10 Tips for Choosing the Right Security Company

Cannabiz Connection Cannabis Security

Content Sponsored by 710 Security

It’s important to choose the right security system for your business, both in terms of meeting essential state requirements and getting the most value for your investment.

1. A security system has a dual role: security and compliance

Unlike most industries, security systems for the cannabis industry must do more than protect against crime. A security system “needs to start out, at its core, as a compliance verification system for the state,” says David Beckett, Founder and CEO of 710 Security LTD, a security company headquartered out of Denver. “The design, equipment and placement of a security system needs to be tailored to this need to prove compliance.”

If you run a convenience store and your cameras go down for a time, the risk is private and limited to your own desire to capture illegal acts on camera. If you are a grower, however, the stakes are much higher. “In Oregon, if your cameras are down for more than 30 minutes at any point, the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) — the regulators — must be notified,” says Beckett, who worked with the OLCC in the early days of regulation for recreational marijuana in the state. “In a normal system, you never even know the stuff was down because you don’t monitor it that closely. You look at it when you get robbed.”

Every state’s regulations spell out compliance requirements for security systems, some even down to the camera resolution required and frame rates, so, at a minimum, reading and meeting these requirements is a must. Illinois was one of the first states to adopt a very strict security posture regarding the systems performance. "After working with them on the rollout of the program, we were impressed with the standards set. Other states soon followed like Pennsylvania and then Ohio. These state have great security regulations, sometimes too much for some clients to comprehend," says Beckett. 

2. Find a security company that has experience with regulated systems

You don’t want to pay a lot for an expensive system that’s not tailored to your state’s specific requirements. Or even worse you don't want to pay too little and not get what you need to be compliant. Inquire about the firm’s experience installing systems for heavily regulated industries and familiarity with state requirements and ask for referrals. Talk to previous or existing clients to get a true understanding of the firm. 

“All the things that go into it — the server, the power supply — need to be meticulously designed and selected. The more experienced the better, because they will have done all the trial and error with somebody else,” says Beckett, who has been involved in the security and technology industry for over a decade and has worked with more than 1,000 licensees nationwide.

3. Make sure they understand local requirements

To comply with security requirements, local rules are just as important as state rules. In Colorado, some local municipalities require off-site storage of 30 days of recorded video, while some States require much more like 4 years. From thorny bushes placed in landscape to the thickness of product vaults, these regulations can be tricky to navigate.

4. Pick a company vested in the cannabis industry

You can tell if a company is really knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the cannabis industry. Listen to how they talk about your business and how well they understand your goals. See if they are in it for the right reasons. We see a lot of corporate outsiders now wanting to reap the rewards of the trailblazers that took the chance on the industry at the beginning. Pick a vendor that works with others in the cannabis space, especially consultants. 

5. Make sure they give you options

Don’t let a security firm tell you that, because you run a high-risk business and monitoring requirements are strict, there’s only one (probably very expensive) option available. Depending on the situation, “[It is possible] to get a set-up that is significantly less expensive, but very reliable,” Beckett says. "Don't buy the cheapest stuff you found from a web search, these are not the products you want to have secure your business."

Essentially, it’s less about money than value: Get the right stuff the first time, but don’t overpay.

 6. Leave room to expand

"Choose a security system that is easy to build on", Ryan Shields recommends, Partner and Project Manager at 710 Security LTD. “Regulations change. Your facility changes. It is worthwhile to buy quality equipment that allows for expansion and sudden changes down the road, especially in brand-new markets such as Michigan."

“In Colorado and Washington, people were ripping out systems three or four times to try to stay [current] with regulation,” he says. “Barely squeaking by on the first inspection is not a viable option in real life. It’s not a long-term solution.”

7. Get a system that goes ‘beyond compliance’ or is 'future ready"

Doing the minimum to get a green light from state regulators is not a good idea. “What some states needs to get your doors open is probably not what you want in real life Colorado and Michigan are examples of that,” Beckett says. “Just because the state says you’re good to go does not mean you should stop there, because people can still steal from you and regulations can be written poorly and then enforced even worse."

8. Install cameras for full rooms

If you are opening a grow operation and a security contractor doesn’t ask you where bulky items (e.g., big plants, equipment) and obstructions will eventually be located, that’s a red flag. Cameras that are blocked are not helpful (and not compliant). Smart placement, to maximize viewing areas, is way more important than the raw number of cameras, Shields says.

9. Don’t cheap out on monitoring

"Security systems should focus on early detection to prevent someone from breaking in," suggests Beckett. Exterior cameras should send real-time notifications to multiple people, including an off-site video-monitoring company. “Most criminals will scope out a building to see what kind of response they get,” Beckett says. "Camera analytics and properly trained personnel have the ability to prevent the crime when detecting suspicious behavior prior to a break-in."

Washington State has mandated 24-hour camera coverage. "If you hire a contractor to watch your cameras, make sure they are licensed and have the background to handle a business like this," stresses David Beckett, who is also the Creator of the T.A.P. "Total Accountability Program," a program that used VMS analytics to help aid operation center approach with roaming armed guards at his previous company. 

“They are not just there to watch the cameras — they are there to provide protective services. Think about them as your eye in the sky," says Beckett.

GUARDS

If your cost-benefit analysis allows it, 24-hour security guards are a very good investment. Beckett issues a warning regarding armed guards, however: While appropriate in some situations, he advises considering what a gun battle or shoot out would do for your business’s reputation in the community (not to mention the physical dangers). This is especially pertinent in a retail environment.

10. Use the same security procedures a bank would use

External security means audio and visual cameras, security guards, concrete bollards, and high decimal alarms and strobe lights if security is breached. A system should allow you to be aware of who is hanging around your facility. What vehicles are lingering? Are they taking pictures? Writing? Drawing? These are key indicators of potential trouble. Understand which parts of your operation offer the most “return” for criminals.

"Some may think the first priority is to protect the plants, but they should be primarily focused on their dry storage," says Ryan Shields.

A security system and internal protocols, must be designed around these risk probabilities.

TRUE STORY: One grower had 130 cheap, generic cameras from China installed for $50,000, passed inspection — and had to begin replacing them on day three of operation because they began breaking down. None of the wires were labeled during installation, so replacing the cameras was even more difficult. Eventually the client had to replace the entire system, and learned he could get the same coverage with fewer, better placed, high-quality cameras.  

TRUE STORY: A grower with a good-quality security system suffered a robbery at the hands of an employee who knew the system well, had keys, knew where the DVRs were stored and where shipments came in — and used someone else’s code to disarm the system. The thief stole $500,000 — and took all the DVRs (and therefore, all the evidence), which were sitting right next to the safe.  

TRUE STORY: A grower did not have a good trash-disposal system. An employee would frequently palm buds with his latex gloves, and when he pulled his gloves off to throw them away, the bud would be wrapped inside the glove. Later, he would retrieve the buds from the trash. Better trash-handling policies, such as putting trash into a compactor and stored in a secure environment, could have prevented this.  

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