New Terrorist Threats

A study by the FBI confirmed what many already knew – the United States is experiencing more mass shootings than ever. What was once a rare news report has become commonplace on nightly newscasts. Awareness of these potential threats by law enforcement, emergency management, emergency responders, and others involved in the aftermath of a terrorist attack is critical.

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Excellent Training and Response Averts Tragedy in Ohio Campus Attack

active-shooterThe campus attack at Ohio State University on Monday was another stark reminder of just how crucial it is for colleges and universities to have full security measures in place to diffuse these incidents as quickly as possible. Although 11 people were injured in the attack, the outcome could have been much worse if not for the quick action of Ohio State police officer Alan Horujko, as well as the warning system the school had in place to warn students and faculty a campus attack was in progress.

The attacker, who attended the university, rammed his car into a group of students at 9:52 a.m. Within seconds, Officer Horujko called the incident in. Minutes later, the university sent out a campus alert reporting an active shooter incident, warning students to “Run Hide Fight.” Ohio State Emergency Management sent an alert out on Twitter and many students tweeted back they were safe in barricaded rooms and warned others to find safety.

Two minutes after the attacker crashed his car into the crowd and exited his vehicle wielding a knife, he was shot by Officer Horujko. The campus lockdown was lifted 90 minutes later.

Many officials, from the governor to the mayor of Columbus, credited the training and coordination between school officials and law enforcement with being able to respond so quickly and avert what could have been a much more tragic event. All the victims the attacker stabbed are expected to survive their injuries.

Training and coordination of agencies are key in any emergency response. This is why Emergency Film Group offers a wide-range of DVD-based training programs to ensure schools, hospitals, and industries are prepared for these unfortunate – but all too common – events. Check out our extensive library here. . .

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Terrorists’ Use of WMD Still a Real Threat

Jihadist attacks against a Paris magazine office, a kosher market in that city, and the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa seem to signal a new reliance by terrorists on conventional weapons. But you would have to have a short memory not to remember the Mumbai Massacre and the Fort Hood Shootings.

Maybe it is because in France, Canada, and the U.S. assault weapons are easier to come by than the explosives that are the deadly force in countless IED attacks in the Middle East. Despite the best efforts of law enforcement, the military, the intelligence community, and others designated with the task of protecting us from terrorist attacks, the likelihood is that the attacks will continue.

This is not lost on Americans. A recently released poll by the Pew Research Center, shows the public puts fighting terrorism above all other policy concerns for the first time in five years, edging out improving the nation’s economy which finished second in the poll.

In 1998, Osama bin Laden said that the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was a “religious duty.” In 2003, a fatwa by a radical cleric said it was legitimate to use such weapons to kill millions. There have been more than 50 reported attempts to acquire, create, or deploy WMD. Clearly, the possession of such weapons would give jihadists power on the world stage and lead to further recruitment of fighters.

This idea is still very much alive. A German journalist who imbedded with ISIL in Mosul for ten days, recently returned to report that Islamic State fighters are committed to killing millions who do not share the radical Islamists’ religious beliefs.

A major concern is the instability of certain nations that possess WMD as part of their military arsenal. Despite efforts to remove WMD from Syria, U.S. government sources have expressed fears that President Assad may have held back a small stash of chemical weapons.

In Iraq, it has been reported that ISIL fighters removed forty kilos of uranium from the University of Mosul. While the uranium was not enriched sufficiently to be a nuclear threat, it could well be used as in a radiological dispersion device. In the ISIL stronghold of Fallujah, a water treatment plant uses chlorine to treat sewage. Al Qaeda used chlorine cylinders in IEDs against coalition troops, but without much success. The laptop of an ISIL fighter, who had formerly been a university chemistry student, had plans for weaponizing bubonic plague and making ricin from castor beans. His whereabouts are unknown. Nor do we know if other chemists and scientists have joined ISIL’s cohort.

