Oct 1, 2001 12:00 PM

The numbers tell the story. 68 miles of steel. 12,000 miles of electric cable. 828 emergency exit doors. 600,000 square feet of glass. 300 security cameras. Nine chapels of six different faiths. Two airplanes.

As American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans were faced with an unreal reality. A nation ! forever confident ! suddenly, unexpectedly, was no longer invincible.

It didn't stop there. Shocked, the nation held its breath as American flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, and United flight 93, aimed at the nation's capital, crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Weeks later, the story is still unfolding, and still, more numbers: 279 confirmed dead (at press time), more than 6,000 missing, $40 billion in emergency aid. On Sept. 11, as the face of a nation changed, so did the face of security

If we had only known then what we know now ! what could we have done differently? Where did the nation go wrong? Where did the security industry fail? As government officials and security experts sort through the details, such questions arise.

Just two weeks after the attack, law enforcement had taken more than 300 suspects into custody. Officials were tracing thousands of leads and tips from a myriad of sources ! the majority originating from cautious citizens and skeptical bystanders. Given the many eyes and ears coming forward as witnesses, one might wonder why no one was able to see or hear the terrorists ! or stop them ! before they made their move.

Donald Snow, a professor of political science at the University of Alabama, says it is shocking that no one caught on sooner.

"One of the things that struck me is how fast we have identified all of these [terrorists]. If we can track those people within a couple of hours, couldn't we have done that when they were getting on the airplanes?" he asks. "Hindsight is always much improved over foresight, but nonetheless, I find it absolutely striking."

With such a precise terrorist operation, were there any signals to trigger suspicion beforehand?

"This group did little to hide their identities, which is probably what made it so difficult to pick up this plan to begin with," says Charlie LeBlanc, managing director of Air Security International, a Houston-based security and intelligence company. "They were open. They were in our own backyard. These were our neighbors. It was done so overtly, that up until the events of [that] morning, nobody really caught on."

So it seems. The terrorists apparently followed every appropriate procedure directly in line with federal guidelines prior to boarding the planes. They bought tickets. They passed through security. They had no illegal weapons (until the attack, razor blades, boxcutters and knives were previously permitted not only in passenger's luggage, but also in carry-on items aboard the plane). They even passed right under a CCTV camera, installed no more than a foot beyond a security metal detector. Still, nobody caught on.

Predictability may be a key issue. What enables us to prepare may also lull us into creatures of habit. How we expect events to unfold is not always what our industry should be looking for.

Security consultant G.F. Bryant, executive director of the World Institute for Security Enhancement, comments: "It's not like this is something we haven't analyzed. The government had not only been aware of this possibility, but had done training and done models and actually exercised the models in the past. It's just the degree to which this was done [that] caught everyone off guard."

Slapped in the face with an entirely new perspective, the industry sees challenges that once seemed big, now appearing small by comparison ! yet no less important. In the big picture of security, starting over seems inappropriate, since many original strategies did not fail, and most were not designed to prevent such a tragedy in the first place. At any rate, the industry has been jolted into reevaluating, rethinking and replacing the measures it has in place to protect a nation's businesses and institutions.

The job of security has suddenly been expanded to include issues of civil rights and freedom. "When you're trying to increase security, one of the first casualties is civil rights," Bryant says. "And that's going to be a concern."

Those changes may be viewed as invasive, intrusive and disruptive to everyday life ! inconveniencing every aspect of normalcy until our nation is once again secure.

But after such a loss, there is no quick-fix. As the industry has learned, no alarm, no intrusion detection, no access control can stop every plan, especially one so strategic.

"I think any good security expert needs to think like a terrorist ! or think like a criminal if it is a criminal matter ! and that's how we're able to find weaknesses and shore them up," Leblanc says.

Charged with such a mission, the industry is more important now than ever ! seeking to fulfill its role in protecting a nation that is not only a target, but already a victim.

As the investigation continues, information trickles in and answers will be more readily available. Meanwhile, a nation and its security industry are left to ponder the next step. What can be done?

Attention will now be placed on what was previously overlooked. The security industry should be expected to rise to the occasion.

