SECURITY CONCERNS

This is a list of my current security or safety concerns. These high lights are generally personal observations based on what is going on with the news and sources that I trust. These sources are all public info and can be found online. I look at these from the perspective of an average person. I have no special training, I am not in law enforcement or in the military. I have no special clearances or no super secret contacts. I am just a guy paying attention to day to day dangers that may affect me and those around me.

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VEHICULAR TERRORIST ATTACKS

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Photo credit Eric Gaillard (Reuters)
There has been a new type of terrorist attack in recent months. The first I heard of it was in Nice, France. And a few months later another one in Berlin, Germany. If we are paying attention to the news-we know this is where the attack is carried out using a large vehicle which is used to plow thru an area with lots of innocent bystanders. The attack is quick, simple and very effective. There is no longer any need to acquire any explosive materials, weapons or make any elaborate plans. The attack in Nice had 86 deaths and 434 injuries, the attack in Berlin had  12 dead and 56 injured. In both attacks, a truck was used to drive onto an unprotected, open area where people were gathered for a particular celebration. The attackers only have to wait for a type of festivity or public gathering,  acquire the vehicle, and find the easiest path into their target.
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So far, this type of attack has been the preferred method in Europe. It has not yet been used in US soil.
I try to at least be aware of this new method of attack and try to think of ways I can mitigate this risk to me and my family when we are about. In general, I keep my family out of these big celebrations as these are very attractive targets. In those times that everyone just wants to go out, I need to stay alert. First thing I would try to look into would be a path to get out of the crowd and from possible origins of an attack. I take note of traffic control devices like bollards, planters and driveways.
If you are in areas with high exposure to these attacks, if you are going to participate in some public celebration on the street/plaza or if you are part of a parade, please stay alert. Observe for obstacles that can protect you in case something like this occurs. Stay within reach of these or at least have a plan or path to get to them.


RIOTS

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Protests have been a common occurrence this year. Some of these are natural and grow organically. Some are pre-planned in advance. With certain hot social issues, it has become very easy to gather public sentiment thru videos, hashtags and keywords. Some protests are normal, but quite frequently they have escalated to riots and looting. There have been some serious damage to property. Some result in physical harm to bystanders.
The riots from the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile affected many cities including New York, Chicago, Baton Rouge, LA and St Paul, Minnesota. In both cases, the Black Lives Matter movement were involved in the protests. This group has led a lot of the race baiting and social unrest. Riots and looting have often resulted in these protests, and usually innocent people are the ones affected- like your average guy trying to drive home to his family who gets stranded in the freeway, or some small businessman’s shop is burned or looted so they can express their “feelings”. In general if there is a protest involving this group, I plan ahead and take routes away from their locations and avoid freeways.
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The problem is mob mentality. An individual yields their decision making to the group’s will. Initially this is benign as the person simply felt kinship to the group’s stance on an issue (i.e. they join the protest to express anger over a police shooting of someone who seemed innocent) The danger is when the crowd is emotionally charged up, and the mob mentality is taken advantaged of by certain individuals. The mob shifts from protesting their disagreements to destruction of property and endangering lives.
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In general I would stay away from protests. If the BLM is involved I would definitely find a route around it. If there is some big social issue on the news, maybe stay clear of it until you have done your own research before getting too emotionally involved. Do not just trust the news you get from TV, as those are designed to incite your emotions into  a protest. Stay mentally distanced from it.
Should you end up in a protest without your own choosing, I suggest you try to make your way out of it asap. Walk diagonally forward to the outside of the crowd. Walk slow so that you do not end up towards the front where the tension tends to be at. Aim to exit thru a side street with good visibility, not some dark alley but some place that looks exposed and safe. If you are in a vehicle, try to spot symptoms ahead before you get stuck in one. Look for vehicles making u-turns or pedestrians looking to the horizon ahead of you. Stay aware of local tensions and events.

SHOOTINGS

Active shooters have become fairly common, with a couple of them happening every year. Some are successful, while others are thwarted. In most cases, you will only hear about the successful ones on the mainstream news. The ones that were thwarted by civilian vigilance are often only read about online, with very limited exposure.
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Here in Dallas, an individual with a long gun went on a killing spree, shooting several police officers. The shooter timed it to coincide with a local protest. The policemen who were out that day to help traffic for the protest became the targets. In the end, the shooter was cornered in a parking lot building, where he was killed using an explosive charge delivered by a remote controlled bomb robot.
In San Bernardino, a husband and wife left their 6 month old baby and came to their office Christmas party loaded with semi-auto rifles and pistols. The plan it seems was to kill as many as possible. They had been radicalized thru online propaganda and swore allegiance to ISIL. They had also prepared home made bombs to injure first responders which fortunately failed to explode. 14 people died and 22 were injured. The shooting went on for a mere 2 or 3 minutes and police arrived within 3 minute of the first 911 call. Given the time of attack and the swiftness of the response, the damage was quite significant.
In most situations like those mentioned, the shooters had already made up their minds about the type of persons, or group of people they want to murder. This is more targeted and planned out than driving a truck thru a crowd. These can happen in a church, in your workplace, or in a particular event as we saw in the Dallas shooting. These have been fairly common so much that cities have issued public guidance on these scenarios: Run, hide and fight.

