Three Days in Paris


. . . 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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