The Security Week That Was: A Recap - April 14-20, 2007

Training Tomorrow's Techs

Talking with operators of many dealer and integrator companies, I always hear that a qualified workforce is one of their top business problems. It's been a classic plan of action in our industry that many security "shops" will bring on a non-experienced or inexperienced worker, show them the ropes, teach them the technology, send them to training to learn codes and systems, and then, just as soon as they developed that person into the kind of quality person they need, a competitor will try to snatch that person away with the promise of a slightly higher hourly rate. It doesn't help us that many of the technically minded persons coming out of high schools and colleges have leaned toward better paying jobs in computer technologies rather than low-voltage and voice/data/video systems.

California, of course, has been fighting this curve, most notably with the apprenticeship program that the California Alarm Association has in place. Well, it seems that the CAA apprentice program isn't the only thing happening on the West Coast. A news blurb from the newspaper in Fresno, Calif., indicates that their local tech high, Duncan Polytechnical High School is kicking off classes on video surveillance systems. The program partners with Pelco, which is around the corner from Fresno in Clovis, Calif., and will tap the educational and design resources that the full-services security and surveillance products company has to offer. What's even better is that the program promises to expand to other local high schools in the next year. Agustin Correa of Pelco said that the program will seek to serve the full-variety of educational needs that these high school students have – whether that's preparing them to finish high school and walk into an installer position, or readying themselves to go to college and become a systems designer. Kudos to Pelco for stepping up and being a community citizen. Our industry needs more of these kinds of efforts.

Regarding Virginia Tech
Preparation guidelines, crisis plans, and a news story repeated too often

It's been pretty hard to wrap my head around the Virginia Tech shootings. Immediately on Monday when the preliminary word was that there was one person murdered in a residence hall, I placed a nervous call to a student there who I know. This was when it was still believed to have solely been an isolated shooting in the dorm. I left a message on his phone and waited. Ten minutes later, when my own phone rang and I saw that it was Chris, I was a bit relieved to get a call back confirming his safety. In the time between those two calls, we as a nation had learned that this was not an isolated shooting in a dorm, but that a mass murder was happening on campus.

From a security perspective, we look back on this tragedy and have to think about response plans, notification methods, emergency communication procedures and even whether a little more technology could have helped the campus respond…even perhaps "prevent". Frankly, it gets a bit numbing, and I know those of us in the security industry probably feel like we keep repeating history. If you recall, there was a presidential conference on school safety that convened after a seeming string of shootings, including those at the Amish school in Pennsylvania. The conference issued some recommendations in 2006. One of those was the Practical Information on Crisis Planning brochure (PDF file) that was sent to communities and schools around the nation. There was also an interactive document designed to help schools self-assess their security and safety needs and address potential scenarios. You can download that file here off the Department of Education website. If you're looking for some reference material on school security responses, I recommend you visit that White House website, which has a page dedicated to school safety, including downloads, assessments, news and more.

I will say this, I think that when you look at this situation, we're seeing a progression of "sophistication" in the school killer – this troubled young man clearly had a methodology that included manipulation of mass media (especially NBC) and tactical planning (such as the chaining of doors to school building to slow response times). All too often, it seems, I've had to pick up the phone to different school security experts to ask them to share their thoughts. The goal as we discuss procedures and technology and response plans is that we'll eventually build a broader awareness of the legitimate threats that are posed to those in the educational system, but in the meantime, it's disconcerting to keep revisiting this topic because budgets and policies weren't put in place to minimize the likelihood of these events. While we need to withhold judgment until all the facts are on the table, I think we know we're dealing with a consistent threat vector and that these events aren't completely random. If killers can plan for these types of events, our industry can help plan against them. For all of the students, faculty, staff and parents in the Virginia Tech community, you are in our thoughts.

Our most important stories of the week, focused on Va. Tech massacre: