Personal Security and Terrorism

Considering the Alternatives: Even though terrorism is a world-wide criminological issues, some researchers consider there is one aspect that is common to most acts of terrorism: the United States is the victim of choice. As such, it is probably safe to suggest that anything American, both domestic as well as international, is fair game for the terrorist. American citizens call fall prey to terrorist targets at home or abroad. In spite of growing expenditures for security technology, terrorist incidents will continue to increase. As the protective rings of security tighten around corporate offices, airline terminals, nuclear power plants, military installations and government facilities, terrorists are likely to become bolder. In the process, they are also likely to be less selective in their attacks. Therefore, the issue of personal security, especially when traveling abroad, becomes a critical issue of travel. Personal security means taking those steps necessary to ensure survival and safety from injury. This requires that a person plan ahead and develop a strategy of defensive countermeasures. Reducing personal exposure to danger is the goal of such tactics. This is not a static process, but a dynamic on-going planning effort. It should be kept in mind there is no system of one hundred percent foolproof protection. Yet, there are basic precautions which can reduce the opportunity for victimization. As many security practitioners point out, a major requisite for personal security is the development of a good plan of action. This plan must be supported by knowledge, training and practice of security techniques. In the process, every effort must be made to upgrade security when necessary. This means to adapt, improves and overcome obstacles whenever they arise.

Planning a defensive posture in response to terrorism is hampered by the inability to predict when and where terrorists will strike. The security conscious person will need to evaluate his or her individual risks. Such exposure depends upon one’s lifestyle, business activities, and other related interpersonal associations. In addition, other issues such as mode of travel, routes of travel, level of exposure, locations, residences, etc, are additional considerations. A preventive action plan involves paying attention to the environment. It requires constant high level vigilance. Precursors to an incident must be detected early. So, a personal early warning system must be implemented. This is primarily a mental process, or a tactical mindset. One must conscious focus and utilize his or her sensory abilities to maximum advantage. Making the effort to evaluate potential risks can be time consuming. Such efforts depend on how secure a person wants to be. Plus, a person must decide in advance the kind of response to make when a confrontation occurs. Each of us should always evaluate alternatives, given the situation at hand, and then act accordingly. Personal safety dictates doing whatever is necessary to ensure survival. Criminals are capable of being extremely dangerous. They are capable of committing acts of assault, rape, extortion, kidnapping, murder, as well as other crimes. Make no mistake, terrorism, transnational organized crime, and state sponsored criminal enterprises threaten the national security and safety of the United States.

Implement a Personal Security Strategy: Over the past few years, acts of terrorism have shown increased levels of activity. The annual growth rate seems to surpass previous years. Increased incidents show a range of global movement. According to one researcher, the targets over the past few years have included an array of locations and individual situations. Thus, persons associated with certain professions, geographic areas, target symbols, certain means of transportation, etc., have become targets for potential terrorist attack. In particular, the frequent traveler abroad to the high risk locations, or areas of known or suspected terrorist activity, is a high risk candidate. Such targets or symbols include, but are not in any way limited to, the following: perceived enemies such as the United States, and representatives of the United States government, embassies, airlines and airline terminals, trains and other means of public transportation, utilities and communication systems, hotels, schools, businesses and their corporate representatives, and many other types persons, places and things. We’re all potential targets.

Regardless of whether or not the threat potential comes from the political terrorist or the criminal terrorist, the possibility of violence and disruption always exists. In the planning process, it would be appropriate to begin by making an assessment of one’s risk potential, and decide if there is a high risk possibility of becoming involved in a terrorist incident. This effort involves anticipation of the criminal act, to the extent that a person understands that a terrorist act is possible, given the right set of circumstances. Initially, one might make a list of the personal lifestyle, associations and social status in order to ascertain the individual risk category. For example, a personal risk analysis list might include items such as: individual social status and public profile, previous history of exposure to threats or personal loss, the type of neighborhood, symbols of perceived enemies (e.g. representative of a large multi-national corporate entity), extent of travel and means of travel, personal lifestyle and the perceptions of others regarding personal wealth, family and home vulnerability, etc. Once a determination has been made as to risk potential, the individual begins to appraise those things necessary to enhance the personal security profile. Recognizing that certain actions will be needed to reduce personal exposure, not only for the individual, but also for members of the family, coworkers, etc., the action plan evolves into the implementation of steps required to foster protection and survival. Again, planning a personal security strategy is an ongoing process, which includes the evaluation, assessment, analysis and upgrading of one’s individual security profile. Along with such strategies, develop a tactical mind-set of personal security.

