Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’


Stay Safe in Hotels

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Summer may find you traveling to new places, and staying in new hotels.

Hotels have their own risks

. . . worth noting and being aware of.

Smoke in hotelFire:

High-rise hotels (or any high-rise building, for that matter) are vulnerable to fire. The causes? malfunctions in electrical equipment, carelessness, smoking (in bedrooms), temporary decorations for festivities, use of combustible cleaning materials, and, of course, arson and sabotage.

In a hotel, fire danger is increased because guests, people attending conferences, patrons at restaurants and bars, etc. probably don’t know the layout of the property and have no idea about security or emergency policies.

Terrorism:

Particularly in developing countries, hotels have become the popular target for terrorists. There are a number of reasons why.

  • Over the past couple of decades, embassies and military buildings have been “hardened” against attack.
  • Hotels remain areas where many people come and go, where entrance to the building is seldom restricted, and where politicians and other high-profile individuals are likely to be found.
  • Even when security is improved, by definition a hotel is a “soft target.”

If you are traveling and can make a choice about which hotel to stay in and where in the hotel to sleep or conduct your business, you may wish to consider these recommendations, culled from a variety of sources including the Stratfor Weekly, National Fire Protection Association, and Siemens Switzerland Ltd.

What to do to reduce the risks

Before you arrive

  1. Find out about hotel security. Is parking secured? Is the desk manned 24 hrs. a day?
  2. Ask about smoke/fire alarms and sprinkler systems. There is no guarantee that they will work, but if they are absent altogether, you may wish to look for another hotel.
  3. Choose a room between the 3rd and 5th floor, where terrorists can’t easily reach you from the street and fire department ladders can reach if you need to evacuate.
  4. Choose a room away from the street to avoid an explosion or violence at the entrance, which is where most terrorist activity occurs.
  5. On your floor, confirm the location of fire extinguishers. Have they been certified?
  6. Check on emergency stairs, exits and signage. Confirm that there are no items stored in stairwells.
  7. Keep emergency items next to your bed: shoes, a flashlight, and a smoke hood if you carry one. See below for more details.

If there is a fire in the hotel

  1. Grab your smoke hood and be ready to put it on if you smell smoke.
  2. Escape from your room if you can safely.
  3. Stay low and use walls as a guide.
  4. Use stairs; do NOT use elevators.
  5. Do not enter a staircase or hallway if it is filled with smoke. Try to find another path.
  6. If you must, stay in your room. Protect against smoke by sealing the door with duct tape and/or wet towels; stay low to the floor.

If you suspect terrorist activity

  1. Escape from the hotel if you can.
  2. If you are trapped in your room, protect yourself. Lock the door. Use a door wedge. If you can do it quietly, move furniture in front of the door for further protection. Turn off the lights. Turn off the TV and silence your cell phone. Close the drapes to protect from explosions that might create broken glass, and stay away from the windows. YOUR GOAL IS TO MAKE THE ROOM APPEAR EMPTY so terrorists will go on to an easier target.
  3. If terrorists are evident, and you cannot escape and cannot hide, you must fight. Improvise weapons with whatever is at hand – a lamp, a piece of furniture, a hot iron, a full water bottle, a battery charger at the end of a cord or in a sock, etc. In this case, your SURVIVAL MINDSET IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WEAPONS. Fight, and don’t stop.

Emergency items for travelers

In this article we’ve mentioned just a few items that are recommended for travel safety. We haven’t used all of them ourselves, but it they make sense to you, check them out.

Door wedge

You may have a couple of these in the house already! Simple, small, easy to pack. Very effective at keeping any door closed — and you can get a couple of them for less than $10. Here’s an example from Amazon:

Shepherd Hardware 9132 Rubber Door Wedges, Brown, 2-Pack

If you’re traveling by car, you can also consider carrying a sliding glass door security bar. We always have one for peace of mind when we stay in hotels with balconies. Cost is right around $20. Here’s a link to a good one (no photo – I figured you know what a bar looks like!):

Master Lock 265DCCSEN Dual-Function Security Bar

 

Smoke hood

Rather like a gas mask, a smoke hood goes over your head and seals tightly to protect you from inhaling smoke. A filter allows you to breathe. Smoke hoods cost anywhere from $25 to $150 or even twice that, so you’ll want to shop carefully.

