#Soft_Target #Terrorism

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Last night/early this morning Istanbul, Turkey time; 2017 started out with another soft target terrorist attack. Reports of more than 35 killed and 50 + wounded were shot by suspect (s) in a crowded, some reports say as many as 700 people, night club. As of the writing of this post, 16 of those killed were “foreign nationals” unknown if any were from the United States. While this doesn’t meet to modus operandi (MO) of many of the terrorist groups that operate in Turkey; The TAK/PKK or DHKP-C which are Kurdish and Marxist-Leninists respectfully; it does fit the pattern of Islamic Terror Groups such as ISIS.

Terrorists learned that 9-11, that was a “once in a lifetime” attack, a “Black Swan” if you will.

ISIS either directed or inspired attacks have had the mentality of why attack “Big” when “small” serves the same purpose. Now I am not saying that a large-scale attack isn’t still possible. Because they are. But my assessment is that in the near future we will see more of these smaller scale attacks more so than the large scale.

I have become increasing annoyed by the phrase “no credible or specific threat”. If some haven’t “figured it” out yet; terrorists aren’t going after the “World Trade Center” type attacks; they have adjusted their tactics, to focus on the Soft Target. Current terrorist MO leads to my assessment; that terrorists will continue to attack those targets that present the least resistance. My assessment; with the inspired attacks of late there has been no threat reported before the fact!

Sadly, terrorists have adjusted their tactics; long before we have!

Looking at the stats; there have been more terrorist attacks in the US in the last eight years since 9-11, all by lonewolves not Organized Groups. When there was no “no credible or specific threats” San Bernardino; Fort Hood; Orlando; Chattanooga, Little Rock, AR, NYC/NJ Bombings; Boston; OSU; Another terrorist group tactic has declared that any and all civilians are justifiable targets. The only attack that would not necessarily fall into this soft target methodology, would have been the attack on Fort Hood. Which could and should be categorized as an Insider Terrorist Attack.

The attack in Istanbul, while being a world away, is no different than attacks on Paris, Nice, London, Madrid, or Berlin, or the attacks on US soil that I listed above.

We need to train people to be more cognizant of their surroundings; we need to train to be proactive and not reactive; what to do and how to get out. But instead “we’ll” probably keep the status quo because, instead of being ready, we don’t want to freak out the villagers. I will always bring up Israel. Israel trains for terrorist attacks with their populations all the time. That’s why Israelis don’t freak out when there is an attack.

Although this post has been about terrorism; the same methodology could be applied to other threats, Active Shooter, Weather, and others.

We could be a more prepared Nation if we weren’t so namby-pamby on facing the harsh realities of the everyday world.


Situation Report

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I wrote this threat situation report several; weeks ago.

For what it’s worth


International Situation Report as it Relates to National Security

North Korea: 

  • Continued Development and testing of Nuclear munitions and conventional missiles systems
  • North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2008, with two so far this year. OSINT speculates the possibility of at least one more by the end of the year; along with additional missile tests
  • Estimated test ranges for Nuclear munitions in Kilotons, have been between .7-30
  • North Korea has continued to conduct conventional missile tests as well in the following categories
    • Short Range – Under 1000 km/620 miles
    • Medium Range – 1000 km to 3000 km/ 620 – 1800 miles
    • Intermediate Range – 3000 – 5000 km/ 1800 – 3400 miles
    • Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles – over 5000 km/ 3400 miles
  • It has been purported that North Korea may already have an ICBM capable of ranging to 6200 km/ 3800 miles
  • US has conducted Show-of-Force “Flyovers” with B52 and B1 bombers.
  • “This is no longer a dark cloud on the horizon. It’s a threat at our doorstep.” – Senior South Korean Official (Washington Post interview)


  • The on-going Civil War in Syria has not only torn the Country apart, it has added a complicated situation to the region, that involves Russian, Iranian, and American Forces on many levels of complexity
  • Has created a refugee situation on a catastrophic scale
  • Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have sided to aid the al-Assad government; with each side providing material and some level of troop support; Estimates 4,000, 3-5000, and 1400 respectively
  • Russia’s motivation to “assist” Syria is to establish a “Warm Water Port” for their Navy. Which has been evident with the establishment of a Naval Port in Tartus and a permanent Airbase at Hmeimim. Both of these have been given an indefinite “lease”
  • Terrorist Groups that appear to be operating in Syria, in either an anti or pro Assad role
    • Hezbollah which is a Pro-Iranian arm therefore Pro-Syrian
    • Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which is Anti-Assad
    • ISIS – Fighting against both Pro and Anti – Assad Forces


