Be prepared for terrorists both foreign and domestic

First responders are trained to respond as safely and expeditiously as possible. Upon arrival, they try to immediately remedy the situation, sometimes without completely surveying the scene or thinking about what led to the situation. This can be a deadly...

Inexpensive safety or security measures that could immediately be implemented can include putting a darkening shade on the windows of stations so outsiders are unable to look in and keeping all doors closed and secured. I would recommend window tinting of emergency vehicles such as police cars and fire apparatuses. I also suggest requiring a second key to vehicles that have a key operated ignition. That would allow the vehicles to remain running and be locked at the same time. I would recommend that a device be placed on apparatus with a keyless ignition, so it could not be placed in gear without activation of the device.

Where specialized teams are regional, agencies may want to look at establishing a more advanced or equipped team of their own or at least improving training. It may be a good idea to place specialized teams at multiple locations throughout the community to minimize a threat.

I would suggest that on a regional basis, someone is placed in a fusion center and there is a contact person with the Joint Terrorism Task Force or other task force if possible. If personnel are not invited, then I would suggest a liaison of some sort so necessary information can be obtained. I would also suggest that some sort of tactical training involving all first responders, such as firefighters, police, emergency medical services, public utilities, etc., be taught. This should occur in settings less formal and outside of typical exercises. On a local level, I would recommend a threat assessment and risk analysis be conducted as it pertains to the agency.

First responders cannot protect civilians if they, themselves, are not secure in their surroundings. It is important to be prepared for terrorists both foreign and domestic to manage terrorism impact and ensure first responders’ ability to serve and protect.

Thomas Harrison retired in 2009 with 23 years experience at the Virginia State Police, with experience in a variety of law enforcement training in national terrorism preparedness and counterterrorism. Reach him at

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