Homeland Security by Design: A High-Stakes Game

Finding the Elusive Balance between Security and Openness
The design community has tremendous concern about the many bollards and concrete barriers that have appeared on streetscapes in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and other cities since 9/11. Some feel that these elements, along with large setbacks and physical restrictions in major cities after 9/11, have had a negative impact on the quality of life. How do building owners and design professionals find that elusive balance between security and openness in the civic environment?
It seemed that, in the aftermath of 9/11, bollards and huge flowerpots were popping up all over; at first, I think they reassured the public. I’m not sure, in the long run, how effective they actually are in preventing various kinds of threats, but they certainly do seem to have a negative impact on quality of life and aesthetics. Some have said, in fact, that they can actually diminish public safety by imposing barriers to egress or providing hiding places and interrupting fields of view. This is, again, an area that calls for creativity and the sharing of expertise to achieve the proper balance between security and openness. It’s probably fair to say that complete security and complete openness are mutually exclusive, but in the long run, there is no such thing as complete security and, to some extent, any architectural element interferes with openness. Can the proper balance be struck? Yes, I’m pretty sure it can.

What can the building industry learn from Homeland Security professionals? What can those in your program learn from the building industry? Is there a synergy?
I think there is a tremendous amount we can learn from each other, and there needs to be a dialogue that brings us together to consider and address mutual issues of concern. Admittedly, my knowledge is rather limited when it comes to specific issues of architecture, design, and construction, but we could probably share a great deal of collateral expertise with those in the architecture, design, and construction communities. I could not, for example, begin to comment credibly on the technical aspects of how to design and construct emergency exits and stairwells, but I could probably offer some insights into the behavior of crowds under crisis situations – insights that might figure prominently in that design and planning.

Architecture and environmental design have tremendous impact on human behavior, and the behavioral aspects of disaster and terrorism are one example of the dialogue that should take place. It’s a matter of bringing together different areas of specialization and expertise, and understanding more about what the other person does.

An All-Hazards Approach to Security
What advice would you give to those who are developing an all-hazards approach (for terrorism, natural disasters, and crime) to security and disaster plans for their facilities?
An all-hazards approach is the most effective and efficient approach to take in developing security and disaster plans. You simply cannot develop thorough and comprehensive plans for all the potential crises and eventualities you may encounter, and this calls for a fairly broad plan that encompasses the problems and issues that are most commonly encountered in all sorts of crises and disasters. The key to a successful all-hazards plan, in addition to identifying and dealing with the common problems and issues, is building in the kind of flexibility that will permit adjustments according to the actual circumstances. The plan has to be broadly drawn, but not to the extent that it ignores the possibility of certain crises. It has to be specific, but not to the extent that it resists or prevents adaptation. Disaster planning, like architecture and design, involves both art and science.

Another crucial (but too-frequently overlooked) element of a successful security and disaster plan is the need to practice it often and realistically. Training and drills are absolutely essential, and every drill has to be undertaken with the view that there are lessons to be learned and incorporated into the plan. The plans should also be exercised in conjunction with other organizations, buildings, and entities to ensure their respective plans coordinate.

The Homeland Security Management Institute
What are the goals of the program? How will you determine the benchmarks for success? How is the online approach working?
The program’s goals are fairly simple: We intend to continue providing the absolute best, most relevant, and most effective graduate-level education in the Homeland Security field to the managers, executives, and other professionals charged with the responsibility to maintain the nation’s safety and security. We have a very strong emphasis on Constitutional issues and civil liberties, and the case-study approach we take permits professionals to extract theoretical principles from real-world events and, at the same time, apply theoretical principles to analyze and make decisions about the real-world events they confront on a daily basis. Given the rapid growth we’ve experienced in just 3 semesters and the feedback we get from students, both our curriculum and the model we’ve developed are highly effective.

In addition to the formal/informal feedback and evaluations we receive from students, the success of our programs will ultimately be determined by the success of our students. It’s a very high-stakes game and the specific benchmarks are difficult to measure, but our reputation and our success depend upon our students and how well they apply what we’ve helped them to learn. In this regard, it’s not unlike the quandary many in the private security management industry face: How do you measure the effectiveness of prevention and how do you demonstrate the extent to which your efforts in the security arena impact the organization’s bottom line?

Do you envision accreditation of Homeland Security professionals on a national scale?
We’re working very hard to establish a viable and legitimate accrediting entity for Homeland Security professionals and for Homeland Security education – an entity with meaningful standards. The institute is a very active member of the Homeland Security/Defense Education Consortium (HSDEC), an organization of academic institutions offering degrees and programs in the field, and we play a leadership role on HSDEC’s Steering Committee.

Homeland Security is a new academic discipline, so we need consensus among educators and professionals as to what constitutes the core competencies, core knowledges, and core skills of our profession. Once those are established, we can build curriculum around them and develop a basic literature of Homeland Security. It’s a deliberate process, but it is also an urgent process.


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