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Public-private partnership protects hotels after Marathon bombings

Monday, May 13, 2013

Within minutes of last month’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, city hotels went on high alert, thanks to the Boston chapter of the International Lodging Safety and Security Association.

Notification of the dire situation via email and text messages to the hotels came from the Intelligence Network operated by Boston’s Hotel Security Association, a public-private law enforcement partnership founded in 1972, according to Michael Soper, chairman.

I’ve been hearing so much about the success of public-private partnerships lately—from ORC to higher ed security.  Lessons worth hearing.

Twelve minutes after the bombings, hotels received this directive from Boston police:

“Institute your security protocols and immediately shelter in place.”

“The order was clear and direct,” Soper said. “ This was not a drill, this was not a precaution, the threat was real and eminent. They didn’t know where the bombers were, or if they had more devices. They were concerned with large groups of people gathering. Hotels by their very nature are soft targets.”

Three nearby hotels, the Charlesmark, Lenox and Mandarin Oriental were within feet of the bombings; all three were evacuated. The Lenox was subsequently taken over by police and the FBI as a command post. The Westin Copley Place became the HQ for media briefings.

Throughout the investigation, “timely and accurate information” was provided to the hotels, said Soper, who was responsible for dispatching that information.

"From the moment the bombings occurred, I knew that our hotels would be expecting accurate information about what was happening and guidance as we moved forward," said Soper.  "We were lucky to have one of our Boston police partners on the scene almost immediately. I was literally getting direction from the scene amidst all of the chaos and getting that information out to our members as quickly as possible."

For the next four days, Soper followed the regional manhunt for the bombing suspects from a temporary command center outside the city, he said, monitoring police radio transmissions, Twitter feeds from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and updates from local and national media outlets.

"We judge our successes and failures largely upon the opinions and the experiences of our guests while in our hotels. I can say with certainty, we were successful in our mission of keeping our hotels well informed with accurate and timely information.  In turn, our guests were kept safe, well informed and more importantly, well cared for during the crisis," he said.

"We have a system and it works," said H. Skip Brandt, ILSSA executive director. "We are proud to be part of one of the best Public-Private Law Enforcement Partnerships in the country.”

Y-12 protesters' trial update

Friday, May 3, 2013

The trial of three protesters, including an elderly nun, who allegedly broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons site in Tennessee last summer, has been reassigned to a federal judge in Kentucky, according to

U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips was supposed to preside at the trial, scheduled for May 7. Phillips, however, was planning to retire. A filing last week indicated the case had been reassigned to a judge with the Eastern District of Kentucky. It has not been disclosed whether the current trial date still stands.

Plowshares protesters Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli each face three felony charges related to the break-in and defacing of government facilities at the Oak Ridge site.

Meanwhile, G4S Government Solutions, which was on duty at Y-12 when the breach occurred, said it is ready to move past the "punishment stage and work to restore its image," according to Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground.

G4S lost its security contract following the breach and more recently lost its other major Department of Energy contract in Oak Ridge (for protective force services at ORNL, East Tennessee Technology Park and the Federal Building), Munger's report said.

"A lesson for everyone in all aspects of both physical and protective force security is what we now internally refer to as the 20/20 rule," President and CEO Paul Donahue said in a statement. "Within 20 minutes, 20 million hours of exceptional protective force support at Y-12 was wiped away."

Last week, G4S security officers received a British Security Industry Association's Award for Best Regional Team (South West) for their work at the Hinkley Point C nuclear building site in Somerset. The regional award makes G4S eligible for a national award. G4S has won six BSIA regional awards this year, according to a prepared statement.

Hospital dogged on security

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The safety and security department at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah, has a guard with four legs.

That would be Zeus, a black German shepherd, who, along with handler, patrols the hospital's halls, lobbies and grounds.

"Zeus' main job is to protect our patients, staff and visitors," Kevin Greenhalgh, safety and security manager, said in a report from "His presence acts as a deterrent to crime and can also help calm combative patients."

Zeus was trained at the Canine Training Academy in Canyon City, Colo., and is certified in search and rescue, the report said. When successfully tracking down a suspect, he is trained to corner that person and bark.

"The Dixie State University Police Department has partnered with the hospital to sponsor Zeus, allowing him to be certified to the Utah State Police Academy Standards. In turn, Zeus is on-call should the university need his assistance," the website said.

Greenhalgh said the hospital hopes to add additional dogs to the K-9 program in the future.

Church's peaceful moment shattered by man with knife

Monday, April 29, 2013

After communion this past Sunday, April 28, at St. Jude Thaddeus, a Catholic church in Albuquerque, a man armed with a knife shattered the reflective period by jumping over pews and stabbing the choir soloist.