  • Has broadcasted to its civilian population to find and beware of the closest bomb shelter
  • Has purported to have conducted massive Civil Defense Drills across the Country to include Nuclear Scenarios
  • Russia has deployed Air Defense Artillery missile to both Syria and Iran; the ADA systems in question are S-300, similar to our Patriot ADA Missile Systems
  • Russian Officials have said they will shoot down American Aircraft if they attack Syrian or Russian positions.
  • Russia has moved “Nuclear-Capable” missile systems toward the Polish Border
  • Russia has been conducting many cyber-attacks, as has been evident in recent news reports.
  • Russia has recently “walked away” from Nuclear Security Pact. — Citing “radically changed environment” of hostility and threats, Putin withdraw from the 2000 agreement on the disposal of plutonium. Which is a key Fission weapons.
  • The only Russian Aircraft Carrier, will join the Russian Fleet off the Syrian coast. Although smaller in size, to US Aircraft Carriers, the Admiral Kuznetsov can carry an estimated 60 Fixed wing aircraft and Helicopters;
  • Sidebar to this development; This ship and an estimated 7 additional surface vessels will pass through the English Channel on their way to the Mediterranean; It has also been reported they will conduct “bombing runs” North of Scotland.
  • It has also been purported that Russia has called “Home to the Motherland” all Russians abroad; N.B. This has yet to be thoroughly vetted; and there has been NO call to the best of my knowledge, of any Political Envoys or Ambassadors.


  • Iran is continuing to provide financial, technical, and military support to include, personnel and material to Syria
  • Although Iran “officially” declines it is providing personnel support
  • Iran has continued to harass US Naval Vessels in both the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf
  • It has been “suggested” that Iran has supplied the technology and missiles which the Houthis purportedly used to not only attack the USS Mason but also a UAE ship.
  • Iran has been a longtime supporter of Hezbollah
  • Iran just as recently as this week has deployed additional Naval Surface Vessels to the Red Sea.


Domestic Situation Report as it Relates to National Security

Cyber Security Threats:

  • With the continued evidence that Russia, North Korea, and other actors have attacked our already vulnerable internet; and with the announcement in the last 24 hours of a possible retaliatory U.S. cyber-attack directed toward Russia, the possibility cannot be ruled out, of a possible attack directed toward critical infrastructure targets such as electrical grid; utilities or possibly even economic targets
  • Terrorism Actors have purportedly attacked Twitter and other Social Media accounts of the US Armed Forces in recent years. One would be naive to think that an attack against our infrastructure would not be attempted
  • Would expect a significant intrusion in our cyber systems with in the coming weeks, aside from the daily “attacks”

ISIS and Al-Qaeda inspired terror attacks by Self-Radicalized Muslim Terrorists 

  • Terror attacks have been on the rise over the last year in the West most have been ISIS inspired however attacks from those “influenced” by Al-Qaeda cannot be ruled out
  • 21 “Documented” Terror Attacks in Europe in the last 24 months with an estimated 273 dead and 1207 wounded
  • 12 “Documented” Terror Attacks in the US in the last 24 months with an estimated 68 dead and 124 wounded
  • FBI Director James Comey stated in September 2016, that the Bureau has about 1,000 active homegrown terror investigations. He estimated in May 2016 that around 80 percent of active homegrown terror investigations are related to ISIS
  • According the House of Representatives committee on Homeland Security it has concluded that at least 30% of prisoners that were held and released from Guantanamo Bay, have returned to the “fight”
  • With U.S. involvement with the on-going attack to retake Mosul, Iraq, the risk of possible Lonewolf attacks cannot be ruled out on the Homeland and in Europe.
  • Primary targets could include “soft-targets” in high civilian “traffic” areas
  • Public venues such as stadiums, theaters, transportation, night clubs and restaurants should remain vigilant

Left and Right Radical Domestic Terrorist Groups – 

  • With the either, real or perceived political climate in the Country, both left and right wing domestic terror groups/individuals have and will continue to present a clear and present threat to the homeland.
  • The 2016 Presidential Election could be considered a segue to an increase in activity depending on which side “wins”
  • Law Enforcement Officers have and continue, to come under ambush attacks, by both sides not in just America’s Major Cities but also in smaller communities
  • Primary targets could include “soft-targets” in high civilian “traffic” areas
  • Public type venues include; stadiums, theaters, transportation, nightclubs, restaurants; any place where large groups gather #SoftTargets
  • Neither Group is devoid of displaying prejudices or racially motivated dialogue toward one another

Left Wing;  

  • Law Enforcement Officers have and continue to come under attacks; not just in major cities but smaller communities as well
  • Left Wing Groups will use seemingly peaceful protests, or fraudulent 911 calls to conduct their attacks. While there has been no know connection to Peaceful organizations there have been individuals that have professed empathy for those organizations.
  • In the last 24 months as many as 13 Law Enforcement Officers have been killed by Left Wing Terrorists, and more wounded in these attacks.

Right Wing: 

  • Militia Groups, So-Called Religious Rights Groups and others with Anti-Government agenda
  • Groups that have come under attacks in this period have included;
  • A Church Group in Charleston SC was targeted in June of 2015 and resulted in the deaths of 9 persons and 1 wounded.
  • 2015 Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting in which three persons were killed; which included a Law Enforcement Officer. In addition, nine others were wounded five police officers and four civilians
  • Overland Park Jewish Community Center shooting in 2014 left three dead.
  • 2014 Pennsylvania State Police barracks attack, in which one Officer was Killed
  • 2014 Las Vegas shootings resulted in two officers’ dead.
  • Right Wing terrorists were arrested on 14 October 2016 in a plot to bomb a Mosque and Apartment Complex in Garden City, Kansas; the reported date…. The day after the general Presidential Election


Family Emergency Response Planning

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I stress this is not an all inclusive document.

