- By Michael S. Dorn
- April 1st, 2004
My life recently changed dramatically. I resigned from my position as Lead Program Manager for the Terrorism Division of the Georgia Office of Homeland Security to pursue consulting full time. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my 24 years of public service, an opportunity arose that I simply could not pass up. One of the world's most respected publishers and information companies selected me as their point man for public safety and emergency management consulting worldwide. They made me an offer beyond my wildest dreams and I jumped at the opportunity. With offices in 10 countries, they have a reputation for quality that is unequalled by any organization of its type. After many years of 60- to 75-hour work weeks, working from home and having several months off each year will be a welcome change. The opportunity to work with more clients in other countries is also quite appealing.
While my bread-and-butter revenue will now be largely based on consulting work, I thankfully will be able to espouse the same philosophies that I held dear for many years. Regular readers will recall that I continually stress the need to work with local experts such as police and fire officials. Another pet peeve is the need to first evaluate available free services that are provided by government agencies before retaining consultants. You may also have noticed frequent references regarding problems with unqualified and unscrupulous consultants. As a government campus safety consultant for four years, I was appalled at the number of consultants who are absolutely incompetent, work out of their field or routinely overcharge their clients. While I now work for a private company, they share these same values and are not only comfortable with their consultants steering clients to free services offered by others, they insist upon it. Perhaps their long-term view of quality service is why they have been in business for more than 100 years. Being focused on quality service and meeting customer needs, they understand the long-term benefits of this type of approach. They also share my view that consulting firms should work to help clients internalize safety expertise. Unfortunately, the situation of client dependency where clients must contract for the same services year after year is all too common among consulting firms.
The company also shares my conviction that it is unethical and even unforgivable for a consultant or firm to recommend services that a client does not need. Unfortunately, it is common for campus safety consultants to push clients to contract for services they really do not need. One common example of expertise that can be internalized is the tactical site survey process. Many consulting firms encourage and even urge their clients to contract with them to perform site surveys each year to produce a steady stream of revenue. And while this approach is best for some clients and does offer some advantages, most clients are far better served by consulting firms that will train internal staff and local officials to conduct their own tactical site surveys. This approach allows the institution to conduct site surveys year after year without being dependent upon the consulting firm. We are currently working with one of our clients to train an internal team to internalize this capability. For less than $50,000, they will be able to save more than $250,000 per year realizing a $1-million savings during the first four years. As properly trained internal teams are more qualified than many of the consultants operating in the field, this approach is often in the client's best interest.
There are many situations where consulting firms are not only extremely beneficial, but the most economical way to go. Another client faces hundreds of thousands in construction costs to modify a new building when a relatively inexpen-sive building plan review would have averted the serious building design flaws resulting in significant crime problems. Carefully selected, qualified and experienced consultants from reputable firms not only perform valuable services, they help avoid losses due to criminal acts, disasters and accidents that are far more costly than their consulting fees. Careful evaluation of the services needed and those available from government agencies is critical for responsible stewardship by campus officials.
While I am euphoric about my move into the private sector and I now make my living from for fee services, I still urge readers to use their available safety funds with extreme care. The money you save through free services and internalizing expertise can then be more appropriately applied to meet other safety needs.
The author of 18 books on campus safety, Michael Dorn is the Senior Public Safety and Emergency Management Analyst for Jane's Consultancy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at www.safehavensinternational.org.