Category Archives: Emergency Preparedness

DOD moves military bases to a higher alert status

In an unusual move today, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) raised the security level at
U.S. military bases because of the increasing concerns about possible attacks by ISIS (ISIL).

While the DOD cited no specific threat, they did refer to the recent attack in Garland, Texas,
(last Tuesday), after ISIS claimed responsibility for the Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest
featuring cartoons about “the Prophet”.

The threat level was raised to ‘Bravo’ level, and it’s worth noting that it’s the first time the
threat level has been that high since the anniversary of the 911 attacks on September 11,
which was the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

A higher threat level could mean 100% ID checks at the entrance to all military bases, including
air force bases, army bases, navy and marine bases.   It also puts base military police on alert
to be highly situationally aware, including investigating anything they see that might be
terms “suspicious”.  The FBI will also increase surveillance of suspected pro-ISIS individuals.

Persistent stories have been focusing on the Texas border, which may be harboring an
ISIS camp, and the right wing media has reported that an ISIS camp may be sending their
soldiers into the US on specific missions.  Although this has been widely discredited by
officials,  some circles are reporting a link to the Army’s Operation Jade Helm, a massive
military drill across nine states, which is slated for July 15th, to September 15th, 2015.

We encourage individuals to be situationally alert AT ALL TIMES, and a increase
in military alert levels would certainly be something to note.




RISKAlert November, 2014 Updated Incident Planning for Healthcare Facilities

Incorporating Active Shooter Incident Planning into Health Care Facility Emergency Operations Plans

National preparedness efforts, including planning, are based on U.S. Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8: Preparedness, which was signed by the President in March 2011.  This updated  directive represents an “evolution” in understanding of national preparedness based on lessons learned from rom natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, terrorist acts like the Boston Bombing and active shooter and other violent incidents.

Preparedness is centered in five areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. These concepts are applied to Health Care Facility (HCFs) Planning for active shooters and other violent incidents.

Emergency Operations Plans for Health Care Facilities (EOPs) should be living documents that are routinely reviewed and consider all types of hazards, including the possibility of an active shooter or terrorist incident. As law enforcement continues to draw lessons learned from actual emergencies, HCFs should incorporate those lessons learned into existing emergency plans or in newly created EOPs.

It advises a whole community approach that includes staff, patients, and visitors as well as individuals with access and functional needs. Examples of these populations include children, older adults, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, etc.

The key concepts include not only familiar concepts like “Run-Hide-Fight” but also concepts on addressing a wider range of risks (threats), how to do drills, improvement of situational awareness activities, expanding the definitions of risks, how to do Psychological First Aid (PFA), and how to integrate these with HIPAA guidelines and Rules and the importance and role of Security in Emergency Operations Planning (EOPs).

Lesson  Learned :    Don’t Wait to Respond!

A 2005 investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology into the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, found that people close to the floors impacted waited longer to start evacuating than those on unaffected floors.   Similarly, during the Virginia Tech shooting, individuals on campus responded to the shooting with varying degrees of urgency. (ref:  Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster: Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications.)

            Frequent Security Situational Awareness Training, and Active Shooter –
Disaster Drills can prevent this “frozen” phenomena and save lives in
a violent incident , a terrorist attack, or a disaster scenario.

RISKAlerts are
publications of Risk & Security LLC

Got a House near the Coast? The Storm Surge Lessons we’re Learning from the Philippines Disaster and Hurricane Sandy…

You already know that the climate is getting progressively warmer, and sea levels around the world
are rising.

This new climate reality played out last week in the Philippines, an archipelago nation with over 7000 islands, as a giant typhoon smashed into the central Philippines districts and destroyed everything in its path, including housing for millions of people living near areas around the cities of Tacloban and Cebu and other islands.

With thousands already dead and thousands more in  island areas that have not been reached yet,
the ultimate death toll may be weeks in coming, but some experts think it could top over 15,000 people.

If, like me, you live near an ocean coast anywhere, you have to wonder how future storms may affect your region.

The rising sea levels are already invading fresh water wells along Florida’s east coast, polluting the fresh water with salt, and forcing cities to find new fresh water sources.  Saltwater seeping in from the ocean keeps spreading farther west, threatening to ruin the freshwater supplies that provide most of South Florida’s drinking water.

