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  • When is a Terrorist not a Terrorist?

    When is a Terrorist not a Terrorist?

    One nice sunny morning, Tones go out. Station 12, Chief 12, Battalion 21, Engine 12, Squirt 12, Engine 36, Engine 32, Rescue12, Hazmat 32, as well as, the police have been dispatched. There’s been a report of a suspicious suit case in a Condo lobby area. Before 911, we had some of these calls, and 25 years ago, we never received any of these types of calls and if we did, we just walked up and opened the suit case to look for a name tag and returned it to the rightful owner. Wow! Things have changed since 1979. Now in the wake of 911, we are all on guard to our surroundings. We follow all of our Departments SOP’s and or The FBI’s set guidelines regarding these types of calls.

    We now have to try to find out, if this is a real explosive device, or just another absent minded little old lady that forgot her suit case. Many things come into play. Is this building a High terrorist target Government building, sports complex, a building with political ties to the government, or a soft target, and has the building received any bomb threats lately, or any reported disputes between husbands and wives, etc?

    We have to use the tools we have on hand, to make a hard judgment call, otherwise, each Engine Company will need its own bomb squad.

    1st. Know your area. Have a good relationship with your local Police Department, as well as, The Office of Homeland Security; have them update you on all FBI warnings, any and all bomb threats, anything that may throw up a red flag. The police don’t work 24-7 nor do we make each and every call. Having daily updates on the area may influence your decision making.

    2nd. Just like a fire, we all have fire preplans on buildings in our district but do we have preplans for a terrorist attack? Unless you’re in New York, Washington D.C., Miami or any other metropolitan parts of the country, where there are many high risk targets, most smaller town’s terrorism preplans may leave a lot to be desired. Therefore, preplan all buildings in your district and keep as an attachment to your fire preplans.

    3rd. What are High Target buildings? The White House is a High Target Building, so was the WTC, and so on. But I live and work in a small town near the beach in sunny Florida. Who would want to bomb this little town, we’re not a target for terrorism? Well, within 300 feet of our station, we had three of the hijackers that went down in 911 living here. We may not have been the target, but if a terrorist lives here, he or she maybe building a bomb to use someplace else. What if he was not a good bomb maker and it went off while he was working on it, or he was overcome by a deadly gases? Just like a car wreck, we check for hazards i.e. downed power lines etc. So even on medical calls, keep an open mind for terrorism. Days following 911, the FBI sent out an Alert for ALL Fire Departments regarding terrorists wanting to steal fire trucks. Shortly after, we had a call at 03:00 hours for wires down. We get them all the time, no big deal! Well wrong, while looking at all the considerations: the FBI warning, the weather that early morning was clear, 75 degrees, and 0 winds, located in the middle of a block that was not known for car wrecks, and the address was 30 feet from our City Hall. Now, add up all these considerations on this simple wires down call. Do you handle this the same way you would have before! NO you don’t! What are your preplans, SOP’s for a simple wires down call now? The rules of engagement have changed.

    4th. TRAINING. We all have our firefighting skills up to par, but I am sure there are many firefighters out there without any anti terrorism training. Most fire schools offer a class, as well as, FEMA and even, online computer training is available too. Please take advantage of these tools.

    5th. Not all terrorists come from Iraq. We also have our own homegrown terrorists that may live right next door to you now. You’d never know. Even in a small town where we like to think everybody knows one another and sometimes knows too much. Until something happens, we really don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, do we? Believe me when I say, if I knew there were three terrorists living 300 feet from my fire station, that wanted to kill 343 of my brothers, I would have figured out one more way to use my Halagan Tool! In essence, they must have shopped at my local supermarket, purchased their airline tickets at my travel agent, maybe even purchased box cutters at the same hardware store where I spend half my day. Every time I think that these assassins may have been standing next to me in line to purchase something, it really angers me. I should have known! I am trained! I know everybody in town! Do you live next door to a terrorist too?

    After reviewing all of the above factors, its time for you to make the call. Do we get bomb and arson out code 3 and start evacuating the building and the area? Or, if you’re from the old school, do we send in THE PROBIES and have them open the suit case first? Kicking it works well too! Maybe, send in the police to do that, if they were smart they would be firefighters too. Well, no luck. The cops, they ran the other way, and you only have salty old firefighters sitting on your rigs, smoking cigars just waiting for you to make the call.

    The Thermal Imagining Camera may come into play. A lot of fire departments forget they have this tool sitting in a compartment on their rigs these days. The camera will not tell you if the suit case is loaded with C-4 or any other type of explosive, but it can tell you of a power supply (battery), a mechanical device, radio receiver, timer device, all will produce a heat source. NOTE. This is NOT always the case, but if you find a hot spot on a suit case or package, something may be causing it to get warm. Even a cellular phone will generate some type of heat. This should be a factor in your decision making too.

