Why You Should NOT Share Alarm Codes With Multiple Employees
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Why You Should NOT Share Alarm Codes With Multiple Employees

It’s a perfectly ordinary day at your store, except that someone has just disarmed the security system and walked away with several thousand dollars in cash and inventory. Unfortunately, the robbery took place after hours when nobody was around, and there’s no way to trace who committed the crime because the “1212” code that shut off the alarm was a general security code that had been given out to more than half of the employees so it would be easy for everyone to open and close the store. And you can bet that’s exactly what was on the thief’s mind when he or she decided to enter the code, shut down the security system, and make off with the loot.

The sad fact is, this is a scenario that happens every day. Theft costs retailers billions of dollars each year. In 2014, the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that retail outlets lost around $44 billion to theft. What’s more, over 40% of all the theft experienced by retail stores is attributed to employee and vendor theft. Don’t think it can happen to you? According to research conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, 75% of employees have stolen from their employer at least once, and 73% have done it more often. Adding insult to injury, some 33% of business bankruptcies stem from employee theft.

Those are some pretty intimidating numbers, but what do they mean for your business? For one thing, restaurants and retail stores need commercial security systems in place to help prevent losses, but as the story we just told illustrates, just having those systems in place isn’t enough. You also need an understanding of how alarm codes work and a comprehensive plan when it comes to assigning unique security codes to each employee.

Why Do Employees Need Unique Security Access Codes? 

Where many restaurants, retailers, and other small businesses go wrong is in sharing alarm codes between employees. Some even create a “general code” which they hand out to anyone who opens or closes. The problem with this is that it substantially handicaps the effectiveness of your commercial security systems. Sure, your alarm system will still help to keep out anyone who doesn’t have a code, but if you become the victim of employee theft, you’ll find yourself no better off than if you didn’t have a commercial alarm system at all.

Each employee needs a unique code so that you know exactly who is accessing your premises and when. With employees sharing a code, all you know is that someone turned the alarm on or off at 11pm. When each employee has a unique code, your open/close reports will tell you much more than that, giving you a record of who disabled the alarm, a piece of information you can use as a starting point in the event that anything goes wrong. Of course, simply assigning each employee a unique code isn’t enough; you also have to have a record of each employee’s code so that you can cross-reference that with your open/close report to get the information you need. When it comes to generating, tracking, and changing security access codes for employees, it can be all too easy to sacrifice long-term security on the altar of temporary convenience, but being lax with your business’s alarm codes is a bad habit, and one that you should break immediately.

Common Security Alarm Codes are Useless (Dangerous Even) 

When it comes time to assign unique security codes to each of your employees, you want to make sure that you have a code that the employee can remember, but not one that it would be too easy for someone else to guess. The most commonly used security codes include number sequences like 1234, 1111, 0000, 1212, and so on. In fact, the keypads on most commercial alarm systems have a default code setting of 1234, so you should at least reset the codes from the default. But really, simple and common number sequences like this should be avoided, not merely because they can be easily guessed by would-be thieves, but also because you should have a system in place for assigning unique codes to each of your employees.

Some businesses find it useful to use the hire date for each employee, or the last four digits of the employee’s social security number. Something to ensure that the code is random, but easy for the employee to remember. Others go for greater security and use a random number generator. Whatever method you undertake, it should be systematically applied to every employee who needs to be able to turn the alarms on or off. Coordinate this effort with your facilities and HR departments, where appropriate, so that you keep a record of which number is assigned to which employee. This also makes it easier to remove a user from the system. When an employee leaves the company, it’s important to delete the code from the system and ensure that it isn’t used again. After all, it wouldn’t do to have former employees being able to arm and disarm the alarm system willy-nilly. To this end, it is vital to keep an up-to-date database not only of existing alarm codes, but also any “dead codes” that belonged to previous employees so that they aren’t duplicated in the future.

It’s Your SECURITY System, So Treat It As Such 

The reason you installed motion detectors, alarms, premise access controls, video surveillance, and 24/7 monitoring in the first place was to safeguard your premises, assets, and people. By sharing alarm codes—or by making them too easy to “crack”—you defeat at least a part of the purpose of your commercial security systems. Implement a policy that governs the use of alarm codes, and be sure that all of your employees are trained not only in how to properly arm and disarm the security system with their code, but also in the importance of not writing codes down where they can be easily found or sharing them with other employees. Also, don’t forget to create unique codes for “guest users,” such as any contractors, suppliers, or other visitors who may need to be able to shut off the alarm. Log those in the same database as the rest of your employee alarm codes.

Not sure how to assign, change, or track the user codes for your commercial security system? Give your commercial security provider a call and let them help. Security is their business, so they’ll be happy to provide assistance. Adding access control may also be a benefit to your business, so ask your commercial security provider about solutions such as key cards or key fobs for secure access.

If you’re in the Greater Kansas City Area, call (913) 208-8885 to contact A-TEC Security Systems. One of our commercial security professionals will help walk you through all the dos and don’ts of employee alarm codes or install new commercial security systems or access controls to start protecting your business today.

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