EM Forum Presentation — June 12, 2013
Terrorism Response Operations
An Update on Current and Emerging Threats
Instructor and Author
Operations Officer, Office of Emergency Management
Forsyth County, North Carolina
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
This is the same reason these people use these against our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan—easy and low cost to make.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
That their entire purpose in being placed on the scene is to cause death and injury among responders.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.