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And then there was one ...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm still pounding the pavement over here in The Netherlands (with very, very, very limited e-mail access. Quite difficult to keep up on things by the way) but there's some big news on the retail front today. NRF and RILA have agreed to merge. Here's the release:

WASHINGTON, DC -- The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) today announced that the executive committees of both associations have unanimously agreed in principle to a merger that will create a single trade association representing retail interests in the nation’s capital.

The new organization will provide enhanced value to both RILA and NRF’s members and help to ensure that the retail industry speaks with a one voice to advance the industry and its more than 15 million workers.

“This is an historic time for our industry. The challenges and opportunities before our members are unprecedented. Now is the right time to bring these associations together,” said RILA Chairman, Robert A. Niblock, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Lowe's Companies, Inc. and NRF Chairman Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III, Chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. in a joint statement.

According to Niblock and Ullman, in addition to enhancing member value, the new (and as yet unnamed) association will accrue substantial benefits to all members collectively, small and large,  including:

A unified and stronger voice on policy, communications, and public affairs issues in Washington, DC
A host of exciting member events and conferences open to the combined membership of NRF and RILA and, including NRF’s “Big Show” and RILA’s annual Logistics Conference scheduled for  January and February, 2010;
Focused educational offerings and operational services for independent retailers
A single point of integration and dialogue with state retail associations and business groups in state capitals across the United States; and
A fully-integrated staff.

Completion of the merger requires that both NRF and RILA submit to a thorough due diligence process. The details of the merger are being developed by representatives from RILA and NRF.  Both associations’ boards of directors must recommend the merger, and both memberships must approve it.

Both RILA and NRF expect the process to be completed by this summer.

I wonder what this means for both association's respective LP conferences as well as their LP executive staffers Joe LaRocca (who recently stepped into a new role. I'd link to the story here but it seems as though we are still having some search engine issues.), Paul Jones and Rhett Asher. From a cost standpoint, I would think there would be some consolidation but there's obviously some significant value in keeping these three LP powerhouse names on board.

Video shows excessive force by campus security?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When I spoke to Randy Nichols, the security director at Bowdoin College here in Maine, he said the number one security concern on his campus is alcohol. The use (and misuse) of alcohol on college campuses can make a fairly routine incident into a serious security matter.

That is exactly what seemed to have happened last week at Colby College (another prominent Maine liberal arts college). Based on several accounts, security was called to deal with a student who had allegedly passed out on a couch after a school-sponsored dance. As the EMTs were checking him out, two students interfered (my guess is they were trying to convince them not to take their friend to the hospital). Security was called and students were handcuffed and arrested. Well, that seems pretty standard security practice until you see this video.

After the incident, students protested on campus claiming that security officers used excessive force. In the video, the kid is openly bleeding and doesn't seem to be struggling, yet two officers have him pinned down. It's hard to determine whether excessive force was used and an investigation is pending. However, if I were to guess, I would say that alcohol certainly fueled this situation. It seems like the officers may have reacted too strongly to the situation, but a large group of potentially drunk and belligerent college kids could definitely escalate into a serious security situation.

**EDITOR'S NOTE: Colby College announced it has named an independent investigator out of Boston to evaluate the conduct of the security officers in question, according to this article in the Boston Globe. Apparently there are some questions of racism as the two students who were arrested are African-American and Hispanic and the security officers are white. No details on how long the investigation is expected to take.