The filters in smoke hoods screen out particulate matter, fumes and gases. Unfortunately, the most deadly gas, carbon monoxide, can’t be filtered out. But carbon monoxide can be converted to carbon dioxide. Look for this feature in the smoke hoods you’re considering.

Other features to consider: How big is the hood — will it go over eyeglasses? Will it fit a small child? How good is visibility? Can others see you in the smoke? How long will protection last?

Here are three different models from Amazon, for comparison. Look at the photos (provided by the sellers) to answer some of the questions above. Click on the links to go directly to the detailed product page.

1 – FIREMASK

FIREMASK Emergency Escape Hood Oxygen Mask Smoke Mask Gas Mask Respirator for Industrial and Urban Survival – Protects for 60 Min Against Fire, Gas, & Smoke Inhalation . Great for Home, Office, Truck, High Rise Buildings. Get Peace of Mind 

Firemask

Firemask claims 60 minutes effectiveness. Of course, it is one-time use, replaced if you need to use it. Its Polycarbonate visor looks to provide good visibility.

Easy to put on, fits children as young as 3. Amazon low cost (as of today), $28.95.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 – SAFESCAPE

Safescape ASE60A Fire Escape Smoke Hood Respirator Hard Case with Glow in the Dark Side Straps and Labels

safescape

From the photos and reviews, it looks as though the hood on the Safescape is bigger and perhaps more heat resistant than other hoods. The hard case can be mounted in a strategic place, and the glow in the dark strips would make it easy to find.  Any hard case might make packing a smoke hood more difficult.

60 Minutes of breathable filtered air. Easy to put on without special instruction.

Five year shelf life – Free Replacement if used in documented emergency.

Amazon price today: $69.95. Note that there is also a less expensive Safescape 30-minute hood.

 

3 – iEVAC

iEvac® the only American Certified Smoke/Fire Hood

ievac

This is most expensive and heaviest of the three hoods here. Notice the reflective tape top and sides, which will stand out in smoke and darkness.

This hood is the only “certified” hood. It gets top reviews and carries some strong endorsements:

  • Designated as an Anti-terrorism technology by the US Department of Homeland Security Safety Act
  • Tested by the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center
  • Currently being used by numerous Federal, State and local Government Agencies including every branch of the Military

The iEvac costs $149.95 at Amazon (and more in other places).

 

 

Of course, you can’t avoid every potential danger when you’re traveling. But some simple, common sense preparations may make your trip a lot more comfortable and safer.

Virginia 
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If you actually live full-time in a highrise building, you may want to take a much closer look at what would happen if a fire broke out. Here’s an Emergency Plan Guide Advisory with more ideas.

 

Special Terrorism Report, Part Two, now available.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Part Two of Joe’s Terrorism Series is now out. It focuses on workplace violence.

“How can we possibly anticipate an attack by a terrorist or by a co-worker who suddenly snaps?”

Workplace violence warning signsThe truth is, there are warning signs for nearly all these acts of violence. When we look back, we almost always find a trail of anti-social or illogical behavior.

In the past, only law enforcement and some human resources professionals received training in identifying  these warning signs.

Today, with incidents happening more frequently, it’s time for all of us to know more.

Here’s the link to the article:

  Part Two of the Special Report  

And here are links to earlier Advisories from Emergency Plan Guide, in case you missed them.

Plus an article on workplace security: Security at the Front Door

 

Be aware. Take action.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
Joe and Virginia

 

Security at the Front Door

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

The recent frightening events in France are a reminder to all businesses about the importance of security at the front door.

Spend a few minutes now evaluating YOUR workplace. Then use these questions to guide a discussion at work.

Is your workplace particularly vulnerable?

If you work under the following conditions, your risk may be higher than others’. For example, do you . . .

  • Deal with money or other particularly valuable property?
  • Deliver or exchange passengers or packages?
  • Encounter unstable people (i.e. in law enforcement, health care)?
  • Work alone or with just a small group of co-workers?
  • Work late at night?

