Preparedness and Common Sense

Aug. 5, 2002
In late June in Chicago, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International President Sherwood Johnston III offered the following in his State-of-the-Industry Address to attendees at the organization’s annual convention:“Without a doubt, September 11 had far-reaching implications for us.“…Ultimately, very few of us had to make radical change to our operations, according to a survey we conducted with the Urban Land Institute that examined pre-September 11 security policies as compared to post-September 11 security policies. For most of us, strengthening our existing systems and procedures meant doing things, such as adding security cameras, increasing security personnel, and either installing or more rigidly enforcing card access systems.“That may not sound like much, but we must remember that the security measures the most widely employed before September 11 already included building alarm monitors; lobby security controls; surveillance cameras; and employee background checks. The results of the survey are testament to our industry’s preparedness.“Our industry members are also more concerned with overall emergency preparedness than with terrorism, which I think is a realistic approach …“Of course, some of our colleagues have had to make significantly more far-reaching changes to their buildings: Alan Hantman, architect of the U.S. Capitol and a member of BOMA’s National Advisory Council, is one of the masterminds behind the new $368 million Capitol Visitor Center – a five-acre, underground complex that is, by its very absence above-ground – one of the most ‘visible’ reminders of how September 11 changed us …“… Not surprisingly, the events of September 11 had enormous implications on Capitol Hill, with one issue emerging as one of the most serious advocacy issues our industry has ever faced: the lack of terrorism insurance. … The bottom line is this: This new issue – which didn’t even exist a year ago – has dramatically changed our industry. And until we have signed legislation in place, it may continue to stop transactions, hold up refinancing, slow new construction, and endanger our economy. …“… Yet another new change – and potentially an enormous new threat: building codes and standards in the wake of September 11. We very much expect that there will be calls for changes to the building codes as early as next fall, particularly since that’s when the proposed changes to the International Code Council (ICC) codes are due. And those changes could be, we believe, the most significant change we’ve ever seen in the codes and standards arena.“Our concerns deepened when the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) testified before Congress that the towers’ collapse could have been prevented, a stance that flies in the face of our belief: Those buildings stood far longer than they ever should have, given the size of the planes, the amount of fuel, and the intense heat that no steel or coating in existence today could resist. As part of the investigative team looking into the collapse, NIST’s probe must therefore be carefully watched: Recommended changes could change the way buildings are designed and built and spur huge increases to their cost. “Obviously, BOMA is not against fully investigating the collapse for the sake of our bottom line … but we also feel that any attempt to safeguard buildings from attacks like we experienced on Sept. 11 must be couched in common sense, solid science, and proven, cost-effective measures.”BOMA International President Johnston’s complete State-of-the-Industry Address is available on the BOMA website (

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