The Ottawa Citizen

The Corporate World Gets Bulletproofed

Demand is way up for New York firm specializing in boardroom security

by Kris Maher

Up until recently, Gaffco, Inc. was known for installing the fancy woodworking, often in cherry or mahogany, that adorns executive suites. But these days the Mount Vernon, N.Y., company has a new growth business — bulletproofing boardrooms.

During a weekend, Gaffco rips up office floors, walls and ceilings and installs layers of armored steel and bullet-resistant fiberglass beneath a surface of fine woodwork. On Monday, nobody is the wiser, except the executives footing the bills.

In the past three months, Gaffco has redone six boardrooms in Manhattan, mostly for financial institutions, with costs ranging from $50,000 to $250,000. The reinforced rooms, resembling the "panic room" in the film of that name, typically are built to withstand an armed assault from outside for as long as 30 minutes, time enough for police or security to arrive. Gaffco says it also has paid orders or approvals for 28 more rooms, as many as it built in all of 2001.

Amid fresh warning of more possible major terrorist attacks on the U.S. and recent Federal Bureau of Investigation warnings that financial institutions in the Northeast may be targeted, company managers are growing edgy. Small wonder: As the public face of a corporation, or a potential symbol of American capitalism, executives are ready targets, not just for terrorists and kidnappers, security experts say, but also for angry shareholders or pink-slipped employees.

"Based on the present alerts and what is going on in the Middle East, executives have become much more aware of their exposure to world events," says Robert Oatman, company president.

Demand has also been rising for bullet-resistant podiums. Gaffco has built 12 such podiums this year, up from four in 2001.

Costing anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000, they are designed to offer protection against a high-powered rifle, and can be taken apart and assembled easily, wherever an executive plans to speak.