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Since the attack on the Capitol Building there has been an increase in the conversation about how to secure against a mob. The answer is that it is never easy or entirely possible to thwart a determined assault. Given enough time and resources the mob will prevail. Mobilizing enough resources to prevent the mob isn’t always practical or possible. In the case of the Capitol, the conversation will revolve around the failure to have the National Guard in a position to be deployed effectively. The two-way radio system at the Capitol was overwhelmed by the volume of officers needing to request help and the supervisors needing to direct resources. Regardless, of this we must look at the extreme need for personnel which most facilities will not have access to in a crisis. So what should we focus on when looking at our security priorities?
While the threat from a large mob is real, the reality of it occurring outside of a government protest are not as likely. The largest gatherings that result in unrest that we have seen in recent past are a response to a societal event such as police use of force. These spontaneous events are rarely organized and have traditional targeted commercial enterprises. Generally, buildings are targeted only for vandalism and arson. Rarely is there an intent to occupy the building itself. The best response to these events is to initiate the emergency action plan to secure the building and evacuate occupants safely.
This focus on mass protests needs to be put into context. The biggest failure at the Capitol was underestimating the threat. The event was planned for days. The FBI was contacting potential agitators and preventing them from attending. The National Guard had been called up and was prepared but they were not onsite. This oversight resulted in the inability to deploy reserve units to the breach. Generally, the Guard is used to support the jurisdictional police by guarding areas not under threat (parking lots, streets, restricted entrances, etc.) so the officers normally assigned there can reenforce hot spots. For the common business institution this level of personnel support is unthinkable. The lack of available people means we look to physical barriers for a solution.
Physical security has a role in preventing a mob, but it cannot totally prevent all chaos. We cannot lose sight of the simple solutions to security in a crisis. Notification to emergency responders and alerting building occupants of the threat will always be the most crucial aspects in a crisis. Time is essential. The sooner law enforcement is notified the quicker they can respond. People in the building need to know that a threat is present. If you are not able to quickly and immediately sound alarms and provide information on the location of a threat in the building you have already failed. Employing a drop-down barrier across an entrance will slow down an attack but if people haven’t been informed of the need to act the barrier only serves a limited function. Make sure you have created a securities priority list and stick to it before jumping down to implement a solution that wasn’t planned. It should be noted that a drop-down barrier will impede the exit from a building so if a determined hostile attacker is inside the building this type of obstacle could prove fatal in that situation.
We tend to react to the newest threat when speaking about security. This is not the best approach and leads to a haphazard and disjointed security posture that is only confusing in a crisis. All the threats are real. Anything is possible, but it is the probability we need to address. The Capitol building had an almost limited budget for security. We know that most people were informed of the breach through word of mouth or seeing actions by security to physically remove VIPs from the floor. This is an ineffective communication method. Alarms should have sounded alerting occupants. This also serves the purpose of letting the rioters know their actions are unlawful and police are responding. This has a deterrent effect on the psyche of the intruder.
Do not let the hysteria from the Capitol breach deter you from your security needs. Realize these events are rare and that basic security methods will still have a positive impact on events should they occur. We must no react to low probability events. Confidence comes from being prepared for any eventuality not just one.