Your Family Emergency Response plan should be tailored for you and your family; your geographical location; your special needs.

All I’m attempting to do is to jump start your own planning process.

Please fell free; if you find this information useable, down load it and print it. Also add your own specific information.



#Soft_Target #Terrorism 15 Takeaways Explained numbers 8-15

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Soft Tarrget Protection

The first “Priority of Work” in any Military Operation is SECURITY; The last is EATING AND SLEEPING – Military Operations Priorities of Work

The Supreme Art of War is subduing the Enemy without Fighting — Sun Tzu

Today, we will cover the last 8 of the 15 Takeaways from Soft Target Hardening. Although the explanations and opinions listed in the first posting and this posting do not necessarily reflect those of the book’s Author; Dr. (COL ret USAF) Jennifer Hesterman; but are of my own after years in the protection field. Again, the main reference of these considerations, is Chapter 10 “Soft Target Hardening – Protecting People from Attack” by the aforementioned Author.

8.  Consider the deterrent effect of security officers and vehicles on your property

Just having a Professional Appearance and Groomed Security Force, with Cleaned, Maintained, and defective free looking vehicles can lead to the perception of a robust security team. Another why to have an “appearance” of security would be to find a vehicle that is in relatively good shape and “clone” it, meaning label as a security vehicle and park it in front of your facility. Some of these suggestions, in it of itself, could be enough of a deterrent for an attack. Now I am not saying that this alone will prevent an attack, but the presence of security could make those that wish you harm to look elsewhere.

9.  Remember as we harden facilities, the insider threat will grow

This seems pretty self-explanatory; But as facilities are hardened; those that mean to do us harm will have to adjust their tactics. That adjustment could include “infiltrating” organizations with those that are already radicalized or contacting those that could become radicalized. One way terrorist organizations have learned to recruit those to their ideology, especially in recent years, has been through the use of Social Media. If this transformation is completed this of course opens up the doors for a Lonewolf attack. Examples of Lonewolf Terror attacks that have affected the work place, almost to the extent that is blurred the lines between Terrorism and Workplace Violence, were the Fort Hood Attack on 2009 and the recent San Bernardino Attack. In both attacks, to the extent allowed by law, the attackers were “vetted” by their respective employers. Although after further investigations, there were signs of problems before the attacks that lead investigators to believe the attackers were radicalized. 

10.  Fight the five emotional states that increase your vulnerability

Hopelessness – “There is so much we have to do to prevent or mitigate the threat” There is a lot that has to be accomplished, but with some creative thought, there is a lot you can do. Consider what I like to call passive measures.

  • Train your employees to be Force Multipliers
  • Train them to be Safety and Security/Protection cognizant or as I like to say “Keep a Situational Awareness Mind Set”
  • Keep your employees informed of changes to policies and protocols
  • Keep your employees informed of both new hires and terminations
  • Now acceptable laws may prevent you from disclosing the reason for terminations, you can still inform your employees of those that are “no longer employed by the company”
  • Hold your employees to established safety and security/protection policies
  • Have an open line of communication between your leadership and your employees; if need be, establish an anonymous reporting system, should an employee have a concern about a certain co-worker
  • As you see, most of these approaches are inexpensive but effective

Infallibility – “It will never happen here” I’m sure there are a lot of organizations that felt the same way before they experienced a catastrophic incident.

  • The following point doesn’t necessarily only relate to terror attacks, but S. Department of Labor estimates over 40% of businesses never reopen following a disaster. Of the remaining companies, at least 25% will close within 2 years. Over 60% of businesses confronted by a major disaster close by two years
  • Although an attack may never directly impact your organization, there could be indirect results
  • Those that are in your supply chain could be effected
  • Your employees could be effected
  • Routes to and from your place of business could be effected
  • Those organizations close to your place of business could be effected, which through the domino effect could affect you
  • Your organization could be affected if one of your employees is under suspicion or investigation for terrorism

Inescapability – “It is destiny or unavoidable, so why even try?” The answer to this question is easy; It’s called leadership and it is your responsibility not only to ensure the economic viability of your company, it is also your responsibility to not only protect those that work for you but to also protect your stakeholders.

Invulnerability – “It could never happen to me” Never assume that something could “never happen” to you or your organization. Again the direct impact maybe minimal, but the indirect results could be catastrophic to your organization. Always plan for the worst and hope for the best. Consider establishing a Continuity of Operations Plan, and Emergency Action/Response Plan; these plans don’t have to cover just terrorist attacks or active shooter but should cover all possible adverse effects to your operations.

Inevitability – “if it is going to happen, there is nothing I can do about it anyway”. There is a lot you can do to mitigate an attack or at the very least mitigate the impact if you are directly or indirectly affected.

