Your Attention Please.

23.41.00 - Mark

Edit: Oct 10, 2005 - At least one person who has read this post felt it was a how to on bombing schools. They acted on that misinterpretation and on October 10th, 2005 I was questioned by an FBI agent. Let me make it clear that this post is not a how to bomb schools, its a post on how I would minimize the impact of a bombing if it was to happen. I may explain how to carry out a bombing, but emergency services are constantly developing practice scenarios to learn how to best deal with diasters, and thats what I do here. Skim over that if you want, but make sure to read the last three paragraphs, thats the important part of this post. For more on the questioning, See here

This was written shortly after a bomb evacuation drill at the lovely High School University about 12 hours before the actual blogger time. so enjoy

There is a bomb in the building. Please leave your Intelligence Behind.

I'm writing this minutes after a "Bomb Evacuation Drill" and like nearly everything else in this post 9/11 era it is a prefect example of group think cluster-fucking. Thats not to say that the drill didn't go smoothly, it did for as much was planned, but they aren't thinking about what the effect would be. Let's say I'm a bomber, and thats not too far of a stretch because as I have pointed out in the past its extremely easy for anyone to cook up a bomb (google anarchist's cookbook) make a decent remote detonator (cell phone and some cheap electronics) and combine them to make things go boom. So what exactly happened during this evacuation drill?

Congregations. Each building has a designated location to goto where they call for an evacuation. Thats not one location for each building, its more like three or 4 evacuation locations for all the buildings

If I was joe bomber and wanted to do the maximum human damage possible at High School University, I would build one or two bombs for each location into the trunk of a car (something cheap, like a used Geo Metro, a Kia, or a truck - which oh by the way - would blend perfectly with the types of cars students here are driving) Now park them near the evacuation areas the school has designated (all of them at the edge of a parking lot) On a busy day all the parking spaces are filled so you can't have bodies floating around freely, they're all confined to a certain space. Call in the threat (being specific that the device is in one of the buildings) and when everyone is evacuated, remotely detonate and tada, maximum kill zone. Proceed to watching the TV news coverage while running out of country - say Iraq. So the school's evacuation plan for bomb threats is bull.

Notice I said threats. As I see it the only reason someone would threaten to blow up a building is 1) if they're bluffing and want something out of it or 2) want to inflict maximum damage (as pointed out above). The one type of "bomb threat" that the plan actually works for is of the unexpected i.e. your 9/11s and train bombings, and you'll forgive me if I can't find the 9/11 commission document that talked about the threat issued to us by the attackers around 8am the morning of the attack.

So it fails when the attack is unannounced (most likely), it fails miserably when the attacker wants to do the most damage possible, and it doesn't do anything either way when the threat is a bluff. So what's the point, at least beyond the "feel good" effect? Anyone? Anyone?

Now that I've outlined so much of this I'd really hate for it to come back and bite me in the ass so here's how you get away from this centralization. Train all the teachers and staff to form distributed groups. The campus here (like at most schools) has a shit load of space available so you can very easily spread groups out in parking lots, grassy areas, baseball fields, etc. You can still have a handful sweep the buildings, and really need to (if for nothing else - to look for the bomb) Since the number of groups is significant, you'll see and communicate with the "evacuation cells" when they move back into the buildings (people are nice and stupid, mostly the will follow - especially in groups).

Of course this isn't going to be able to stop a really determined attacker. They will always be able to do significant damage, but as we're learning from middle eastern groups, a single Cell Unit is extremely hard to take down, and the challenge grows exponentially when you try and take down more at once. I don't know why this isn't a normal practice in emergency planning.

Keep in mind this concept is for schools, where the cells are virtually pre-made. The corporate challenges are different, but as the survivors of 9/11 proved, people on the ground organize themselves faster a lot more effectively than the hierarchies you find built into school environments.

Link | 18 Comments |

Feedback for Your Attention Please.

Anonymous - 13:51:00 / 2005.10.21 #

Did your conversation with the FBI agent yield any results? I mean, you pointed out a serious security problem. Perhaps since you brought this to their attention they may look into it. Some good may have come of this after all.

Mark - 14:20:00 / 2005.10.21 #

I don't know if the FBI did anything with it, I think they were more concerned with doing a risk assessment on me, not the college. Recommending changes in security practices would be beyond the scope of the investigation, if not their jurisdiction. I could be wrong, maybe I'll get around to filling out a FOIA on the event and be surprised.

To the best of my knowledge, the school isn't making any changes to the evacuation procedures. Between a lot of state imposed red tape on security practices / operation and a school tradition of ignorant paranoia (having talked to some former employees) I doubt the school will be changing anything.

