<i>48 Hours:</i> Special Security

Security Becomes A Top Priority For Many

On Sept. 13, 48 hours after World Trade Center attack, a bomb scare at Grand Central Station panicked New Yorkers.

Almost six weeks later, many people still seem panicked, living with anxiety, with dire predictions of coming attacks and with anthrax now a household word.

Dr. Alan Louie, of Arthur D. Little Laboratories had been working on this anti-anthrax foam long before the attacks. 48 Hours'Susan Spencer reports on new efforts to counteract the threat. Two chemicals, mixed with water and used in a fire extinguisher, become an expanding foam that will stick to the walls and cover the floors, making sure that an entire area is safe again.

It won’t be available for a few months, but calls already are pouring in, as they are to Idaho Technologies. That company makes a portable device that can quickly identify anthrax and other diseases on the spot. It costs $60,000.

Security was a $52 billion dollar industry last year. That number is clearly skyrocketing now.

“We’re in a very high mode of ‘Let’s go out and get something - the magic bullet’ and many times there is no magic bullet,” says New York consultant Michael Stapleton. He stresses the basics: protect your people, protect your building. Any perimeter security measures are a deterrent.

His new clients want their security to be obvious. He says a dog often helps.

“Prior to Sept. 11, the dogs were there if they were needed, “ he says. “Now, I think people have changed their thinking and the philosophy is that if you have a dog, let the dog be seen. Let people embrace the dog, let people have the good feeling about the dog and also the dog is a major deterrent.”

Former Secret Service agent Chuck Vance says most of the businesses contacting his security company ought to be concerned. “People literally are not coming to work, not wanting to go to work, not being effective at work,” he says. “Staying home because they are having terrible anxiety attacks.”

He says he predicted problems for years and nobody listened. “Now, they’re not only listening,” he says, “they’re taking notes.”

A quick tour of Vance’s own building is instructive. It has a secure front door and the doors are locked during the off hours. Everyone uses keypads and codes and everyone is on camera. The receptionist has a panic button in case a visitor should become unruly.

Perhaps most important, he says, is to know whom you’re hiring. Business must screen workers, or in the case of airlines, re-screen them.

“They’ve come to us and asked us to do background checks on people that are already in their employment,” Vance says. “I don’t believe the background checks they did were very complete, and that’s part of the problem.”

How do employees feel about intrusions on their privacy? “It’s a tradeoff,” he says. Security’s always a tradeoff.”

The mail room now requires precautions no one ever dreamed of before. “You really have to expand your thinking,” he says. “Where you screened your mail as a screen against bombs - and usually small bombs – before, now you have to worry about a mailroom as a screen against bombs and possibly a chemical or biological agent.”

Businesses that once shunned a fortress image now want trained security guards. Vance tells customers they nay not need such highly skilled guards - certainly not always armed guards - but so far training can’t keep up with demand.

Despite all the precautions, the worst can still happen. Some businesses are trying to prepare, in creative ways.

For 20 years, Ralph Baker has been perfecting his "lifechute": a mesh safety slide that can be anchored to the building.

“It’s one person behind the other,” Baker says. “That’s the unique part, it's not one all the way down..it’s a steady stream of people.

Baker says the chute is in 21 air traffic control towers, and claims it would work from 35 stories. It also could be a bridge from a tall structure to the roof of a shorter one…

When he saw pictures of the World Trade Center, Baker says he “got a sick feeling” in his stomach because his chute may have been able to help save some of the victims. John Rivers knows that feeling.

“We knew there was a possibility that we had something that could have saved those people’s lives,” Rivers says. That something is his $800 executive chute that went on sale last week.

Rivers sees the personal parachute only as a last resort. “You might break your legs. You might break your ankles. You might break your arm. You might break your nose, “ he says. “The bottom line is, chances are when you hit the ground, you’ll still be alive.”

From personal parachutes to burly guards, whatever makes workers feel safer may seem a good idea.

“I think that in terms of security,” says Stapleton , “and how we view the workplace - that’s a long-term picture that’s going to change and its never going to be what it was Sept. 9 or 10. That’s the reality of it.”



©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

48 Hours App

More From 48 Hours

Comments