11.  When faced with a budget dilemma consider the question; “What is the cost of not protecting our people” —

We tend to get wrapped up around “How much will this cost me”, with a little out of the box thinking you don’t need to spend a lot on planning, training, response and recovery. The question is, can you afford the litigation costs if you or your organization is found fault in not preparing and protecting your facilities or organization? There will be some associated cost, don’t be fooled, but again by properly training your employees that cost can be greatly reduced. Establishing and developing a Situational Mindset in your employees can pay great dividends should you ever need to “Activate” your security/protection plan.

12,  Focus on Vulnerability no probability

You own the “ground” you stand on; you and your employees know the building better than anyone else; Capitalize on that! You know the weaknesses, you know the strengths; You should also know your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your staff.

13.  Invest in preparedness not prediction

You can’t predict when, if, or where, an attack can happen anymore than you can predict the final outcome of a sports playoff. Oh, sure you can have a very reasonable speculation, but nothing is 100% predictable. Invest in preparing. Even if you only have to use your plan once, it will pay for itself!

14.  Understand that we can paint an accurate picture of consequences even if we can’t predict how likely they are to occur

We all know, based on our own past experiences and on the final results of what has already occurred the consequences of most actions. But what we can’t predict how likely they will occur. Will it be a shooting, a bomb, a hostage situation, an IT compromise, or just a hoax, that throws everything into flux. But what we do today, or not do today, will certainly paint the picture of a relatively easy outcome, or a catastrophic one. Like the old saying “We can lose small or we can lose big”. For me if I have to lose, I would prefer the score to be as close as possible. “Show the Bastards that they had a fight on their hands”

15.  There is a desire for balance between normalcy and vigilance

You have to find that balance; don’t be so over powering in your overt show of protection that those that interact with you or your company are feeling “jailed”. Again, go back to the more passive approaches that I have mentioned. Use available technologies to add those layers of protection. Of course that should be parts of your infrastructure that are more hardened than others. Remember that receptionist at the front door holds the initial keys to your protection program. If something doesn’t feel right to him/her, then maybe it is worth taking another look at. Remember that nothing is “route” anymore.


I hope that the last three posts were helpful to you. If there is ever any assistance I can give you feel free to contact me.

Ralph R. Fisk ATO, MEMS

Director, Principal Consultant

Fisk Consulting

fiskcg at gmail dot com

#Soft_Target #Terrorism 15 Takeaways Explained number 1-7

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Soft Tarrget Protection

Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying;

“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”

Continuing to build on our #Soft_Target #Terrorism Series; 15 Take Aways from Soft Target Hardening; Numbers 1 through 7 explained;

