Charles Jones, area manager for Initial Security’s southwest region, meets with President George Bush during operations in the hurricane-hit area.<

Post-hurricane Postings

From Charles Jones as told to Denise Culver: It’s been a while since Hurricane Rita tore threw my home and community in Vidor, Texas.

While that may be a common story for people who live in southeast Texas, my story has been anything but common. As the area manager for East Texas and Louisiana for Initial Security, I’ve lived through both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in a way that few people ever have – or would want to.

It all began on August 30th; the day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana and Mississippi shorelines. With 40 of my security officers displaced by the storm and dozens of companies requesting emergency security assistance to their sites in cities throughout the affected regions, my reduced staff of one (Janice Roy) and myself began working nonstop to fulfill the demand. With all communication down, there was no way to reach the other officers, no forwarding addresses or e-mail. It was a very confusing, chaotic and frustrating time, because there was no way to tell exactly who was missing or if they were even alive. Within hours of notification, the Southwest Regional office located in Houston and several other branches began fulfilling the needs of current and new clients. Officers were brought in to meet the demand.

I later flew by helicopter to provide security to one of our clients in the New Orleans area and remember thinking it’s one thing to see the pictures on the television but reality trumps any images you see on TV. As the emergency response teams continued to deploy, stories started pouring in of the heartache lived by so many of my officers, friends and their families. Next came the mosquitoes, disease and stench of rot, decay and mold. I later learned none of the officers were seriously injured, although one officer lost her father in the storm, and another became ill from diseased water.

As I worked alongside my replacement crews, we all came to realize how much we take for granted on a daily basis.

One bright moment that occurred during the relief effort was when my replacement crew and I had the opportunity to meet President George Bush, who visited our client’s property in New Orleans. I worked with the president’s Secret Service team to secure the area, which revealed some unexpected excitement.

For me, the storms took a personal and professional toll. As things again started to come back to normal, there was the task of getting employees to come back to work, talking to clients, restarting old business and beginning new. I’ve learned a lot about what’s important and what isn’t and I’ve seen a lot about how people become equalized in these kinds of situations. When this kind of thing happens, it doesn’t matter who you are; you’re going to have to wait in line like everyone else for your water or your bag of ice. It teaches you what’s really important in this life – what matters.

Emergency Situations Expand Training

It turns out that security guarding firms, closer to their clients than other first responders, are often better prepared for disaster management. When hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, property owners and managers were faced with security challenges that required a different set of training, communications and response capabilities.

Marietta, Ga.-based Valor Security Services, among others, quickly responded to these challenges with emergency response plans. The experience provided the company, which specializes in large retail and mixed use properties, with real-world situations that can’t be duplicated in the classroom. According to Dan Rakestraw, Valor’s president, “We will be even better prepared for the next emergency.”

He added, “The storms exposed the properties we were servicing and increased the dangers inside them. They also displaced many of our staff, particularly in the Mississippi and Louisiana coastlines. As the situation developed, we had to simultaneously focus on finding our officers to make sure they were safe, marshal these forces to secure the facilities, and organize and deploy support teams from around the country.”

Choosing the Right Guard & Patrol Company

The responsibilities assigned to contract uniformed guard companies have increased in light of the increased vulnerabilities faced by clients, according to Vector Security, Pittsburgh. So has the evaluation process, as users need to create service partnerships based upon higher performance levels.

A company’s contract rate is based mostly around the wages paid to security officers. Real value can be determined by looking at the base rate, and its ability to attract good candidates. Factor in the comprehensiveness of the company’s professional liability insurance, officer benefits including medical benefits and vacation pay. Rates may also differ for line officers, those with specialized training and site supervisors.

Wackenhut Wins Corporation Of The Year Award

The Wackenhut Corporation of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has been named Local Corporation of the Year by the Florida Regional Minority Business Council. According to the council, the Corporation of the Year consistently demonstrates a commitment to minority purchasing, technical and managerial assistance and sponsorship of minority programs.

Last year, Wackenhut’s expenditures with its MBE generated millions of dollars in revenue for its partners. The company’s commitment to providing opportunities to its diverse supplier base extends to a policy of prompt payments to that group, as well as to extending time limits on settlement of Wackenhut invoices. Drew Levine, president of Wackenhut’s Security Services Division, said, “Joint ventures, partnerships and subcontracting relationships across the country have resulted from Wackenhut’s initiatives in the area of supplier diversity and we will continue to help develop opportunities in the communities that we call home. This award should also recognize our key business partners such as Bank of America, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and the North Broward Hospital District.”