Rudy Holm, protective security advisor for the Department of Homeland Security, told members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee that department studies have shown the gunmen at Columbine High School and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) planned those attacks using the same techniques used by terrorists.
People who are aware of the seven signs of terrorism have reported something suspicious to their local law enforcement agencies and have prevented 25 school shooting in the United States within the last year, Holm said.
Holm showed a short film that explained the seven steps terrorists or gunmen go through to prepare for their attack. Potential terrorists conduct surveillance, elicit information, test security, acquire supplies, might look out of place, make a test run and finally get everything into position.
Holm said people going about their daily routines who notice any of these things should notify police and police should look into each report.
Relating to school incidents, Holm said plotters usually spend time studying the site and conducting surveillance. They may be using cameras or binoculars to watch.
They usually use maps or diagrams to pinpoint security cameras, escape routes, or congested and isolated areas.
The second sign could be people trying to ask about operations, capabilities or people. Questions such as: "Do you see cops around here a lot?" or "Are those lights on all the time?" or "Do many people work late there?"
People who are engaged in these activities might appear to be out of place or out of their element in doing so.
Conspirators will test security. At schools, they might pull fire alarms and watch the flow of traffic, how long it takes emergency personnel to get to the school or how students and staff react.
Plotters have been known to repeatedly set off school burglar alarms until law enforcement stops responding to what they believe to be a defective alarm system.
Schemers need to acquire supplies and conduct test runs. People who report a suspicious package should not feel bad if the package turns out to be harmless. Many times this is part of a test run. Law enforcement would need to be aware of the placement of that harmless package for future reference.
Finally, conspirators will get in place before they carry out their plans. Holms stressed, citizens should not attempt to stop an attack by themselves. They should call law enforcement. Law enforcement should take these calls seriously. It could be the last chance to avoid an attack.