Alert security staff save the day at TOI

28 Nov 2008, 0653 hrs IST, ET Bureau

The Old Lady Of Boribunder had a narrow escape. On Wednesday night, when horror was playing out in the streets of Mumbai, the iconic Times Of India Building was under serious threat. It was the sheer presence of mind and alacrity of the building’s security staff that saved the day for the Lady.

Danger literally came knocking at the Times’ door when two heavily armed terrorists tried to locate the entrance of this over 150-year-old structure at some time past 11 pm on Wednesday. But by then the security staff at the main gate, facing Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), had pulled down the shutters. Unable to find the entrance of the building, the terrorists walked past the facade of the building.

The chief security officer of the Times Building, PA Vergis, said between 200 to 250 employees , mostly editorial staff, were inside the building at that hour (around 10 pm) when terror came within sniffing distance. “It took a fraction of a second for us to realise the danger.

We used common sense and closed all entry points to the building,” he said. “One shudders to imagine what could have happened if even one of those terrorists had managed to enter the building,” deputy security manager JR Joshi said.

When all hell was breaking loose on Wednesday night, there were three security officers on the night shift and 10 guards. There was also an element of providence here -the security staff manning the Times building do not have guns. So, if the terrorists had barged in, the security staff could hardly have done anything.

“That’s why we decided to use our resources well. We pulled the shutters down, and asked all the employees to wait inside. All this made it difficult for the terrorists to locate the gates,” Mr Vergis added.

The Times Of India building has three entry gates – the main gate for the employees, the time-keeper’s gate, and a third gate for goods and materials. The time-keeper’s gate usually closes at 9.00 pm but the main one remains open till late.

“At around 9.50, we heard gunshots at CST and sensed some kind of danger. This building had always been on the radar of terrorists and something real was happening out there,” said Mr Joshi. Sensing the threat perception to this building, the Mumbai Police have already provided security. “The Mumbai Police have reviewed our security arrangements and appreciated it,” Mr Vergis added.

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