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More attempted breaches to test school security—but these folks are cops

Monday, April 14, 2014

So here’s another angle on a post I wrote here last month about print and TV journalists walking into schools unannounced to test security procedures: A school district in North Texas has arranged with the local police department to have officers go undercover to test the schools' security.

Undercover officers from the Lewisville Police Department check entryways to make sure school doors are locked, and they try to think like intruders and look for other ways to get in. They even fabricate stories for front-desk employees to make sure they’re checked for ID before they can get farther into the school, according to a report from NBC 5 in Dallas-Forth Worth.

The collaborative effort has turned up valuable insights so far, police and school officials say.

“It makes the administration refocus our efforts in how clear we are with the staff about what’s expected,” high school principal Jeffrey Kais said in the news report.

So, a more responsible approach, I concede. I’m just relieved someone’s checking.



'Staying Alive'

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Frequent Security Director News source Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, along with his son, Chris Dorn, and two others from the organization, have authored “Staying Alive: How to Act Fast to Survive Deadly Encounters.”

Safe Havens is a non-profit organization that helps improve crisis preparedness and campus safety at educational institutions.

The book, published by Barrons and scheduled for release next month, offers strategies that have been used successfully to avert planned school shootings, bombings and other potentially deadly events. It also provides strategies to survive violent incidents in malls, cinemas, places of worship and residences.

Numerous real-life case studies are included in the book to show how security pros and non-security pros alike have used their wits to stay alive during tragic events. There are some very riveting stories included. One chapter, "Active Shooters—Should You Run, Hide, or Fight," takes up the controversial philosophy in great detail. Other chapters deal with the over-reliance on security technology as preventive measures, how to detect dangerous people and how to cope with traumatic stress in the aftermath of violence.

I've read enough of the book to see it as a must-read for anyone responsible for ensuring the security of others.

A companion video to the book soon will be available on the Safe Havens’ website. In addition, the authors have already been asked to write a sequel.

Congrats to the Dorns and their co-authors for this important publication.



Safe and secure away from home?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Having just returned from Las Vegas after attending ISC West, this item, “Five Ways Safety at Hotels Can Be Compromised,” from, caught my eye.

During my travels, I often feel safer at some hotels more than others even though I don't stay in fleabag motels by a long shot. But as a woman traveling alone, safety and security is always on my mind. In Vegas last week, I was glad to see a security guard stationed by the guest-room elevators, right off the huge casino floor, and that I had to insert my room card to get to my floor. Being in the secuirty biz, I looked up to see myraid surveillance cameras everywhere. Once I arrived at my 24th-floor room I was happy not only to lock my door, but to get that “safety latch” in place.

But now I see how both locks can be compromised.

On my last day in Vegas I was working at the desk in my room when a maid used her key to unlock my door, but the safety latch stopped her. This was about 1 p.m. I had a late checkout of 3, of which she apparently wasn’t aware. If I hadn’t had the safety latch on, she would have barged right in. The sight of me at that moment probably would have frightened her as much as someone unlocking my door had frightened me.

Hotel safety and security is a big issue for enterprises whose employees travel, often worldwide.

Let’s keep them safe!



Heading out for ISC West!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Updated 4-4-14

Day Three at ISC West

This year’s show could be the “breakout” point for video enabling that provides security along with diverse business intelligence, said Milestone System’s Karl Erik Traberg, head of corporate communications and business development. “We’ll look back and say, ‘That’s when it took off.’ “Why? The mindset is changing, and security pros are seeing the benefits of business intelligence. Security directors have been dealing with tight budgets for years, but now they can be the leaders in having conversations about business value. Last year's show was all about thermal imaging cameras and the new lower prices, he said—and biometrics, I might add—but this year's ISC West had a big focus on business intelligence.

In fact, video combined with access control was, indeed, one of the recurring themes I heard at the show, along with, importantly, manufacturers listening more to end users’ needs and working with them to develop those win-win solutions. And that’s a good thing.

Security directors should start working on their video enabling strategies, Daniel O’Connell, managing director for Definition Branding and Marketing, added at my meet-up with Milestone. With video enabling being the wave of the future, planning now will allow them to define their own professional futures.

Biometric technology is now an option for the little guy, according to Kirsten Pflomm, VP of marketing for Zwipe. The fingerprint-reading access control card can allow small businesses, or larger ones for that matter, to go to biometrics overnight. No new readers are needed. Maybe only five people at a small hospital need access to highly secure areas. Zwipe insures the person with the card is the person assigned to the card.  

