Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: Our entire family spent an amazing Thanksgiving holiday in New York City. And although I hate to admit it, I was a bit intimidated when thinking about all the possibilities for terrorist activity especially after the Paris incident. We had family arriving on 5 separate flights from different parts of the country and made plans to take in the many attractions that New York had to offer, especially for the holidays.
Bonnie Carroll was one of 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 24, 2015 at the White House. She is the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS has provided comfort and hope 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources at no cost to surviving families and loved ones. (800) 959-TAPS (8277). Her legendary efforts to provide support for the families of fallen service members began after her husband, Army BG Tom Carroll, was killed in a 1992 crash of an Army C-12 transport plane in Alaska.
One of our musts was going to the 9-11 Memorial Museum, which proved to be a very reverent and meaningful experience. It put into perspective “the extraordinary compassion in the aftermath… and attests to the triumph of human dignity and affirms an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life.” It was proof positive that we are resilient as a nation, that we will not change who we are, what we believe, our values, and how we will live our lives.
Yet here we are experiencing untold freedoms, while at the same time facing the challenges of real threats from extreme foreign terrorism, as well as homegrown terrorism and lone shooters.
Law Enforcement Agencies Collaborate
It is no longer a question of if, but when, and where a terrorist type activity will occur. In October, I attended several Homeland Security military forums chaired by LTG Perry Wiggins (ARNorth, Fifth Army, Fort Sam Houston, Texas) at the AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. I was heartened to learn that Federal, State, and Local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Army are now collaborating with each other making them more effective in sharing critical information about terror threats. When the lines of communication are open, information is shared far and wide and is so much more effective in being able to protect our people and property.
I recently reached out to LTG Wiggins with some questions about how the Army is working with other agencies. His staff shared that ARNORTH participated in an impromptu productive meeting with members of these agencies, as well as at the San Antonio Emergency Management Office, to work thru issues of reviewing force protection conditions, mitigation recommendations, advisories, etc. As a result, ARNORTH is working on a Force Protection Advisory, which will include slides for a threat awareness briefing for Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members.
Learning How To Mitigate Terrorist Activity
Some suggestions for mitigating potential threats are:
- Be vigilant. Learn your environment in order to be able to recognize when something is out of place. This is called situational awareness.
- Don’t be a soft target – vary your routines and try not to travel alone.
- Avoid places of high criminal activity.
- Protect your personal information and be careful with information you post on social media like in chat rooms, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also be aware of email and telephone scams, especially when being asked for personal information.
Actions to Take in an Active Shooter Situation
Active shooter situations are often over within 10-15 minutes before law enforcement arrives, so when there is no plan there is a potential problem. So what actions should we know to better protect ourselves when in an active shooter situation?
- Realize that there is a physiological response to fear and that in itself can cause panic, so try to remain calm and practice deep breathing techniques.
- Take note of at least two exits in any facility you visit. If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Try not to trap yourself or restrict your options for movement.
- If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door and block it with heavy furniture. If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
- Turn off any source of noise (e.g., radios, telephones). Silence your cell phone and or pager. Hide behind large items like cabinets or desks. Remain quiet.
- When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her and commit to your actions.
- Call 911, regardless of where the activity is taking place when it is safe to do so!
Realize, however that until law enforcement arrives, a person needs to be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation. Once officers arrive they will proceed directly to an area in which the last shots were heard. Follow their directions and keep your hands visible at all times. You could help by giving the officers a physical description of the number of shooters, the type and number of weapons, and the number of potential victims at the location.
While the reality of terrorism exists, we need not be in denial, intimidated, or unable to protect ourselves.