0219 – 9-11 Series: What Can We Do When We Find Ourselves In the Middle of Terrorism

When America experiences the next terrorist attack the decisions mad by those that are directly involved may play an enormous role in how the situation plays out.  Yeah, I said it.  When it happens again.  I didn’t say if.  I didn’t mean to say if.  I firmly believe it is going to happen again.  All we need to do is to look at history to know.  If we use Israel or Russia as examples it isn’t hard to imagine that our future might look like their past.

Start with Israel.  I’m not going to weigh in on right or wrong here, that isn’t my point.  Israel is an nation that exists in hostile territory.  They have lived in the shadow of threat since inception.  They have stared it down, faced it, defended from it, attacked it, prepared for it more than any other nation in the world, and they are good at it.  Yet it just keeps coming.  It will happen again.  Some might argue that “America is not Israel.”  I couldn’t agree more.  We are more complacent, weaker, less experienced and less prepared.  If they come after Israel, they will come after us.

Let’s look at Russia.  They spent a chunk of time in the desert and when they got home with their tails between their legs, their enemy was waiting for them and they continue to soak Russian soil with the blood of innocent men women and children to this day.  The story line sounds familiar and it has been promised to us by Osama Bin Laden.  We aren’t Russia you might say, and it sure seems that we are kicking some ass in Afghanistan.  With Osama dead they don’t have the leadership to follow our troops home.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Terrorists are becoming more independent of leadership every day and all you have to do is look at our porous borders and the stories of what is being found to know that they are not waiting to follow us home, they are already here.

I’m not a dooms dayer, I would just like to think of myself as a realist.  It is not if, it is when.  If the threat isn’t foreign, then its domestic.  If it isn’t you then it is someone else and since terrorism is pretty random it is everyones job to get ready.

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School Crises Seminar October 14

 

Awareness, Avoidance, Prevention

When we take an honest look at things we must remember that Awareness, Avoidance, and Prevention are some of the best tools we have in keeping ourselves safe from terrorism.  “If you see something, say something.”  If at all possible we want to prevent bad things from happening and if we can’t prevent, we don’t want to be standing there when it does happen.  Avoidance and Prevention take place through Awareness, so be aware.

Decisions, Decisions

First of all, lets make a couple of things clear.  This podcast isn’t about finding out that there is a problem at the local mall, grabbing your rifle and showing up to lend a helping hand.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and a place for that but when we look at reality,it is such a long shot that it isn’t worth spending a lot of time on.

What I am talking about is what to do if you find yourself in the middle of some kind of big, nasty, ugly situation.  Remember, everything I have to say is my opinion and each individual has to choose what is best for them.  You are ultimately responsible for your actions and the consequences that result from them.

Three Types of Scenarios

  1. Bombing
  2. Active Killer
  3. Hostage Scenario
Each of the scenarios presents itself with its own unique set of circumstances.  Add in the fact that, time, location, and thousands of other factors mix in to make each and every situation different and giving answers becomes almost an impossibility.  We can however take a look at some of the special circumstances that each situation presents and how we can begin to consider our options.

Common Elements

I think it is worth reiterating the concept that prevention, awareness and avoidance are out best friends.  Whenever we find ourselves involved in violence we run the risk of suffering the negative consequences of violence.  It doesn’t matter how tough we are, how well trained, how well armed, how prepared, we can still lose and find our selves injured or killed.  Without a doubt the best way to guarantee that you will avoid the negative consequences of violence is to avoid violence.  We know that isn’t always possible and that is why we are discussing the issues that we are!

LEO, Fire and Paramedics are often thought of as the first responders.  I value and appreciate what these people do, however, we need to shift our thinking on this concept of first responders.  They may be the first ones to come to the scene, but hopefully they aren’t the first ones to respond.  We need good old average Americans to be ready to respond when they are faced with violence.  If we wait for the cavalry, they will be too late virtually every time.  We need to respond in whatever capacity we are trained, prepared, ready and willing to stop what is happening and to try and contain damage.  the people on the scene need to view it as their responsibility to handle the situation.  This only makes sense as it is their lives that hang in the balance.

Medical Training is a key.  The consequences of violence are severe and can be permanent.  If we can’t avoid it, and we can’t stop it, we better have the training and the tools to deal with the consequences.  First aid training is the most important aspect.  Following right behind is having the equipment to help yourself and those that you love.  Help might be a long way away.  Even worse they might be right there, but not coming to you until the area is secure.  You are responsible for yourself

We talked about awareness and avoidance above. It seems to make sense that if you become aware of an issue your best bet is to leave.  This seems like a simple solution, and in many ways it is.  If the opportunity presents itself for escape, you should probably take it.  Don’t forget, however, that there are lots of issues that can complicate the situation.  Being the father of two little children, I am critically aware of my mobility issues, and I have to tell you, I’m not going without my family.  You see how complicated this issue gets.  Bad people make it even more complicated.