At MOOG, Chris Lindenau, global director of sales and marketing for sensor and surveillance systems, showed me the company’s new explosion-proof, high-def cameras. The cameras are designed for environments where explosion hazards arise from dangerous gases or vapors, such as petroleum plants, oil and gas rigs, mining companies and fertilizer plants. A pressure-regulating system protects the camera from gas and vapors, which could ignite an explosion. I’ve never had occasion to think of that kind of situation before, and Lindenau’s explanation to me was intriguing. I hope to follow up.

Assa Abloy’s Mark Duato, senior director for integration solutions, walked me through some “future-proof” lock/access control solutions suitable for campuses, the banking/financial sector and health care facilities and others. Great stuff.

And what a great, busy show!

Updated 4-3-14

Day Two at ISC West:

After an early start to the day to see the runners off at the Security 5K, which raised $90,000 for Mission 500's disadvantaged children (yay!), it was back to the Sands where I conducted four on-camera interviews with four end users who had lots of good info to share. The videos will be posted soon on SDN, but for now here are a few takeaways from them.

Marilyn Hollier, director of security services for the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers—and president of IAHSS—talked about “tapping into the talent of your team.” Security directors working under tight budgets certainly can’t do it all, she said, so she encourages all of her employees to get bachelor’s degrees and even master’s and as many professional certifications as they can. Employees are her resources, she says, and by showing you value their professional growth those resources become even more valuable. And when—or if—she retires? She'll know she has a good succession plan in place.

Phil Lisk, IT and security director for the Bergen County, N.J., Sheriff’s Dept., said the convergence of IT and physical security is not a new phenomenon for him. It’s necessary and makes his job easier. He also discussed LPR and how with the right privacy controls in place—and New Jersey’s are strict, he said—it can beneficially serve law enforcement.

Fifth Third Bank’s Mike Neugebauer, VP and senior manager for safety and security, said changes in the brick-and-mortar banking industry have led to numerous challenges and opportunities for security. With more and more customers opting for automated services, branches are shrinking in size and have fewer employees. Where before two people might have opened a branch in the morning, now just one does. Protecting one employee can sometimes be more difficult than protecting two. Teller lines get smaller, so cameras may have to be repositioned. Neugebauer and I also discussed the recent rash of ATM thefts, the kind where thieves rip them out of the ground, and the use of sensors and GPS to combat that crime.

Ralph Nerette, manager of security for Dana Farber Cancer Institute, had interesting insights on the “green” movement in security equipment. He said he’s noticed more manufacturers promoting the energy-efficiency of their products and whether they were made with some recycled products, for example. He likes that. Taking that kind of information to the c-suite shows you’re part of the team, he said. Nerette is currently busy with numerous upgrades to his visitor management system and more.

Back on the floor, I met with Brivo’s Lee Odess, VP marketing, about Randivoo Mobile, Brivo’s new visitor management system. Security has been all about secure vs. secure, he said, “but now it’s about convenience.” Social access management through mobile devices is the wave of the future, he said. At a Starbucks and need to use the restroom? Randivoo can help you with that. Waiting in line for the key is no longer needed. If you arrive for a meeting at an office building, Randivoo can be pre-programmed to allow you acccess to the building and your specific meeting room, only. Very cutting-edge stuff.

Peter Ribinski, EVP of Bosch, discussed the company’s work with end users to ensure they get what the need. In this world of IP, he said, users have many choices, many of them complex. Sometimes, too many parameters are just that, too many. One product had more than 600 parameters and end-user testing showed those could be easily cut to less than 100 to benefit the customer’s ease of use, he said. I was impressed with that and heard a number of times at the show how companies are working with end-users to accommodate their needs.

Michael Irvin, director of marketing, 3XLogic, talked me through a demo of Vigil Trends, a customizable single dashboard system for business intelligence. Unlike other business intelligence providers, Vigil Trends incorporates video data into the equation, delivering the data necessary for users to make informed, effective and timely decisions about their business, their assets and their employees, he said.  Drilldowns allow users to focus in on suspect transactions at POS and on other LP needs as well as operations and marketing information.

After the awards ceremony for the race—complete with a performance by the most talented, cutest little boy group I have ever seen—I visited with Genetec at a reception at Tao. Nice to catch up with the folks I met there a few months ago at the company’s press summit in Montreal.

Day 3 is coming right up.

