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Revista de Prensa: Artículos

martes, 6 de marzo de 2018

Protecting Schools from Violent Attacks; it's Time to Call a Spade, a Spade

Ivor Terret
Founder and General Manager of Enablement Advisors


It was a beautiful spring day, the flowers were in full bloom, the smell of fresh pollen was in the air, and the sun was shining in all its glory. As the sun started to fade, and the fresh evening breeze brought relief from the heat of the day, three terrorists stealthily made their way to their target. As they walked along the main road, the lights of a van transporting eight woman shone on them. The cell leader signaled for the van to stop, but the driver ignored him and continued on his way. A burst of gunfire erupted from behind the van, and within seconds the cell leader had killed one of the women, and injured seven more, one of which would die from her injuries. Emergency services responded to the noise and based on intelligence as well as in- the-field assessments, believed the terrorists had completed their mission and had escaped back to where they came from.

The cell leader realized that the search for them had been called off and as he neared the sleepy town where the primary target was located, noticed three apartment blocks and entered the first one. The cell decided to take hostages from the apartments. One terrorist posted outside an apartment on the second floor, another making his way to the third floor, and the third terrorist to the fourth and top floor. The third floor terrorist became frustrated when the residents did not open their doors to his knocks and proceeded to shoot one of the doors open. Upon hearing the gunfire, an elderly neighbor climbed out of his apartment onto the adjacent balcony where he escaped, saving his life. Him being completely blind did not hinder him from saving his own life. On the first floor, a resident opened his door to see what was going on, two terrorists killed him and made their way into the apartment where they killed his seven month pregnant wife and five year old son. They also seriously wounded the family’s five year old daughter and 18 month old son. The daughter and youngest son survived.

The terrorists exited the apartment block and ran up the road toward the school. It was just after 4 am and a garbage collector was on the street, placing the bins for collection later that day. The elderly garbage collector, clearly unaware of the situation, greeted the trio with “good morning”  and was in turn greeted back . The cell leader then asked for directions to the school and asked if there were kids in the school to which the answer was yes. The garbage collector was then beaten, shot, and left for dead but survived by feigning death.

At this stage, it is pertinent to point out that the 115 students sleeping at the school had spent the night there whilst on a cross country school trip and that this was not a planned stopover. The terrorists had intended to wait for the children to come to school the day after Independence Day celebrations. Having 115 sleeping children like fish in a barrel was a welcome bonus to them.

The terrorists found a teacher sleeping in his truck outside and forced him to grant them access to the three story building. As they entered, the teacher shouted “terrorists!” and the children, confused, did not know what to do. It was when the first volley of AK47 fire rang out that 30 children managed to escape by climbing out of windows. The children, along with their teachers, a medic, and security guard, were rounded up and forced to sit whilst the terrorist laid explosives all around them, using the building’s own electrical system as the source of power for the explosives. A plunger detonator was placed on a teacher’s desk, and an additional pressure switch was carried in the cell leader’s tactical vest.

Imagen relacionada

At 04:30 the terrorists started their negotiation process and at 05:00 special forces landed in a nearby soccer field.  By 06:00 word was out that something was amiss in this small town, and curious citizens were shocked and surprised when as they approached the school, were sniped at by a terrorist from the upper floor. Press was also targeted and an onlooker standing with the press was killed when struck in his carotid artery by a terrorist’s bullet.

After a very tense day which saw onlookers killed by sniper fire, two children released, and failed negotiations, at 17:25, the elite special forces unit was given the green light to interdict the terrorists and end the hostage situation. At 17:30 the interdiction squad breached the door and entered the building. Faulty intelligence led to massive tactical failures by the interdiction team and ultimately resulted in 22 children killed by one of the terrorists and over 50 wounded  (some by jumping out of windows and falling on members of the interdiction team). thenterr

This probably does not sound familiar to you. It did not take place today in Florida. It did not take place this year. It took place on May 15, 1974 in the small Israeli town of Maalot.

Resultado de imagen de the guardian the school of slaughter

So why, in fact, am I writing about this forty four years later? This incident was pivotal in starting the process for school security in Israel and in light of the tragic, terrible and recurring events at schools across the United States of America, perhaps it’s time to call a spade a spade and point out that the US Law Enforcement Agencies, as well as the education system need to drastically change their approach. If they cannot prevent or stop an untrained individual teen with a firearm from conducting a massacre, what will happen to your children when a sophisticated terrorist cell decides to attack a school?

