Countering Extremist Attackers

October 29th, 2018 Comments off

The recent vile murders at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synagogue brought back a flood of emotions for me.

In 1999, I was the lead ATF Special Agent investigating the synagogue firebombing attacks in the Sacramento area.  In the early morning hours of June 18, 1999, three synagogues were firebombed causing massive physical damage.  The following week, a medical clinic was also firebombed in the same manner.  Additionally, two gay men were brutally murdered, and their credit cards and other items were stolen.

Ultimately, two Northern California brothers who held very extreme beliefs were arrested (and convicted) after they attempted to pick up a large amount of ammunition that had been shipped to a private mail facility near Sacramento.  Law enforcement had been tracking purchases made on the stolen credit cards and were waiting when the brothers came to pick up the ammunition and other supplies.

Alarmingly, after their arrest, law enforcement found a ‘hit list’ of prominent Jewish and community leaders in the Sacramento area that were the brothers’ next targets.  The list had the addresses of the synagogues as well as how many people could be found on the sidewalk going to and from services.  Had they not been arrested, there is little doubt that the brothers would have moved forward with their plans.

Media reports over the past weekend suggest that the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh had conducted a risk assessment and active shooter training that may have contributed to saving countless lives.  The congregation had developed an emergency exit plan and had even reconfigured some doors so that they could be incorporated as emergency egress routes.

Active shooter events can happen anywhere; schools, malls, and concerts are all possible targets. Hope is not a strategy. Believing that if you don’t rock the boat, you will be safe is ludicrous.  Evil exists all around us, and I can tell you that most criminals are cowards. They prefer not to take on anyone who might fight back.  They favor attacks on soft targets. They are not likely to attack a person or group if they appear prepared.

If your church, synagogue or business has not conducted a comprehensive risk assessment, you should do so.  If your congregation or employees do not have active shooter training, consider doing this now.  Do not fall victim to the naïve notion that ‘it will not happen to us’. 

Law enforcement, as well as reputable security consulting firms, can conduct a physical security assessment of your venue and make recommendations through the use of active and passive security counter-measures.  They can develop an emergency evacuation plan for active shooter incidents and other emergencies. Finally, they can also offer active shooter training for congregants, employees, and others.

Our thoughts are with the people of Pittsburgh, the congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue and the first responders who bravely engaged the suspect.

And to my brother and sister Special Agents and Analysts of the ATF and FBI, thank you for what you did in 1999, and for all you do for this country every day.  You know who you are.

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Does your child know the next School Shooter?

February 20th, 2018 Comments off


While provocative, this question needs to be discussed.  It needs to be asked.  It needs to be considered by you and your children daily.  The tragic event in Florida on February 14th is just one of many school shootings that have become an epidemic in our country.  As a society, we have become desensitized to violence. Sadly, as the investigation into this event unfolds, it is becoming increasingly evident that the shooter had displayed ample behavior and conduct which should have led authorities to this individual long before he had the opportunity to murder 17 innocent students and teachers yesterday.

Yes, I know hindsight is ’20-20′ but let’s get real here.  This guy did everything to draw attention to himself except for purchase a billboard. If we look back at other school shooters, there were some indicators that all of us should be aware of.

It’s time to have a frank and open discussion with our children and grandchildren.  Let’s face it; teenagers are keen observers of their peers.  They can be brutal when they zero in on someone who is ‘different’.  I am not talking about picking on other children or being mean to those kids who are not in with the ‘cool kids’.  Its about encouraging our children to alert an adult, a teacher or law enforcement when they observe some of the known behaviors of school shooters.

What should they look for?

