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A day in Hollywood

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I had a chance to experience some of the California dream yesterday with a tour of Paramount Studios in Hollywood as part of the ASIS media preview tour.

The film and production history at Paramount is mind blowing to say the least and while I felt enamored with the surroundings, the security issues there are nothing to mess around with. As you might expect, everyone entering the Paramount property must be registered and checked in at the front gate, which I imagine could in itself be an overwhelming task. I've never been on a movie set, but I knows it takes a lot of people, from production staff to movie extras to make these things happen. Clint Hilbert, vice president of environmental health, safety and security for Paramount, is only four months into the job and has worked in several other industries including healthcare and manufacturing. He said that the major difference at Paramount is how quickly things change depending on what production is being shot. Security is always balancing the needs of different production crews housed in its 30 different stages while maintaining perimeter security of its 62 acre property. During its busiest times, Paramount is like a self-contained city except there are a lot of really, really good looking famous people walking around (Hilbert didn't say the good looking famous part, that's just what I'm imagining).

Anyway, along with Hilbert, Rick Madrid, investigator for security emergency services joined us for the tour. His job is basically to ensure that films aren't leaked out early (like what happened with the new Wolverine movie, which was Fox, not Paramount) and at each screening studios send personnel with night vision goggles to make sure no one is videotaping the movie from the audience. Madrid said that he works very closely with the IT department as well as the L.A.P.D to catch bootleggers.
And, in addition to touring the studio of Dr. Phil (yes, I sat in his chair, but no pictures allowed, sorry) and the facade of the New York set we also got a tour of the studios command center. Louis Lam, executive director of security services said the security department is in the process of relocating its facility to a different dedicated location to monitor the nearly 200 cameras on the property. The security department also has its own on-site fire department and its security officials are all trained in fire fighting techniques.

Oh, and because I know you're dying to know, no, I didn't see any movie stars while I was there, or at least I don't think I did.

ASIS preview tour, day one

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Good to be back online. My trip to Aruba was pretty amazing and I got lots of sunshine (maybe a little too much sunshine as I'm a light shade of red), but it was nice to completely unplug myself from life. I recommend to everyone to force yourself to turn off the cell phone and internet access for at least a few days, it can be quite invigorating. Anyway, I'm not quite back to my normal security routine and just arrived in Anaheim, Calif. to participate in the ASIS International media tour.

We have quite the security-filled itinerary for the next two days, which includes a tour of the Port of Long Beach's new $22 million command and control center. I've never toured a port (despite several attempts at my hometown of Portland) and am anxious and excited to see one of the largest ports in the country. Also included on the itinerary is a tour of the Kodak Theatre, and the command center for Hollywood and Highland Center and Paramount Studios. There's lots more on the schedule and I'll keep you updated. Right now I have go get ready for the first part which includes a tour on the Anaheim Convention Center (where ASIS 2009 will be held). Check back for more. LAS

Bumpy road ahead

Monday, May 4, 2009

There is a new security leader in place at Chicago Public Schools, and he has some ties to the President Obama.

Michael Shields, who is also first lady Michelle Obama's cousin, was named director of security for Chicago Public Schools. Shields is a 21-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Defender reported.

What interests me far more than Shields' ties to the first family is the very tough task he has in front of him. According to the Defender, 38 students in the public school system have been killed so far this year. Is it just me or is this a really high number?

Andres Durbak, previously the CPS director of security, resigned last week.

Photos of Amsterdam

Friday, May 1, 2009

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More pandemic

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I know, I know. Pandemic and swine flu information has officially reached the point of oversaturation but I came across this article that does a good job of outlining how companies are preparing for the, now liklehood, of a pandemic.

I sat in on a webinar yesterday about communication during crisis situations. Robert Chandler, a professor and communication specialist with the University of Central Florida, said findings ways to streamline communication is one part of the process. The other part, centers around being upfront and honest with your employees and the general population.

I mentioned this yesterday in my post about the Air Force One snafu, but we as a society — individuals and businesses — really need to start being more open about plans and procedures, whether it be security, operations or a photo opportunity. If this does official become a pandemic situation, it is not time to hide behind your desk. We all need to remember that truthful, well directed communication will be critical to limit panic and confusion if this situation escalates.