Even though the US doesn’t get typhoons, it does get hurricanes, and what we learned in this typhoon, just like we learned in Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012, was that it’s not the wind, it’s not the rain,
it’s the STORM SURGE that creates the disaster. 

In the recent typhoon, the storm surge, while not technically a tsunami, pushed up an enormous amount of water on shore, that destroys everything it touches and pushes the water inland, dragging along houses, trees, cars, people, animals, giant ships, hotels and anything else it finds on it’s path.

“As a nation we don’t understand storm surge well, nor do coastal communities understand storm surge risk,” said Jamie Rhome, a storm surge specialist at the Hurricane Center. “It’s one of the hardest things to communicate.”

Storm surges can travel inland up to thirty miles and can quickly push up rivers, and bays. “People
don’t understand how far inland storm surge can go,” Rhome said. “It penetrates well inland, goes up rivers, into bays. It goes wherever it can, and people don’t realize they are at threat of flooding.”

Cities and regional planning groups need to re-examine the storm surge threat in their areas, and make plans to deal more effectively with these lethal storm surges that may come from hurricane and typhoons in the future.

Planning an Active Shooter Drill, Why Once is Not Enough

Almost every day I get a note that a hospital or corporate facility is planning to have an Active Shooter Drill.  That is always good news because it is a critical part of preparedness that protects not only against an active shooter incident, but also prepares the staff for other emergencies, but it may not be enough.

I’ve found that to be really effective, drills need to be supplemented with short training sessions, and also awareness programs that teach staff to be on their toes, or “situationally aware”.   Security awareness training doesn’t have to be a full time job and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

One of the best ways to create an on-going security awareness program is to make a 12-month calendar, with an activity for each month, or better yet, every two weeks.   Here’s a list of activities I use:

1.  Start with a one page newsletter.  You can have the marketing department help, or use WordPress to design your
own newsletter and email it out to all the staff.  Whether your staff is 100 people or 6000 people, it’s a great way to promote the security program.

2.  Send out very short emails highlighting news items about security incidents at other companies, especially ones in your industry, for example, hospitals.  If there’s a terrible incident at another hospital, cut and paste the story and email it to everyone.  In fact, if you’re an IAHSS or ASIS member, their publications have great stories about different security situations.

3.  Use seasonal reminders.  Now that it’s late October and daylight savings time is almost over, send an email reminding staff how to stay alert when they leave the facility after dark and head for their car.  How to use the escort service, if that’s available, or how to use your keys as a weapon in a potential incident.

4.  Buy posters to put in the cafeteria, or in the elevators that serve as reminders about the concept of staying alert and aware of your surroundings at all time.

I have interviewed more than 8000 staff members in the last 10 years, and they welcome these reminders and feel more secure just because you are keeping awareness up.   Remember, it also reminds everyone that there is a Security Department, and that is working every day to keep them safe.

The Department of Homeland Security also provides free brochures and charts you can print out and give to employees, or you can email them for the staff member to print out and put in their purse.  There are wallet sized cards, and lots of other great information you can use in your own active shooter awareness program.

Check out the preliminary OIG Report, which was leaked to Time Magazine on their site at

Read more:



My Pool got Hit by Lightning – Are You Next?

My swimming pool got hit by an adjacent lightning strike!   The lightning strike hit a tree about 6 houses down from my home in Maryland.  I heard the lightning strike at the time (midnight), and I still remember that it was so loud the beagles dived under the bed.

But the next morning, when I woke up, I looked out from my 2nd floor window and saw something that looked like two fried eggs floating in the pool.  It took me about 2 minutes to realize that they were the pool lights, floating in the pool, still tethered by the electrical lines.

The lightning strike was so sharp and close that it broke the lights out of their plaster enclosures and now there they were, fully electrified, floating right in the water.  It took me eight calls to find someone who would come and fix the lights, turn off the electricity and get the lights out of the pool.

If a lightning strike could do that from 6 houses away, what could it do to a person? Because it’s Lightning Safety Week, I looked up some interesting stats from the National Weather Service – check out these stats:

Your chance is being struck by lightning in your lifetime is 1 in 3000!