As hundreds of foreign fighters join ISIL every day there number now exceeds 15,000 including, it is estimated, some 2000 westerners. A top security concern is the potential return of these westerners to their native countries after having been groomed to carry out attacks in their homeland. The Charlie Hebdo attackers are a case in point.

As ISIL controls large swathes of land, the probability grows that people with the appropriate set of skills will find the right raw materials to fashion a WMD. It is an escalating threat which makes, “not if, but when” a prescient prediction. What we can do is train and prepare.

Emergency Film Group WMD Response Package II provides training and response guidelines to emergency personnel who would be called upon to respond to a WMD incident. This package contains four DVDs, two Resource CD-ROMs, and two Leader Guides.


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FEMA: EMS Should Enter Active Shooter ‘Warm Zones’ to Help Injured

A recent study released by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), endorsed by the Obama administration and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), recommends guidelines for first responders entering active shooter incident “warm zones.”

The guidelines are based on plans that were developed by the Hartford Consensus, a group of physicians and emergency response officials from the FBI, the Navy, the Dallas SWAT team and elsewhere.

Traditionally, EMS and other medical responders have to wait to enter an active shooter scene until law enforcement has completely cleared it. This delay in being able to respond to the injured frequently leads to victims dying from injuries that are treatable – such uncontrolled bleeding, collapsed lungs, and airway obstructions.

But the new guidelines recommend adopting procedures similar to ones that the military uses in combat – allowing medics quickly onto the battlefield to begin immediate treatment, thereby saving lives.


As active shooter incidents have become more frequent over the past few years, law enforcement has changed and developed policies and strategies on how they respond to these events. Many in the field say it’s also critical for fire and emergency medical services to also change their procedures in these events.

The plan calls for setting up stations in “warm zones” and also recommends increased use of tourniquets to stop bleeding. Widespread training of law enforcement and the general public of the use of tourniquets is also highly recommended. FEMA’s report can be found here. . . .

Emergency Film Group’s Active Shooter: Rapid Response is a safety training DVD program for organization which may be involved in the response to a mass shooting. The program contains a substantial EMS section. More information about this program can be found here. . .

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START Report Discusses Link Between TCOs and Islamic Terrorist Groups

A new report written by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s (START) in response to the recent theft in Mexico of a truck that was transporting radioactive material, concludes there are “substantial disincentives” for any type of collaboration between Islamic terrorist groups and Latin American-based transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).

For the past two years, START has been working on a project to determine what the potential alliances are of these two groups and if they could work together in order to  obtain radiological and nuclear materials.

The organization concluded that Islamic terrorists would have little reason to trust the TCOs, given the great differences in worldviews. There are several reasons cited in the report that TCO’s would be hesitant to work with Islamic terrorist group, with one of the main reasons being profit-motivation that drives most of these TCOs. The risks involved to the group’s safety, as well as retaliation from authorities, are other factors that inhibit this collaboration.  

Recovered cobalt-60. Recovered cobalt-60.

Although the recent theft of the truck carrying cobalt-60 wasn’t connected to terrorist activities, it did send up red flags over the potential consequences if this activity were to take place. However, according to the report, “Although unfounded, the recent incident in Mexico stirred concern regarding the potential for criminal organizations to acquire, smuggle and sell radiological materials, possibly to terrorist organizations. While there are many potential intersections between TCOs and terrorists, ranging from hybrid organizations to ideologically- or kinship-based collaboration, the scenario that seems to be of most concern to policymakers is TCOs utilizing their existing pathways and infrastructures for smuggling drugs, human beings and other cargo into the United States in order to provide a ‘delivery service’ for terrorists to smuggle RN weapons or materials into the United States.”

START says that although there is no indication that TCOs and Islamic terrorist groups are working together, there is “significant evidence of collaboration in drug trafficking and the transportation of members of terrorist organizations in and out of Central and South America.”

