Attitudes about security changing since Sept. 11

Posted: Saturday, March 02, 2002

The need to ensure the safety and integrity of person and property has existed for a long time. One need not look further back than the old European castles, with their beveled walls, drawbridges, moats and gated windows.

But in the post-Sept. 11 climate, after terrorists caused airplane crashes that killed thousands, the necessity to protect oneself and one's surroundings has grown in priority.

Since the tragedy, the security industry has seen some changes in the way it does business. But security on the Kenai Peninsula has not changed much.

"We haven't really noticed any difference," said Lee Pearson, of the Soldotna-based consulting firm Communications Alaska. "We're not in a high-risk area. Maybe there have been a couple of more inquiries, but really nothing's changed since (Sept. 11)."

Pearson said his company installs and monitors security systems and advises commercial entities on the best equipment to meet their security needs. He said his company works with a national firm to monitor home and business security, but most clients are looking to protect businesses.

"People contact us for requests for systems," he said. "We give them an idea of what it would cost. We actually contract monitoring out to ADT security link.

"Roughly 80 percent commercial as far as monitoring goes," Pearson said. "Usually a lot of (non-business) people don't go for the monitoring."

Ned Hahn is president of Guardian Security, an Anchorage-based company that has clients in the oil, airline, shipping and retail industries. Although more people recognize the need for security, the peninsula has not seen the increases other areas of the state have, he said.

"There's a higher awareness of security because of the events of Sept. 11," he said. "We've added about 33 people since then. Mostly in Anchorage and Fairbanks, however."

Hahn's company offers security features for both home and office. For the residential sector, Guardian does burglar alarms, motion sensors and door contacts. For businesses, the company offers card access, proximity cards (held near entry units to open doors), closed circuit television (from a 360-foot tower in Sterling) and "look-in video."

"That's video we can look at over phone or over Internet lines," Hahn said.

Among other things, Guardian also supplies cash transport teams and a communication tower at Point McKenzie at the head of Knik Arm to keep different security units across the state connected with the Anchorage headquarters. And he said the dispatch center has state-of-the-art technology to protect it from intruders.

"We're putting new fingerprint readers in," Hahn said. "It is a 19-by-21-foot concrete bunker with its own electrical generator and communication lines buried underground."

Hahn said the advances in technology are increasing what his company is able to offer and giving Guardian more ways to approach clients' needs.

"We're doing more security surveys for companies and physical security evaluations," he said.

Guardian has a central monitoring center that monitors about 4,000 alarm systems using 183 employees -- about 15 on the peninsula.

Changing times, Hahn said, are helping to change the image of security officers. And with that change in perception will come a change in the pay officers can demand.

"It is pretty much a no-brainer that security is becoming a hot commodity," he said. "I think the trend is there and its going to stay. We're in a new environment in the U.S.

"I think security is going to become a more 'professional' profession," Hahn continued. "The wages have gone up for security officers because there's a bigger draw and demand. They have more self-esteem in their jobs, now. It's a good thing for security. Even the retail industry will put more money into salaries, now."

Although times are good for security companies, he said, new ones won't begin springing up to take on new jobs.

"You can't start a security company that can effectively do what the market needs in a short time unless you have the infrastructure," he said. "That means manpower. My company has been around since 1984."

He said former police officers and military personnel usually transition into security jobs well. But not all the positions are suited for some of the applicants he said he attracts.

"In Anchorage, you only have a few people who have the type of experience to be good at this job," he said. "But you can't put a retired cop on a desk."

Hahn pointed out that his employees -- in particular, those working on the peninsula -- were reliable and able when they got the call following the attacks on the nation.

"We have just got some fantastic people," he said. "Some of our best people are in Kenai-Soldotna. When Sept. 11 hit, they worked a tremendous amount of hours without much (problem). Everybody's after that."

Hahn warns that, in times like these, clients shouldn't take security for granted. When a trusted, professional security consultant makes suggestions regarding safety, it is best to listen.

"A good security manager would recommend as much security as possible, within reason," Hahn said. "It's better to be safe than sorry."

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