The Netherlands, Day 2

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The big themes of yesterdays meetings were balancing security with an 'open' environment and public-private partnerships, as I so surmised.
At the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Serv Wiemers, director of investment climate and promotion for the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, described The Netherlands as the "gateway to Europe" and explained that the country's culture is to be as open as possible. "We are proud to be open," he said, "but of course, security is an issue. We need to find ways to combine security with this open environment." He said the country's perception of security changed following the events of 9/11 and cases of political and animal extremism.
Right now there are 10,000 foreign companies operating here, including Exxon, Coca Cola, Dow, Cisco and IBM. Even Starbucks, which only has about four stores here, set up roasting and storage facilities in the Port of Rotterdam.
Speaking of the port, that was the next stop on yesterday's tour. J. Sjaak Seen, chief safety and operations, with the Rotterdam area Fire Department, discussed the area's "long history of coordination." In 1998, in fact, the city started to combine efforts with local agencies because "if we didn't, we'd get in a lot of trouble." Other areas were not so forward thinking. An explosion at a firework factory in 2007 destroyed a neighborhood and killed 27 people. This served as a "wake-up call. They were asking how do we work together and how should we communicate."
Twenty-five safety areas were developed to integrate police, fire, medical and emergency personnel. Legislation was also drafted to streamline efforts and create organizational boundaries between these parties (that bill will be handled in the next few weeks, Seen said, and is expected to be official then.)
Private companies are involved in this initiative, including many chemical firms in the area. A regional dispatch center funnels information to police, fire and EMS in the event of an incident. Seen said they are working on the project to be able to link video and other sensor data to it. "This is still growing and expanding," he said. "Verifying information is the most critical thing you need. [We are] busy all the time working with these proactive movements."
Safety is a main priority at the port for obvious reasons and others. "If the harbor is not safe enough, economics will drop. The Netherlands would than suffer from lack of safety measures," he said.
J.C. Lems, director/chief harbor master/port security officer for the Port of Rotterdam, said port security is more than the terrorism component. It is also focused on small scale incidents, such as the number of suicide attempts that occur each year.
But the big issue continues to be keeping aware of what is entering and exiting the port on a regular basis. "The most important thing is who and what is at the terminal. Each terminal conducts an individual risk analysis," he said. There are currently 160 terminals at the Port of Rotterdam.
It currently scans 5 percent to 10 percent of its cargo with fixed portals as well as mobile scanning equipment. These containers are chosen for screening based on a risk analysis conducted by Customs. "Customs used to be heavily focused on goods," Lems said, "but now that has changed to how processes are secured."
In the Harbor Coordination Center, video walls are used to provide officers with situational data. The walls list each ship that is coming into or leaving the port as well as others anchored offshore. The data is received from the boats themselves, who are required to notify the port of their presence, or through radar. On the video wall, each boat is coordinated in a selected color to let officers know their risk-status. Red, for example, means dangerous goods are on board, brown dictates explosives, blue indicates a tanker with liquid cargo and green show these vessels carry no dangerous goods. "It is important to know what boats and cargo are in the area," he said. "We don't have a contained area. We do all we can to keep it safe."

Hijacker captured, but security questioned

Monday, April 20, 2009

A gunman who hijacked a plane in Jamaica yesterday has been captured and all the hostages on board were released uninjured, according to this USA Today story. Apparently the man "forced his way through airport security" and onto the plane and demanded to be flown to Cuba (where the plane was already headed, I believe). Authority's are saying the 20-year-old man was "mentally challenged" and from the bare bones of the story it doesn't sound like this was an organized hijacking attempt (although he did know what plane was leaving for Cuba). However, I would dare to question how he got through the security line with a gun and then no one could stop him before he got through the gate onto the plane? I've been to the airport at Montego Bay, Jamaica and remember it being pretty small, but I do remember there was a lot of security present (mostly in the form of officers with sniffing dogs - it is Jamaica after all). It's definitely a scary situation, especially since there were weapons involved, but I think it brings up a more important question of airport security and access control.

The Netherlands, day 1

Monday, April 20, 2009

I arrived in the Netherlands yesterday for my tour of selected security installations — Port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport to name two — and security innovators here. It's part of a push by the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency to showcase what the country is doing to secure its critical sites as well as what security technologies companies here are developing. Last night at dinner, Dorien van Boven, director of public relations for the NFIA, was telling me that the agency plans one press junket per year, each focusing on a different area of innovation. Prior focuses include biomedical and logistics. She said the security group is the largest group they have had in the four years NFIA has been conducting these trips.
One of the things I was told would be most interesting over the next few days is the private-public partnerships (I know, I know — one of my favorite phrases) that have been developed to best protect infrastructure, assets and people. I'm looking forward to hear more about the model developed here over the next three days.

Who goes there?

Friday, April 17, 2009

In the spirit of Friday, I like to post something a little silly, but still relevant to the world of security. This week's post came at a most unexpected time while I was babysitting my favorite two year old (I told you security really does follow me everywhere). Anyway, so we were winding down for the night and his absolute favorite show is the Backyardigans. Since I don't have kids and don't have cable, this series was completely new to me and low and behold this episode just happened to be about museum security guards. Both Seamus and I were enraptured by this, but probably for different reasons (he really likes the dancing part).

I had a discussion with Kevin O'Leary, the director of security at Maine General at a conference last year about his objection to the use of the term "guard." He feels very passionately about this topic and wrote a piece titled "'Don't call our security officers 'guards'" and I'm sure would not appreciate this episode or its depiction of security. Take a look, seriously, it's worth the view.

Just in case you missed some of those lyrics, I took the time to transcribe them for you:

Well better do my rounds
and make sure the museum is safe and sound

I'm on guard and I feel alright
gotta keep my eyes open stay alert all night
‘cause if there's any thieves in this old museum
I’ll have to chase them down, so I need to see ‘em

Look at all this ancient valuable stuff
I must protect it all is so I gotta be tough
I gotta stay stay awake and stay alert
with my security badge and my security shirt
but they don’t have a chance when I’m on the job
because I know how to chase them off yesiree bob

Not exactly the best message to send kids about the world of security, huh? Although, I have to say I think it's more constructive than all those security guard (I mean officer) movies hitting theaters. I mean, at least here they can dance, right?

