Honolulu security firms say they are getting increased requests for services in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Security companies see
increased interest after attacks
By Lyn Danninger
"We've been busier, that's for sure," said Derek Murakami, marketing for Burns International Services.
There are about 30 companies that provide a variety of security services in Honolulu. One, Freeman Guards, has received calls from military installations looking for security firms experienced in such activities as guarding buildings to provide personnel to replace soldiers who have been mobilized, according to Pat Canonigo, senior vice president.
"(Military installations) are taking bids so they are looking to work with firms who have experience," he said.
But security needs are not something the military is anxious to talk about.
"We're not going to be discussing those details," said Hickham AFB's Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Chris Anderson in response to questions about the need for additional security on military bases.
Companies who provide services to airlines, such as preparing in-flight meals, also have been calling, Canonigo said.
"We've had calls from food places that serve airlines. Companies like Sky Chef are taking a pro-active approach at this stage."
Sky Chef, which hadn't employed guards in the past, has asked for two per shift, Canonigo said. The company wants to protect against biological contamination while cooking meals and while carting food to planes.
Canonigo said he is actively recruiting personnel. Currently, Freeman Guards employs around 500 people to cover its various contracts but it needs more, he said.
Pay is likely to be better for those with the right experience.
"Rates would be comparable to government or federal contracts. There's greater responsibility so we are looking for people who are going to pay attention and follow instructions," he said.
Since the day of the tragedy, Canonigo said he has increased staff by more than 20 people. But he's looking for at least another 130 to 140 people to cover growing demand.
Over at Royal Guard Security, President Clarence "Rags" Scanlan said he also has been fielding calls for increased services.
For many firms, security is becoming an expensive necessity, he said.
The company has experience in providing some of the more specialized services related to identifying potential terrorism activities and security problems.
Scanlan was part of the team that handled security for the Olympic village at the Atlanta Olympics. The company also provided security for the recent Asian Development Bank meeting held in Honolulu.
Royal Guard has already picked up some government and public utility contracts since the terrorist attack, Scanlan said.
"These are jobs with higher level requirements," he said.
But there is a shortage of workers for highly specialized work. Not everyone is qualified and training takes time, Scanlan said.
Because of the level of the threat, the military have specific needs, Scanlan said. "You have to be able to qualify with specific government agency regulations," he said.
But Scanlan has been receiving an increased number of inquiries from people who are interested in security work, he said.
"We don't lack for applicants but it's a matter of finding those who are qualified or are trainable," he said.
New, more complicated federal requirements for transport-related businesses such as trucking and shipping also have increased the demand for consulting and advice, Scanlan said.
"I've been getting a lot of calls for consulting on compliance issues and we've also begun supplying some of those services," he said.
Private sector, non-military-related companies have also been showing an increased interest in security and have been making quiet inquiries since the attack, Freeman Guards' Canonigo said.
"No one wants to spook anyone but we've been getting calls regarding security for high-rises from building management companies."
"While it's just talk at this point some of these folks are questioning their security at hand and asking if they can do any more," he said.
John Tsukayama, executive vice president of Safeguard Services Inc., said the short-term situation has been volatile, but he expects more business in the long run.
Some high-end retailers actually have reduced security hours temporarily because it's expensive and they have no traffic, he said.
And while some commercial buildings asked for increase in security staff directly following the attacks, most are back to normal staffing.
But some companies are rethinking their security policies going forward, said Tsukayama.
"This whole situation has caused a lot of businesses to look at it on a long-term basis, and we expect more of them to ask for an increase in (security) staffing."
Star-Bulletin reporter Pat Gee contributed to this story.