From 2006 – 2012, about 2300 people were struck by lightning and 238 people were struck and killed by lightning in the US.

2/3rds of the deaths were to people enjoying outdoor leisure activities.

82% of all fatalities were to men.

70% of the lightning deaths occurred in the months of June, July, and August.

Only 10% percent of people struck by lightning actually die, but 70% of those that survive

a lightning strike have serious long-term effects from the strike, including fear, depression and debilitating physical injuries.

STAY SAFER THIS SUMMER, and teach these tips to your kids, too.

  • Get out of pools, away from beaches, lakes or ponds.

  • Never stand by a tall tree during a lightning storm

  • Drop or get away from metal objects like golf clubs, umbrellas, etc.

  • Get indoors or into your car if you can’t get inside.

  • Stay indoors for 30 minutes after the last flash you see.


And have a wonderful, active summer?

Oklahoma Tornado, Boston Bombing, Young Soldier Killed – It’s time to do a Security Risk Assessment!

More Tornado victims will be buried this week.   Including many children who died at their schools because the school district didn’t spend the extra $3000 to have a storm cellar/safe room available.

One month ago, we watched as victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings were buried.

Yesterday, we watched an Islamic Jihadist savagely kill a  young British soldier with knives.

What other events do we have to witness before we start taking security assessments seriously?   How many more grieving parents do we have to watch crying on TV and, in my opinion, the casualities did not need to be so high and the aftermath so catastrophic.

If you group all these disasters together, you can that at the root of each one, is the feeling that, “IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE”…..    Britain, for example, has tolerated mosques preaching hate, thinking that nothing like the knife attack could happen in civilized London.

In Moore, Oklahoma, people thought, “we already had a major tornado, so IT CAN’T HAPPEN AGAIN”!  Well, surprise – it happened again.  While forecasters cannot dictate the exact path of a tornado, they can get close, and with just fifteen minutes advance warning, there is  time to get everyone into storm cellars, safe rooms and underground shelters.  BUT IF THERE IS NO SHELTER AT A SCHOOL…….

Many obvious solutions-controls-safeguards were missed in these recent tragedies because proper, formal security risk assessments weren’t done effectively.  If they had been done, perhaps the London police could have picked up someone who touted murder and hate.

If a risk assessment had been done in Moore, OK, maybe the high risk of a tornado would have allowed the schools to all add the safe rooms they needed, and in Boston, the older brother Boston bomber, should have been in jail already for his participation in a previous murder – or at least actively monitored based on his facebook postings.

The clues are all there, and, looking backwards, you can see the pieces that SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH TO PROMOTE some kind of action to either:

        1. Eliminate the threat  or, 

              2. Reduce the severity of a potential threat in case it occurred.

Security risk assessments gather the numbers and the information organizations need to make better choices about how to protect people’s lives, facilities, and organizations.  I hope these events will prompt more Security Directors to take an objective and unbiased look at their own organizations, and the controls they have in place, before you end up on CNN!


Holding Hurricane Sandy Survivors Hostage to House In-Fighting

Many, including Chris Christie, and Peter King,  are shocked and dismayed when the relief vote for New York and New Jersey was postponed until the new Congress assembles later this week.

The U.S. has historically had a great reputation for jumping in AS A WHOLE COUNTRY to help the victims and survivors whose lives and businesses have been ravaged and, in some cases, destroyed.  Many world leaders have commented on how the USA always pulls together in these emergencies.

According to the House, that’s no longer true.

The decision to take a budget fight to this level is NOT good politics.   These people, most of them property owners AND registered voters, are going into winter without the basic necessities, with houses that have not been repaired, with streets not repaired.  Sixty-eight days AFTER the disaster, these people cannot wait two more days, they can’t wait one more day.

A big country like the United States of America cannot hold its head up in the world, if we can’t help our own brothers and sisters who suffer these terrible events.

If this happened in New Orleans, I think you can imagine what the talking points would be.

As a group concerned about safety and security, we should be writing our congressmen and senators and tell them to stop playing games with federal disaster relief.

Why the State Department Needs Better Threat-Risk Assessments

Obviously, the tragedy in Libya this week focused the world’s attention, not just on the bodies of our countrymen returning home, but made me wonder about the risk assessments and threat assessments that are routinely done in these extremely sensitive locations.