One of the most heart wrenching aspects of the Beslan School Siege in Russia was how the terrorists handled the mothers and infants.  By the morning of day two, the infants who were held in the school were about as unhappy as you can get.  We all know what hungry, thirsty, dirty, wet babies do and those of you that are parents understand how difficult that crying can be to deal with.  The terrorists had enough, the babies had to go and they offered to allow mothers of infants to leave with the infants.  There was a catch though.  Your school aged child had to stay.  Some mothers sent their babies out with others, some mothers left there children and escaped with the baby.  What would you do?

Things might be made even simpler for you.  You may become aware that there is a problem, but not have an option to leave.  If you are on a plane, train or bus, your decision may have been made for you.

I don’t think there is a correct answer, but we do need to think about how we might handle various scenarios.

Bombs

The most important factor when dealing with explosives is being as far outside the blast radius as possible.  It is pretty obvious that if you know there is an explosive device in the area you should move away as quickly as possible.  When we look at terrorists and their behavior we have to understand that bomb threats are just that, threats.  Rarely do those threats pan out.  This means that we most often find out about a bomb when it detonates….  Not the best situation.  Awareness can help us out in some circumstances.  We need to be paying attention to our surroundings.  Keep an eye out for:
  • Suspicious packages
  • Individuals with ill fitting clothing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nervous behavior
  • Loud chanting or praying
  • Vehicles that don’t belong based on the type of vehicle or location
We have to be ready to handle the chaos that comes after the explosion.  Don’t forget that often times explosives are used in conjunction with active murderers, this means you need to get yourself to safety.  Safety is a relative term.  You may be better off remaining in a damaged building after an explosion if there is shooting outside.  The point is consider your options before you act.  Find a point of cover and then make your decisions.  Be ready to provide medical help to yourself, those you love and those you can.

Active Murderer

This scenario is the one that pops into most peoples heads when they think about terrorism and it is the tool that has most often been used here in America.  Often times it isn’t considered terrorism because there may or may not be obvious political motives.  I don’t really care much a bout labels.  Any of these situations were probably pretty terrifying for those that found themselves involved.
The standard response for law enforcement has changed since Columbine and has proven to be a successful model.  Prior to the shootings in Columbine, LE response was to respond, set up a perimeter, and wait for SWAT.  It seemed to make sense.  What has been found since is that most active murderers stop their action when resistance is present.  They do this in one of two ways:
  1. surrender
  2. suicide
This simply means, in general, that the sooner resistance is encountered, the sooner the murdering will stop.  Currently LE is trained to respond to the scene and individually or in ad hoc patrols seek and destroy the actor(s).  It is all well and good to wait for LE to do what they are trained to do, however, if you find yourself in the direct vicinity of a murderer it might be to your direct advantage to take care of things on your own.  Let’s define direct vicinity.  You are in the immediate area.  You or yours could be next.  You see muzzle flash.  You are slipping on the blood of others. If you are trained, prepared and equipped to do so, save your life.  If you make that choice remember that you should act instantly with decisive force to immediately end the encounter.  this probably isn’t a great time to issue verbal commands.  If you understand the totality of the situation and you are legally justified, ACT!
Hearing shots at the other end of the mall isn’t the direct vicinity.  In that situation, exit the area gain cover, call for help, render first aid etc.
Hostage Scenarios
Hostage sieges provide for a very complex situation.  They may begin as a bombing or even more likely as an active murderer situation and develop into a hostage seige either by plan or action.  This in and of itself is an excellent motivation to act in the other situations so you don’t find yourself in a more complicated situation.
In the first few minutes of a hostage siege the actors must accomplish two important goals.
  1. Gain control of the hostages
  2. Gain control of the scene
If the terrorists fail at either of these two goals, they lose.  If we find ourselves in  a scenario that looks like a hostage scenario we must prevent these two goals from being achieved.
Hostages are controlled through fear of death.
Once the hostage takers achieve their initial two goals it becomes very difficult to deal with the situation as they are in control.  So, for those that are on the scene, if possible, deny the control.  The price for this action will be high, however,  if I find myself in a hostage situation  I figure I’m just a dead man walking anyway.  I might as well die fighting.  The longer the actors are defied control of their subjects and control of the scene the more opportunity there is for responders (official or not) to spoil their plans.

 

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