  • Loners or children who have been ostracized from the mainstream
  • Children who are infatuated with violence or war
  • Children who are infatuated with firearms
  • Children who are suicidal or threatening suicide
  • Postings on social media about revenge or getting even
  • Posting outright threats on social media
  • Posting photographs of themselves with firearms/weapons
  • Following (online) groups or persons who espouse extreme ideologies
  • Visiting websites or downloading information on ‘how to’ make bombs, firearms, other weapons or how to commit criminal acts
  • Children who talk about ‘getting revenge’ for how they have been treated
  • Children who tell (or show) other students they have a firearm
  • Children who have recurring discipline issues at school
  • Children who harm animals

When I was working as a law enforcement officer, I was bound by the Fourth Amendment – the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure. However, my kids knew that the Fourth Amendment did not apply in my house.  I was fully aware of most things that my kids were doing in the home, on the computer, and with their friends.  Parents need to be aware of what their kids are up to and whom they are doing it with.

I will be the first to say that any one of these indicators is not proof-positive that the child is planning to be a school shooter. However, when you see several of these indicators in a child, further investigation is needed.

There is an old saying, ‘We can’t change what has happened; but we can change what is going to happen’.  Sadly, there is nothing anyone can do for the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But we can be on the lookout for the next school shooter.  Have this talk with your children and grandchildren today.  They might just avert another tragedy.

Surviving a Ballistic Missile Attack

February 15th, 2018 Comments off

Hawaii; it has always been my ‘happy place’.  I try to visit Hawaii at least once a year to decompress.  It has everything I need: surfing, skydiving, warm water and beautiful beaches.

I had just hit the morning surf and was returning to my hotel room to wake my wife.  It was just after 8:00 AM on January 13th when my phone began chirping with what I thought was an amber alert.  I ignored it, as I entered my hotel room.  My wife was already awake and looking at her phone. She said, “You better look at your phone.”  That is when I read the alert.



I had to read it three times to ensure my eyes were not playing tricks on me.  As much as I tried, I could not see the words I was hoping to find – this is a test, or this is a drill.  Then it hit me – this was real!

We started getting dressed. I told my wife to put on street clothes and running shoes.  I checked the television, and the same emergency alert message was scrolling across the screen.  I read and re-read it, hoping it was a mistake.

Oddly, my hotel was not broadcasting any warnings over the PA system.  When I went out into the hallway, I noticed several housekeeping carts abandoned outside my door.  So I helped myself to two cases of bottled water and spare sheets. I brought these supplies into our room and ran to the lobby and went to the ATM to withdraw $1,000 in cash. I quickly returned to my room and closed the windows and drapes and moved to the bathroom.

Being the Director of Global Response for FocusPoint International, I am responsible for deploying teams to various parts of the world to support clients in crisis. Instead of directing support, I was now going to be right in the middle of it – ground zero.

I attempted to call our Crisis Response Center; a 24-hour operations center staffed with operations support specialists – the nerve center of our global response efforts.  Unfortunately, my calls would not go through.  The cellular telephone system was already overwhelmed with callers. However, I was able to text the operations center, and I received an immediate response.  I sent them a screenshot of the alert and asked them to forward me any information they could. I then sent them my GPS coordinates in case we survived the initial blast, so rescuers would be able to locate us if the building collapsed or was underwater.

I grabbed my IFAK, (Individual First Aid Kit) which I always carry with me, even on vacation.  Mine is stocked with trauma supplies: several tourniquets, hemostatic agents, bandages, and wraps.  I reminded my wife what was in the kit and went over how to use the tourniquets, etc. I sent a quick text to my kids telling them that their mother and I loved them.

We waited.

My cell phone chirped with an incoming message.  It was from our operations center.  It read, “Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii is reporting that the alert was a mistake.  False alarm.  You can stand down dude.”

Within 38 minutes, it was over. I hugged my wife, and we began laughing hysterically.  Glad to be alive.

