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Tips for Handling New Workplace Security Challenges

Todayís grave new world has put workplace security at the top of the list for HR managers. More than half (59%) of respondents to the November 2001 World at Work study, What Matters Now? have recently embarked on new emergency and contingency planning activities. In those companies, 72% said HR is involved in company-wide strategic planning, 17% said HR is leading security planning measures, and 11% said they were involved in security planning for their own HR departments.

Hereís what you should do:

Conduct a new risk assessment. Some companies will decide they need more security personnel, at least initially. At particular risk: Those with business ties to the Middle East, transportation-related businesses, offices in landmark buildings, government, petrochemical companies, and businesses that supply services to a large number of people (large hotels, tall office buildings, casinos, sports arenas, and so on). Most of you will not be in high-risk categories, but this is a good time to review anyway.

Monitor the pulse of your employees to stay in tune with their level of apprehension. As HR managers know, even if your new security risk assessment indicates that nothing has really changed, your employees may not feel that way. Even if an investment in extra guards will not make your company any safer, it might be worth the cost if it makes employees more productive.

Keep your defenses up Make sure all candidates for security personnel meet your requirements for background screening. Demand is high for security personnel right now so you must remain vigilant.

Emergency preparedness. Until now, many companiesíí emergency planning consisted of an evacuation route map posted on the wall. You should now expect more supportóand money to develop full-fledged emergency preparedness programs.

Budget and priorities. Most available evidence suggests that, at a minimum, the events of September 11 are forcing corporate management to take a fresh look at their security spending levels.

Things to think about adding:

  • Better training and pay for security personnel.
  • Background checks on employees.
  • Shatter-proof film on windows.
  • More closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
  • Enhanced mailroom security.
  • Vehicle control barriers.
  • Executive protection.
  • Emergency preparedness.

Technology. Some analysts are predicting that the access control systems market will grow, and that more companies will look at the feasibility of using biometric security systems.

What does this mean for you? If youíre like most companies, your risk profile hasnít changed significantly and an investment in fingerprint scanners doesnít make sense. Nevertheless, itís a safe bet that just about every U.S. company is weighing in a little more heavily on the side of workplace security now. Your job will be to make a reasonable assessment of the risk and recommend a reasonable response based on that risk.

Principles to guide you. As you proceed to develop or review your disaster plan, keep some guiding principles in mind. Without them, itís easy to waste time and other resources.

1. Disasters rarely follow plans, and big disasters (like the World Trade Center) will overwhelm even the best-laid plans. Start your planning process with a hazard analysis: What disasters can reasonably plan to meet? Which are we most likely to encounter?

2. Different scenarios require different responses. Limit the number of alternatives you present to your employees to as few as necessary to meet the range of likely emergencies.

3. Training is paramount. Because there are myriad scenarios, appropriate training of people with emergency responsibilities is perhaps the single most critical element in good emergency preparedness. Safety managers, security managers, evacuation wardens, and similar positions need training that prepares them to make the right decisions based on the events as they unfold.

4. Make drills worthwhile. Do more of them; make them more realistic; drill using a variety of scenarios; and throw a few obstacles at workers during drills (such as blocking an exit).

For more information:

FEMA Emergency Management Guide For Business & Industry (

DOE Health and Safety Plan Guidelines (

Building Owners and Managers Association Internationalís Resources for Security and Emergency Planning (

Small Business Administrationís Disaster Assistance (

From: IOMAís HR newsletter

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