Homeland Security in the Private Sector. (Property Management Network: Special Advertising Section)

Article excerpt

The private sector is a key Component of the national effort to protect our homeland from future terrorist attacks. Not only do private concerns provide most of the country's goods and services, but they are the owners of 85 percent of the nation's infrastructure. The private sector also serves as a well-spring of the resources needed to protect the United States: information systems, vaccines, detection devices, decontamination equipment, personal protection equipment, and training and practice centers. Finally, private sector facilities will often be the targets of future terrorism, from critical infrastructure--such as transportation systems and utilities--to high-density population centers, like towering office buildings and sports stadiums.

A quick review of terrorist incidents at the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and the anthrax events that followed, reveal a legacy of challenges for private sector building owners and managers, security officers, and crisis response planners. The World Trade Center, for instance, was the globe's largest office complex, and the Pentagon is the largest office building under one roof. The thousands of anthrax hoaxes, in addition to the actual incidents, occurring between early October and December 2001 also set record-breaking numbers. These events offer emergency planners useful insights for dealing with the challenges posed by future terrorist attacks.

Fine concrete dust, smoke, heat, toxic fumes, hazardous materials, and other dangers in the air engulfed buildings proximate to the World Tower Center through broken windows. Sprinkler systems triggered by the intense heat poured large amounts of water into the airborne witches brew, destroying equipment, merchandise, and business records and producing over time a variety of health hazards in the form of mold.

At the Pentagon, large amounts of unburned jet fuel presented an explosive and toxic-substance hazard. At the crash site, it was like working in a "brick oven" due to the stone building and slate roof.

In dealing with the anthrax events, it was difficult to assess where emergency response started and where it ended. With anthrax spores presenting invisible hazards, the unknown became the greatest challenge.

What are some of the most important lessons learned? Building managers, security specialists, and others in the business world should see themselves as the "first" of the first responders in case of a terrorist attack.

They need to be able to take all of the actions necessary to protect their building, property, and personnel until relieved by local first responders (fire, police, emergency medical). In most cases, this private sector response period can be calculated in minutes to hours, depending on the severity and scope of the terrorist attacks.

National Strategy for Homeland Security

The national strategy released in July 2002 (see Additional Resources) recognizes clearly that "private companies are a key source of new ideas and innovative technologies that will enable us to triumph over the terrorist threat." In addition to encouraging a close partnership between the government and private sector in eliminating any existing vulnerabilities in the Nation's critical infrastructure, the strategy encourages businesses to conduct their own risk assessments and invest in systems to protect key assets. "The internalization of these costs," the national strategy states, "is...an essential safeguard of economic assets for shareholders, employees, and the Nation."

Private businesses spent about $55 billion per year on private security before the September 11 attacks and, according to estimates by the Council of Economic Advisors, the annual costs of fighting terrorism may increase those costs by 50 to 100 percent. Increases in the cost of insurance premiums have already been more dramatic, especially for workers' compensation. …