peepholes seem to be installed at eye level for people (usually men) who are over 5'6" tall. This means that the peephole is usually 5' or more from the floor. If you are under 5'6", be sure to have the peephole installed at a comfortable height. If you do not do this, my experience has shown that you will not use it--nobody likes to have to stand on tip-toe to look out the door. It’s easier to just open the door.
Here’s hoping you never need these tips.