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July 20, 2016

Responding to a Burglary

Responding to burglaryImagine this scenario: The phone just rang and you realize it’s the middle of the night. Uh-oh, you think as you pick up and, sure enough, the alarm company dispatcher advises you that several alarms are activated at your store and the police have been dispatched. You tell the dispatcher that you’ll be at your store in 30 minutes and quickly start to panic about what to do next as the adrenaline and anxiety quickly kick in.

In my last article, I talked about the many things you can and should do to prevent becoming a target for burglary. Unfortunately, all the precautions you take may not fend off a worst-case scenario like the one I presented above. Break-ins and burglaries happen — fact — but what you do in its aftermath can make or break your recovery efforts, so let’s talk about that.

Unless you’ve been through the drill before, reacting to a crisis call in the middle of the night can be quite a challenge. It is, truly, one of your worst nightmares come true.

Speeding to your store in the middle of the night is always stressful, but it doesn’t have to be ruled by panic. If you haven’t thought through what to do in a situation like this, now’s the time, because there are several key things to have in place before a burglary occurs that can make your middle-of-the-night-experience a little easier to bear.

One of the first things you can do is prepare by having phone numbers for your key personnel programmed into your cell phone. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll need at least one or two other employees to help get a grip on the losses that may have occurred and assessed physical damage to the store.

Next, expedite your journey to the store but travel safely, ensuring your own personal safety and the safety of others on the road. When approaching your place of business use caution, as the police are likely there and investigating. Keep in mind, too, that the bad guys can still be in the area, or even still inside your store, and may very well be dangerous — after all, they’ve just robbed a gun store.

When you arrive, remain in your vehicle with your interior lights on until the police see you. Be prepared to show identification and explain your role with your store, as well as that of any staff members you’ve called to join you on the scene. You can also call the police dispatcher and advise him or her that you are on site and in your vehicle, giving a description of your car and you. Be certain it is safe to exit your vehicle before doing so, and do not enter your store until escorted by police. If armed, keep weapons concealed so as not to confuse law enforcement and then alert them that you’re a legal CCW holder and are carrying and then let them tell you how to proceed.

Now the work starts. The police are going to ask you to go inside your store and help assess the damage and identify missing property. Hopefully, by now your co-workers have joined you at the store to assist in the crisis and damage cleanup. If possible, try to have someone respond to the store who worked the closing shift prior to the burglary. This will assist in quickly identifying where merchandise was actually left in showcases prior to the theft. During business hours the next day, you should then assign someone to contact vendors who can assist with your crisis, including making structural repairs and placing orders for replacement inventory.

Service calls for property damage repairs may occur in the following order and depending, of course, on just what physical structures of your storefront have been damaged:

  1. Doorframe repair.
  2. Locksmith.
  3. Glass and window board-up service. In the event glass repair is not available for you in the middle of the night, there are vendors who will provide board-up services to secure your premises. You should have contact numbers for both.
  4. Glass Repair Company.
  5. Your alarm company. Let them know what the current state of affairs is and whether alarm devices need repair or replacement. In most cases, the alarm repairs will have to wait until doorframes and glass windows are replaced.
  6. Insurance agent. Most insurance companies have a 24-hour emergency and claim hotline that can be called to schedule an adjuster to visit the store the next morning.
  7. Security guard coverage. You may need to hire an armed contract security company until your physical structure and alarms are properly restored. Be prepared to employ them for several days.

As you begin your cleanup efforts (after being authorized to do so by law enforcement), take pictures that clearly show the damaged store property, including smashed doors, windows, showcases, safes, etc., as well as any merchandise that shows damage. Photos will assist in the insurance claim process, as well as the criminal investigation.

Responding to burglaryAfter basic cleanup efforts have been completed, a full store inventory must be completed and specific losses identified. Both the insurance company and ATF will require a complete listing of property identified as having been stolen. When those items are firearms, your A&D Log will also have to be updated to reflect their absence from your inventory.

Hopefully, you had a security CCTV system in place and that it was properly powered on and programmed to record the real-time event in low-light conditions if the lights were powered off. All too often we find that security systems are not set properly to record after-hours burglary activity to support a thorough investigation by law enforcement, who will very much want to view your footage.

As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” NSSF’s Security Team members strongly advise that you make the effort and the investment to upgrade your store protection assets as soon after a burglary as possible. Priorities should include upgraded doors, door frames and locks. Glass should be upgraded to be laminated (which offers smash resistance), and that includes not just windows and glass doors but also glass display cases. From there, extra layers of protection such as crash-prevention bollards, roll-down coil grills or gates in front on doors and windows and reinforced three or four-point deadbolt locking systems on stockroom doors and other theft-sensitive areas will help safeguard your assets to a greater degree in the future, and particularly in the immediate future, as a repeat burglar will find your protection upgrades frustrating and likely move on to an easier target.

The last item to deal with following a burglary in which firearms have been stolen, and one that can be your biggest headache, will be the press. Very often the local news media will try to create unnecessary drama and headlines around an event such as a gun store burglary. Unless otherwise directed to do so by your attorney or law enforcement, it is advisable that you not discuss details of the burglary, including how it occurred and how many firearms were taken. This can help avoid accusations of negligence as a local business owner. Less information to a reporter will yield less drama and allow you to tend to real issues like repairing your store and getting back in business.

Operation Secure Store
Learn more about NSSF and ATF’s joint initiative to help FFLs make well-informed security-related decisions to deter and prevent thefts.

Concerned about your store security?  Schedule a store security audit today by contacting John McNamara NSSF Sr. Director, Retailer Services at

You may also be interested in: Store Security Audit Program

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