Several things to keep in mind when in a crisis:

  • The government, other authorities or establishments are not going to be able to help you in the initial hours or days of a crisis. I have seen and experienced it first-hand as a crisis responder. As in this case, the hotel was of no use, as we received no warning or direction.
  • Wear sensible clothes. You are going to be climbing out or over rubble.  Shorts, flip-flops, high-heels, dresses or swimwear are not advisable.
  • The telephone system will be one of the first things to fail. Everyone will be trying to call someone in a crisis. However, text messages use a different channel than voice traffic and take up less bandwidth.  All of my text messages got through.
  • For those of you who have access to a Satellite Telephone (SATPHONE), I would highly recommend keeping it handy. These devices may work when the landline and cellular telephone systems fail.
  • GPS coordinates are the best way for properly trained responders to find you. I carry a GPS unit with me, even on vacation.  However, most smartphones have a function that allows you to get your GPS coordinates. The Compass app is free and preloaded on most iPhones.
  • In a major crisis, cash is king. Credit cards and ATMs will not be working.
  • Having a basic First Aid Kit, even when on vacation might just be a pretty handy thing to have.
  • Potable water is a must.
  • Not everyone will have a 24-hour operations center to call unless you happen to be a Crisis Assistance Plus (CAP™) member. FocusPoint International offers short-term and annual travel risk memberships that allow you full access to our Crisis Response Center. If you ever need assistance, the Crisis Response Center will be at your fingertips.

Giving a Travel Risk Membership as a Gift this Christmas

December 4th, 2017 Comments off

My grandparents used to give me warm pajamas every Christmas.  It happened like clockwork.  For my birthday, I was given new boots, gloves or other sensible clothing items.  Looking back, I realize that my grandparents understood the value of giving a gift that was useful, pragmatic, and made a difference.

I am now a grandparent, and while I hate to admit it, my gift giving approach is much like my grandparents.  Since time has evolved, so have my gift selections.  When my children went to college, I purchased them a membership with a well-known roadside assistance group to ensure that if their car broke down, had a flat tire or ran out of gas, they could get assistance without having to call dad.  I could rest comfortably knowing that someone was going to help them.

Travel has become more affordable and accessible to the average person.  High school and college students routinely travel abroad to study or enjoy their summer hiatus.  Spring break has evolved from beach parties in the southern states to major events in various countries.  Destination weddings are also on the rise.  More people than ever are taking river and ocean cruises in Europe and elsewhere.  In short, many people are traveling, and this exposes them to various travel risks; however, the risks today are far greater than simply having a flat tire or running out of gas.

Crisis Assistance Plus™ is a travel risk membership program that offers crisis response to ten different travel risks including blackmail/extortion, criminal violence, disappearance, global pandemic, hijack, kidnap, natural disaster, political threat, terrorism and wrongful detention.  Crisis Assistance Plus® can be purchased online for the duration of travel from 10 to 180 days.

Think about it.  Would you rather your loved ones, friends or colleagues have a warm pair of flannel pajamas or a 24-hour number they can call to obtain assistance from professional crisis responders, just for the price of membership?

So, for this Christmas season or at any time, why not give someone you love a travel risk membership?  It is pragmatic, inexpensive and easy to obtain.

Staying Connected in Crisis

September 20th, 2017 Comments off

I am pretty sure that organizations are now re-thinking their Crisis Response Plans following the epic events that hit Southeast Texas, Florida and Mexico this month.  If you are not – maybe you should.  As I have said in the past, hope is not a strategy and having a viable Crisis Response Plan should be part of every organization’s effort to recognize, respond to, mitigate, and recover from a serious crisis event.

I responded to both the Houston and Florida events on behalf of FocusPoint International and our clients.  Here is what I can tell you from my first-hand observations:

The government cannot respond to every emergency when they are overcome by the sheer magnitude of an event such as Hurricane Harvey or Irma.  The 911 call center in Harris County/Houston was overwhelmed.  Wait times for someone to answer the incoming 911 calls was 5-7 minutes and in most cases, they were only able to take the caller’s information and advise them that they will get to them when they can.

