Station security now a top priority

May 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Two years ago, an armed man from Wyoming walked into the lobby of Denver’s NBC affiliate KUSA-TV and demanded that a videotape he had made be played on the air. He shot out the windows and put a gun to the head of the station’s temporary receptionist. It was her first day on the job.
The receptionist had the presence of mind to escort the gunman to the station’s green room, where they waited for someone from the news department. The police arrived shortly and subdued the man, who was eventually jailed.
That moment was an epiphany for KUSA, said Roger Ogden, president and general manager. The broadcaster has since implemented a number of security measures, including installing more cameras and lights and hiring round-the-clock security guards.
Vigilance is in
Recently, station security has become a top priority, especially since 9/11 and the anthrax scares. NY1 News in Manhattan, KICU-TV in San Francisco and the Liberty Corp. station group are among the broadcast and cable outlets that have introduced additional security measures since then, ranging from new employee guidelines to security cameras.
TV stations need to do more to protect their employees, said Leon Long, VP of operations for Liberty, which operates 15 stations. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to do that is by getting everyone involved in the process, he said. “Everyone is responsible for watching the vagrant on the front lawn to make sure he doesn’t access the facility. It doesn’t cost anything, but it does require consistent training. A media company is a high target,” he said.
Such vigilance by employees is essential, said Mr. Ogden. “Rather than be afraid of offending someone, you should go up and say, `Can I help you? What can I do? Do you have business here?”’ he said.
Following the incident with the gunman, KUSA put procedures in place to send codes over the station’s public address system to alert employees of any problems. The station has also installed an intercom in the outer lobby and began providing a list of scheduled daily visitors to the receptionists. Anyone who isn’t on that list must be escorted into the station by a security guard, said Mr. Ogden.
Security on many levels
KUSA reviewed all its security procedures after 9/11, including the station’s evacuation procedures. NY1 News relocated to a new building in Manhattan early this year that includes several enhanced security features. The building’s landlord has installed security cameras in elevators, common spaces, stairwells and halls, said Jeffrey Polikoff, director of operations and engineering with NY1. In addition, the receptionist is enclosed in a glass box, he said.
The station is currently working on a second level of security to be in place within a few months. At that time, people wanting to enter the building after hours will either have to be buzzed in or swipe a card through an electronic reader. The card reader will be used to access the elevator, the sixth floor where the facility is located and the door to the space itself, he said.
Stations also need to consider security during remote live shots, said Mr. Long. “If I were a bad guy and wanted to get a place in the sun, that would be a point of vulnerability,” he said. The solution lies in better monitoring by reporters, photographers and any other crew members on a live shot, he said.
Just in case
When a remote shot is needed at a volatile site, such as at a public rally, NY1 News will send an additional photographer or a security guard, said Mr. Polikoff.
Stations should also protect their product by developing backups if their facilities go down. NY1 News is in the process of shipping its old equipment to a backup facility in New Jersey for use in the event of a fire, bomb or shutdown of the New York building, said Mr. Polikoff.
KICU has taken additional steps to secure the ducts in its mailroom since 9/11 and the anthrax scares. The mailroom is now essentially a self-contained unit so that air from that area cannot circulate into the rest of the building, said Tom Raponi, the station’s VP and general manager. In addition, all of KICU’s mail is now put through a screening process to look for peculiarities such as unusual content or addresses, he said.
Stations also need to be watchful to avoid backsliding. KUSA reviews its security procedures every six months. The station requires employees to wear ID badges at all times, but after a few months of attentive observance, employees forget, Mr. Ogden said, including himself. That’s why it’s imperative to continually remind people of the rules, he said.