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eyes on the U.S.

The 9/11 Decade: Business No Longer As Usual As Security Becomes Central To Companies

The attacks of 10 years ago have fundamentally changed the ways that U.S. companies function, with security at the center of business operations from Wall Street to the Mall of America.

A security agent patrols a mall (Daquella Manera)
A security agent patrols a mall (Daquella Manera)
Caroline Talbot and Laurance N'kaoua

NEW YORK - Less than 24 hours after the towers came down, companies were already rolling up their sleeves. The attacks of 9/11 meant the entire management process needed to be checked: from communication, employee safety and the protection of business travelers to identity checks for new recruits, risk assessment, emergency evacuation plans and team crisis management training. Ten years later, where are we on these fronts? Have the Sep. 11 attacks substantially changed the way America works?

In the wake of the tragedy, a flood of federal plans and anti-terrorist laws forced some sectors, like the air sector, to evolve. Since 2001, the chemical industry alone has spent $10 billion on security. As for the 104 nuclear power plants, $2.1 billion were invested in equipment and human resources, with 8,000 armed men - thirty percent more than 10 years ago – providing round-the-clock security controls.

Not surprisingly, jobs in the security sector have been booming. Russ Lauria, CEO of ITC Security says the time has passed when security agents were sitting behind a desk. "They are trained to spot any suspicious behavior or parcel, parked cars, people taking pictures of the building," he says. From biometry to economic intelligence, security has been professionalized. "Companies used to do everything themselves. Now, they need all risks, from fires to cyber-terrorism, to be covered by an audit."

Companies also realized business travel was no longer considered safe. Geographic mobility rules have been revised to add new measures, such as the training of traveling representatives.

Reaching middle America

A thousand miles from Manhattan, near Minneapolis, 40 million people each year cram through the doors of the huge Mall of America. But behind the scene are 150 security agents, including agents dressed in plain clothes and dogs specially trained to sniff out bombs. "We are also doing random checks on our 11,000 employees' cars," says mall spokesman Dan Jasper. "Parking lots are closed at night, and the staff's locker rooms are monitored."

Following this example, many employers regularly check their current and former employees' résumés. "We need a refresher course every two years to check if the perfect employee has not turned into a criminal," Russ Lauria says. Louis Caprioli, consultant for the Geos Group, says full security background checks are a must: "even if it means we have to ask the FBI."

The company's boundaries are not as clear as they used to be, and many of their activities are now being coordinated with public institutions, including the training of their employees by federal agencies. Major corporations like General Motors or Coca-Cola hire former policemen, counter-intelligence experts and firemen. As a consequence, the role of the security manager has now been expended to cover a full range of missions, from prevention to protection to crisis management.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Daquella manera

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