The report shared these conclusions of what the effects a “dirty bomb” explosion could have on the general population:

“At a minimum, “a radiological attack would entail considerable costs for cleaning up the attack site and may lead to at least the temporary displacement of people residing in the area where the attack occurred. The disruptive psychological impact on a public largely unaware about the effects of radiological terrorism would likely be far more damaging than the actual physical destruction, and could result in billions of dollars in economic damage and could stress the public health system.”   

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Thieves Steal Truck Carrying Radiactive Material

A stolen truck that was carrying radioactive medical equipment has been recovered by Mexican authorities. The dangerous cargo was being hauled to the Radioactive Waste Storage Center in Maquixco when the truck was stolen while parked at a gas station in Tepojaco.

The radioactive material, Cobalt-60, is used for medical reasons, but can also be used to make “dirty bombs” - weapons where conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source.

The equipment containing Cobalt-60 shown here as it was loaded onto a vehicle that was later stolen. The equipment containing Cobalt-60 shown here as it was loaded onto a vehicle that was later stolen.

The driver of the truck reported he was sleeping in the truck when he was awoken by two men, armed with guns, at around 1:30 a.m. They forced him out of the vehicle and tied his hands and feet and left him in the parking lot as they drove off in the 2007 Volkswagen cargo truck.

The truck was located in a remote area about 25 miles from where it was stolen. The Cobalt-60 was located about a half-mile away from the vehicle, along with the empty protective lead container. Authorities believe they recovered most of the radioactive material.

Officials said they don’t believe the radioactive material was the target of the thieves and believe the two men had no idea what they were stealing. The two men are most likely suffering from radiation exposure.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based UN nuclear body, says there are more than 100 incidents of thefts and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive material each year. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, at a 2012 nuclear security summit, spoke about the effects dirty bombs can have. In his speech, Amano said, “These materials, such as cobalt-60, could be used along with conventional explosives to make so-called dirty bombs. A dirty bomb detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences.”

Emergency Film Group’s, Radiation Monitoring, teaches emergency personnel in mission specific Operations Level competencies regarding monitoring for radiation at WMD events as well as natural disasters and industrial accidents. To learn more, read here. . .


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Dry Ice Bombs Planted and Explode at LAX

A baggage handler has been arrested and is being held on $1 million bail for planting several dry ice bombs in restricted access areas at the Los Angeles International Airport. Two of the bombs exploded.

According to police officials, on Sunday evening, a bomb exploded outside a restroom located in Terminal 2, an area the public is not allowed in. A 20-ounce plastic bottle containing dry ice was found at the location. No injuries were reported, but operations at the terminal were suspended and flights were delayed as a precaution.

Monday evening, an employee found a bomb that was fizzing, but had not exploded, near the gate of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. This is another area off-limits to the public. When police arrived, the employee told them he had found another similar device which had exploded the night before, but didn’t realize what it was until he discovered this second device.

Demonstration of a dry ice explosion. Demonstration of a dry ice explosion.

On Tuesday, 28 year-old Dicarlo Bennett, an employee of Servisair, was arrested on suspicion of possessing and exploding a destructive device near an aircraft. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Dept. said that terrorism was not the motive for Bennett’s actions. Instead, Deputy Chief Michael Downing referred to Bennett as a “prankster” who thought planting the bombs was humorous.

Investigators say that despite there not being any video evidence showing Bennett planting the bombs, there is plenty of other evidence linking him to the crime. It is believed he took the dry ice used in making the bombs directly from an airplane.

Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Explosive & Incendiary Weapons examines pre- and post-detonation response to IEDs, dirty bombs, secondary devices, and much more. This program is part of the WMD Response Series and can also be purchased separately. To learn more, read here. . .

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Kenyan Mall Attack Prompts US Retailers to Prepare for Terrorist Attacks Here

The recent terrorist attack at a Kenyan shopping mall highlights the need for retailers to work with law enforcement to ensure the safety of both employees and customers here in the United States.

