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Fire system can do much more

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NORTHFORD, Conn.—I spent an enjoyable and very educational day here, Dec. 10, at Honeywell Life Safety HQ. The purpose for the visit was a briefing on Honeywell’s efforts to expand its fire systems to include emergency communications, digital signage and outdoor audio.

Gamewell-FCI by Honeywell’s new touch-screen fire alarm panel, which is designed to simplify operations for security directors and first responders, can make that happen, Honeywell leaders said.

Todd Reif, Honeywell Fire Systems president for the Americas, started the day off by outlining the evolution of the company’s fire alarm systems. He started with the master box—those red and white pull-lever boxes you see on street corners and on the exterior of buildings, and which Honeywell still manufactures— I watched that in action during a tour of the massive factory—to its new, small, addressable system S3 Series Fire Alarm system that features an intuitive touch screen with icons resembling those on smartphones.

It is the first of its kind in the industry, Reif said.

Fire technology should also be able to deal with emergency notifications, bad weather warnings and “bad guys,” he said. Once the technology is “harnessed and shaped,” there are multiple opportunities for end users, including those in the retail, hospitality, small medical facilities and schools.

The company is trying to take the “Fear of the Fire Alarm” factor away from end users. Too often, with big, multi-button fire panels, people are scared to touch anything. “They say, ‘What is going on? Who do I need to call? I don’t want the fire trucks to roll if I press the wrong button or I just want to shut this up,’ ” said Brian Carlson, manager of strategic marketing for Gamewell-FCI. Those concerns come despite the fact the user had been trained in the system, but maybe that was a year or so ago.

It’s the “floating finger syndrome,” Carlson says. It usually takes someone two minutes from the time they get to the panel before they even push a button. He knows because he’s visited hundreds of end users and studied them as they responded to an incident.

The S3 series features only eight buttons.

We heard two other great talks about mass notification and situational awareness that I will write about soon in more detail. So stay tuned….



Y-12 nun, two other protesters await sentencing; construction issues, too

Friday, December 6, 2013

The now 83-year-old nun, 64-year-old gardener and 58-year-old housepainter who were found guilty of breaching security at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012 remain behind bars, awaiting sentencing.

The three peace demonstrators were found guilty last May on felony charges for cutting through a fence and defacing property at the maximum security uranium processing facility. Reportedly, they were undetected by the majority of the perimeter surveillance equipment, ground sensors, security guards and canine patrols.

A sabotage charge against each of them carries a maximum prison term of up to 20 years; the damaged property charge has a penalty of up to 10 years. Sentencing was initially scheduled for this fall but has since been rescheduled for Jan. 24.

Security experts have called the break-in the biggest security breach in the nation’s atomic history. The Department of Energy investigated and released a special report on the facility’s security failings, including inoperable security equipment, an inadequate security force, no timetables for the maintenance of security equipment, and lack of physical barriers. Previous studies said the problems had been present for 10 years, according to an article from Robert Lee Maril, sociology professor at East Carolina University.

And there’s more about some other seemingly major Y-12 problems, regarding the construction of a new new facility to be built at Y-12.

Maril writes:

In summary, the same two business entities, Bechtel Corporation and Babcock and Wilcox Company, tasked with security at Y-12, a security system breached by an octogenarian nun and two other senior citizens, are also the same two business enterprises in charge of the planning and design of the new facility, UPF, to be built at Y-12 (estimated total security costs at Y-12 at the time of the breach in 2012 were $150 million). To date, costs for the planning and design of UPF have risen in 2012 to $6.5 billion from approximately $1.1 billion in 2004. Several months after the security breach at Y-12, these same two corporations, Bechtel Corporation and Babcock and Wilcox Company, were named as the primary construction contractors for UPF at Y-12. At this time the NNSA refuses to provide taxpayers with the construction costs of the UPF until 2015.”

Food for thought?

