You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked or allow strangers to wander inside. At home, you know all of the exits, the safest places, and hopefully you’ve talked with your family about what to do in an emergency. Yet many spend eight or more hours a day at work, so it is vital to have a safety plan for your place of employment too.
Business Watch helps to establish relationships between businesses and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO). Its primary purpose is to ensure the PCSO has after-hours contacts for business owners if something happens when the business is closed, such as a broken window, burglary, or fire. Business Watch also encourages business owners to take a proactive role in increasing safety. One way they can accomplish this is by contacting the PCSO Crime Prevention and Community Awareness Unit (CPCA). Deputies in that unit can provide security inspections, safety meetings, and presentations, as well as offering emails about crime trends that affect the area.
Businesses are at risk of burglary, theft, forgery/fraud, vandalism, and identity theft, but one of the most troubling trends is the rise in active assailant incidents. According to the FBI, from 2020 to 2021 there was a more than a 50 percent increase in the number of active assailant incidents, and the majority of those occur in places of business. CPCA offers training on how to best prepare for an assailant at work, including forming an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Sixty-nine percent of active assailant incidents are over in less than five minutes, and no matter how fast the response may be, most have ended before law enforcement arrives. If your business has an EAP in place, it can save lives.
According to the instruction that CPCA offers to businesses, if you hear gunshots or have reason to believe there is an active assailant, the best course of action is to evacuate. Know your exits and plan an evacuation route ahead of time. Leave personal belongings behind and help coworkers escape if possible. If you encounter law enforcement officers as you escape, keep your hands visible, follow their instructions, and quickly give them any information you have about the assailant’s location or appearance.
If evacuation is not possible, the next alternative is to hide. Find a place out of the assailant’s view with cover. Ideally, lock yourself in a room and block the door with whatever is available, turn off the lights, silence cell phones, and stay quiet.
As a last resort to protect your life, be prepared to fight the assailant. Many common items can be used as an improvised weapon to strike or throw at the attacker. Anything that can interfere with the assailant’s aim can also be effective. Discharging a fire extinguisher into an assailant’s face can hamper their sight, and then the extinguisher can be used as a weapon to strike them. If you must fight, it is important to commit and act as aggressively as possible.
Some businesses have unique safety concerns that our CPCA deputies can help you address. They can tailor their advice to specific businesses, walking through the property and advising staff of best practices.
To join Business Watch, fill out the form on our website at https://pcsoweb.com/business-watch. To contact our Crime Prevention and Community Awareness Unit, call 727-582-2222.
Non Emergency Line: (727) 582-6200 | In an Emergency call 911ADA info