Printer Friendly

The morning after.

Hurricane Andrew blew away trees, power lines, and many contingency plans.

WHEN HURRICANE ANDREW swept through South Florida in the pre-dawn hours of Monday, August 24, it left in its wake a 30-mile-wide swath of devastation that far exceeded the parameters of any contingency plan. Security managers were suddenly faced with the challenge of protecting assets, locating employees, and conducting business in an area where little was left standing.

"We've had soldiers here that said it looks like Kuwait, but there're no dead bodies," says Roger Fritze, physical security manager for Florida Power and Light in Miami.

"It was like a bombing raid rather than a hurricane," says Murray Levine, south Florida regional vice president for The Wackenhut Corporation in Coral Gables, FL.

The media did a good job of advising people to evacuate, and most large businesses had emergency plans that dealt with preparations and recovery actions, according to Charles R. Ireland, Jr., chairman of the Miami Chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security. "But no one could have been prepared for a storm of this magnitude."

Contingency plans only went so far. "Plans count on certain people, and you forget those people are victimized also and they are not always going to be able to respond," says Ed McDonough, director of corporate security for Barnett Banks in Jacksonville, FL. At Barnett Banks, 87 employees lost their homes. At Wackenhut, 200 workers were left homeless.

Security problems were exacerbated by the near total destruction of the area's infrastructure. Regular phone lines were down, and "two-way communications were off because repeaters were blown down and cellular phones were gridlocked because of ongoing use," says Karl Ashauer, manager of security services at Barnett Banks.

Getting around was also difficult. Road signs and other landmarks were gone, street lights were out, and roadways were blocked by fallen trees, live cable wire, and other debris. Going 20 blocks took an hour. "It was mind-boggling," says Al Guestella, senior vice president of domestic operations for Wackenhut.

Amid these myriad obstacles, security professionals found interesting and innovative ways to handle not only their typical responsibilities but also the added burden of providing shelter and distributing food and clothing to the hardest hit employees.

Bank on it. Access to cash and cash-storage facilities became critical in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. "You turn into a cash society," notes Ashauer.

As the storm approached on Sunday, Barnett Banks' key personnel met at its operations center in Miami Lakes to establish contingency procedures for item processing and cash delivery. That became the central command post.

Once the storm had passed, Barnett Banks' personnel used two helicopters to survey damage at 40 branches in the area. In most cases, rooftop satellite dishes, essential to the communication of deposit information from branches to the main office, still worked. Nine branches were severely damaged and needed priority attention, but vaults and safe deposit boxes survived intact even at these locations.

Damage assessment teams went to the worst hit sites to determine how quickly they could be made operational. "You could walk from the sidewalk into the manager's office without opening any doors," says Hank Davis, Barnett's regional manager of security for the south region.

Passive infrared systems and door contacts were blown away. Alarm systems with battery backups remained operational and were still being monitored, but, notes Davis, "from a practical standpoint, an alarm trip would have been an exercise in futility because the police would not have responded. Law enforcement was totally involved in the hurricane |relief effort~."

Contract security officers were brought in from Jacksonville and Atlanta to provide around-the-clock protection for the damaged branches. Local officers were hard to obtain, not only because of increased demand but also because many were preoccupied with the loss of their own homes or simply could not yet be located.

Within a day or two generators were brought in for lighting and to keep ATMs, now in huge demand, in operation.

Recovery and assessment teams including security, auditing, bank, and real estate personnel visited each of the nine branches. They recorded damage with a video camera for insurance purposes. The teams then removed, as necessary, cash, consignment items, teller records, and night deposits and brought them back to the operations center by armored car. In some cases the National Guard and local police offered additional protection.

Company efforts were coordinated through the central command. The local police and Federal Emergency Management Agency were used as sources of information. Before money and people were moved, bank personnel checked with these contacts to determine which routes might be unsafe because of looters or obstacles, such as downed power lines.

Conference calls between key personnel were held twice daily, sometimes including up to 53 people on a single call. "We would recommend the war room concept where you have all the disciplines involved together to make decisions," says Davis. In some cases, e-mail was used to communicate when phones were unavailable.

The media was kept informed of progress, and hurricane hot line numbers were publicized for both customers and employees through a local radio station, direct contact, and word of mouth. The company provided employees in need with lodging and food.

