Hometown Security

Notes for IACA 2017:

These are some notes and this is not comprehensive. I have a lot more information and resources but time is limited. If you would like more information please reach out and get in touch. – GM

This topic is very important as it seems our current Homeland Security efforts are still being carried out in local, state and federal silos. Local police departments need to have a simple plan that will get more individuals and businesses involved in keeping themselves safe from crime, terrorism and disasters. While some larger departments have dedicated units most of the 18,000 police agencies in the United States lack the resources to have a “Homeland Security” Division. This is where Hometown Security comes in. While it is obvious to everyone that Police in all jurisdictions have a role in protecting people from crime, police in even the smallest communities have a roll in all aspects of disaster management and in protecting people from terrorism.

Today is September 9, 2017 and there have been 38 Major Disaster Declarations in the United States so far in 2017. https://www.fema.gov/disasters/grid/year/2016 There have been many more disasters around the world and man-made incidents that we can study including mass murders, “Active Shooters” http://www.activeshooterdata.com/index.html / https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/activeshooter_incidents_2001-2016.pdf/view “School Shooters” https://schoolshooters.info/ and many incidents involving terrorism. https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/

You can scan newspaper headlines to see that stories of disasters, mass killings, terrorism, crime and controversies involving police are constantly dominating the front pages http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/?tfp_display=topten Seeing stories of terrorism, crime, police misconduct and police shootings http://www.fatalencounters.org/ /  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database / https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2016/ (whether they are justified or not) http://www.streetcredsoftware.com/pkic/ make people feel unsafe.

It seems like the world is a scary place and it is clear then that many people feel unsafe. It is also clear that natural and man-made disasters are a fairly regular occurrence, that crimes of violence happen on a fairly regular basis, terrorism is not going away anytime soon and that the relationship between the public and the police could use a great deal of improvement. Like a car owner who refuses to get oil changes and perform regular maintenance on their vehicle or an adult who refuses to get regular dental check-ups, our efforts in regards to problems such as disasters, mass violence and terrorism have primarily been reactive. One of the primary recommendations to fix the problems of community trust with their police is Community Policing but nobody seems to know what exactly how to define it or how to implement it. We can and should be doing more to address these problems and while it sounds like a daunting task it is actually fairly easy and proactive actions can be taken that won’t break the budget.

Preparing for a Major Incident or Event

Hometown Security is the effort of the Department of Homeland Security to provide resources to help local businesses agencies protect critical infrastructure at the local level. The federal approach to Hometown Security involves giving advice to businesses to work closely with local police agencies and to, “Connect, Plan, Train and Report.” While this is very good advice DHS may have forgotten to tell local police agencies about this program and they may have also forgotten to give the advice directly to local police agencies and to point them to the many free resources available that could help them implement a program like this in their jurisdiction.

After several high profile mass killings these past few years many local police jurisdictions may have found themselves being asked by schools, businesses, non-profits and houses of worship to come in and discuss what to do in an active shooter event. Luckily, there is a lot of assistance available and plenty of material to use here: DHS Active Shooter Preparedness / Avoid, Deny, Defend from ALERRT / Run, Hide, Fight from Ready Houston and DHS

For bomb threats the Office of Bombing Prevention has a great deal of information including procedures and stand off charts to show how far away everyone is supposed to be from that suspicious device.

Active shooter training has been in high demand and a lot of people are interested in it but you need to remember not to get too caught up on one type of incident. You should also think about how you can use this interest and demand to help people protect themselves from other dangers that are far more likely to hurt them or cause them problems. Before you even start doing active shooter training in your community you should probably have a plan and start thinking about how you can incorporate more of an. “All Hazards” approach to community safety. Luckily, DHS offers guidance in the way of organizing infrastructure into different categories that we can use to guide our advice to specific audiences. https://www.dhs.gov/critical-infrastructure-sectors

Consider dividing your efforts into “Communities of Interest” and direct your efforts into providing information to each specific group you wish to talk to or meet with. For example, banks have specific crime problems in your area that you can address such as bank robbery, counterfeiting, and scams. Hotels in your area may be having problems with prostitution, drug dealing, drug manufacturing and other crimes. Apartment and Condominium Complexes also have unique issues that can be better addressed through educating facility managers and other key stakeholders.

Here is an example of a list of Communities of Interest that you may create for your own local jurisdiction. I listed about 36 but you can probably think of more:

Banks, Healthcare Facilities, Convenience + Liquor Stores, Pharmacies, Hotels & Motels, Apartment & Condominium Complexes, Local Government Offices, Social Service Agencies, Religious Institutions, Schools (Public and Private), Day Care Facilities, Senior Living Facilities, Transportation / School Buses, Mall & Retail, Restaurants, Real Estate Agents, Delivery Services (USPS, Fedex, UPS), Food Delivery Drivers, Movie Theatres / Entertainment, Storage Facilities, Volunteer Services / NGO’s, Jewelry Stores, Defense Industry, Small Businesses, Local Media, Senior Citizens, Teens, Women, Children, Neighborhood Groups, Dog Walkers, PTO’s (Parent Teacher Organizations), Civic Organizations and Clubs

There are many opportunities to do outreach to engage these communities. You could easily set up a calendar and schedule 1 or 2 meetings a month of 1 hour to 90 minutes and cover a great deal of information. You could also cover other programs you might offer such as RADRadkids, Crime Prevention Surveys of homes and businesses and any other community oriented programs your department may be involved in. While meetings are easy these other programs are more resource intensive. However, community programs do pay great dividends in building good will and if properly sustained, gathering useful information.