One of our clients who had employees all over Southeast Texas contacted FocusPoint and utilized our 24-hour Crisis Response Center (CRC) to handle all of their emergency calls to and from employees, and their management and security team.  Using our CRC, employees can report their location, situation and other information immediately, without any wait, and have it relayed to their company.  In emergencies, our Crisis Response Center personnel engage multiple emergency sources in an effort to get a response to those in need.  Also, they provide emergency call support, giving information to the caller that may help them save their lives.

Furthermore, our CRC set up a Situation Map that is constantly updated, providing a visual reference of where a company’s employees are located, (including their GPS coordinates), their situation, and other pertinent information.  Each employee is color-coded to indicate if they are in emergency status or not.  Our client was provided a link to the Situation Map and could access it at any time to see the status of their personnel.

Our team provides a complete history of all calls via our CRISIS Operations System.  This is an automated operational record that our Crisis Response Center utilizes to log all operational information, including incoming and outgoing calls, caller details and status, etc.  This log is provided to our client several times each day.

If your Crisis Response Plans do not include setting up a communications system for all your personnel, now is the time to make that change.  Consider utilizing a third-party Emergency Operations Center to manage your critical communications.  In doing so, you will provide your team with a much-needed communications system to support them when no one else can.

I would recommend that you steer away from standard call center operations for the following reasons:

  • Their personnel are usually not trained as emergency or crisis responders
  • They may not have the ability to support your operation with mapping solutions
  • They may not be able to provide a custom call log/report showing the status of all calls for service, situational updates, etc.

If your organization needs assistance developing a Crisis Response Plan or evaluating your already existing plan, you should seek the services of a proven Crisis Management/Crisis Response team with a history of successful crisis responses.

Crisis Management is all about considering your needs in advance of a crisis and getting those plans and assets in place before it happens.

Courageous Leadership

May 10th, 2017 Comments off


I deal with supervisors, mid-level personnel and executives from small and large businesses throughout the world.  Many of these companies are multi-national and global business entities.  I try to understand how these people lead their organizations, as this helps me better understand how I can help them. While I am sure you learned all about the various types of leaders in Business School 101, you may not know about the small percentage of leaders that I like to call, ‘courageous leaders’.

First, let’s all agree that leadership cannot be bestowed upon an individual by position or title.  While others may disagree, leadership is not something easily taught.  Yes, you can instill the precepts of leadership in a classroom, but real leadership is more often born, not taught. True leaders have the innate ability to motivate others for the common good of the organization.  They recognize problems before they emerge and take steps to change course accordingly.  They are sure of themselves and in their ability to lead.  They are confident in their subordinates and colleagues, and this confidence is contagious.

However, a very small percentage of leaders can be further identified by their courage.  What is courageous leadership?  I define it as the ability to make the correct decision regardless of the consequences.  This may sound simple in principle, but it is not so easily executed in the real world.

How many times in recent years have we read about a product that has been found to be deficient or unsafe, yet the company making or selling the product continues to do so, rather than admit the problem? Ultimately, it costs these companies millions or even billions of dollars of irreparable harm to their brand.  Could courageous leadership have made a difference?

How many times have decisions been made by leaders because they were merely expedient or politically correct?  I cannot count the times I have witnessed this first-hand, and I am sure you can as well.  What is even more dangerous, are the decisions that were not made because leaders were afraid to act.

Change is difficult and stressful, both personally and organizationally.  However, courageous leaders look to change as a positive force within their organization.  Do we really need the products and services we are buying?  Are they the best product for the cost?  Are we buying them from the same vendors we have always used because we are afraid to make a change?

Courageous leaders are truly wonderful clients.  They are not afraid to listen to others and are willing to seek input and diversity on an opinion.  These are the leaders who seek outside expertise as a means to strengthen their organization.  Courageous leaders do not blame others or let subordinates ‘take the fall’.  They are introspective and are willing to empower and challenge their colleagues and subordinates because they are not afraid of others’ success.  They recognize that when one person succeeds, the entire organization succeeds.

