Live from Hurricane Katrina: A Security Recap

SIW Editor Geoff Kohl returns with an eyewitness account from the Mississippi Gulf Coast


An hour later and I had been by the town fire station again and was told by the chief that he had seen my father, walking toward the next town where his business was. I collected a young couple in the back of my truck and delivered them to the Long Beach, Miss., shelter where I searched in vain for my own parents. Lost again, a Long Beach police officer, once he knew I wasn't a looter, helped direct me through the darkened town to my father's business. Partially razed as well, I shouted their names to no avail. "Are you looting?", a male voice called out from the upper floor of apartments behind his shop. It was not my father. The alarm system's keypad flashed erratically inside the front door, grabbing juice from the phone line, somehow staying connected through the destruction.

I found life around the corner at Leggett's Firestone, where an old acquaintance of mine had a generator and was standing guard against looters at the blown out entrances to the shop with his German Shepherd and his shotgun. Realizing we knew each other, Eric filled me in on what was happening as the police cruisers raced by to respond to calls of looting attacks in town. He explained how there had been an understanding with the police that business owners were OK'd to fire at looters. His cell phone chirped up and all of a sudden, we had service. Thirteen voicemails later, I got the message from my sister that my mother and father were okay, had found a friend with a usable car and had been able to leave the area just an hour before I arrived. As I left town to catch up with them in Alabama, I stopped by a shopping center and was flagged down by the town police who were there arresting looters. The officer told me that the town was under Marshall law and politely suggested that I hurry out of town.

What can I say about security? In a way, this entire disaster is about security. Security is about knowing that a business is safe -- against looting, against attacks. Security is about the lives of family members -- knowing that they are safe, that their homes are protected. Security is knowing that the alarm system at the family business is still trying to work, still trying to connect to a central station even though a hurricane may have washed away both the phone lines and the central station. Security is knowing that the security director at a hotel is advising his guests on how to protect themselves as they witness a hurricane. Security is the activity of sworn law officers protecting citizens, patrolling their swamped streets, and helping direct dazed victims to shelters.

As an industry, it's our duty to protect people's lives and property. Having seen Katrina's damage firsthand, I ask that all of you in the industry go to the disaster relief organizations and donate anything you can. The needs of people in that area are incredible, and I know their hearts will be lifted by your support. I'd recommend the Red Cross, but any relief organization you choose is a good choice.

On the same note: Is your company doing anything to accelerate the relief effort? If so, email editor@securityinfowatch.com and let us know of your efforts and I'll list your efforts on our site. Even if your company is only sending $1, let us know and we'll post your effort. Every little bit helps because these people have very little except hope right now.