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Legal safecracking in Kuwait.

WHEN IRAQI TROOPS SWEPT INTO Kuwait more than a year ago, the nation's banks, like the rest of its assets, came under the control of the invaders. Millions of dollars in goods and currency have yet to be recovered, but part of the country's assets, stored in bank vaults, remained protected. In fact, after seven months of violent and repeated assaults, some of the vaults could not be opened.

Some of the vault doors held up so well under attack that when the Kuwaitis returned after the liberation, they couldn't get into them without help from Diebold and its distributor in Kuwait, Business Machines Company.

"Lockouts are uncommon," explained the Diebold support engineer assigned to the emergency operation, "but in this case they weren't unexpected because there was so much damage."

Because they had been severely damaged during the Iraqi occupation, the vault doors were impossible to open without expert help. Attackers had tried to enter the vaults through the doors, cutting off combination locks, hinges, and handles and ramming and torching the doors. The vaults were also subjected to flooding, but still the doors held.

Opening the Kuwaiti vaults became the top priority for the banks and the Diebold service organization when the reinstated government announced it intended to issue new currency. The old money needed to be recovered quickly so it could be exchanged for the new currency; otherwise it would be worthless.

When Business Machines Company asked for technical assistance with the job, Diebold responded by assigning a service team directed by a support engineer, an experienced troubleshooter who years before had installed one of the vault doors.

The team quickly planned the strategy from Diebold's headquarters in Canton, Ohio. It began by studying photographs sent by the Kuwaitis to identify problems, assess damage, and plan equipment needs.

Several different models of vault doors were involved in the assignment, ranging from about one to 10 years in age and three to 11 inches thick. Without time to tinker with sensitive and badly damaged door mechanisms, the service team had to develop an alternative plan to enter the vaults.

The support engineer, unsure of the working conditions and resources he would find in Kuwait, brought special tools with him, including a three-ton chain hoist. "After a country's been occupied like that, you can't take the chance of going there without basic tools," he said.

Many of the banks had been badly looted, and furniture and computers had been taken. The engineer noted that in Kuwait City there were some problems with power and water, and many Iraqi-built bunkers had yet to be removed from strategic locations on balconies and rooftops.

A goal of entering one vault a day was set. The service team worked up to 12 hours a day in temperatures above 110|degrees~F. A bank representative had to be present at all times during the work. "We ended up opening four vaults in five days," the engineer said.

All of the currency, probably worth more than a million dollars, was recovered in time to meet the deadline to issue new currency. And despite the tremendous damage inflicted on them, all but one of the vault doors was put back into commission.

Joel D. Clendening is director of service and systems at Diebold Inc. in Canton, OH.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Clendening, Joel D.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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