July 1, 2002 - American Water Works Association Journal : Peru RPCV Jack Hoffbuhr remembers Safety and Security of Andean Buses

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Peru RPCV Jack Hoffbuhr remembers Safety and Security of Andean Buses

Read and comment on this story from the American Water Works Association Journal by Peru RPCV Jack Hoffbuhr on the safety and security of riding buses in the Andes in the 1960's at:

The three C's*

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The three C's

Jul 1, 2002 - American Water Works Association. Journal

Author(s): Hoffbuhr, Jack W

water scape



It was during my Peace Corps days high in the Peruvian Andes. My partner and I were working in the very small villages of that area building water systems, roads, and schools. It just so happened that Che Guevara's minions were also in the same area recruiting and taking anything that wasn't nailed down. But because we pretty much looked and smelled like everyone else, they left us alone.

The only transportation to a real town, where one could find hot water, cold beer, and something to eat besides guinea pigs, was a combination bus and truck called a mixto. People went up front, and pigs and chickens were in the rear. When our financial resources were thin, we joined the livestock.

Che's bunch didn't bother the Andes Express unless they thought there was liquor on board or they needed a pig to round out their dinner menu. But that was before the Peruvian government got the bright idea to put soldiers on the mixtos to guard such priceless cargo. Of course, Che's troops thought it was great sport to shoot at the soldiers. Neither side could hit the broad side of a barn, but there were a lot of bullets rattling around and through the mixtos. After a few civilians were hit and more than one pig was killed, the government pulled the soldiers, and the shooting stopped. The major lesson I learned from that fiasco is that security is far more complex than posting a few armed guards here and there.

In fact, my major concern is that we get consumed by the complex nature of security and its attendant technology and forget some very basic principles. To me, these principles are the three C's- culture, coordination, and communication. If the three C's are not embedded in an organization's security philosophy, no amount of investment in fences, remote sensors, cameras, or armed guards will result in an effective security program.

The culture of an organization is the set of customary beliefs and core values that define its mission and what it considers important. Security must become a part of this culture along with public health protection and customer service. Each employee must become as tenacious about security as he or she is about water quality and safety. Security must be a part of everyone's responsibilities-not just the general manager's or security director's. If it is not, security will never be considered important, and no amount of technology will change that attitude.

Close coordination is critical in any type of emergency event, and the time to start is now. The true path to disaster is the attitude that there is no time to foster coordination with key groups such as local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, electrical utilities, and emergency planning offices. They can provide resources to enhance your security and emergency response plans but only if they are involved from the beginning.

"Communication was the fatal flaw"-this has been the most common statement after any emergency event. We know that our day-to-day routine communications are essential for coordination and to maintain credibility. Crisis communication is less well understood but even more critical once an event occurs because the first few hours are characterized by maximum chaos and minimum information. Now is the time to develop a crisis communication plan and practice it to identify problems. Too many plans gather dust-they will be the fatal flaw.

Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, "Only those means of security are good, are certain, are lasting that depend on yourself and your own vigor." Armed guards, sensors, and controlled access systems are only tools in any security scheme. The truly effective security plan will depend on people and the vigor they apply to culture, coordination, and communication.


Copyright American Water Works Association Jul 200

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Peace Corps - Safety and Security; COS - Peru



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