Every workplace needs to answer these questions.

keypad lock on workplace door

“A locked door is a safer door.”

Is your reception area laid out in the best way possible for security?

Generally, the receptionist should have a clear view of the entrance, and be able to see everyone in the lobby area. Could someone sneak into the area and hide?

Are visitor waiting areas clearly defined and well lighted?

Is there some sort of barrier between the receptionist and visitors (e.g. a desk)?

Do you have any physical restrictions on who comes into the lobby and who goes through the lobby into the rest of the work area?

For example, does the receptionist “buzz” people in from outside? Do staff members and visitors use an electronic keypad or key to get through the lobby into the work area, or are they buzzed through by the receptionist?

What responsibilities does the receptionist have for security?

Does the receptionist greet everyone? Keep written track of who arrives and who leaves, and when? Do you use Visitor ID badges? What policies are in place for regular visitors (vendors) and family members?

Does the receptionist know about any people who are prohibited from entering?

Does your front entrance have visible surveillance equipment?

Cameras are an effective deterrent; posting a sign adds to the effect of the cameras. Some people even mount fake cameras for the deterrent effect.

After an incident has occurred, of course, cameras are only useful if they are real, and monitored. (We have just completed a Buyer’s Guide to Security Camera Systems for small business. It discusses, among other things, how video tape of incidents can be downloaded and saved.  You can get the Guide here.)

Have you established any internal policies for managing a hostile situation?

Does the receptionist have a “panic button?” Do you have a “code word” that would let someone know a dangerous situation has developed? How would you let workers know there is an emergency situation at the front entrance?

What training have you received for managing a hostile situation?

We have seen incredible TV footage of ordinary people handling dangerous situations with aplomb and skill. However, the rest of us need training for these situations. Many qualified programs are available. For example:

  • Local police may offer security assessment and training for business owners, managers or HR professionals in your area.
  • Department of Homeland Security offers free courses, materials, and workshops, particularly for schools and school employees.
  • CDC offers specialized training for health workers.
  • YouTube and Vimeo have dozens of free training videos available for your use. Just type in the keywords “violence in the workplace” to see what comes up.
  • Commercial training organizations such as Fred Pryor, HR Seminars and SkillPath offer seminars either online or in locations around the country. (Many of these seminars meet requirements for required “harassment” training.)

“But our business is different.”

Every business is different. That’s why every business requires a CUSTOMIZED plan for security.

At the same time, every business has a legal duty and a moral obligation to provide a safe workplace.

Take the time now to consider what you can do at your workplace to increase the chances of preventing or lessening the chances of a dangerous situation at the front door.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

If this topic is of interest to you, you may want to read these two Emergency Plan Guide articles, too:

Three Days in Paris

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

. . . Give Us Pause for Concern.

Last week the British Intelligence MI-5 issued its warning about the renewed threat of terrorist attacks on so-called “soft targets.”

Soft target for terrorist

Classic Soft Target

This proclamation, against the backdrop of the savage attack by two minimally-trained terrorists with automatic weapons on the French tabloid Charlie Hebdo, got my attention . . . especially since it warned of growing risks of attacks in the U.S.

But, real as the terrorist threat may be, it is only one of many threats against soft targets!

So what are soft targets and should we really be worried?

Soft targets are basically any person or location that isn’t protected by armed guards or official security. The school at Sandy Hook, the two off-duty British soldiers and the school in Pakistan are all soft targets. Your grocery store, gas station, your church and even your own home are all soft targets by definition.

And, yes, we should be concerned and vigilant.

San Francisco rampage

In the U.S., widespread availability of assault weapons means that mentally-ill people are all capable of becoming potential “terrorists.”

On July 1, 1993 in San Francisco, California, Gian Luigi Ferri, a 55-year old therapist, burst into a law office at 101 California Street and began shooting with two automatic weapons, killing eight people including a receptionist and a secretary, and wounding several others.

