Seeding Security's Future
Print Issue: January 2001
Like all students entering Washington, D.C.'s Anacostia High School, Flonisha Merritt begins each day by walking through a metal detector. But for Merritt, a sophomore in the school's Academy of Law, Justice and Security, this is not just a ritual of life in one of the roughest parts of D.C., it is an experience that she can eventually put to use in a law enforcement career.
Merritt is one of sixty ninth and tenth graders participating in an ambitious program that integrates law, law enforcement, corrections, and security into the students' standard curriculum and introduces them to professions in those fields. Students, who enter the program as freshmen or sophomores, are selected from among all D.C. public school students based on academic records and interest in college.
The program, begun in 1994, was the brainchild of a collaborative group including the Justice Department, Treasury, and a host of other public and private organizations--all of which support the school not only with funding but also with guest lecturers and other resources. Recently, "Security Spotlight" spent a day at Anacostia High School, an inner city school, to talk with students, faculty, and volunteers about the program.
The private security industry has as much to gain from this effort as do the students, says one professional. "Many private security companies, while depending on minority hires as security guards, are minority poor at the managerial level," notes Edgar P. Kley, a senior consultant with Pinkerton Risk Assessment Services, Arlington, Virginia, and a program supporter. Kley hopes "that among the teenagers entering the academy will be a nucleus of minority managers [that] will fill a deep need in today's security environment."
Kley hopes the program can serve as a model for other cities. He notes that the volunteer public and private security support is key: "Rather than having a program overpowered by a paid administration, the partnership is designed to ensure that the elements of the program are carried out with a minimum of overhead."
The partnership is designed to give students real-world exposure. Interested students can tour sites and secure summer jobs in such diverse places as the Washington Bar Association, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. At each site, students receive hands-on experience.
Merritt, 15, joined the academy with an FBI career in mind, but a visit with a female police officer on a motorcycle patrol has given her a new perspective. "I still have that [the FBI] in the back of my mind," she says, "but I really want to be with the police so I can have influence on the community."
Partner organizations have also begun a project to make Anacostia High School a model security site. This physical security improvement project is serving as an additional hands-on opportunity for students in the program.
As the first step in the process, a student team conducted a security survey of the school under the guidance of Steve Shannon, director of physical security at the Pentagon, along with Kley and Frank Johns of Pinkerton Risk Assessment Services. By involving the students, the project is designed not only to make Anacostia High School a safer place but also to give program participants firsthand experience in solving security problems. To help them understand what they should look for in a survey, students toured the Pentagon, learning about infrared sensors, magnetic locks, CCTV, and access control.
Students identified access control--primarily because of the many doors to the outside through which nonstudents can enter--as the school's principal vulnerability. To address this weakness, the team is considering student-initiated ideas such as installing doors that only open during an emergency and surveillance cameras that activate when a door is opened. Kley says he expects the necessary hardware to be donated by vendors. The new security equipment, which has not yet been chosen, should be in place by the fall semester.
According to Howard Brown, director of academy programs, school does not lead to success for many young people. "We're trying to allow them to experience the real world, to get out of school, find out what's going on, interact with adults, and do the things they have to do to become successful," he says.
The in-class curriculum is also tied more closely to the outside world than a more traditional curriculum. For example, in English class, students learn to write business letters and police reports. Other classes help them master computers and technologies, such as biometrics, used in security. The academy also plans to help students publish a newspaper on law enforcement and security issues.
Judging from student reaction, the program seems to be working. "The law academy right now is full of students who are so happy to be there because we're getting a challenge," says Merritt. "We have initiative. We just need to be stimulated."Campus Catalog
From the Heisman trophy to antique dental equipment to Lewis A. Ramsey's painting The Eternal City, Ohio State University (OSU) houses an eclectic array of art, artifacts, and cultural treasures. Until recently, the vast university--with 19 colleges, 344 buildings, 17,000 faculty and staff, and 50,000 students--lacked a centralized inventory of items.
To solve the problem, the school turned to a computer database methodology commonly used by museums. By the summer of 1995, OSU was up and running with a computerized database to document objects, record their location, and ensure a descriptive and photographic record in case of damage, loss, or theft.
Called "Reducing the Risk," the program is sponsored jointly by the university security service, OSU police, and the office of the university treasurer. The database, along with hard copies of each record and a 35 mm slide of each piece, is maintained by the university security service.
Each database entry is identified by accession number, a digitized photograph, a description of the piece, artist or author, date of acquisition, size, and location. An object's location is also depicted on a computerized campus map that forms a part of each record. Other information, which is restricted to authorized personnel, includes data such as its value, whether it is alarmed, the name of the custodian or contact person, and the date it was last inspected.