WHO raises pandemic alert

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Here's the latest from CNN:

* WHO raises influenza epidemic level from 4 to 5
* "Actions now should be taken with increased urgency," director-general says
* World Health Organizations reports 132 cases in 11 countries
* U.S. government working on vaccine, homeland security chief says

You've got to be kidding me

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When I saw the photos and the video of the 747 commonly known as Air Force On flying low over Manhattan, I was shocked. I was already aware that it was a publicity stunt gone horribly wrong — what blew my mind is that someone, in the White House, our good ole' U.S Government, approved this "mission." Some heads may roll on this one.
Have we removed ourselves from the events of 9/11 so much that an appointed official thought it would be no big deal to conduct this exercise? What is even more disturbing is that Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, directed local New York law enforcement to keep the mission a secret. In my mind, that is a bigger problem than the actual exercise.
But too often this is how our country works. The truth is masked, hidden or spun and people are never really sure of what is right and wrong. It's no wonder we as a nation have trouble trusting others. If this "mission" really needed to happen (at a cost of $330,000+, I don't think so but ...) the general public, area security directors, elected officials and local law enforcement and emergency responders should have been notified. That would have limited the chaos that occurred in Manhattan. Sometimes I think we are coming close to having true public-private partnerships in the United States, and then something like this happens.

Swine flu hits home

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Since returning from Amsterdam under the weather, I have been the target of many swine flu jokes from my friends, family and co-workers. So to set the record straight, I, thankfully, do not have swine flu.
Believe me, I was nervous. Being on a plane for a combined 18 hours in the past eight days meant that I could have come into contact with anything. OK, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic (wouldn't be the first time) but this potential pandemic is scary. Sure, what happens will happen but I am a believer in prevention. And to that effect, I am taking my vitamins, drinking plenty of fluids and washing my hands incessantly.
To stress out my family even more, my sister and her husband are in Mexico on vacation right now. Actually, I don't even know if you can call it vacation anymore because they are at the airport waiting for a flight to come home much earlier than either of them had anticipated.
Disappointing to have your vacation cut short? Yes, but I think they made a smart move to come home. There is still no cause for alarm, as Obama said yesterday, but the signs of a potential pandemic are there.
As a security professional, now is the time to review your pandemic and business continuity plans especially if you haven't updated them since the Avian Flu scare. And if you have a free minute, let us know how much a risk this swine flu is or will be.
Here's the latest news from CNN:
*Health officials confirm at least 98 cases worldwide, 50 in U.S.
*Thousands flood Mexican hospitals, scramble for masks
*WHO notes significant human-to-human transmission, a step toward pandemic
* Mexico health official: As many as 152 deaths may be from swine flu

The rest of The Netherlands trip

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm back on U.S. soil but not after falling ill in Amsterdam (just my luck) with the flu and now, a double ear infection. I think this is partially due to the very hectic schedule that we were subjected to that included bus and boat rides, two different hotels and nearly 30 presentations over three days. I'm still digesting all the information.

