Relying on 100-Year-Old Technology is Not the Answer to Stop Today’s Active Shooter
By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO
One of the indelible lessons seared into our consciousness over the last 20 years is that every public gathering and event is now a soft target. From concerts to prayers – there are few places that would be considered sanctuary against the evils perpetrated by mass shooters.
According to the Gun Violence archive, there were more than 340 mass shootings in the U.S. alone in 2018 – nearly one a day. While there remains disagreement on a legislative solution to the mass shooting problem, one thing has become clear – facilities that have a high degree of visible security measures are less likely to become a target.
Visual deterrents, like metal detectors, can be incredibly effective in preventing attacks from occurring, but the technology has had minimal improvement since the walkthrough metal detector was invented more than 90 years ago.
Doesn’t our modern problem deserve a more modern solution? It should be possible to deter and prevent mass casualty events like what happened in Las Vegas without requiring every single person to take off their belt and take out their keys before entering a building?
According to a recent report, organizations will spend more than $1.5 Billion on metal detectors in the next five years. This doesn’t even account for the massive labor costs required to adequately staff these devices to ensure heightened security. Nor does it account for the impact on visitor experience – at some point, your patrons will grow tired of having to wait in line to then strip down and hold their hands in the air to show that their phone isn’t a weapon.
Metal detectors represent the security approach of the past – the future of prevention is a combination of better sensors, AI and biometrics that helps immediately identify all manner of threats without compromising visitor convenience.
As today’s threats grow more menacing, the technologies preventing the next tragedy need to evolve as well. Here are four primary ways that the we can improve upon the metal detector:
Superior Detection at the Speed of Life
Metal detectors are pretty descriptive – they detect metal objects. Determining whether the objects present a threat requires additional layers of screening – and more importantly, they don’t account for newer threats that have emerged in recent years, including explosives, plastic weapons, and more.
Using a combination of active millimeter wave and electromagnetic sensors, solutions such as the Evolv Edge are able to detect both weapons and explosives, while avoiding the nuisance alarms that make lines slow down so people can remove keys from their pockets.
People and Bags; Bags and People
While security and prevention should stand alone, the reality is that each needs to be balanced with customer convenience. Stringent requirements to enter a public facility may increase security, but if the approach is too onerous, there may not be an event to protect as the customers stay at home.
Metal detectors are often accompanied by ancillary screening measures – like X-Rays or even hand searches – to account for bags and other items. We want a facility to allow people to be people – so they can walk through the checkpoint at a regular pace without pausing, stopping or posing. They can even walk through with their bags and are not required to remove materials from bags or their person.
Individual Screening – Eliminating Single File Requirements
One of the biggest detriments of the walk through metal detector is that crowds need to line up and filter through in single file. If the person in front of you triggers an alert, then the entire line slows down as that person receives secondary screening.
It needs to be possible to screen individuals within crowds, pinpointing individual threats within a free-flow environment. This allows for screening on a more natural basis for crowds entering a facility, improving customer satisfaction while ensuring that everyone is vetted for weapons of all kinds.
Improving Guard Effectiveness
As we discussed above, the walk through metal detector requires significant human intervention – each alert requires physical intervention for additional screening. Whether it’s a pat down, or the use of wand technology guards need to manually vet persons of interest after each alert.
Solutions exist that are designed to help guards do their job more effectively – which is protect the customers of the facility they’re guarding. Potential threats are identified with a picture of the person who set off the alert, as well as a clear indication of where the threat exists on the body. This expedites secondary searches, while providing guards with actionable intelligence that could be the difference in preventing a mass casualty event.
The technologies used to try to detect and prevent the next mass casualty event are outdated. Metal detectors were not designed to handle modern facilities or crowds. Security investment needs to be focused on more capable security systems that allow for fluid detection and a better visitor experience.
Learn more about Evolv Edge here.
Why I Started Evolv: A Q+A with Co-Founder and CEO, Mike Ellenbogen
By Melissa Cohen, Vice President of Marketing –
I recently sat down with Mike Ellenbogen, our CEO and co-founder. We discussed his career path, what’s to come in the security industry in 2019 and Mike’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. See what Mike had to say.
Melissa Cohen: Mike, you have a lot of experience launching new companies and building something from the ground up based on a new idea. You did this with both Evolv and your previous company. Can you tell us about an accomplishment that shaped your career?