More facial data

Friday, April 17, 2009

I posted this article on South Korea's biometrics in video surveillance study yesterday but here is 3VR's official blog post on the study, which the 3VR was ranked No.1 in accuracy. The images, and corresponding videos in Korean, are especially interesting too.

TWIC deadline is officially here

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So it's been years in the making folks, but we've finally reached the actual deadline for TWIC (well sort of, see here about the 'flexibility' granted some ports). While ports around the country have been rolling out TWIC for months now, the final implementation happened yesterday on April 14. Which makes me wonder, who chooses these dates anyway? If they were really thinking about the little guy, would they have picked the day before tax day? Talk about adding stress to people's lives. I'm sure it was some legislative-type who would never dream of filling out his or her own 1040.

Anyway, I spoke to the Jill Taylor, deputy director of homeland security for the Port of Los Angeles, for a story about field testing the biometric element of TWIC. The Port of L.A. implemented TWIC yesterday and she didn't want to talk about the roll-out so much. I probably could've gotten more out of her in terms of the expected transition to TWIC, but the answer is always pretty much the same - something along the lines of a smooth transition.

Turns out at least one article says that the transition isn't smooth sailing. The San Gabriel Tribune reports that more than 250 workers were denied entry to the port yesterday because they didn't have a TWIC card. Most of those denied were truck drivers, delivering and picking up goods. The Coast Guard does allow ports to escort individuals without TWIC cards on port property, but that's probably not viable for a huge port like L.A. who receives thousands of trucks a day and likely doesn't have the security personnel to escort many of the TWIC-less truckers.

"It's just chaos down there," said Dick Schroeder, owner of Bay Harbor Transport, who had several truck drivers denied entry to the port complex. "This is just ridiculous."

But, in all fairness, when you're talking about 67,000 workers and truck drivers in total, 250 really isn't so bad - that's less than 4 percent - I hardly think that equates to chaos. Just wait until they put in those biometric readers, now that's gonna be chaos.

Columbine: 10 years later

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We are busy putting the final touches on our May issue but I wanted to quickly post this article from USA Today on the truths behind the Columbine massacre. It's an interesting read and as I scrolled through it this morning, I came to the conclusion that no one can really be blamed for releasing inaccurate information. Any one of us would have hated to be in the position to investigate the shootings deaths of 13 high school students (15 if you include the gunman) and the reasons behind it. Any of us probably would have stumbled along the way as well.

The article outlines who Harris and Klebold really were and their true plans for that April day. To this day, it's still shocking to me, this event that first defined school security.

Even though we all wanted immediate answers at the time, the fact is that only time provides this kind of in-depth information.

Why is everyone always picking on me?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Well, there's a big security issue dominating the airwaves (NPR). News organizations (Boston Herald, OC Weekly) are talking about it, partly due to an op-ed piece submitted by AlliedBarton. The issue: Mall security guards are being misrepresented by Hollywood's portrayal of the "dopey" mall cop.

I know some of you saw Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which was released late last year. And if that wasn't enough mall security humor for you there is this weekend's Observe and Report, starring Seth Rogan, the hilarious guy from Knocked Up.

Do these movies portray mall guards in a less than perfect light? Yes. Does it harm the industry? Maybe. The public's view of security? Potentially. Is it funny? I guess you'll have to judge for yourself.

Hey, it must be a slow news day. I can imagine the budget meeting now.
Editor: Jimmy, what do you have for front page?
Jimmy: Well, we could lead with the pirate/hostage situation in Somalia especially since the captain being held hostage is from our great city.
Editor: Been done too many times. Next idea?
Jimmy: There was the job fair that stopped traffic yesterday. Nearly 10,000 people showed up.
Editor: Eh, that's not news — everyone knows were in the middle of a recession!
Jimmy: Well, there is that movie coming out this week about security guards.
Editor: That comedy that is like Paul Blart. Hmmm ... we could write an article on how Hollywood is picking on security guards. Perfect! Make some calls.

Hey, I don't condone making fun of any type of security guard. I have complete respect for them and the jobs they do on a daily basis, especially in llight of the fact that malls are an active shooter target. But let's be real: Every profession has been made fun of in the movies at one time or another. Journalists, editors, CEOs, police, you name it. We're are in the middle of some very tough economic times and we have to laugh sometimes and sometimes, that is going to be at someones expense.

We can't take ourselves too seriously. If we did, then we'd really be in trouble.