This summer I had the unique experience of watching a performance of the U.S. Navyâ€™s Blue Angels, a Navy flight demonstration squadron, at Chicagoâ€™s Air & Water show over Lake Michigan. To witness their graceful and daring maneuvers â€“ such as formations in which pilots fly only 18 inches apart â€“ was such a thrill, yet a stark contrast to the empty skies, five years ago this month, in the first few days following September 11 when all flight was halted.
In those weeks and months following the most devastating terrorist attack ever to be executed, I think many folks in the industry expected a sudden onslaught of fresh business â€“ but the reality was that as time went on, the effects of the post-September 11 economy began to be felt painfully. Although their concern was urgent and real, business owners and operators just couldnâ€™t afford to implement the level of security they knew they needed. The result for security installers was a disproportionate number of inquiries to actual signed contracts.
But the economy slowly improved, and there were other promising developments.
Greater emphasis on security spanned more than critical infrastructure facilities and governmentâ€™s investment in them. The broader concept of beefing up security at a perimeter â€“ meaning both a buildingâ€™s openings as well as a propertyâ€™s outdoor boundaries â€“ has now become one of the fastest-growing opportunities for security firms.
Perimeter security systems were once a niche market â€“ really just a small segment of the total electronic protection industry. The usual customers were prisons and auto dealers. The operations that today are considered customers of perimeter security services include ports, mass transit systems, airports, water treatment plants, police stations, high-rise buildings, landmark buildings, tourist attractions, food-processing plants, power plants, fuel-processing and storage plants, and many more.
Perimeters are now smack in the middle â€“ at the middle of our countryâ€™s attention, and at the top of our industryâ€™s priorities in terms of developing both opportunities and technological solutions.
Traditional solutions that have included photoelectric beams and fence-vibration systems have been enhanced and improved. Added to that arsenal are electronic access products such as outdoor biometrics, and video products such as night-vision, wireless transmission, and video analytic systems that can create a virtual perimeter!
This monthâ€™s cover story, â€œCreative Solutions to Outdoor Security Problems,â€ written by SDMâ€™s senior editor Russ Gager, presents six vignettes that give us a glimpse into the solutions produced by systems integrators and security dealers for their clientsâ€™ perimeter security problems. The article, which begins on page 52, explores the end usersâ€™ risks and needs, the electronic solutions, and the specific products used to deliver those solutions.
As we mark the five-year anniversary of September 11, we should reflect on the state of our nationâ€™s liberty â€“ that as a people we are still able to watch airplanes do acrobatics in the sky, and that as an industry we are contributing to that freedom through the work that we do.