  • Psychological blind eye to Soft Targets – We can’t help but think that in a war, the US homeland is relatively safe from outside attacks. That wars are fought on a liner scale, with a definitive distinction between the opposing forces. In today’s 4th Generation Warfare concept, a theory of war-fighting evolution coined by William Lind and a study group that contained members from the US Military ground forces, Army and Marine Corps, nothing could be further from the truth. The 4th Generation Warfare’s concept is based on, no clear lines between opposing forces.
    • Some tactics include Terrorism as a main force multiplier
    • Non-State actor combatants; insurgency and guerrilla tactics
    • Use of any available means to fight the enemy, not only traditional means, i.e firearms and explosives but also non-traditional means; psychological warfare, use of modern technologies, media manipulation, political, economic, and social pressures
    • Non-combatants become tactical dilemmas, in that there is an increased risk, of what some call collateral damage, and potential support network for the insurgent/guerrilla forces
    • Direct attacks on the “Enemies” culture; values and beliefs systems, religious views and the propensity for genocidal acts against civilian targets
    • Operations tend to lean toward a Low-intensity style of conflict; Low-intensity conflicts are generally defined, as operations other than total war against smaller more agile enemies with the perceived absence of large formations and weapons systems; generally characterized by small unit operations
    • At least among one of the “Actor” combatants, there is a non-traditional or transnational base which causes the warfare to be highly decentralized
    • Finally, there is a perceived absence of a command hierarchy amongst at least one of the “Actor” combatants
    • Also in turning this so-called “blind eye” we tend not to want to believe that we will be attacked at our soft targets; Hospitals, Schools, Theaters, Entertainment Venues and other locations where we are least vulnerable.
  • We need to understand that soft targets are hit around the World almost every day — Recent Terrorist attacks have shown us, in recent weeks, that this principle is true; Attacks in Paris focused on local social gathering spots and a sports venue. In San Bernardino the attack focused on a company holiday party and in Colorado Springs, Colorado at a medical facility.
    • Soft Targets are becoming the “target” of choice for attacks because of one simple selection appeal; the absence of a robust security element associated with the target.
    • Attacking soft targets accomplishes many key elements to terrorism
    • Terror Attacks seek to create a public fear and anxiety
    • Terrorists tend to have randomness in the attack methodology which leads the population to lose confidence in the government’s ability to protect its citizens
    • Terrorists hope to create a public backlash so strong that government’s will concede to their demands
    • Terrorists not only want to effect the maximum amount of casualties, but as we are seeing with recent attacks, any amount of killed or injured is quickly becoming acceptable
    • Finally, hardening all possible target locations, across all avenues of society is not feasible. Not only through the associated economic impact, but our basic civil liberties would be infringed and we would surely become a “jailed” society
  • Know the threat on your world and community – Terror threats aren’t just reserved for Islamic Terrorists. We face an infinite number of potential “Bad Actors”, from religious ideologies, political terrorists, National/Separatists, Anarchists to Ecology and Animal Rights Activists, to those that just have a Single Issue that doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. Remember, what we don’t know is worse than what we do know.
  • Intuitively understand your vulnerabilities and how much risk you are willing to assume – Understand what and where your weaknesses are; fortify those locations, mitigate, plan, and prepare to respond to incidents. It has been said that “the best offense is a strong defense”. That just isn’t a catchy sports phase, that should also be your outlook on your soft target. Some of these defensive measures can be “passive”, in knowing what to look for; knowing what is “normal” and what isn’t. Having a situational awareness mind set
  • Before investing in or relying too heavily on technology remember a popular military axiom: “The human is the best weapon system” – Nothing takes away from human interaction! A perceived human security system, even passive, is better than no security system at all. By honing your facility, understanding human detection tactics, and unapologetically engaging people in situations, where you have “a bad feeling” you are taking significant steps in defending your property and persons from harm. Use technology as a tool to assist you in protection; not as the main deterrent.
  • Practice Good Steady – State Leadership for outstanding crisis leadership when it required – As I have written in the past, nothing will beat Leadership “buy-in” in to your security/protection planning. Leaders need to have an active role in your security planning, training and exercising. They are the ones that will need to have an active role in the response to a critical incident. After all, if the Leadership isn’t buying into the protection plan, how are they going to be able to answer the “hard questions” when the time comes?
  • And finally for today; Take Steps today to harden your Facility – If you do one thing today, check your access system; meaning, see where the access points are to your facility; are they key controlled, if so, do you have an accountability of all keys to all entry points, offices, conference rooms, storage locations, and even your critical infrastructure locations, i.e Server Rooms, electric control panels, HVAC, Water. These steps aren’t hard; you just have to do them. It is better to check today and harden today, than to have to learn to react on the run. Check to see if you need to consider installing fencing, are your entry and exit points controlled? Does the “Guard dog”, and yes, I use that will all due respect to the most important person in your organization, the receptionist, know who is allowed behind the doors, what is the company access policy, are visitors required to have access to other areas of the organization.

Join me again Friday in the Next installment on my Soft Target Hardening Series as we go over the other 8 Soft Target Takeaways.

Ralph R. Fisk, ATO, MEMS

Director, Principal Consultant

Fisk Consulting

fiskcg at gmail dot com


#Soft_Target #terrorism Consider the these 15 Takeaways about Soft Target Hardening;

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15 Takeaways about Soft Target Hardening;

1)Psychological blind eye to Soft Targets

2)Understand that Soft Targets are hit Every day around the World

3)Know the threat in your world and in your community

4)Intuitively understand your vulnerabilities and how much risk you are assuming

5)Before investing in or relying too heavily on technology remember a popular military axiom: “The human is the best weapon system”

6)Practice good steady-state leadership for outstanding crisis leadership when it is required

7)Take steps today to harden your facility

8)Consider the deterrent effect of security officers and vehicles on your property

9)Remember as we harden facilities, the insider threat will grow

10)Fight the five emotional states that increase your vulnerability






11)When faced with a budget dilemma consider the question; “What is the cost of not protecting our people

12)Focus on Vulnerability no probability

13)Invest in preparedness not prediction

14)Understand that we can paint an accurate picture of consequences even if we can’t predict how likely they are to occur

15)There is a desire for balance between normalcy and vigilance

Chapter 10; “Soft Target Hardening – Protecting People from Attack”

Dr. Jennifer Hesterman

CRC Press 2014

Ralph R. Fisk ATO, MEMS

Director, Principal Consultant

Fisk Consulting

fiskcg at gmail dot com

#Soft_Target Theater and The Force Awakens

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I was extremely honored to be asked to co-author this post with Mr. Timothy Riecker, Partner and Principal Consultant with Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC.

Tim has an extensive background in Emergency Management, including; Chief of Training and Exercises for the New York State Emergency Management Office.

More on Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC, can be found here, http://www.epsllc.biz/index.html

Tim’s Professional resume and credentials can be found on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/timothy-riecker-cedp-66b1a912

The Force Awakens – A Potential Soft Target?

(This article, cross-posted and co-authored by Ralph Fisk and Tim Riecker, draws collectively on our experiences and expertise to provide guidance to municipalities, theaters, and movie goers on awareness, preparedness, and response concerns as we look toward this global event.)

The rapidly approaching release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens stands to be the largest premiere in theater history.  It has already broken a multitude of pre-sale records, with more records certainly to be broken on opening day and opening weekend, both domestically and internationally.  Even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan, you must certainly be at least aware of a new movie being released.  But what does this have to do with emergency management and homeland security?

