The NY City Terror Plot Connection to School Security

Posted by on May 8, 2010

There is a direct connection between the New York City Times Square terror bomb plot and the security of your child’s school. 

I talked about schools as terror targets in my April 28th post entitled, “Is Your Child’s School a Soft Target for Terrorism?,”  Ironically, that post was published just a few days before the New York City terror attack attempt with a vehicle containing explosives came to light.

The New York City plot itself is not a school terrorist plot.  But there are three critical lessons learned from this latest terrorist plot which are directly related to school security:

  1. The first step in preparedness is recognizing you are a target.  New York City’s leaders know their city remains a target for terrorism.  They recognize that being prepared does not mean they’re paranoid or alarmist, but that to truly be prepared, you first have to admit you are a potential target.  School leaders, just like New York City leaders, not only have to come to grips with the fact they are soft targets for terrorism, but also “come clean” with themselves and their school community to acknowledge they are vulnerable to all other threats as well.  Denial simply doesn’t cut it any more.
  2. “See something, say something” is more than a slogan.  The street vendor in New York City who reported smoke coming from the suspicious vehicle subsequently found to contain explosives saw something unusual and reported it.  A nearby police officer took the report seriously and acted immediately.  School officials need to continue to create a culture where students and staff are encouraged to report threats and safety concerns.  And when the reports are made, school staff need to be ready to act upon those reports in a timely and efficient manner.
  3. Being genuinely prepared to respond pays off.  The New York City terrorism suspect was apprehended onboard an airplane ready to take off out of the United States.  Law enforcement officials nabbed him within 53 hours of the time he abandoned his vehicle at Times Square.  To start from scratch and then have a suspect with international connections in custody in 53 hours means that law enforcement officials had the organizational structures, personnel, and plans for a coordinated response in place far before this specific incident occurred.  School leaders and their first responders need to have the same type of formalized, organized, trained, and exercised plans in place for school emergencies so they are ready to hit the ground running if and when a real emergency occurs.

Awareness and preparedness cannot be created in the middle of an unfolding crisis incident.  They have to be in place far before an incident occurs in order to create the appropriate conditions for an effective response when an emergency hits home.

Are your schools really prepared? Is awareness, security, and emergency preparedness planning an integral part of a culture of security and preparedness at your school? 

Ken Trump

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