Implementing A Personal Security Plan: Individual residences, surrounding neighborhoods and nearby areas are good places to start implementing personal security strategies. A complete security analysis should be conducted of the residence, with attention given to location, environment, construction, history of crime in the neighborhood, police response times and patrols, security hardware on doors and on windows, use of security alarm systems, and so on. All exterior doors, for example, should be of solid core design, preferably of metal construction, with maximum security hardware. Likewise, windows should be well-designed, with effective high quality locking devices, and reinforced where needed to be as intrusion resistant as possible. Where possible to do so, without a violation of codes or ordinances, bars, grillwork or steel mesh should be installed to further protect external openings.

After conducting a thorough analysis of the security measures that are required for the residence, an effective security alarm system should be an additional component of the overall action plan. The alarm system should include provisions for both heat and smoke detection. While an alarm system does not offer physical protection, its use is for the purposes of detection, notification and deterrence of the intruders. The alarm system is a means by which early warning is made to the occupants and others, such as the police, in order that follow-up countermeasures can be activated. The selection of a reliable, cost-effective and efficient alarm system is very critical to the security planning process. Reliable and qualified security alarm services should be consulted. Their credentials should be fully investigated. Do it yourself defense systems are also available. Early warning is crucial to protecting yourself and others.

Fencing and barrier controls should be utilized where necessary to act in conjunction with other security measures. Walls fences and other types of barriers should be used to deny access to the property, and provide protection from surveillance, as well as serve as a psychological warning to a potential intruder. The use of barriers to define the property and deter intrusion should be done in a manner that creates the first line of defense as a primary obstacle. Fences should be erected so that climbing is not encouraged, or made easy for the intruder. Certain types of materials can be used on the tops of fences and gates to make climbing less desirable, any points of possible concealment for an intruder, along the fence line perimeter, should be eliminated. Likewise, landscaping can be utilized in a cooperative effort with fencing and barrier protection. There should be no places an intruder can hide, or escape surveillance by the occupants, or by police patrols. Every effort should be made to blend security with landscape and fencing aesthetics. Proper levels of illumination can be used to further the security profile of the residence. Exterior lighting should be deployed in such a way that ample protection is provided for all entrance points and approaches to the residence. Maximum visibility should be afforded by the lighting system during all hours of darkness. Sodium vapor and quartz lighting are an effective means to provide security lighting, since they have a high intensity output. Control mechanisms and wiring should be designed so that if a lamp is disabled, other lamps will be operable. Switches should be located inside the residence, and lights should operate on automatic timers, when it is possible to do so. Inspect every possibility you can think of.

An in-depth security survey of the home, whether a single family type residence, apartment or town house, is the first step in the development of a comprehensive personal security plan. Both the residence and the type of lifestyle should be analyzed, with particular attention given to any possible security problems that may be detected. By careful observation of the setting, the neighborhood, design of the residence, landscape, lighting and other related factors, an effective plan of countermeasures can be developed to enhance personal security. Care should be taken in the selection of residences, even if only for a limited period of time. All security precautions that are taken should remain a matter that is confidential and restricted to members of the family. Within the corporate organization, public service or governmental setting, precautions similar home security should be implemented.

Buildings and offices should be secured to the maximum extent possible. Think about possible threat potentials within the surrounding environment. Critical security assessments should be made of the location, neighborhood, construction and layout, parking areas, etc. Government and business offices can become the targets for a variety of criminal acts, including: theft, forced occupation, kidnapping, sabotage and bombings, hostage taking, etc. Effective security barriers and strict access controls can work to reduce the threat potential at the perimeter of the facility. The use of security hardware, alarm system countermeasures and anti-intrusion techniques, effective policies and procedures of good planning, will reduce the opportunity for incidents. An evaluation should be made as to the potential and suspected nature of the security threat, and what property or persons might be targets. Executive personnel should be sensitive to the need for a good security plan, and act responsibly to ensure that all issues are completely addressed. Someone within the organizational structure (e.g. the security department if one exists, or local law enforcement) should be assigned to fully evaluate the security profile of the operations, research the threat potential, and conduct a comprehensive physical security survey. Security policies and procedures should be established in written form, including an appropriate crisis management response in the event of an incident. This would also include an emergency plan to deal with bomb threats, fires, disasters, communications and power failures, etc.

