Sometimes those of us involved in the security industry get a little high and mighty about what we consider as having a superior knowledge and understanding of security. And, largely for good reason, of course. If you think and talk about security all day, you're likely to be more aware of security measures than the average Joe.
However, I found a recent speech by Janet Napolitano to be fairly humbling as she discussed the importance of engaging the public in matters of security.
“For too long, we’ve treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than as an asset in our nation’s collective security,” Ms. Napolitano said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “This approach, unfortunately, has allowed confusion, anxiety and fear to linger.”
During her speech, she encouraged voluntary participation in local emergency preparedness programs and said it was important that Americans be educated on how to be more aware of terrorism risks. But she acknowledged that at present there was no educational program in place.
Image that? Imagine a public who participated with their local police departments or even within their businesses about matters of emergency preparedness? I'm sure that if people knew what to expect and understood their role, events like Hurricane Katrina would have been far less devastating. I find the concept of the public as an asset rather than a liability quite refreshing. I know it sounds lofty, but wouldn't it be beneficial for our national security program to offer the public some sort of tax credit, for example, in exchange for participating in a few nights of local emergency preparedness training? Crazy talk, I know.
Also during her speech, Napolitano talked about the importance of fusion centers (which I've had a recent infatuation with, by the way, and am flying into Anaheim early on Sunday to make sure I can get a tour of the Norwalk Fusion Center as part of ASIS International). If I wasn't working in this industry, I would never have heard of such a thing, but why shouldn't the public know more about this? Why shouldn't there be a public line into these centers where members of the public can report suspicious activity? I know that's a lot to read into for one speech, but I think these are the kinds of discussions those charged with security the public must have in order to even come close to reaching a true national security program.