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The Investor’s Guide to Car Wash Business Security

Business security is essential for car washes today. First, many car wash business owners prefer cash-only transactions, which can lure criminals to break into the premises after hours in search of easy cash. Secondly, individuals with high-end vehicles tend to frequent car washes, putting these businesses at higher risk for car theft. Meanwhile, a recent spate of coin machine robberies continues to plague the industry. Car washes can also attract bad actors in the digital world as small businesses often lack the security needed to combat identity theft or network intrusions. To properly defend against these threats, car wash owners must invest in improved security solutions across the board.

Nowadays, it’s essential to invest in intrusion detection equipment, business internet security, surveillance, or other countermeasures to keep your customers and employees safe. Read on to learn more about the security issues car washes face and how to protect your business from criminal activity.

The Importance of Business Security for Car Wash Owners

Up to 30% of American small businesses go under due to some form of criminal act. To prevent employee theft, robbery, vandalism, or cybercrime, you need a complete business security strategy that’s effective and up-to-date. Failing to keep up with security at your car wash can lead to loss of customers, property damage due to vandalism, potential legal liabilities, and reputational damage in the community. Implementing improved security is the single best way to keep your business safe from various forms of criminal activity.

Physical Security Measures for Car Washes

Investing in physical deterrents is one of the best ways to protect your business from intruders or thieves. After all, criminals are much less likely to target businesses that appear to have no security vulnerabilities. Here are some of the most effective ways to improve the physical security of your car wash.

Premises Security

An excellent way to protect your car wash is to hire a security guard to patrol the premises during business hours. In many cases, the simple presence of security personnel will be enough to discourage criminals from targeting your car wash. The Council on Criminal Justice found that vehicle theft rose sharply by over 33% from the year before. This should be a concern for car washes nationwide, especially those catering to high-end clients with valuable vehicles. 

Aside from placing a security guard on-site during the day, it’s also a good idea to invest in an intrusion detection system that can continuously monitor the premises overnight. Many modern business security systems will also deploy security personnel at night if the monitoring system detects any intrusion, and they’ll be able to verify whether or not the incident was a false alarm.

Finally, a straightforward way to improve security is to build a fence around the premises. Consider installing high-grade locks on doors leading to sensitive areas as well. In many cases, simple deterrents like these are enough to keep criminals away from your property.

Surveillance Systems

Another invaluable car wash investment is a complete surveillance system that monitors every corner of your business day and night. While they can present a hefty upfront expense, the potential savings in preventing theft or vandalism more than pays for itself. 

In 2019, three criminals broke into several coin-operated vacuum machines at a Nashville car wash, stealing hundreds of dollars and causing thousands of dollars in damage. Luckily, authorities quickly apprehended the culprits thanks to the business’s security cameras.

Surveillance systems are one of the best business security solutions for keeping car wash equipment, customers, and workers protected.

Lighting and Visibility

Criminals always prefer to go unseen. Since commercial properties like car washes tend to be vacant at night, criminals will seek out places with poor visibility or lighting to avoid being detected. This is why it’s so essential for property owners to ensure security lighting adequately illuminates the premises. Take some time to ensure there are no blind spots where trespassers could gain access to sensitive equipment unseen. 

High-wattage LED security lighting is a very effective and inexpensive solution. However, if you live in an area that experiences regular inclement weather and outages, consider also investing in a backup generator. Inspecting and changing out security lighting should be a top priority on your car wash maintenance checklist. Any unilluminated areas of your property could provide the opportunity criminals need to gain access.

Secure Payment Systems and Cash Handling Protocols

The FTC requires businesses that collect customer information like credit card numbers to take measures to protect this sensitive data. In many cases, it’s best to only retain sensitive customer data if absolutely necessary. 

Create consistent cash handling protocols to prevent any issues with employee theft or security vulnerabilities for criminals. For example, never allow workers to carry more than $100 cash for making change at any given time. You should also ask employees to make regular cash drops throughout the day. Simple precautions like these can help to minimize the risk of criminal activity.

Cybersecurity Practices for Car Wash Operations

A separate aspect of protecting your car wash involves ensuring your network, payment processing terminals, WiFi, and connected devices are all fully insulated from intrusions by cybercriminals. Utilize firewall protection, data encryption, and carefully managed access to sensitive data. If you’re processing debit or credit cards, be aware that your payment processing equipment must also meet PCI DSS compliance standards.

Next, make sure all the devices connected to your car wash’s internet are protected by anti-viral software.

Next, make sure all the devices connected to your car wash’s internet are protected by anti-viral software. Back up critical documents and folders regularly to easily restore operations following a cybersecurity incident.

Employee Security and Safety Protocols

Implementing improved password policies at your car wash can help bolster endpoint security on employee devices. Educate all workers on the importance of changing passwords often and never opening suspicious emails on network-connected devices.

To protect the physical security of employees, be sure to provide onboarding training that outlines common threats employees may encounter and how to respond to them appropriately. Your employee handbook should also include guidance for vehicle safety, navigating car wash machinery hazards, and how to properly handle various chemicals on the premises.

As car washes contain several potential occupational hazards like heavy machinery and chemicals, you must take steps to ensure compliance with all OSHA safety standards for General Industry businesses. Here are some of the ways to mitigate risk at your car wash while also complying with OSHA guidelines:

  • Make sure employees have access to MSDS data sheets regarding safe chemical use and disposal
  • Provide PPE
  • Follow all lockout-tagout procedures when servicing equipment
  • Ensure employees have quick access to fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and AED machines.

Meanwhile, the EPA provides environmental guidance for car washes to follow, including capturing any wastewater before it enters stormwater drains. Since compliance and regulatory standards vary between cities, always research laws to stay current.

Emergency Response Planning and Preparedness

Improving the security of your car wash business should also include the development of a comprehensive emergency response and recovery plan. Create a set of procedures for responding to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornados so all employees know exactly what to do when the unexpected happens. Additional emergencies to cover in your response plan should include fires, active intruder events, prolonged electricity outages, or cyberattacks. In addition, be sure to discuss the correct approaches to quickly recovering from these disruptive events to minimize downtime.

The Future of Car Wash Business Security

As security solutions for businesses continue to evolve, investors and car wash business owners must work to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies for mitigating threats. Considering how the digital transformation of society shows no signs of slowing down, the future of car wash business security will increasingly rely on cutting-edge software, network infrastructure, and surveillance equipment.

Currently, both physical and digital security countermeasures are beginning to merge, allowing car wash business owners to control surveillance and alarm systems remotely. This allows you to reduce the need for direct human security oversight, saving you time and money. With that said, human security personnel will likely continue to play an active role in car wash business security in the foreseeable future.

Secure Your Investment With the Perfect Partner

If you’re seeking to protect your car wash investment well into the future, our team at National Carwash Solutions is here to help. We provide parts, professional service, car wash chemicals, and expert resources to cover everything you need, all in one place. To ensure top-tier quality every time, NCS offers some of the most trusted brand names in the car wash industry. With our support, your new investment will grow from a strong foundation so you can focus on the big picture instead of the details. When you’re ready to secure your car wash investment, contact us at NCS to learn more about how we can boost your business.

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