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/

Photos of the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Bomb

29 12 2009

More about terrorism and the recent incident on Flight 253 can be found at the following link:


Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN)

28 12 2009

Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) is the powerful high explosive that was in the news over the holiday weekend; allegedly, PETN was found in the possession of the Nigerian terrorist who, according to reports, attempted to detonate an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.  This flight originated in Amsterdam, and was arriving in Detroit on December 25, 2009, when the individual attempted to detonate the explosive.  The terrorist had sewn the PETN into his underwear to avoid detection by authorities

PETN was introduced as an explosive after World War I.  It is used by itself in detonators and detonating fuses (Primacord) and in a mixture, called pentolite, with an equal amount of trinitrotoluene (TNT) in grenades and projectiles.

PETN is a colourless, crystalline material that is generally stored and shipped as a mixture with water. It is less sensitive than nitroglycerin but is easily detonated. Valued for its shattering force and efficiency, PETN is the least stable of the common military explosives but retains its properties in storage for longer periods than nitroglycerin or cellulose nitrate (nitrocellulose) does. PETN is also used in medicine as a heart stimulant.

In December 2001, PETN was the explosive used by Richard Reid in his unsuccessful attempt to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami.  In August 2009, PETN was used in an attempt to murder the Saudi Arabian Deputy Minister of Interior by a Saudi suicide-bomber linked to an al Qaeda cell based in Yemen. The target survived.  The bomber died in the blast.  The PETN was sewn into his underwear.