Anonymous - 15:24:00 / 2005.11.23 #

just wondering? did you read this after you wrote it? surely you didn't. my point is, if you are trying to bring attention to the flaws in a certain plan of evacuation you may not want to start by showing how easy it would be for you to make a bomb. references to specific books and knowledge do that in your writing. secondly, you may want to consider not using profanity which portrays one of two things; ignorance or anger. considering that you are trying to get a change made in an evacuation policy used by a college i don't think you would really want to display either of those characteristics. thirdly, if you think there is a problem with the plan of evacuation why not deliver the concern in person to those who are in charge of said plan? i guess that might be a little too clear and simple though. instead you got a nice little visit from the FBI, which i would have to say was warranted, and something else to cry about. how nice it must be to actually have the time to whine over the mundane.

Mark - 17:36:00 / 2005.11.23 #

Do some reading on disaster scenarios and mock attacks. They're activities used to help improve security and thats what I did. I explained what would be the worst case scenario would be from my perspective. A disgruntled student with enough motivation to create a basic explosive device. I didn't outline how to make a device, just implied that just about anyone could do it.

As for the less than gentle language, I though real carefully about including it. In a piece like this profanity is used to shock, and in this case it was fully justified, as the school's evacuation was following a poorly conceived plan. Tiptoeing around that fact would have been pointless so I called it as it was, and yes I was infuriated by the school's obvious lack of concern and thought for student safety. Yes, as an overused tool of language it tends to mean ignorance, but this was not ignorance.

I also thought about taking it to those in charge, but this wasn't a problem with just the school. They were just following the standard plans issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Simply discussing it with the one or two people at a community college would have done nothing to address the issue. Posting it online and letting several hundred people see it on the other hand, may help remedy the problem.

I don't have a problem with the FBI, I have a problem with a school administration too self centered and hypocritical to analyze a problem when its addressed to them, no matter if its a problem with a bomb evacuation plan or with student concerns over dwindling staff size and a drop in attendance.

Mundane is anonymously attacking opposing opinions and not offering a better proposal to solve the problems presented. I've had enough of you anonymous cowards.

Anonymous - 01:12:00 / 2005.11.24 #

I am the one who called you out. You must understand that cowardice is not the issue. It is simply a desire not to share my identity with the ignorant of this world. As proof, I cite your inability to proof-read your writing. There is, sir, a resposible manner in which to address your concerns to the "powers that be". Your blog, however clever you may credit it for being, was not in line with what is the resposible way. If you have a problem with us "coward, yellow bellied, whatever-else-your-poor-ignorant-mind-may-think-up-bastards" may say; perhaps you should abstain from sharing your ignorance with us all online. May you one day overcome your inability to keep your mouth shut when you know not what you are talking about.

Anonymous - 01:18:00 / 2005.11.24 #

I almost forgot, if you want us all to take you seriously, maybe you should consider posting a less ridiculous picture of yourself. Also, those who decide they are worthy of internet publication should not consider themselves above the critique of greater mortals. Don't you agree. It sounds like your problem is that suddenly you have been made the fool in front of all the world. But, I must ask myself, do I really expect you to understand all that I say? Not really!!

P.S. Good Luck in whatever field it is you have chosen. I feel you will surely need it.

Anonymous - 01:22:00 / 2005.11.24 #

Oh, and one more thing. Did you really mean to look like THE TERMINTATOR (you know, it is really too bad I couldn't really write that in an accent much like that of the governor of California) or was it just an odd coincidence? Further more it is important that you know that I really don't worry about the opinions of "lesser mortals"!

P.S.(again) Perhaps if you don't like the contributions that we anonymous users give to your otherwise retarded views, maybe you should abstain in your urges to let us share our points of view. If you are so sure of your views in the first place, why does it sting so to hear others?

Mark - 02:16:00 / 2005.11.24 #

You, sir, are in the vast minority. Having had hundreds of people come and read this post, only three have felt the need to call it "ignorant". Scores of others have told me they agree with my analysis, both of the dangers of the school's plan and of the schools inability to use the "critical thinking" they currently pride themselves on so much.

If this post was intended solely of the administration at SCC, I agree that a blog post would be extremely irresponsible way to express concern, but it wasn't, and because I choose this format, several others have benefited.

None of this is in defense of my ego, by the way, plenty of people have called me out when I was truly wrong, but unlike you, they didn't have a problem with sharing their identity with "the ignorant of this world"

You may think I'm a blathering idiot, and you're welcome to that opinion. I, like all the other "lesser mortals" out there can not possibly change the mind of a higher being such as yourself. Its good to know that there are unknown deities and demigods out there obsessed with maintaining the status quo for us ignorant lowlifes.

True change and progress is never made by those in power, it's made by the underdogs who question the way things are in an attempt to make improvements. We might not know what we're doing, but at least we're making progress.

PS Thank you for your concern about my future, but I'm already having some degree of success with my ventures.

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