CRJU245 - Security in 21st Century

Week 4 Lecture

Public and Private Sectors Duties

Many do not stop to realize that private security professionals in business places, at public gathering sites, and in corporate environments are truly first responders to every conceivable calamity from crime to natural disasters. Most people tend to think of public fire, law enforcement, and emergency response personnel as the first responders, but private security practitioners are often the first responders in their business or corporate environments. They played a key role during the initial moments after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and were instrumental in getting many people safely out of the buildings.

Hazards and Threats

Each and every day we encounter routine situations that threaten security, and there are government and private/public sectors that will provide resources that will help to deter potential threats or hazards. Government agencies and private/public security sectors face a wide variety of dangers that may undermine security. Hazards can be defined as sources of danger or harm whereas threats are warnings that something unpleasant such as danger or harm may occur. The difference between these two concepts is the frame to which each applies. Hazards are associated with the present, possibly producing harm and danger immediately. In contrast, threats signal or foreshadow future harm or danger, or the intention to cause harm or danger. For example, harm has not yet been actualized and is merely a possibility. It is important to know that hazards may also be threats. A prime example of a threat being a hazard is smoke. The reason smoke is considered a threat is because it is associated with fire.

Threat is hazard translated into movement. As probability of occurrence increases, the threat increases. This can either be in a general or an event-specific sense. For example, the onset of the Atlantic hurricane season increases the threat that a hurricane will impact the territory of any of the Caribbean nations, Mexico, or the United States, simply because conditions are favorable for hurricane development. This increase in threat may be small, but the onset of hurricane season is still taken seriously by emergency managers in those jurisdictions that are vulnerable by reason of geography. On the other hand, the threat increases measurably when a hurricane is 48 hours from predicted landfall, and your jurisdiction is within the potential range of landfall locations.

It is important to note that changes in potential impact and in vulnerability can change the level of the threat. A weak potential impact combined with increased readiness will reduce the overall threat.

We can logically classify hazards in the same way we classify disaster events. As a hazard exists, because it may result in a disaster, it makes sense to view that hazard as natural, human systems based, or conflict based. It is important to understand that a hazard is a potential cause of a disaster. Not every hazard will result in a disaster, but every disaster will result from a hazardous condition, whether or not that condition was recognized in advance of the event.

The following are examples of significant hazards:

  • Hurricanes and tornadoes: while these do occur outside the normal seasons for these events, there is clearly a regular period during which they must be considered significant hazards with sufficient potential for occurrence to merit increased preparedness.
  • Earthquakes, in contrast, are not seasonal, and our knowledge does not yet allow us to identify when they transition from a hazard into a threat. We can, however, define areas in which they are a primary hazard.
  • Dams offer an interesting hazard picture – high hazard because they impound large volumes of water immediately upstream of areas of settlement, a hazard that can be compounded into a threat by poor design, construction, or maintenance.

In some cases hazards may be general and non-specific; an aircraft belonging to an airline with a notably bad safety record is not necessarily going to crash, but the past does act as a predictor of increased hazard. And some systems offer multiple hazards – power production is an example. Nuclear power plants, although generally safe, offer the hazard of catastrophic failure, and we have seen that even if the power plant is not a hazard, cascading failures can occur within the distribution system.

Hazards, Threats and Risk Management

Risk management may be defined as a field of activity seeking to eliminate, reduce and generally control pure risks (such as from safety, fire, major hazards, security lapse, environmental hazards) and to enhance the benefits and avoid detriment from speculative risks (such as financial investment, marketing, human resources, IT strategy, commercial and business risks). Hazards and threats may be physical entities, conditions, substances, activities, or behaviors which are capable of causing harm.

Target Vulnerability and Exposure

Vulnerability is an assessment of the degree of protection you employ against possible hazards. It is important to understand that vulnerability exists at macro and micro levels and that it is not uniform. For example, a town predominantly located on low lying land in the flood plain of a river is vulnerable to the hazard of flooding at some level. The entire town may be assessed as highly vulnerable, a macro vulnerability. However, some of the residents of the town live atop the high bluffs to the west of the main business district – 60 feet above the river flood stage. If flood waters get that high the entire state will be living in boats. The residents of the high ground are not vulnerable (at any realistic level) – an assessment of a micro vulnerability within the larger community.

Vulnerability is not static. Changes in land use, population patterns, building codes, vegetation, sea level, and other factors may significantly increase vulnerability from year to year. At the same time vulnerability can be reduced through well designed mitigation programs and by increasing individual and organizational preparedness. Relatively small changes in either direction can have significant impacts, making it very important that emergency management organizations constantly work to reduce vulnerability more than it increases through changes that may, or may not, be visible and easily understood.

Probability and Uncertainty

Probability is a mathematical assessment of the frequency of specific events. Unfortunately it is not static. Historical data provides a retrospective view of probability. However, if there are significant changes in the environment, you can expect probabilities to change. See the examples below:

  • If there are no nuclear power plants in a locality, the potential of a serious nuclear power plant accident within the community is very, very small. Build a nuclear power plant and that changes.
  • Laying more pavement to accommodate more housing developments and shopping areas means an increased probability of urban runoff flooding.
  • Delayed or no maintenance by an airline in financial difficulties means an increased probability of major accidents among the airline’s fleet.

Probability is expressed in a variety of ways. Forecasting disasters is an inexact science, but we do see forecasts of expected levels of activity. These are probability statements measured in terms of the confidence level of the method and in the person or organization issuing the forecast. Probability statements are numerical expressions (usually percentages) of the probability of a certain event, either generally or within a specific time frame. These can be seen operationally as alert levels which cover a range of probability values.

The United States terrorism alert levels set by the Department of Homeland Security is one example; the use of alert levels for impending volcanic eruptions is another. One confusing expression of probability is the use of time frames as a way to express probabilities. The 100 year flood, for example, is commonly misinterpreted as meaning that, if this is year 99 since the last such flood, the 100 year flood will occur next year. In reality, this means that there is a 1% chance of a flood of that magnitude occurring each and every year, but that you could have two 100 year floods in consecutive year and no more floods of any sort for 400 more years.

References and Supplemental Resources

Hess, K. M. (2008). Introduction to Private Security (5th Ed.). Cengage Learning, pg. 7-23.

Gibbs Van Brunschot, E. & Kennedy, L. W. (2007). Risk Balance and Security. Sage Publication, p. 256.

Waring, A. & Glendon, A. I. (1998). Managing Risk. Cengage Learning EMEA, p. 493.

Chapters 5,6 and 7 of the textbook