Sunday, May 17, 2009

Conference Notes (Part 3 of 7) Hardening Soft Targets

A soft target, by definition, is a person or thing that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to military or terrorist attack. The speaker on this topic focused mainly on commercial soft targets such as malls, hospitals, schools, community events, businesses, etc. Years ago, there were a whole lot more soft targets such as stadiums, court houses, and many other businesses who at the time were not the focus of international or domestic terrorist attacks. Fast forward to now when government, businesses, and schools have been subject to numerous terrorist (and other random shooter) attacks around the globe. Security has been heightened, planning and preparedness is now its own department in many of these institutions, and everyone down to the newest staff members have been educated on safety and security topics. Here's some random notes from the seminar on this topic:
  • You need to know who you are dealing with. There are very clear (and very different) definitions of your average criminal and your average terrorist. Criminals are often opportunistic, untrained, and escape oriented whereas terrorists are focused, trained, attack oriented, and patient.
  • Al Qaeda actually has a terrorist manual. Check it out here.
  • Methods of terrorist attacks on soft targets include IEDs, suicide bombers, and guns whereas criminal attacks usually involve theft, robbery, and violence (ie: firearms, knives, etc).
  • Terrorist attacks are often synchronized, rehearsed, sophisticated, and use military tactics. Criminal attacks may be random (ie: an opportunistic robbery or random shooting) or targeted (such as a bank robbery or a domestic violence shooting).
  • Pre-incident indicators of a terrorist attack include: people parking, loitering, or standing in the same areas over multiple days. Video cameras, night visions, and high magnification lenses may be used for surveillance. Maps, photos, diagrams, sketches, and blueprints are often used. There may be "accidental" intrusions into secure areas (the speaker was particularly clear that these incidents should be well documented, reported, and not he said, how many adults will miss a "SECURE AREA DO NOT ENTER sign?). There may be reported thefts of staff ID cards, uniforms, keys, or license plates. There may be a pattern or series of false alarms requiring law enforcement and/or emergency response so that they can see what kind of response to expect.
  • Collection of electronic surveillance data is easier than ever now thanks to the internet, newspapers, and published maps, schedules, and facility information.
  • What you can do: develop security, safety, emergency operations, and contingency plans. Define your risks, threats, and vulnerabilities so you will have a basis for planning and preparing. Play the terrorist against your own facility once plans are in place. What weaknesses and vulnerabilities do you find? Conduct training and exercises with your staff regularly. Develop relationships with local law enforcement, FBI, and your counterparts at other similar facilities. Practice "good housekeeping"--keep things neat, tidy, orderly, and minimal which makes it easier to see if something is out of place.
  • Don't be lulled into a false sense of security because "nothing ever happens" in your town/facility, or to others in your industry. Heavy duty planning and preparedness may seem like "overkill" at the time but it will be worth its weight in gold should the worst happen.

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