Most businesses want their premises to give a good impression and may have been designed to entice customers, with products and eye-catching advertising on display. Unfortunately, these efforts can also draw in thieves, arsonists and squatters, so approach it by putting security (and safety) before attractive aesthetics.

Measures required for each site will be unique – there may be limitations to what’s possible. For example, you can’t put a fence up on the pavement in front of a mid-terrace high street shop. On the other hand, additional measures may be needed if a specific vulnerability is identified, such as being located on an out-of-town industrial estate that is largely deserted at night, or where there is a high risk associated with unauthorised vehicles getting on the site.

Various types of perimeter and building defences are outlined below, but this isn’t an exhaustive list of what can or should be put in place.

Key actions to develop security around the exterior of your premises

  • Take a comprehensive approach to planning and installing security measures around your premises. For instance, there’s very little point in having a robust door when there’s a window that can be easily broken and climbed through.
  • Establish what permissions, if any, you might need to install or alter security measures – for example, you may need to consult with the local authority to ensure safety of the public and environment
    • You should check with neighbouring property owners before putting up installations along your site border, such as fence toppings that might overhang onto their land, or positioning detection devices that could potentially pick up images or sounds from their premises.
  • Get a number of quotes from reputable companies, ideally ones who are appointed installers for manufacturers and they’re registered with relevant industry bodies – try to see completed examples of their work (ideally of the type you are considering), along with testimonials.
  • Review and update your fire and health and safety risk assessments whenever your security measures change, or when planning for improvements or alterations to the systems and installations in place.

Why not wooden fencing?

While wooden fencing may be selected for its cost-effectiveness and appearance, metal fencing is the best option for security.

