Security Imperatives

The recent London bombings, both the successful terrorist attack on July 7, 2005 (7/7) and the failed one on July 21 two weeks later, underscore the fact that public places are far more vulnerable to terrorist atrocities than family homes. Yet we are miserly in spending money for public places in contrast to what we spend to give adequate security to one’s family. This vulnerability of mass transit means is usually at grievous human cost to the “extended family” i.e. the community, as well as the costs of material replacement and the economic disruption caused.

The huge cost associated with terror includes the cost of managing the crisis, liability and legal fees, enhanced insurance premiums, etc, this is besides lost revenues and impact on the morale of employees as well as the lost confidence of customers. Whether it be governments, organizations, individuals, etc security must be thought in terms of total cost, not simply the direct costs of putting a security system in place. Accountants are notoriously penny-wise pound foolish, they only tend to see the narrow picture of direct costs. On too many occasions, security services are at the mercy of “purchasing departments” who by practice look at the lowest price, that is par for the quality they get, at grievous cost sometimes. What one saves in pennies, one can lose in both men and material many multiple times over. Even knowledgeable, experienced senior executives are susceptible to this blinker mentality”. In a recent meeting when one of the security company owners ventured that the financial institutions could not really comment on the quality of the manpower as they were looking for the lowest price, in his words “you get what you pay for”, the assembled senior executives of the financial institutions were outraged. One may well ask what about their clients and employees who may face an incident of an armed robbery which could turn violent, or even a bomb explosion? In this country there is no culture for “liability expenses” and in the present country security environment “public relations” is given no place on the pedestal of concerns. Constrained to cut corners, security company managers look to cheaper alternatives in manpower, this is exploited by predators who have time to reconnoiter weaknesses. When security parameters are breached, the media pillories the security companies from pillar to post for criminal negligence in providing adequate security, no thought is given to the culpability of purchase managers at compromising security by “going cheap”.

Individuals and organization with little (or no) knowledge of automation and/or electronics usually resist change from manual methods. A natural fear of the unknown is not abnormal. While many organizations cope by hiring specialist individuals or shoving technology down the throats of existing personnel, the correct approach should be to institute incentive-based training, grading people to different levels of modernity according to their capability and potential. Statistics show that once over their latent fear rendering them helpless and ineffective before the technical unknown, a gradualized method of training yields surprisingly positive results and a high percentage of individuals quickly become adept at it. Moreover security apparatus have become increasingly user-friendly over the years. All security company personnel must have adequate firearms training, including regular live firing. Because of the lack of proper oversight procedures, this aspect is again given mere lip-service, untrained guards without adequate experience of handling firearms are a hazard, not for criminals or terrorists but for themselves and those they are meant to protect.

Little (or no) concern is given to “employees verification”. This is true not only for security personnel of the security companies but for all general employees with a security cordon. Partly this is a responsibility of the security company but mostly it should be the responsibility of the firm or organization that requires security. The tragedy is that other than a few foreign diplomatic missions, and that too of developed counties facing the acute threat of terrorism not only in their home countries but to their personnel and property abroad, there is virtually no background checks of the employees, whether on the payroll or out-sourced. In present security terms not only the depth of religious beliefs but sect and ethnicity are important to know, there has to be constant monitoring to ensure “loyalties” are not subverted. It requires only one heavily armed employee, or loaded with explosives in today’s suicide bombing environment, to get past an untrained, inexperienced security guard with or without adequate security equipment, for lives to be lost and extensive damage to material. Security managers responsible for security must be the ones responsible for purchasing security, whether it be manpower or equipment. Security purchases cannot follow standard purchase procedures, that “transparency” would mean information to would-be attackers. Strict parameters must be laid down for evaluation of any tender bid, e.g. 70-80% of the marks given for the professionalism and expertise of the security providers, whether manpower and/or equipment, and 20-30% for the price offer, striking a reasonable balance between both.

Statistics show that very few incidents of other criminal or terrorist attacks take place against well-guarded facilities. The attackers almost always choose “soft” targets where there are inherent weaknesses in security. It should be taken for granted that no location will be attacked which “scouts” have not previously surveyed or have extensive knowledge of. One way of creating a protective shield is make all employees aware of security needs, this security awareness will have a deterrent effect on not only those engaged in observing the facility but in augmenting the available security force in time of need.

There is a lot of security equipment around but caution must be the watchword as for their effectiveness. The security budget has to be adequately balanced to ensure quality manpower is backed by adequate security equipment. Since there no one has an unlimited budget, a thorough evaluation of needs against budget availability must be made. Wherever manpower can be replaced economically by electronic means it must be done so, today’s remote CCTV also provides absolute intelligence. All 7/7 and 21/7 bombers were quickly identified by careful processing of available CCTV footages on DVDs.

It is necessary to have a constant two-way flow of adequate real-time security information, any security shield would otherwise be vulnerable to potential security threats. Wherever and wherever government intelligences can, they should without compromising natural security, share real-time intelligence with private security entities. Security organizations must attempt to assemble the best possible group of professionals. The best way to minimize security threats is to war-game possible scenarios, this can be done only by well informed, dedicated and capable security professionals forming a responsive “think tank”. In Pakistan, security imperatives must be given due importance or we will remain susceptible to both criminal and terrorist activity.