On July 20, 2012 James Eagan Holmes killed 12 and injured 70 others when opening fire on patrons in an Aurora, CO theater.  This mass murder took place at the midnight premiere of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris involved a music venue, in which nearly 100 people were killed.  Gathering places like movie theaters are just one more item on the list of potential soft targets for people wishing to do harm, be they terrorists, disgruntled, or disturbed.

IMDB provides a listing of international release dates for The Force Awakens here.  We caution that this list isn’t entirely accurate.  For example, while December 18th is the official release date of The Force Awakens in the US, thousands will be seeing the movie at a select list of theaters participating in a 7pm special premiere time on the 17th.  While you should certainly be aware of the date and time of this premiere at your local theaters, it should be emphasized that theaters will be packed with fans for some time.

While there are no credible threats involving this premiere that we are aware of, municipalities, theaters, and movie goers all need to be aware of the potential for an attack and what each can do.  Surprisingly, despite high visibility active shooter and terrorist events of the past few years, most municipalities still do not have appropriate preparedness measures in order.  While there isn’t time to assemble a solid response plan prior to the premiere of The Force Awakens, there is still plenty of time for beneficial, albeit ad-hoc preparedness efforts.

Our thoughts are below…

With the release of the much anticipated next chapter of the Star Wars Saga, The Force Awakens; theaters and local first responders need to have a heightened level of awareness. There are a number of potential threat indicators associated with this release:

1)            Of course the current terrorism threat situation is first and foremost in our minds

2)            The history of an Active Shooter Attacks on movie theaters goes back to 1989 during the screening of Harlem Nights in Chicago, Sacramento, and Richmond California; on 20 July 2012 during the midnight release, in Aurora, Colorado, of the much anticipated film – Batman: The Dark Knight Rises; another Active Shooter Incident that involved another movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana on 23 July 2015 during the screening of Train Wreak.

3)            But also other considerations should be given to just the more than “normal” volume of theater goers, and which possible incidents could result from that.

Theaters are known to be soft targets and as such we need to be aware of the threat and how to address it.

We are going to cover the first two indicators listed above as they are not only the largest possible casualty producers, but also pose the greatest immediate impact.

Below are some suggestions and considerations for an ad hoc plan not just for the venues featuring these events; but also for those that maybe in attendance.


Most Active Shooter Incidents, an estimated 90%, are single actor attacks, meaning unless that person has been overt in their planning, little is known about the possibility of an Active Shooter Attack;

Unlike Terrorist Cells; which typically contain up to 4 – 6 members, not just for ease of control and planning, but also for the strict adherence to Operational Security, on the part of the Terrorists.

The difference between the two attacks may appear to be subtle to the uninitiated;

The main goal of an Active Shooter incident is to cause as much destruction as possible in a very short time span; Active Shooter incidents are different from other weapons related crimes in that they intend to commit mass murder.

Terrorist Attacks however have a very distant signature. They are commented for a number of political or ideological reasons; and may result in mass murder or hostage taking. Terrorist attacks may seem very methodical in nature of the execution.


Terrorism is all around us, whether we chose to look for it or not. Terrorist Groups tend to fall into one of six different categories;

  • Nationalist/Separatist – Sometimes referred to as Freedom Fighters
  • Religious – and we are not just talking about Radical Islamic terrorists here
  • Political – which include; right and left-wing
  • Anarchist – Freedom without the burden of a Central Government
  • ECO/Animal Rights – Motivated by Environmental/Animal Political Policies
  • Single Issue Causes – involves the use of force and violence for the purpose of coercing a government and/or population to modify its behavior with respect to a specific area of concern. Typically, these types of organizations do not have an overall political agenda

Which any number of these groups with related or different causes are already operating in the heart of the Country. Terrorist Attacks could have one or more of these four main objectives;

  • Recognition of the groups’ cause or purpose
  • Coercion toward the populace and/or government to the groups’ ideology
  • Intimidation to cause fear or terror; to cause the populace to lose faith in their governments’ ability to protect them
  • Provocation: attacks are aimed to cause the ruling government to take repressive actions against the population; demonstrate the weakness of the government and the strength of the terror organization

It would be almost impossible to go into the ideology of every single group. Suffice it to say, that they all mean to get their points across, sometimes with protesting, sometimes with criminal destruction of property, and yes, sometimes they will introduce violence.

Violence could be in almost any form imaginable. The most used form of violence directed towards a population tends to lean toward Armed Attacks and/or Bombings (Including suicide bombings); because for the most part these are relatively inexpensive approaches, the logistics to effect these types of attacks are relatively easy to obtain and these tend to produce the most casualties and incite the most fear in the general population. Between 1998 and 2007 out of the estimated 28000 terrorist attacks around the world, almost 21000 involved one of these two types of tactics.

