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Anti-Terror Security Guards To Protect Power Plants

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by David, Jul 20, 2005.

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  1. David

    David Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    I found an interesting 2004 article that goes into great detail about the extensive training and state-of-the-art equipment, including firearms, issued to private security assigned to protect a Florida power plant.

    For example, some of the items they carry include:

    AR-15 Rifle
    9mm Handgun
    AO Tech Holographic Sight
    Night-vision goggles
    Body armor

    ..."And each will be qualified to fire a 9mm Springfield XD handgun, .223-caliber AR-15 rifle and 12-gauge shotgun."...

    NOTE: Click on this story's link below to see some training photos and security equipment graphics.


    Terror-proofing TECO

    In response to a study that revealed its vulnerabilities, the electricity utility is training nearly three dozen officers to guard its plants - and the public.

    By PAUL DE LA GARZA, Times Staff Writer
    Published January 11, 2004

    TAMPA - For decades, unarmed guards have screened visitors and looked into small thefts at Tampa Electric's power plants.

    In the post-Sept.11 era of terrorist threats and color-coded warning levels, such security operations sound quaint. Now TECO is sending a warning: Those days are over.

    Starting at midnight, the utility will deploy a private force of antiterrorism officers who will be highly trained and armed to the teeth.

    Around the clock, nearly three dozen officers carrying 9mm handguns and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles will patrol TECO's four power plants in Hillsborough and Polk counties. They are the only private guards allowed by the state to carry such rifles besides those protecting nuclear plants.

    TECO's armed force will be complemented by new sensor alarms, surveillance cameras and crash barricades. There are plans for better contact with law enforcement and federal Homeland Security officials. And TECO is beefing up efforts to gather intelligence on individuals or groups who could threaten its plants.

    "When this deployment is made," said Mike Middlebrooks, a senior security official at TECO, "we're sending a message to the bad guy: Don't come here!"

    The heightened security follows a consultant's study that exposed TECO's vulnerability to terrorists and assessed the potential impact of an attack at its plant near the Port of Tampa. It could trigger a blackout throughout Florida, and economic losses in the Tampa Bay area could exceed $600-million a day.

    If the attack damaged anhydrous ammonia tanks at the port, the results could be deadly. Another study found that as many as 37,300 people within a 3.3-mile radius of the port could be affected by the ammonia.

    TECO officials say the study of the Gannon/Bayside power station by Critical Intervention Services Inc. in Clearwater reinforced what they knew: The terrorist threat at the facility is high, because old-style security plans were designed to address conventional threats, not aircraft hijackings and car bombings.

    So tonight, the utility embarks on a new era of unprecedented security. Experts say the level of instruction the force received through CIS under a five-year, multimillion-dollar contract rivals the training of federal law enforcement and the military.

    "The training you are providing to the security personnel at Critical Intervention Services (CIS), military personnel and law enforcement professionals is unmatched by civilian readiness training for the war on terror," Agent Jerry D. White of the Protective Services Detail at U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa wrote to CIS.

    The utility expects to deploy more armed guards in the future. A new training program begins in February.

    This past month TECO and CIS gave the St. Petersburg Times access to the training in Tampa and St. Petersburg. They want to publicize their plans to discourage terrorists.

    It's early Sunday morning and pouring rain. The day is dominated by news that U.S.-led coalition forces have captured Saddam Hussein.

    Inside a hotel conference room in Tampa, K.C. Poulin, chief executive officer of CIS, leads the orientation for ex-military and ex-law enforcement officers who will make up TECO's antiterrorism squad.

    The group was culled from more than 700 applicants. The men - there are no women - underwent a grueling selection process, including IQ, psychological and drug tests, as well as criminal and credit background checks.

    Poulin tries to instill a sense of pride in the group by saying they're making history.

    He says no other private security force in the industry has the type of antiterrorism training they will receive.

    That claim cannot be independently confirmed.

    As a rule, utility companies do not reveal their security plans. Progress Energy Inc., for example, would not discuss security at its power plants aside from acknowledging that there are armed guards at its Crystal River nuclear plant.

    Assessing the potential effectiveness of TECO's security plan to deter a terrorist attack also is difficult.

    Jim Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said TECO's security plan is impressive.

