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Know what to do when you hear, 'It's a bomb!'

If you want to know what terrorists will do, look at what they have historically done. They shoot, they bomb, they kidnap!

Recently I was privileged to attend a presentation given by a boots-on-the-ground veteran in the “War on Terror.” This modern warrior for security reasons shall remain unnamed. He shared the following insight on what tactics the terrorists plan on using in this country. “If you want to know what terrorists will do, look at what they have historically done. They shoot, they bomb, they kidnap!”

As first responders, American police pfficers are faring well in gunfights with the cowards who shoot unarmed innocents. The FBI historically is the best in the world in dealing with kidnapping. The one area that most officers receive minimal training on is “Counter Improvised Explosive Devise Tactics.”

A Current Event
Ironically, as this article was being prepared for release, James J. Lee entered the Discovery Channel Building in Silver Spring, Maryland. The environmental terrorist took hostages and threatened them with firearms and appeared to have an explosive vest. Montgomery County Tactical Officers acted decisively when Lee was observed via a tactical video feed, to point a firearm at one of the hostages. Tactical Officers entered at 4:48 p.m. Eastern Time and fired at the armed suspect, killing Lee.

The successful rescue of these hostages may serve as a laudable example for other agencies on how to respond to incidents like this, where the dual threat of firearms and explosives exist. No one was harmed, because of the precision shooting of the courageous officers at the scene, who effectively diffused the bomber, saving lives and giving the bomb squad time to deal with the possible explosives.

From the War Zone to the Oneida Nation
Steven A. Elizondo currently serves the Oneida Nation in the office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. In another life he served in Operations Management Command and Control for Air Force Special Operations and Command in several theaters of operation. Steve’s training and experience make his experience-based opinion worth noting.

Steve emphasizes “In a world where terrorism’s greatest asset is in the use of IEDs, it is of the upmost importance to learn how to protect yourself, others, and assets. You MUST be familiar with improvised threats and the defensive actions to take.”

Steve explained that explosives used by terrorists will be delivered in the form of a Suicide Bomber, an Improvised Explosive Device, or a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device. The explosive device is the weapon of choice of terrorist from the Middle East.

Elizondo shared the nine counter improvised explosive device principles.

Maintain an Offensive Mindset
The act of patrolling is proactive law enforcement at its best. Officers are not driving or walking about waiting for a call to react to. They are combing the highways and streets of their bailiwicks looking for opportunities to detect and thwart activities that endanger those we are sworn to protect. The possibility of coming across an IED is one more danger the patrol officer should be prepared to someday interdict.

Develop and Maintain Situational Awareness
With time and experience police officers develop ever more keenly their “cop eyes.” They see beyond the facade that is the street scene. They become able to look for the subtle changes in the demeanor of people as they approach and the items that are out of place.

Every police officer in a long career has had to adapt to the challenges in their environment and the possibility of running into an explosive device has always been there. There was a time that meant knowing what a pipe bomb looked like, or watching out for the teenagers blowing up twenty mail boxes in one night with the “MacGyver bombs.” In 2010, it means being aware of the “VBIED” (Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device).

Avoid Setting Patterns
This has never changed. Patrol should be random, continuous and unpredictable. You should be the one wild card in any plan to harm someone you are sworn to protect. Be the surprise-er, not the surprise-ee.

Maintain 360 Degree Security
There is always a tendency to look straight ahead, especially under stress. Break up that tunnel vision, while on patrol and especially at the scene of any event. If you are at the scene of an explosion maintain that 360 and look for the secondary device.

Maintain Standoff
When the discovery is made you need to maintain a proper stand-off distance. If you are close enough to converse with a bomber you are well within the kill zone. Here are the recommended stand-off distances.

• 500 Feet — or a Personal Improvised explosive device
• 1,000 Feet — For a bomb inside a small vehicle
• 1,500 Feet — When the bomb is packed into a truck
• 2,000 Feet — If the explosive is packed into a semi trailer

Maintain Tactical Dispersion
The person who sets a bomb is generally looking for mass casualties. Do not bunch up in large numbers.

Utilize Blast/Fragmentation Protection
When an explosive device is identified there are five C’s that come into play. Confirm, Clear, Check, Cordon, and Control.

Trained specialists should be called in immediately and should have blast and fragmentation equipment. If you do not have an available law enforcement bomb team, contact your closest military EOD unit.

Utilize Technology
For those police officers, who have experienced bomb calls and had the trained experts bring their tools with them, you have seen the bomb truck, the blast suits, the x-rays and all the incredible equipment that bomb teams bring to bear on solving the problem, without casualties. Most agencies possess neither the technology nor the expertise to handle these problems themselves. When in doubt, call them out. 

The “Five Cs”
Once a patrol officer — or SWAT team leader, or a school resource officer, or an investigator — discovers an improvised explosive device there are things that you can do. The “Five Cs” of the first responder in these cases are Confirm, Clear, Cordon, Check, and Control.

Confirm — Confirm the exact location and description of the device. It should not be moved or disturbed under any circumstances. The device needs to be dealt with by a specialist. Jack Bauer makes for great drama, but remember: that is fiction. You should not try cutting the blue wire.

Remember, do not use your radio close to the device.

Clear — Withdraw yourself and others you are sworn to protect to a safe distance out of the line of sight of the device via a safe route. Refer to the stand-off distances. These are minimum distances, which have been determined by the experts.

Cordon — The cordon should be designated, visible to the public and secured. The over-all scene commander should determine, who should be allowed into the inner perimeter.

Control — Access to the inner perimeter should be strictly controlled.

Check — The control points and perimeter should be checked for secondary devices.

Steve Elizondo and the unnamed soldier in the war on terror both left this thought hanging in the air during their presentations. They both emphasized, “The terrorist only needs to be right once, you must be right all the time.”

Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay Positive and Prepare.

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