Without a shadow of a doubt, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the world. Our understanding of what it means to feel safe and secure were forever altered. On top of that historic tragedy, we were all forced to reckon with previously unknown entities such as Anthrax scares, global terrorism and threats of biological and chemical attacks.

Not only did all of these events and perceived threats add up to create a change in the way in which we live, but it also changed the way in which we do business.

Trust, integrity and character are now more important characteristics than ever before, perhaps since these three elements are key components in the overall definition of security. Because of the critical role that many contractors and system integrators play in facility operations, many have found themselves thrust into a new role: trusted partner. When a company chooses a specialist to design, install, upgrade or maintain a critical system, such as those dealing with life safety and security, they want to do so with those that they inherently trust.

Initial reaction

Perhaps the most immediate reaction to events of 9/11 was that numerous businesses started inquiring about upgrading or installing security systems. According to Richard McBride, chairman and CEO of Herre Brothers (www.herrebros.com), a full-service company specializing in electrical and security contractor headquartered in central Pennsylvania, the terrorist attacks created “an enhanced awareness of the problem” and reiterated the fact that many businesses realized that they “needed to look deeper” into their life safety and security measures.

Some businesses had almost an instantaneous reaction and thus started scrambling to implement changes aimed at increasing safety and security both within and around their physical facilities. Most notably, high-risk facilities that were the most susceptible seemed to start implementing these changes right away. Facilities such as nuclear power plants, airports, government agencies, military bases, utilities and the like all seemed to be the most profoundly affected as far as threat levels.

So dramatic and life altering were the immediate and secondary effects of Sept. 11 that the federal government actually created a new department—Homeland Security. This intention of this new agency was to serve as a clearinghouse in relation to all things associated with security in this country.

This was a historic and profound occurrence, so much so that it helped drive home the point that things were indeed different, and we as a society needed to adjust our thought patterns to reflect this new way of life. Add to this new government structure the fact that most states also created security departments to aide in the overall national security plan.

Once the whole homeland security push was understood and accepted, it essentially started a snowball effect that has yet to let up. The government upped the ante by investing heavily in additional security for its facilities.

What’s to come?

Even though not everyone followed through to incorporate more stringent/enhanced security systems into their buildings and businesses, their collective awareness markedly increased.

One of the most debated topics would probably be trying to find an answer to the lingering question: “What constitutes enhanced safety and security systems?”

It is almost impossible to state, with 100 percent certainty, what will or will not work as a means of comprehensive protection. The fear of the potential unknown also does not help the situation, since prior to Sept. 11, 2001, not many could have even imagined the possibilities of such terrorism.

Planning and preparing for potential disasters is a daunting and often times thankless task, mainly since numerous unknown variables need to be considered and it is the hope that the plan itself will never actually need to be put into effect. Some have found that more thorough emergency/crisis preparedness planning is an easily implemented option since most entities have some sort of plan already in place. Many chose to expand or upgrade existing systems.

McBride also stated that in relation to the initial round of inquiries regarding security systems, “most if not all ended up in sales or system upgrades.” This is, in all ways, a good thing since it helps illustrate that many more end-users are taking safety and security seriously.

One of the most significant lessons learned throughout this turbulent time of change is that one’s physical and emotional state in relation to safety and security is priceless. Taking as many steps as possible to help ensure safety is one way that we can start to return, somewhat, to the way that things were before we all experienced, firsthand, what it means to feel threatened.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.