Mike Ellenbogen: Absolutely. I love building things and always have. I had a eureka moment that triggered the inception of my first company, Reveal Imaging. After new legislative requirements for airport security screening were put in place following September 11, I realized it made sense to employ smaller, less expensive systems and connect them together via a network of PCs. We rethought the way checked baggage was screened in the U.S., considering the total cost of the systems as opposed to just the cost of the technology. Ultimately, Reveal Imaging was acquired by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in August 2010. I’m immensely proud of the work that team did and grateful for the experience – it’s really helped shape who I am today and is what motivated me to keep going and start Evolv.
MC: Based on your extensive experience in the security business, what do you think makes a good CEO in the industry?
ME: There needs to be an inclination to push beyond the conservative approach that is so common in the security industry. There are plenty of businesses out there with the “same old” security technology that’s been around for decades. I like to push the envelop and ensure that my company is offering something that solves a problem while also surprising and delighting. I think it’s important that a security industry CEO sees the world that can be rather than replicating what’s already out there or being happy with the status quo.
MC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building either of these businesses and how did you overcome it?
ME: The core technology at both companies was/is really complicated – millimeter wave imaging is a challenging field, so is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Of course, you have to have technology that works in order to have repeatable and reliable customers that you can pursue. Leading an emerging technology company and inventing fundamentally new technology, there’s inherently a lot of pieces you have to glue together. It’s daunting and the success of the company is reliant on a deep understanding of the physics of the real world and how to appropriately push the boundaries of electronics and processing.
With any new technology or applications, there is also a steep learning curve among your teams. An engineer may be familiar with the technology, but not with the application. On that note, another challenge is finding the kind of people that can help move the physical security technology industry forward. We look for people with credibility, who have energy and creativity, and can also help move the needle.
MC: What are some of the biggest trends and themes you’ll be watching for in the security industry in 2019?
ME: We’ll definitely see further integration of AI and facial recognition into more security technologies and applications. Disparate AI capabilities will need to be packaged in a way that is more useful for customers in 2019. We’ll also see an increase in compute power at the edge, for example, more compute power within security cameras rather than via a central/integrated service. And, I know people have been saying this outside of the security industry for years, but we’re going to see expanded use of the cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) within security technologies. While this has already started, some major shifts in this space are coming.
MC: Let’s do some rapid-fire, fun questions. How would you describe your leadership style?
ME: I like to think I present a vision of what could be to get people behind that vision – you need people to believe in the vision to engage them in getting there. Considering I’m focused on solving problems in a new way, I also recognize that it’s important for me to surround myself with people who are optimistic but real.
MC: What is your top productivity hack?
ME: I live my life multi-threaded, which I think is just another way of saying that I’m always trying to be efficient. I do a lot of different things in parallel. For example, I turn the coffee pot on before I get ready for work so that it’s ready when I leave. I take pride in maximizing my time like this.
MC: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
ME: I always wanted to run a company and invent something – this desire was within me from a very young age. I would tell myself you need time to see the opportunities in the market, so find an industry you really love, make it your own, and word incredibly hard at it.
MC: What motivates you?
ME: Every day I’m motivated by the vision that the technology we’re working on is important and helping to save lives. As I mentioned before, I also love building new things and, in doing so, helping to bring success to the people around me.
MC: What best practices can you share for future leaders who are looking to start a business?
ME: It’s all about the people. Whatever your path, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the trenches with them, so you better like them. And of course, expect the unexpected!
International Security Expo 2018: The Changing Demographics of the Security Industry
By Bob Falk, Managing Director of Evolv Technology –
For years, going to the United Kingdom Security Expo in London has felt like going to a get-together with members of a fairly tight-knit club. Everyone was involved in the business of selling, buying and deploying high-powered security screening gear for airports, government buildings and other hardened locations.
This year, the vibe was noticeably different, with many new faces, from different industries, and with different priorities—emphasis on the word “many.” With the awful increase in mass casualty attacks on soft-targets such as schools, corporate offices and houses of worship, registrations for the show rose 38 percent from the previous year. This includes corporate security managers, hoteliers, government regulators and municipal law enforcement officials from around the world.
The show organizers clearly saw this change coming. Besides renaming the show—as of this year, it’s the International Security Expo–they set off a sizeable part of the show floor for the dozens of drone (and counter-drone!) security products on the market. The centerpiece exhibit was the football field-sized “Protecting Urban Spaces Demonstrator,” where visitors could get a sense of the user experience of various futuristic products in a simulated city, right down to a smart man-hole cover that looks out for wanted criminals while it also monitors the water and gas levels around it.