HOME INVASIONS

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Home invasions and robberies can happen to anyone, regardless of your risks for the previous dangers noted above. With the dangers above, you can reduce your exposure to those possibilities by avoiding certain things. For home invasions, I think these are the most likely everyday danger most of us should prepare for. If you have a home, you can be a target. You do not have to be at a protest, or a public celebration, or even be at work. You may underestimate this risk, because we do not hear about it much on the news. We are too bombarded with “news” and what big topics are relevant. If you check your local news or your local police blotters however, you might be surprised at where the crime is at in your neighborhood.
I recently signed up for a neighborhood networking social media platform called NextDoor.com. It lets me interact online with my neighbors whether I have met them yet or not. I have read quite a few posts about my neighbors having to deal with robberies. One post described finding their Jeep almost stolen, with the thief’s bike stuck under the tires as they tried to escape. Another neighbor posted how someone just opened their car door and sat in it, casually picking thru their possessions inside -looking normal- until they were discovered. Another neighbor woke up to find all her Black Friday purchases stolen from her car, with her garage door propped open halfway. It seems she was followed home from the store parking lot and as she caught up with sleep, the thieves knew she was likely to leave her purchases in the garage. As I read thru these posts and realized which homes were victimized, I realize how these happened all around my home. It could just as well have happened to me.
A more dreadful story happened further away in a very nice neighborhood, where a husband and wife woke up with 2 criminals in their bedroom. The criminal demanded for money. The husband fought back. He was shot at the abdomen, after which the criminals left. The husband survived the attack.
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None of these events needed some special situation-they all just happened to the victims thru happenstance. They were not paying attention or their home was an easy target. Since reading on the cases I mentioned above in NextDoor.com,I have paid more attention to my home’s safety. We have an active theft deterrent in the house. I regularly check our backyard for any changing conditions and keep an eye out for items that increase my risk. (At one point I found my scavenged pallet leaning against my fence-the pallet was for a gardening project. I removed it-realizing it was an easy makeshift ladder. A few days later a real ladder was set up in its place-apparently my neighbor’s kid had been using it as a way to sneak out of their house. Fine then, but I do not want to offer anything up to criminals by my choice) We also have a basic plan if something happens at night. I currently need to work out a plan for my family if something happens while I am away.

 

CHILD SAFETY

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This is more of a personal fear. A missing child is every parent’s nightmare. I see images of kids who were lost every time we go to our local Walmart. Some of them have been lost for several years. I can only imagine the horrors the parents and the children went thru. I would rather die than lose my child. It is a sick sick world where we have predators abducting innocent children for whatever twisted reason.
You can check your state if they have an online map showing locations of any registered sex offenders. Texas has one here (your pop up blocker may keep it from opening). We actually checked this before we moved. Since then however, we have a couple who are just 3 doors down the road from us. A bit too close.
I have talked to my son about what these dangers from bad strangers are and I think we are due for another chat about it. I also talk to my wife and keep her in the know of news if they are useful in helping us understand the threats around us. The intent is to not overwhelm them with the scary news-my job is to filter out the scary part of it but still get the lesson across: there are risks out there, and there are ways to avoid them.

CONCLUSION

Today there are many threats to the average joe’s safety. Active shooters, terrorist attacks, riots, etc. I cannot help but feel the world is less safe now than when I was younger. This may or may not be true. It may just be that we hear more about these things now due to the speed of which information can be passed around. If we understand what the trending risks are, we can focus on these and plan for how we can protect ourselves from it. I believe it is better if I put a plan together and talk my family thru it in a casual manner. This way, we have a general plan should we ever find ourselves in the middle of danger.
I do not want my family to live scared, but I want them to be informed and aware. When we have talks about these subjects, we keep it casual and informative. These are never lectures. Lectures are boring and shut you out mentally. Like I mentioned, since I took the initiative to stay aware of these, I also take the burden of filtering out the fear and hysteria in the information. We talk about what we would do in case something like “that” happens. On occasion my wife gets very detailed and interested, we then visualize the scenario with more info and detail as needed.
The plan is not for dad to keep the family safe by himself. The plan is to make the whole family capable of keeping each other safe. Makeresilient families.
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