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Do You Need a Security Check-up?

Do You Need a Security Checkup? Properties Magazine, October 2008 - In the days and weeks following September 11, 2001, the attention paid to the security of our buildings was intense, enormous, and even frenzied at times. It seemed there was just not enough time in the day to get every building as secure as possible. Resources, both time and money, flowed into projects designed to get every owned or managed building ready to respond to an emergency or crisis or threat.

Never before had I seen such amounts of money and resources, including human resources on many levels, committed to making sure every aspect of emergency planning was either in place or soon to be in place to the extent possible. Security had moved from the background to take center stage, as something vitally important. What was at the heart of this unprecedented change?

The events of 9/11 made every person in this country and around the world aware that we were vulnerable. It also caused senior managers, who never thought much about security and life safety, to check in and examine closely how their organization was doing in these now vital areas. What did they find? Security and expenditures for life safety were the areas most subject to reductions in staff and resources. They found they were far from a state of readiness. They became painfully aware that most of our buildings and businesses could not withstand even the most minor, organized attack, let alone something on a larger scale.

Interestingly, however, in New York City this is certainly not the case as is it is in most of the country, and if you have visited Washington, D.C., it’s significantly more secure than it was prior to 9/11. Obviously, when you have witnessed destruction by terrorist attack first hand and perhaps lost a loved one the message stays with you much longer.

Getting back to what happened to the rest of the country after 9/11, corporate leaders, building owners and managers, and even small businesses realized it would take a bundle of cash just to get to some first level of readiness to another terrorist attack. They also realized that the security and emergency preparation basics were not really at the level that they should be. The result was to free up some capital to install access control systems and closed circuit television. They also beefed up the business continuity and disaster management staff and planning, or they hired consultants to do it for them.

I thought that 9/11 would be the event that would change how people and businesses looked at security and security issues permanently, that they would realize that, just like every other area of business, security and life safety play a vital role. When you don’t pay attention, it costs you. At first, I thought the entirety of the security industry would be changed also as a result, but 7 years out from 9/11 the levels of concern and action in some areas have slipped, and complacency looms. What does it take to keep security where it should be?

Our government sure took 9/11 seriously, and has backed up its words with ongoing action, plans, and investments. Talk to anyone in an emergency, police, life safety, or military role and they will describe to you permanent structures and policies to keep our country and communities more safe and secure. In addition to equipment, many government agencies have mandated training and testing, as well as working through simulations and scenarios to make sure they are ready. Unfortunately, the majority of the business community has not done this, nor have they kept up to date by periodically looking at where they stand through regular security and risk assessments and vulnerability analyses. As a security consultant I get to work with many of the best companies and businesses because they are concerned about security, and they have me validate for them if any additional countermeasures are needed or if any updates or changes to policy and procedure would put them in a stronger, more advantageous position.

So, what does all this mean to you, and what should you be doing? First, make an investment in the safety and security of your businesses, especially your employees, clients, tenants, and shareholders. The analogy to good health might be appropriate here, as we hear more and more today about exercise, eating right, health screenings and getting regular checkups. If something should be found, taking the right medicines helps you to continue a healthy and productive life. Well, your business is just the same. A regular check-up of the state of your security and safety health is important to your ability to continue growing and operating productively.

Sometimes I think of myself as a “security doctor” because of the way I work. There are many times I am called in when the business is “sick” or under stress. One example is when a business is subject to litigation, standing accused of not providing adequate security or safety measures when the crime or incident was “foreseeable” – where they should have taken action that was appropriate to prevent it. They may win the case, but it costs so much more than the measures that would have prevented litigation in the first place. A second type of patient I have is the kind that is perfectly healthy – they just want to make sure they are healthy, and if there is anything more they can do to stay healthy. Normally this type of patient is also the most successful in the business world, the most profitable among competitors, of all the “patients” that I work with. It is still true that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Arriving at the bottom line, I’ll tell you that I’ve spent the majority of my career working within an organization to try to make it safer and more secure. I was very fortunate to work for two fine organizations, Nestle/Stouffers and KeyBank. Both companies supported employee safety, security, and readiness to emergencies with capital and, more importantly, senior manager support. I measure the companies that I work with today against these companies. As a security consultant in today’s world, my steadfast goal is to provide my clients with the best possible advice and to provide unique and cost-effective solutions to their unique needs. I hope this article will encourage you to get that check-up and find out how security healthy you are. Staying healthy pays. Keep safe!

By Thomas J. Lekan Security Consulting LLC
Premise Security and Violent Crime Expert Witness
Thomas J. Lekan is a security consultant and expert witness in matters of Premise Security Litigation.

Copyright Thomas J. Lekan Security Consulting LLC

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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