Does Your Church Have a Threat Response Plan?


The following are some thoughts and observations related to security issues based on suggestions we have received from a church member in Texas. Although the strategy is focused on preventing violence at churches, the material may also apply to other workplace settings, especially in situations where it becomes cost prohibitive to retain professional security officers.

The first consideration is to identify members of your organization that have experience as police officers. The rules of engagement are quite different for law enforcement than for military. Training can be acquired fairly quickly but good judgment comes with experience. Additionally, a little bit of legal knowledge about armed self-defense can go a long way- toward creating tragedy, legal liability and a bad image for your church or business.

The laws vary in every state. In the State of Washington, we are permitted to carry a weapon concealed (with a Concealed Pistol License- CPL) or openly in many situations. Some states have laws that restrict weapons in churches. Since Washington gun law treats a church like any other business, anyone that can legally carry on the street can carry in church. In fact, the owner and those authorized by the owners can carry in a church or business without CPL. Keep in mind, however, that if you are in a vehicle or off the premises you need a CPL unless you carry openly which we are only recommending for uniformed Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs).

A church has the same right and responsibility as any other private party to restrict what happens on its own premises but you do not want to deter visitors from coming onto your premises while appropriately armed. That visitor may save someone’s life. Criminals will not hesitate just because they see a sign that bans weapons on your premises.

Thus, a church or other organization has to take reasonable precautions to protect invitees that enter the premises. There is already some precedent for law suits proceeding against institutions like Virginia Tech. Pastors and elders also need to look at these issues from a spiritual standpoint. If you take your responsibility seriously, then you have to protect the flock that God has entrusted to your care.

More violent attacks against Christians and other religious minorities are foreseeable. Churches that take a Scriptural stand on the self-evident truths of Scripture – truths that have become so controversial to the crooked generation in which we live- are more likely to be attacked. The Lord Jesus articulated a self evident truth when he commanded his disciples to make it a priority to obtain a sword even if they sell their own clothing to purchase one.

Most churches have at least some active duty police officers. In Washington, police officers are permitted to work as armed security when they are not on regular duty. Keep in mind that in many of the mass shootings that have occurred, uniformed police officers have been targeted first. The presence of a uniformed officer is a good thing but there needs to be one or more armed individuals in plain clothes backing up the officer(s).

Security guards need to be licensed and properly supervised so do not take any steps indicating that any of your volunteers are security guards without undergoing the appropriate legal procedures. Nevertheless, we encourage you as a church to discuss appropriate threat responses and to create threat response plans with folks in your church that are called to protect the flock.

Remember, your team is made up of volunteers and should be moving around the church just like any other members unless they are ushers or greeters or have similar assignments. Armed volunteers should be going about their normal activities but in such a way that they are prepared to implement your church’s well planned response if a threat materializes.

Assigning specific individuals to guard or secure a particular area.

You may want to informally designate areas of responsibility for various volunteers. Working in pairs makes sense. If members are identified as security personnel and/or wear clothing that indicates certain members are official security personnel, you may be in violation of the law. Additionally, this creates more potential for liability if an incident occurs in which someone is injured by the commission of a negligent act or the failure to take appropriate action.

Wearing clothing that identifies members of the “security” team encourages church members to rely on the presence of armed security and makes those designated individuals into potential targets themselves. The first principle of self-defense is that each person has the primary obligation to protect himself or herself and loved ones from death or grave bodily harm.

Anyone that asks the question “when can I draw my weapon” is probably not ready for the responsibility. Each person that is armed needs to have requisite training, knowledge and experience to know what to do if a threat of deadly force develops. An individual who only focuses on how and when to shoot will not be remotely prepared for the scenarios that may develop in your church.

Surveillance Detection.

Look at the size and layout of your building and ask yourself where a terrorist might stand to observe your building and what activities might be of interest for a potential attacker that is taking notes. There has not been a case of a terrorist attack against a church in the United States- that we know of- but it happens frequently in other countries. When things develop, they develop quickly. So take the time to study surveillance detection. Many times the mere fact that surveillance is being observed will prevent an attack from developing.