We definitely saw the broadening demographics of the security business at the Evolv booth. We had visits from multiple soccer clubs and other professional sports teams, all looking for ways to lower the odds of an attack in their stadium without taking any fun out of a night at the game. We spoke with police departments, who wanted to boost security at police stations and potentially at crime scenes. Large event planning companies kicked the tires, as well.
As a rule, these people had little interest in speeds and feeds, and most probably couldn’t tell you the meaning of the acronym AVSec (Answer: Aviation Security). They wanted to talk more about use cases, and how to create fluid, non-aggravating screening processes that wouldn’t feel like lining up in an airport security queue. Rather than create impenetrable perimeters to find every last pen-knife, many wanted the ability to quickly stand-up a “pop-up” checkpoint—say, for the night when a dignitary comes to a restaurant or if a municipal alert goes out about a violent criminal on the loose.
I suppose it’s no surprise that many of these newcomers to the show found their way to our booth. Evolv set out in 2013 to create solutions for the growing soft-target threat. More than 200 of our Edge systems are already deployed, in everything from corporate headquarters to concert halls. We’re not the only company targeting these applications, but I’d have no problem betting that we have the most experience helping customers in real-world applications.
In terms of the amount of real business that got done at the show, it no doubt took place at the booths and suites of those aviation security companies. With the European Commission mandating a shift from traditional X-ray-based technology to systems based on CT-scanners, there’s a lot of money to be made or lost in that huge market.
But I took the stream of new faces at our booth and the show as a solid leading indicator of expanding demand for a new generation of security screening equipment. It’s an unfortunate statement on the level of violence in our society today that schools, businesses and sports teams need to think about the safety of their visitors. But it’s also a positive sign that these companies and institutions are thinking about responding rather than accepting it as the new normal.
Check out Six Ways to Prevent Soft Targets from Terrorist Attacks to learn more about options to combating today’s security threats.
Physical Security in 2019: What Can We Expect?
By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President of Evolv Technology –
With 2018 coming to close, Evolv is intently focused on the year ahead and how we can bring a truly unique product that keeps venues, events and people safe. This year alone we saw more than 300 mass shooting incidents that targeted venues across the United States. 2018 also brought the first publicly available downloads for printing 3-D weapons in the U.S.; in the first four days, more than 1,000 people downloaded plans for 3-D printed AR-15 rifles. Attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued around the globe, with deadly threats occurring in Ghazni, Kabul and the Gercüş district of the Batman Province in Turkey. Security teams at commercial venues and transportation hubs continued to deploy technology to keep their facilities and people safe.
As we look to 2019, we see a number of developments in the physical security industry.
Increased use of multi-layered security plans
Organizations are using more layers of security as part of their overall security plan. This includes overt measures such as visible guards, police details, closed circuit tv (CCTV), turnstiles, bollards and personnel screening equipment, and less obvious measures such as increased use of intelligence, coordination with local, state and federal law enforcement, and social media analysis to identify local threats. The TSA has long used this multi-layer approach, which has influenced other organizations to follow suit. These plans will create layers of security that address and protect along four different capabilities: people, technology, intelligence, and process/protocols.
Technology as a force multiplier for guards
Security guards are the backbone of most physical security plans; however, it can get expensive as the guard force grows. Turnover among security guards is high and many new guards have a basic level of training and limited experience. Technology can be used to augment the guard force and provide them with tools that can increase their effectiveness. Instead of providing guards with more sophisticated training on how to operate equipment, there is a move to make equipment more ‘red light / green light’ to let guards know when they need to look more closely. Today, solutions also provide them with more specific, directive guidance to help them resolve an issue or alert that comes in. This augments guard capability and allows them to be more effective in what they do and more focused on areas of potential concern.
Value of deterrence more widely recognized
There are many examples where visible security served as a deterrence, shifting an attack to a different location. The Pulse Nightclub was Omar Mateen’s third stop that night, after there was a visible security presence at the previous two locations. Countless security directors attest to the cache of knives found outside designated security checkpoints, and of people diverting before entering a screening point to lock their firearm elsewhere. Visible security and screening are effective both in the weapons they detect and in those that never coming through in the first place.