You can read more about how the break-in and its impact played out on



Like mall security doesn’t have enough to do this time of year …

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Rockport, Mass., woman was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct this week after called 911 to request that officers push her around a local mall.

The 35-year-old, complaining of a leg injury, asked mall security for a wheelchair. A guard pushed her to a store and then back to her car, according to a report in The Salem News. Once back her car, though, she apparently decided she wanted to do some more shopping and asked to be pushed back inside. Security declined, saying they were too busy to do so.

So what did she do? She called 911 “requesting that [police units] push her around the mall so she can shop,” according the newspaper.

When police arrived and told her she can’t call 911 for such “frivolous issues.” She then called to request EMS transport.

Next she went “out of control.” The police officer requested back-up, and the woman was taken into custody.



Black Friday revisited ...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Really, really?

A police officer trying to stop a Black Friday shoplifter suspect was dragged—with his arm slammed in a car door—through a parking lot in Chicago? A store manager maced a customer? People were trampled at a Walmart over a $50 tablet?

I like to consider myself a savvy shopper. But you won’t find me waiting in line on Thanksgiving night for supposed bargains. I didn’t go near a store on the Friday or weekend after Thanksgiving. My son might disown me for that, but I’m just looking out for my own wellbeing.

Experts, such as Gene Smith of the Loss Prevention Foundation and Rich Mellor, VP for loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, tell me that all in all, the extended Black Friday events last week went well.

Retailers were prepared, they said. I believe them. But what can you do, as they noted, when customers are out of control? How can you prepare for feisty consumers fighting over a single piece of merchandise? A driver stabbing someone over a parking place?

And this was a good Black Friday experience, my experts say.

Most retailers do everything they can to protect their employees and customers, but they still need these Black Friday events in order to make money.

Store employees have been trained, fortunately. But maybe it’s time for customers to be trained? Ha! Can we have screenings for customers to make sure they won’t punch someone out over a Furby or Zoomer Dog or Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow Blaster?

If this was a relatively calm Black Friday, I wouldn’t want to see a fierce one.






Newtown prepares for much-anticipated report with extra security

Monday, November 25, 2013

Schools in Newtown, Conn., deployed extra security Nov. 25 in preparation for the scheduled release of the report on last year’s shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

That deployment included increased police presence at schools with help from neighboring towns’ police forces, Interim Superintendent John Reed told parents in an email, according to a report from Reuters.
“By supporting one another, we will work our way through these challenging circumstances,” Reed said in the Reuters report.
On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Newtown home, and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he once attended, and killed 26 people before killing himself.

The official investigative report on the massacre had been expected much earlier, but was delayed a number of times. A Connecticut law passed earlier this year says that some evidence from the state's investigation will never be made available to the public, Reuters said.
The law, passed in response to the shooting, prohibits the release of photographs, film, video and other visual images showing a homicide victim if they can “reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of the victim or the victim's surviving family members,” Reuters reported.

In the aftermath of the shooting, a number of school security measures have been proposed and put in place, while many have gone by the wayside, experts say. You can read about that here.






Ram-raiding goes to the dogs

Friday, November 22, 2013

I wrote recently about the “ram raid” phenomena. Every day, at least three retailers are subject to this “smash-and-grab” type of robbery were an SUV or pickup truck crashes into a storefront. Then the people in the vehicle jump out, steal merchandise amid the frenzy and escape to a waiting car.

Ram raids usually happen at convenience stores, pawn shops, jewelry stores and the like.

Well, here’s a new twist, and I thank Rob Reiter, co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council, for calling it to my attention. As a pet lover, I am appalled.

A week ago in Chubbock, Idaho, someone smashed a car through the front doors of McKee’s Pet, Garden and Feed Center and made off with four Pomeranian puppies—two purebreds and two mixes—according to the Idaho State Journal. The dogs are valued at $1,400 dollars. The structural damage to the store also will be costly, owner Jim McKee told the newspaper.