Updated 4-2-14

Day One for me at ISC West:

I met with some very nice NICE folks first thing in the morning. Bob Grado of the Denver Regional Transportation District discussed his experience moving to NICE’s mobile video recording solution for its new bus fleet. The solution will significantly enhance RTD’s investigative efficiency when complaints are filed, he said. RTD approached NICE and a few other companies about its needs, but it was NICE that came through in the end, Grado said. William Lafave, NICE regional VP, major accounts, security group, said it was a win-win for the end-user and NICE. The solution was custom-built for RTD, but can easily be adapted to other end users.

Honeywell Fire Systems product manager William Brosig and public relations manager Beth Welch demonstrated how the mass communication RTZM Module is a good fit for smaller end users, such as churches, office buildings, warehouses and even schools. Tying into any brand of fire alarm system, it can send out emergency notifications through a facility’s emergency command center system via any phone.  It is easy to use, with simple options and pre-programmed recordings and can be transmitted only to affected zones.

At the 3VR booth, Don Wright, director/physical security for the Carolinas Health Care System, discussed his long history with the company and the fact that when he wanted better use of his network assets it was 3VR that came through. “We have a sweet, symbiotic relationship,” he said. With 3,000 or so cameras for his many facilities, that was too many for real-time viewing. The new search features make his forensic investigations easier, and the on-board notifications of problems with specific cameras make his life easier, he said.

Sentry View System’s president and COO Justin Thompson said his power hybrid charge controller can handle up to three inputs, such as solar, wind power and generator, for example. The system, designed for power and surveillance needs at remote sites, has been successful for U.S.-Mexico border patrols, during the pope’s visit to Brazil, and for Nigerians who wanted to be able to worship as they wished despite terrorist attacks against them. It also is beneficial to critical infrastructure facilities, such as water utilities, which have a lot at stake, often in very far-flung locations.

March Networks’ Dan Cremins, director of product management, with a background of 21 years in the security industry, said that talking to end users “is the best way to learn.” He cited a number of examples, including janitors at a school who were dealing with graffiti. Those janitors turned out to be his end users, he said. He wouldn’t have known that without good communication with his customers. March Network’s goal is to reduce the time people in the field have to go out and check out what’s going on.

At SRI International, “Iris on the Move” has not only stopped time-and-attendance fraud at construction sites, it has helped at worldwide airports, at sporting events, U.S. financial institutions and at data centers, said Mark Clifton, VP, Products & Services Division and general manager. The system can work in all lighting environments and is more effective than fingerprint systems, he said.

Solink’s  CEO Michael Matta is all about making better sense of videos and the Big Data they produce. “There’s lots of data coming in from multiple points,” he says. Proactive surveillance can “create a story of events,” to benefit the end user. He’s looking to take actionable decision-making to banking and retail customers with multiple locations with “smaller footprint spaces.”

I also had the delightful opportunity to meet up with three of Security Director News’ previous “20 under 40” winners. Patrick Wood of John Deere, Mike Wiley of Switch and Ralph Nerette of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute all stopped by our “Meet the Editors” event to check in and say hello. It’s always great to see these young pros again and find out what they’re up to. Such smart people!

I capped off the night with the Women’s Security Council reception to honor this year’s award winners. I had a great conversation with Silvia Fraser, manager of corporate security for the City of Toronto, about the challenges she faces each and every day. The WSC also had some exciting news to relay at the event: a new, sponsored scholarship for women in the security realm. Stay tuned for more about that.

Thursday, April 3, promises more exciting news from the physical security industry. I’ll be doing four video interviews, which you can watch here soon.

Stay tuned and keep in touch!


I’ll be arriving in Vegas tomorrow, April 1, for the big show. My schedule is jam-packed with meetings with end users to discuss their most recent successes with new technology and what they’re still looking for to help them in their day-to-day physical security challenges. I’m also scheduled to meet with some manufacturers who have promised me some fresh and new ideas to meet end users’ needs.

I’ll be blogging each day to let you know what I’ve learned from all of them and then will follow up with more in-depth articles after the show, so please stay tuned. And, as always, I appreciate any and all feedback.

If you’ll be at the show, please stop by the Meet the Editors event from 9:30-10 a.m. Wednesday at the Security Directors News/Security Systems News booth, adjacent to the ISC West Media Stage right outside the main entrance to the show floor. My colleagues, SSN editor Martha Entwistle, SSN managing editor Tess Nacelewicz, SSN associate editor Leif Kothe and I are looking forward to getting to know more of our readers.

I’m also looking forward to catching up with some of the SDN “20 under 40” alumni at the show. Spending time with this group of young professionals is one of the highlights of my job.

Hope to see you there!


CNN journalists arrested for attempted WTC security breach

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NEW YORK—Two CNN producers tried to sneak past security at the World Trade Center on March 25, failed and were arrested, according to a Reuters report. The men were investigating recent security lapses at the site, still under construction, the report said.