Whenever I have a client who is looking for a third party to review their internal programs, process or procedures, seeking to change their vendor, or how to deliver their product or services, I know they are being led, at some level, by a courageous leader.  It takes courage to invite an outsider into your organization to conduct a risk assessment.  Not everybody is willing to do a benchmarking review of their company’s processes.  Inviting a third party to conduct a security assessment of your security program is not for the feint-of-heart.  Suggesting that your team examine other vendors and products requires a break from traditional views; it takes confidence and courage.

Are you the courageous leader in your organization?

Tracking and Response Solutions for the Casual Traveler

March 6th, 2017 Comments off

Have you thought about how you will react when your 19-year-old daughter informs you that she wants to travel through Europe, Asia or Latin American on her upcoming summer break from college?  You can always say no and offer to send her to Disneyland; after all, it is the happiest place on earth.  Like most dads, you can only hope that she takes you up on your offer, but you know that it is not likely.  You better have a plan B. What is your plan B?  If you do not have one, let me help you out.

There are companies and services that compile travel itineraries and provide hour-by-hour and day-by-day information regarding a traveler’s planned trip.  These services can ‘push’ alerts to the traveler (and others) regarding health, travel and security information specifically about the location where the traveler currently is or planning to go.  This information can be presented in a variety of ways to the user (and others) via their smartphone and email address.  It is called ‘travel tracking’.  There are even some good smartphone applications that can provide similar information, although they are usually not as robust as an actual travel tracking service.  Travel tracker services compile all of the traveler’s flight information, hotel, and car reservations, etc. and track the traveler.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Well, it is, but this sort of system can only tell you where the traveler is supposed to be and not necessarily where they are.  What happens if your daughter decides to take an unexpected day trip from London to Paris?  You would not know.

If you want to know exactly where a traveler is at any given time, you will need to provide them with a GPS-based tracking device. Some companies will rent or lease you a device that can be carried discretely.  Some of these devices also have an emergency or panic button that will send out a distress signal when activated.

There are two issues concerning these devices that you should be aware of.  First, this is another piece of equipment that must be carried, and some travelers find this to be an inconvenience.  The device also needs to be re-charged daily, so the traveler has to take the charging cord or charging device with them.  Secondly, who is monitoring this device throughout the trip?  Who is going to respond when the traveler activates the distress signal?

Fortunately, there are alternatives such at MyTrac ®. MyTrac is a proprietary GPS tracking system utilized by FocusPoint International, a Global Security and Travel Risk company, that can be remotely loaded to a user’s smartphone, eliminating the need to carry a second device. When MyTrac is installed on a smartphone, the user will be tracked automatically. It has an emergency icon that when activated, sends an alert to any number of designated persons via text or email. MyTrac users are tracked 24/7 by FocusPoint International’s Crisis Response Center.  Should a distress signal be activated, crisis center personnel respond immediately to determine the nature of the emergency and render assistance.

Finally, you should consider a travel assistance membership program.  FocusPoint International offers short-term and annual travel memberships that provide a response to nine (9) different travel risks.  These include blackmail/extortion, criminal violence, disappearance, hijack, kidnap, natural disaster, political threat, terrorism and wrongful detention.  This program is called CAP (Crisis Assistance Plus) and can be easily purchased online.  CAP provides an affordable and trip specific membership plan for casual and professional travelers.

Global incidents have made traveling to even so-called safe locations an uncertain prospect.  You are probably not going to be able to talk your daughter out of her trip, but you can mitigate the risks.  Consider your options now.

Safety and Security for College Overseas Study

September 26th, 2016 Comments off

Many colleges and universities offer exceptional programs for students to travel, live and study abroad.  While this is a marvelous opportunity, it does present some safety and security challenges for the student, their parents, and the sponsoring academic institution.

The risk for global travelers has never been so significant as they are now.  Government and economic instability pose the risk of political threat and violence in many parts of the world.  Students abroad are not immune to violent crime such as aggravated assault or robbery.  Natural disasters can and do happen. Medical emergencies abroad present a challenge to both the patient and their families.

