As illustrated by the attempted airline terrorist attack on Christmas, our country continues to be a target for terrorists. Beyond the transportation industry, a priority on the mind of anyone responsible for the safety and security of a facility is, "how do I ensure that my company is prepared?" As a nation that has lived through the horrors of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, coupled with ongoing Homeland Security warnings and efforts to support those suffering from disasters elsewhere, such as Haiti, we understand that emergency preparedness is crucial to our nation's security.
While those tragic events have brought increased attention to emergency response, the need for assistance far predates recent history. The Federal Emergency Management Agency traces its beginnings to be the Congressional Act of 1803, which is generally considered the first piece of disaster legislation. That Act provided assistance to a New Hampshire town that experienced an extensive fire. Since then, our nation's emergency response organizations have significantly contributed to communities in need.
Whether natural or man-made, emergencies can wreak havoc and result in loss of lives and property. However, not all emergencies become disasters-- the difference is in how effectively people respond. For civilians, the key is advanced preparation. Taking time to make plans for your family and prepare emergency supplies will allow you act quickly during an emergency. There are resources available to help including www.DHS.gov and www.Ready.gov.
For security professionals, emergency preparedness training is critical in high profile emergencies and localized situations including civil disturbances, medical emergencies, hazardous material release and power failures. A well-developed and practiced plan executed by trained security personnel can minimize the impact of an emergency. A good plan includes prevention, detection, notification, evacuation and relocation procedures.
There are over 850,000 contract security officers today. According to the Freedonia Group, the number of officers employed by private security firms is expected to increase 4.8 percent per year to 1.1 million in 2012. We must recognize the daily contributions of the security professionals who are often the first line of defense against civil unrest, violence and terrorist attacks. As CEO of America's leading physical security company, employing more than 50,000 security officers nationwide, I am dedicated to ensuring that all of our officers receive up-to-date emergency preparedness training.
Today's emergency preparedness and response training is far more advanced than in years past. Bioterrorism and anthrax have become household words, and all security officers need to be properly trained to respond to a variety of situations. Security officer training needs to be comprehensive, available in many formats including eLearning and must target the most pressing issues - including emergency preparedness. Legislation across the country varies but many states govern minimum security officer training requirements. Additionally, contract security providers and proprietary security employers have developed extensive training programs.
With the proper training, security officers can secure a dangerous area, evacuate buildings and coordinate emergency response. Additionally, security officers play a key role in preventing emergencies by monitoring building access, conducting patrols and ensuring that safety and security procedures are followed. But before any of those can occur, the proper training, specific to the officer's site, is needed.
Expanded emergency training for security officers has led to improved relationships with law enforcement, government agencies and the general public. But security officers and law enforcement personnel aren't the only individuals who can benefit from emergency preparedness training. Civilians can take a proactive approach to emergency preparedness so they too can take an active role during an emergency. Readily available Automatic External Defibrillators and a general public who is well-versed in such equipment and accustomed to seeing them in public is just one example of our nation's acceptance of the individual's role in emergency response. A prepared individual is better equipped to evacuate, help others and do whatever is needed in an emergency.
When the next emergency occurs, security, law enforcement and prepared citizens can work together for the good of everyone.