The security week that was: 08/06/10 (General Honoré)

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Lack of follow-through to deal with worst-case scenarios can cripple you, said Honoré. New Orleans citizens always had in the back of the mind that things could go south quickly if a hurricane hit the city directly and the levees failed. But while the city knew such a scenario could occur, they never fully prepared the resources to deal with that actual crisis situation. And then it happened. The Superdome was commandeered for those who lost their homes. Looting hit the street because desperate people were without a cent in their pockets and without daily food. Things went to hell in the proverbial hand basket, and the nation watched it unfold on the network news outlets.

"We are not ready to deal with a nuclear, biological or chemical threat. The bottom line is that we are not ready."

As security managers and national leaders, we have the technology and manpower to deal with physical attacks and intrusions. We have the video surveillance systems, the guards with guns, the DHS-coordinated manpower for natural disasters, but what we generally don't have are fully functional plans for detecting and dealing with attacks that come from radiation, chemicals or biological agents. This, it seems, is what keeps Gen. Honoré up at night. He pointed to our response to the ricin and anthrax attacks and even fake attacks that used the US Postal Service as a delivery method. Almost 10 years after these events, he says we are no better prepared today than we were then. Widespread detection systems need to be in place, but also we need full functional plans on containment of and response to such attacks.

"A good leader does the routine things well, and a good leader isn't afraid to take on the impossible."

When he was installed just a few days after Katrina to take over the response effort in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, times were bleak. Rioting. Dead bodies. Failure of police and city command. Starvation. Lack of basic services. It was the kind of situation that lesser men would look at, throw up their hands and say, "Well, it's impossible to fix." But Honoré was instrumental in re-establishing order and setting up basic services to take a decimated region and give it the life blood of "routine" services that humans need and expect. Approached as routine items (fresh water, food, shelter, law enforcement), the problems were surmountable. He took the impossible and separated the problems into the routine. The lesson for anyone is to approach all major problems this way – and to do the daily, routine security checks and processes well, so that those security efforts aren't forgotten, but are sustained when stress levels rise and when crises occur.

[Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also spoke at the conference. Listen to her address the conference about public-private partnerships related to sports venue security.]

In other news
Hackers and power plants, ADT promotion, Officers at Detroit's schools, more

After being asked to resign, 34-year-old Omar Thornton opened fire at a Conn. beverage distribution center earlier this week, killing 9 people including himself. ... Longtime ADT executive Jeffrey Bean has been promoted to group vice president of commercial national accounts. ... Word comes this week from the Associated Press that computer hackers are looking to take over U.S. power plants. The Department of Homeland Security is forming specialized cyber teams in response to the threat. ... COPS Monitoring is bolstering operations at its Arizona central station by adding staff. ... Sony’s Mike McCann, who took part in an SIW webinar this week, discusses issues related to IP surveillance in this Q&A. ... Detroit Public Schools let more than 200 of its school security officers go and brought in a private security firm.