Greeters should be at every door and in the parking lot for those who need help or for ministry. Greeters should be observant. Know the signs of trouble. Disturbances that may occur are shouting at preacher during the sermon, a fight between teens or a potential domestic violence situation. Make sure that “gatekeepers” know about impending threats, stalking situations and/or domestic violence protection orders. Pastoral counseling and assistance to abused women (or men) can put those that intervene and the whole congregation right in the line of fire!

Dealing with a threat where no deadly force is present.

1. Every disturbance has the potential to escalate to Code Red very quickly. Your team should normally be in a state of heightened vigilance but outwardly relaxed/alert (Code Yellow). Code Orange is the point at which an unspecified incident or disturbance puts your team on full alert. At this point, you become aware of cover, lanes of movement for accessing and exiting the space you and others may be in. Who controls access to certain areas and is that person aware of indications that a situation may be developing?

Condition red is the point where an armed encounter with one or more opponents has materialized. The “trouble maker” has now demonstrated the ability to produce death or grave bodily harm combined with the opportunity and legal jeopardy (the perpetrator is in your church or parking lot of your business with a deadly weapon evidencing the intent to cause harm to innocent people). Grave bodily harm includes a life-threatening, crippling or disfiguring injury. In Afghanistan, the Taliban throws acid in women’s faces. What about the protesters that threw liquids at the delegates to the Republican convention last summer?

2. Give the location in the building where the disturbance is occurring. Do not tell law enforcement that there are armed volunteers present if the disturbance is not one that presents the threat of deadly force. If the first responders think that you have involved armed civilians, the police may not arrive until the SWAT team arrives which takes a great deal of time in most instances.

3. The person that goes to call the police should walk and not run. Walking indicates you are in control. Have someone that is prepared to take control of the situation go to all the buildings on your campus to lock doors and let teachers and staff know what is taking place.

4. You need an exit plan for the congregation. The church body needs to know they are to follow instructions from leaders. Visitors that do not attend regularly will follow the regular members. These leaders may be women or men. They need to know a place to go outside the church building. In the case of a larger church it may be another building that can be locked. Start walking people out- do not run. Tell them, “follow the leader, walk don’t run.”

Running shows fear. Walking says, “I am in control”.

Never stop. Never look at the trouble maker. Walk out. Start the church congregation singing as they walk out- “Jesus Loves Me” or some other song of praise that calms the congregation’s minds and blocks out whatever the active shooter may be saying to create fear or confusion. The goal is take control completely out of the hands of the trouble maker(s) or active shooter(s). Active shooter is a term of art that refers to a person or persons intent on taking as many lives as possible.

Be aware that there may be more than one shooter including embedded outriders/outliers that can mingle in the congregation and operate as backup for the visibly active shooter; i.e., the threat that you are able to immediately identify. The tactics that the world witnessed in Mumbai with automatic weapons and grenades may constitute the shape of future terrorist attacks. Attacks with small arms have long been predicted by almost all the credible experts.

If dealing with an armed troublemaker, the armed volunteers should be using cover but also need to be moving quickly toward the active shooter but do not surround him. If you are surrounding a shooter you are all in the line of each other’s fire! Stay in control and walk purposefully with an awareness of the big 360 degree picture.

Give commands forcefully but calmly. If there is no weapon displayed by the person creating a threat then keep your hands out front in the open. Pointed fingers or threatening actions may provoke more trouble. Stay two arms length away from the threat if possible. If it is a fist fight between two combatants intervene with great caution. Better two brawlers hurt each other than have someone turn on you with a knife or gun

If you are armed, you should avoid any physical contact that may lead to losing control of your weapon. If you are confronted with disparity of force (more than one assailant or a deadly weapon) do what you see as appropriate.