Other terror techniques also used could include; Assassination, Arson, Hijacking, Hostage Taking, Kidnapping, Sabotage, Seizure, Sniper Attacks/Mass Shootings, Threats or Hoaxes, Cyber Terrorism, Agricultural Terrorism, Civil Disturbances and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). WMD is the use of any weapon or device that is intended or has the capability to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release; dissemination; or impact of one of the following means; Toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors; diseases, biological organisms; radiation or radioactivity.

Combined attacks of different types have also been used in the recent past. The attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 included the use of Airplanes as Weapons of Mass Destruction; the Terrorists Hijacked the planes through the use of an armed attack, albeit the arms were box-cutters, and crashed the planes into buildings causing the planes themselves to be used as WMD’s

Terrorists seek to create public fear and anxiety in order to influence government policy. Through the randomness and unpredictability of their acts, terrorists attempt to undermine confidence in government’s ability to protect the public. Terrorists hope the resulting insecurity fuels public demands for government concessions in order to stop the terrorist acts.

Today, as has been evident with recent terror attacks and attempted attacks, terrorist target selection wants to affect the maximum number of innocent people, in order to generate the fear, they desire. As the government has mobilized to protect our infrastructure from attack, our less protected target; schools, universities, shopping malls, et al., become more attractive targets.

As other sites and venues are “hardened” for security, these measures cannot be implemented across all avenues of society. One, it would infringe on our basic constitutional rights, two, the potential cost associated with “hardening” every facility would surely bankrupt the organization or governmental body imposing such restrictions, and three, we would become a “jailed” society.

Planning for terror incidents doesn’t require you have access to CIA, FBI or other intelligence organizational files, it, for the most part, only requires Common Sense, Situational Awareness of your surroundings, and a Communications Plan.


Some things to take into consideration when you’re making your plans to be in these potential soft target environments:

  • Remain Alert
  • Develop an informed vigilance; meaning, know what possible terror threats could be in your area or the area you’re going to
  • Let someone, not going with you, know your plans; where you’re going; when you expect to return
  • Attempt to blend in with your surroundings, Don’t try to stand out
  • Know your surroundings; Know how to exit the area you will be in; what is the shortest way out; have an alternate plan should that not be a viable opinion should there be an issue
  • Communicate that information to your family and others with you
  • Identify a meeting place if you become separated

Report any suspicious activity. Again remember to use your common sense; examples of suspicious actions could include:

  • People loitering in the same general area without a recognizable legitimate reason; people who appear preoccupied with a specific building or area; electronic audio and video devices in unusual places
  • Just because someone seems to belong there, they might not be whom they seem especially if they are exhibiting any of the actions stated above
  • DO NOT TRY TO DEAL WITH ANY INDIVIDUAL YOURSELF contact the venue security or Law Enforcement Personnel
  • Look for things out-of-place; bags left unattended; packages; persons attempting to conceal items either on their person or receptacles

In threatening situations, take steps to reduce your exposure – leave the immediate area

If an incident does occur; follow the instructions of venue staff, emergency personnel and first responders.  If you are close to the incident walk away with your hands visible.  Walk, do not run as secondary injuries can occur to you or others; move toward the walls as people evacuating a building tend to gravitate in the center

Active Shooter:

Although mass killings have been around for some time, Active Shooter incidents have only relatively recently come into the main stream. I’m not going to mention them as most of you reading this post know the infamous locations of these horrific incidents.


The National Tactical Officers Association defines an Active Shooter as

  • One or more subjects who participate in a random or systematic shooting spree
  • Demonstrating their intent to continuously cause serious physical injury or death to others
  • Their overriding objective appears to be that of mass murder, rather than some other criminal conduct such as robbery, hostage taking, etc.
  • In most cases some type of firearm is used, however, the Active Shooter may use any weapon that may be available
  • A suspect is considered an active shooter if he or she is still actively shooting, has access to additional potential victims, and has a willingness to harm others until stopped by authorities or his/her own suicide

Most Active Shooter incidents are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, in a 2012 FBI Active Shooter report, 37% of Active Shooter incidents last under five minutes, before law enforcement arrived on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter.

We will cover some very basic steps to plan for, react to and recover from an Active Shooter Incident. As with every planning recommendation I give; this is not all inclusive, I would highly recommend you attend an Active Shooter Training Seminar or ask for a visit from your local law enforcement organization that can give you a block of instruction on Active Shooter.

No matter where you find yourself, at work, in a restaurant, or any other venue where people congregate, you could very well be a target for an individual or individuals’ intent on causing great harm.

First rule in any Emergency Situation, Active Shooter included;


I have talked numerous times about maintaining your situational awareness. When you arrive at any venue take a few seconds to find the exits; which one is closest to you; how will you evacuate the area should you have too? What is around you that could protect you? I personally like sitting at booth tables in restaurants; with my back against a wall or other solid object: having a complete view of the whole restaurant if possible and facing the door.

Remember there are three basic fundamentals to reacting to an Active Shooter Incident;

RUN – Leave everything behind; find that exit and GET OUT! Encourage others to come with you, but if they don’t want to leave, REMEMBER YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE EQUATION!

HIDE – Put as many barriers/walls between you and the shooter as you can, turn off cell phones, radios, any device that could make a noise and give up your position! Lock or block the door; hide under a desk, remain quiet and claim!

