How to think about Orlando
While details of the terror attack in Orlando are still incoming, there are some things we know and some things we ought to know.
By Ajit Maan, Joseph Trindal, and Supreet Manchanda
Best Defense guest columnists
While details of the terror attack in Orlando are still incoming, there are some things we know and some things we ought to know. We know that there are 50 causalities and 53 wounded in one of the largest scale domestic terror attack in U.S. history. We know the gunman was an American citizen. We know that the gunman was Omar Mateen and that he called 911 to openly pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. We know that he was armed with an assault rifle and a semiautomatic handgun. We know that he was previously investigated by the FBI. We know that he had a valid firearms license. We know that there was an off-duty armed security officer present at the scene who became aware of and engaged the threat. We know that the assailant was killed at the scene. And we know that he came prepared to do even more damage than he did.
And there are additional things we ought to know:
1. Civilians ought to be taught about situational awareness and how to respond when faced with a threat. It means trusting your instincts. This means always being aware of the surroundings, the entrances, and points of egress. It means being mindful of the effects of alcohol on threat perception. It means recognizing the signs of predatory, explosive, and extreme behavior. But beyond awareness, people need to be prepared to exert any and all force required for self-preservation. When faced with a life or death situation, law enforcement may not get there fast enough. Contrary to the label applied by the media, this was not a hostage situation. This was a captive victim situation. A hostage situation is designed to trade something for something else. A captive victim situation is when the bad guy is trying to buy time to kill as many people as possible.
2. Soft target venues ought implement preventative and predictive measures against attack. All commercial venues should have appropriate numbers of security for the number of people attending an event, but moreover, those security officers need to be trained to know how to identify anomalous behavior and be empowered to respond. What kind of security training did the bouncers or other employees receive? What security measures were provided to employees whose responsibility was not primarily security? How did a man armed with an assault rifle get past initial detection?
3. Any time an attack like this takes place it is always prudent to treat it as a setup for a second-tier attack or as a diversion for second, or multiple attacks. The bar and surrounding area have to be immediately secured for first-responders. Further, a second security team should be assigned to keep its back to the first strike location and look outward for incoming threats. Emergency communications systems should be implemented and the media and public should be informed to stay as far away from the area as possible. These sorts of attacks can be designed to draw more potential victims to the scene for a second attack. Additionally, these kinds of attacks can be used as diversions for an attack somewhere else or to distract public officials away from seemingly unrelated criminal events.
We as a country need to get past the active shooter mindset and think in terms of active threat. The threat will evolve and manifest itself in many ways. For businesses and commercial venues, security can no longer be an afterthought. It has to be embedded in operations from the beginning and it can no longer be restricted to certain employees whose job is primarily security. The security mindset is something all Americans must develop. Businesses need to train employees to be aware and prepared to respond to all threats.
Weapons and technologies are distractions; we need to have discussions about mindset. “See something, say something” is all fine and good, but we can no longer think of it as someone else’s responsibility to do something. There are going to be times when no one else is coming.
Ajit Maan, Ph.D., is president of Narrative Strategies and partner at weSolve. Joseph Trindal is president of the Akal Group. Supreet Manchanda is CEO of Akal Security.
Photo credit: GERARDO MORA/Getty Images