"We also brought down maintenance crews from Jacksonville to help with home repairs for Barnett employees," says Davis. The human resources staff spearheaded these efforts, but security helped locate employees and coordinate the distribution of supplies.

In addition to expediting the opening of its own branches, Barnett worked with the governor's office to set up five temporary banking locations in the hardest hit areas. Security was high because each location--nothing more than a mobile trailer--would contain a half million dollars in cash.

Barnett employees working at these temporary sites received an escort each morning by the Dade County sheriff's office from the Federal Reserve Bank in Miami, where the money was put in an armored car, to each emergency neighborhood location. On site, additional protection was provided by the US Marshals Office and the National Guard.

Check cashing at the facilities created other problems. Barnett had to accept extenuating circumstances. Many people who needed to cash insurance or disaster relief checks had lost their licenses or other proof of identification. "We told our people to use their best judgment," says McDonough. They did experience some counterfeiting and check forgery but no major problems.

All offices were back in service within 10 days. "That's not to say there weren't boarded up windows, and there certainly wasn't service as you might have seen before the storm, but we took care of customers," says Ashauer.

All aboard. Approximately 12 hours before the storm hit, Richard A. Mishefske, chief of security for the Tri-County Commuter Rail Authority (Tri-Rail), based in Ft. Lauderdale, decided there was a risk of damage to the Hialeah, FL, yard where the trains were stored overnight. As a precaution, he sent all locomotives, coach cars, and other equipment approximately 130 miles north along with two security officers who would stay with the trains around the clock.

As it turned out, the Hialeah area did not get the brunt of the storm, and it took longer than anticipated to retrieve the equipment. "We are going to do something different next year," says Mishefske. He hopes to have a Tri-Rail employee stay in the emergency center at Broward County to get more current information on any anticipated storm's direction. "If it looks like it will hit, we'll load up people and take |the equipment~ north to Orlando."

Orlando is closer than the site chosen this time. Mishefske says trains would be easier to get back from that yard, but the location was not available on short notice for Hurricane Andrew.

Monday afternoon a supervisor surveyed damage along the 67-mile route and found only minor problems at the 15 stations. Mishefske estimates that under $1,000 in repairs may be necessary, but loss of power to cross signal warning devices prevented trains from running as far south as Miami. By Wednesday limited train service was resumed to Ft. Lauderdale, and bus service was set up as a supplement for more southern destinations.

Public transportation to the Dade County area was in demand, because many of the out-of-town personnel brought in to help with the recovery efforts were forced to take hotel rooms out of the area. Six additional trains were added, and trains were kept running on Sunday to transport the estimated 1,000 additional riders.

Tri-Rail also set up a relief effort in conjunction with the Salvation Army. It provided trains to move supplies as far as Ft. Lauderdale, which was used as a distribution point. From there, goods were trucked to those in need.

Read all about it. "We called our security officers on to duty during the hurricane," he notes. "We automatically go to 12-hour shifts for something like this," says Bervin Hall, loss prevention manager for The Miami Herald.

Staying in operation during difficult times is especially important to a newspaper. Hall says the company's emergency plan included testing the generators, stocking the cafeteria with enough food and potable water for three days, securing air ducts, and generally preparing the building, which was built to withstand 200 mile-per-hour winds. Cars were protected by an inside garage, but anything that could fly through windows, like large trash cans, was removed from the outside lot.

CCTVs were left in place, but satellite dishes were taken from the roof as a precaution. In retrospect, Hall says security may have been overzealous in removing them. The paper was not able to receive news from wire services right away without the dishes, which took time to replace.

The building weathered the storm fairly well, losing only a few windows, a few CCTVs, and half its roof. Power was never lost, although downed phone lines disabled the alarm monitoring system for the paper's separate neighborhood offices.

The Herald's distribution warehouse in the south was destroyed, but the emergency response plan provided options. A street corner was chosen as an alternate site. "Of course, not all of the papers could be delivered," says Hall. But even the publisher and several executives pitched in to get the paper to readers where possible.

Another concern was water, both for those putting out the paper and for cooling the presses. "We store water upstairs in the penthouse area. Once the city's water was contaminated, so was ours," says Hall, who notes that even the presses could not use the contaminated water. To compensate, water--in 5,000-gallon containers--was trucked in. "That was part of our emergency planning also," he says.

The plan included emergency arrangements for security officers, workers, and their families to sleep overnight on sofas in the building if needed. Food in the cafeteria was free from Sunday night through Tuesday.

