Life After 9-11: Security: The New Priority?

© 2001 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2001
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 26-29

Life After 9-11
Security: The New Priority?

By Tom Wadsworth

Does Sept. 11 mark a turning point for the door and access systems industry?

Since the tragic events of that fateful day, the world has displayed a heightened concern about intruders and access. Consequently, will "security" become a new emphasis for our industry? More importantly, will your customers be more inclined to buy your product because of the degree of security it offers?

Think about it. All of our products have a key role in "controlling access," and that includes residential and commercial garage doors, rolling doors, and certainly operators and electronics. In addition to the features of convenience, beauty, and dependability, our products also offer security. Our products are guardians. They always have been.

To find out how the events of Sept. 11 have affected our industry, we gathered comments from several industry veterans, both manufacturers and dealers. Since we suspected a significant response from the gate operator and access control industry, five of our respondents come from that sector.

Gate Operators: "Urgency"

Gate operators, which are a growing part of the door and access systems industry, are among the products that are most acutely affected by the Sept. 11 tragedy.

"Our backlog is now at an all-time record," said Brian DeNault, president of Hy-Security Gate Operators, a Seattle, Wash.-based manufacturer of industrial gate operators.

Since the tragedy, Hy-Security employees have been working overtime to meet the increased demand. "It's not a panic situation," DeNault added, "but there is urgency. There is definitely no recession here at Hy-Security Gate."

Commercial Exceeds Residential

"We've seen more increase in the industrial/commercial sector than in the residential sector," said Bill Hildebrand, chief operating officer at Operator Specialty Company, a gate operator manufacturer in Casnovia, Mich. "Many industrial complexes are now upgrading and improving their perimeter security."

Hildebrand cited the case of a nuclear plant that had budgeted for two new gate operators in 2002. However, after Sept. 11, they decided to replace all their operators, and they wanted it done as soon as possible in 2001.

In another situation, a chemical plant added operators to all manual vehicular gates. "We have lots of stories like these," said Hildebrand.

DeNault concurred. "Many security projects or maintenance upgrades that might have been delayed through budget constraints have suddenly been prioritized, which has resulted in an immediate sales increase to Hy-Security in the range of 20 percent," he said.

"The terrorists made it clear that a key part of their intent was to strike at symbols of American dominance such as its corporate symbols and wealth," added DeNault. "Therefore, we believe that corporate security will see an especially dramatic emphasis.”

Gated Communities: Steadily Increasing

For residential communities that control access with gate operators, the market has been increasing for several years. “Even before the attacks,” said Jay Clem of Los Angeles, “more gated communities in Southern California were being built with security in mind.”

Clem is general manager of ResCom Overhead Doors, a large dealership in the Los Angeles area. He said that Sept. 11 has reinforced the need for security and “helps people justify a stronger more expensive door with limited access to communities.”

Bill Gioia, marketing manager for Chamberlain's gate operator products, has seen a similar trend in the gated residential market.

"The market has been experiencing a sustained growth in demand for increasing the security of both residential and commercial gate applications for the last several years," he said. "The terrible events of Sept. 11th appear to have increased the consumer's awareness and desire to upgrade current installations, or to purchase ... comprehensive packages of the gate operator, with radio controls, the door opener, and telephone entry systems."

Access Control Systems: A Boom

Telephone entry systems and other specialized access control systems may be experiencing the greatest effects of the terrorist attacks. On Oct. 29, 2001, Time magazine published a story entitled, "Who Goes There? New security technologies are helping companies control whom--and what--they let in."

Here are key statements from the story:

  • "Controlling access … after the events of Sept. 11, (is) a line of defense that corporate America can't ignore."
  • "The tragedy of Sept. 11 turned into a buzz for the security business."

Rick Sedivy, director of marketing at DoorKing, a manufacturer of access control systems in Inglewood, Calif., said, “Consumers are beginning to understand that access control is no longer an amenity, but a necessity. Businesses, commercial establishments, apartment complexes, and gated communities are all taking a serious look at who has access to what, and how to control this access.”

Sedivy cited a recent full-page, four-color article in the Los Angeles Times that was devoted to access control technology. “I have to believe that the popularity of access control is increasing when this type of coverage is provided in a major newspaper,” he added.