    By NO means, am I telling anyone what to do, but I implore you to use ALL the tools in your tool box and follow all department SOP’s, as well as, FEMA’s training and set guidelines as well. Remember, the rules of engagement have changed!

    Mark E. Conn
    Battalion Chief
    Lauderdale by the Sea Fire Department

  • #2
    Chief....what a remarkable post! Thought provoking, informative and timely.

    In these post 9-11 times...something to think about...NOW!
    Don't wait for the situation to present itself...pre-plan!

    Nice job Mark!
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

    Comment


    • #3
      We now have to try to find out, if this is a real explosive device, or just another absent minded little old lady that forgot her suit case. Many things come into play. Is this building a High terrorist target Government building, sports complex, a building with political ties to the government, or a soft target, and has the building received any bomb threats lately, or any reported disputes between husbands and wives, etc?
      THIS IS NOT YOUR JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      This is a police job. A package becomes a bomb when someone thinks it is a bomb. It is then dealt with solely by trained hazardous device technicians. The ONLY thing the FD should do at this point is to respond to the staging area and to prepare to respond if the device explodes.

      Many of the other points in this post are sound, such as training and pre-planning. But a possible hazardous device should never, ever, ever, be touched by anyone not equipped and trained as a hazardous device technician..EVER!

      BTW, remember when all yuo guys complained about the cop throwing the ladder? This is 50 times worse.
      PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

      Comment


      • #4
        George,

        Good call. The LAST thing the FF remembers was looking at the package and thinking "I will just radio the boss about this"

        As he pushed the button on the radio there was a resounding BANG.

        If you are not trained for bombs, don't play with the toys.

        Set the staging area, evacuate people, and get the Bomb Squad to go fetch, it really is that simple.
        Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
        Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

        Comment


        • #5
          We now have to try to find out, if this is a real explosive device, or just another absent minded little old lady that forgot her suit case.
          I think you guys are taking this too literally! I interpret that as "we" being the emergency services....

          Great post, Captain!
          Luke

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by lutan1


            I think you guys are taking this too literally! I interpret that as "we" being the emergency services....

            Great post, Captain!
            DITTO!
            IACOJ Membership 2002
            {15}

            Mike IAFF

            The beatings will continue until the morale improves

            Comment


            • #7
              Posted by George Wendt, CFI
              THIS IS NOT YOUR JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              This is a police job. A package becomes a bomb when someone thinks it is a bomb. It is then dealt with solely by trained hazardous device technicians. The ONLY thing the FD should do at this point is to respond to the staging area and to prepare to respond if the device explodes.

              Many of the other points in this post are sound, such as training and pre-planning. But a possible hazardous device should never, ever, ever, be touched by anyone not equipped and trained as a hazardous device technician..EVER!


              I agree with George on this one!

              While we have to nbe miore aware of waht is going on post 9/11, we as firefighters do not have the training to deal with hazardous devices! The closest we get is a course in performing blasting details, where the people we are monitoring are licensed and have the proper permits. The last time I looked, terrorists do not have licenses for explosives not get the proper permits!

              Our SOP when it comes to bomb scares is to roll a full response, but stage at least 1000 feet way and let the PD and the Massachusetts State Police Hazardous Devices squad deal with the situation! The Hazardous Devices unit of the MSP works under the direction of the State Fire Marshal, and they are based at the Mass Fire Academy in Stow. They have explosive detection dogs and the training in detecting, handling and the disposal of hazardous devices.

              If the device goes

              "BOOM!"

              then it becomes a fire incident!

              Just my 3 cents worth, Captain have to pay a little more!
              Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 06-22-2003, 07:59 PM.
              ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
              Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

              Comment


              • #8
                I have to admit, I really enjoy reading posts like this. Not being on with a department yet leaves me with a million and one questions about the fire service. Reading information like this from all angles provides a lot of insight, and will no doubt make me a better firefighter/paramedic when the time comes. Thanks...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yep, that's the cop's job. At least around here, they have the resources to handle this situation. They also have a bigger budget. We've responded on some of these before, identified the area in question, evacuated the area and let pd handle it, and some of them can be quite entertaining.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    One nice sunny morning, Tones go out. Station 12, Chief 12, Battalion 21, Engine 12, Squirt 12, Engine 36, Engine 32, Rescue12, Hazmat 32, as well as, the police have been dispatched. There’s been a report of a suspicious suit case in a Condo lobby area. Before 911, WE had some of these calls, and 25 years ago, WE never received any of these types of calls and if WE did, WE just walked up and opened the suit case to look for a name tag and returned it to the rightful owner. Wow! Things have changed since 1979. Now in the wake of 911, WE are all on guard to our surroundings. WE follow all of our Departments SOP’s and or The FBI’s set guidelines regarding these types of calls.

