Due to the sensitive nature of the recent attacks of terrorism in Paris, I have abstained from adding my usual “firedogisms.” Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by the attacks.
This week’s blog topic is a somber one, because it refers to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France. The horrifying and cowardly incident included mass shootings at the Bataclan Theatre, suicide bombings, and the taking of hostages. A total of 130 victims died in the attacks, representing 20 different countries. The terrorist group ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks, and promises to target more Western countries in the coming months and years. Following the incidents, France was thrust into a state of emergency, and actions were taken throughout Europe and the Middle East to find and eliminate those responsible for the atrocities.
Here in the U.S., terrorism remains a persistent (and now heightened) concern for public agencies as well as the private sector. Nevertheless, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assures us that there are currently no credible attacks planned for the U.S. or Canadian soil. In fact, the risk of incidents to North America is at an all-time low, due to increased awareness and tight safety precautions. Unfortunately, however, as the Paris attacks demonstrated, the need for worldwide disaster prevention and mitigation relative to terrorism will likely remain mission critical in perpetuity.
Fortunately, North America is free, allowing citizens and visitors to move about as they wish. This is an important part of life in the United States and Canada, but one that also means that potential terrorists also have freedom to move about. Here are some tactics to employ to keep your high-rise building safe from the threat of terrorism:
- Establish security protocols for anyone who wants to enter the building. For example, require escorts and verification for all visitors. The lobby should be carefully protected, with limited access provided to more secure areas.
- Require package deliveries to be left in the lobby with staff members who can screen mail and appropriately alert building occupants.
- Install security barriers outside entrances to stop vehicles from ramming into the front of your building. Large companies have employed these tactics, to great effect.
- Prevent access to the roof of your building, by carefully guarding access to internal stairwells, elevators and fire escapes.
- Train staff members to properly check incoming mail and package deliveries. Make sure they know how to spot suspicious materials.
- Learn about building-specific upgrades such as hardening outer walls and installing security glass. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers a detailed guide about several types of improvements. Our subscribers also enjoy access to lots of safety training materials relative to high-rise preparedness.
Reducing the Risk of Airborne Attacks
Terror organizations may utilize chemical and airborne agents to attack a building. What should building owners and managers do to reduce this threat?
- Conduct a review of the building’s HVAC system, including how to quickly shutoff the system in the event of an airborne or chemical attack.
- Restrict access to air intake vents on the outside of buildings.
- Consider moving vents to inaccessible locations — the higher, the better. If this is impossible, use strong fencing or grating to secure intake areas.
Preparedness Tips for Handling Terrorist Attacks
Managing the lives of building occupants during a terrorist attack requires the same calm and well-planned actions that are needed during other emergencies. Here are some tips to help you prepare to handle emergencies before, during and after an attack:
- Identify any critical infrastructures and ensure those areas and systems are locked down and closely monitored at all times.
- Review your terrorism and emergency response plans. Create a plan to tighten security protocols at a moment’s notice.
- Instruct and train your staff to be extra vigilant and report anything that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary.
- Use the DHS “If You See Something, Say Something” approach to prepare yourself and your staff.
- Keep first aid kits at the ready.
- Establish evacuation routes for everyone in the building, including alternate routes that could circumvent an ongoing attack.
- Utilize a hand-crank radio and cell phone for alerts about the situation, and be prepared to accordingly adjust actions.
- Follow the instructions of emergency first-responders.
- Don’t leave the safety of a building until emergency responders tell you to exit the building.
- Make sure your emergency supply kit includes flashlights and bottled water.
- Once you are outside the affected building, wait for instructions from emergency personnel.
The Importance of Security Procedures
A suicide bomber involved in the Paris attacks was discovered trying to enter a France vs. Germany soccer game, when a security officer patted him down and discovered his explosive vest. Building owners and managers who employ security personnel should teach them to spot and deter suspicious behavior so they can stop an attack.
While vigilance and planning for terrorist attacks are warranted, it should also be noted that the risks of terrorism are still incredibly low in our post-9/11 nation. Nevertheless, implementing security measures is recommended, and building managers and owners should take steps to prepare occupants for the possibility of an attack.
Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.