Homeowners spend a lot of time and effort in setting up the best possible armed response and security measures at home, such as burglar bars and security gates and outside alarm beams. The same attention should be paid to vetting domestic staff and equipping them to be able to protect themselves and your property.
Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT, suggests that the first step when considering hiring someone is a proper background check.
“This may seem like a time consuming exercise, but it could make all the difference to your home security. In many cases of break-ins and house robberies, we see there has been inside information shared with criminals,” she says. A 2016 report by UNISA’s School of Criminal Justice found that 8 out of 10 residential robberies were committed using information from domestic workers, gardeners and former employees.
Hattingh says a criminal record check can be obtained through the SAPS with the prospective employee’s consent. She also suggests doing a reference check with previous employers.
“Ask questions about dismissals, responsibilities, any security issues, tardiness, and so on. It’s important to speak to more than one previous employer so you can get a good idea of the employee’s track record,” she says.
Once you are assured that you have appointed someone whom you can trust, the next step is to equip that staff member with valuable security and safety skills. These are the skills they will need to be able to look after your property while they are on duty, and it could also make a valuable contribution to their own personal safety.
“Your domestic staff should understand what security measures you have in place and how to react should your alarm be triggered, for example. It needs to be clearly explained how they need to deal with an alarm activation, what to do when the security company calls and when an officer responds. Show them how to arm and disarm the alarm system and also how to use the panic alarm. Ask your security company if they can program unique alarm system passcodes for your staff members.
“Another vital responsibility is verifying who enters your property when you are not at home. Unannounced workmen or suppliers should never be let in and suspicious persons or activity should be reported to a security company or police.”
Hattingh says the primary rule that needs to be shared with domestic staff is that nobody can be trusted. “Whether you think you know someone well or not, the rule applies: you cannot trust anybody. Even if the domestic worker knows the person, it is never advisable to allow that person access into the main home.”
If there is an outside gate buzzer or intercom, the following should happen when a visitor arrives:
• Ask the person to identify him/herself by full name.
• Ask them to state their business.
• Ask them to show identification – company ID card, ID book or driver’s licence.
• Verify by calling the homeowner to find out if they are expecting the person or call the company the person works for to check if this is indeed a legitimate visit.
Hattingh suggests that staff members should also exchange contact details with domestic staff members at neighbouring properties, so that they can alert each other in case of suspicious activity in the suburb. She also recommends enrolling domestic staff in workshops or training sessions provided by the local SAPS or community policing forums, which teach valuable crime prevention and safety tips.
“Your domestic staff can be a vital part of your home’s first line of defence. This is why it is important to make sure you appoint someone you can trust and then equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to protect your property as well as themselves when they are on duty,” says Hattingh.
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