SWCA webinar focuses on ‘tools to keep your job site secure’

Clark County area has seen an increase in commercial burglaries, burglaries at construction sites

Construction worker
File photo

This past Friday, the Southwest Washington Contractors Association (SWCA) held another one of its “Let’s Get Back to Work Safely” webinars, this time focusing on “tools to keep your job site secure.”

Panelists who participated in the webinar included Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Mori, Steven Williams and Brad Miller of Brown & Brown Northwest Insurance, and AJ Gomez of Global Security & Communication, Inc. The webinar was moderated by Nelson Holmberg, SWCA executive director.

Mori started off the webinar with some questions from Holmberg. He said the general landscape that the police department has been seeing is an increase in commercial burglaries, generally happening a lot on the weekends when people aren’t on site. He illustrated the increase by stating that during all of 2019, there were 40 construction site burglaries; as of May 9, they had already seen 40 construction site burglaries this year.

“Some sites that have been hit hard are ones that have remained open, such as school construction sites,” Mori said. “The types of things that have been stolen are things that can easily be removed like tools, appliances like water heaters and microwave ovens, any vehicles are those construction sites are getting broken into. Criminals are looking for things they can steal and sell for money.”

Holmberg asked Mori what workers should do if they arrive at a site and catch someone in the act of stealing something. Mori emphasized that workers should not try to apprehend someone, saying “you don’t know what that person’s mental state is.”

“We need a very good physical description of the person, what they’re wearing, what they look like, if there’s any people with them, associated vehicles, what property they stole, etc.,” Mori said. “We strongly encourage no one to try and physically take custody of someone. Be a professional witness.”

Going back to the increase of construction site burglaries that the Vancouver Police Department has seen already this year, Holmberg asked what the reason for the increase might be. Mori said that residential burglaries are going down, as most residential burglaries are done during the daytime when people are at work, and right now a lot of people are home.

“Opportunity now is presenting a much softer target at these construction sites that may not have a lot of people there,” Mori said. “Some of these sites may or may not be under operations, so people may not be realizing that a burglary is happening.”

Insurance coverage for job sites

Holmberg next talked with Steven Williams and Brad Miller of Brown & Brown Northwest Insurance. Holmberg asked the two what tips they offer contractors from the insurance perspective on how to take care of their job sites.

“There are really two overarching themes, both pretty practical,” Williams said. “First, what are your coverages? Are you familiar with those coverages, what your insurance policy says, the limits, the deductibles, and do these actually match up with your operation, your projects, your materials and your equipment to date. We know insurance isn’t really the most exciting topic, until you need it. So, we encourage someone from your organization to review that. You need to look at are these limits actually going to protect us if we have a theft or situation on a job site?”

“Also, do you have procedures, protocol, documentation for what to do if a theft or a claim were to happen?” Williams continued. “Do you have a chain of command in your organization so everyone is aware of what to do?”

Miller jumped in to say that something contractors need to consider is their employees’ tools.

“You have a lot of your tools on your job site, but your employees have their tools there, too,” Miller said. “You hope you never have one of those losses, but if you do, how do you get back to business as soon as possible? Do you have employee coverage through your policy?”

Williams said something that subcontractors should be aware of is a type of inland marine insurance called installation floater.

“This is something I talk about with a lot of clients, and it provides coverage for materials and equipment during transit and during the course of construction,” Williams said. “This would cover you if you’re on the way to a job site and you get in a wreck and you have $50,000 worth of electrical equipment, it will cover that. Also, if that equipment gets stolen, this type of coverage provides coverage for that situation. I see very frequently installation floater coverage very low. Review your installation floater limits and make sure they’re adequate.”

Miller said contractors should also consider having some sort of written job site security plan.

“It brings awareness to the crew, establishes best practices for your crew and their tools, and your tools, on the site,” Miller said. “You should have specific guidelines in place. Talk to nearby property owners, make sure they’re aware that you don’t work on the weekends, and tell them that if they see someone make sure to contact so and so as soon as they can. Keep law enforcement involved by reaching out to them. Establish ways for your employees to report thefts and other suspicious activities. Keep a list of people who are authorized to be on the job site. Keep inventories of equipment.”

Job site security

AJ Gomez of Global Security & Communication, Inc. shared some ways that contractors can go about securing their job sites.

“First you need a security review. What’s the duration of job site? How long will you be there? Is the customer involved? Is it an active business or something brand new? How long are you going to be on the job? Are my guys going to take my tools away? Is there power? Is internet available?” Gomez said. “Washington contractors have to keep a visitor log. Am I going to notify law enforcement about this job because I’m going to be on this job for a month, etc.? What are the specifics on that job site for that customer?”

Gomez pointed out that there is a lot of advanced technology available for security these days, and said “we don’t have to sound an alarm and make lights flash these days, we can notify someone in any case … instead of sounding an alarm, we can simply set it up to turn on a light. If someone still doesn’t leave, we make an announcement that this a closed job site. There is no limit on what can be done.”

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.