Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Security Survey

I work in a secure location - no it is not undisclosed and no, I have never seen Dick Cheney around. Under the edge of my desk is what the US Marshal service refers to as a "Hold up" button. I was instructed when I first came to work, that should any incidence of danger occur, I could simply press that button and the police would quickly come to our rescue. I took great solace in this. Now this was prior to 9/11, but there was still the issue of security in this world of oddballs.

Up until 2 weeks ago, I never had to press the magic button. My life at the office was fairly mundane. No exciting stories of threats or danger to tell about. Then I allowed a breach of security. (In official terms, I permitted an unknown individual to enter our inner premises - ie I let someone in the door.)

The front door buzzed and I opened it to a find a rather large (over 6 foot tall, 350 lb) "gentleman" who immediately pushed pass me and started mumbling about his dire situation and his needs. I quickly realized that I was not going to offer him any satisfaction and therefore, he was not going to leave anytime soon. Then he told me to sit down. At that point I realized that our threat level had been elevated from orange to red. As soon as I could assure him I had his best interest in mind, I quickly called one of my co-workers in to assist me. (If I was going down, I wanted company.) Then I did what any loyal office mate would do, I politely excused myself.

Now, to be fair, I told the gentleman I was going to find someone who could help with his demands. He did not seem very upset that I left. I went straight to my desk and pressed the magic button. Sweet relief - or at least I thought. I waited for the cavalry to arrive. Two minutes, no help. Three minutes, no sign of assistance. Meanwhile, my co-worker is running out of conversational topics. After 5 minutes the phone rings - it's the security company. "We're saved" I thought.

"Can I have your password?" she asked. "Password" I thought. Who could remember a password at a time like this, but I flipped through a file on my desk and gave it to her as I watched the very large man in our reception area start to get antsy. "Your name please?" came the next question. I gave it to her and thought "Is this a survey?" Then she wanted our security code. Finally she asked, "Is there a problem?" By this time I am having to talk in a whisper and I reply, "Uh, yeah". Then in a monotone (like she is reading from a cue card) she asks, "Is there a hold up in progress?" "No", I reply trying to think how far I would have gotten with this conversation had someone had a gun pointed at me. "Then what is the problem?" "We have an unwanted visitor." "Oh, do you want me to call the police?" she asked. What a novel idea I thought. "Please." "I will do that", she responded and she hung up.

In less than 2 minutes 4 police cars silently pulled into the parking lot and several officers quietly exited their cars and surrounded the building. I slipped out, introduced myself, and explained our situation. They entered the building and handled it from there.

For years, I had felt secure knowing that button was within reach at anytime. Just one slight movement of my right hand and all would be taken care of. No one bothered to tell me that when my call went into the security center instead of a light coming on saying "Emergency in Progress - Call Police to Location Immediately" my indicator light said, "Possible Issue at Hand, Survey Caller, Confirm Identification, Only then Ask if Assistance is Really Needed".

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