Sentex Systems of Chatsworth, Calif., a company that makes telephone entry and access control systems, has seen increased customer inquiries for its products. “The events of Sept. 11th have prompted our customer base to ask more questions about overall access control needs,” said Tim McCarthy, marketing director at Sentex.

The needs of these customers may create a demand for new products or enhancements that help control and monitor access. "They want to control which people are allowed to go to which doors or buildings at specific times of days," added McCarthy. "Furthermore, they want the ability to verify when they were in the area should something be stolen, damaged, or suspicious."

Rolling Doors: Not Yet

Rolling steel doors have the potential to be affected by new security trend. After all, these doors are more frequently used in the commercial market for security reasons.

But, as Bob Cookson noticed, “We have not yet seen an increased demand for security from our products. But our products typically go into projects that have been planned for a longer time. So, we wouldn't necessarily see a quick demand for this. As time goes by, I think we'll all be a lot more careful about what we do, and security will become an important issue.”

Cookson, president of the Phoenix-based Cookson Company, sees a potential for the development of new products. “For our industry, our doors will probably remain the same, but the way we control access through our doors will probably dramatically change,” he added. “That will present some opportunities to add products to our product line or add new capabilities to the products we offer.”

As a side effect of the current crisis, Cookson anticipates some growth in sales from the military sector. “We saw the same trend with Desert Storm in the early 1990s,” he noted. “But I don't think this will be a long-term trend.”

Residential Market: No Effect?

Besides some effect on residential gated communities, the residential single-family home market may experience little effect from the terrorist tragedy. “I think that people have more anxiety about opening the doors to their mailbox than the garage doors on their homes these days,” said Brian Lucas, president of F & L Doors, a long-time successful dealership in Hazleton, Pa.

“I just don't think that home security has risen to the level where guys like us are responding to calls to help ‘batten down the hatches,’” he added. “Rather, I find that we are responding to the usual requests and necessities.”

Lucas added, though, that his perspective might be colored by the fact that Hazleton is a small rural community more than 120 miles away from the emotions of New York City.

Tom Brookbank, marketing director for LiftMaster’s residential garage door openers, agreed that the residential market has not been seriously affected. “We have been fortunate that the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks have not negatively impacted our garage door opener business.”

The residential economy, he noted, has been positive without any additional boost from the attacks. “Housing starts are still strong, mortgage rates are at an all-time low, and home improvement projects continue to flourish,” he added.

The Long Term

The largest shift in the industry, then, is likely to be realized in the commercial market, beginning with access control systems and gate operators and eventually spreading to rolling doors and residential gate systems. Concern for security is the engine that drives this change.

“The Sept. 11 attack on America has heightened consumers' awareness for security,” said Bill Hildebrand. “Consumers are taking action rather than postponing the need to improve perimeter security. I believe this is a long-term change and not a short-term fad.”

“Our products offer a certain degree of security,” summarized Bob Cookson. “As the awareness of security is heightened, I believe consumers will look favorably on any product that offers a greater degree of security.”

“Those products could be rolling doors in front of businesses, protection over windows on houses, or access control products for businesses or homes. As time goes by, such protection may become a required purchase rather than an optional one.”


(Sidebar Story)

The Immediate Effects of the Attack

“Immediately after Sept. 11, there was certainly a slow-down. We typically get 9,000-10,000 incoming calls on our 800-line each month. The calls for September dropped below 7,000, but in October, the numbers were back to normal levels.”

- Rick Sedivy, DoorKing

“In the days immediately following the attacks, we did see that the effects to the stock market and business climate definitely had a quieting effect. It seemed as though people forgot about business, their garage doors, or whatever, and spent those days in shock and grieving.”

- Brian Lucas, F & L Doors

“For the next couple of weeks after the attack, business virtually stopped. Incoming orders slowed down dramatically. Our factory continued to run, but at a reduced rate. By the beginning of October, orders resumed a pace that is normal for this year's economic situation.

“At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, we were involved in some military projects. Those projects were quickly put on hold, and security around those projects dramatically increased. I think we'll continue to see increased scrutiny of those who work on government projects.”

- Bob Cookson, The Cookson Company