Increased reliance on third-party validation
With the infusion of innovation comes a surge of new devices, solutions, and systems. As more technologies and solutions are released onto the market, security teams will increasingly rely on third party validation as proof to identify which solutions are operationally sound. These third-party validations can come from industry peers or official designations such as the U.S. Department of Homeland SAFETY Act Designation and third-party testing organizations such as Safe Skies.
AI and biometrics go mainstream
Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be all the rage. It shows up on product material, at trade shows and in your vendor’s sales pitches. We see the effective use of AI in specific products or solutions for specific industry applications. For example, using AI to review and learn from scores of medical radiology images to identify potentially cancerous anomalies that may be less visible to the human eye. In 2019, vendors will find more practical applications for AI and deep learning models that add value.
Biometrics applications will also move into the mainstream and will expand beyond traditional applications. Not only will the application of biometrics expand beyond airports or highly secure facilities, it will also start to be used for non-security applications, such as customer service. For example, the use of facial recognition technology to verify VIP guests at a sports stadium, ultimately improving the overall security screening experience for guests.
Interoperability to improve security effectiveness
As additional security layers are deployed, organizations are seeking to make them operate together as an integrated security infrastructure. This will allow the security team to quickly have a more complete picture of a security issue to execute its response. Additionally, it will allow more effective use of all equipment. For example, connecting security screening equipment with CCTV for monitoring and access control equipment will allow the team to see if a person of interest enters the facility, where they are, and if they are acting in a suspicious manner.
Increased blend of the cyber and physical security domains
The cyber and physical security domains are coming closer and closer together. In many organizations the responsibility to understand and mitigate these risks come under different groups. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Chief Security Officer (CSO) are now called on to work more closely together to keep the entire organization safe from a range of ever-changing threats.
Benefits of security technology expands beyond cost and risk mitigation
When it comes to physical security, one thing has become clear: there is a balance between a fully locked down, highly secure environment and an open and inviting space. Security directors and management teams are broadening how they look at the benefits of new security technologies and procedures by considering the impact on their physical space, visitor experience and overall mission. Traditionally, cost and risk mitigation have served as the primary factors when deciding which solutions to invest in, and while these are still paramount, we will start to see other factors driving decisions as organizations continue to deploy tailored approaches in 2019.
2018 was an important year for the physical security industry that demonstrated the significant role technology plays in addressing the evolving threat landscape. As we transition our thoughts to the year ahead, we will take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them as we continue to work towards creating solutions that keep people safe.
Read more from our Advisor, Mark Sullivan, former U.S. secret service director, on security screening in the 21st century.
Are Access Control Card Readers Enough? Re-Evaluating Employee Screening Processes
By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America at Evolv Technology –
When it comes to security in the workplace, many organizations are starting to question whether access control card readers are enough. Even more, just like many school children feared returning to school this year, employees are becoming increasingly afraid to go to work – this is the new reality and one that we haven’t encountered before.
As organizations turn their attention to protecting their staff, many have started exploring employee screening options. However, the introduction of any new technology or process brings questions and concerns, and organizations and security teams will need to consider a variety of factors. For example, while employees are calling for new security measures to keep them safe, they will be wary about anything that might slow down their process of getting into work or getting to meetings on time.
Let’s explore nine steps organizations should take to implement a successful and non-invasive employee screening process.
Step 1 – Determine the value of keeping your employees safe
Leadership needs to understand the value of creating a safe environment. They should ask themselves the hard questions like whether any employees or visitors pose a risk to the organization. Did someone leave on bad terms or get fired and not go quietly? Can anyone access your building entrance? Evaluating the level of risk, potential threats and value of creating a safe work environment at the beginning will help shape the overall process.
Step 2 – Identify the impact of not having employee screening
Beyond employee requests, management teams need to think about their larger business, and the consequences something like an active shooter incident could have on their future and profitability. They should ask themselves, “is my business at risk if I don’t put in security?” An active shooter incident can have both an immediate and long-lasting economic impact on an organization.
Step 3 – Define policies and end goals
Before diving in, it’s important to clearly define the goal of implementing an employee screening system. What are you looking to achieve? Are you looking to account for every person who enters the building or only identify specific persons of interests? Are you looking to detect guns and knives? What about non-metallic threats like suicide vests or PVC pipe bombs like we recently have seen in the news? These are points to consider as organizations build out their strategy.
In addition, some industries that work with unions will need to review the union policies before moving forward with the selection process. Unions have varying agreements, some of which require that employees be paid during screening time. Having a firm understanding of what these policies will help ensure compliance down the road.