The building doubled as a relief center where supplies--everything from plywood to essentials for infant care--were housed for distribution to employees. "Knight Ridder owns 28 papers nationwide. It put out an SOS," says Hall. Coworkers from around the country responded by sending generators, saws, the works. Security personnel were increased to watch the supplies, and the building, which normally closed at 7:00 pm, was kept open day and night to allow employees access to needed goods.

The Herald supplemented that relief effort by offering interest-free, six-month loans of $5,000 to employees. A second program was set up to distribute $300,000 in grants of $5,000 to the most severe cases.

The company has also taken the unusual measure of holding classes for managers regarding employee needs. "Six to eight months from now people will need time off to work with an insurance adjustor or whatever, and we wanted to educate managers to not hold that against employees," says Hall. "It does a lot for management to have that flexibility, and it does a lot for the employees to know their job is still secure and this is not going to be held against them."

Let there be light. When the storm hit south Florida, at least three quarters of Dade County lost power. Power lines were down, and power sources, such as the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, were structurally damaged, although nuclear safety problems did not arise. Physical security systems did not stand up, says Roger Fritze, physical security manager for Florida Power and Light. But access control to different power sites and service centers was a secondary concern.

Security's attention was on the recovery effort. "We needed security personnel to guard staging areas where materials were brought in for repairs."

A major problem was wire theft. "All our wires were down. We had people chopping up wire where we could have restrung it," Fritze says. Florida Power enlisted the help of the National Guard and local police. They were informed that the utility was salvaging the wire and that it had a policy of prosecuting wire thieves.

"We have a liaison in the state attorney's office where one prosecutor is specifically assigned to handle our cases," Fritze adds. As a result of these efforts, 45 people were taken into custody. Security also notified local scrap dealers of the problem, and they agreed to post signs that they would not buy Florida Power wire.

The safety of personnel and equipment in the field was another concern. Utility repair was popular with people in the region, but there was always the chance of an accidental shooting if Florida Power people were mistaken for looters by frustrated residents. Repair personnel were outfitted with clearly marked Florida Power T-shirts and hats for easy identification.

Security got unexpected assistance from neighboring utilities, such as Florida Power Corp. in St. Petersburg. Through the utility trade group, Edison Electric Institution, utilities have a mutual-aid agreement, but it does not specifically include security. The need was so great for Hurricane Andrew that security personnel were sent along on an ad hoc basis to help protect equipment that was lent, to go in the field with crews, or just to pitch in as needed.

"We ended up providing over 2,000 |staff~ hours of security coverage," says Jerry W. Carter, corporate security specialist with the St. Petersburg utility. Fritze says he hopes in the future to formalize this kind of assistance.

Carter agrees it is likely to catch on. "What we see is a trend in these mutual-aid agreements," Carter explains, "that when people send equipment, they may be sending their own security people to relieve the host company from the responsibility of protecting loaner crews."

Keep your guard up. Crises like Hurricane Andrew bring out the best in people, but they also bring out the worst--looters who assume that what little is left in a devastated store or home is as good as theirs. The demand for security officers becomes paramount. In one hard-hit residential community protected by Wackenhut, for instance, the guard force had to be tripled in the days after the hurricane had hit the area.

"As a result of the tremendous need to staff client sites under severe conditions, we went on a seven-day, 24-hour work week, working our management and supervisors 84 to 94 hours a week. Some worked around the clock," says Wackenhut's Levine. The company also went into a seven-day-a-week recruiting mode.

Wackenhut's operations center in Miami and dispatch center in Coral Gables were hit. The Miami site lost telephones and electricity. Radio communications were down because repeaters had been blown off the roofs. Operations were moved to the Coral Gables headquarters. Part of the building was also turned into living quarters for officers brought in from out of town and for in-town employee families who had lost their homes.

Coordinating supplies, travel capabilities, and communications remained problematic. Vans were rented to transport security officers staying at corporate headquarters to their sites. Staff from the Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale offices went north for essentials, such as ice and batteries.

"We had one person assigned in the office just to dial the phone because it would take hours just to get through," says Barbara McDonald, development representative in Wackenhut's Boca Raton office. As radio communications became possible, 100 additional radios were purchased and provided to officers in the field.

Levine coordinated with other offices to arrange for overtime that would free up security personnel who could be sent to Miami area sites. The company also tapped emergency guard forces that ordinarily remain on standby around the country to fill in during labor disputes. As part of its contingency planning, the company had clearance from the state government to bring in out-of-state officers.