An examination of the process that took place in Israel after the Maalot Massacre included the creation of a task specific hostage rescue and terrorist interdiction unit under the auspices of the Israeli Border Police, the legal requirement for every school in Israel is to have armed security on-site when children are on-site. The roles and responsibilities for the security guards are primarily against violent hostile threats, with criminal activity prevention as a secondary responsibility, and are defined by law. The funding is also defined by law whereby the Israeli police will fund the security costs by 100%, or in some cases, 64% with the remainder funded by the local authority (city/municipality, etc.). The standard and training of each security guard is governed, audited and overseen by the security department of the Israeli Police Services and the actual guards are employed either by the local authority, but in most cases, by a private security company winning a tender for that city/school/municipal area. In addition to the on-site security, the requirement demands that the security provider have patrol vehicles which visit the schools where there guards are on shift. Some local authorities have their own internal security department which supports this effort by patrolling and providing an additional reaction force for the schools. It is pertinent to mention that the Israeli Police Service has a patrol unit dedicated to the security at schools, both crime prevention and terrorist oriented.

Schools in Israel have access control measures; physical measures supported by trained security guards with purpose designed procedures for both day to day and emergency situations and again, these are designed to deter, prevent, and limit damage from terrorist attacks and begin at the campus perimeter, not the school building.

Will the above measures, as implemented in Israel, work in the United States, or any other country for that matter? When the vast majority of folks discuss Israeli security measures with non-Israelis they get responses like “another Israeli talking head”, “yes, but here is not Israel, that won’t work here”, “yes, but the culture here is different, you can’t do that here” and the best one is “you need to compromise”. Folks, I cannot state this more clearly, if you want to save your children’s lives, you have to stop sugar coating the problem and you have to stop looking for a sugar coated solution. Compromise, certainly, but to a point, and that point should not be costing your precious children their bright futures and bring so much pain to your nation, time and time again.

The availability of firearms may be part of the problem, but they’re not the point of this article. This article aims to deliver the message that a change is needed, regardless of weapon availability.  A hostile person or group will find a way to cause carnage; if in doubt, perhaps ask the parents of kids in China, where between 2010 and 2012, 25 children were killed and 115 injured by “cold weapon” attacks using knives, machetes, even hammers. Perhaps ask the victims of the vehicle ramming attacks in the UK, Europe, the US, and yes, Israel.

Today marks the fourth anniversary of a terrorist attack at a Jewish school in Copenhagen, Denmark. This attack happened after-hours, during a coming of age party for 12 year olds. There were two security personnel on-site, supported by robust physical security and emergency procedures. The security guard external to the school noticed a male acting suspiciously and approached him, as per the procedure. The male terrorist then revealed his intent and violently attacked the guard, Dan Uzan, killing him, but not before Dan could activate a lock down procedure physically preventing the terrorist from entering the school and massacring the kids. The second security guards activated the internal lockdown procedure and commanded everyone into a pre-defined safe space, which he guarded until the police arrived two hours later. This was in Denmark folks, a lot more liberal and a lot less security conscious and tolerant than the US. It worked.

I am writing the article, not to belittle the brave men and women of the US Law Enforcement agencies, nor the very brave students, teachers and security guards who have lost their lives protecting students, but rather to put them on a pedestal and shout as loudly as I can “how long must this madness continue?!”. Israelis often come across as a know it all arrogant people, often we are, but don’t let that cloud you from learning from our mistakes and successes dealing with mass casualty incidents for over seven decades, every day.  Folks, you need to do something about your children dying in your schools. I’m not intimating that the Israeli way is the only way, but the facts don’t lie and the facts are that since Maalot in 1974, there has been one terrorist attack at a school, and that was by a terrorist on a day he knew there would be no security at the school.

Yes, it will not be as warm and kumba-ya as now, yes, you may need to make your campuses closed to unhindered access, yes, you may need to implement screening and searching procedures at access, and yes, you will need to come up with a budget to make your schools safe. The biggest change perhaps is in the security culture; we cannot prevent every attack and as such, during an attack, the responder, whether a Police Officer or an armed, trained security guard needs to decisively and aggressively close distance to the threat and neutralize the threat. That needs to be their only task. It’s not the teachers, students, or anyone else’s job and they should not be tasked with it. This response needs to happen immediately as the attack begins as every second counts. Ultimately, this is the biggest vulnerability schools in the US have at present. Even with the deterrent and detection measures, once an attack happens, the response is too slow, and too broad. The results speak for themselves.

In closing, I cannot sugar coat this when kids are dying. If you cannot stop a teen with a gun, you’re in for a real rough time when the professionals decide to attack your children. It is you, the brave men and women, decision makers, parents, security and law enforcement professionals who need to decide that the pain of losing your children outweighs the inconvenience of effective and practical security and to embrace the cultural change that is required to rid the schools of this threat.

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