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Photo courtesy of ASIS International

Education Sessions Focus on Explosives and Management Best Practices

With a slew of education sessions in both traditional classroom settings and the exhibit hall, GSX attendees learned about terrorism trends, explosives, management, and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The GSX Daily team sat in on a few sessions on Tuesday. Here are some of our editors’ takeaways.

Bombs. Boom! That’s what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP) is trying to avoid.

At an education session on Tuesday, a DHS official gave attendees a detailed look at the improvised explosive device (IED) threat landscape, and the resources DHS offers to help security managers deter such threats.

The session, “Domestic IED Threats: DHS Bombing Prevention Efforts,” featured a briefing by William Byrd, deputy chief of OBP. In this role, Byrd manages OBP’s programs aimed at building capability across the public and private sectors to prevent, protect against, respond to, and mitigate bombing incidents.

During the session, Byrd gave an overview of the domestic IED threat landscape and highlighted DHS programs and services designed to help build and maintain counter-IED capabilities. He offered information on DHS initiatives, such as the TRIPwire information sharing resource, Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) and Risk Mitigation Training, and the Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP).

The latest complete threat statistics, which go through 2018, show that U.S. bomb threats are down slightly, Byrd said. That decrease is consistent with the trend line in the last few years, which has seen a general decrease with occasional brief spikes of activity. 

“We tend to see them around major incidents, such as the Boston [Marathon] bombings,” he said.

But suspicious package incidents are up, and so are device-related incidents. Incidents involving commercial shipping, such as the Austin serial bomber of 2018, are relatively stable.

“That’s been consistent, in terms of using the Postal Service, UPS, those sort of things,” Byrd said.

The Austin serial bombings, allegedly committed by a young suspect (Mark Anthony Conditt) who blew himself up, were significant for a few reasons, Byrd said.

The porch bombs the suspect set caused great public distress. Some panicked residents who received routine deliveries called authorities and said “‘Help! There’s an Amazon delivery on my porch,’” he said.

And the devices and bombs the suspect used were created with simple materials, such as clothespins and mousetraps. He also used tripwire bombs, which many found unnerving.

“People were freaking out about that,” Byrd said, even though those type of bombs have been used for centuries.

Another noteworthy aspect of the Austin incident is that the investigation did not reveal any clear motivation for the bombings.

“It turned out there really wasn’t a lot of reasons for why he targeted those people,” Byrd said.

In terms of the types of bombing threats, homemade explosives remain a weapon of choice for many bombers. The bombers themselves run the gamut from would-be terrorists to errant hobbyists, or “people who think it is fun to try to make this stuff in their basements,” Byrd said.

Empowerment. You might expect a massive, global company like the McDonald’s Corporation to receive support from a huge security department—but you’d be wrong.

Dennis Quiles, CPP, director of global corporate security and special events protective services for McDonald’s, revealed at a Tuesday education session that the company relies heavily, but appropriately, on delegating.

“The intent is that we can work together towards a common goal,” Quiles said.

During “Is Empowering Local Management the Next Phase in the Security Industry?” Quiles emphasized that delegation is not about farming out all your responsibilities. Instead, effective delegation occurs when you retain responsibility and maintain clear lines of communication.

Ensuring everyone understands their duties and responsibilities, but still being hands-on when necessary, allows leaders to have a better read of their progress, which in turn maintains a leader’s authority.

“You have to be present,” Quiles said, whether you’re assigning tasks to your own team, others within the company, or to contractors outside of your organization.

According to fellow panelist Jean-Francois Savard, CPP, director of security and emergency management for Agriculture Canada, a basic rule to consider when delegating security functions is: “The more critical the security function, the less likely it can be delegated.” 

While routine, low-risk tasks can be assigned to others, and probably should be delegated to subordinates, critical, high-risk functions should either remain the security manager’s responsibility or be closely monitored if delegated. And all delegated tasks should be followed up with verification that they were completed.

Delegating authority can complement the workflow by operating as a “force multiplier,” enabling you to focus on the most critical tasks, but Quiles cautioned against drowning your team in work.

“That person you give authority to … (may not) have the same knowledge or same technical expertise,” Quiles added. “You delegate so that person can grow, so that person can do this for you. You may know that that person can do it, but he’s not you.”

Savard also pointed out that delegation can offer larger organizations the benefits of greater flexibility and efficacy in creating local security programs.

Harassment. With so many industries impacted by #MeToo revelations, investigators need to be armed with the best tools and methods on how to address sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Panelists at “#MeToo Era: How to Navigate Through Effective Investigations” discussed the current legal environment and best practices on these issues and how security professionals, investigators, and human resources departments can coordinate to successfully and properly investigate incidents.

Mary Gamble, executive vice president and general counsel for m_PAC USA, LLC, recommended establishing guidelines and training detailing how to deal with harassment claims, assault claims, and false claims.

“Set those processes in place and follow them so that … anyone involved knows what’s going to happen, what to expect, and who to go to report to,” Gamble said.

The panelists also noted that harassment in the workplace is complicated by differing cultural views. Scot Walker, managing director of investigations and protective risk at Sentinel Resource Group, said it is helpful to recognize that your mindset and cultural norms might not be the same for your coworkers.

“It’s great that we have diverse cultures inside a company, but we have (to put) corporate culture or company culture first,” he said.

Walker added that if your organization works with contractors, the issue may be even more problematic. Communicating to both employees and contractors what the company’s culture condones and what it will not tolerate can help establish guidelines and prevent unwanted behavior.