McKee, who has been in business since 1976, said he believes the perpetrators visited the store during the day, picked out the puppies they wanted and returned later that night or early the next morning to destructively and illegally retrieve them. The puppies have yet to be found.

If you’re in the market for a Pomeranian, find one and the price seems too good to be true, think of Jim McKee.




TSA defends behavior recognition detection

Monday, November 18, 2013

The TSA has defended its behavior detection program, known as Screening Passengers by Observation Technique [SPOT], against a GAO report that recommends cutting $200 million in yearly funding for it.

TSA Administrator John Pistole, testifying before the House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation, said eliminating the program would result in more traveler frustration, including “fewer passengers going through expedited screening, increased pat-downs, longer lines.”

But some members of Congress said the money for SPOT would be better used elsewhere.

Some also questioned whether the program involved racial profiling. Pistole responded that "profiling has absolutely no place" in behavior detection, and allegations of profiling would be investigated thoroughly,” according to a report in USA Today.

"It's not good law enforcement. It's not good security work, from our perspective. And it's not constitutional," Pistole said. "Anybody who is found to be profiling will be investigated and dealt with appropriately."

Trained TSA SPOT officers are on the lookout for “anomalous” or suspicious behavior. Those exhibiting anomalous behavior, such as perspiration, fidgeting and restlessness, are put through a more rigorous screening process.

Last year, the keynote speaker at our TechSec Solutions conference spoke about behavioral recognition. Lauren Stover, director of public safety, security and communications at Miami International Airport, had at that time trained more than 30,000 people in the behavioral recognition program that she learned in Israel. She had nothing but good things to say about the program, as did Ray Davalos, MIA's building systems manager and co-keynote speaker.

"She knows you can't replace people's intuition" with technology, Davalos said of Stover. You can read about that here.

Meanwhile, with the amount of challenges/problems TSA faces and the amount of time Pistole finds himself testifying before Congress these days, it’s a wonder the agency gets anything done from the top down. And, I just read an article about plastic guns made by 3-D printers, virtually undetectable. When do you think Pistole will be on Capitol Hill again testifying about that?


How could this happen at a major hospital?

Monday, November 11, 2013

As my colleague Leah Hoenen and I discussed the article she wrote about the tragic death of a patient who went missing at San Francisco General Hospital and was found dead 17 days later in a hospital stairwell, we were flabbergasted to say the least.

We kept coming back to one question: How could this happen at a major metropolitan health-care facility? The 57-year-old woman was admitted with a urinary tract infection.

SFGH, a level-one trauma center with 598 beds serving 100,000 patients a year, contracts with the local sheriff’s department to provide its security. There’s no official hospital security director, no proprietary staff.

I called Bryan Warren, president of the International Association for Hospital Security and Safety, for some context around this event.

“Smaller and rural hospitals don’t always have good security. Sometimes maintenance people have to wear that hat. But at a large-scale hospital, it’s very unusual. It shocks the conscience,” Warren said in a phone interview, referring to SFGH.

It doesn’t appear that the sheriff’s deputies were up on hospital policies and procedures. There are missing patient protocols that need to be in place, Warren said. “There was a huge gap that resulted in a very tragic incident.”

It’s not unusual for major hospitals to supplement or complement their security teams with off-duty law enforcement, but to solely rely on them and not have them trained properly is a different story.

As Warren said, “Administrators take it for granted that because you’re a deputy you can do hospital security. But it’s a very different role, and until we get that point across as a profession, we’re going to continue to have these challenges.”

Thankfully, the hospital recently has made some security changes, and the sheriff has admitted flaws in his department’s system and is reassigning staff.

I hope Security Director News will never have to report on a similar event in the near future. Make sure you read Leah’s article here.



A big thanks to the veterans!

Friday, November 8, 2013

We here at Security Director News would like to give all veterans out there a big THANK YOU for your service to our country.

It’s reassuring to know that many veterans work in the physical security industry, and that more are on their way in.