Another man, a flutist accompanying the soloist, rushed to subdue the attacker, and was stabbed once near the neck and four times in the back, according to a report in Church and Synagogue Security News. Three others who also tried to help were wounded, one critically.

The suspect, 24-year-old Lawrence Capener, was taken into police custody shortly after the incident and faces aggravated battery charges, according to KOAT 7 in Albuquerque. Capener has no criminal record, and police told the TV station they did not know his motive. His mother is reportedly active in the church.

What? You go to church, participate in the Mass, take communion and sit quietly in its wake, listening to peaceful, parting music and encounter extreme violence? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

I wrote about church security a few months ago. Tim Winters, executive pastor of the 10,000-member Shepherd of the Hills Church in Los Angeles, told me, "I don't know why they do it, but some people who come here and sit through our services don't like us. We don't exactly know who's out there. It's the unknown we are afraid of."

Winters encourages churches who cannot afford professional security personnel to look within their own members, because many of them would want to help.

Thankfully, that's what happened at St. Jude Thaddeus before the situation got any worse. I hope this terrible event will be the impetus other churches need to protect their own.


TGIF, so here's some nice news

Friday, April 26, 2013

It’s Friday, and I’m thinking we could all use some uplifting news in light of the events over the past few weeks.

This item, out of Kentucky, caught my eye.

Pulaski County Schools Superintendent Steve Butcher says the recent donation of panic buttons to his 27 schools, including preschools, will be used in many types of emergencies.

The panic buttons, provided at no cost by Modern Systems, which installs home theaters and security systems, will allow the schools to respond to any type of disaster, such as a tornado, Butcher said in a report from WKYT 27.

Each school received three panic buttons, which when activated send a signal directly to 911, said Modern Systems’ David Morris.

Morris was motivated to provide the panic buttons to the school district at no cost after the Sandy Hook shootings last year in Newtown, Conn. “It changed the way I felt about security as it relates to school systems,” he told WKYT. “When I looked at Sandy Hook, I wondered what would make difference.”

He hopes other security dealers will pay it forward. “It was to encourage other security dealers across the nation that would be inspired by this and do something in their communities," he said. 

I’m heartened by Morris’ generosity, as I was earlier this afternoon when I spoke with Keith Marrett, Avigilon’s executive vice president of marketing, communications and product strategy. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company that features high-definition and megapixel video surveillance solutions, has launched a corporate responsibility program to help charities with their security needs. I’ll be posting a story about the first recipient of Avigilon’s “Giving Back Initiative" on Monday. So stay tuned. And have a safe weekend.


Love Microsoft's Mike Howard's tweets!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If you’re not following Mike Howard on Twitter, you should be. Howard is the chief security officer for Microsoft, with a background at the CIA. His focus is on best practices, both in security and in life in general.

I had the pleasure of speaking with him at ISC West 2013 in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. We discussed the challenges that still face security professionals in reaching out the c-suite and talked about Microsoft’s Global Security Operations Center, which I hope to visit one day.

What brings him to mind today for me are his thoughtful tweets from the Columbia Tower Club’s Distinguished Speakers Series, “China Playbook: How and Why U.S. Global Firms Are Being Attacked.”  

From conferences such as that to posting about leadership qualities, women in the workforce and more, Howard is a font of knowledge.

Follow him @MikeHowardMSGS on Twitter.


Too much happening

Monday, April 22, 2013

What a week we just went through. I was out of town for work but tried to keep up on the Boston and Texas news as much as I could. I was in Chicago, and visited the Office of Emergency Management and Communications one day before torrential downpours flooded much of the area, wreaking havoc on transportation, including flights at O'Hare. It would have been fascinating to see the office in actual emergency mode, but I'm sure they were glad we weren't there on that day.

What more could happen?

I woke up this morning to news that a gun battle in Seattle claimed five lives, and then learned later that Canadian officials have made multiple arrests after preventing a "major terrorist attack," according to the CBC. As I post this, no further details have been released.

We can all be thankful that the planned terrorism in Canada has been thwarted, thanks to Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and FBI, just as we are thankful for the work of Boston area law enforcement to bring in the remaining suspect in the Marathon bombings.

Here's an insightful interview with the Revere, Mass., police chief, who was on the scene in Watertown when the second bombing suspect was arrested. Thermal imaging and helicopter video are shown.

Let's hope for a less eventful week this week.