I knew “John” Ferri. I actually met him on three occasions. One of these was to sever him from a counseling assignment with a young relative of mine who “didn’t feel comfortable” with him. Neither did I after a fifteen minute conversation.

But neither did I suspect that years later he would become a mass murderer.

A more recent threat

That series of events, together with a number of workplace killings, made me particularly concerned for the safety of one of my daughters, a senior human relations executive who has been tasked with laying off several dozen employees since the 2008 financial meltdown. I worry about disgruntled employees “snapping” and returning to their workplace to “get even.”

For every real terrorist event, we can expect half a dozen of these “domestic violence” events. Does the fact that they are to be expected make me feel any better? Not really.

More precautions, increased vigilance

With terrorist incidents likely to increase in the future, there’s every reason to take all normal precautionary measures while increasing our vigilance. If you work or live in a high-risk target area, a healthy dose of paranoia might even be in order.

So, what’s the bottom line? The more progress we make in containing terrorism on the various battlefields of the Middle East, the more we can expect isolated, one-off incidents of attacks by one or two would-be terrorist actors. MI-5’s Director, Andrew Parker, pointed to what he called “the growing gap between the increasingly challenging threat and the decreasing availability of capabilities to address it.”

Of course we here in the U.S. are less likely than countries in Europe to be hit this way, but only because we are not as close or accessible to the thousands of militants coming and going between a battlefield and an adjacent country.

In response to this threat, here at Emergency Plan Guide we’ll be taking another look at physical security devices and related protection equipment. You may want to follow these periodic reviews to see if any resonate with you.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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Terrorism and Situational Awareness

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Spotting Suspicious Activities is Your Best Protection

(Part three of a three-part series)

As we conclude this series of commentaries, it’s important to clarify the definition of terrorism: violent acts that create terror in victims and non-victims.

Awareness of surroundings

How aware are you of your surroundings?

The tendency is to think of terrorism as something that exists on the political level. But, while incidents like the Colorado movie theater, Tucson and Sandy Hook shootings as well as the many workplace incidents may not qualify for a formal definition of terrorism, the dangers are real. We suggest you include these incidents in your self-defense thinking.

There are five identifiable levels of awareness commonly used by most authorities . . .

1. Tuned Out

How often have you walked or driven down a street and not been aware of your surroundings because your mind was elsewhere? This distraction from your present situation makes you vulnerable. Blaring radios, cell phones, over-tiredness and other distractions put you at risk from all sorts of otherwise benign occurrences.

2. Relaxed Awareness

Comparable to defensive driving, this level of awareness allows you to switch from relaxed to cautionary mode as you observe things that are out of the ordinary, but not necessarily threatening. This is the least taxing level of awareness that you can practice for long periods of time without inducing fatigue. And, you can readily “ratchet up” to level three or four as appropriate.

 3. Focused Awareness

A lot like driving in a heavy rainstorm or other hazardous road condition, focused awareness requires a heightened level of attention. Because it requires greater energy, this level of awareness is also accompanied by added fatigue over extended periods of time.

4. High Alert

Here is where you experience that adrenaline rush that accompanies the threat that puts your survival at risk. On the edge of panic, this is a scary place to be, but you are still able to function, albeit for a limited period. Coming down off of this level of alert can be distracting as you readjust to your “normal” level of awareness.

5. Comatose

This is one level of awareness that you don’t want to experience in an emergency. It’s what happens when a situation is so threatening that you freeze. You may even pass out to avoid the reality you are confronted with. This level of awareness is comparable to being asleep with your eyes wide open.

Practice awareness!

Staying aware of your surroundings is more of a mindset than a skill . . . you may want to practice relaxed awareness on a regular basis. Not that terrorist threats are all around you. They aren’t. That’s why they will stand out.

But if you don’t practice situational awareness, you may not be conscious of what is ordinary and the out-of-the-ordinary activities that might be an actual threat.

(A side benefit of regularly flexing your mind muscle by practicing situational awareness activity might just be your hedge against Alzheimer’s Disease. :))

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

 

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Can You Spot a Terrorist Before Something Goes Down?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

(First of a three-part series on terrorism.)