When law enforcement arrives clear away and point at the perpetrator without talking. In this manner the police will know immediately who the bad guy is. The police will need plenty of safe space to deal with the threat without having to be concerned about bystanders that may also pose a threat.

Sit down somewhere and keep the witnesses together. Wait for the police to ask questions. Wait until asked for identification before informing the police that you are armed. The police do not need assistance to catch the troublemaker if he runs away.

Practice verbal responses so you can remember them when you need to use them. Physical responses need to be practiced, so do verbal ones. Do not hesitate to call the police! It is alright to tell the officer that you have it resolved but may need an officer to remain close by.

If confronted with contact weapons such as knives, bats, screw drivers or other sharp objects do not run away.

1. Command the church body “Everyone get down on the floor and do not run. Get on the floor.”

2. Have someone call the police.

3. Armed volunteers should approach carefully while keeping a good distance from the attacker. A man with a contact weapon can move twenty feet before you can react especially if people are running around and creating confusion. In a loud command voice tell the perpetrator, “Put down the knife and face the wall. Put it down and get on the floor….”

4. Remember the 21 ft rule.

5. Stay at safe distance and wait for law enforcement. If your gun is out (which it normally would be if you are confronted with a contact weapon) reholster when the police arrive- but stay prepared. You should have a good distance between your tactical team and the perpetrator.

Do not attempt to handcuff or make any physical contact with an individual. You are not trained to do that. If there is even a possibility that the troublemaker is armed then stay behind cover at all times if possible.

If shooting starts.

1. Do not hesitate, now is the time to run and do not stop. Call 911 and inform law enforcement of the location of the shooting. Do not return.

2. Shooter may never give a clear shot at him. Will be walking down aisle; shooting at contact range. People will probably run in spite of commands.

3. Holler give commands, to congregation, “Get on the floor. Do not run, get down.”

4. If there is a circle of people around the active shooter as he walks between the church pews, no one can return fire without hitting other volunteers. If he is on an outside aisle against a wall there is a better possibility of obtaining a clear shot if everyone gets on the floor. By kneeling or shooting from close to the floor your rounds may travel upward, thus minimizing the chance of stray rounds hitting innocent bystanders. Bullets pass through walls and people, striking innocent people. Police use ammunition that breaks up when it hits and you may want to carefully consider the ammunition that you choose.

5. Those willing to take the shooter down should rush the shooter and keep coming until he is down. Push people down or out of the way, even run over children while shouting commands, “Get down, do not run, get on the floor!”

6. Those who choose to fight should focus on the weapon not the person. Control the weapon even if you have to absorb a shot to do so. Remember, an apparently lone attacker may have a partner acting as an oulier. After the active shooter(s) have been subdued, march everyone out to a safe place in the manner described above. You have now fulfilled Hebrews 11 by quenching the violence of fire, delivering your loved ones from the edge of the sword and administering justice. You have “waxed valiant in fight” and put alien armies to flight. Someone needs to call for medical assistance at this point.

7. When LEOs arrive all weapons should already be put away if possible. Make sure not to pick up the shooter’s weapon but keep your foot on it or secure it if there is a chance someone may pick it up. Do what the police tell you to do. Identify the wrongdoer to the police and make sure the police know that he had to be stopped in order to prevent innocent people from becoming victims. Point out evidence such as spent casings, weapons, etc. but do not provide details without a lawyer present.

Note well: Police officers have been taught the importance of obtaining legal counsel prior to making detailed statements so they will understand that you need some time before you answer questions. You will be experiencing an enormous rush of adrenaline but resist the urge to talk too much and make sure that you are not holding a weapon or doing anything when the police arrive that might cause them to regard you as a threat. That means to drop your gun on the floor without hesitation when commanded to do so.

This is not legal advice because, even though the author is a lawyer, every situation is governed upon very specific facts. Get training in the laws of self-defense and know the laws of your jurisdiction. Talk to local police authorities and make sure they are aware of your threat response plan. You alone are responsible for your actions, especially if you decide that you are faced with the deadly force that justifies deploying a weapon.

If anything herein is helpful, you or your church or business should feel free to reproduce these guidelines in whole or in part. We encourage you to submit your planning concepts and questions so that we can augment or correct what we have provided so far. This article is a work in progress.

Reality-Based Training is Practical for Police and Armed Citizens

Law enforcement agencies require “qualification” tests at least one time each year.

Firearms qualification ensures that officers can make a certain number of holes in a paper target within a given amount of time. Almost every department requires additional tests of proficiency for its officers.

At the Federal Way Police Department, four training sessions occur each year. This Federal Way requirement is now becoming the regional standard. Almost every agency in our region meets the regional standard and some agencies may exceed this standard by shooting six times a year.

One of the four training sessions that Federal Way police officers undergo is proficiency or “qualification” testing. Two are other live-fire training. And one is reality-based training scenarios with live role players and Simunitions marking cartridges or Airsoft weapons. Most sessions include service pistols and patrol rifles.

FWPD started doing some things years ago that are being done by most agencies now, such as reality-based training. Many officers hired from other agencies, especially from outside of our state, lack familiarity with moving while shooting. FWPD requires moving while shooting as part of the basic qualification course. Many agencies train on it, but don’t test on it. FWPD requires 100 percent hits on target as part of the qualification course.

Many other agencies don’t require all rounds fired to hit within the silhouette; they only require their officers to meet (or exceed) a minimum passing score, which can allow for a complete miss. The trend is toward requiring 100 percent hits. Our source in the department observed that, although many departments throughout the State of Washington have standards similar to Federal Way standards, the feedback from discussions at the statewide law enforcement instructor school — and from officers at smaller agencies on the Eastside — is that some firearms training programs are weak compared to FWPD’s standards.

Reality-based training has become a phenomenon in the “civilian” world also. The number of stores that sell paintball equipment and supplies is amazing. Airsoft guns look exactly like real weapons and even the military practices with such reality-based equipment. A few years back, I took a class at the Marksman (a local pistol range) in which instructors and police officers from the Puyallup Police Department explained the laws of armed self-defense for civilians. The high point in the class was deploying a Glock pistol that shoots a laser beam onto a life-size screen.

The object is to distinguish between unarmed bystanders and predators that come at you wielding deadly force. Such “shoot/don’t shoot” scenarios help the student to apply the practical legal reasoning that is taught in class. It sounds easy to sort out the victims from the predators until you are the one having to make split-second decisions with someone pointing a gun at you. Military and police are using simulators for everything from rifle practice to shooting simulated grenades at simulated tanks.

All of the new technology, however, will never replace getting out and practicing with the weapon you actually carry. A malfunction or other unexpected contingency can only be identified when your training is as close to reality as possible.

See Israeli Tactical Training.

Surveillance & Disaster Preparedness in Federal Way

I just completed three days in a Surveillance Detection Training class. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides some very valuable training in many areas related to protecting your home, community and critical infrastructure such as utilities and industrial facilities.

The class was primarily attended by folks that supervise security personnel. You may wonder why a firearms lawyer participated in surveillance exercises with professional operators responsible for guarding some of the most critical resources all over our state.

One of the more enjoyable features of practicing employment law and the law of armed self-defense is that I occasionally have the opportunity to advise security professionals and law enforcement in my law practice. Many Federal Way residents are small business owners and probably cannot afford the time off to attend a Surveillance Detection (SD) class or to employ any security, let alone armed security. I have been politely told that if I publish my class notes, I could be aiding and abetting the enemy. Nevertheless, by identifying a few issues you may be able to recognize the need to be aware of how important it is to be aware!

Every facility has a potential red zone. The red zone is the area that hostiles watch in order to size up security procedures and determine vulnerabilities that may be exploited. If initial surveillance activity informs the hostiles that your facility is well guarded then it is very likely that no attack will be attempted.

Thus, the time to interrupt the cycle is prior to the point at which a terrorist attack occurs. At this point, you may be wondering why a terrorist would target your small business, church or other facility. We know that the high value targets lie in dams, bridges, national icons (like the WTC), etc. Keep in mind that in Iraq, Israel and many Asian, South American and other countries, schools, daycares, apartment buildings and churches are routinely targeted. We have not seen this in the U.S. but did we ever see jet liners fly into buildings before Sept. 11?

By getting into the mindset of a professional “operator” now you can be prepared in the event that we are headed for change in the future. Incidentally, many of the security professionals to which I talk indicate that they would like to employ at least some armed personnel but risk-management and the legal department think there is too much liability. It is not the lawyer who advises management that may confront the Manchurian candidate as he puts riacin in the water you and I use for our coffee tomorrow morning. The loss of a human asset or two is cost-effective compared to all the money that it costs to employ armed guards.

The SD class was a joint production between Federal Way Emergency Management, Department of Homeland Security and Washington Military Department, Emergency Management Division. Students spent much of all three days in the field and if employees at Crossings wonder why so many people in “cover” spent so much time taking notes and talking on cell phones it is because we were busy developing plans for detecting surveillance. If you detected us we need to improve.

Interestingly enough, the DHS trainers work for International Training, Inc. (ITI). If you look at their website, you will discover that they train operators and “civilians” in all kinds of skills up to and including advanced sniper training, explosives, and protecting virtually any kind of asset.

ITI is a subsidiary of Wackenhut so if you want them to come and guard your facility they are among the largest security companies in the world.

For training closer to home see Training.

See Cyber-Terrorists Use Online Network Surveillance.

Armed Civilian’s Rules of Engagement

1. All predators are always killers. When they attack, your options for self-defense are very limited.

2. The predator is smarter than you. Act and react accordingly.

3. Predators will use all the force necessary (and then some) to achieve their goals, without regard to consequences.

4. Predators evaluate their targets before attacking. If you are attacked, the predator has determined he will succeed without a heavy cost to himself.

5. If you are about to become a victim, you have already made serious mistakes.

6. Believe what you see; don’t go into denial. Your attacker won’t.

7. In a lethal confrontation, you will only have time to choose one course of action- and your life depends on making the right choice.

8. Predators rarely act alone, although the ones that do are the most dangerous. If there’s one, look for two; if there are two, look for three, etc.

9. Fear is the predator’s friend and your enemy.

10. Talk and negotiation rarely work.

11. Predators do not have a conscience. Don’t waste time and effort appealing to any sense of mercy or kindness.

12. Some people cannot be frightened or intimidated. Displaying a weapon may not solve and, in some cases, may well exacerbate the problem. Be prepared for this.

13. “Bullets don’t work.” Gene Zink, Former H&K Law Enforcement Trainer. No hand-held firearm fires a guaranteed “one-shot-stop” round. Anticipate needing follow-up shots.

14. Firearms don’t work all the time and may well not work when you need them most.

15. Carry only the biggest-caliber gun you can control.

16. Don’t be overly concerned about caliber. No one wants to “leak” or have holes put in him.

17. Carry a reload

18. Carry a second gun.

19. Be able to get to both handguns with either hand; and

20. Don’t assume you can prevail in the conflict due to your superior tactics and training. The predator only has to be lucky once. Avoiding him is still the best defense.

21. The honest citizen pitted against a predator is an unequal contest. The predator is a professional. Most honest citizens are amateurs.

22. No competition or training, no matter how well learned or practiced, can equal hands-on experience.

23. Predators constantly validate their training with hands-on experience.

24. Getting hands-on experience can be fatal, but survivors learn their lessons well!

Walt Rausch’s Rules

See Ready for Mayhem.

Terrorism, Safety and Situational Awareness

When the first aircraft struck the World Trade Center what were your thoughts? Was terrorism your first thought? Or, was your first thought more like “How could that happen?” The first crash caught most people trying to figure out what human or mechanical error could have caused the crash. However, a little over 15 minutes later and the instant Flight 175 came into view we knew we were under attack. As the jet slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center our view changed and the response of police and fire personnel to the WTC and the other incidents changed.

Our response changed because the additional information of the second aircraft changed our perception regarding the first. Our perceptions moved closer to the reality because additional information gave meaning and enhanced our comprehension of what we were observing. By gaining additional information we became aware of the true nature of the situation.

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness was a term originally used to describe the tactical situation during aerial combat. While the term doesn’t go back as far, the idea surfaces in World War I, when pilots first took to the sky in combat. At first, it was the ability of the pilot to know where he was in relation to the enemy and the other pilots of his flight. In reality that is only positional awareness. However, when pilots added their knowledge of aircraft capabilities and known battle tactics with positional awareness, they were able interpret, comprehend and anticipate. Comprehension of observation is the essence of situational awareness.

Police officers use situational awareness daily. While it has obvious applications for street tactics, it is likely most used in the development of reasonable suspicion (RS) and probable cause (PC). Both RS and PC are an officer’s interpretation of observations based on their education, training and experience. Whenever you detain someone, conduct a warrantless search or make an arrest you are practicing situational awareness. Just as you and I were able to make better arrests as we gained knowledge on the job, we were also safer. Our safety was enhanced because there is a predictive element to total situational awareness.

Situational awareness has three levels – perceiving critical factors, understanding those factors and finally understanding what those factors will cause to happen in the near future. Just as we gained an edge over the common criminal element by education, training and experience, we can gain that edge over terrorists by enhancing our comprehension of what we observe as it relates to terrorism. We can protect our communities and ourselves by an enhanced situational awareness of terrorism.

Know what terrorism is

In the first article of this series, Terrorism: Crime or Asymmetrical Warfare, we noted that the “the definition of a crime dictates our response.” In that article we further explored the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s definition of terrorism:

“ Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and, occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States .”

You will increase your situational awareness, or the ability to use your comprehension of the facts to predict short-term future events, by understanding the history and nature of terrorism.

Know your beat

If you received a radio call of a shooting on the southwest corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Central Avenue you would have some positional awareness, but not much situational awareness. You would know the best route to get to the call, and probably the best way to approach, but little more. However, what if you knew the location was an apartment building rife with druggies? Alternatively, what if you knew the location was a Jewish Daycare Center? Either set of facts would add to your situational awareness, it would change the way in which you handled your approach and the call.

Most of the literature for first responders on terrorism emphasizes the need to be aware of the critical infrastructure in your community. However, how you define critical infrastructure may somewhat limit your situational awareness. As an example, the Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets: Definition and Identification report to Congress ultimately defined critical infrastructure as:

“The framework of interdependent network and systems comprising identifiable industries, institutions (including people and procedures), and distribution capabilities that provide a reliable flow of products and services essential to the defense and economic security of the United States, the smoothing function of government at all levels, and society as a whole .”

Based on this definition, bridges, chemical factories and government facilities, etc. are part of the critical infrastructure. However, given the purpose of terrorism, first responders should be aware of their community’s political, social and cultural infrastructure. The Jewish Daycare Center probably doesn’t fall into the category of critical infrastructure, yet it would be part of your community’s social and cultural infrastructure and in today’s world a potential terrorist target.

The following list of indicators is a checklist that is by no-means all-inclusive. It should be viewed as a place from which to start your discussion about terrorist planning:

1. Possession of extremist or radical literature;
2. Interest in law enforcement tactics, yet not in law enforcement;
3. Surveillance of critical infrastructure, or community political, cultural or social infrastructure;
4. Possession or attempts to obtain surveillance or planning materials, i.e., maps, photographs, blueprints, cameras, surveillance equipment;
5. Possession or attempts to obtain materials for improvised explosive devices i.e., chemicals, timers, wires or other components;
6. Possession (or the attempt to obtain fraudulently) identification documents;
7. The rental, or attempt to rent, storage units or a living space for a large group of people;
8. Economical and non-descript lifestyle;
9. The abandonment of typical cultural identifiers such as facial hair or clothing;
10. No interest in learning English; and,
11. Relationships with suspicious groups.
Note: This checklist is by no-means all-inclusive. It should be viewed as a place from which to start your discussion about terrorist planning.

Since 1996 the State Department has issued an annual report on patterns of global terrorism. Between 1996 and 2004, the varying reports list well over one hundred different foreign terrorist organizations. Furthermore, this does not include the large number of domestic terrorist or potential domestic terrorist groups and individuals. Clearly, it is impossible for the first responder to have an in-depth knowledge about the all the potential threats. Similarly, in Los Angeles it would be difficult to have an in-depth understanding of every gang; however, it would be possible to understand enough about gang members in order to increase your situational awareness. In order to increase our situational awareness, we want to understand some overarching principles about terrorists:

• For the terrorist, the end justifies the means. The result is that no matter how bad the act, if the terrorist perceives the act as moving toward their goal, they do not consider the impact of the act on the individual or groups. Their only concern is the impact of the act on their end goal.

• The planning and execution of most terrorist acts seems to indicate that first responders are dealing with criminals that have an above average intelligence and are tactically astute. Research indicates that many terrorist leaders come from middle class families and are relatively well-educated.

• The point of terrorism is always publicity for the cause, through terror. Think of it this way – in war, the point of a mine field is to slow or stop enemy progression; with terrorism, the point of an improvised explosive device along a highway is to gain publicity for the cause.

• The target and the victim need not be the same. On September 11th, the victims who were killed or injured were not the targets. The United States government was the target. This concept reinforces the idea that for every terrorist – the end justifies the means.

Know current intelligence

The current national system for a terrorist alert is almost too general to be of much use to the average first responder. There have been, however, instances when the Department of Homeland Security has issued alerts that were specific enough to be useful. An alert that says that financial institutions in a specific region should be in a higher state of preparedness is specific enough for the first responder to take action. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security not only issues alerts, but general recommendations for action based on those alerts. Every first responder should have a good grasp of how a heightened alert impacts their assignment.

One of the most common deliver methods of explosives is through the use of a vehicle. Some of the indicators may be:

• Vehicles that have a strong chemical smell, or the scent of something burning coming from them;
• Signs of recent body work, especially of poor quality, or with patches welded to the cab or body of the truck;
• Extra fuel tanks or extra antennas, or recent signs of a reinforced suspension;
• Inappropriate license plates or misspelled artwork or badly executed stencil painting;
• Heavily tinted windows, particularly if used in an unusual manner (for example, if the front screen of a delivery truck is tinted); and,
• Signs that the vehicle is heavily over-loaded on its suspension.
One of the problems with American law enforcement is that we tend to “stove-pipe” critical communications. That is, we send information up and down a specific chain of command, often failing a timely dissemination of the information to where it is most needed. You can work to short-circuit this by developing your own sources of information. Whether you subscribe to the Department of Defense e-mail briefings, the State Department email advisories or any one of the great public sources of Open Source Intelligence, you should find a source of information that you continually and regularly consult for intelligence on the latest trends in terrorism.

Total situational awareness is gained through increased comprehension of what we observe. It results in a greater ability to make short-term predictions about what is going to happen and therefore make decisions regarding our response. Comprehension is gained through education, training and experience. If you attain total situational awareness you will be better able to prevent, respond and apprehend.

“© 2007 reprinted with permission”

About the Author
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA is author of Police Technology (Prentice Hall, July 2004), and co-author of Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style (Quill Driver Books, August 2006), From NYPD to LAPD: An Introduction to Policing (Prentice Hall, July 2007), over fifty articles on technology, policing, leadership and terrorism and a dozen educational websites like Raymond can be reached at or through his blog at