Day 2 of ASIS Media Tour

Friday, April 19, 2013

CHICAGO—Keith Kambic, director of security and life safety for the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, gave us a great overview of the 4.3 million-square-feet building, Some 12,000 people work in the building and anywhere from 300 to 11,000 tourists visit the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere each day. From access control, surveillance, bag screening, loading dock security, mass notification, building evacuation drills and more, there's a lot going on at the building, which at the same time has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. More about the Willis Tower later.

Next we were off to the Museum of Science and Industry. Said Edward J. McDonald, director of facilities and operations, "We're here to be a 'touchy' museum.' We encourage people to touch things," he said. "We haven't lost anything in 30 years." Guards and 370 cameras keep things well in hand. McDonald also gave us a tour of a couple of the exhibit halls—there are 71 major ones. Put this museum on your bucket list, for sure. Fascinating.

Both Kambic and McDonald, along with the other security directors we spoke with on the tour, stressed the importance of effective communication and positive relationships, both within their organizations and with local and federal law enforcement agencies.

A big thanks to ASIS' Leigh McGuire for inviting me and for a problem-free, exceptionally instructional tour. Fllooding in Chicago, because of the torrential rain Weds/Thurs, caused the cancellation of one of our site visits, but we more than made up with it at other tours. As I said, exceptional. Lots of good article ideas.

I had to leave my hotel at 5 a.m. today to fly back to Maine, unfortunately missing out on the security tour of O'Hare, but I will certainly write more about my Chicago experiences in the coming days.

It was a great trip.

Day One at ASIS 2013 Media Tour

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

CHICAGO—Breakfast bright and early featured George Rosebrock, security manager for the McCormick Place. That's where ASIS's 59th annual Seminar and Exhibits will be held, here, Sept. 24-27.

Rosebrock, a native of Chicago with deep experience in the Chicago Police Department, including working as a police officer, plain-clothes officer, sergeant and lieutenant before becoming a commander, has been at McCormick since his retirement from the CPD five years ago. He had many great insights, including his learning curve coming into a situation where there's 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space--the largest in North America—and where ASIS expects at least 20,000 visitors in September. I'll share his thoughts in an article for SDN coming soon.

After breakfast, we set off on a tour of Columbia College Chicago and the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

At the college, with 16 buildings spread out across the South Loop area, Robert Koverman, associate vice president of campus safety and security at the school, and Martha Meegan, director of campus safety and security, discussed the challenges associated with protecting an urban campus. They talked about the school's security evolution over a very short time, four years, from evolving from home burglary-type alarm systems in buildings to a state-of-the-art 24/7 command center. "It was very bare bones before," Koverman said. He credits developing a relationship with the college's IT department, and its cooperation, for his success. There were no access card readers when he arrived on the job, but now most students have them, he said. He had a lot more to say, as did Meegan, who has been instrumental in proactive efforts in the public/private security partnership realm. More about that later, too.

At the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Executive Director Gary Schenkel showed our group around the newly renovated 911 floor, which gets 5.3 million calls a year, the control center and operations center. Very high-tech.

Especially of note was a presentation from Jonathan Lewin, managing deputy director for the city's OEMC, overseeing Public Safety Information Technology from the city's Departments of Police, Fire, and Emergency Management. He is responsible for the city's advanced police crime surveillance camera network, described by the Department of Homeland Security as one of the most advanced in the nation.

We heard about Lewin's next step: Inputting variables from all the city's available databases—from information about gangs and their alliances, sex offender registries, troubled buildings and more—to identify those people likely to become victims of crimes or to become criminals. "We take that data and leverage it," Lewin said.

Tomorrow is another full day, thanks to ASIS.

Stay tuned.

Chicago, Boston and sadness

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CHICAGO—Made it to here for the ASIS 2013 Media Tour that gets in full swing Wednesday. (Glad I wasn't flying American...)

During my layover Tuesday in Philly, one day after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, my departure gate was next to an arrival gate from Boston. I saw many of those travelers arriving wearing their Boston Marathon jackets. They looked tired and grim. My heart went out to them.

Meanwhile, upon arrival in Chicago I saw a Sports page from the Chicago Tribune, which said, "We are Chicago Red Sox, We are Chicago Celtics, We are Chicago Bruins, We are Chicago Patriots, We are Chicago Revolution. Very touching, considering how Chicago loves—so very much— its sports teams.

The team at the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security sent out a press release today. Along with expressing their condolences for the victims of the bombings in Boston, they praised "the heroic actions of first responders, spectators and racers themselves" as "inspiring" and said that has been "a motivating factor for the Center to be an active participant in finding ways to harden sporting events that do not have a physical venue."

NCS4 is currently working on incorporating information on how to prepare for sporting events which are not located in a stadium, arena, or enclosed area into its conference programming and other symposiums. I'll be in touch with them about that.