NEWS Security

As COVID-19 forces a UK lockdown, what threats must we consider? And how does it affect commercial property?

On 23rd March 2020, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, moved his strategic position for treating the risk from COVID-19 from common sense social distancing to a near lockdown across the country. As a response to the recent public groupings against the tide of medical and government advice, this aims to reduce the strain upon the NHS and hopefully increase the opportunity for the vulnerable to be treated fairly and humanely.

However, how does this affect crime, its patterns, emerging threats and how does this affect us?

Certain types of criminal threats can be classed as predictable. For instance, where repetitive ‘hot-spots’ continually attract similar types of crime, whether robbery, theft to a person, drugs use, weapons use, anti-social behaviour or violence.

However, when communities change position, pattern of life varies and restrictions are implemented, the predictive dynamics also change. Commercial spaces are already largely vacated leaving more lone workers, populated residential spaces are more crowded and public realm is inaccessible, leaving insufficient natural surveillance and lack of police monitoring and support. It is also likely that prisoners may start to be released as the virus starts to consume prisons.

All of this raises questions about how we forecast and mitigate the effect on business property, residential housing, retail, public realm, and the building users themselves. In this, our first blog in a series of guidance we’ll be issuing over the coming days, we look at the implications for commercial properties and their occupiers.


With the majority of the population working from home over the next few months at least, the commercial office spaces which would have been typically occupied will now be near vacant. Businesses may be fortunate enough to have operational solutions such as manned guarding and/or physical/technological security systems in place to provide layers of proportionate protection. But, will this be enough?

In security design, the operational or human element is often classified as a security layer that will or can add a positive benefit to security layering. However, we must never rely solely on this. The cross-layering of functions such as doorsets, glazing, access control, CCTV and other common office security functions can work together effectively without relying on the human factor as a primary requirement. Should the human element be distracted, unable to be present or reacting to another incident, this could provide the single point of failure in an integrated security system trying to respond to a threat.

Those not lucky enough to have such systems in place, may need to employ some common sense solutions to enable protection and/or response, or hope that their properties are not worth targeting in the first place!

Important considerations:

  • Is your business protected by manned guarding? At present, not all SIA contracted security roles are classified as ‘key worker’ occupations (The SIA (Security Industry Advice) confirms as of 26th March 2020 that the current definition of key worker DOES include regulated (licence holding) security professionals, essential to national infrastructure, operating in critical roles: If your top security officer is now off sick, who is protecting your building?
  • Ensure your visitor/contractor policy and procedures are reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate to any changes in risk.
  • How is your office protected? Is there more than one security layer between the main entrance and your office area?
  • Are the lifts grounded and procedures in place to ensure permitted entry is required?
  • What about your assets? How is your company information being secured? IT servers, storage locking?
  • If someone breaks in, how will you know? Does your office have commercial intruder detection?
  • When an activation is raised, how will you be able to confirm this? Do you have CCTV?
  • If you do have CCTV, has it been designed to ensure that capture of an adversary provides sufficient evidence in court
  • Signage is an incredible deterrent and has been proven to reduce crime considerably and criminals are aware of this. Consider your own signage that WARNS that your premises has Security Systems installed (even if they don’t!). e.g. download a paper format CCTV sign to install on windows/doorsets etc.
    • Get smart even as a temporary measure
    • Deception and Deterrence are invaluable and powerful tactics in the prevention of crime

Maybe your office is fortunate to have CCTV, Intruder Detection and Access Control, but if this is all surpassed through force…

-Who is monitoring this? Who is going to inform you?

-Do you have a reaction team to respond to the alert in time before they can reach your protected company assets including sensitive information?

There is a multitude of security design functions that can help provide the DELAY your office requires before a RESPONSE can attend.

Another key area of vulnerability in offices that are near empty is lone working. For those still allowed to work in commercial environments, the protection of the lone worker is the duty of the company. Ensure your company has the correct procedural governance to ensure your safety against risk exposure. Technological advances over the past 20 years have made it much easier for us all to be able to notify through applications and hardware devices of our situational updates when working alone.

Our recommendations:

  • Ensure there are at least 2 layers of access control (automated or manual) between publically accessible space and your offices.
  • Ensure a further layer of access control, multi-step authentication or separate credential is protecting your assets (IT servers, sensitive information, senior management offices, rooms with electronic items that could be sold) etc.
  • Provide lone worker devices or applications to those that have to work alone or in small numbers.
  • Install CCTV (this could be temporary) to entrance and exits points, principal doorsets and areas protecting assets.
  • Install intruder detection to enable the clock to start ticking before any protecting barrier is breached. Every second counts!
  • Ensure your doorsets are robust and manually lockable (without compromising emergency exits) if staff are not going to be using the office. Remember, magnetic locks can be easily forced open. Ensure security rated locksets with robust frames are in place. Be mindful that viewing glass within a door can be compromised to reach a ‘Release to Exit’ button. Security rated glazing should provide the same delay time as the door itself.

While we are in unprecedented times, which is already and will continue to bring new security challenges and risks, there are steps we can all take to protect our commercial premises and the people protecting or using them. Being prepared, considering all the options, taking the right precautions and looking after each other will all help to see us through and keep us safe during this difficult time.

We’re here to help if you need us.

John Green is Head of Security Consultancy for Hilson Moran

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