Post-Paris Fears

Can Security Workers Keep Germany Safe?

German police patrol a Christmas market in Kassel. Credit: DPA/Uwe Zucchi
German police patrol a Christmas market in Kassel.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Interest in the security profession has grown since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, but the bloody aftermath of Paris is expected to further increase demand.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Security personnel generally receive basic training that takes between just 40 and 80 hours.
    • But some security workers are asking to carry firearms, a demand likely to grow in the wake of the mass casualties in Paris.
    • The BDSW private security association says personnel need to be better prepared for terrorist threats.
  • Audio

    Audio

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In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, security measures have been intensified in neighboring Germany, too.

Soccer fans can expect heavy security at stadiums, where authorities are considering full-body scans. Backpacks will also be forbidden at the Christmas market in Berlin’s picturesque Gendarmenmarkt Square.

About 200,000 people currently work in Germany’s security sector. That number includes event security personnel, airport and bank security. The country also has 250,000 police officers.

And the security industry is growing, generating €5.3 billion ($5.63 billion) in revenues last year. Prior to terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, revenues from security services amounted to €3.4 billion per year.

The market grows when fears rise, and that is unlikely to change after Paris. But some insiders question whether current training methods are adequate to address the threats.

Most security workers attend a course at the chamber of commerce, or IHK, before starting work. The chamber expects 1,100 graduates and 66 courses this year, though only 22 were initially planned.

The spike in demand for training, which has increased sharply amid the ongoing refugee crisis, is just one of many signals that the industry has been growing for years. Now security guards have even greater oppportunities as more and more asylum seekers are housed in gymnasiums, shelters and other structures.

There are also other paths to training besides the IHK courses. The one requires two years of training to become a security guard and three years to become a qualified specialist in protection and security. Most applicants, however, choose the shorter path, which requires between just 40 and 80 hours of training at the IHK.

There are no requirements for those taking the courses – not even a high school diploma – and no final examination. The low hurdles for qualification are something the Association of German Private Security Industry, or BDSW, has criticized for some time. The current system churns out low-paid employees, and saving money is more important to many companies than hiring properly trained workers, according to the organization.

The recent terrorist attacks so close to home have some security workers feeling uneasy.

In training, participants learn legal basics, first aid and security techniques. They practice de-escalating conflicts, remaining calm and self-defense. Another subject is handling weapons, which are commonplace for those working as bodyguards or money transport guards.

Security services must obtain official authorization for every contract and employees need a firearms license. While citizens have a general right to public access, security personnel are allowed to escort troublemakers off the property if a situation escalates. They are also allowed to practice self-defense.

But the recent terrorist attacks so close to home have some security workers feeling uneasy. Shortly after the attacks, a security employee wrote on an Internet forum that it’s time to allow firearms as well. Another referenced the attempted attack at the Stade de France, the soccer stadium where German and French teams where playing. Although the terrorist’s suicide vest was discovered in time, he asked, “What do I do if I discover such a vest?”

According to the BDSW private security association, further measures are needed to address the dangers.

“Employees can continue to pat down people and control bags,” a spokesperson said. “An efficient security concept is needed to do more.”

Marcel Kuhlmey had deep knowledge of security challenges. He helped plan the Berlin Marathon and the Carnival of Cultures, and teaches risk and crisis management at The Berlin School of Economics and Law.

Typically, Mr. Kuhlmey ticks off possible risks before a major event. What if the situation becomes critical? Are there enough escape routes? Are they marked? Are loudspeakers working? What if panic breaks out? What if it becomes a mass casualty incident?

He has asked these questions so often they have become routine. “But since Paris, a new scenario has been added,” he said.

 

This article originally appeared in Der Tagesspiegel. To contact the author:  redaktion@tagesspiegel.de 

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