As an example, a student is studying abroad in an African nation and political violence breaks out as national elections draw near.  Considerable violence erupts in the capital city, and most public institutions are closed.  Curfews, checkpoints, and travel restrictions are imposed by local government forces.  Violent clashes between rioters and government security forces are ongoing. How do you get your student to safety or evacuate them out of the country?  Who will pay for it?

Is there a solution?

There are several ways that colleges, universities, and individuals can mitigate the risk and exposure to students while traveling.  The traditional solutions, until now, have been to purchase some sort of travel insurance or to register with (and pay for) a company for access to its services.  Let’s examine these closely.

Travel insurance is like any other insurance.  When you purchase insurance, you are covered for certain identified ‘risks’.  Like any other insurance policy, you must shop for the plan that best fits your needs.  Not all plans cover all travel risks.  Similarly, many of these plans have certain triggers that must occur before the policy will take effect.  For instance, should there be a significant political threat in the country where you are traveling, most policies require that an emergency evacuation order be given by the policy holder’s government before the policy can be in effect.  Also, like all insurance policies, the policyholder must file a ‘claim’ and wait for reimbursement.

Service companies allow their clients to pay a fee that permits access to the company’s travel portal and obtain information about the country and region where they are traveling, and most provide some sort of travel alert.  These companies usually offer a 24-hour emergency telephone number for clients to call in the case of an emergency.

Should the traveler need emergency assistance, the company allows ‘access’ to its global service providers.  In other words, they will identify a resource in the area, which you can retain at your expense.

There is another solution.  How would you feel about a travel assistance membership program that offers a travel risk solution to the traveler for a flat fee?  This fee is based on the number of days traveling and the country or countries being visited.

Coverage includes nine (9) enumerated travel risks:  Blackmail, Disappearance, Extortion, Hijack, Kidnapping, Natural Disaster, Terrorist Events, Violent Crime and Wrongful Detention.  Additional coverage can be obtained which offers full medical evacuation and repatriation for those travelers who have been hospitalized in a foreign country.

There are no barriers to coverage or trigger events as with most insurance plans.  Additionally, there are no additional fees for service or response. Just one flat membership fee paid before the trip commences.  Moreover, the provider, not the member, pays all costs related to any response.

Students are back in school and planning their fall or spring travel.  Consider your alternatives and choose wisely.

Shelter in Place – What Does That Mean?

August 5th, 2016 Comments off

The global events that have occurred over the past two years make it abundantly clear, to anyone paying attention, that the world is becoming increasingly dangerous; not only to the global traveler but innocent people just carrying out their daily activities.  In recent weeks, the world has witnessed a series of terrorist attacks targeting large groups of people in public places.

During the attacks where the situation was unclear or unresolved, you may have heard the government, law enforcement or media representatives advise people to “shelter-in-place.” What does this mean?  Does everyone in your company know what this means?  How about your family?  I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say it may be the difference between surviving a violent attack or not.

It should go without saying that people need to remain vigilant when traveling in foreign countries and known hot spots.  However, any public travel, at home or abroad now carries some risk.  Are the odds more likely that today’s visit to the shopping mall will be just like every other day?  Of course, they are, however, I’m sure that’s what many of the victims of recent attacks also believed.  I’m not advocating that you and your employees or family members remain cloistered in your homes or office.  What I am saying is that you should heighten your awareness anytime you are in a public area, whether you are attending a concert, sporting event or just shopping at the local mall.

Let’s start with the basics.  Security, law enforcement, military personnel and others are trained to maintain ‘situational awareness‘ at all times.  There are a lot of definitions for situational awareness, however, to break it down in the most practical terms, it means, being aware of what is going on around you.  Think of yourself moving in your own personal bubble.  You are aware of your movements, intentions, and actions inside that bubble. You may have your face buried in your smartphone or wearing earbuds while listening to your favorite heavy metal music during your morning commute.

