The Security Week That Was: A Recap - July 9-15, 2005

SIW Editor Geoff Kohl gives a weekly surveillance of news shaping your profession


After last week's attacks in London, the concept of how to secure our nation's trains and bus systems has become the topic du jour for security professionals. In the U.K., they're wrestling with the concept of what the limits of surveillance cameras are in terms of protecting mass transit. The general consensus is that London's surveillance system, which may have been helpful in preventing bombings by IRA members, is not effective when the bombers are committed enough to kill themselves in the process. Still, it's quite clear that the probable response will be more cameras in our transit stations.

And since cameras are not fully effective in stopping attacks, Britain turned to the idea of security checkpoints at transit stations, much like you get at airports, with detection systems to scan passengers. It sounds nice at first, until you factor in the cost of trying to secure something like 300 transit stations in the U.K. alone, with multiple entrances on many. Even if you could convince legislators to earmark funding for this kind of project (which would mean paying for all the expensive detection machines and the trained staff to operate these devices, plus the installation and maintenance costs), would the system really work when it was rush hour in London or New York and hundreds of thousands of people are getting ready to rush the system at once?

Our current secretary of the Department of Homeland Security seems to understand these challenges. In an interview with reporters on Thursday, Chertoff explained that the DHS is starting to reach a critical point where it has to recognize how far its duties extend. While certainly the organization can be the financial clearinghouse for security funding -- kind of like asking dear old dad for a few bucks to take your date to the movie -- Chertoff says that those financial sources aren't inexhaustible, and that with budget restrictions placed upon DHS by Congress, states and municipalities are going to have to come up with much of the money to secure their own mass transit facilities (i.e., Dad says you can borrow the family car, but you're going to have to pay for the date yourself). We'll take care of the aviation sector, Chertoff seemed to say, but for trains and buses, you're going to need to go out on your own. It's probably a smart decision. After all, does anyone really think that bringing in an agency like the TSA to secure our public transit systems would really create the most efficient use of security funds, anyway?

On a similar topic to the London terror attacks comes a research report conducted by AT&T and the International Association of Emergency Managers that looked at whether companies in Kansas and Missouri had business continuity and disaster plans ready to go. The results were fairly good, with 70 percent of the companies ready with a disaster plan. Still that left three out of 10 companies unprepared. The study largely focused on weather disruptions (the Kansas-Missouri region is considered prone to weather-related natural disasters), but the data speaks for more than simple weather-related emergencies. If you're still operating without a disaster plan, this research is a solid reminder that it's time to start forming a company group to create one. As a security or safety director, you have a distinct ability to create a leadership position for yourself as you tackle this issue. And once you're done creating your plan, if you want to test your program out, you can check out our article on how to conduct a disaster exercise.

On the dealer side of this week's news, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law a bill that specifies how municipalities can implement alarm ordinances for security systems. This bill also included what's best described as an "escalating fine structure" for false alarms, and it also endorses Enhanced Call Verification to reduce false dispatches. On that same note, Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) Executive Director Stan Martin authored a guest column for SecurityInfoWatch.com readers this week on why we need to choose Enhanced Call Verification.

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