Step 4 – Perform various assessments
Organizations should run a variety of assessments to help identify the type of employee screening that best fits their needs. For example, knowing they will be met with questions about cost, management should plan on running a financial assessment to determine what they can afford and how it will be paid for.
In addition, organizations should run a threat assessment to fully understand what threats it’s vulnerable to based on office location, design, number of employees, etc. Remember, there is no one-size fits all solution and while talking to similar organizations to get a sense for what they are doing can be helpful, every building has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. Running a threat assessment provides organizations with the insights they need to develop a screening plan that fits their requirements and vulnerabilities.
Management should also conduct an assessment on the employee experience. Is throughput, speed, limited or no divestment of personal items during screening important to your employee’s experience? If so, only a limited number of employee screening technologies will be acceptable to your plan. Also, take strong consideration into privacy laws and employees’ perception of privacy and obtrusive practices during the screening process throughout the process.
Step 5 – Identify and evaluate employee screening technologies
Armed with a budget and knowledge of potential vulnerabilities, organizations can start exploring the specific employee screening solutions on the market that fit their needs. Factors to consider include detection capabilities, alarm rates, speed, and the number of people/guards to operate such systems.
It’s also important to consider the employee experience. Remember, employees are concerned that new processes will slow down their process of getting to work each morning or make it difficult for them to perform their job efficiently. To ensure the experience is a smooth one, look for solutions that keep people moving, limit physical touching and allow employees to keep track of their belongings.
Step 6 – Concept of Operations (CONOPs)
A well thought out, documented plan on how to implement and conduct screening operations is critical. Work with vendors and other organizations who have implemented employee screening to learn best practices. Document the CONOPS for various deployments that can account for changes in your security posture. Most organizations develop CONOPs for daily use and different CONOPs to employ during heightened levels of security where the threat risk is greater.
Step 7 – Develop and roll out a communications strategy for employees
While many employees today are calling for their organizations to implement more stringent security practices and processes, management teams still need communicate the new processes to employees in an official way. There are a lot of positive messages companies can share with employees about employee screening that demonstrate corporate commitment to employee safety. Environments that haven’t had any type of employee screening in the past such as hospitals, office buildings, warehouses and other large organizations are sharing more information about their employee’s desire to work in a safer workspace.
Step 8 – Take time to train security teams on the new system
With a system in place, the next step is training the security team and employees on how to use the new system. It’s important that each member of the security team gets a hands-on training opportunity and employees get information on what to expect.
Step 9 – Go live and make adjustments along the way
Once the system is operational, monitor the process and make adjustments as necessary. Get input from a variety of groups within the business to determine what’s working and what isn’t. Communicate about changes through the same strategy employed in step 7 to ensure employees feel part of the decision and process.
As employee screening becomes more prevalent across all industries, organizations are looking for the right solution to meet their individual needs. By following the steps outlined above, organizations can find the purpose-built device and the right process to keep their employees safe.
Check out our blog to learn more about improving the physical security screening experience.
EBOOK: A Security Professional’s “Must Find” Threshold for Detection
By Melissa Cohen, Vice President of Marketing –
The last year has seen horrific mass casualty assaults in places people in most countries have never had to seriously worry about going. School shootings have continued, and we’ve been appalled by carnage at houses of worship, nightclubs, music concerts and corporate offices. This scourge, along with the continued potential for terrorist attacks from abroad, has many security professionals wondering about their options for boosting physical security—including potentially adding weapons detection screening for the first time. To help you get started, we’ve prepared an eBook, entitled “Detecting Physical Security Threats: Key Considerations for Security, Venue Operators and Facility Managers.”
Obviously, adding or increasing physical security is a big decision—especially for “soft-target” locations. Air travelers know, expect–even welcome–screening when they head to the airport. Not so with malls, shopping centers, and other places people congregate to worship, learn or be entertained. People go to a concert, sporting event, or shopping mall because they want to, not because they have to. While in today’s world most people appreciate the need for security, if it’s too time-consuming and intrusive, they’ll turn away from your venue. After all, you’re in business to provide a carefree, entertaining experience—not to turn a night out into what feels like a visit to a hardened military installation.
