TERRORISM IN THE WORKPLACE
At the time of this writing, August 3, 2004, unprecedented security measures
have been placed in effect for the City of New York. Terrorism now dominates the everyday lives of working men and women as they travel to and from their places of employment and while they work in their
professions. Fear and insecurity, the twin destroyers of human progress have entered the workplace.
I attended the annual convention of the National NYCPD 10-13 Organization in the Catskills and
on my return back to NYC, I visited the home and Presidential Library and Museum of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York.
It was the first time that I had the occasion to visit Hyde Park. This historic site is located on the banks of the Hudson River and consists of the Roosevelt family homesite as well as the library and
museum. To read about the site, just click on this link: www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu
For me, it was a personal experience. The Library and Museum was filled with memories of those desperate years of the Great Depression. Photos of destitute unemployed workers included a graphic scene of a long line of unemployed
men at W. 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue. I wasn’t born until 1940, but the men and women that I came to know during
my childhood had lived through those terrible years. Fear was the greatest enemy of that generation. FDR’s famous
speech at his inauguration included the statement that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. When I looked into
the eyes of those desperate men and women in those photos, I could see what those words meant to flesh and blood people.
The museum presents in detail how FDR went about bringing hope to those who had been destroyed in the worst
depression in our history. In the greatest legislative movement yet seen, he and the US Congress passed legislation that
created programs such as the National Recovery Administration, the National Labor Board, the Civilian Conservation
Corps (CCC) in which my own father participated, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Tennessee Valley
Authority (TVA), and the Social Security Administration. For those who are old enough to remember, the WPA put
thousands of unemployed back to work. Here on Staten Island, the WPA constructed the two mile boardwalk that
extends from South Beach to Ocean Breeze. That boardwalk was so well constructed that it still serves the people of
Staten Island and now is the location for a recently constructed fishing pier costing ten million dollars as well as a
restaurant and catering hall under construction. I exercise on that boardwalk with hundreds of others sixty years after it
was constructed in the depths of the Great Depression. I also golf on LaTourette Golf Course. That golf course was
only a 9 hole facility before the WPA completed 9 additional holes. Many of our parks and public areas were built or
improved during those horrific years of the 1930s. What FDR managed to do for many was to replace fear with hope.
It took a decade and the attack on Pearl Harbor to bring America back to full production, but FDR and the US Congress
started the economic recovery that would enable us to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. We
went from the depths of the Great Depression to becoming the “Arsenal of Democracy” overnight. We had plenty to
fear then too. The newsreels pictured the victorious Vehrmacht marching into Poland and Russia and the triumphant
Japanese soldiers in China. Americans sat in the dark theatres in our cities and towns and watched on the screens as
millions of refugees fled before the terror of those military machines. Yeah, there was a lot fear in those days too. In the
Museum, photos of World War II illustrates how America responded when they made the mistake of attacking us at Pearl Harbor.
Now, we have a new bunch of tyrants trying to intimidate the world. Fear is their greatest weapon and it is fear that
we must defeat. The best method of dealing with fear is with action. By taking action, we dispel the negative forces
that fear generates in our lives. Those who have confronted violence know that true courage is required to do so. True
courage is acting brave when we are scared to death. Actions dispel fear. Inaction breeds fear. So let’s get to work.
What do psychologists say about fear? When I present seminars on Combating Workplace Violence at John Jay College, I stress Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”
to understand what motivates people. Unfilled needs motivate behavior. It is said: Motivation is the engine of behavior. If we understand motiviation, we can understand behavior and
therefore influence that behavior. A very basic “need” listed on Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is the need for
security or safety. When the need for security or safety is not fulfilled, then that unfilled need will dominate our
behavior. When crime causes fear in our society, that fear causes repercussions in every aspect of our lives. When we
are living in fear, we lock ourselves in our homes and do not particiate in social events or even family events. We stop
visiting our friends and relatives in crime-ridden communities. We move to other parts of the country to escape the
scourge of crime. Fear is a great destroyer of society. That is why the terrorists use fear. It is a great weapon in their arsenal.
How do we go about dealing with terrorists and their threats to our safety in the workplace? Now that they have chosen to threaten our very working lives with violence, what actions
can we take to deal with terror in the workplace?
What programs can help us to cope with violence and terrorism in the workplace? I have been presenting the seminars at John Jay College since October 2000. Prior to September 11, 2001, there were two pieces of legislation pending in
the New York State Legislature that would provide a framework for the business community to prepare for the worst
case scenario. Incidents of violence in the workplaces of our nation had become a common occurrence. Multiple
killings by “disgruntled” workers had occurred from coast to coast. However, it was the horror of the Columbine High School massacre, the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, and finally the attack on the World Trade Center
that shocked America into action. However, that shock and horror did not result in action being taken
by the NY State Legislature on the pending legislation to deal with violence in the workplace. I had hoped that the
legislation would pass both houses and be signed by Governor Pataki. The bills have been sitting in committee for the last four years!
With the recent threats to our workplaces, I can assure you that it is only a matter of time before this legislation will be
passed by the NY State Legislature. Once it becomes law, there will be great pressure to implement the program once the public learns of what is required by employers.
When we get fed up with the nonsense, we will pressure our legislature to pass the needed law to implement the programs needed for a working THREAT MANAGEMENT PLAN
that is put into place after the necessary THREAT ASSESSMENT is done with the assistance of the City of New York and the NYPD and the Office of Emergency
Management. Then, when a THREAT MANAGEMENT TEAM is formed, we can at least ACT when terrorism
becomes a reality. We have already taken many actions to safeguard our schools. We MUST take similar action to provide safety in our workplaces. We cannot afford to delay any longer.
Now, let me address the corporate heads of large high-rise buildings and institutions. Do you have a Threat Management Plan
that dovetails with the plans of Homeland Security, the State, and municipal governments? Can you provide a Threat Management Team of your staff to act as a “THINK TANK” to assist the police when acts of terrorism occur in your workplace? Do you have the corporate version of emergency management software that is used
by NYC to deal with emergency management? Have you taken the steps to deal with the horrific AFTERMATH of violence in the workplace? Do you have built-in REDUNDANCY for you plans? Do you have the necessary records
of all your personnel that will prove vital to the police in any hostage situation? Do you know how to obtain the
assistance of the NYPD to assist you in your risk assessment? If you answer no to any of those questions, let me say that you had better take ACTION to do so.
One-day seminars on Combating Workplace Violence are presented at John Jay College, University of the
City of NY. To read about those seminars, click on the following links:
THE SEMINARS ON WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE -THE AFTERMATH
TERRORISM AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
THE INTERNET AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
THE INTERNET AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (2)
Copyright 2003 Edward D. Reuss
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