                    WE now have to try to find out, if this is a real explosive device, or just another absent minded little old lady that forgot her suit case. Many things come into play. Is this building a High terrorist target Government building, sports complex, a building with political ties to the government, or a soft target, and has the building received any bomb threats lately, or any reported disputes between husbands and wives, etc?

                    WE have to use the tools we have on hand, to make a hard judgment call, otherwise, each Engine Company will need its own bomb squad.
                    I think you guys are taking this too literally! I interpret that as "we" being the emergency services
                    Nice try.
                    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Definitely A Call For The Bomb Techs - Whether They are FD or PD

                      A suspicious object/device is definitely a call for a bomb tech - not for the average firefighter/police officer/paramedic.

                      The only clarification I'd like to make is that in different areas, different organizations have bomb techs. In southwest Ohio, the primary unit is from the Cincinnati fire department. They always staff at least 2 bomb techs who have completed the federal training at the Redstone arsenal. They are the best equipped team in the area. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has a team that will respond for any suspected military ordnance. Several other local agencies: 2 county sheriffs depts and 1 suburban FD also have 1 or a few bomb techs with varying levels of equipment.

                      Our job as initial responders is hazard detection, scene isolation, and contact of appropriate special resources. We need to identify those resources ahead of time.
                      Proud to be honored with IACOJ membership. Blessed by TWO meals cooked by Cheffie - a true culinary goddess. Expressing my own views, not my organization's.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        No one anwsered the question.

                        When is a terrorist not a terrorist?

                        When he's dead.........

                        If you don't know don't touch.........

                        K.I.S.S.
                        Gods Speed to our Troops!

                        If you can't stand the heat, Get out of my way !!!
                        MEMBER OF I.A.C.O.J.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          This is an excellent post, because we have to admit, there will be further incidents in North America. They don't have to be from the Middle East, remember Timothy McVeigh, and it might not be terrorism, most bombings stem from more traditional motives; revenge, organized crime, vandalism.

                          The important thing to remember about many terrorist groups is that they hate Americans, all Americans. It doesn't have to be a high value target like the Pentagon or Fort Knox, a soft target like a mall, an apartment building, a movie theatre, or the high school football stadium on Friday night will do just fine, as long as they can kill some Americans and scare the rest. As security is stepped up in the big cities, they might cast their eyes on the small towns. Some might say that is unlikely, but I personally don't think it is. A few small attacks, spread across the country, would have a devastating impact on people, because they would realize that no one is safe.

                          As several others have pointed out, suspicious packages should be considered a bomb until proven otherwise, and they should be dealt with by trained bomb techs, not the average firefighter or police officer.

                          Fire Department involvement should be limited to; assisting in setting up a perimeter around the site, assisting with the evacuation of people from the danger zone, standing by in case things go bad. There also needs to be an awareness that secondary devices might be nearby, specifically targeting first responders, such as in the abortion clinic bombing near Atlanta in 1997, and as happened in Northern Ireland many times.

                          There needs to be liason between Police, Fire and EMS, to clearly establish who will do what, and also what your agency will not do. If there is a bomb threat, without a suspicious device found yet, the Police usually request the building occupant/owner to conduct a search, since they will not be familiar with the building and with what belongs there and what doesn't.

                          Given the times we live in, Fire Departments ought to have SOPs for responding to such incidents and specifically train for such incidents, and they would probably benefit from meeting with the local bomb squad, and ensuring they are all on the same page.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            When is a terrorist not a terrorist?
                            When his plans are foiled and not carried out.> Good intel.> An arrest. > Nothing happens!!!!

                            John Q. Public complains about all the security, "it's not needed...nothing has happened in two years..."

                            The other day a plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge was thwarted, a terrorist was put in custody...or was he...nothing happened, right? Is he a terrorist? Was there a plot?

                            Most of the idiots in this great nation believe he is not a terrorist because nothing happened. (Not to say most in this nation are idiots, just pointing out what the idiots think)

                            Another troubling trend:

                            This is a police job. A package becomes a bomb when someone thinks it is a bomb. It is then dealt with solely by trained hazardous device technicians. The ONLY thing the FD should do at this point is to respond to the staging area and to prepare to respond if the device explodes.

                            I must fully agree with ya George! (Aint that a scary scenario?)



                            Or, if you’re from the old school, do we send in THE PROBIES and have them open the suit case first?
                            Mark, I never went to this school, although my school was old, I never heard of such an attitude. Don't get me wrong, I agree with 99% of your post, but this jumped off the screen at me.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I must fully agree with ya George! (Aint that a scary scenario?)
                              Twice in one week?
                              PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

                              Comment

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