Maximum Security

If you visit the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, you'll find crash barriers disguised as large flowerpots surrounding its medical school and hospital.

Don Yacoe
Nov 21, 2004
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Stone/Betsie Van der Meer

If you visit the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, you'll find crash barriers disguised as large flowerpots surrounding its medical school and hospital. More than 300 remote cameras and other sensing devices protect the campus. The campus police, unarmed before the attacks on the World Trade Center three years ago, now carry guns, and have received extensive hand-to-hand combat training. All employees are required to carry color-coded badges, and background checks have become much more extensive. At the center's recently-opened Biotechnology Park, a fence surrounds the parking area, as well as the building itself, with entry permitted only by remote control.

The safeguards are in large part a response to Sept. 11, says Tom Dugan, chief of university police. Dugan acknowledges that biotech facilities can be particularly inviting targets because researchers often work with dangerous materials. "For days after 9/11, we...

BUSINESS NOT AS USUAL

But private companies can be a different story, according to George Bauries, managing director of international operations and crisis management at Criterion Strategies Inc., a New York City-based security consultant. Like most businesses in the city, very few life science firms own the buildings they work in, and thus have little control over exterior security and entry points, Bauries says. "I'm less concerned about high-profile buildings here than I am about the soft targets – and what better target is there than a struggling class II biotech lab run by a private company?"

Some companies have taken steps to meet the potential threat. Antigenics (see p. 19), headquartered in Rockefeller Center, depends on its landlord for external security, but, says Antigenics spokesman Sunny Uberoi, the company has designated its laboratory facility in Lexington, Mass., as an alternative headquarters in case of an attack. In addition, employees now carry BlackBerry PDAs so they can always be in touch if phone service breaks down. Employees have also been issued surgical masks in case of a chemical or bioweapons attack.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, ImClone has taken pains to beef up the protection of its headquarters office, which is located in leased space on Varick Street in Manhattan, by adding more cameras and other detection devices, and requiring passkeys of all visitors, says spokesman David Pitts. Pfizer, which owns its headquarters building in midtown Manhattan, has taken "extraordinary measures" to secure it following Sept. 11, 2001, according to spokesman Bryant Haskins. The company has redesigned its downstairs lobby to include airport-style screening, "substantially" increased its security forces, set up a crisis management operations center, and is installing generators and a backup phone system.

TAKING OUT INSURANCE

If the passing of three years has helped hospitals and private firms prepare their defenses against terrorism, it has also helped to bring order back to the property insurance market after the massive losses from the terror attacks. Those losses prompted the exclusion of terrorism coverage from commercial policies, according to Lisa Pounds, assistant vice president in the New York Life Sciences Industry Practice of risk and insurances services firm Marsh US. Since the passage of Terrorism Risk Insurance Act in November 2002, she says premiums for coverage of terrorism property damage have dropped from the stratospheric levels following Sept. 11.

BIO's Briscuso acknowledges that there is still work to be done in protecting the life sciences industry in New York City. But he says a start has been made. For example, BIO has encouraged larger firms with more advanced security to counsel smaller firms. "September 11, 2001, has brought a sense that all of us would be tarnished if an attack occurred on biotech," he said. "We're working together to help prevent that."

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