Security Director of the Year is UNOPS’s Chief of Corporate SecurityWritten by Jennifer Brown Monday, 11 July 2011 09:29
A Canadian who heads up corporate security for the UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services) has been named this year’s Security Director of the Year.
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Thomas Gerstenecker, 43, is Chief of Corporate Security, Global Operations for the UNOPS, and currently based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was chosen by the Canadian Security Advisory Board June 29.
In his nomination for Gerstenecker, fellow UN colleague Jason O’Connor said: “After taking over a non-existent security program in the organization, he quickly assessed the situation from strategic, operational and tactical levels in order to define his vision of having a robust security program at all levels.”
Gerstenecker, who grew up near Sauble Beach, Ont., said he was honoured the judges considered a practicing security professional working to further interests of the profession outside the country.
“I’m really thrilled,” said Gerstenecker when contacted by Canadian Security. “This is really an exciting time to be with the UN and I’m very thrilled to be receiving this award. It’s certainly been an extremely challenging environment in the last decade to be in the UN in the security field. The UN is no longer the safe haven we imagine it to be.”
This is the sixth year for the Canadian Security Director of the Year award, which is sponsored by Anixter Canada.
Gerstenecker, who is the first security professional hired by the UNOPS to serve in such a role, developed a Safety and Security Awareness campaign (SAFEUN) with endorsement at the executive level and in a global context within the organization.
“Ever since Baghdad when the UN was hit [22 UN staff members lost their lives when the Canal Hotel in Baghdad was bombed in 2003], there was a steep change in threats towards the UN which became more explicit and direct. The UN has, together with the member states, taken a more focused look at security management systems globally as a whole but also within the over 40 different agencies like Unicef and the World Food Program and looked at how to address security in a serious and professional way,” Gerstenecker said.
“The number of security professionals in the UN has increased at least 10-fold in the last 10 years where we now take a serious look at how to define program criticality within a country and define specific threats directly related to personnel and assets within a country we operated in all over the world.”
He says the outlook these days is “how to stay” in a region versus “when to leave,” which is a major shift for people in the field and member states and how they view security and provide funding for security in the field.
Gerstenecker developed an integrated security system, working closely with the developers, architects and ICT group, a fully integrated security system was designed and implemented into the overall development plan.
The design includes a command centre, which will contain all security systems (CCTV, PID, IDS, fire, lights etc.) and in addition, linked to facilities services (HVAC, generator, electrical rooms, etc.) and finally, linked to existing HR databases to develop a robust business continuity management processes.
With a strategic security plan approved and in place, the operational roll-out was done with a robust communication plan which reached the almost 10,000 employees in over 100 offices worldwide.
“People ask me how one person can have global responsibility, but we have to appreciate things take time and making a commitment to bring on a senior security professional is already a big step for the organization,” he said. “As the budget cycle continues I expect to bring on more people to the team.”
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