Practicing situational awareness means that you must expand your bubble to include a much larger area.  Just like driving a car, you must pay attention to other drivers, cross traffic, your rear and side view mirrors, oncoming traffic and of course, what’s happening in front of you.

Now take this concept and apply it while you are walking through your local shopping mall.  You must develop this sense the same way you developed your driving skills.  It doesn’t come easy.  It must be learned through constant repetition.  It’s often referred to as a ‘perishable skill’ that needs to be practiced.

Let’s talk about ‘cover‘ and ‘concealment’.  Sadly, everyday citizens must now be acutely aware of what these terms mean.  These are no longer terms that apply to just the military and law enforcement personnel.  Simply put, ‘cover’ means protection from projectiles such as bullets and bomb fragments.  ‘Concealment’ means that you are hidden.  Many people think that just because they are concealed, they are safe from bullets.  It is not like the movies; bullets can, and often do, travel through doors and walls.

Situational awareness includes noticing nearby exits and places where you can move quickly to a place of cover.  It may be a concrete wall or a large metal object. It could be a metal desk or large filing cabinet.  It most certainly is not behind a wooden door or sheet rock wall.  You should constantly be looking for cover whenever you are in a public area.  Your mental file should be continuously updating these locations as you move about.  In places that you routinely visit, or in your workplace, you should know where you can find cover immediately.

Often during an attack or crisis event, law enforcement or security forces are simply not able to respond directly or immediately to assist affected people.  We have seen this in recent attacks, particularly those involving an active shooter or multiple shooters.  To save yourself, you must find cover immediately and shelter-in-place.

Global Crisis Response Teams usually define shelter-in-place in several ways. Within the traditional context of emergency management shelter-in-place means selecting an interior room or rooms within your home or workplace facility, or ones with no or few windows, and taking refuge there due to an environmental hazard such as an accidental (or intentional) chemical spill or radiation release or another hazard.

Within the context of crisis situations involving mass attacks, such as active shooters or terrorist events, shelter-in-place means, if you cannot get to a nearby exit quickly and safely, then move to a position of cover and if possible, concealment, as quickly as possible.  This is what is known as immediate shelter-in-place.

Your next thoughts should be to improve your situation.  Do you know where the danger is?  Can you see or hear anything?  Can you move to an exit safely or should you look for a more secure location to shelter-in-place?  Such a location might be a hotel, storage, service, bath or other room that you can secure.  Consider moving to this location only if you can do so safely, or if your position has been compromised and you are in immediate danger.

If you can get to a more secure location, you may find that this is where you must remain until help arrives. It may take several hours or up to one or two days.  This is a short-term shelter-in-place.  It is not a location where you can remain indefinitely unless it happens to have food and water and other basic necessities.

Your priorities should be focused on your immediate safety.  Turn off the lights.  Lock the door.  Silence your mobile telephone.  Begin to improve your shelter-in-place location by jamming the door or by placing additional obstacles between you, the door, and potential attackers.  If it is safe to do so, attempt to alert the authorities of your location and provide them with whatever information you can about the attacker(s).  Look for another exit from this location such as a rear exit, window or access panel to the roof or another area.  Get down on the ground and wait for help to arrive.  Do NOT open the door unless it is for law enforcement or security personnel.

Finally, there are instances where you may need to seek long-term­ shelter-in-place.  This usually involves sheltering at a secure location that has the necessary food and medical supplies to sustain you for 1-2 weeks or longer.  These are usually identified as, ‘safe havens’.  A safe haven can be a hotel room, home, office, or other location that is secure and when possible, not in the immediate crisis area.  Safe havens typically have some physical security, ranging from perimeter fences and locked gates to a discrete or overt security presence.  Communications such as internet access and mobile or satellite telephone communications are a huge asset.  Those people sheltering-in-place can remain in contact with crisis response teams to update them on the situation, to receive instructions from crisis response personnel and to make plans for a safe emergency evacuation out of the area.

