Archive for March, 2016

Active Shooter Attacks on Soft Targets – Our Next 9/11

March 22nd, 2016 Comments off

I write pretty frequently about workplace violence preparedness and response, or specific response guidelines for active shooter situations. Today my thoughts are more speculative but need to be considered. Historically, active shooter assaults have been driven by the more typical motivators of revenge, jealousy, fear or anger. They have involved domestic relationships that have gone wrong and then manifesting in the workplace. They have been a result of disgruntled employees reaching an irrational point of frustration or former employees not being able to get past being terminated. But now, on the heels of both the Paris, France attacks in November 2015, and the San Bernardino attack in December, we should ask another question. Will this type of orchestrated active shooter/suicide bomber assault on ‘soft targets’ in our communities be the tactic for the next 9/11 scale assault on the United States? In my opinion – this is very likely.

Symbolic government, business, and public infrastructure targets have taken steps to increase security and think about terrorist threat preparation and monitoring. This is great and needs to be done but what about easier targets of equal value in the eyes of attackers who wish only to lash out at the ‘evil infidels’ of western society. Whether religiously motivated or anti-capitalist motivated there does not seem to be a lack of terrorist groups that want to attack our way of living and believing. By soft targets, I mean shopping areas, theaters, restaurants, hotels, churches and yes schools! No one wants to think about this but we must begin to. Schools have. It is a very scary thought but some specific response plans for these types of facilities need to be developed. This is the type of attack that will be difficult to stop and very effective if not planned for, both in terms of anticipated response AND resources for intelligence gathering through social media monitoring.

Social media is often used for communication and planning by those who set out to conduct such attacks, so we need to be paying attention and use the expertise available to monitor and analyze such data. In my opinion, if the government or law enforcement in the community wants to monitor my emails, calls, and social media posts, then do it. I have nothing to hide! The fact of the matter is we need to accept that this is what will be required to intercept such attacks in the planning stages. As a society, if we continue to make such proactive law enforcement and intelligence gathering more difficult in order to protect our privacy, then such attacks are going to happen. There has already been some level of success in this approach of proactive intelligence for prevention purposes. However, we need to open the door a little wider. It is our only defense. Otherwise, coordinated active shooter assaults paired with crude suicide bombings will begin to occur in our country because it is easier than plotting against those symbolic targets that have been reinforced.

What you can do for your organization is to develop an active shooter response plan for your facility! Check out our website for assistance at


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