Yonatan Pomrenze, 35, and Connor Fieldman Boals, 26, first tried to talk their way in through the site’s main gate in early afternoon. When they were prevented from entering, Boals tried twice unsuccessfully to climb over the perimeter fence. The pair then tried to force their way through an electronic gate a block away when they were arrested, the report said.

It would have been a good story for them, had they succeeded. Four men were arrested March 24 for a September 2013 parachute-jump from the top of One World Trade Center. The three who made the jump—one stayed on the ground as a lookout—said they encountered no security as they made their way to the top of the building, still under construction. 

Earlier this month, a teenager made his way to the top of the building, past an apparently oblivious security guard and then one sleeping guard, to take photos of himself atop the tallest U.S. building in the nation.

In the most recent attempt, the two CNN guys were filming a report on recent security breaches at the World Trade Center, a spokeswoman for the news network told Reuters.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has spent millions on security for the World Trade Center, scheduled to open later this year on the site of the 9-11 attacks.

On Tuesday afternoon, the two CNN duo told the officer at the main gate that if a 16-year-old was able to get in, then so should they, said Joseph Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority Police Department.

"He had enough sense to try it at 4 o'clock in the morning," he said of the 16-year-old. The CNN producers’ attempt came about 2 p.m. "This is very wasteful of valuable law-enforcement time and energy," Pentangelo said, according to Reuters

The men were arrested on charges of criminal trespass, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct, police said.

Journalists have recently taken the same tactic to check school security.

What do you think?


Kid breaches security at, wait for it, the WTC

Friday, March 21, 2014

(UPDATE follows)

So a 16-year-old gets past security and makes his way to the 104th floor of 1 World Trade Center?

Wait. Maybe I just read that wrong.

No, no I didn’t.

The child—yes, I said child because I have a near 16-year-old of my own and he is a child—allegedly climbed through a 1-foot opening in a fence surrounding the still-under-construction skyscraper, according to news reports.

The teen told police he climbed scaffolding to the sixth floor and then took an elevator to the 88th floor. From there took the stairs to the 104th floor, where he encountered “an inattentive” guard and got past him, CNN said. The contracted security guard has since been fired.

The teen, Justin Casquejo, then went to the rooftop and climbed a ladder out to the spire of the nation’s tallest building.

Apparently, he and a few friends had been casing the joint for a while to figure out how to get him in.

Port Authority police arrested the kid about 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Well, that’s a huge relief. Also a huge relief is the fact that Casquejo was only carrying a phone and a camera. He apparently posted photos on Twitter of him standing on a crane, and a rooftop.

A kid breaches security at the World Trade Center? Need I say more?


UPDATE March 24, 2014.

So the kid, Justin Casquejo of New Jersey, who was arraigned charged with criminal trespass and released, issues this apology via Twitter:

"I seriously apologize to anyone who may have been insulted or felt disrespected by my actions. It was not my intention to do so."

Seems like the security guards might want to do some apologizing, too.


Journalists 'surprise entries' to schools draw criticism. Why?

Monday, March 17, 2014

There was a provocative article in The New York Times this past weekend, pulling together a number of events I’ve been following over recent months: Journalists walk into public schools unannounced to test security measures.

What they’ve found I find astounding, but the flak they’ve received is equally astounding, in my opinion.

A reporter for KSDK entered a high school in suburban St. Louis in January and walked around the hallways for several minutes before the office staff noticed him. Eventually, the school was put in lockdown.

No doubt, that’s exactly what the school should have done upon finding an intruder in its midst, but how did the reporter saunter into the school and wander around for several minutes in the first place?

The lockdown resulted in police response and stress on students and staff, not to mention parents’ worries. “It terrified my kids and a lot of other kids,” one parent told the newspaper.

I get that. As the parent of a high schooler, I, too, would be more than beside myself if there was a lockdown at his school.

Granted, the KSDK reporter, after, I repeat, wandering for some time, made a few qustionable decisions. He went to the front office, gave his name and phone number and asked to speak with someone about school security, the NYT said. He did not identify himself as a reporter, asked where a bathroom was, then left in another direction. That's when the school called the number he provided and got his voicemail, identifying him as a reporter. When the school called his TV station, employees there would not confirm he worked there, the NYT report said.

The school did the right thing in initiating the lockdown—but only after an unknown person was in the building for a matter of minutes when anything could have happened had the reporter been a bad guy.