  • Work out the optimum height for fencing on your premises. It should be at least 2.4 metres high, but the decision should consider the requirements set out by local authorities and neighbours.
    • Ensure that when toppings are taken into account the maximum height isn’t exceeded.
    • Think about how the fencing will appear on sloped ground.
  • Check specifications set out in the relevant part of BS 1722 when considering quotations.
  • Decide on the category of metal fencing, e.g. (listed in rough increasing order of rigidity):
    • chain link (sufficient to keep out honest people, but not a strong barrier);
    • weld mesh (sometimes ‘crinkled’ to give panels extra rigidity);
    • expanded mesh;
    • vertical bar railings; or
    • palisade (the ‘W’ shaped profile on pales is generally thought of as the most resistant).
  • Consider, in addition to the height and category of the fence:
    • the thickness/strength and rigidity of the materials used;
    • the nature of the fixings used within the fencing material and how it’s fixed to the  posts;
    • how deep the posts are set into the ground and what material they are set into (ideally reinforced concrete);
    • what spacing is used for posts; and
    • the use (or absence) of any horizontal reinforcing rails at the top, bottom, or in between.
  • Seek advice from your CCTV installation company and/or the firm that monitors your CCTV systems when choosing the colour, as it can have a dramatic impact on how easy it is to spot disturbances, particularly at night, under artificial lights or shadowed areas.
  • Make measured decisions about other factors, such as gates and locks, so they provide at least equal levels of security.
    • Gates must be designed and installed so it’s not possible to lift them or unbolt them from their hinge pins.
    • Any padlocks should conform to BS EN 12320 (grade 5 or higher) or LPS 1654 (grade 3+) and the chain should meet the Sold Secure ‘Gold’ standard.
  • Check that fence toppings, such as barbed wire, are clearly visible and positioned well above normal head height, while also not overhanging into any public area, road, pavement or footpath.
  • Install suitable warning signs along the external side of the fence.
  • Think through additional measures to deter intrusions on high-security sites or where there are significant problems, such as the attachment of detection devices to the fence.
  • The use of electrified fences must be considered very carefully and they must not be designed or erected with the intention of causing significant injury, let alone being fatal to touch. They should also be carefully maintained to prevent such occurrences happening unintentionally and, to further prevent injury, they should be used within an outer non-electrified fence. Review HSE guidance for more information.
  • Get a specialist physical security company – ideally a BSIA member firm – that has a verifiable track record to design and install security glazing.
  • Keep in mind that the method used to make glass will affect its physical properties, and therefore how well it might serve as a security measure.
    • Despite its name, toughened glass is not regarded as a type of ‘security glass’. It’s used in the construction of frameless glass doors and shower enclosures because when broken it ends up as numerous small fragments, rather than fewer but larger and more dangerous pieces.
    • Wired glass is usually regarded as the weakest glass for security purposes, but when first broken the wire mesh incorporated in it should hold the pieces in place.
    • Laminated glass achieves its strength by combining two or more sheets or layers of glass with alternating layers of either a plastic (PVB) or a resin. The level of resistance that can be achieved will depend upon the thickness of the layers, so care in selection is necessary.
  • Ask suppliers about 'sacrificial' films or coatings that might be available to reduce the risk of the external surface of the glass becoming scratched by accident, or defaced by vandals.
  • Consider what you reckon the glass might need to resist when deciding what it, and the framework supporting it, should consist of. I.e. does it need to be blast resistant or bullet-proof, or should ‘anti-bandit glass’ (glass that resists manual attacks, such as strikes with a crowbar) be sufficient for the level of threat?
    • You can get independent advice on this from a police architectural advisor, or similar sources.
    • It’s also possible to get glass which has electro-magnetic shielding built in, so that the transmission of radio waves in and out of a room can be prevented.
  • Make sure that security glass designed to resist manual attacks conforms to BS EN 356 (which replaced BS EN 5544) and that the surrounding structure is of equal standard – it’s no good having top quality security glass if it’s surrounded by plywood or there’s a door that has no security rating.
  • Check that bullet resistant glass meets the performance requirements and test methods specified by BS EN 1063.
  • Consider the use of shutters, in addition to, or instead of, security glass.
  • Decide what you wish to get out of security lighting before making any purchasing decisions. Ask yourself questions like:
    • In addition to acting as a deterrent for unwanted visitors, will the lighting serve a general purpose during working hours, and therefore need to provide a suitable safe level of illumination?
    • If the lighting is only to be used outside of business hours when it gets dark, will there be sensors or a timer that will automatically switch them on and off, and will a backup manual control be available?
    • What might help or hinder CCTV or other detection systems?
  • Avoid systems that are activated by motion detectors as these are often triggered far more often than the owners would like (by wildlife, etc.), creating unnecessary energy expenses, while also creating pockets of intense darkness when only select lights get switched on.
    • The creation of dark spots needs to be considered for all systems.
  • Make sure you get appropriate permissions from your landlord(s) or local authorities if new structures, including poles or towers, are included in your lighting system plans and check that they will comply with Building Regulations.
    • Get the work carried out by suitably qualified and approved contractors.
  • Check that your lighting is not inappropriately or badly placed so that it might be a nuisance to neighbouring properties. There can be legal consequences for not carefully considering how your lighting systems affect the surrounding areas.
    • If the building is listed or within a conservation area, speak to the local authority before placing any orders.
  • Consider the risk of vandalism and accidental damage when choosing where to position lights, and ensure the lights themselves are vandal-resistant.
  • Plan the layout of the lighting units so that lighting levels should be even across the area (to prevent shadows). The evenness of light is more important than the absolute light level.
  • Think about how the site changes throughout the year. For example, in the summer vegetation may grow in a direction that obstructs the lighting.
  • Don’t forget to consider bulb-changing and repair processes, including the risk of work at height, when developing the system and conduct appropriate risk assessments to control the hazards.
  • Base bulb selection on a range of factors, including brightness, weather resistance, colour of the light produced, longevity and energy efficiency.
    • Most manufacturers provide technical advice on their products, including estimated running costs.
    • In areas where flammable or explosive atmospheres may be present, ensure that a risk assessment for the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) has been completed and that the lights and associated fitting are suitable for the “zone”.

Relevant suppliers

The following suppliers provide products that can help you secure property and assets. Allianz Commercial policyholders can receive special offers, such as discounts on RRP, via our preferred supplier scheme.

Building security

SWS UK's LPS 1175 tested range

Bollards and barriers

Security products from ATG Access

Vacant property services

Security solutions from VPS

Safes and security cabinets

LPCB certified safes by Insafe

Additional resources

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to some common queries about securing property, vehicles and stock, and protecting people against potential threats.