MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, have changed the way fire departments operate, the way security is conducted at malls and the thinking of many Americans.
“I think what really changed was an awareness of terrorism as a whole,” said Minneapolis Deputy Chief Todd Steinhilber.
Steinhilber said on Sept. 11, nobody really knew what happened when the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.
Steinhilber and others were gathered at city hall watching news coverage on a small TV in his chief’s office.
“At the time it kind of looked like an accident,” Steinhilber said. He said when the second plane hit they knew it was not an accident.
Following the attacks, firefighters emphasized weapons of mass destruction training and awareness level training.
“Recognizing when things are out of place and secondary devices training,” said Steinhilber. “Over the last 10 years we’ve had some kind of schooling on that.”
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Edgar Linares Reports
It wasn’t just fire crews changing protocol. Buildings across the Twin Cities became more secure since Sept. 11.
One of the tallest buildings in Minnesotais Capella Tower. The 53rd floor stands more than 765 feet above sea level. The tower is filled with thousands of employees from Capella University, one of the nation’s largest online schools, and a number of law firms.
“We have manned security on site 24/7,” said Ted Campbell, Capella Tower’s general manager. “The idea is to have a presence and identify people that aren’t supposed to be there.”
Campbell said the biggest change to the property since Sept. 11 is the integration between real estate and the authorities.
“The city of Minneapolis has done phenomenal job with the local Homeland Security folks in preparing us,” saidCampbell.
Downtown Minneapolis has a “Safe Zone” initiative in place. Capella Tower along with other businesses share information whenever something out of the ordinary happens. They communicate using radios and a series of cameras blanket downtown.
“There’s an increased police presence in downtown all the time,” said Campbell. “We have monthly meetings. The 1st Precinct is there, people from Homeland Security are there. They talk about local threats and even talk about pickpockets working in the area.”
An emphasis on fire drills has become secondary for Capella Tower. Security is more focused on threats.
Mall Of America
On Sept. 11, the Mall of America decided not to open. Doug Reynolds, director of mall security, said after the second plane hit the World Trade Center they had a 20-minute window to decide if they were going to open or not.
“Reports came in that there was a third plane, or even a fourth plane we had to make some quick decisions,” said Reynolds. “Again we didn’t know how big this was. What it was going to look like when the day was through.”
In the days after the attacks, officials at the mall increased its security at each door. That resulted in permanent changes to the mall’s security.
“We’re the big kid on the block,” said Reyndolds. “We’re an iconic symbol. We’ve chosen to be the biggest place to be. I think with that comes certain responsibilities and we own up to that.”
The mall doesn’t have your average mall cop walking around. In addition to their uniformed officers, they have trained staff in plain clothes looking for things out of the ordinary. Some are trained in Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense program.
The mall also changed their shift schedules to have more overlap during critical times and hundreds of cameras have been added.
“If there was an unattended item, a box, bag, purse, stroller, whatever it was, the old protocol was you take the item to the nearest guest service desk and you wait for somebody to claim it,” said Reynolds. “We don’t do that anymore. Any unattended item we treat as a suspicious package.”
They use explosive residue detection kits that weren’t available to them before Sept. 11. Deliveries are thoroughly inspected, almost like crossing a border and canine units patrol the halls.
“They are single purpose explosive detection dogs,” said Reynolds. “We have three canine teams. We’re starting up a fourth team very shortly.”
Reynolds has a military background and has even been asked to speak in front of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“They wanted to know the proper way to secure a venue,” said Reynolds.
For the thousands who patrol our cities and the places we visit, things got more complicated after the attacks but our cities are safer.