What is really striking about The Netherlands is its drive to have strong information sharing programs in place. I already talked about the cooperation between fire, security and safety at the Port of Rotterdam and the same initiative is apparent at the Netherlands Forensic Institute, which performs forensic examinations in a variety of disciplines that has a close working relationship with the Dutch police (they actually refer to them as a client). Because of this, and a host of new technology developments, the crime rate in the country is dropping. NFI also cooperates with other forensic institutes within and outside Europe to develop best practices and tackle issues such as research funding. Beirut and Lebanon are two areas that have requested forensic services from NFI. Officials from NFI are also in the middle of planning a trip to the United States to see how U.S. businesses can work with the Dutch agency.
NFI is also building a forensic field lab that will be used for education, instruction and practice and the development of investigation methods. It will include lecture rooms, a mock court, practice laboratories, a blood stain pattern analysis room and a room where it can imitate weather conditions for crime scene investigations.
By far my favorite part of the trip was the tour of security at Schiphol Airport that Miro Jerkovik, senior manager of security R&D; Gunther von Adrichem, project manager of security R&D; and Hans Geerlink, duty manager of security, facilitated. The program at Schiphol is incredible. It has 200 security checkpoints — the majority of those are located in the international terminal. Since the airport is located on one level, it has no way of differentiating incoming and outgoing passengers. International passengers are first check at customs and then are screened at the gate (Each international gate has its own screening checkpoint with metal detectors and profiling agents). Those flying within Europe are screened in a manner similar to the TSA's process and then enter into a centralized area where screening is not necessary at the gate.
As someone who has not flown out of Schiphol before, I was somewhat wary of this process but the day I left to head home I was more impressed than wary. Screening 300+ passengers at once is no easy task but you couldn't tell from the way the screeners were acting. They were professional, quick and focused on the job at hand. There were also five agents conducting behavior profiling interviews on each passenger. Even though I tried to look as sketchy as possible, my questions were limited to why I was in Amsterdam, how long, where did I stay, what portable electronic devices did I bring, did I pack my own bags and did anyone ask me to take anything on board the plane for them. As four agents spoke directly with passengers, and screened passports, another profiler oversaw the whole operation, mainly looking for suspicious behavior.
Even though this system seems to work well on the surface, Miro was quick to point out that "you never know what's coming next ... you make a strategy and then you have to change it."
Policies and procedures changing are part of life when it comes to airport security. From a traveler's perspective, this can be challenging (we've all seen it at U.S. airports). "Sometimes regulations are hard to handle and hard to make it reasonable from the passenger's [perspective] but it all makes sense," Gunther said. "There is a lot of effort and know-how into how to make it right."
To lessen confusion, Schiphol produces brochures for passengers when it makes changes to its program and distributes them accordingly. I think this is something we don't do enough of here in the states. Sure, there is signs outlining 3-1-1 but there are times screeners don't even talk to passengers to let them know details of the screening process and if you're like my Dad, who hasn't flown since the Reagan era, things can get a bit complicated.
There is a BIG focus on technology at Schiphol. The airport has 1,000 cameras in place and plans to increase that number to between 3,000 and 4,000 (a mixture of converted analog and IP cameras) over the next few years. The plan is to cover the airport with cameras and other sensors, such as video analytics, license plate recognition and facial recognition, for example. "The whole point is to use cameras, not people," Miro said.
Approximately, 15 locations in the airport have L3 millimeter wave scanning machines in use. Although the use of such machines have met with criticism in the United States, Gunther said it is rare that passengers opt out of being scanned with the machine.
"We can show that this type of security is superior to what we have today," Gunther said. "It can find smaller stuff than we used to."
Partnership is also a key initiative at Schiphol. When the airport was given responsibility for airport security in 2003, it contracted with contract security companies to help assist in the process. But the world of security has changed since then. In 2008, the airport began to focus on "partnering" with these companies instead of "contracting" them. But the goal is still the same: "Effective, efficient security at a realistic cost."
Touring the airport was a great way to end the trip (I could have done without the four-hour dinner afterwards). These press junkets are difficult to schedule as there are always a wide variety of journalists attending. On last week's trip, there were three physical security editors, one defense reporter, one IT security editor and a homeland security consultant to name six, so you can understand the programming challenge. Even so, my regret is that there was not more time during the trip to be able to bring real-time information back to our respective readers. I've always found that having an hour break before dinner or a little time after lunch to blog or write a story is very useful. And those breaks could have helped keep this tired little editor from falling ill or at least that is my theory.

Campus security can't win

Friday, April 24, 2009

From one end of the spectrum to the other. Here's an article accusing campus security officials of not doing enough to stop illicit drug use at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Last Monday was April 20 (4/20) and for those of you who have been out of college for a few years, that's the "holiday" for smoking marijuana. I guess the date refers to the code, 420, used by police officers in reference to dope smoking, but I don't know if that's true or not.

Anyway, local residents are apparently up in arms about security's lackadaisical approach to cracking down on students participating in this illegal holiday. It came to a head when the local newspaper published a story about the gathering of about 100 students to recognize the day which included a photograph of students apparently smoking from a papier mâché hookah shaped like an octopus. What residents are overlooking, I think, is how hard these students are working. I mean, it probably took them at least three art classes to construct that hookah.

Security officials are defending themselves saying they never saw anyone openly smoking (which I don't buy) and that's why they didn't apprehend anyone or issue citations or do whatever it is that security does when it catches kids smoking pot. Some residents took things a little far in accusing the security department of being incompetent.

"I am incredulous at the scofflaws running Skidmore College," Pastor Eleanor Stanton of the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church said.

'Scofflaws', really? Them are fighting words for sure. But, my favorite quote is in regards to how security is obviously encouraging drug use on campus:

"The message is clear: Little Johnny, go ahead and smoke dope," Richard Wirth, candidate for public safety commissioner, said.

Yeah, Little Johnny, that's right, smoke your dope. You're well on your way to becoming a scofflaw too.

Okay, so there's my Friday fun.

As a side note, for all my faithful blog followers, I'm headed out on vacation next week and then off to California the week after that for the ASIS preview media tour. I definitely won't be blogging while soaking up the sun in Aruba, but I'll keep my eyes open, as always, for all things security. I'll be sure to fill you in about the media tour, which includes a tour of the Port of Long Beach that my non-security friends think I'm just a little too excited about. Until then...