D.C. Agency to Review Businesses' Defenses; Smaller Companies Vulnerable to Effects of Major Terrorist Attack

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Byline: Tom Ramstack, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The D.C. Office of Homeland Security is preparing to assess the vulnerability of the area's business community to a major terrorist attack.

The agency is seeking consultants for a $4.9 million Citizen Education Campaign that includes an effort to find weak spots in the private sector's defenses and recommend ways to prepare for an attack.

The proposals are due at the end of the month, and the study is scheduled to begin in the fall.

Although information on preparedness of the business community is sketchy, early indications show that smaller companies would be least able to withstand loss of life, property damage and prolonged loss of business that could result from an attack. They also are least likely to invest in security measures.

"It's not that they're less willing; they have fewer resources to do it," said Caroline Cunningham, a vice president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

The board classifies more than 80 percent of the Washington area's businesses as small.

The Conference Board, a New York business-research group, reached similar conclusions in its study of midsized companies with annual revenue of $20 million to $1 billion.

The biggest of the 100 companies surveyed considered their security expenses as a sound investment, but the smaller companies think of them as a burden, according to the Conference Board report.

"Most surveyed companies, however, report little increase in security spending since 9/11," the report said.

Big budgets are not needed for many security measures, the board of trade said. The measures include:

*Developing a business-continuity plan. …