The question remains: How did he get into the school unchecked in the first place? Isn’t that the most important point here? Maybe he was armed. Maybe he was a non-custodial parent, a pedophile or a drug-addled passer-by looking for a bathroom or at least someplace warm. Who cares? The point is, an unknown, unauthorized person entered the school and wandered around before any one in charge took notice.

In Fargo, N.D., a TV correspondent entered a school in December. She was investigated for trespassing but her station agreed to keep her away from school-related news coverage for 90 days, the Times said.

In New York, a WNBC journalist gained “unimpeded access” to seven of 10 city schools it approached.

Opponents of these journalistic tactics cite the fact that an armed security guard could have pulled a gun on the reporter, that they caused undue panic at the schools and, at the very least, the journalists were irresponsible. I understand those points. I don't, however, get the comments from the St. Louis superintendent, Thomas Williams, who the NYT said "was outraged" by the journalist's visit. 

“Is it OK for them to set a fire and see how fast the fire department responds? It’s a safety issue. It’s not responsible. It’s the wrong way to do it,” he is quoted as saying.

Obviously, the journalist did no harm, and had no intent to set a fire. How, Mr. Williams, did he get into your school in the first place?

After the horrific Newtown tragedy and the others we’ve seen at schools nationwide in recent years, wouldn’t you want to know if an unannounced person/suspect was able to enter your child’s school?

I would want to know if there were holes in the security at my son’s high school.

I don’t want anyone entering any school without being vetted from the very start. Schools shouldn’t be prison-like fortresses, but unknown persons should not be allowed in the front door, including surprise journalists.

All schools don’t have budgets for top-notch surveillance cameras and the most-up-to-date access control, but no one should be allowed on their premises without a school official knowing about it, even if that means sitting someone at the door to check IDs.

These journalists were doing a public service.

What do you think? I’d like to know.


AXIS on the red carpet

Friday, March 14, 2014

As your favorite celebrities made their way down the red carpet before the Academy Awards, Axis Communications cameras were following their every jewel-studded move.

The Los Angeles Police Department selected a mix of HDTV-quality pan/tilt/zoom network cameras to provide security and live situational awareness on the red carpet and throughout the block surrounding the Dolby Theater before the March 2 ceremony in Los Angeles, Axis said in a press release.

A wireless mesh network connected the cameras to a police command center seven miles away. The cameras were managed remotely using Axis Camera With the cameras managed remotely through Camera Companion software.

Faced with a number of challenges including large crowds, variable outdoor lighting conditions, cameras flashes and the fact that red is one of the hardest colors for video to render, the LAPD chose IP cameras that could overcome these challenges, capture the best possible images at the forefront and ensure the video was reliably recorded and readily accessible, Axis said in the statement.








Sadly, another case for steel bollards

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So here we go again, unfortunately—and tragically.

A driver drove through a temporary barricade at the South by Southwest [SXSW] festival in Austin, Texas, early Thursday morning, killing two and injuring 23 others. The driver apparently was attempting to avoid a drunk-driving checkpoint, according to news reports. He faces murder charges.

[SXSW, by the way, attracts a number of security professionals for its “interactive events” about new technology and this year had a video feed from Russia featuring Edward Snowden.]

Security Director News, with the help of Rob Reiter, co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council [], has reported often on such incidents, including those that are intentional for ram-raids, also known as smash-and-grab robberies. Check the SDN website for those articles.

Reiter pushes for protecting pedestrians and store customers and employees with steel bollards.

Cities need to learn about protecting those at events such as SXSW and at its businesses, Reiter says. “It does not have to be this way.”


Smart lights with cameras piloted at Newark airport

Monday, March 10, 2014

NEWARK, N.J.—Liberty International Airport here has replaced lighting outside and inside of its Terminal B with 171 “smart LEDs.” The Sensity-manufactured lights, which last longer and consume less energy than traditional lighting, include security cameras and other functions.

Viewed as a pilot project by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Honeywell, and started last fall, its primary goal is to “test the efficacy of the cameras deployed in conjunction with energy efficient LED lights,” a port authority spokeswoman said in response to a request for information from Security Director News.

The spokeswoman said the Port Authority would “not be doing any interviews on this particular topic,” but she did provide background information.

Video footage collected during the project is being used to monitor congestion and for security purposes, she said. The airport is using footage of the terminal’s ticketing area to monitor queues and activity, with possible future monitoring of unattended baggage.

The Port Authority will decide how the collected footage from the LEDs will be used after the results of the pilot project have been evaluated, she said. The footage would be shared only with other law enforcement agencies conducting authorized investigations that submit official requests or subpoenas.