Before we jump into this subject we need to clarify what we mean by “terrorism.”  When most people think about terrorism, they’re really envisioning attacks by jihadists or other non-state actors like those who perpetrated the 9/11 attack.  In reality, we need to broaden our definition to include domestic terrorism and terrorist acts perpetrated by individuals or groups that are motivated by political or domestic “causes” . . . and persons who are mentally unstable.

Pre-Incident Indicators

From the standpoint of frequency of events, the domestic terrorism poses a greater threat than that perpetrated by international groups.  With that in mind, let’s explore some of the “signs” – or, Pre-Incident Indicators (PIIs) of a possible, impending act of terrorism at a target location . . .

Reconnaissance

Possible surveillance?

Serious terrorists – even would-be ones – are most likely to visit the target area in advance, conducting surveillance and even taking photographs to aid them in their planning.  It is often difficult to differentiate between terrorists and tourists since both are interested in the features of the location, but with just a bit more attention, you can notice these traits:

  • Tourists are likely to take photographs at random of the more interesting features.
  • Tourists often take photos with themselves or their friends in front of the interesting features.
  • Terrorists will likely be more systematic, taking multiple or series of photographs of areas of ingress and egress.
  • Terrorists will be making notes about security coverage, monitoring activities, drawing floor maps, drawing diagrams of the location, using a recording device, etc.

Elicitation (attempts to get information)

Everybody has questions and asking questions in unfamiliar surroundings is normal.  Would-be terrorists, on the other hand, will be interested in more than the casual answers.  While their conversation at first appears ordinary, they will attempt to gain  more detailed information to determine security procedures, vulnerabilities, etc.  Elicitation attempts are not always made in person.  They can be made by telephone, mail or email inquiry or research at a library, etc.

Examples of unusal questions might be, “When does the next shift (of security guards) come on?” or “Where are the electrical shut-offs?”  Surely a question like one of these should capture your attention!

Please watch for the next post in this series. Part two will cover the logistics of terrorism and the third part will delve into the tests of security, dry runs, etc.

Logistics of Terrorism

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Spotting Activities That Could Be Acts of Preparing For a Terrorist Attack

(Part two of a three-part series) 

While random acts of violence are difficult (if not impossible) to foresee, planning and preparation for a “terrorist’s attack” has certain characteristics that, when combined, can be used to identify a pending event.

Financing

Funding any significant act of terrorism will often require activities that are out of the ordinary or out of character for someone.  Typically, large amounts of cash involving unusual deposit or withdrawal activity are required.  Solicitations for money or collections for donations or even fraud and transactions involving counterfeit currency or goods can provide the funding for terrorists.

Acquiring Unusual Supplies

Unusual supplies?

Unusual or particularly large purchases of chemicals or supplies, weapons or ammunition by unfamiliar or non-regular customers are worth noting.  Attempting to acquire official uniforms, vehicles or other items that would give them access to restricted areas is another sign to look for.

A case in point was Timothy McVeigh’s and Terry Nichols’s purchase of a large amount of fertilizer that would be used to perpetrate the largest scale incident of domestic terrorism in modern US history.  A close look at McVeigh’s reading and entertainment interests – as well as his radical political views – would also provide worrisome behavioral characteristics . . . but, then hindsight is, as they say, 20/20!

Deploying Assets

Getting people, supplies and vehicles into position to commit a terrorist act is often overt and observable by people familiar with the area.  It’s also the most immediate indicator with the least amount of time to alert authorities of the possible danger.  A good example of this was the SUV full of inflammable materials that was parked in Times Square, downtown Manhattan and brought to the attention of authorities by a street vendor familiar with the area.

Situational Awareness: Being Alert to Your Surroundings

Your best defense against terrorism is staying alert to your surroundings without becoming overly paranoid.  You also want to avoid “profiling” individuals.  There is no “typical” terrorist appearance (Again, think of McVeigh and Nichols.)  The recent school shootings and even the Denver shooting should make it clear that the perpetrators look just like your next door neighbors.  The appropriate way to protect yourself is to profile behaviors.

This series continues with part three, focused on a terrorist’s practices or dry-runs.