From the Field: Responding to the London Air Terror Plots

Aug. 11, 2006
Protection consultant William McGuire shares an account live from the front lines of aviation security

"We have worked hard these past years to meet the challenges of a world in flux with an industry that will remain a target."

It was a morning like any other. I was preparing for the day's security activities when I received an alert on my cell phone. It was a message from one of our government intelligence sources. The message was alarming and as the minutes went by, the news of a large terrorist plot was unfolding. It was then I knew this was not going to be a normal day.

Our nation's airways, I firmly believe, had been lulled into complacency since 9/11, but it still strikes a sense of fear and urgency when reality begins to unfold. Within seconds of receiving this message I assembled our team of emergency responders who would assist our clients. I alerted them that they would now be required to implement plans for which we had practiced. A "Code Red" was now the situation.

My company, Global Security Associates has worked hard and built a reputation of meeting the challenges of a world in flux with an industry, our nation's airlines, that will forever remain a target. I drove to the office immediately and began setting in motion the plans for our commercial and private aviation clients. Their needs would have to be met with increased manpower at their physical locations. Monitoring of all activities would begin immediately and these clients flight manifests would be scrutinized.

Once I arrived at the office I immediately activated our emergency command center which is now open and functioning 24 hours a day until the emergency is over. Our clients are relying on us to interpret to them the regulations that are unfolding hour-by-hour, especially since these air security policies are an evolving situation. We have been told to throw out the old ways of thinking -- ways that weren't really that old -- and start thinking in a new heightened security mode. Our clients are getting the picture; it will take a lot of patience to make these changes, but business is now all about change.

About the author: William McGuire is president and CEO of Global Security Associates, a New York firm that handles security and protection for corporate travelers and business executives, as well as security plans for such airlines as Jet Blue, Singapore Airlines, MaxJet and others. McGuire has over 15 years experience in the commercial aviation security industry and is the former vice president of Virgin Security Services of Virgin Atlantic Airlines. He is also a member of the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS), National Cargo Security Council (NCSC) and the International Association for Counter-Terrorism & Security Professionals (IACSP). His previous article on addressed executive protection and corporate risk mitigation at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.