The key is to determine the right balance of security and convenience for your particular business or organization. Based on our own executives’ decades of experience and extensive interviews with a range of industry experts, it’s critical to define your threshold of risk. Are you looking to stop only massive attacks with explosives and assault weapons? What about a small, limited capacity pistol or brass knuckles? One strategy is to choose technologies that will find only weapons of a particular size and shape. Or maybe you want a flexible system, so you can turn up the acuity to find every last switchblade when high-profile guests are in attendance?
This e-Book will help you make those decisions.
Click here to learn more about a balance between threat detection and a positive visitor experience—traditionally, two mutually opposing goals.
Another Troubling Twist in Terrorism
By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President –
The security of our country, our workplaces, and our people has taken a significant turn for the worse over the past 48 hours. The unpredictable course of terrorism has changed yet again, with an expansion of the target set, modification of the means, and synchronization of multiple acts. These most recent course changes should cause us alarm.
Soft Targets Expanded from Locations to People
The 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater attack, the 2015 San Bernardino, California office building attack, and the 2016 Seaside Park, New Jersey bomb signaled a shift in targets from airplanes and iconic settings to seemingly innocuous locations in small towns and cities throughout the U.S. Earlier this week, pipe bombs were sent to a businessman, top current and former government officials, and an actor. Another pipe bomb was found yesterday at the CNN offices at the Time Warner Center in New York City.
Targets have expanded to include anybody, at anyplace, in anytown, USA. Who’s next? Where will the target be? Will it be another pipe bomb, or something else designed to thwart our current capabilities?
Explosive Weapons Have Changed Yet Again
The “traditional” explosives once used have given way to homemade improvised explosive devices. This week is not the first-time homemade explosives were used. The 2013 Boston Marathon pressure cooker bomb and the 2017 New York City explosive belt were constructed in an individual’s home. The pipe bombs sent this week were reportedly made of plastic PVC pipe and contained glass shrapnel. These materials are of additional concern as they can be more difficult to detect with much of the security technology that exists today.
The weapons being used by terrorists continue to expand, with new configurations of explosive devices, firearms such as 3D printed guns, and knives concealed in ever more ingenious ways. Detecting these threats as they are concealed on individuals has become increasingly difficult, as most security technologies have not evolved at the same pace as the targets they are designed to detect.
Large Number of Simultaneous Targets
The third troubling concern is that eight reported attacks have been launched over the past 48 hours. The expansion of the target set obviously expands the potential impact of these devices, creates an enormous burden on our law enforcement and counter terrorism professionals, and elevates concern among the general public.
While these developments in terrorism are concerning, American counter terrorism, law enforcement, and security professionals are world class. They continue to work diligently to identify suspicious packages, safely secure people, and remove these devices. They are also actively utilizing all available resources to identify the individual(s) responsible for these heinous acts. They will continue to work to keep us safe. They will continue to fulfill their mission with the utmost skill, professionalism, and effectiveness.
By providing these professionals with technology that helps them stay abreast of the latest terrorist evolutions, including technology that can detect the nonmetallic elements found in this week’s pipe bombs, companies like Evolv Technology can help level the playing field by keeping people safe. While new technology is being rolled out in many venues, more needs to be done. Our adversary will never stop innovating. Neither will we.
A Wake-up Call About Non-Metallic Weapons as Tools of Terror
By Mike Ellenbogen, Founder and CEO –
There’s probably a reason the pipe bombs sent to two former Presidents and other politicians, an actor and a businessman were made of PVC piping instead of metal and contained glass shrapnel rather than nails and bolts.
It’s because the bomber knows that the world’s weapons-screening infrastructure for the last 30 years has been based on metal-detection equipment. Indeed, anyone considering committing an act of terror probably knows this as well. It’s well-documented on radical sites on the Web, where it’s easy to find guides on how to build non-metallic bombs, including in articles in ISIS’ online magazine.
We don’t know yet why none of the bombs exploded but based on our initial analysis of photos in the media we see no reason why they couldn’t have. They have all the necessary basic components. It’s possible the bomber chose not to activate a triggering device and just wanted to send a terrifying message. Or maybe all the recipients—the intended targets and the security and mailroom staffers that handled the devices–just got lucky.
Either way, luck was involved. And luck is not a strategy.
We should have learned this by now, since this is far from the first time a bomb that did not contain metal failed to go off. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, got his non-metallic bomb onto a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001, but couldn’t light the device. Everything about the attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, went as planned except the bomb burned rather than blew up on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009. Attacks with non-metallic bombs do happen. Al-Qaeda used plastic explosives to attack the USS Cole in 2000, and terrorists used a C-4 to blow up a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996. But the reality is that in this country, we’ve avoided casualties from some of the most potentially lethal and destabilizing attacks because of the failure of the attacks, not the success of the security.
