What do security personnel look out for at various city buildings?

Have you wondered what security personnel look for during screening in public buildings?

Nearly every major building in Nairobi has put in place elaborate security systems to screen all persons entering the facility. From government buildings to shopping malls, hotels, office blocks, hospitals, airports, places of worship - all have some sort of security control systems. The impression one gets is that we are a highly security conscious nation, and particularly in the capital.

This should not be surprising considering the number of terror attacks in the past. Attacks on Nairobi include the most devastating August 7, 1998 bomb blast that shattered our innocence, the 2013 Westgate Mall attack that caused serious national mourning, and the more recent Dusit-2 hotel attack that traumatised many.

Apart from these major ones, there have been smaller but equally traumatising attacks. There was a time when buildings and vehicles in Eastlands were a major target.

It is therefore prudent that we have in place the best security screening systems in the main buildings, which often are the most likely targets for terrorist attacks. It is thus commendable that many institutions have invested heavily in elaborate security screening and scanning systems. A lot of personnel have also been deployed to man these screening stations, to hopefully avert any potential threats.

In many facilities, there are usually at least two security guards - male and female using handheld body scanners - to screen patrons. In major buildings, there are also baggage scanners with monitors to ensure that one does not carry dangerous stuff into the building.

In addition, there are walk-through full body scanners to detect any untoward items that might have been hidden under the clothes. All these are useful equipment to take care of our national and individual safety. What is worrying, however, is how this critical exercise is conducted in many buildings.

In nearly all facilities in the city, the procedure is almost the same. A tired security officer swipes the handheld gadget over your body with little or no indication of personal interest on what they may be looking for.

In some cases, even if the gadget beeps, the handler pays no attention and ushers you into the building. Where there are full body scanners, the management is usually kind enough to provide a tray for phones, packages or handbags.

But then, once you put your phone and handbag aside, the scanner may scream to high heavens, but no one pays attention. In most places, you are ushered into the building without any further ado in spite of the beeps.

The impression created in many of these places is that the phone is the single most offending gadget, which you must therefore temporarily lay aside before you enter the facility. Even at the gate of our main airport, one wonders why passengers have to alight from the vehicles to go through screening.

As we go through the scanners - having put the phone aside - the machines make all manner of noise, but no action seems to be taken. Perhaps it is because the real thorough screening takes place at the departure terminals. Thankfully, here the checks are usually very detailed and uncompromising.

The question that begs then is whether these checkpoints are actually intended to weed out dangerous elements seeking to access the buildings, or whether they have lost their original purpose and meaning.

If we are serious about security management, then a little more effort needs to be put into the exercise. The personnel manning these checkpoints need to be trained on the significance of this exercise in preserving individual and national safety. Because, though there have been no major incidents in the city, the threat remains.

In a recent court case, one Victor Odede Bwire, alias Abdulaziz, was found guilty of planning to bomb the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi. Abdulaziz apparently gathered information which he passed on to terrorist contacts in Somalia. This should serve to warn us that Kenya still has enemies, from within and without, determined to breach our national peace. It requires our collective efforts to stop them.

[email protected]