Of course information is important and you will probably want to get access to some databases to share intelligence. You will need some training in what you can and can’t share and how long you can keep records in certain intelligence databases. Start by learning about 28CFR23 and Protected Critical Infrastructure Information or PCII.

You should also get some additional training and put together resources on terrorism for specific communities. SLATT is a great place to start. Since chemicals are practically everywhere and a concern for man-made accidents and terror attacks you and everyone in your agency should have the free Emergency Response Guide handy. There is a free app for your devices as well.

Now that you have some training in 28CFR23 and PCII you can access some of the free tools you can use to share critical infrastructure information and criminal intelligence. HSIN or the Homeland Security Information Network has several secure resources that you can use. LEEP, is the secure Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal that you can spend a few days learning about. You should also join your local RISS, or Regional Information Sharing System. Finally, Infragard is a great resource for you and your community to connect on Homeland Security issues. If there is a chapter near you, you can attend meetings.

For an excellent (and free!) “All-Hazards” emergency plan that works in any type of school, business, government or non-profit facility check out the “I Love You Guys” Foundations – Standard Response Protocol. Everything is in PLAIN ENGLISH and the materials are all downloadable as free PDF files. This is the best system out there as it is simple and gets everyone speaking the same language and on the same page. The only thing they ask for is to let them know you are using their system and if you are feeling generous a donation would be helpful:


For a simple video that explains the SRP check out this 4 1/2 minute video: SRP

During a Major Incident

During an incident you will want to be able to help and figure out where you fit into a major incident. The best system to use is ICS or the Incident Command System. Every public safety employee should be trained at at least a basic level. In fact, pretty much every public employee should be trained in ICS.

Some incidents, such as abductions or missing persons require specific training. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has some excellent training and resources.

Lost people including those with Alzheimer’s or Autism exhibit certain behavior under certain conditions. One useful tool is the Lost Person Behavior Mapper.

To get people motivated to take proactive steps to be better prepared you need to give them information and resources to get started. Ready.gov is the first place for civilians to go. The Small Business Administration is an excellent resource for your local business community to get information on preparedness.

In some areas, you may be worried about unions being resistant to emergency training but this is a big issue for them as well and you can get unions on your side as allies. Here is information from AFSCME on Workplace Safety.

The tings that always fail in disasters everywhere are basically the same. Communications are always the first thing to break down. One helpful tool that can keep your agencies phones and cellphones working is GETS and WPS (Wireless Priority Service) Now that few people have landlines GETS is less important but cell phone communications can be critical in the field and WPS helps first responders get the first available cell connection when it becomes available. It is important to note that during a disaster everyone in public safety and everyone in the community understand that texting is a more reliable form of communications during a crisis. Text messages use less data than phone calls and are more likely to get through when networks are overwhelmed.

Social Media is vital today in emergency communications and this is another presentation entirely. One recommendation is to have access to, and the ability to post from multiple locations. It is also important to make sure you have someone solely dedicated to this during an emergency. You do not want the one person who is normally in charge of social media to be tied up on other emergency duties during a crisis. Twitter, Facebook and Nextdoor are all good social networks to use for distributing information and during non-emergency periods are excellent community engagement tools.

Hopefully, you have a mass notification system available to you that allows recorded messages, text messages and email to be sent to subscribers who have signed up for the service. If you have no budget Nixle offers a basic text messaging alert system to hep you reach the public.

If your schools have no budget for emergency notification they can use My Schoolway – this system is provided for free by a large yearbook and school supply vendor.

When all of your resources are depleted and you need more help than what the paid professionals can provide there is nothing better than having dedicated and trained volunteers. Having a Community Emergency Response Team or CERT is literally a lifesaver. You may already have a team in your area. If not, this is a good opportunity to collaborate with your public health and fire departments.

An Israeli model of public volunteers who can help with emergency services that is becoming more popular here in the U.S. is called “Hatzalah” There are many active groups in New York City and you can read about one group in Chicago here: http://www.hatzalahchicago.org/

After the Boston Marathon Bombing it was determined that there was an overwhelming amount of information that could be used to investigate incidents at crowded events. Unfortunately, there is so much data being collected on cell phone pictures and videos that no system existed for the public to send in this information that wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed. The solution to this is LEEDIR the Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository. Your agency can activate LEEDIR in an emergency to collect any amount of data that the public is willing to send in to help.

After an Incident

Major incidents can be incredibly traumatic for the community and even for first responders. The Office for Victims of Crime or OVC has a number of resources that can help. The FBI also has resources to help victims of terrorism, mass shootings and certain disasters. Spurred by the tragedy at Newtowne, police officers have some help available from the National Association of Mental Illness NAMI.

It is important that we do do everything we can not to encourage future mass murderers and one program addressing this is called, “Don’t Name Them” Those who study these killers have found that a primary motivation for many is fame. While this information will always get out it is helpful if journalists can cover these stories responsibly  http://www.dontnamethem.org/ We all seem to be able to rattle off the names of dozens of infamous killers but we can’t remember heroes names, such as Victoria Soto, a beautiful young teacher who sacrificed her life saving her students lives in Newtowne.

Being Prepared and Motivating Others to Be Prepared

Finally, when anyone thinks how bad things can’t happen in their town or they get tired of practice and drills they should remember another hero who should be a household name, Rick Rescorla. Rick saved over 2,500 lives on 9/11 at Morgan Stanley. He did this because as head of security, he knew that the first bombing at the World trade Center would not be the last. When his company refused to move, Rick prepared for the next attack. He even made enough noise to make sure everyone at his company practiced and participated in drills so that when this horrible day came along, everyone was ready to get out. Sadly, Rick perished on 9/11 making sure all of his people escaped. You and everyone dedicated to public safety should be like Rick.