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Why We All Need to 'See Something, Say Something'

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The Department of Homeland Security's "If You See Something, Say Something" public awareness campaign stresses the critical importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement authorities. This effort is the responsibility of all Americans.

New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority originally unveiled the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign to raise public awareness about indicators of terrorism. The slogan was later licensed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who calls for corporate support of the concept that homeland security begins with hometown security. As a CEO of a company that employs over 55,000 individuals, I believe we need to take action, join in with the DHS' effort and incorporate this important initiative into our workplaces.

A corporate culture that promotes See Something, Say Something, can generate lifesaving results. Police and security forces are hard at work but all Americans need to recognize their role in public safety. It's time for corporate America to heed the call from the DHS and to recognize that, while employers are responsible for safety in the workplace, all employees need to be alert for potential risks.

There are many benefits to a corporate vigilance program mandating, See Something, Say Something awareness. A comprehensive program requires a sustained leadership commitment which positively impacts employees, visitors and the neighboring vicinity. What can CEOs and company managers do to actively ensure that their employees act as vigilant public safety ambassadors? These best practices can help organizations ensure that public safety is priority one:

Corporate Culture and Public Safety -- Does your corporate culture value safety awareness? Can an employee report suspicious activities of a fellow colleague, client or visitor without negative ramifications? Companies with leadership cultures designed to support and cultivate leaders at all levels of the company are more likely to honor and value the public safety contributions of all employees.

Develop Leadership Support -- By engaging your organization's leaders in this important initiative, they are more likely to support the initiative and communicate its value. Your company's human resources, training or management teams should act as leaders who actively educate all employees on how to become attentive and active safety advocates. The DHS has shown an excellent example of leadership on this issue, organizational leaders need to do the same.

Awareness Training -- Everyone should be educated and trained on what specifically constitutes strange behavior or suspicious activity. Resources are available from the DHS to start or continue the educational process. Employees know their everyday surroundings best and will notice when something seems strange or out of place. Employees need to be on alert for suspicious behavior and actions including abandoned vehicles in the company parking lot, unauthorized individuals in the workplace, strange packages or unusual odors. Are packages or boxes left unattended? Has there been tampering with cameras, alarms or safety equipment?

Gain Company-wide Commitment -- See Something, Say Something should be a company-wide commitment as the benefits of public safety are clear. By communicating the importance of this initiative to all levels of the company, each employee is knowledgeable and empowered about their public and corporate safety role.

Establish Reporting Procedures -- Determining the chain of command on reporting procedures for suspicious activity is important. When is it appropriate for employees to call the police? If an employee feels immediate attention is necessary, they should call 911. Does the level of activity warrant an initial investigation from your security firm or company manager? The Homeland Security Department has also established a tip line to report suspicious activity which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-HLS-TIPS. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Employees should be trained on how to be responsible witnesses who can relay what they saw and why it struck them as unusual. They should relay the precise location of aberrant activity, the number of people involved, their approximate ages, and gender with physical descriptions of each individual observed. They should recall the date, time and duration of activity. If a vehicle is involved, make a note of the vehicle color, make and license plate number if possible.

Build Relationships with Local Police -- Building and maintaining corporate and community trust and collaboration is the cornerstone of successful policing and law enforcement. Your first outreach to area police should not be when something bad occurs. Make sure your corporate leaders have established and supportive relationships with local police.

The DHS makes an amazing contribution to our safety every day. And you can be a part of that. Homeland security begins with hometown security and that includes corporate America. Every corporate citizen plays a role in identifying and reporting suspicious activities and threats. Educate and empower all employees so that they we can all play an active role in keeping our country safe.