In my three previous essays for Boxoffice, I discussed how to
avoid litigation by preventing Sexual Harassment and Violence in the workplace.
Here, I'll consider how to avoid both the litigation and horror of terrorism
in the workplace - particularly in theaters.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that
there be management commitment and employee involvement in work-threat
prevention. There must be worksite a analysis, hazard prevention and control,
as well as employee training and education. Therefore, I'll discuss how
to recognize potential terrorists, the threat and types of chemical and
biological agents, the vulnerabilities of buildings, how to train employees
in anti-terror tactics and what to do when an attack occurs.
In 1995, 12 Tokyo subway passengers died from inhaling Sarin, and more
than 600 were hospitalized. In 2001, five Americans died from inhaling
Anthrax and 13 developed cutaneous, or inhalational disease. And, of course,
in New York City, over 3,000 died as a result of intentional terrorist
actions. Great Britain and France have had a series of terrorist incidents,
as have several other countries. From 1980 to 2000, there were some 270
known terrorist incidents, and 130 were prevented. The U.S. and much of
the world have declared a war against terrorism. Theatre management must
Let's start with what to look for when trying to stop terrorists. Look
for people interested in security systems and personnel, as well as points
of entry, controls for access and barriers around the outside of buildings,
such as fences or walls. Be aware of anonymous telephone or e-mail threats
to staff or facilities, as well as frequently circling vehicles such as
cars, trucks, bicycles and even scooters. Also be aware of an increase
in panhandlers, demonstrators, street vendors, or frequent passers-by
that register an interest in your facility. Watch for discreet use of
cameras (still or video), note taking, sketching, or questions asked of
security or other staff. Terrorists often work in teams, so watch for
groups engaged in these activities, as well as individuals working alone.
Employees are the "second line of defense" (after security hardware),
and therefore it's important that they are trained to be constantly alert
for visitors showing strange or unusual behavior, and immediately report
these to a supervisor, or other designated staff member.
Chemical agents are a favorite of terrorists, because they are fast-acting
and often easier and safer to transport than biological agents. Although
there are dozens of chemical agents recognized by the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC), only five are likely for use in a terrorist attack.
Sulfur Mustards are blister agents, which are usually a yellowish
brown in color, with a garlic or mustard odor. Vapor and liquid forms
can be absorbed through the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Symptoms
develop on contact, but pain and other effects can be delayed for up to
24 hours. Skin, eye and breathing problems result. There is no antidote
for this toxicity. Decontaminate all exposed areas by immediately washing
with soap and water.
Sarin and VX are highly toxic compounds in both liquid and
vaporous forms. They attack the central nervous system and can cause death
in minutes after exposure. They can be inhaled, ingested, or can enter
the body through the eyes and skin. Symptoms include runny nose, watery
eyes, drooling and excessive perspiration, breathing problems, nausea,
vomiting, twitching, headache and problems with vision. Decontaminate
affected areas by removing exposed clothing, as well as by flushing eyes
and skin with water.
Chlorine is a greenish yellow gas that has a pungent odor, and
can react violently with certain other compounds to cause fire and explosions.
Chlorine is corrosive to the eyes and skin. It can cause tearing, burns
and problems with vision. If inhaled it can cause death. Treatment includes
fresh air and washing of any exposed areas with soap and water.
Hydrogen Cyanide is an extremely flammable, colorless liquid or
gas. It is highly explosive and gives off toxic fumes in a fire. It affects
the eyes, skin and respiratory system. Symptoms include burning and redness
of the eyes, and if inhaled there is confusion, drowsiness, difficulty
in breathing and likely collapse. Treat with fresh air and plenty of water
for the eyes and skin.
Biological agents are odorless, tasteless and invisible. They are hundreds
of thousands of times more potent than chemical weapons, but require specialized
scientific expertise, thus they are probably less likely for use in a
single complex. The CDC lists several biological diseases as "high-priority."
They include Botulism (the most potent lethal substance known to
man), Plague, Smallpox, Tularaemia, Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (a
series of viruses such as Ebola) and Anthrax. Most of these can
be spread through use of aerosols and/or via spores, and for most, there
are either preventative vaccines or antibiotics available for treatment.
However, with biological agents, physical effects often are not visible
for hours, and sometimes days.
Controlled areas containing many people - such as indoor auditoriums and
other large public spaces such as lobbies - are ideal targets for chemical
and biological attacks. However, there are many things theater management
can do to prevent these attacks.
First, close any unnecessary openings in the theatre complex, and secure
manhole covers in or near the facility with locking devices. Carefully
control the mail (look for wrong or no return addresses, lopsided or unusually
heavy parcels with protruding wires or strange odors, items marked "personal'
or "confidential"), e-mails, faxes and telephone calls (obtain
and record as much information as possible), as well as other deliveries.
Also, control such vulnerable points as air intakes, sewer air pipes,
heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Motion sensors and
surveillance systems (video cameras and recorders) should be installed
at every outside door - with security personnel on duty at all times for
detecting intruders. Video cameras, recorders and plainly visible security
personnel must be at every customer/visitor entrance. If adjacent parking
is provided, ensure that vehicles are inspected (or at least visually
scanned) upon entering.
In addition, detailed anti-terrorist guidelines should be outlined in
an Emergency Operation Plan. This should be similar to a plan for responding
to a fire, bomb, earthquake, or other disaster. It must detail what to
do in the event of an attack, and who is assigned to each duty on each
shift - including the implementation of evacuation procedures. EOP training
should include drills (both tabletop and functional) and first-aid procedures
- including how to remove clothing, wash the skin and treat the eyes of
those affected by chemicals. Periodic reinforcement of training should
be scheduled, with mandatory attendance by both management and staff.
Should a terrorist attack occur, the Emergency Operation Plan should be
implemented immediately. The designated person(s) should contact authorities,
other contacts and supervisors. Other designated, first-aid trained staff
should attend to the needs of victims.
Because theaters can be particularly vulnerable to chemical attack, management
might be wise to contact a local contractor who is licensed to conduct
an anti-terrorist worksite analysis. This action, along with those I've
mentioned here, could save many lives should an attack occur.