Almost six months after September 11th, a cross-section of high-profile security directors spoke on Tuesday about what’s being done to ensure the safety of the public against future terrorism.
Calling 9-11 a “wake-up call,” John Paczkowski, director of security for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, spoke about safety on the city’s trains, subways and airports.
“We are in the highest state of continuous alert in the history of the country,” Paczkowski said, during a panel discussion moderated by Congressman Joseph Crowley at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
Rear Admiral Richard Bennis of the United States Coast Guard, and commanding officer of New York activities, focused on the numerous vessels which deliver goods to the city ports.
Joining him, was Terrence Cox, security director at Consolidated Edison and Ron Thompson, security director at KeySpan Energy.
Paczkowski requested more funding to put needed safety enhancements into place.
The money would go toward additional security personnel at airports, and the development of technology that would more efficiently detect metals, explosives or other objects banned from airports. Improved technology would help quicken the check-in process, currently notoriously slow.
“We welcomed the federal take-over of passenger screening,” Paczkowski said, noting that the P.A. is collaborating with the government on the process.
Outside funding is also needed by the Port Authority Police to be used in the event of an emergency. Separate from the New York Police Department, the Port Authority has 1,300 officers of its own, who are often the first officers to arrive at emergencies, including the World Trade Center attacks, Paczkowski said.
The Coast Guard, said Bennis, has been focusing on the security of the borders.
Since September 11th, the Coast Guard has changed its policy to prevent questionable cargo on vessels from ever landing here, rather than inspecting packages after they arrive.
“The Coast Guard operated like a firehouse. We kept personnel trained and responded when there was an emergency. Since September 11th, we now have a patrol officer’s mentality. We are out on the streets,” Bennis said.
Vessels from around the world drop off cargo at New York City ports. On September 11th, the day Bennis ordered all activity closed on the city’s boundaries, the country lost an estimated $20 million, according to the rear admiral.
Consolidated Edison, which provides electricity to New York City and Westchester, has tightened security at 29 of its “most critical” power facilities, Cox said.
Following September 11th, Con Ed initiated a study to determine which of its facilities, if attacked, would damage the region the most. Those 29 facilities are undisclosed, Cox said.
Earlier in his career, Cox had spent 25 years with the FBI, studying the terror movements of al-Qaeda, a terrorist group.
Saying that it would be impossible to provide top security at all of its properties, “we have to look at probabilities,” Cox said.
The utility company believes that the threat it faces from terrorism is low.
“(If attacked) in the summer, people would be hot. In the winter, they would be cold. But they wouldn’t be dead,” he said.
KeySpan, which services New York City, Long Island and parts of New England, had hired a consultant to determine the security enhancements it should make, Thompson said.
Based on the recommendations, the company added additional guards and security cameras at some locations.
The consultant also looked into how to keep the company running if affected by terrorism.
Crowley said he will incorporate the discussion into a report for the White House.