Thank you to all who wrote to me about the horrific shooting massacre in Las Vegas last night. Being a bit of an insomniac and a card-carrying Risk Geek, I was still going through my personal threat assessment for our upcoming trip for @SCCEcei where as you know, I will be seeing you at a Sun precon and Tues session. Accompanying me on this trip will be my husband, my 88 year old mom, and my brother. As we had been planning to see the Grand Canyon as well, of course I was also looking at issues of rockslides like the terrible one that just occurred in Yosemite (where a British tourist was killed when a giant slab of rock half the size of a football field fell from the cliffs there without warning #IHateWhenThatHappens). My conclusion on that part of our journey: no helicopter or plane to the Canyon- we will have to drive after all. Sigh. My Risk Geek Factor was already at its highest setting because I view all of our party as critical to the care and nurturing of the next generation of our family (4 young adult cousins and a 5th, my brother’s beautiful and precocious 10yo daughter – and future engineer). So, it’s not hard to see why this terrible event caused me to pause, and review my risk analysis to date. So dear #EthiTweeps, as noted above, yes, we are still proceeding with our trip, and, for your reference, this is my analysis:
Risk Geek Context
By way of context, all of my family and close friends know what a Risk Geek I am. Many of my mom friends and the teenagers/young adults in our circle are accustomed to receiving my series of “Travel Updates from the Home Office” that cover a motley mix of topics such as carnival rides, swimming in fresh water rivers, lakes or water parks in warm months (brain-eating amoebas) New Year’s Eve e.g. Times Square and ferryboats outside the U.S. – and, ironically, large outdoor concerts and festivals e.g. Oktoberfest or Christmas markets) Some of you may have heard the story of my oldest daughter who was in Shanghai on New Year’s Eve 2014 when at least 36 people were killed in a stampede on the Bund. When she finally responded to my worried texts, she told me that she and her friends had been in the area of the stampede, but had decided to leave early because of the large crowd. Of course your Risk Geek likes to think she had taken my Home Office #74 memo to heart and ushered her friends out of there just before the stampede, but who knows? Let’s just say that the Home Office continues to publish!
Las Vegas generally
I will state upfront that Las Vegas has been on my Risk Geek radar for some time because it is such a draw for large crowds and has so many multi-level security challenges. People who are trainedto think like a potential terrorist, see LV as rich with targets and large spaces where large crowds gather. And media-worthy. My research told me that Las Vegas was well equipped with a “Zebra force” that sounded of the same caliber of NYC’s Hercules counterterrorism SWAT team, which continuously conducts rigorous training drills to prepare for a mass casualty/active shooter event such as the one we have just seen in Vegas. All of this is a natural and responsible response to 9/11 and the terror threats we have seen evolving around the world. It was encouraging to learn that Las Vegas seems to be on par with NYC in its proactive approach. In fact, my research turned up two SWAT like counterterrorism training conferences going on in Las Vegas, taught by an impressive array of experts that included some from the world-class, platinum standard, Israeli forces. Here’s an excerpt from one participant’s review:
“People from all over the world come to Vegas to play, to act in ways they never would at home, and to explore the world of excess. There is another contingent that comes here—those who put their lives on the line so that others may live. Vegas is a Mecca of tactics and thought-provoking innovation in this constantly evolving world. Operators from every organization come to share thoughts, ideas and capabilities with Vegas Metro SWAT, and there is good reason. In the community of non-federal law enforcement, the LVMPD’s Zebra Unit is without a doubt Tier One. Their absolute commitment to excellence is unparalleled; men train and wait years for a coveted spot on the team. Some of the instructors have been with Zebra for more than 20 years operationally.
“The 40 men of Zebra average over 350 high-risk warrants and 50 hostage rescues a year. I’m not sure about you, but that is a pretty serious operational tempo in my world. One thing that was repeated over and over to us was that they were there to teach us how they do it; our job was to take from this course a new set of tools we could incorporate into our departments as needed and where applicable. These lessons we were taught were not based on ego, but instead on real-world application and testing. The men of Zebra were not trying to make us clones of them, either—as true professionals, they trusted us with their hard-earned knowledge so we could better ourselves. To a man I can tell you that every attendee of the 2013 course left a better, more capable officer then he arrived. “
Reading about these security conferences, it’s encouraging and confidence-building to know that our SWAT and law enforcement trains, educates and shares best practices just like another profession we know! I just hope their quality of educators and staff are as fabulous as our devoted and ecpert SCCE conference experts! (WAIT, is THAT where ROY is going?? #JK) I will update this column on Twitter if anything changes in my analysis.