I spoke recently to one of SDN’s “20 under 40” winners, a security director at a major installation, who I can’t name yet because we haven’t announced the winners. [But stay tuned for that … coming soon!] This winner is a veteran, as is his boss.

He said that when it comes to hiring for his team, he recruits ex-military, even to the point of going to local military offices to find out when personnel are returning to the area so that he can contact them about his job openings.

“We see value in hiring from the military,” this up-and-coming pro said. “The government spent a lot of money to train these guys.” Therefore, he knows they’re up for the task at his highly secured enterprise.

Jeff Hawkins at American Military University agreed that in many cases ex-military “are a perfect fit” for physical security positions. “We’ve supported the vets over the last 10 years and that’s a good idea,” he said during a recent interview.

So thanks again to all of you veterans in the industry, and outside of the industry, a personal thanks to my dad, uncles, father-in-law and grandfathers.












LAX shooting and a false sense of security at airports

Monday, November 4, 2013
Jeffrey Hawkins
American Military University

The attack on at a TSA security checkpoint Nov. 1 at Los Angeles International Airport seems to have shocked the media, politicians and the general public.

I truly hope that it did not come as a surprise to any law enforcement or security practitioner.

There is a false sense of security that has been created by investing billions of dollars in creating TSA and security checkpoints after 9/11.

Up until last week’s attack at LAX, many people really thought that they were safe from all threats at airports, and that could not be further from the truth.

In an article I wrote in July and several articles before that, I have expressed my concern with these TSA checkpoints, security in the terminal areas and the role of security and police.

Any metal detector/security checkpoint, be it at airports or elsewhere, without armed officers places everyone in jeopardy.

The fact that TSA has detected so many weapons over the years is laudable; however the fact that none of these weapons have been turned on them before the LAX incident is just lucky.

The initial thought of protecting airplanes from people getting on with weapons or explosives, as we experienced during the 9/11 attacks, is a good idea, but there is a distinct difference between a terrorist trying to “sneak” weapons or explosives onto a plane and an all-out assault.

And this applies to any security operation using metal detectors and security personnel.

One operation I was in charge of in Chicago years back was to provide security for a high-risk museum exhibit coming from another country. Even prior to the exhibit arriving, the museum was receiving threats.

The decision was made to deploy metal detectors for the three-month period that the exhibit would be in Chicago. It was a big decision at a big cost.

During the three months of the exhibit, we screened almost 400,000 people through three metal detectors. Every hour that the metal detectors were being used for screening the exhibit was staffed with nine off-duty armed police officers and 15 unarmed uniformed security officers; this was in addition to all other security personnel.

At the end of the three months the officers had confiscated 12 knives, six handguns and a stun gun.

Most of the people who had their weapons confiscated were honest people from other states who did not realize it was a felony to carry a handgun in Chicago even if you had a permit from another state. A couple of people were suspicious in nature and escorted out of the building, and the guy with the stun gun ran off once it was discovered.

But our role was to provide security, not to be the police and arrest or chase people; it was to keep everyone safe.

There was no way I would have staffed a metal detector checkpoint without armed officers being present—it doesn’t make sense when you are dealing with the public, especially in a high risk environment.

Case in point can be made with the incident in 2009 at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington. A man with a rifle walked in and immediately shot and killed a security officer point blank.

The death of that security officer was tragic, but the immediate response from other armed security officers at the metal detector checkpoint shows why staffing these points with armed officer is vital: Several officers drew their weapons and returned fire, shooting through the glass doors and striking the gunman several times, stopping him.

Had the gunman made his way past the checkpoint, thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, were potential victims.

As security practitioners it is our job to avoid creating a false sense of security, even at the cost of being politically incorrect on gun issues or having to tell our employers the truth about costs and risks.

Jeffrey Hawkins is manager, strategic initiatives, private security sector for American Military University. He is a former law enforcement supervisor who transitioned into the private security sector serving as chief security officer in the pharmaceutical, health care, cultural properties, religious and corporate industries.