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FT. WORTH-Ft. Worth commercial real estate owners, like many nationwide, are dusting off building evacuation plans. Not a bad idea, says Craig Olson, supervisor of the FBI’s violent crimes squad, which includes counter-terrorism investigations.

There needs to be a fine balance between security and our freedom to move about, Olson tells GlobeSt.com in an interview after a presentation Tuesday to BOMA Fort Worth members. He saw government buildings tighten up security after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Those changes stayed in place, but never carried over to the public sector until now. “We always had a ‘it can’t happen to me mentality’…When people watched TV on Sept. 11, even more so than Oklahoma City, they realized how vulnerable we are,” he says. “Sept. 11 brought home terrorism in a very personal way for us.”

Oklahoma City represented action against the government and thus the public at large didn’t feel targeted until Sept. 11, Olson assesses. “The difference we see now is these people (terrorists) don’t distinguish.” he says.

Building staffs need to know how to execute the evacuation plan and mail room workers must be able to recognize a suspicious package, Olson says. Employees should master escape routes. Someone needs to be tasked with accounting for staff. There should be designated holding areas and employees should be responsible for a quick search of their work areas, scanning for out-of-place packages. The decision to evacuate rests with the building owner. “We’re not going to make that decision for you,” Olson emphasized to the 190 members, more than double the usual attending the monthly luncheon at the Carter-Burgess Plaza’s Petroleum Club.

BOMA president Bud Smith says there is a lot of concern among city building owners. So much so that a task force of CBD owners, police and fire departments and BOMA met to develop a civil preparedness plan for emergency responses.

Smith’s employer, the Bass Group, owns 40 city blocks and boasts one of the most intense security systems to be found. The task force intends to ticket Bass’ 24/7 control center as its operations hub. “It’s the finest private security force that I know of,” lauds Olsen. Still, says Smith, “there’s no question that we’re all taking a look at it (security), even the Bass Group.

Olson says 60 local and state law enforcement agencies are now on board with the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force, which has been in place for several years. Terrorists’ links to Arlington and elsewhere in Texas are under the federal microscope, but there’s nothing to indicate that cells are eyeing any Ft. Worth sites.

Olson admits Ft. Worth’s defense and military operations make prime targets. But, he stresses, “we don’t have specific information that Ft. Worth is targeted.” He also reiterated FBI findings that the terrorists’ hit list did not include the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago. That’s not to say that caution should be tossed to the wind, driving home the point that an evacuation plan needs to be in place and employees well versed with its execution.

The BOMA meeting came on the same day that New York City-based Integra Realty Resources Inc. released a study showing only 13% of American workers expressed fear that their workplaces are unsafe, up just 1% from an October 2000 survey. Of those polled, 23% say occasional telecommuting might reduce their stress. The survey of 658 workers was conducted with the assistance of Opinion Research Corp. International of Princeton, NJ and has a margin error of 4%.

Women were more fearful than men and the 35-44 age group is the most concerned, according to pollsters. Only 10% of the northeast respondents say they are fearful. And more blue-collar workers than white collar are worried about workplace safety.

“If a goal of the terrorists was to erode America’s confidence in the safety of the offices they work in, they’ve failed,” Sean Hutchinson, Integra president, says in a prepared statement.

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