    "This isn't a race," Lewis said. "It's not who's first. It's more like, who's passed the bar, who's passed the exam, and it sounds like they've passed the exam."


    To stay in the program, the antiterrorism officers must pass a written test. A typical question: According to the FBI, more than 88 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States are a) explosive or incendiary bomb attacks b) kidnappings c) armed assaults d) biological attacks or e) cyber attacks.

    The answer is a.

    The guards will earn between $25,000 and $30,000 a year after completing 245 hours of training. They will learn about issues ranging from hazardous materials to explosive devices. And each will be qualified to fire a 9mm Springfield XD handgun, .223-caliber AR-15 rifle and 12-gauge shotgun.

    "You have taken on the responsibility of protecting our community," Poulin tells the trainees. "If you should fail in that commitment, people will die, and the community as we know it today will stop functioning for an indefinite period of time."

    Middlebrooks, the TECO executive behind the project, boils it down.

    "We're giving you that responsibility," he says, "because there are people all around expecting electricity to be on at the flick of a switch."

    The guards are a diverse group - some young, some old, some slim, some not. They smoke lots of cigarettes. Of the 40 candidates who started the program, six are cut.

    The men revel in the military-style training. They acknowledge comments by the instructors with customary soldier grunts.

    Their uniforms are gray, and their equipment consists of an arsenal of high-powered tools, including night vision goggles, infrared spotlights, long- and close-range digital cameras for surveillance, 9mm handguns and rifles.

    For the TECO program, CIS obtained a waiver from the state to allow the guards to carry the handguns and rifles.

    "In most instances," CIS wrote to the state, "facility security officers are outnumbered and outgunned by the assault team. The only chance of survival they have is the ability to respond with firepower."

    Art Varnadore of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said he previously has granted a waiver for the AR-15 only to private security forces that guard the state's three nuclear reactors.

    He said he granted the waiver for the TECO officers because of their mission and training. The rifles cannot leave TECO facilities except for maintenance and use in training.

    "If you've sat in on the training, and you know what they're going to be guarding out there," Varnadore said, "it ought to make you sleep better tonight."

    On a cold and windy day, squad members undergo weapons training at the Wyoming Antelope Club range in Pinellas Park.

    "There are no innocent victims we can sacrifice for the greater good," advises firearms instructor Rick Benn, a corporal in the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. "If you're going to shoot, don't miss. If you're going to miss, don't shoot."

    The guards rarely miss. To qualify for the program, they must be 90 percent proficient in hitting their target.

    The training doesn't always go smoothly.

    During an exercise at a TECO facility, the men are required to map the grounds. They appear lost and unorganized.

    Poulin compares their mapping technique to a stroll in the park.

    "Let's do this like a team!" he says. "Do it right! We're running out of time!"

    Officer Julio Collazo, 34, emerges as a leader early on. The TECO squad has been divided into four units, and he has been placed in charge of Alpha Group.

    Before moving to Tampa six months ago, Collazo worked security for the San Francisco Municipal Railway and underwent antiterrorism training.

    Collazo said the TECO officers take the job seriously.

    "We're not messing around," he said.

    The vulnerability of the nation's power system has been well-documented since Sept.11, 2001. TECO's study reminded company executives that they needed to expand security beyond the use of unarmed guards.

    "We needed somebody on our property who could respond to a major incident," said Clinton Childress, senior vice president of human resources and services at TECO. "And we needed somebody to be proactive."

    TECO security turned to CIS, which has gained national acclaim for its innovative crime-fighting methods in high-crime neighborhoods, including Tampa. The company has been featured prominently in the Wall Street Journal and on ABC News.

    Craig Gundry, vice president of special projects at CIS, wrote that the most significant result of a terrorist attack on the Gannon/Bayside power station would be economic damage and public frustration.

    "An act of sabotage, resulting in indefinite interruption of operations, can create a severe power shortage throughout the Tampa-area grid," Gundry said. "Depending on the nature of the sabotage, restoration of full-service power may take anywhere from days to six months or longer."

    CIS assessed various threat scenarios, including suicide aircraft attacks and armed assaults, and made recommendations.

    TECO would not say precisely how much it is spending on the program. The equipment for the guards cost $100,000.

