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emergency planning

How security companies can help during emergency situations

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

By Marian Pierre, CEO and founder of CGI Protects

The reality of hurricanes, flooding and other unforeseen disasters have unfortunately become a part of doing business today. I lost everything during Hurricane Katrina: My home, everything at my office and I couldn’t believe the devastation in the city. Then I started getting calls from employers and employees, who were dispatched to every part of this country, and were desperate to save their business. I would like to share my lessons learned from Katrina to help businesses prepare for emergency evacuation and show how security companies can aid their community in rebuilding.

Prepare Your Business
Plan to stay in business by talking to your employees and preparing a plan to protect your investment.
- Prepare a disaster protection and recovery plan or hire a security consultant to help determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating.

- Utilize an IP video surveillance system so you can see video from your business or home from almost anywhere in the world

- Plan ahead to hire security guards to help run contingency plans including:
◦ Business site protection
◦ Transportation needs
◦ Asset and fund transfers
◦ Executive and personnel protection

- Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store is not accessible:
◦ Consider if you can run the business from a different location or from your home.
◦ Develop relationships with other companies to use their facilities in case a disaster makes your location unusable.

- Learn about programs, services and resources at U.S. Small Business Administration.

In addition to protecting your business, also consider how you can aid your community and employees. The importance lies within the fact, that if and when such a disaster occurs, workers may be located far away from friends, family and home, leaving them stuck. So it’s important to help employees think about a personal emergency disaster plan for their families. Find a security company that has experience in handling emergencies and are ready to help your community from armed security to basic logistics and assistance.

As the CEO of CGI Protects for 17 years, Ms. Pierre helped the company rebound after Hurricane Katrina. Throughout her professional career, she has been devoted to serving her community and empowering women through politics, education, social involvement, and economics through an organization she founded, Women Organized Mobilized for Empowerment Now (W.O.M.E.N.) Inc.

Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear threats spur business contingency plans into action


YARMOUTH, Maine—Events in Japan continue to unfold after a catastrophic earthquake, which was recently upgraded to a magnitude 9.0, followed by a devastating tsunami on March 11.

Government's ability to screen employees goes all the way to the Supreme Court

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On Sept. 5 the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case regarding the ability of the government to conduct background security checks of its employees and contractors.

According to this article in The Washington Times, NASA scientists and engineers brought the suit, arguing their rights to privacy were violated by a question on a government form asking whether they had received drug treatment.

In the case, NASA v. Nelson, a group of 28 long-term contract employees at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California have sued to stop the space agency from asking whether they received drug treatment within the past year. Their attorneys argued that asking the question violated rights of privacy for their clients, whom NASA had already deemed to be low security risks.

If there's any security procedures in place that are absolutely critical to the safety and security of employees, it's conducting background checks. I'm pretty sure most security directors would agree. While a considerable part of this case is about what types of questions the government can ask employees, it is worrisome to have the government possibly limited in how it can screen people.

The government's attorney, acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, said government background checks are necessary and widespread. He warned of a slippery slope in which siding with the employees in the case at hand could lead to all sorts of challenges and ultimately undermine the effectiveness of these important security protocols.

However, based on these initial arguments it looks like the Supreme Court justices will be siding with the government on this one. Stay tuned.

Hotel security system fails, alarm co. sued, but how much blame should security dept. have?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I began my security reporting career focusing on the third-party monitoring side of the industry as the associate editor of our sister publication, Security Systems News. One of the biggest issues for that beat was ensuring that these third-party companies provided adequate monitoring of residential and commercial customers, which, when you have thousands and thousands of accounts, is by no means simple. (Check out Dan's blog and the monitoring page for continuous reporting on this sector).

And every so often a story would hit the mainstream media that a customer had been paying for an alarm system to be monitored, but it wasn't working properly. This, of course, was never good news and contributed to the public's skepticism about the security industry.

Now that I live on the end user side of life, I can better understand the frustration of not getting what you're paying for. Take, for example, this story out of New Jersey where a hotel employee was viciously attacked while on duty. The woman managed to hit a silent panic alarm during the course of the attack to alert police, but guess what? It wasn't working and the police never showed. Fortunately, the woman managed to escape to a guest room, but sustained significant injuries and trauma from the incident.

The article points out that the alarm company, Vanwell Electronics, who installed and then outsourced the monitoring of the system, was aware that it wasn't working properly, but didn't do anything to fix it.

"Vanwell knew for 16 weeks the (security) line wasn’t properly connected and did nothing about it," said her lawyer, David Mazie.

Yep, for 16 weeks it wasn't working. Disgraceful, I know.

The alarm company has agreed to pay the woman $2.5 million to settle the lawsuit. I suppose it's good to know that these companies who aren't doing their jobs (and are making everyone in the security business look bad), are being forced to pay up.

But, my question to the end user community is: How much responsibility do you have in ensuring that your security systems are working properly? Most end users employ some sort of integrator to put these systems in place, but ultimately isn't it the responsibility of the security department to make sure the job is done right? What type of policies do you need to have in place to make sure things are working properly?

While I agree with this settlement, that it is largely the fault of the security company for not taking care of this problem, what responsibility does the hotel security department have in this? It is, after all, the hotel's assets and the hotel's people at risk.