Turning Soft Targets Hard: Countering Terrorism
A Chicago native with more than 35 years in the fields of law enforcement and security, I have traveled the world as a federal agent and professional security expert. For the Secret Service, I conducted security advances for the President of the United States in South America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. My security consultancy work has taken me to Qatar, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, China, and South Africa. I have seen and learned a lot over the years, but one of the most dramatic paradigm shifts I have observed during this time span is how the intended targets of terrorists have changed. The recent tragedies in Paris and Orlando show us that any venue with a gathering of people is susceptible to an act of terrorism.
The Threat is Real
We can no longer ignore the fact that homegrown terrorists live in our country as was unfortunately proven by the recent Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. Acknowledging that this threat is real and at our doorstep is the most important step to transforming your venue from vulnerable to defensible against an attack. Whether the building is large or small, the number one security and safety concern is controlling access to the property. Access control is not only about people entering the site, but it also focuses on how vehicles, mail, packages, deliveries, and equipment gain access. Different types of people—residents, employees, contractors, clients, customers, visitors, and service personnel—can be separated by their respective reasons for requiring access to the site. You will not be able to safeguard the property if access cannot be controlled and managed.
Emergency Preparedness is One of the Most Effective Counterterrorism Measures
A truly holistic approach to protecting people and property offers specifically tailored measures to control entry. In today’s world, explosives, for instance, can enter a building on a person, in a vehicle, or through the mail so you need to be aware of how this threat can gain access in these different ways. Security- and safety-related policies and procedures, such as visitor management and mail screening, can also assist in mitigating this risk. One of the most effective counterterrorism measures, emergency preparedness—with a well-designed and continuously trained emergency evacuation plan—ensures that all occupants know what to do and where to go in an emergency. Additionally, a commitment to continued education is essential to preparedness. Dissemination of information is also critical during a crisis, such as sharing the location of the intruder, or if the situation has been resolved, communicating that the area is safe.
There is No Silver Bullet
Since terrorists have attacked schools, churches, restaurants, and nightclubs, they appear to place no value on human life. If they have assaulted these sites, they can also strike a commercial or residential building. While there is no silver bullet or panacea to eliminate the threat of an act of terrorism, we can educate ourselves on the basic security fundamentals that need to be followed, such as identifying and understanding the physical, technical, procedural, and personnel aspects of your venue Based on my experiences of protecting such high profile events as the Democratic National Convention and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, I know how important a well-designed and comprehensive security posture can be to protect against the danger of terrorism, an active shooter, or intruder. Simply put, your security and safety plans can save lives and safeguard property. Just be sure to partner with someone with the experience to show you how and don’t let cost and inconvenience keep you from building a best-in-class operation based on industry best practices.