To close this bullet on context, I should probably fully disclose that (i) I am an avid consumer of all SWAT like TV series such as NCIS (original – LA and New Orleans too, but GIBBS will always be my TV husband), and (ii) my sister and I once researched for a month how we could obtain night vision goggles (approved by the Home Office). Don’t hold this against me, I told you up front I’m a bonafide Risk Geek (Is there an app for that?)
Yesterday’s shooting is Las Vegas’ 9/11; Changes are A-coming
I’m sure many of you who have lived and worked in the NY metropolitan area have your own 9-11 stories to tell (I was conducting Day 1 of a two-day team-building and training conference with one of my very first compliance teams which I had named my company’s “Export Council”), but you will all be able to attest to the notable security changes that occurred after that terrible event. Pre 9-11, I still remember being able to walk into any office building – including the World Trades) with absolutely no security checks, other than the individual receptionist desk in each respective building). I believe we will see similar evolution in Las Vegas, which has been long-viewed by experts as a prime terrorist target due to its inherent risk profile. How much longer can hotels and casinos operate without airline-like security checks and bag checks after this? After the Manchester bombings in the U.K. I said the same thing about large concerts and festivals, and I hate being right about that. Along those lines, I think we can expect to see bulked up security at hotels, casinos and all Vegas venues, which I would expect to include large numbers of plainclothes law enforcement. Or as my husband says:”Las Vegas will be safer than ever before.” Yep, Home Office agrees.
Unity and Kindness Defeat Evil
After Hurricane Harvey, it was so hard and heart-breaking to read so many media stories of destruction and suffering, (especially dogs abandoned by their owners-who I would pay good money to meet some day) that I decided to start a hash tag #HarveyHeroes, focusing on sharing stories of kindness and heroism in response to the destruction and suffering. I found that stories of neighbors in rowboats and folks coming from other states to rescue man and beast were inspirational as a reminder of the perseverance and generosity of the human spirit and the American Spirit in the face of such unthinkable destruction and suffering. So thank you #EthiTweeps for helping me spread that hash tag- because a few days later I saw that it had caught on, and it was joyful to see the focus on these positive stories take hold, With the relentless media coverage we are already seeing on the Las Vegas shootings, I feel a #LasVegasHeroes Twitter campaign coming on! #EthiTweeps, who’s with me?? I’ve already spied a report of young people without shirts and coats on, because they had stopped to use these items of clothing to help the wounded stop the bleeding and form tourniquets! #HeroesAll! #That’sWhatI’mTalkinAbout!
Keep Calm and Carry On!
I saw a report citing the Israeli approach of getting back to normal operation as expediently as possible after a terrorist attack-to let their population know life had not changed and to give them confidence in the face of evil terror attacks. The Israeli response to a mass casualty event is to quickly erase all traces- including this one gory vivid detail=> carefully wiping blood off of affected leaves and plants. No evil-doer deserves to think or perceive that they have changed or restricted a way of life! I remember our resolve as a country after 9-11 – do you? Our country came together in defiance and strength to help and comfort each other as a united people, And also in Paris after their horrific terror attacks in November 2015 that took 130 innocent lives, resilient Parisians refused to cower inside their homes and filled the streets and outdoor cafes once again, living their lives as joyfully as before. Joie de Vivre! My British friends and colleagues tell the exact same story about their era of NRA bombings and feared Blitz bombings during World War II. Thus the origin of my favorite British motto: “Keep Calm and Carry On” (a poster created by the British government in 1939 to bolsyer the morale of the British public in the lead up to the war) that is so relevant to #EthiTweeps and CCOs/compliance professionals of all stripes.
On this point, like after 9-11, even as more details are revealed about the Las Vegas massacre, let us all remember that we are Americans, we are united by the American Spirit of self-determination and independence. And we are a people of strength, perseverance and resistance! We will keep Calm and Carry On!
See you in Las Vegas!
So Yep, my dear #EthiTweeps, our Home Office analysis has now cleared our trip as planned, and I view it as our civic and professional duty to carry on, get trained up and fully networked, and celebrate our peers at the #SCCEcei! #SCCEStrong! [But proviso: My only adjustment so far? Sorry to my good friend Ben diPietro=> although we may have reached out to you about the Elton John concert, that’s no longer on the Home Office approved list!] Because, Unity, Kindness, Courage and Resilience Will Defeat Evil!! See you in Las Vegas, my friends! #ROWRR! #LionsAll!