Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Building Security...or lack thereof

I work in downtown Hartford (that's in Connecticut, for those geographically challenged among you), in an eighteen floor building. Security here is more intense than any other building I've ever worked previously, as each person is required to carry a badge which contains a photo. The badges are coded to only allow access to the floors you are required, and are needed to move the elevator anywhere beyond the first floor. So, if I tried to flash mine and take the elevator to the 6th floor, I'd be denied.

Of course, I managed to forget mine the other day, which I didn't realize until, of course, I was getting in the elevator. D'oh! No problem, I thought, I'll just go the the Security Desk, explain the situation, and arrive at some temporary solution. I'm guessing I'll have to fill out forms, sign things, show identification, etc. in order to get to my desk.

I approached the desk, and didn't recognize the two men there. Not surprising, since I hadn't really needed to interact with any security folks recently. I explained the deal, how I work here and forgot my badge, and began reaching for my wallet...since he's gonna demand some ID and check it against some kind of master list, right? Uh, nope, he juts points to the other guy, who then takes me to the elevator and asks what floor I work on. Once we get to my floor, he asks if I'll need any help getting past the next layer of security, the doors to my office, and he opens those as well.

Now, I might look trustworthy, but I was taken aback that nobody even bothered to have me produce something, anything, that proved I was who I claimed to be. I could have been anybody, from a corporate spy to a petty theif to a real live terrorist, and these guys gave me a golden path to wherever I wanted to go. I wonder if there was some subtle reverse racism or profiling at work here - I was carrying a laptop, and perhaps most importantly, I'm white. I certainly gave all indications I was legit, but wouldn't a good criminal do the same? I wonder if I was black or middle eastern looking if I would have been afforded the same treatment?

I suppose people just become more lax the further we are from any kind of security scare. I recall visiting another one of our offices in midtown Manahttan about six months after 9/11, and getting past the security desk there was very tough. I had to show a drivers license, and they then called the office where I was visiting to make sure they were expecting me. Only then did the burly security detail allow me to pass to the elevators. About a year ago, I went to the same building, on a Saturday, and while the security looked more imposing (anything I was carrying had to be put on a conveyor belt to be inspected), the guard seemed to really not care that much. He even told me I didn't have to put my laptop bag on the belt! What?

Don't you feel safer now? I mean, your security is only as strong as its weakest point, right? If you're going to put up all these restrictions and barriers, then why don't you make sure your employees are trained to make sure they are observed?

As we've seen countless other times, the only thing that causes a reaction is when something bad occurs. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, again.
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