FIGHT — AS A LAST RESORT, AND ONLY WHEN YOUR LIFE IS IN IMMINENT DANGER: Act as aggressively as possible against him/her; Throwing items and improvising weapons; Committing to your actions; Attempt to incapacitate the active shooter; (EXERCISE EXTREME PREJUDICE IN YOUR ACTIONS) That last part isn’t a fancy movie catch phrase; remember you are in a fight for your life!



Once police arrive on the scene here are a few do’s and don’ts;


  • Run up to the police; Their first priority will be to eliminate the threat(s) and secure the scene to allow EMS to come in and assess and treat casualties
  • Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as attempting to hold on to them for safety
  • Don’t stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.


  • Be VERY AWARE! That once Law Enforcement Personnel arrive on the scene you may very well be considered a suspect. That is normal response protocol
  • YOU may be told to get on the ground…. Just do it…… Better to be treated like a criminal at first and then cleared, than being shot. You made it that far, go home at the end of the day

Active Shooter Preparedness is also becoming a very large part of Workplace Violence Planning and Training.

Although it is good to receive some rudimentary training on Active Shooter; each organization will need to tailor their response plans to fit into their building lay out.

Corporate Climates cannot afford to have a lackadaisical approach to workplace violence, emergency response or security, this is a leadership/management issue. Corporate Leadership must take ownership of safety, emergency response and workplace violence responsibilities for their organizations and require their First-tier leaders to stress the importance of these processes and procedures, one of the first things I learned about leadership was, led by example. You can direct more people into doing what you want if you first do it yourself! If you don’t, what makes you think that the employees will!

Active Shooter Awareness has to be incorporated with emergency response planning and work place violence planning; you are setting yourself and your company up for failure by not planning, training and conducting exercises.

This next point has greatly concerned me, I have seen some reports lately that companies are being sued for conducting Active Shooter Awareness Training and most, if not all claimants say they were traumatized by the training. Well I’ll simply put it this way, would you rather have some knowledge and a sense of what to expect should you ever have to act in an Active Shooter Situation; or would you rather be a victim. A 2012 FBI Active Shooter report indicated that over 50% of Active Shooter Incidents occurred at a business.

I’d also recommend that you receive some treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) after the incident, as you would have seen and experienced things that no person should every have too.


Recommendations both for Active Shooter and Terror Attacks for those that may not have a developed response plan


  • Consider activating, even with minimum staffing, the local Emergency Operations Center
  • Consider “up-staffing” Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS Personnel, not only the first night but a number of consecutive nights as well
  • Consider Review Local Mutual Aid Plans (Police, Fire, EMS)
  • Consider having a Public Safety Organizational meeting prior to release

Law Enforcement Organizations;

  • Consider high visibility patrols in theater areas, not only the first night, but a number of consecutive nights as well
  • Consider reviewing your Active Shooter and Terrorism Response Plans
  • Act immediately on any reported perceived threats
  • Consider “Up-staffing” patrol personnel
  • Consider Review Local Mutual Aid Plans
  • Check with local FBI Field office, Joint Terrorism Task Force, or if so supported, Fusion Center; prior to release night for any updates of possible threats


  • Consider having one medical and one fire unit “staged” close to the venue
  • Consider reviewing your Active Shooter and Terrorism Response Plans
  • Consider “up-staffing” the closet Engine/Ladder/EMS Companies
  • If possible, predesignate locations for Medical and Fire Staging Locations
  • Consider Review Local Mutual Aid Plans

Theater Company

  • Consider coordinating with Local Law enforcement for Security
  • Brief Theater Staff that will be working those nights, on Emergency Response and Active Shooter Plans
  • Maintain a Passive Security Posture the entire night; Some Passive Security measure suggestions can be found above
  • Know the limitations of the theater rooms and know when they are close to capacity
  • Assign personnel with no other responsibility but to observe theater patrons; Only in an observe and report capacity
  • Consider Review Local Mutual Aid Plans
  • All Theater Staff must know where all the exits are and how to lead patrons to them; remind the staff the closest exit maybe behind them



As a sociality we have become increasingly dangerous, in that we have to worry about the seemingly random act of an Active Shooter; although most are not random at all, but go through as many as five phases before the shooter executes his/her actions. I fear that we will continue on this path of wanton violence and the better educated you are, not to these types of incidents, but any type, the better you will be to handle the situation.

As with any planning you do, whether you’re planning for a natural disaster or human initiated events/incidents, you need to take into account your own special considerations, also keep in mind that these planning and situational mindset ideas will not always be all inclusive. Your primary focus should be on personal safety, continued situational awareness and exercise your common sense.

The world has changed over the last few decades, more than anyone of us could have ever imagined. Thirty years ago, the only emergency-related thing we had to worry about at school was the surprise annual fire drill. The escalating violence in our world and attacks on soft targets like schools, churches, and hospitals has taught us that we are no longer safe in those places we once considered as morally protected sanctuaries. We must strive to provide a safe environment for all of us.

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