Technology, says Per-Olof Loof, president and CEO of Sensormatic Electronics Corp., should contribute significantly to the new face of security. "The heightened security is going to be on the people side, but also the physical security systems," he says. "Access controls, the cameras ! these sort of things need to become part of the IT infrastructure so that we can actually look inside the premises where these systems are installed."

Loof believes the industry will attempt to integrate new and existing systems into wider networks. Combining these systems with intelligence services around the world, Loof says, will provide needed connectivity.

"I think if the images taken and recorded previously on videotape were transported over to some other database, we could have looked at those pictures ! even if the building was blown up," Loof says.

Even small security applications will be updated and revised to accommodate related issues in the future.

Security has moved to the top of the national agenda. Although most corporations, businesses and companies were far removed from the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, effects on the security industry will be felt ! large and small, near and far.

Even Greg Popham, director of security at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Kentucky ! what he considers a "realistically secure" environment ! is not taking any chances. Although he and his staff have done nothing more than increase the observance and awareness of their surroundings, they are making significant strides in opening communication among employees.

"We're taking our whole floor plan and going over it step by step to see if there's anything we need to tighten up," he says. "We've tightened up our communications with the police department and we're on their radio frequency."

It's in the attention to little things, he adds, that these events can serve as a wake-up call for everybody. Popham and his staff plan to stay diligent in their efforts of heightened security as well. "As time goes by, and nothing really major happens, you become lax," he admits.

As a provider of safety and security, Popham is willing to make the changes needed to ensure a safe environment ! even if it will require a more vigilant approach. "I think [this] is going to increase our work," Popham says. "It's going to put more on our plates."

Despite the sadness, the security industry is in a position to thrive amid the fallout from the events on Sept. 11. Immediate effects will include increased security measures, large amounts of government funding flowing into the security industry, and a stepped-up dialogue among suppliers and end-users about how to improve products and services. Long-range changes should provide better access to information, greater support for industry employees and an acceleration of vertical markets ! putting security-related issues on the minds of a new, broader audience.

"I would imagine that people would take security and security-related discretions a lot more seriously now than prior to this catastrophe," Loof says. "I think many of the discussions that previously did not happen ! as a result of lack of interest or perceived unimportance ! have moved to the absolute top of everyone's agenda." The trend should move internationally as well. "I think the world is now united, and if you look at the newspapers around the world, you will find this on everybody's front page," Loof continues.

Indeed, it was not an attack solely against the United States, but an attack on humanity. As statistics are compiled, it is estimated that more than 2,000 victims of the Sept. 11 tragedies were from more than 60 different countries. Thus, there is urgency to improve and tighten security even beyond our nation's borders.

Communication will also expand across an international security market, opening an abundance of opportunities for the industry. An expected influx of government money into the industry may allow new systems and upgrades that were more difficult to achieve before the attacks. Updating card access systems, performing deeper background checks, switching black-and-white CCTV cameras to color, stronger lighting in parking lots ! all may become possible and necessary.

The sheer emotion. The panic. The fear. All of it has entered and enveloped the nation. The complexity, the absurdity, the surrealism of it all, are hard to imagine, not to mention comprehend. "The past is over, and we can't go back to that world," says LeBlanc. "As much as we'd like to close our eyes and click our heels and go back, we can't."

With employees back to work, there will be a need for security departments and co-workers to support each other and make one another feel safe. Updating communication procedures, evacuation plans and escape routes should be the beginning.

John Martinicky, security director at International Truck and Engine Corp., and the 2001 AC&SS Security Director of the Year, is focusing his efforts on reassuring employees. "We're republicizing evacuation plans, giving out some general security guidelines," he says. "We need to continually assess where our risks are and add preventative measures in other areas as well."

For many, the first step is to guarantee everything is being done, and to define the industry's role. "I think there is probably a need for the entire security industry to get together with the other agencies that are dealing with this and see what we can contribute in our corner of the world to the overall effort," Loof says.

It bears mention that security professionals aren't immune to human emotion in the face of such blatant acts of violence. "You think of the security personnel in the World Trade Center ! how could they have ever planned for something like that?" says Randy Barker, a security analyst for Time Warner Telecom. "I'm sure that went above and beyond their regular plan. There's not much we could do in that situation. We've got an office just down the street from the World Trade Center´it has affected me more personally, than professionally. You watch in amazement, and you wonder."

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