Terrorism: Understanding More about Threat Awareness and Detection

30 12 2009

The recent act of terrorism attempted on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 provides another reminder that all citizens need to be aware of their surroundings and be vigilant for activities and behaviors that do not appear normal.  This is true when one goes flying, but it is also true as we move around our County on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, it appears that acts of terrorism are here to stay and all of us need to be concerned and ready to react.

Experts in homeland security and protection of critical infrastructure are very much concerned about the safety of “soft targets.”  What is a “soft target?”  In general, a hard target would be a military installation or a chemical plant which is a well defended installation.  On the other hand, a soft target is one that is most likely an undefended civilian location which could easily be attacked by terrorists.  Shopping malls, like Katy Mills or First Colony, could be a soft target for terrorists.  A football stadium, be it Reliant or Mercer, is a soft target.  Even a Little League baseball field full of kids and families on a Saturday afternoon is defined as a soft target.

So what is a citizen to do?  Experts from the Emergency Management and Response Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) recommend that all citizens 1) Recognize the threat from suspicious behavior or activities; 2) Report the threat to appropriate personnel; and 3) React to the threat by knowing what to do.

The Soft Target Awareness: Threat Awareness and Detection for Retail and Shopping Center Staff training video was developed by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Bombing Prevention and Commercial Facilities Sector to provide information for retail staff to understand how to identify and report unusual activities and threats in a timely manner.  This training tool uses case studies and best practices to explain suspicious behavior and items, how to reduce vulnerability of an active shooter threat to a soft target, and the appropriate actions to take if employees notice suspicious activities.  Though the video is directed toward retail staff, the information provided in the video is good information for all citizens.

The link below takes you to a self-initiating video, requiring Adobe Acrobat software.  It is self-paced and can be played for individual use or any size group.  The video is 23 minutes in length.  If you would like somebody from the Office of Emergency Management to make a presentation on this topic to a group or organization you belong to, please just respond to this blog posting and let me know.  We will get something scheduled for you.

Link:   https://connect.hsin.gov/p21849699/



9 responses

30 12 2009
Muhammad Aman Nomani

I ama cert trained. The best way to avoid any kind of terrorism is to be aware not scared of terrorism. Human nature when sensing danger goes tight lipped. This is not the way to counteract terrorism, be more open and share your fears with others cautiously warning people about it. If you see an unidentified bag or a person acting abnormally, make the security aware of the situation and get help. It can be in a Mall or waiting area in an airport or even a buss satnd. Be aware. Terrorism is and can be anywhere so be aware. Awereness can deter many such stuations. read about what is going on around the world and educate yrself of the upcoming unseen dangers that may lie even in your back yard.

30 12 2009
Jeff Braun

Good points. That is great that you have gone through the CERT training; that means that you completed the module on terrorism. Thanks for taking the time to become eduated on the best ways to prepare yourself and family for emergencies.

2 01 2010
Michael Kahlenberg


Great point. Become a good witness.

30 12 2009
Warren Graef

I have been involved with anti-terrorism since 1971. During the 1960’s we had the Weathermen who were home grown terrorists. We had the Islamic community bomb the US Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut Lebanon, then there was the Olympics in Munich where the Islamic community terrified the world with their attack on athletes. We had the Beider Meinhof gang in Germany that didn’t like Americans and it turns out many of our foreign friends really don’t like Americans. They want to come here because it represents everything they don’t have in their country but the want to subvert us to their wishes rather than accept what is here and contribute.

Then Timothy Mc Vey another home grown terrorist destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City and everyone immediately began looking for an Islamic connection. Then the Islamic community attempted to destroy the world trade center in New York but failed. They succeeded on September 11, 2001. Since then we have been attempting to classify terrorists. We have 500,000 people on a watch list that no one seems to be watching. We do have thousands of people on a no fly list that usually does take effect when someone on it trys to visit relatives.