Should you find yourself in the middle of a crisis event (I hope you never do), you have a chance to save yourself and possibly others, if you remember this.  Maintain your situational awareness and don’t wait for someone to tell you to take cover and shelter-in-place.  You have the basics, now teach your employees and your family members and begin developing your survival skills.  They just may save your life or the lives of your employees or loved ones.



2016 Summer Olympics

May 26th, 2016 Comments off

Is your company an Olympic Sponsor or do you have employees who are planning on traveling to Rio de Janeiro to attend the 2016 Summer Olympic Games?  Have you developed any special security or contingency plans for your personnel?  You can review earlier blogs I have written concerning Crisis Management/Crisis Response and Emergency Evacuations for general information about these issues.  However, the Olympic Games in Brazil present several unique problems that I want to discuss.

Ever since the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics, the threat of terrorists using The Olympic Games as a platform to gain a worldwide audience has loomed over every Olympics since.  The good news is that Olympic planners have taken significant measures to elevate their ‘security presence’ for the Games; Rio de Janeiro is no exception.  Reports indicate that over 85,000 law enforcement and military personnel will be brought into Rio de Janeiro to implement an impressive security plan for the Games.

The transportation infrastructure in Rio is already over-burdened and is expected to worsen during the Olympics.  The city is rushing to complete additional Metro and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) bus lanes to support the anticipated crush of people who will be in attendance.  Specially designated Olympic routes are planned for roadways, and ONLY those vehicles with a special Olympic Vehicle Access Pass may use these lanes.

Rio de Janeiro is a large city, and key Olympic venues are spread throughout the city in four key areas. The main Olympic Venue (Olympic Park/International Broadcast Zone/Athletes Village/ Pavilions/Swim Center) is located in the southern part of Rio known as Barra de Tijuca.  The Olympic Stadium is located miles away in the Maracanã District, and other events are taking place in the Copacabana and Deodorro areas.  What this means is that getting to and from a venue is going to be a challenge.  In the event of an emergency, getting your personnel out of the affected area is going to be an even greater challenge, particularly if you do not have a plan.

Importantly, your plan should identify areas near each venue where your personnel can be directed to “Shelter in Place.”  It may be awhile before you can get to your personnel following a critical incident.  If you are not familiar with Rio de Janeiro, and in particular, the key venues, trying to identify Shelter in Place locations will be impossible.  In fact, if you haven’t been to these areas in the last thirty days, your information on Shelter in Place locales is already outdated.  Why?  Because demolition and construction in some of these areas has changed the landscape considerably.  Roads that appear on current internet mapping programs are no longer in existence.  Buildings which you may wish to designate Shelter in Place zones, and the ability to access them, may have changed due to ongoing construction.

Developing an Emergency Evacuation Plan for your personnel for the 2016 Olympic Games can still be accomplished.  However, you should consider contracting a company that has actual on-the-ground resources and intimate knowledge about the Rio de Janeiro area.  Failure to do so may have disastrous effects upon your plan, and ultimately, the safety of your personnel.

Have you contracted a transportation provider?  Your plan is going to require dedicated vehicles that can get to your personnel.  There are several reliable car service providers in Brazil that you may wish to consider.  If you are going to need larger vehicles such as Sprinter Vans, shuttles, etc., you need to obtain these resources NOW.

Once you have a viable plan, who is going to ‘execute’ it on behalf of your personnel?  Do you have qualified personnel capable of conducting an emergency evacuation?  Are they intimately familiar with the city and Olympic venues?  How are they going to gain access to the area? Do they speak Portuguese?  Do they have emergency medical training and equipment?

Consider using a reliable company that specializes in emergency evacuations and crisis assistance from overseas locations.  Ensure they have proven security capabilities and a record of past performance.  Rio de Janeiro presents a unique challenge to security planners.  Therefore, it is essential that your plan is developed by a team that has the ‘right stuff’. Ultimately, the safety and security of your personnel should be the deciding factor in how you prepare for Rio this August.


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