So, what to do? For starters, any organization or citizen that has felt concerned enough about being a terrorists’ target to get a metal detector needs to look for screening systems that can identify metallic and non-metallic weapons. We sell such systems—they use a technology called millimeter wave that identifies materials by its chemical makeup – and so do other companies.
Beyond that, the solutions become a lot less clear, and a lot more daunting. This round of attacks highlights not only the threat from non-metallic devices, but the broad shift in terror tactics from attacking hardened locations such as airports and government buildings to targeting “soft targets” that typically have no weapons screening at all, such as office buildings. Indeed, the only reason the bomb meant for Robert De Niro wasn’t delivered to the actor is that an eagle-eyed security staffer at his production company saw a mailroom worker with a package that looked just like the one he saw a photo of on TV the previous day that contained a bomb.
We are lucky in this country to have world-class law enforcement and counter-terrorism people, and we will likely soon know who did this and why none of the bombs actually detonated. But as a society, we need to grapple more seriously with giving these professionals and their peers in corporate security access to more information and technology to predict and prevent such attacks. The President’s security detail no doubt had x-ray machines capable of spotting almost any kind of weapon, but do we need to upgrade, or in some cases, to introduce material-agnostic weapons screening in our public mail systems? How about scanning for private delivery services companies and distribution center offices? And what about screening for other kinds of attacks? The scary truth is that yesterday the attacks came through the mail, but tomorrow they could be delivered by a person walking through the front door.
Five Steps to Implementing a Balanced Security Plan at Performing Arts Venues
By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President –
In a previous blog post, we explored how the changing threat landscape has impacted security at performing arts venues. With attackers expanding their targets beyond iconic venues in the largest cities, it’s imperative that venues around the world and in small towns create a more concrete strategy and plan to improve their security approach.
However, performing arts venues pose a unique set of security challenges. Open design concepts, an influx of guests ten minutes before showtime, and varying capabilities of guards are challenges that a plan must consider when tailoring security for visitors that also meets a venue’s specific needs.
At smaller venues and venues without a dedicated security lead, the responsibility of developing and implementing a security plan often falls to individuals who are responsible for other areas such as facilities or guest services. To help get started, here are five steps smaller venues can take towards developing their own formalized security plans.
Step 1 – Find a Trusted Advisor
For venues that don’t have dedicated security professionals, the first step is to identify a trusted advisor who can serve as a resource and help demystify the process. We often find that venue managers think the first step is to hire a standalone security manager, when in fact an advisor can initially provide a similar level of insight and guidance.
This advisor can be anyone from the local chief of police to an FBI liaison or even a security director at another performing arts venue. What’s most important is that venue managers identify someone they trust who can help them start to answer questions like, “what am I missing?” and “what are my peers focusing on?”.
Step 2 – Assess Your Current Plan
Before diving into developing a formal security plan, venue managers should take the time to evaluate any security measures in place to get a sense for what is and is not working. During this step, it is important to incorporate feedback from other “groups” within the venue. For example, in addition to taking guest feedback into consideration, venue managers should talk to members of the operations team and the front of house manager to get a holistic understanding of past successes and challenges.
Step 3 – Identify the One Thing You Can Do Tomorrow
With guidance from their trusted advisor, as a next step, venue managers should think about where they can get started and what immediate changes they can implement that will improve their security process. Keep in mind, this doesn’t need to be a sweeping, drastic change. Look to identify one action that will make an immediate impact. For example, provide active shooter training to guards or have staff watch a 30-minute training video. What this tactic means and looks like can vary based on the venue and the procedures that are already in place.
Step 4 – Make a List of Additional Security Measures to Implement
Depending on the venue, there are a number of practical security procedures and processes that managers can look to start implementing after their initial phase is complete. Two valuable resources are security managers at other performing arts venues in other areas, and security managers at other commercial venues (such as arenas or tourist attractions) in the same city. These people can help identify key issues and security measures they are taking. For example, these might include hiring guards for the next high-profile event or starting to research various CCTV vendors to identify the best fit.
To help, there are a number of resources that venue managers can reference. For example, the International Association of Venue Managers has a Safety & Security Subcommittee, which is a valuable resource for venue managers; while the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security frequently releases information that is helpful and relevant for venue managers.