CERT training is an excellent start. However, we need to go beyond that. What does a terrorist look like. Well, look in the mirror. They look just like us unless they are middle eastern. Then they look just like the engineer in the office down the street. We know about abandoned bags, brief cases and packages but what about suspicious behavior? What is suspicious behavior. We can start defining suspicious behavior and everyone who reads this will be on a witch hunt.

Many people are afraid to fly. They act apprehencous an very nervous. Does that constitute suspicious behaviour? Probably not. What about the guy who walks up to the ticket counter without looking in either direction and pays for a one way ticket with cash and refuses to make eye contact with anyone. He has no luggage and does not want to be approached? Yes, I would probably report that person to security.

The idea is that the average citizen really doesn’t know. What they can do is be prepared to respond. They can respond by following the directions of the authorities when they say evacuate, then they should evacuate. They should know what is safe shelter and what is not. 9/11 taught us that we need to know how to respond to emergencies and what may or may not be considered proper shelter.

Terrorism is a fact of life in our country. What should we do about it. I believe that we should attend as much training and obtain as much information from our local and community leaders as is available. We should not bury our heads in the sand and think it is going away. Get involved. Attend training, become a volunteer with the Community Emergency Management personnel.

3 01 2010
Jeff Braun

Warren, thanks for commenting. It is easy to think that terrorists only come from one region of the world, but as you point out home grown terrorism is a real threat also. Your comments about CERT Program are well taken. It provides citizens with the basics on how to be better prepared to help themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods. Finally, you are right; it is unfortunate that all of us really need to spend some time thinking about these things and preparing for these things, but the world has changed and it is important to get the training.

1 01 2010

Call me silly, but I believe, last time I checked, that this was still the United States of America, and being such, thet we need to be doing the dreaded profiling, and not just being the kinder, gentler,(read, scared to hurt anyone’s feelings), group of suckers we have become known as. The “training” that has been created as an alleged solution to prevent terrorism is a wonderful waste of time and money, in my idiot’s opinion. Americans have been lulled into thinking that the government can actually protect them, and keep harm from their doorsteps. Uhhhhh, I think it’s already ON our doorsteps. “Terrorists ” include the thugs and hooligans on our streets, foreigners, and even convicted criminals in our prisons, who cry “foul” when THEIR rights aren’t recognized, and our own elected officials, who are afraid to step away from the crowd of sheep they run with, and actually grow some teeth and backbones to deal with, and fight these problems. Perhaps it’s time to use profiling as a tool, TO our advantage, instead of being embarrassed by it ?

Americans have become so used to “letting someone else” take care of things, that they have forgotten how to take control of their own problems, and that is what I see as needing to be a focus. If they can’t even kill a snake in their own front yard, because all they have to do is call animal control to come do it for them, then why SHOULD they have to deal with someone who is going to quite possibly destroy them and their way of life ? I recently read a book, “The Gift Of Fear”, supposedly aimed at women, to “learn” to deal with strangers, friends, and family members who are potential threats to them, and how to recognize and deal with/handle those situations. It’s a good book to help anyone, not just females, be more aware of their own abilities.

Terrorisim ? Yep, we have it, and will continue to have it, unless the American people, you know, the “average” citizens, get out of their recliners and do something about it, becoming proactive.

3 01 2010
Jeff Braun

Shari, thanks for commenting on my blog post. CERT training, as an example, is not designed to be “terrorism” training. However, some of the skills and knowledge a citizen needs to be prepared for a hurricane or a tornado, is similar to what they need to know if they were involved in a WMD event of some type. CERT volunteers learn about emergency management practices, search and rescue, disaster psychology, first aid training, and how to assist their neighbors, among other things. As you suggest, the citizens who sacrifice their time to become CERT trained are getting out of their couch potato mode and becoming proactive. This is a very good thing.

2 01 2010
Michael Kahlenberg

The number one point here is to get involved. Make the call when needed be a good witness.

3 01 2010
Jeff Braun

Michael, thanks for taking time to comment.

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