“At least nine people, including some foreigners, have been killed in two bomb blasts at luxury hotels in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, police say. One explosion hit the Ritz-Carlton, ripping off its facade, and the other the JW Marriott. At least 48 people were injured,” according to the BBC.
Marriott International — operator of both hotels — has what may be the strongest security program in the hospitality industry, and one of the best in the private sector overall. It also has one of the strongest American brands and, as a result, is near the top of the terrorists’ target list.
Yesterday, ironically, Bill Marriott’s blog was entitled, “What’s in the Marriott name?” For terrorists, the answer is an innately soft target that is closely identified with the United States.
Today’s attacks will receive considerably more media attention — especially in the US — than the June attack on the Peshawar Pearl Continental and part of the reason is the power of the Marriott brand. Eventhough those who bombed the Pearl have specifically threatened an attack on Washington DC.
Two weeks ago the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism office released a comprehensive document entitled, “Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings.” Among its many good recommendations is:
To mitigate the risks associated with explosive or other devices detonated within a building, the NYPD recommends that owners of Medium and High Tier buildings with controllable population flows implement screening systems. The NYPD’s recommendations relating to screening systems span three general categories: people and hand-held bags, delivered packages, and vehicles.
This — and much more — was being done in Jakarta. CNN quotes one long-time guest of the Jakarta Marriott as saying, “I just don’t know how someone could get in there with a bomb, given the level of security and screening that people have to go through.” Some early, still unconfirmed, reports suggest the bombs used were brought into the hotels piece-meal over several days and then assembled.
Mitigation measures, such as those recommended by the NYPD, remain unusual in the United States and will remain unusual until there are a series of successful attacks here.
In the two weeks after Stephen Johns murder at the Holocaust Museum I made a spotty and informal survey of security guards at privately owned buildings in Washington D.C. I was unable to find even one security guard whose supervisors had responded to the tragic event by communicating anything to Mr. Johns’ peers across the city.
Recent news reports suggest this may also be true of the 13,000 private security guards employed by the Federal Protective Service.
Few of us want to live and work in the equivalent of a high-security prison. But our tendency to deny real risks — while there is still an opportunity to mitigate the risks — only increases our risk.
Just as there are (contending) national and international model fire codes, let’s get serious about developing — and more importantly adopting — design and construction codes that address a range of catastrophic risks.
Just as most jurisdictions require minimum licensure requirements for real estate brokers, hair dressers, and acupuncturists, let’s develop and meaningfully deploy minimum licensure requirements for private security personnel.