WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – As the third anniversary of 9/11 approaches, architects and builders are still wrestling with techniques to make structures more secure from terrorist attacks. Financial institutions, including credit unions, have for decades – indeed, centuries – taken steps to thwart armed robbery. But they may now face a new list of questions. Is the credit union near a power plant, reservoir or major transportation hub that could be the target of a bomb or biological attack? Is there a federal building close enough that the credit union could be affected by any bomb blast there? With the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in mind, the list of questions covers threats from domestic as well as foreign groups. The danger goes beyond assaults on government facilities. For example, is there a Planned Parenthood clinic next door that could face an attack by anti-abortionists? To reflect this need for outside-the-box thinking, Credit Union Times contacted experts not directly linked to the credit union industry. They agree the dangers faced by each business, including a credit union, will differ depending primarily depending on location, just as the risk of armed robbery can vary between a credit union in a high-crime neighborhood and one in a less troubled area. Barbara Nadel is principal of Barbara Nadel Architect in New York City and the author of Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design that has been cited as a definitive work on the subject. “Each facility should do a threat assessment and vulnerability analysis. That has to do with where they’re located. If they’re one tenant out of several, for example in a high-rise or office park, they should look at what potential threats are in that building or neighborhood,” Nadel says. “An adjacent facility that might pose a threat could be an embassy or a global corporation, someone who might draw attention from disgruntled groups. It’s not only the threats to the credit union, but the threats to your building, your area.” After assessing the risk, she continues, look at your vulnerability. Do you have cameras in the right places? Are you tracking movement in the parking lot? Where are you vulnerable in relation to the dangers you’re considering? Nadel believes credit unions can heighten security without turning branches into oppressive fortresses. “Utilize transparent security that is basically invisible to the public eye wherever you can,” she stresses. “I just came from a conference of 200 landscape architects and designers, many of whom are involved with Washington, D.C. The overwhelming theme was we don’t want to build cities of bunkers. Everybody is looking at fresh ways to create security in the environment in ways that are pleasant. “Be sure the architects and engineers you work with are aware of the latest security issues. There are now a lot more factors in play. Work with your staff to do drills.” Yes, employees may be trained in responding to an armed robber, but if they flee the building after a bomb explodes do they know to be wary of delayed secondary explosive devices intended to harm first responders? Cost is an issue, Nadel acknowledges. You may not be able to afford to implement at one time all the security features you want. Determine priorities, and decide what you want to protect first. In additional to bomb attacks, potential threats from chemical, biological and radiological attacks are creating new issues for architects and engineers. In fact, HPAC Engineering, a publication for heating, piping and air conditioning specialists, will publish a special supplement this fall called “Introducing Homeland Security for Buildings.” HPAC Engineering Editor-in-chief Michael Ivanovich has written an article on “The Scope and Mission of Homeland Security for Buildings” scheduled for that supplement. Ivanovich echoes Nadel’s point that all commercial building occupants should conduct some type of threat assessment. They may do so working with local authorities, including first responders. “Because many credit unions are key financial institutions within their communities, they need to be aware of their role and have some idea of what the threats are and how they might respond. Can they maintain their financial activity?,” he asks. Ivanovich says people are becoming aware of resources such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s publication “Homeland Security for Buildings.” However, he adds, although there’s a lot of discussion relatively little money is actually being spent. Federal facilities and other obvious targets may have ratcheted up their security, but that’s not true for rank-and-file commercial buildings. Since most of the discussions in HPAC Engineering have focused on heating, ventilation and air conditioning, Ivanovich shares some comments about HVAC at credit unions in the age of terrorism. The major concern is a chemical or biological attack on a nearby facility spreading to a credit union. “Many of the measures being promoted are looking at making sure your building is working properly to begin with. Is it leaking to the outside air? Are the internal mechanical systems in good working order and sealed up well? Do you have good filtration? Do you have a filter management program? Are your people well trained? Is your building staff connected with first responders and things of that nature?,” Ivanovich asks. He suggests if you can answer yes to questions like this, you not only make your building more secure, you also make it more energy efficient and comfortable. Delta Scientific, Valencia, Calif., closely tracks security issues. The company produces high-security vehicle barricade systems, parking control equipment and guard booths that are used nationwide, including at U.S. embassies and other facilities. The list of financial institution clients includes Federal Reserve banks. Senior VP David Dickinson recalls one of the architects Delta Scientific works with was standing on the roof of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City a few blocks from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, during the attack. Banking clients have been placing Delta Scientific products not primarily at retail locations but at data centers and other cites important to the nation’s infrastructure. “Our clients don’t just say, `Oh, we feel threatened. We’re going to do something.’ They make their decisions based on input from the FBI or other federal agencies coming to them and saying, `By the way, you were mentioned in a communication as a potential target.’” -

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