Unfortunately, the threat assessments tend to be more political forecasting and less about the reality of the situation on the ground.  One problem with these simple manual threat/risk assessments is that they take too long to complete.  Maybe they spend a few days looking at the physical controls, and then a week writing up a report, and much of it may rely on anecdotal incidents or reports of questionable value.

That’s why I am a believer in automating these threat/risk assessments, and in a potentially dangerous area like the whole country of Libya, they should be at least weekly, or bi-weekly, or even daily when tensions are running high.  It allows you to get a quick assessment in less than 30 minutes, and allows for quick updating, which is critical in situations like this week.

And no, I don’t believe a threat/risk assessment would necessarily PREVENT a terrible tragedy like the death of an American Ambassador, but I do think that having these updated assessments allows for safeguards to be continuously checked, measured and improved, and also may expose weaknesses that can be exploited by a terrorist group when the opportunity presents itself.

The practice of running continual assessments is not used very often, but when it is, it’s very effective because when the situation goes south, you already the blueprint of what to do right in front of you, and it allows better decision support under such stressful conditions.

The information-sharing done by different groups can be wrapped up in the risk assessment and combined, so that maybe a higher threat condition can be identified, in time to relocate, leave the country, or whatever else it takes to protect the lives of our diplomatic staff.


Get Ready for Severe Weather!

Whether it is Spring tornados or spring-summer thunderstorms and hurricanes.  We officially enter the season of severe weather across the U.S.

A major focus at the beginning of each severe weather season, take a few minute to get ready and make sure you are prepared, and your kids are prepared, and your pets are prepared.

You can download a complete list of preparation details at but here is a
short list to review:

1.  Keep enough food and water for at least two weeks.

2.  Have a family evacuation plan and practice it often, including a meeting place.

3.  Keep a ‘ready-kit’ in your car with extra food, water, change of clothes and don’t forget to include pet food, plastic bags, diapers and other essentials that could carry you for a few days.

4.  Make sure and keep large trees trimmed to decrease the chance they could fall on your house.

5.  Use the internet, like Twitter or National Weather Service, to get breaking alerts, and invest in a battery powered radio.

6.  Keep extra batteries available to keep the radio alerts going.

7.   Keep your car gassed up, instead of running out during an emergency and finding
it’s out of gas, and remember, if the power goes out, the gas pumps don’t work.

8.  Stay alert and try to keep a day ahead of the weather!

Severe Tornados and Why We Need to Stay Prepared

The damage and destruction from the path of a tornado is incredible – and only matched by the sad stories of the survivors, if they are lucky enough to survive.

If there’s one thing that social media has improved – it is the ability of an individual in an affected area to get detailed updated by the minute on a smartphone or over the internet.

The old early warning systems were set up for radio, that was in the days when everyone listened to radios.   I do listen to the radio for maybe 5 minutes a day, in the car, just long enough to put in the CD or connect my ipod.   So the Twitter accounts and iphone-smartphone apps from CNN, the National Weather Service, Weatherbug and dozens more really help to keep people informed.

I often hear news anchors lament the over-availability of information these days, but I think the more access we get to this kind of information and other kinds of info is absolutely a wonderful thing for society and for most people!

If you do live in a tornado-, hurricane- or other disaster-likely area, the Weatherbug app is one of the best because you can set it to actually chirp if severe weather threatens.

As far as risk reduction – being able to protect yourself against major weather events is one of the threats you can more easily eliminate or at least manage.

Are there mor

“Although the average number of April tornadoes steadily increased from 74 a year in the 1950s to 163 a year in the 2000s, nearly all of the increase is of the least powerful tornadoes that may touch down briefly without causing much damage. That suggests better reporting is largely responsible for the increase.

There are, on average, 1,300 tornadoes each year in the United States, which have caused an average of 65 deaths annually in recent years.

The number of tornadoes rated from EF1 to EF5 on the enhanced Fujita scale, used to measure tornado strength, has stayed relatively constant for the past half century at about 500 annually. But in that time the number of confirmed EF0 tornadoes has steadily increased to more than 800 a year from less than 100 a year, said Harold Brooks, a research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. ”