As soon as Florida was declared a state of emergency, that permitted the state government to waive licensing requirements for security officers, according to Patrick Cannan, director of corporate relations for Wackenhut. The officers had to come either from a southeastern state that was named in Florida statute or from a state where prerequisites to become a licensed security officer were the same or greater than those of Florida.

Road supervisors went out to inspect locations and found that about 20 percent of their client sites had no security officers. "The ones not covered were security officers whose homes were blown away," says Levine. "Of the 20 percent that didn't have coverage, we had it covered within five hours," he notes.

Stores naturally wanted to protect merchandise, but a greater concern at times was their power source. "Generators in these circumstances are like diamonds," says Levine. For one large grocery store client, for instance, the loss of refrigeration would have meant the deterioration of a half million dollars in food. "They were really interested in the big picture, not a loaf of bread," he says. Arrangements were made to allow damaged goods to be taken by those in need.

Levine notes that one employee quit the day after the storm, stopping by the office only to drop off his gun before leaving the city. Most security officers, however, rose to the challenge. Many employees from the unaffected areas volunteered to help cover devastated sites.

What the security forces faced was daunting. With travel so difficult, teams of two or three officers were sent for 24-hour shifts to each site, where they set up their own minicamps. A sense of what they faced comes across from the list of supplies they needed to take: food, bottled water, change of clothes, flashlights, washrags, a grill, charcoal, sleeping bags, propane lanterns, portable propane tanks, canvas, tarp, nylon rope, hammers, and axes.

"They had to do whatever they could for shelter because everything was devastated," explains McDonald. They also took such items as dry ice, first-aid kits, toilet paper, bug spray, and sun block. Fighting the elements was in some ways more difficult than fending off would-be thieves.

Wackenhut, like most companies in the area, extended a helping hand to employees who had suffered losses from the storm, but the aid was unusually expansive. The company turned no one away, including families and neighbors of employees. To let its work force know assistance was available, the company put the word out in the media and even rented a plane that trailed the hot line phone number for area residents to call.

Volunteers from other Wackenhut offices sent 18 trucks full of supplies, such as bedding and clothes, which were distributed from the Coral Gables site. Al Guastella, senior vice president of domestic operations, who headed the relief effort, estimates that $25,000 in supplies and $30,000 in cash gifts have been distributed. Excess supplies have been donated to area churches and schools.

The company has also donated 135 guard hours a week on an ongoing basis to an effort coordinated by Team Miami Andrew Response. Team Miami was put together by the Beacon Council, an association of local chambers of commerce.

With donations from many sources, the group set up an emergency business center that could temporarily accommodate up to 70 local businesses whose normal sites of operations were destroyed by the storm. Wackenhut forces provided protection as needed.

Thinking back over the experience, McDonald says criticisms regarding government's response to the storm were probably unjustified. "I think a big myth throughout the whole country is people think as soon as this happens, everyone is sitting around the radio or TV waiting for instructions. All of that was gone," she notes. In any crisis like this, says McDonald, before the damage can be evaluated and responses considered, "there's got to be some time for communication to start leaking out."

Of course, no recovery plan was flawless. Hall says he underestimated the need for crowd control as families of employees stayed in the building the night of the storm.

Davis notes that some Barnett branches were not able to accept generators without an electrician going out to the site. And everyone overestimated the ability of cellular phones to handle communication in lieu of regular phone lines. The security industry should use these and other experiences of security managers now seasoned by Hurricane Andrew, says Ireland, to develop enhanced disaster management for businesses around the country.

Sherry L. Harowitz is senior editor of Security Management.
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.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:security problems during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew
Author:Harowitz, Sherry L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:Card fraud: discover the possibilities.
Next Article:Terrorist attacks or anxiety attacks?

Related Articles
Dealing with disaster: the importance of preparedness.
The importance of continuity planning.
In the eye of the storm.
A lesson in humility, category five level: an ode to the value of preparation ... and prudence.
Katrina's true tragedy unfolds.
The environmental health response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita--AEC to feature multiple sessions on the topic.
Evacuation plans evaluated.
Katrina's assault on New Orleans.
Have a contact plan before disaster strikes; Hurricane will tax resources.
Preparing for and responding to megacatastrophes: the difficult road to recovery for New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina points to the...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters