EM Forum Presentation — June 12, 2013

Terrorism Response Operations
An Update on Current and Emerging Threats

August Vernon
Instructor and Author
Operations Officer, Office of Emergency Management
Forsyth County, North Carolina

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/FirstResponder/TerrorismResponseOpsUpdate.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130612.wmv
MP3 format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130612.mp3
or in MP4format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130612.mp4

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Host and Moderator today and we are very glad you could join us.

As we are painfully aware, terrorist incidents of the kind experienced in Boston continue to be a threat.  We thought it would be a good time for a refresher, and our program today is condensed from a much longer training session. Therefore, we will begin with an overview presentation and pause for questions on the first part of the material halfway through. Then we will proceed with the second part with a second opportunity for final questions or comments.

 [Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to welcome back August Vernon, currently the Operations Officer for the Forsyth County Office of Emergency Management (NC). August returned to his position in 2005 at Emergency Management after a year in Iraq as a security contractor conducting route clearance and long-range convoy security operations for the U.S. Army.

August has been employed in Emergency Management for thirteen years and also served as a paid member of the fire service and a fire service instructor. He also served in the U.S. Army as a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) Operations Specialist for 4 years.

Welcome back August, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


August Vernon: Thank you, Amy and thank you for the opportunity to be here today.  I’d like to say good afternoon or morning to everybody listening today depending on where you are.  We have a lot of information to cover so I’ll move through this fairly quickly.  Our focus is going to be on terrorism response and operations but I’ll cover a couple of different topics related to this.

[Slide 2]

We all recognize that to have a rapid, safe and successful response to any type of these incidents does require some planning, training and preparation on the part of the communities and agencies that would be involved.  If the moment the device goes off, someone opens fire or releases a suspicious powder that is not the time to figure out what your game plan is going to be.

Statistically the likelihood of the terrorism or even a mass violence incident is low but public safety officials and others need to plan and prepare for these events.  Obviously with the continuing events that are occurring CONUS or OCONUS (inside or outside the United States) it demonstrates the need to continue to plan, prepare and respond to these events as they occur.

I have a lot of information to cover very quickly.  This class is normally four to eight hours in length so I have highlighted a few key bullets that we will cover in the webinar.  

[Slide 3]

I always want to remind folks we have troops in harm’s way overseas.  We have had fatalities related to the military overseas including Afghanistan—it continues to be a very dangerous area.  We want to make sure we remember our folks on the front lines worldwide.

[Slide 4]

The purpose for today’s event is to talk about trends in terrorism and mass violence events.  We’ll talk about some current and emerging threats that are out there.  We’ll talk about some resources and plans that can help you in your planning, training and exercising efforts for these types of situations.  This webinar is not meant as the only complete training in and of itself.  There are plenty of resources out there to help you.  

For all the different agencies and entities that are on the webinar, I’m not trying to tell you how to train and plan but rather what you need to plan and train for depending on your location, mission and resources.

[Slide 5]

Any time we want to talk about any type of violence related situation—terrorism, mass violence, active shooter, mass shooting, explosives—we need to talk about who the threat is and who we need to focus on.  Who is the threat and what risk are they?  Obviously there is a wide gamut of those that we will cover that could cause some type of terrorism or mass violence incident to occur.

[Slide 6]

We’ll call this “Terrorism 101” and look at the type of adversaries that are out there.  The first one is international terrorism groups.  We’ll take a moment to break these down in a little bit—domestic terrorist groups, criminal elements, gangs (which really have a transnational focus now), domestic militia and extremist groups.  

Probably the top three we will need to talk about is the homegrown violent extremists—that is what we have recently been seeing in the United States—the lone wolf—there are a couple of definitions of a lone wolf—and the insider threats.  Most of the school shootings, workplace shootings and mass murders are what we refer to as the insider threat.

We could spend an hour on each of these groups on this list but we don’t have time to do that.  Think of a threat matrix and who we realistically need to be concerned about.  

[Slide 7]

Terrorist groups 101—this methodology has been around a long time now—breaking down in international terrorism and domestic terrorism.  The international terrorism with state sponsors—those are countries that are funding and supporting terrorism activities.  

Your formalized terrorist groups—Hamas, Hezbollah, ETA and some other ones—and the loosely affiliated international radicals—that is sort of where Al-Qaeda is now.  Al-Qaeda is no longer a well-built organization with a strong structure but more of a franchise now.  Also your domestic terrorist groups—your right and left wing and special interest—and we will talk about those groups.

[Slide 8]

Also in today’s world there is a great number of emerging threats.  Things are changing.  That is why you will hear me refer to this as both terrorism and mass violence incidents.  Some of these incidents may not meet the legal definition of a terrorist attack but they may seem like a terrorist event when the agencies need to respond to them.

There are a couple of things going on now.  There are a wide variety and assortment of actors and groups both within the United States and around the world.  There is a big criminal tie-in into these groups in today’s world with drug and human trafficking, financial crimes and things like that.  A lot of groups that maybe used to not speak or work together now network in some fashion.

A lot of these groups use technological and social media dynamics—very strong in those efforts and we have to be aware of that.  A lot of this is organized crime now that are supporting groups and organized crime that are conducting terrorist activities. There is a religious nexus to some of these groups.

The rogue states that are out there, countries that really don’t have strong governments, banking structures, customs and border protection and things like that. Non-state organizations which are some of these groups. WMD—there are still an attempt from some organizations to produce WMD in some form or fashion.  We still need to be focused on that.

Probably the biggest one we are seeing that we need to be focused on in the United States is the domestic homegrown terrorist—that homegrown violent extremist.  Most of the attacks that have occurred in the past few years in the United States, and the attempted attacks, and those that were stopped are domestic and homegrown.  

All this fits under the asymmetric warfare umbrella.  Al-Qaeda cannot meet the military on the battlefield with tanks and aircraft so they use roadside bombs, IEDs, civilians as hostages, social media and things like that—what we call asymmetric warfare.  The snapshot, the window of things we are looking at are definitely changing.

[Slide 9]

Food for thought—things that are going on in Mexico—I definitely recommend you look into that.  There are a lot of things going on in Mexico and the U.S. border as related to the Narco insurgency going on down there.  Over 50,000 people have been killed.  They are using roadside bombs and social media and technology.

One interesting one I wanted to throw into our discussion on terrorism—there have been a lot of IEDs being used in Mexico, some right on the U.S. border.  There have been several situations—I won’t call it a car bomb as we imagine car bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan and the near and far east i.e. 500 to 1000 pounds car bombs —but in some of these pictures you see they have had explosives placed into vehicles that have gone off.  The picture on the left with the officer running that was a device that was specifically set up to target police officers.  

[Slide 10]

There was another recent car bombing down there, again not large in size but improvised explosive devices placed into vehicles to target locations or individuals.  So I think there is potential that we could receive bleed over in the United States for this type of event to take place.  There could be the next IED or car bomb in the United States.  It may not be terrorist related but could be related to what is going on in Mexico. When we look at the threat matrix, we look at the history, intent and capability these are occurring and some of these actors and individuals involved in this are within the United States.

[Slide 11]

Remember I talked about domestic and international terrorism.  First we’ll look at the left-wing groups, primarily pro-communism and pro-socialist type groups and we’re talking about extremist subversive groups that are involved in criminal activities.  A lot of this may have transitioned into what you’ve heard about anti-globalization in the past few years.

With the recent elections the RNC and DNC and events like that there was a lot of anarchist violence related to this.  These groups, a lot of them will use protest and civil unrest with what they call direct action.  If you look at the history of some of the occupy events that took place—this is not painting all the occupy events with one brush—but there were some that did have explosives, bomb threats, suspicious materials, assaults, murders, violence and other criminal activity related to those.

A lot of this would fall under the anti-globalization or anarchist activity.  Who would be conducting that?  It could be a lone wolf, it could be that insider threat or it could be the homegrown violent extremist.

[Slide 12]

A recent plot was in Cleveland.  The individuals were looking at possibly blowing up a bridge in Cleveland using explosives.  They were also going to target the Federal Reserve Bank with a possible car bomb.  These are U.S. citizens conducting U.S. subversive activities with no ties to international terrorists groups or anything like that.  This would fall under the left-wing umbrella.

[Slide 13]

To go to the far end of the spectrum are the right-wing extremists—groups that are conducting criminal or subversive activities.  Under the right-wing extremists that could be a lot of different things—white supremists, gun control extremists, the New World Order.  Keep your eyes and ears open for New World Order.

You used to hear it years ago from the right-wing groups when their belief was on Y2K, in the year 2000, the world would come to an end as we know it.  All computers would crash and the United Nations would take over.  That was a big buzz word and the focus on these groups.  On Y2K nothing happened and that term went away for a while.

It has come back again and we’ll see some of these groups referring to that.  Some of the groups are anti-government, anti-taxation, anti-abortion—it depends on the group.  Some are militia groups and some are patriot movements.  Most patriot groups are not extremists and subversive—obviously they are not, but some of the groups will use that name.

Kind of an issue that has been around for awhile but seems to be expanding is a group called the Sovereign Citizens.  An interesting thing about Sovereign Citizens—some groups are black members only and some that are white members only.  Within the sovereign movement there are a lot of different type of individuals out there.

There have been ambushes on law enforcement that involve fatalities that have involved Sovereign Citizens.  They are kind of widespread and growing.

[Slide 14]

What are some of the beliefs of right-wing groups?  There is a wide variety of these organizations.  Some groups oppose the U.S. Government in any form or fashion.  Some believe the government has already been taken over.  Some believe they are their own government and do not have to follow or listen to any other government.

Some of these groups are driven by very strong what we would call Christian-identify religious beliefs—these are extremist criminal beliefs.  There is still a segment of these groups have a very strong Nazi or fascist government kind of ideology.  Some are very patriotic individuals but are taking part in terrorist or criminal activities.  

Who could be part of the right-wing movement?  It could be the lone wolf.  It could be that insider threat or the homegrown bomb extremist, individual cell or group.

[Slide 15]

Probably the most popular and the one we see the most issues from is what we call the special interest or single issue group.  My answer for this is—pick any controversial issue that is out there.  I have seen a lot of groups of individuals who are conducting criminal activities related to any controversial topic you can imagine that is out there.

It could be animal rights, environmental issues, and genetic research—there has been violence in both pro and anti abortion.  Gun control, anti-IRS and recently a lot of focus on the banks and financial institutions—some groups and individuals are against corporations and the corporate world.  Pick you topic, any topic that is controversial and you can have groups who are subversive in their activities related to that topic.

I am covering these groups very quickly so we have time to get to the whole presentation but we could spend a lot of time on each one of these groups.  We also have a lot of participants from different parts of the country.  You would need to find out in your state, in your region and area who out of these groups is active, who is protesting, marching, conducting an occupy event, who is posting on the internet, who is presenting through social media world. It is one of the things you need to find out that would directly impact your threat assessments and vulnerability assessments and your training efforts.

[Slide 16]

We’re talking about all these individuals and painting them with a broad brush but some of these terrorist incidents can be very sophisticated in the degree of planning and execution that is going into them.  Many of these individuals have trained, prepared, armed themselves, have very detailed plans in place, have financial backing but honestly these attacks can be carried out by individuals with very little training, very little planning, very few resources and limited funding.

Sometimes we make these individuals out to be criminal masterminds, highly trained terrorist organizations and they are not.  That is why most of the time these people are going to use readily available weapons such as pistols, shotguns and rifles.  If they are using explosives they will be using homemade explosives (HMEs) or improvised explosive devices.  

We saw that with Fort Hood—which In August’s opinion that was not a workplace attack—it was a terrorist attack.  That was using readily available weapons.  The Boston bombing was using readily available homemade explosives or IEDs.  School shootings, mass murder attacks, the recent incident in California on the campus—that was using readily available weapons and those types of materials.

We sometimes need to realize these guys can pretty easily access a lot of things they would need if they were planning or preparing to do some type of attack like this.  Who could this be?  It could be the lone wolf, it could be the insider threat or the homegrown violent extremist type.

[Slide 17]

With all this bad news, what do we do?  How do we plan and prepare?  I think the first thing in any community or location is to have an idea of what we are going to do, number one, if a threat comes up.  A lot of times in our planning, training and exercises we focus on—the bomb has gone off or the school shooter has open fired.  We always need to focus on the threat.

Nidal Hasan in Fort Hood—there were threats there.  There were threat assessments done.  People were aware of this individual.  Our Boston bombers—there were threats there.  These individuals were investigated.  They were on our radar.  Cho at Virginia Tech—people were concerned about him.  He was on the radar.

I think of our efforts—we need to start looking at the intelligence and information sharing and what do we do when someone makes threats and things like that? The first thing we need to do is review guidelines and procedures.  Do we even have guidelines and procedures?  We don’t want to have to respond to a threat or incident off the cuff without planning or preparation.

As with any multi-hazard assessment or planning process, whether we are talking about plane crashes, ice storms, floods or hurricanes, once we have some type of plan in place—and remember we don’t judge our plans based on weight—we need to do some kind of multi-agency exercise, a  tabletop or functional.  I did a local law enforcement agency’s critical incident tabletop exercise yesterday.  It took three hours.  It is always good to do these exercises once we have plans in place.

[Slide 18]

There are a couple of ways to do tabletops.  These are some of the ones we have done with the little command school, Abbottville type tabletops—little cities we set up—these work very well to use communications and ICS.  You can pick any scenario you want.

[Slide 19]

This is a big tornado related exercise we did in our county two years ago.  We conduct multiple exercises every year and a variety of those type exercises.  Again, put a plan in place do not put it on the shelf—exercise it.  Start with tabletops, work groups and simulations and build these up to full scale functional type drills and exercises.

[Slide 20]

I’ll stop at this point because we are at midpoint.  

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much.  We will move to the first Q&A portion.

[Audience Questions & Answers Part 1]

Perrilyn Wells: How do we get information on our Regional Threats?
August Vernon:  That is a good question.  First of all I would reach out to—there are a lot of ways to do this and it may depend on if you are asking from the corporate world, from law enforcement, or the military.  Is there some type of fusion center with intelligence and information sharing around?  I would reach out to them.  Hey what kind of threats are we facing?

You don’t need classified information to know what is going on whether it is criminal elements, organized crime or threats.  Reach out to local fusion centers.  Reach out to local gang units.  A lot of law enforcement agencies have a gang unit.  Some have intelligence groups.  Reach out to them.  You have to have a need-to-know right-to-know justification why you are looking for this information.

It is okay to share this information with the right parties so it always good to network with these people anyway.  Every state has a gang association and a lot of the gang associations and groups do focus on extremist groups and subversive groups that are out there.

It takes a little research.  There are other organizations out there—private entities and organizations you can look at.  You can sign up for bulletins through the Department of Homeland Security.  There are a couple of good books out there.  There is no one way to do this.  It is a never ending process.

I would reach out to your local and state law enforcement first and look to your fusion center.

Amy Sebring: Now I will turn it back over to August.

[Slide 21]

August Vernon:  Anytime I do anything on critical incidents, crisis management, disasters or high impact incidents—the first thing I want to say is avoid death by ICS.  I also teach the ICS courses and I don’t like how in even the most basic and simple classes we are introducing someone in a one hour class to ICS and we show an org chart that has forty positions in it.

I have very rarely seen that many incidents that have that many ICS positions filled.  I think it is important we know how the structure works.  Obviously you will expand ICS as needed.  Sometimes people think within the first ten minutes of a critical incident no matter what it is that we need to build all this out and we don’t.  

I call that avoiding death by ICS.  In a fast moving terrorism incident, active shooter incident, or any type of mass violence situation it is going to take a very strong command and coordination communication command and ICS is the way you do that.

[Slide 22]

I always recommend that you focus on—and this is just one example I put—even to this day organizations and agencies struggle to establish a unified command when an incident happens.  There was a tremendous response in Boston because they already had a command post set up, resources in place and within eighteen minutes every single victim, living and deceased, was gone.

That is amazing.  I think because they already had a strong incident command system already established, but we to this day, with all the training and resources we put into this we still struggle with, “Let’s not focus on this, let’s focus on this”—getting those team members together to establish that unified command we talked about.

This is just one I put together to build that command staff on any generic terrorism incident—fire incident commander, law enforcement incident commander, and EMS incident commander.  In today’s world with the speed of media and social media dynamics you will have to have PIOs there very quickly.  

An established safety officer, a liaison officer—that is what our office does—we respond to incidents—and all your agency representatives.  From there we can start building out operations and things like that.  Let’s just focus on this initially and not this (editor note: presenter flashes back to Death by ICS slide).  We’ll get to that.  The only times I have seen this I think was in a couple of hurricanes I’ve been to.  

I spent a week in Charlottes for the Democratic National Convention. We had 6,000 responders in Charlotte and we needed this type of command structure to manage it.  Let’s focus on this.

[Slide 23]

Out of the hundreds of ICS forms and you definitely have to have ICS to manage these—the school shooting, mass shooting or bombing—the one form I want everyone to be familiar with is the ICS 201 form.  I like the 201 form for a lot of reasons.  It is four pages front and back, and it is easy to use.

You are going to be writing this stuff down anyway but typically you are writing it on a gloved hand, the back of a report, a piece of paper. I’ve been on incidents when we’re writing stuff on receipts out of someone’s car.  The 201 form is a quick scene map sketch with north oriented with a situation summary—what the current objectives are, what we are doing, who is here and the current org chart.  It takes five minutes to fill out.

That doesn’t mean the first five minutes of an incident you start worrying about filling this out but no matter how big the incident or how small or fast moving an incident is someone has to take command of that and established a unified command and start setting up staging and calling for resources.  I like the 201 form.  Don’t worry about all the other dozens of other ICS forms.  We’ll get to those.  Let’s initially focus on the 201 form.

Those are available hard copy and EXCEL, PDF, WORD—I’ve seen all different versions of that.

[Slide 24]

I’ll get off the ICS soapbox and transition to explosives.  Yes, those are the materials the underwear bomber or the Christmas bomber attempted to use on the aircraft.  Why do bad guys—and I’ll use the term “bad guys” through the series—like explosives?  There are a lot of different reasons.

These are some of the reasons from the Boston bombing.  Number one it is easy to make these things. If I can cook meth I can make bombs and explosives.  Not detailed and complex explosives—some of them will injure and blow themselves up but they are very simple to make and very low cost to build.  I don’t have to have a lot of financial resources to do this.

The plans are literally all over the internet.  I can get it in books.  There are how-to videos.  The extremist groups put these videos out on how to make this stuff.  The parts, materials and chemicals to make these things are easy to get and low cost.  Again, it is easy to do for them.

It is very, very high impact.  Obviously Boston was very high impact and very well reported and that is what they want—a lot of attention for whatever reason they are doing this.  Bombs, even small devices are very high impact.  In fact you can make a fake bomb, put it somewhere and it will get a lot of attention.  There is a lot of attention on these devices.

There are a lot of different delivery options.  A person can carry it.  A vehicle can carry it. I can put it in a bag.  I can carry it with me.  I can hide it in something.  I can put it in a fire extinguisher. There are literally hundreds and dozens of ways to deliver explosives to a target.

I don’t need a large group of individuals to do this.  I don’t need a large cell.  It can be difficult to identify the perpetrators and facilitators of an explosive attack.  It is a very difficult forensic examination.  You can recover the majority of the materials in an explosive advice but it is difficult to do the forensic examination.

This is the same reason these people use these against our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan—easy and low cost to make.

[Slide 25]

The majority of terrorist attacks use explosives and these are the reasons why.  The majority of our troops that have been injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been killed or injured by explosives for the reasons we have already talked about.  Explosive devices consist of anything from homemade explosives, IEDs, pipe bombs we talked about, to very sophisticated military ordinance.  

Most first responders, what are we going to run into in the United States? Homemade explosives and improvised explosive devices.  That is really the current and continues to be the emerging threat.

[Slide 26]

We get warnings every year on the possibility to be alert of different types of explosive threats.  We get these every year and have even before 9/11.  Most of the time the bulletin states there is no specific or credible intelligence stating this is going to happen but obviously with the growing use of these both overseas and what we’ve seen in the United States it is definitely  a cause for continuing concern.

[Slide 27]

You don’t have to write these names down but I have thrown out a popular formula or recipe to use right now that is more powerful than your normal gun powder, flash powder or black powder type of devices—it is what is called the peroxide based explosive.  You may have heard this.

The two most common are triacetone triperoxide and hexamethylene triperoxide diamine.  I had to practice to say that.  Just write down TATP and HMTD.  These are very powerful explosives that can be made from pretty much over the counter household products.  It is the improvised explosive material of choice right now for a lot of different types of extremist and subversive groups for a lot of different reasons.

It is inexpensive, low cost, pretty easy to make although it is extremely dangerous for the maker, and it is very, very powerful.  That is all you need to remember about these individuals.  If someone makes this and you find this stuff, even if they turned themselves in and have made this, you have to be very careful with this stuff.  It will go off for a lot of different reasons just sitting there—these peroxide based explosives.

[Slide 28]

Also something we need to be concerned about—in my time in Iraq unfortunately we were confronted with IEDs before and the first thing you need to think about is once the first one goes off, where is the next one?  When is the second one coming?  We want to train responders and plan on secondary devices.

I know in listening to the Boston tapes from the response you heard people making comments about being cautious of secondary devices, leaving packages and bags on the scene and get people out of there as quickly as possible.  If you have an actual device whether detonated or undetonated you always have to think about secondary devices.

That their entire purpose in being placed on the scene is to cause death and injury among responders.

[Slide 29]

In this homemade explosive IED type of attack remember that we as responders can be targeted.  We have been targeted before.  We want to maintain situational awareness.  You have got to start thinking like military force protection.  If this happens you need to look around your immediate area and establish that unified command post.

Check your command post staging and triage areas for secondary devices.  They won’t put them out there.  You talked about the Olympic bombing.  Eric Rudolph did put out secondary devices to target first responders.  Those have been found in the United States.

[Slide 30]

This is from the Columbine High School attack in Littleton, Colorado.   Klebold and Harris, the two students that were involved in the attack—those two young men did make over 99 different types of improvised explosive devices.  They didn’t have a lot of money or a lot of training but this shows how simplistic this really is and how it can be done.

Fortunately for us and you can see in these picture they made some propane type devices a little larger and very similar to a couple of other incidents that have happened in the United States including the Times Square bomber.  They were unable to get the propane devices to function which could have caused a lot more issues, deaths and injuries.  It is not difficult even for young people to do these things.

[Slide 31]

The most explosives out there are the black powder, smokeless powder and fireworks.  Why it that?  It is easy to get.  These are all useful and good products but people can use them for the wrong reason.  Still the most common device found is the pipe bomb.  

If you find a pipe bomb you need to treat that as high threat and high risk.  It is easy to find.  You go to a hardware store, get it, you can make it in ten minutes and your done.  It is very dangerous to the maker, the responders and the public.

[Slide 32]

When responding to the explosive incident you have to look at it a couple of ways.  There is pre-blast which most of us respond to on a regular basis—bomb threats, suspicious letters, packages and bags.  These happen on a fairly rare occurrence.  

Post-blast—that is the actual response to an incident when a device has gone off.  Always consider secondary devices.  Continuing response—this is what happened in Columbine during their mass shooting or mass violence attack, they were fully exposed to the device.  This happened in Beslan—the school takeover in Russia.  Mumbai, India—that is what recently happened in Boston once law enforcement confronted the two suspects and there was the shootout.

These individuals were throwing explosive devices.  That is a continuing response incident.  I think we’ll see more training on that in the near future because of what happened in Boston.  We always want to anticipate a secondary device.

[Slide 33]

Everyone should recognize this.  Everybody remembers the radiation or RAD training.  Get out the yellow radiation monitor and remember your time, distance and shielding.  I think this applies to explosive incidents.  You want to minimize the time spent in the affected area.  Get in and get out.  Get the victims out.

Distance—do the old thumb check—maximize the distance from those materials or suspected materials.  Shielding—put buildings or fire trucks and as many things between you and whatever the issue is.  Think of our time, distance and shielding.   I am highlighting some key things here. Normally these classes are four to six hours in length.

[Slide 34]

I like to pull things out we are already familiar with.  If you have had HazMat Awareness Officer Technician you are familiar with your zones of control—hot zone, warm zone, and cold zone.  Let’s take the HazMat methodology and apply it to an explosive incident.  The hot zone is where the blast took place and where your damage and injuries have occurred.

Your warm zone is where you establish your perimeter area whether it is 100 yards or 1000 yards.  The cold zone is where you have the unified command post, staff, resources, triage and staging and things like that.

[Slide 35]

This is as picture of Iraq.  I did not take this picture.  I was at the incident but I did not get this close to it.  This is when we were doing route clearance.  Basically we were driving around looking for IEDs.  It is not the safest job in the world.  We came upon this VBED that had detonated.

They took this picture as we called EOD on this and while we tell people the device has exploded you need to be very careful.  You can see that even though this VBED car bomb has gone off you can see shells that are still laying there that have not gone off.  Those are dangerous.  Those are hot.

You don’t know what is inside of those.  They’ve been thrown around and blown up.  Those can be very dangerous.  Someone on my team took that picture.  I obviously did not get that close to it.  This is why we say in Boston or any of these incidents you have to get away as quick as you can.  Get victims out, leave bags and stuff there, don’t touch trash cans and get the living and dead out of there as quickly as you can.

[Slide 36]

I have some closing comments on that.  First responders should never, ever attempt to move, handle, approach, or disarm a confirmed or suspected IED or homemade explosive.  Don’t touch the stuff. Leave it alone.  I don’t care if you were in the Army or the Marines twenty years ago—don’t touch the stuff.

These types of situations whether it is packages, powders, liquids, material containers or explosives—some of them are kind of obvious what they are and some of these, even in incidents we’ve had locally it is an unknown and you’re not sure what you’re looking at.  Leave this stuff to the bomb squad.  

You realize you will have to wait on a bomb squad and it is better that you wait.  Let them handle that with their training experience and their robots and things like that.

[Slide 37]

We always want to talk about prevention.  What are things we can do locally or as responders out on the road—people who work in security in the corporate world?  One is ID of precursor materials.  When these people make these devices they have to go somewhere to do it.  They normally don’t have a hidden bunker in the mountains somewhere.  

They are in a trailer or in their mom’s basement or in their house or somewhere making this stuff.  If we can identify that prior to it being put together—it’s the same thing in any kind of clandestine lab like methamphetamine drugs, or explosives.

We have to have awareness on routine calls.  The 9/11 hijackers—we ran into these guys prior to these incidents.  In all these incidents we come across these individuals.  They garner attention.  People are concerned about them and aware of them.  We have to have awareness in routine calls.  

To garages, workshops and basements—people have to do this stuff somewhere and they have to drive around.  Networking and partners—reach out to your local law enforcement, reach out to fire and EMS.  Think a unified command in everything you’re doing.  We always hear about stovepipes.  We’ll never get out of the stovepipes but let’s try to connect them.

Let’s be careful posting our plans on the internet.  I still find organizations are posting their community’s terrorism response plan online.  I think we need to think about doing that.  Bad guys do research and preoperational surveillance.  They plan all these things, too.

We have to be careful about posting our plans.  Identify target hazards in your area—special events, critical infrastructure, large corporations, high profile locations.  Information sharing—we all have to share information.  There are a lot of ways to do that.  I go back to the Boston bombers—we knew about them.

Nidal Hasan—we knew about him.  Our school shooters—we normally know about these guys.  We are familiar with them.  We’ve got to be able to share our information.  A lot of time these individuals are doing ‘weird’ things.  They are doing surveillance and researching things.  They are posting things on the internet that are just weird.

In the threat world you would call it inappropriate behavior and communication.  They are doing things to garner attention.  If something does not look right we need to see something, say something.

[Slide 38]

The best chance for detecting or learning about these terrorist or mass violence incidents—once they are on their way to their target successfully stopping them is slim to none.  I like the movies or the television show “24” which I did used to watch—pretty good.  Real life is not like that.  The only way to do that is to share information and intelligence, gathering information and trying to prevent these things from happening—getting in front of them before they occur.

[Slide 39]

I want to make everybody aware for your information on the East Coast we are going to have a large joint agency mass violence planning and response symposium to talk about these things—a couple of speakers and vendors related to the topic.  It is August 5th in Charlotte, North Carolina and August 6th in Durham, North Carolina.  

That is next door to Raleigh.  You can look up threatsuppression.com or you can contact me offline.  I wanted to make you aware of that since we are talking about this topic today.

[Slide 40]

That is my closing slide.  Please be safe and I will hand it back to you, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much August. We really appreciate it. Now we will take questions again.

[Audience Questions & Answers Part 2]

Russell Selwood: Is there a watch list of specific domestic groups available?
August Vernon:  That is a controversial term.  As far as an official watch list, I don’t really know.  There are so many groups out there.  I would recommend that there are groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League.  Some of those things are readily available.

That’s not saying I endorse any organization.  Some of these groups do maintain some lists.  It may be up to you to identify that list.  As far as a specific watch list, no, because every state is different and every region is different.  Some of these groups are groups that are not doing criminal or subversive activities.  I don’t know if that is a good answer.

Look at local and state law enforcement and fusion centers and gang units.  Every area is different.  If you have a special event like RNC or DNC, WTO, G8 Summit or Presidential visits, things like that, or controversial issues on campus—a lot of times those are magnets for groups to come in that may not normally be around.  Sometimes it is an event or activity that may bring these groups into your area.

Amy Sebring:  With Boston event, I understand because they had so much experience with the Boston Marathon that they treated it like it was going to be a mass casualty event so they had so many resources available immediately.  Do you think there will be more thinking and planning in the future in terms of incorporating these kinds of issues into that special event planning?

August Vernon:  We want to look at special events as—we even do that here when we have ACC football games.  We have big events.  We have had multiple Presidential visits.  I think a special planned event is an opportunity to set up a unified command and come together and do planning—do an interim action plan, do a vulnerability assessment, do a threat assessment, do your maps and communications plans.  It depends on the event. Even a little parade in a small community is a chance for everyone to come together and talk about that event and put things in place.

I know Boston had taken the stance years before this event—they treated every one of these events as a disaster already.  I think when this event occurred in Boston they already had a command post and they went to the bombing page.  They were already operating that many people and they flipped in the guide to the tab that said bombing and started that operation.

I think the best way to be prepared is already have the command post set up and those plans in place.  It is a valuable tool when you are planning these things out.

Avagene Moore: Thanks for the good information, August.  Should people be concerned about their mail re: mail bombs or harmful materials?  And if so, what should people look for and be aware of?
August Vernon:   It depends on who you are and what you are doing—general public, probably not.  I’d be more afraid of someone stealing my mail and doing identity theft.  Why I say that is every year we get our suspicious powder calls that we respond out on.  Most of the time it is for the general public that receives a laundry soap sample in the mail. If you are the CEO of a bank, the governor or president or you are involved in something controversial that is going on that obviously your risk is up a lot.

Really for the general public—I’d be more concerned about someone stealing my mail because it sits in the mailbox.  If you are receiving death threats or things like that could you receive powder or some materials? These events happened two years ago in Maryland. You had several state buildings and mail rooms caught fire because someone sent incendiary devices through the mail.

We have had the recent ricin threats and incidents.  Remember that ricin is very easy to make.  So what we would be concerned about is if you are getting mail with misspellings, unknown stains or wires or powder hanging out, I would call that a clue.  That is what happens with a lot of these incidents.  Sometimes people still open them.  I think a lot of it depends on who you are and what the threat and risk is to you.

Marcia Cronk: What are your thoughts on shelter in place vs. hide or run during active shooter events?

Amy Sebring: Please note: August has done an EMForum program specifically on active shooter events which is available from our archives. [See http://www.emforum.org/vforum/121031.htm ]

August Vernon:  On that I recommend everyone write down the name “Run, Hide, Fight” that the City of Houston put out a couple of months ago.  It’s a video called “Run, Hide, Fight”.  It is free.  It is about five minutes long and is an excellent video.  I had my wife and kids watch it.  It is a really good video.  You share it with your family, friends, churches and everyone you can think of.  [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2D0&feature=plcp]

Everyone who is listening in today—you are now advocates and trainers.  So share the information. I think sometimes it is terminology.  Can I lock down a school?  I probably can lock down a majority of schools but a college campus is nearly impossible in a large campus with multiple buildings.  I have heard that referred to as “shelter in place” versus a lockdown.  

My first suggestion is if you can run for your life and get away from someone doing that, run for your life.  That’s what I told my wife and kids.  If it takes five minutes for this guy to get to you I wouldn’t want you to wait there hiding under your desk with a flimsy lock between you and the threat.

My first thing I would say is people need to run and get away.  That goes along with the “Run, Hide, Fight”.  If you can’t run, that’s when you going to try to hide.  You turn lights out, lock doors, put desk chairs and tables and everything to block yourself in there.  You are only trying to hold for a few minutes.

Something to think about for the school systems that use the red and green cards—I’ve seen them lockdown, turn lights off, lock the doors, the kids hide and they put a green card under the door that says, “We are in here and we’re fine”.  I don’t know if you should do that anymore because it telling the bad guy we are in there.

A lot of this is definitions.  Lockdown, run, shelter in place—I think it is up to each jurisdiction to look at that and what they can realistically do.  I would tell everybody to take a look at the “Run, Hide, Fight” video.  That’s a good one.

Frank Bell: If the Emergency Alert System could more selectively transmit alerts, like WEA (wireless emergency alert) to cell phones is, would that be of assistance in alerting the public to terrorist incident alerts?
August Vernon:  I think at most this would be after the event.  I think he is referring to the new system that is in place—the wireless notifications for severe weather.  Could those be used?   Yes, they could be used.  I think most of the time now—and there are resources in place for us—we would probably more quickly be able to make local notifications.

If we had a serious threat or law enforcement is looking for someone or something is going to happen or there is an alert we would use every tool we had available to us which in today’s world is media, fax, reverse 911, phone trees, social media and that wireless emergency alert system would be one component of many we could use.  I guess that is the best answer.


Amy Sebring:  On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants today, thank you very much August for joining us again today.  We appreciate your taking the time to share this information with us.

Our next program is scheduled for June 26th when the previously scheduled program on cyber disruption response planning has been rescheduled. You may know we had to reschedule that due to the Boston bombing incident. Our guest will be Adam Wehrenberg, Project Director for the New England Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Initiative. Please make plans to join us then.

Thanks to everyone for participating today and have a great afternoon!  We are adjourned.