    Spokesman Ross Bannister said the program will not affect electricity rates, because the cost is built into the company's existing budget for safety and security.

    Donald Tighe, spokesman at the federal Department of Homeland Security, pointed to the TECO program as a good example of how the private sector and government can work together to combat terrorism.

    "In our free economy, there's an incredibly broad range of points of vulnerability ... and it sounds like a real acceptance of responsibility and commitment to the security that Tampa Electric has made, and we certainly applaud that kind of thing," Tighe said.

    Massoud Amin, a professor of electric and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota, said the TECO security effort is in line with steps taken by other utilities. He said utility companies took precautions to deal with the Y2K bug well before 9/11.

    TECO has a separate division that deals with cyber threats.

    Amin, an expert on security of the nation's power supply, said that utilities have bolstered security since 9/11, so the country's power grid is safer.

    But because of the impact an attack would have on the American economy and psyche, he said, the country's power supply remains a tempting target for terrorists.

    "The sky is not falling," Amin said, "but a lot remains to be done."
    :what: :uhoh: :what:
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2005
  2. Ukraine Train

    Ukraine Train Member

    Aug 22, 2003
    Good to see they have their act together. I just saw a piece this weekend on TV about the vulnarabilities of oil refineries. As a side note, these guards get all kinds of cool toys and good training but I'd be sooo bored. It's not like they're street cops that get to see at least some action on a regular basis.
  3. TxCajun

    TxCajun Member

    Apr 13, 2005
    South-Central Tx &/or SW La
    Not to mention the chemical plants and myriad of gas pipelines criss-crossing the country. :eek:
  4. Khaotic

    Khaotic Member

    Apr 25, 2005
    Indeed Cajun, in fact I worked security for one of those chem plants, which I will not name for security reasons - and pointed out to them repeatedly that they really ought to keep the railroad gate CLOSED.

    Why ? because the camera covering it had not worked in five years, and there were all manner of chemical nastieness someone could just waltz in and mess with, a very scary thought, especially as I lived downwind of the plant.

    I did however, refuse to carry a firearm as a security person, because industrial security is more about safety and loss prevention, and generally anyone wanting to do something nasty will blow away an armed security folk first off - whilst you have so many regs and a mandatory compliance policy, that it's pointless to even BOTHER to carry.
    (That may have changed since, it's been many a year..)

    So being unarmed, any BG would be a lot less likely to shoot me, and all they have to do is slack off just once....
    Anyhow, security is far more about deterrent than response, and while the toys are nice, it sounds like a mite bit of overkill to me.

    You also should take into consideration that security forces get far more bad apples through screening than police and far more than their fare share of rambo wannabe types - that bothered me WORSE than the security issues, especially the day we had to have the police come 'collect' one of our personnel who'd gone over the deep end.

    They better double-check and re-screen these guys before they start handing out those kinda toys to them, some security folk I would barely trust with the Detex clock.

  5. centac

    centac member

    Apr 26, 2005
    Having toted a Detex clock during college I can state that they are formidable weapons in their own right.
  6. Khaotic

    Khaotic Member

    Apr 25, 2005
    I LOVED the Clock, centac, it was a heavy, leatherbound mechanical thing that bespoke of tradition and history... when they went to swipe cards my eyes misted over at the thought of them taking away my little piece of honor and tradition for a soulless piece of plastic... :(

    And yeah, they made pretty good weapons too, the term "clocking" someone actually comes from desperate security guys who clouted someone with it in self-defense.

    Security forces as a general rule seem to have fallen pretty far, but that might just be me getting older and crabbier, I dunno...


    *PS - I proudly carried the Guardsman 601.
    In case anyone's interested.
  7. NoViuM

    NoViuM Member

    Jul 8, 2005
    DFW, TX
    http://www.wackenhut.com/object.php?obj=6c0029 I got a dollar says these guys are on top of it.

    They aren't going to have any retention paying the guards that with the cost of living in Florida. These same nuts could go work for Blackwater and make that kind of money in a month. Especially since they are all x police or military. I'm currently in a building where the detex clocks are gone but the keys are still at the old stations. Wonder if they're worth anything....
  8. 22rimfire

    22rimfire Member

    Jun 22, 2003
    "The guards will earn between $25,000 and $30,000 a year after completing 245 hours of training"

    For that kind of money you are not gonna get the kind of people you want. That's only about $13 per hour before taxes and other deductions for what will be 24/7 shift work.

