Security Concerns Shift to Employee Protection, Business Continuity

Security professionals shift their focus from traditional concerns to ensuring their companies' ability to do business in both the short- and long-term in the face of terrorism.

A new survey of trends and challenges in security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks has revealed a true shift in focus, according to the International Security Management Association (ISMA).

The association, which conducted the survey of senior-level security executives of the largest global companies, found that its members are changing their focus from traditional security concerns to increased emphasis on threats that seriously undermine the ability of a company to protect its employees and continue to do business in both the short-and long-term. In addition, the survey clearly indicates the need for improved communication between corporations and their employees, as well as between corporations and federal, state and local law enforcement.

"Security considerations have quickly become critical factors in every business decision, and our members are expected to provide vital information and strategies regarding the true vulnerabilities and risks associated with operations here and abroad," said ISMA President Robert Littlejohn. "The private sector cannot meet this challenge alone; we must rely on information from government agencies and vice versa. Protection of our people and assets is a joint challenge and September 11th is a call to action for more real public/private cooperation."

Security executives were asked to rank the post-September 11th threats, and 2 to 1 they identified business continuity as the major concern, with employee safety always paramount. A similar survey conducted earlier in the year ranked business interruption/disaster recovery fifth and terrorism seventeenth.

"We have always been attuned to terrorism on a global basis. Now we are confronted with terrorism on our doorstep, on an unprecedented scale." said Littlejohn.

By an overwhelming 95 percent, respondents said that corporate CEOs and senior management have developed a heightened respect and reliance on their security executives. Both management and employees are increasingly turning to security executives to gather information, cull fact from fiction, disseminate and educate, whether the issue be biological threats, product contamination, travel advisories, or evacuation procedures.

Security executives pointed to the need for improved communication between federal, state and local law enforcement and their counterparts in private industry. The sheer volume of misinformation and lack of information feeds the anxiety among employees, claim security professionals, draining valuable resources during critical times.

"Our ability to get reliable information and disseminate it to our senior management and employees has been a real challenge," Littlejohn admitted. "The public and private sectors urgently need to strike a new balance of trusted, cooperative information sharing."

Littlejohn notes that this is "a critical juncture for our country and the security profession. We must be proactive and diligent, and that includes reaching outside our own companies for solid information and guidance," he advised.

Within three hours of the September 11th attacks, ISMA members were using their existing association e-mail network to share information and provide immediate assistance to colleagues, law enforcement, and rescue efforts. Issues discussed on this unique network included the immediate needs of those on the ground in New York, as well as information regarding other potential threats, travel concerns, safety measures and clarification of fact from fiction.

Since mid-September, security executives continue to use the network to share information on best practices, local threats, counter-measures, and to share critical observations among trusted colleagues. The global network was then supplemented with local Metro Links--a special network providing 24/7 communications on local threats and local benchmarking in major metropolitan areas.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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