Brussels Attack, Another Western Soft Target Hit: What You Need to Know

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Brussels Attack, Another Western Soft Target Hit: What You Need to Know

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Anytime I hear of a terrorist attack, whether it is in Nigeria, Turkey, Syria, or a western country, as a security practitioner, researcher and peace advocate, it is hard to digest. I immediately think of mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who will never return home. Today, to hear of the terrorist attack in Brussels, it had a personal impact because it was the first city I visited in Europe many years ago. Brussels was where I had my sweet sixteen birthday party.  I was there playing in an international basketball tournament representing the United States. It was an incredible experience to visit Brussels, then Paris, for the first time as a teenager. I loved interacting with young girls my age and exchanging gifts before each game as a symbolic gesture of honor and respect, something we never did in the United States. I loved my time there and I could remember was how peaceful I felt. It also solidified my love for travel. That memory is very different from the experience Belgians had yesterday where 34 people were killed, 214 wounded, and dozens are still missing. ISIS has claimed credit for the two attacks: one at Brussels International Airport and another on a subway car near the European Union.

The truth is no law enforcement department, or physical location, can have enough security guards, gates, technology or guns to stop terrorism. The only foreseeable thing the government can do is implement community programs that engage the Muslim community to weed out extremists, in a collaborative way, and to intercept information early on though human and signals intelligence.

Currently, the top concern by western leaders in Europe and the U.S. are copycats. At the moment, federal and local counterterrorism officials state there are no credible terrorist threats on American soft targets. There are airports around the country that are on high alert as well as cities such as New York City and Washington, DC. Through there was increased security in Europe as a result of the recent capture of Paris terrorist attacker, Salah Abdesalm, in Belgium on Friday, Belgian counterterrorism officials had no hint to a specific threat.  In the U.S., there has been an activation of extra resources such as the National Guard in New York City, use of vice teams, special advanced screening technology, radiation detectors and bomb sniffing dogs. The Department of State has added travel alerts for Americans traveling aboard.

There is no 100% answer to keep anyone safe, but here are a few tips to help you respond in case of an emergency. Below is a list of the top three things businesses can do to protect themselves and the top three things individuals should be aware of when in public transit locations:

Top 3 things for individuals to be aware of:

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings near public transit areas: Paying attention to your environment, specifically ticket counters, drop off or pick up areas of trains stations, airports, subways and airports. Training yourself to consciously pay attention when walking down the street or in public places is important. You may be surprised at what you see that could help you or someone next to you.
  2. Have a Personal Response Plan:  For places, like bus terminals, shopping malls, subway stations, and grocery stores where anyone is welcome without passing through any security measures, an incident response plan is critical. If an incident occurs don’t panic! When in places that are unfamiliar to you take note of stairwells, hallways, entrances and exits in case you need to make a move to a safer location. Stay low and look for cover below, or behind, a solid object, assess whether you can move to a more secure location, and check yourself and others for injuries.
  3. Heed the current State Department Travel Alerts: The U.S. State Department has issued warnings for Americans traveling abroad. Use sound judgment, avoids large crowds of unknown origins, minimize your profile when in public, and always have a charged cell phone

Top 3 things to know for businesses:

  1. Have a plan: Having proper technology like digital camera systems and access control measures can be helpful in prevention of, and in response to, violent incidents. For any brick and mortar business, having an Emergency Response and Disaster Plan is essential.
  2. Be aware of daily changing threat alerts for your area: Know what’s happening each day. The threat levels have not been elevated since there are no immediate threats. The elevation, or de-escalation, of threat levels could change at any moment. Make a point to know what is going on in your city.
  3. Keep updated with law enforcement communication: Living in New York City, the New York City Police Department and the Metro Transit Authority are constantly engaging New Yorkers with their campaign “If you see something, say something.” Have the same mindset wherever you are. Share information that you think would be important for law enforcement to know. Stay current with local law enforcement or Department of State updates. Follow them on social media for the most current information.

Jessica Robinson, is a writer and Founder & CEO of PurePoint International. She has worked with a top 40 company and with the 2015 US Open. As a security & risk management expert and outsourced CSO (Chief Security Officer), she advises and consults with small and medium sized businesses on threat prevention and response. Learn more at



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