Situational awareness for public works employees
Stuart A. Senneff, CPP, CFE, FCI
Adjunct Instructor, Weapons of Mass Destruction
Texas A&M University
Experts have confirmed that the fundamental objectives of the 9/11 terrorists were to destroy life and property, destabilize Wall Street and the financial community at large, and make a powerful statement by targeting a prominent landmark. In other countries, especially in the Middle East, terrorists generally intend to kill and intimidate with the engagement of smaller, softer targets as opposed to the larger 9/11-type attacks.
With the increased airport surveillance and enhanced vigilance around major landmarks, historical sites, and buildings in the U.S., it is quite possible that future terrorist activities in the U.S. will be directed toward more localized and, in the eyes of the terrorists, softer targets. By focusing on smaller, softer targets, terrorists aim to create fear and economic distress, incapacitate, kill, maim, and interrupt vital services. It is logical to conclude that the more accessible targets for terrorist cells may become water and sanitation plants, overpasses, telephone and electric utilities, courthouses, government buildings, sports stadiums, shopping malls, and government contract agency buildings.
In future terrorist attacks, public works employees may very well be in their workplace before the occurrence of the potential terrorist incident. Therefore, public works employees have a significant role in the recovery phase of a terrorist attack as well as in the prevention of such activities.
Remember this: No police officer, firefighter, or any other government employee knows the job and/or job site better than you, the public works employee. The devastating results of the 9/11 tragedies have required us all to develop a new and lasting awareness of our home and work environments. This means that public works employees may very likely be the responsible persons who can identify a potential terrorist, prior to the act of terrorism.
The following is intended to make public works personnel aware that they have a vested interest in ensuring that our governments remain safe and secure while providing uninterrupted service to citizens.
Potential terrorist organizations and targets
Terrorist organizations such as the following could potentially target a public works site:
Terrorist goals at public works sites and locations
Terrorist public works targets
Terrorist action plan
In order to cause optimum damage to a building and/or site, the potential terrorist must first reconnoiter the location at least once and probably several times. The terrorist(s) will most likely have to "train" to effectively cause damage to your facility; this may require a "dry run" or practice, perhaps on multiple occasions.
In any area where the city, county, or state governments provide services, public works personnel are very probably the most likely to spot a potential terrorist prior to the occurrence of the act. Public works personnel are uniquely aware of activities in the areas in which they work—they usually know the people who may be customers, vendors or visitors (or how to identify a person as such), and in many cases they are able to quickly, effectively, and efficiently decide if a person "belongs" in the area or not. What action should public works employees take? How should you, the public works professional, react to this possibility?
How public works employees can assist law enforcement agencies in their goal of countering terrorism
Public works action plan
If your suspicion is aroused, DO NOT:
If you become aware of suspicious activity, DO:
If you as a public works employee believe a person's activities are suspicious, use the following to assist you in describing the events: Who - What - Where - When - Why
The following should be of assistance to public works employees in describing suspicious person(s) and/or vehicle(s):
Personal descriptive data information for each person:
What did the person want to know about your job, facility, site, location? Did the person appear to have some knowledge about your particular job? Were the questions asked specific to the site in which you are working? Compare with your fellow employees—maybe they have had contact with the same person(s). If they have, compare the hour(s) of contact and the specifics of the contact(s).
Suspicious questions may include: What are your hours? What kind of security do you have? Where does this valve connect? How many gallons of water does that tank hold? Who works in that building? How many entrances does it have? There are many site-specific questions a potential terrorist would have to ask in order to have the necessary information to commit an act of terrorism.
If you encounter a person who asks questions that seem abnormal, describe the encounter as set out above immediately after the person leaves. Remember, the public works employee's immediate recollection is most probably his/her best recollection.
Memorize the following acronym: BE ALERT
You are the public works professionals! Know who belongs in your work area. Always be aware, always be in control. No matter what your job description in public works, you may be the best one to determine if a person is a valid visitor, vendor, contractor, or a potential terrorist.
As a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI for more than 14 years, Stuart Senneff managed and supervised FBI Special Agents and support personnel in planning, administration, operations and training at the FBI Academy, Headquarters, and Inspection Division. He is a Lifetime Certified Protection Professional (American Society for Industrial Security), Certified Fraud Examiner (Association of Fraud Examiners), and Florida Certified Investigator (Florida Joint Association Certification Committee). He can be reached at UCAssoc@aol.com.