  9. centac

    centac member

    Apr 26, 2005
    "the term "clocking" someone actually comes from desperate security guys who clouted someone with it in self-defense."

    I had no idea.....

    The clock and the bright chrome 7 D-cell everready flashlight, both with the leather shoulder strap, tools of the old-school night watchman. I knew of guys who on their first clock round would unscrew all the keyboxes, take them to the office, key all their rounds from in front of the TV and replace them on their "last" round. I also found some weird, weird stuff in those key boxes occasionally, especially whenever their were labor issues
  10. Khaotic

    Khaotic Member

    Apr 25, 2005
    Yikes, we'd have never done that, it was unprofessional.

    We didn't even do rounds on a schedule, taking a note from how US submariners picked the time to clear baffles, I suggested using a pair of dice to determine every morning when the three rounds would take place, and this suggestion was cheefully adopted by the other guards - industrial security is boring, and boredom leads to slacking, which leads to a bad job.

    The company is now defunct, having imploded due to cutting personnel below safe coverage levels in the name of corporate profit after being bought out by another company, but they were a good crew, one of the best I ever worked with.

    We considered "Wackyhut" to be borderline BG's... very bad personnel selection due in part to bad hours, poor wages and a lack of appropriate supervision, combined with terrible screening and hiring procedures, and a history of flirting with human rights violations... when they handled security for BWI we were rather appalled of just how bad a job they did.

    There's some good folk working for them no doubt, but on the whole, their rep and history does not inspire confidence.

    Pinkertons was an excellent company long before my time, but they came apart when ole man pinkerton slowly went crazy, and the company decided to involve itself in strikebreaking activity.

    It's hard to find good guards, and you do have to pay a bit more for quality, but trust me, it's worth every penny because the really, really GOOD guards know one thing - vigilance is key, if you skip checking something EVEN ONCE, you might as well have never bothered to ever check it in the first place, cause it only takes once.

    In the world of security, you get what you pay for.

  11. Ukraine Train

    Ukraine Train Member

    Aug 22, 2003
    Wackenhut does security for our plant. It's a couple really old guys that sit in a control tower looking building and operate the gate. Until recently they didn't even log who went in and out. Then again we just make spark plugs.
  12. VaughnT

    VaughnT Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    Western SC
    That's not that great a payscale, to be sure. Heck, I make that much for transporting money around the southeast!

    Having said that, I can't say that they aren't getting good people. If a person willingly signs up for that pay and passes rigorous tests (including honest firearms quals), maybe that person is good/professional, and is just happy to be working in an interesting field.

    Now, security on a whole is just one big sad mess. I've worked with more security fools that I care to think of. Rambo's, cop wannabes, retirees and idiots all abound. And, the reason for this is the lack of a customer base to support the wages that are necessary to get Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and the like to join up. Blackwater and other groups are paying premium salaries for these highly-trained, highly professional men, but their customers can afford these ridiculously high salaries.

    How can you talk a restaruant into paying for armored car service when they've never been robbed on the way to making their nightly deposit? How can they justify a $400+/month bill for something you can't prove they need? If you can't get customers to sign on with your service, how can you afford top-shelf people like the military is producing?

    Every once in a while, the security organization runs into a bit of luck and hires a really good guy that wants to do something different, but doesn't want to be a cop or jump out of airplanes. This guy is interested in training, in becoming better, and likes to do the best he can. This guy will usually be treated poorly, be made fun of, and leave within a few years of hiring on. Sometimes they stick with it and move up the ladder until they can't remember why they signed on in the first place; they forget what it was all about.

    Boredom? Yup, that's the best part of the job. Sometimes you do wish for some excitement, but that usually means somebody bleeding/dying, and that's not a cool thing. You see that once or twice and it starts to lose its luster.

    Will security in general ever be more than a mickey-mouse operation? Not without .gov subsidies to increase the pay/benefits to the point that people see it as a profession and not as a stopping point until something better comes along.

    Rant Off.
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