At a recent hearing in front of the House Committee on Homeland Security, National Retail Federation (NRF) Vice President Richard Mellor addressed those concerns and the association’s commitment to respond to those threats.

Mellor, who is a former police officer, has been working in the area of public safety for forty years. He categorized shopping malls and other retail establishments as “soft targets” and testified that no one would have predicted or have been prepared for an attack such as the devastating one that took place at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last month.

That attack, carried out by Somalia’s militant group Al Shabaab, lasted three days, killing 72 people and injuring over 200 more. Part of the mall collapsed from a huge fire that was caused by fierce gun battles between the terrorists and security forces.

kenya Victims of mass shooting at Kenyan mall.

Mellor stated in this testimony that NRF is constantly working with law enforcement, as well as other local, state and federal agencies on developing active shooter responses that fall within the Department of Homeland Security guidelines.  

“Retailers have sophisticated protocols to deal with the threats from a wide range of situations, including organized retail crime (ORC) activities, robbery, active shooter incidents, impacts from natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes as well as being a potential target for a terrorist attack,” Mellor testified. “Because these threats are always present, retailers invest heavily to ensure that they are prepared to deal with any and all threats against their businesses, their employees and their customers. Moreover, retailers are consistently evaluating the effectiveness of their programs and seeking improvements. As criminals and threats become more sophisticated, so do retailers.”

Emergency Film Group’s Handling Emergencies DVD teaches professional security officers and other personnel how to respond to incidents, including workplace violence, in the facilities that they protect. Our Countering Terrorism DVD helps prepare security personnel in the event of a terrorist attack affecting their facility. Both are part of the Professional Security Officer Series.

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Is Your City Prepared?

A recent survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that some of this country’s major cities may not be prepared to handle large radiological dispersal device [RDD] and improvised nuclear device (IND) attacks. Major cities are thought to be the most likely targets of such attacks. The GAO, which is an investigative branch of Congress, recently presented the 68-page report to Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

The GAO concluded that many of these cities have received limited guidance from the federal government and emergency managers who were interviewed voiced a need for both technical and resource assistance from the federal government in order to be prepared in the event of an RDD attack.

The plans and reactions of first responders to the Boston Marathon attacks could be use as a model to follow in "dirty bomb" attacks. The plans and reactions of first responders to the Boston Marathon attacks could be use as a model to follow in "dirty bomb" attacks.

Emergency managers from 27 major cities took part in the study. Most of the cities had assessed what kind of risk they were at for an RDD or IND attack and ranked that risk as being lower than other hazardous risks their municipality faced. Eleven of these cities had completed RDD response plans, and eight had completed IND response plans.  Emergency managers of cities without plans in place said they would rely on their all hazards emergency operations plan or hazard management plan in the event of an attack.

Map of major cities of risk for an attack. Map of major cities at risk of an attack.

Should such an event occur, the primary responsibility for early response would fall to local government. How that response is handled in those first 24 hours is critical to the impact the actual event has on the public.

Despite the concern over the need for federal government guidance and assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA), told the GAO that more guidance may not be needed because that agency expects cities to handle smaller attacks in the same way the currently handle hazardous materials spills, which is with as limited federal government assistance possible.

But GAO found that even for those cities that had some kind of IND attack plan in place, many could not move forward with any response activities without federal assistance. The agency concluded: “Effective response to an RDD or IND attack would require marshaling all available federal, state and local resources to save lives and limit economic damage.”

Their recommendation: “FEMA develop guidance to clarify the early response capabilities needed by cities” for both RDD and IND attacks.

Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Radiological Weapons DVD training video is part of the WMD Response Series. This program demonstrates a credible scenario in the use of a dirty bomb, consisting of explosives and radioactive materials. To learn more, read here. . .

Another program in EFG’s library, Radiation Monitoring, teaches emergency personnel in mission specific Operations Level competencies regarding monitoring for radiation at WMD events as well as natural disasters and industrial accidents. More information on this DVD can be found here. . .



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