Items once known to exist only by their respective caretakers have now been identified by security. For example, security discovered an historic sword that had not been documented by its custodians for fear of theft; a similar sword had been stolen from the school ten years earlier.
An important part of the program involves presenting a hard copy of the record for an object to the person responsible for it, such as a curator or librarian. Doing so encourages caretakers to participate in the program and helps them identify other objects suitable for inclusion in the database.
Computer access to the database is currently limited to campus security staff, though it is anticipated that archivists, librarians, curators, and graduate students will receive access to certain information via CD-ROM. Since it is primarily a security tool--not a research mechanism--the database is off limits to the public.
(John R. Kleberg, assistant vice president for administration and public safety at OSU, and Patrick Maughan, director of Wexner Center Security Services at OSU, contributed to this report.)Workstations Fail Fire Test
Office staff may consider working in a cubicle a threat to mental well-being, but new research by the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggests that small workstations may also be a threat to physical well-being. According to Daniel Madrzykowski, the research program's principal investigator, surrounding a workstation with partitions greatly increases the heat release rate of a fire, making the flames more fierce and increasing production of toxic gases. And the smaller the workstation, the more intensely the fire will burn.
Sponsored by the General Services Administration, the research gave engineers heat release rates and other data on a typical office workstation, as well as to let them see what such a fire would look like through photographs and video. Testing took place in a mock-up office space consisting of three workstations with desks, chairs, computers, assorted office materials, and five-foot-high partitions. Workstations were ignited using simulated trash can fires. The research compared workstations with partitions on two, three, and four sides.
Madrzykowski explains that a workstation with just two partitions will take about thirty or forty minutes to burn if ignored; while the fabric coating of the partition will burn, the fiberglass interior will not. But if the workstation has four partitions, leaving just a doorway, the heat gets trapped in the workstation and becomes intense enough to burn the binder of the fiberglass. For some of the workstations tested, the result of burning the binder of the fiberglass "is similar to having sprayed gasoline on the wall," says Madrzykowski.
"Instead of having, say, an eight-foot flame that's kind of lazy," explains Madrzykowski, "now you've got a sixteen-foot flame that's hitting a ten or twelve-foot ceiling and potentially igniting the adjacent workstations."
The good news is that quick response sprinklers doused the flames in tests.
Another crucial factor in workstation fires is the size of the workstation. The more confined the workstation, the more intense the heat and the more likely the fire is to spread.
Testing also showed that workstation fires were much more intense when plastic-backed, polyurethane foam-upholstered chairs were involved. "Those chairs burn like liquid pool fires, like oil burning on the floor," Madrzykowski says. He advises that simply pulling a chair out from under a desk before leaving the office can potentially reduce the ferocity of a workstation fire.
For more information on this research call Dan Madrzykowski at 301/975-6677.If the Shoe Fits...
Judging from the experience of the southeast division of Payless ShoeSource, a retail chain headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, security professionals looking for ways to contribute to the bottom line may want to focus on the hiring process. A one-year test of improved prescreening procedures at selected Payless stores cut inventory shrinkage by about 20 percent, according to Alan Saquella, CPP, a senior investigator at Payless who developed the new program.
Although Payless stores were already taking several precautionary measures--such as interviewing applicants twice and administering paper and pencil honesty tests--half the company's spiraling inventory shrinkage losses were related to employee theft. Those losses totaled $21 million among the company's more than 4,700 stores nationwide. Investigations conducted in high-shrinkage stores indicated that many employees caught stealing had a history of similar behavior with past employers. By keeping out those freebooting employees, Payless would reduce the potential for internal theft--and gain a surer toehold in the footwear business.
Saquella developed a three-step prescreening process that involved looking for abnormalities in the employment application, such as gaps in employment; querying applicants with both open- and closed-ended questions; and checking all references. He selected four of Payless's demographically similar districts in the southeast--each with about twenty-eight stores and 150 employees--to serve as a proving ground for one year. Two districts were told of the test program and agreed to use it. The other two districts, which served as the control group, were not given the screening program or made aware of the test.
In the two districts with screening programs, inventory shrinkage had fallen below 1 percent of sales by the end of the one-year test period. For the year prior to the test, the two districts suffered shrinkage of 1.02 and 1.11 percent of sales. While these differences may seem trivial, Saquella estimates savings in the districts at a combined $45,000. And he notes that shrinkage rates were generally rising elsewhere within the company.
In the two demographically similar districts without the program, for example, shrinkage amounted to more than 1.7 percent of sales, increasing from .91 and 1.47 of sales the year before. These two districts lost a combined $150,000 more than the previous year.
The test also showed fewer employee terminations and a decline in worker turnover in the districts that screened applicants. The districts testing the program discharged a total of seventeen employees during the year, while the other two terminated thirty-two and had a 56.1 percent greater turnover rate.