Finally, where security deficiencies are present, effective coordination of follow-up action, in addressing the problems that arise, should be conducted in a timely manner. Reducing opportunities for risks and threats is critical to the planning process. Leaving the protective surroundings of the home or office, the security-minded individual will need to utilize additional safeguards. Keeping a low profile, avoiding notoriety and maintaining a sense of anonymity is one aspect of this process. By trying to avoid problem areas and staying clear of trouble, personal security can be enhanced. It is important to avoid if possible anything that makes a person stick out, and, instead, try to blend with the surroundings. Calling attention to one’s social, financial, political or professional status could create additional security problems. At some point, it may mean that a person will need to scale down, or reduce to some degree, his or her lifestyle. It may not be possible to avoid a problem or a risk situation when traveling. But, the person who anticipates, plans, prepares and takes precautions, will be better prepared to deal with a situation by reducing levels of vulnerability. Reducing vulnerability is something that applies to just about every aspect of living. Thus, contingency plans must be developed for each means of possible exposure. This is particularly important when traveling by air, train, ship, bus, as well as any other means of public transportation.

Confidentiality should be applied to travel plans, in addition to the itinerary once the destination is reached. Any important documents, papers or records, that may be perceived as controversial or identify affiliation with a government or business entity, should be secured in a safe place for all phases of the trip. A trusted member of the family at home and at the office should be briefed on the traveler’s plans, and should have special instructions to follow in the event of an emergency situation.

Safeguard Travel Plans: Again, the traveler should remain alert at all times, especially at terminals, hotels, restaurants, etc. Self-preservation is the priority in surviving a threat incident. The aspect of blending, or becoming invisible in a sense, is an important component, not only during pre-planning and travel phases of the trip, but also in the event of an actual situation. An effort should be made to protect means of identification. For example, it is advisable that two sets of identification be carried. Some type of civilian identification can be carried for day to day needs, while official identification is placed in a secure location. The idea is to protect identity, keep a low profile, and not draw unnecessary attention.

A traveler should remain alert to the possibility of surveillance, and any suspicious persons that seem to be out of place, or hanging around during any aspect of the trip. Care should be taken in the choice of hotel or lodgings. All personal property and luggage should be safeguarded at all times. The use of identification on luggage should be avoided, and good locking devices should be used. Portable security devices can be purchased for use in hotel rooms, in addition to those utilized to protect property & other valuables. Cash, credit cards and travelers checks should be safeguarded at all times. Any losses should be reported immediately.

When confronted by an actual situation, the traveler should pay attention to the instructions of the captors, and avoid being confrontational or arrogant. Every effort should be made to remain calm, preserve strength & be ready to take actions necessary to survive. Sudden movements, or action that might antagonize or panic the captors, should be avoided. There are no absolute rules or perfect guidelines for dealing with a terrorist situation in terms of responding, once it has taken place. Much depends on the group that has initiated the incident, and the objectives being sought. The traveler must use any available time to his or her advantage, to think, remain calm, observe what is going on without being overt, and be prepared to react instantly if a rescue is attempted. The importance of planning good personal security, making sound decisions and translating the information into decisive action are important aspects of an individual security plan. The use of security countermeasures should be applied to all aspects of the lifestyle: home, family, office, recreation, travel, etc. Personal security applies to the particular means of transportation as well, including lodgings, sightseeing tours, shopping and destinations. Security planning should be utilized to the maximum extent to ensure the desired level of personal security and safety. The security-conscious person should practice mentally what he or she might do if actually confronted by an incident. It is likely that most people will never become involved in a terrorist situation. But, if a person suddenly becomes confronted by such an incident, his or her ability to act in a rational manner, due to prior planning and preparation, certainly will ensure a better chance for survival. Remember, proper planning prevents poor performance. There are always warning signs!

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