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Explosives & Safe Deposit Boxes

Question: 
We had a customer ask us if we wanted to search his briefcase before he made a deposit and entered the safe deposit area. We said "No". We have policy and procedures for the safe deposit box area, but they do not address a search. Because of acts of terror do you have any suggestions for the possibility of searching a customer's belongings such as passing a wand over the bag or satchels before allowing entry into the safe deposit box area. Banks do not know what is kept in a customer's box. What about his privacy? Is this an issue for other banks?
Answer: 

Answer by Andy Zavoina:
You don't want to know what is in a customers safe deposit box. Privacy and trust is a huge issue here.Testing a customer for metals would be of little use. An explosive wouldn't do a lot of good in this area since it would be like blowing up a tank from the inside out. There'd be minimal damage for the explosives needed. But explosive detection would be of a larger concern for me than use of a metal detector, along with some type of gas device.

If you wanted to go to the expense, you could check the safe deposit box area after customers have left the bank. But a device left in the open would do more collateral damage and that would likely be a goal of anyone plotting such an action.

Answer: 

Answer by Dave McGuinn:
Providing asset protection and consumer privacy are the the most important key elements when you offer this safe deposit service. Correctly answering consumers security questions and concerns is also an important part of this service.

Recently the question, "Is your safe deposit vault bombproof?" is being asked frequently by consumers nationwide. It is becoming a very big concern because of the nationwide news coverage about pipe bombs and possible terrorist attacks.

Be very careful how you and any of your customer contract employees answer this question. I have seen pictures of many vaults where a bomb has exploded inside a safe deposit box. The damage is very significant to the vault and all surrounding boxes.

Your customer who asked if you wanted to examine his briefcase is not your problem. He obviously has nothing to hide. It is the person who doesn't ask who could be the mad bomber! Be very watchful for suspicious activity and notified your security officer if any is seen.

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First published on BankersOnline.com 7/1/02

First published on 07/01/2002

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