Alexander Ubiadas: Learning Self-Reliance from Isolation
As Hurricane Iselle barreled down on the island of Oahu in early August, Alexander Ubiadas was prepared. He had already invested in ruggedized security equipment at isolated facilities, built long-term recovery plans and worked with his staff to get facilities as ready as possible for the storm. Because while people might survive for a while without electricity, they truly need safe, clean water, no matter the weather.
Ubiadas is the Emergency Management Staff Officer for the City and County of Honolulu’s Board of Water Supply, where he and his team are responsible for protecting the clean water infrastructure for the entire Island of Oahu, which includes thousands of miles of pipeline, thousands of assets, more than 300 facilities, 600-plus employees and hundreds of daily visitors. In order to secure this infrastructure, Ubiadas relies on advance information and threat awareness, because often help is thousands of miles away.
“We have to be very self-reliant, especially here in Hawaii, and we’re able to do that because our water sources are here, and this tropical environment allows for recharging of the aquifers,” Ubiadas says. “It’s a noble cause doing security in such an isolated area because I can’t rely on someone next door. I can’t rely on anyone other than who I’ve got. … If there’s a catastrophic incident, we have agreements that we can use, but it’s going to take them a while to get here. The longer it takes for either an investigation to happen or for some kind of response team to arrive, the longer people have to wait for restoration of water services or, just at the very least, where we can guarantee the quality of the water that’s being provided.”
And while Ubiadas might not be able to prevent natural disasters, he and his team can work to mitigate other threats. He works with neighborhood watch groups and local security associations to stay tuned in to what’s happening on the island and what trends to watch for, in addition to internal security measures and awareness programs.
Board of Water Supply personnel in the field are taught what constitutes suspicious behavior and how to report it. In-house and contracted security officers patrol the facilities and areas regularly. Deterrents include signage, random anti-terrorism measures, decoy police cars and cameras, and electronic security measures. Chain link fences are being replaced by expanded metal fences with razor-wire at the top to help further discourage intruders.
“We’ll provide personal protection for employees going into high-threat or very secluded areas where we have many of our facilities, where there might not be anyone around if they call for help. We also give employees resources, such as referrals to self-defense classes, if they’re truly concerned about their safety,” he says.
“A lot of our work is done behind the scenes, and that can lead to some people not seeing the value of security, because we try to conceal it when we use anti-terrorism measures, trying to prevent incidents, and so it doesn’t affect operations, cause panic or delays.”
In order to sell security as more than just an insurance policy, Ubiadas and his team work up case studies from other municipalities to share with city officials, or build metrics on investigation close rates, or reductions in intrusions after changing the fencing (a 99- to 100-percent reduction so far, Ubiadas reports) or other security measures.
“Once we successfully sell the security brand, people are very appreciative; they like the concept of what we’re doing, and they want us to do more. They look to us as subject matter experts, and they recognize that we have the knowledge, experience and capability that we can provide on an as-needed basis if something arises,” he says. “They recognize that they can call us for personal security advice instead of the police. They start to understand our mission as a security and emergency management resource, and then they start to change their direction and have a more positive attitude toward us.
“The key is in giving them the ‘What’s in it for me,’” Ubiadas adds. “That’s what gets them on board to help us all succeed.”
Prior to joining the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Ubiadas was a full-time emergency manager with the Hawaii Air National Guard and served in several positions, including being deployed in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Securitymagazine thanks him for his service. He is married and has one son, and in his free time, he can be found practicing his marksmanship or spending time with family.
- Annual Revenue: $186 million
- Security Budget: $1 million
- Physical Security
- Insider Threats
- Supply Chain
- Regulatory Compliance
- Supporting Business Growth
- Drug Testing
- “Customer Facing” Posture
- Risk Management Planning