Can Terrorism or Lone Wolf Attacks be Prevented?– An Interview with Former Secret Service Agent, Jason Russell

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Violent situations, whether lone wolf or terrorism, are becoming disruptive and impacting more and more people. The financial consequences of the Las Vegas shooting alone are estimated to be in the range of one billion dollars, according to a Bloomberg article.

Hart Brown, Firestorm EVP/COO

On December 7th, Firestorm hosted a live, interactive virtual exercise Terrorism or Lone Wolf – Does it Matter? The exercise guided participants through a series of events that required attendees to test their crisis plans in real-time. This interview recaps a portion of the session conversation between event facilitator, Hart Brown, Firestorm COO and Jason Russell, a Firestorm partner, former Secret Service Agent and the President/CEO/Founder of Secure Education Consultants (SEC).

Hart Brown (HB): How do we prevent violent situations, such as the NY Port Authority bombing attempt this week, and previous events this year in New Mexico, Las Vegas and Texas, from a security perspective?

Jason Russell (JR): Prevention and preparedness is a process. The first step is to understand where your organization is both from a physical security standpoint and a policy and procedure standpoint. Ask yourself the question, “What do we have in place that will assist us in mitigating damages and allow for prevention strategies before a crisis strikes?”

Related: Download the Infographic – 2017 – The Year in Crisis Review

HB: Do most organizations follow a process?

Jason Russell, Firestorm Partner and President/CEO/Founder of SEC

JR: Most organizations do not follow a process. Often, physical security features are thrown into place, but rarely trained. Emergency policies and procedures do not match physical space.

HB: How do you suggest organizations better prepare and utilize processes and procedures?

JR: Begin with a site assessment. Then, proceed to developing strong emergency procedures and protocols that include threat assessments and preventative strategies. We recommend having a robust training program that tests procedures and protocols. Testing will highlight how the pieces of safety and preparedness plans relate to each other.

HB: When facing a violent situation like a shooting, explosion or bomb threat, when does motive matter?

JR: When responding to a violent situation, motive is not immediately the primary concern. The focus is on mitigating damages and risks to life. Understanding methodology behind attacks, however, may help organizations understand the difference between a lone wolf and an organized terrorist attack.

HB: What is another strategy to prevent episodes of violence?

JR: Another prevention strategy is understanding behaviors of concern and implementing a Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment (BERTHA) program. Preventing attacks is possible in targeted violent attacks if proper tools are used to identify warning signs. Organizations are beginning to implement programs that specialize in recognizing behaviors of concern. Programs, like BERTHA, designed to identify and organize warning signs play a vital role in preventing attacks.

HB: Are warning signs exhibited before lone wolf and terrorist attacks?

JR: Yes, there are warning signs for both. Understanding the warning signs will assist organizations in responding to incidents. Often, terrorist attacks have a primary and secondary attack. One of the things people do when they’re responding to emergencies is let their guard down too soon. They are not thinking about the possibility of a secondary or third attack. Organizations must teach their people to be vigilant for additional issues that may arise.

Understanding behaviors of concern and processes and procedures is the first step in preventing episodes of violence.

Learn more about identifying behaviors of concern and how your organization can mitigate acts of violence.

This is part one of a multi-part series of interviews from the Firestorm Virtual Exercise. Our next article will feature Dr. George Vergolias, Medical Director of R3 Continuum.

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