Game changer: security isn’t what it used to be

If you wait until a disaster happens in a company or industry just like yours, you could be the first

When I heard of the Boston Marathon bombing, I was reminded of a 1990 trip I had taken to speak at a productivity conference in Israel. I was there for two weeks consulting with both Israeli and Palestinian clients. I got to hear both sides.

What truly amazed me were their incredible efforts for security. It was obvious and everywhere.

In Jerusalem on the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrows – The route Jesus took to Calvary), I saw a Palestinian boy of perhaps 10 years old pick up a rock and throw it. Immediately, two Israeli regulars appeared and were on him. Whatever was starting was instantly quelled with almost no fuss. It was so professional, you wouldn’t have noticed unless you happened to be watching.

All this security has an additional and very substantial cost, which has to be included in their overhead, putting them at a significant disadvantage when competing with companies in other countries that did not have this problem. I was thankful to get back home, where we didn’t have to worry about such things.

That was then; this is now, and a series of events have dramatically altered our security consciousness. Although we should have woken up long before 9/11, the simultaneous attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon changed how we fly forever.

I’m not sure what taking our shoes off does, but in the name of security, we put up with all kinds of inconveniences and hope it helps.

Even if you seldom fly and don’t produce large spectator events like marathons, things are different. There are surveillance cameras everywhere. Although technological advances are continually reducing the costs of such devices, they’re still there. And somebody has to occasionally review some of the footage for it to do any good.

It’s not just Al-Qaeda we have to worry about; we have plenty of home-grown terrorists, whether we want to call them that or not. On numerous occasions, our kids aren’t even safe at school. Whoever would have thought of a movie theater as a dangerous place to be? How many managers, supervisors and other staff have been murdered by recently fired or disgruntled employees?

Thankfully, none of these is commonplace, but they still happen far too often, and they’re all things that never used to happen 20 or more years ago. Like it or not, there are new dangers our parents and grandparents didn’t have to worry about.

Whether you blame it on our continuing moral decline, loose immigration policies, Hollywood movies teaching us how to do bad things or whatever, there have been significant changes in much of our population, and that necessarily includes the people with whom we work. The problem is here to stay, and it looks like it’s gradually getting worse.

Questions to answer

I certainly don’t know the answer, and we don’t want to overreact, but prudence would strongly suggest many businesses review and update their security efforts. After the marathon bombing, marathon producers around the world began reviewing theirs. Many schools have tightened security, at least to some degree.

If you wait until a disaster happens in a company or industry just like yours, you could be the first.

People talk about the apprehension of the Tsarnaev brothers as bringing closure to the Marathon bombing. I don’t think it closes anything. Who trained these guys? How many others were trained with them, and where are they? What’s the next target? Could it be my business, employees or customers? Is there anything we can reasonably do to reduce the risk without adding unnecessary costs and inconvenience?

Have you ever noticed how after one of these incidents the media are very good at uncovering all sorts of sordid clues that should have warned us beforehand? Unfortunately, we often fail to act on what we discover until we wish we had, but it’s too late then.

This is a game changer in many respects. Please don’t think “It can’t happen here. We’re not Boston or New York.” Or “My industry doesn’t have this problem.”

Of course, we can’t protect everybody from everything, nor do we want to live in a police state, but what can we reasonably do that might discourage a would-be terrorist from selecting our businesses or events?

Again, you don’t want to be the first.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or

Categories: Workplace Advice