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Discovery Channel gunman takes workplace violence to a new level. Are you truly prepared?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I can't even keep up with the number of incidents involving workplace violence lately. While there are a number of themes that apply to most security professionals, preparing for and preventing workplace violence is one that seems to cross all sectors and should be at the top of the list for everyone charged with security. And, for the most part, I think it is. However, there is only so much one can do.

I just read a series of articles about the frightening attack at the Discovery Channel headquarters, where a man stormed the building with firearms and explosives strapped to his body. He took several hostages during the four-hour standoff, in which he was eventually shot and killed by the SWAT team.

Apparently, this man had threatened the television channel before over the quality of its programming and in February 2008 he had been charged with disorderly conduct for staging a protest. From that incident he had been ordered to stay away from the headquarters, but that restraining order ended two weeks ago. None of the hostages were hurt.

However, the extreme nature of this incident should certainly be concerning for security professionals. While I think most organizations have addressed violence in their policies and procedures, to what level should they go to be prepared?

I recently posted what I thought was a really interesting article about AutoZone's effort to prepare for an active shooter in its facilities. They have even gone so far as to designate "safe rooms" that can be barricaded from the inside and are stocked with medical supplies and food and water for those who can't evacuate the building. They also have an extensive training program for employees including a game they refer to as the "what if?" game. Basically, it's an exercise to get employees to think about how they would react if, for example, an armed shooter came down the hall right now. What would you do? Where would you hide? Where are the closest two exits? Actually, it's something I've started doing regularly myself and coincides with what my grandfather taught me as a kid. He was a Cincinnati firefighter and I remember him quizzing me when we'd go out about what I would do if there was a fire. He said that if you're in a restaurant/bar always go out through the kitchen. There's always an exit back there and a better chance you'll get out quicker than trying to fight through the crowd to go out the main entrance. Thanks for being so on top of it, Grandpa.

But I wonder: Is AutoZone's approach to workplace violence over the top? I'm guessing most organizations don't go this far, but should they? What are you doing to make sure that in the worst case scenario your organization and its employees are truly prepared?

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.