Step 5 – Develop a Plan to Put Procedures in Place
After identifying which practical steps to execute, venue managers should look to develop a comprehensive implementation plan. This plan may span weeks or months, and should take budget cycles and required approvals into account. Managers should consider which steps will have the highest impact to the venue’s overall security posture and consider implementing those measures first. Other steps can be phased in over time. This is an opportunity to tap your trusted advisor for guidance.
As venue managers turn their attention to addressing physical security challenges head on, they will likely be met with questions and concerns related to guest experience and logistics. To help mitigate these concerns, venue managers should focus on delivering a balanced approach that considers both security and the visitor experience so that guests continue to visit the venue and are provided with the safety they come to expect.
It can be overwhelming to think about implementing a formalized security plan. By following the five steps outlined above, venue managers can help ensure an enhanced security process that also provides a simple, unobtrusive experience to visitors.
Read this case study to learn how one performing arts venue improved its security posture by screening for both explosives and firearms while improving the visitor’s screening experience.
Evaluating the Need for Weapons Screening at Performing Arts Venues
By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America –
Determining the need for a weapons policy and a threat detection solution at performing arts centers involves more than the security director to make purchasing and implementation decisions. From budget, policy and patron experience, the leadership team must work together to organize, evaluate, plan and implement and communicate such an important initiative.
This is entirely understandable. It’s one thing to work with a director of security and their technical staff, who are measured on their ability to keep employees, customers and other visitors safe. But involving the front-of-the-house team and human resources, who are responsible for creating the best customer and employee experience possible, is an even higher bar. A bad experience–say, delays or pat-down searches–can have a direct downward impact on sales. So if the front-of-the-house thinks a weapons screening technology is a bad idea, it probably won’t be seriously considered.
At least that’s how it has been. I’ve been focused on providing security solutions for over 15 years, but am now seeing the first meaningful shift in the relationship between security and the patron experience teams. Given the rise of senseless lone-shooter attacks in the U.S., many venues are coming to believe – or are at least are willing to entertain the possibility – that patrons will tolerate reasonable inconveniences for added security as long as it doesn’t degrade the overall experience too much. In fact, some of our customers believe their patrons want to make that trade-off. They want to know the people in charge of the facility they’re visiting understand the nagging “could it happen here” feeling they have on a night out.
This is especially true with performing arts venues, given the horrific attacks like those that took place in Manchester, England and Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, executives at some of these venues are increasingly stretching their purview beyond the front door and into the street where people wait in line for popular events. Due to the increase in terror attacks using rented trucks and other vehicles, such as in Nice, France and Barcelona, Spain, venues are looking for ways to get people off the street as quickly as possible and into the safety of their facility.
The fact that patrons must already stop to hand over or scan a ticket creates a natural opportunity to do screening in a way that won’t cause delays. We did a time study at a Broadway theater earlier this year and found that the ticket-taking process typically takes around five to 10 seconds per person in a live environment. If we can help the venue screen the patron in that time or less, everybody wins.
Unlike many pro sports stadiums, which have had checkpoints and metal detectors for decades, many of these smaller, arts-related venues are adding physical security for the first time. Many don’t even have security chiefs. And yet performing arts is one of our fastest-growing segments. If you work for a performing arts venue or any other type of company that is looking to create a security strategy as quickly and efficiently as possible, here are a few best practices:
Get out of the security silo, fast: In the old days, the trick to implementing physical security was to work with the head of security and let him or her try to overcome the natural resistance from other factors in their environment. But we’ve found it works best when representatives from the front-of-the-house, finance, facilities and human resources, were involved in the sales process, ideally from the initial conversation. The security director provided a clear understanding to all the leadership team the consequences of an active shooter and suicide bomber in the facility and the solutions available to deter or prevent such a terrible event.
The more buy-in, the better: As security becomes a higher priority for a company, it makes sense to expand the number of seats at the table when considering new security solutions. The most celebrated accomplishments in implementing security screening at Performing Arts Centers I have witnessed involved the inclusion of the entire leadership team from the beginning. The CEO needs to bring their teams together and keep engaged throughout the process, clearly identifying their end-state goals and understanding of the tradeoffs. In one very successful scenario we witnessed, the chief executive officer directly led the process which involved security, human resources, front-of-house, facilities and finance to drive towards the optimal solution.