Jural Aviv, an internationally renowned security adviser, formerly with the Israeli secret service, believes a new kind of Muslim terrorism will hit the US this year or next.
He predicts that Muslim terrorists will try to hit six or so towns and cities simultaneously to demoralize Americans with the message that we aren’t secure anywhere in the US. There will be bombings in public areas where there are large concentrations of people. The Mall of America in Minnesota could be a prime target. Las Vegas is another possibility.
The federal government’s ability to gain intelligence on these kinds of attacks is limited, so you and your family should prepare by taking these security precautions…
BEFORE A CRISIS
Carry a few items whenever you use mass transportation, including a small bottle of water and a hand towel. Many victims in the London subway bombings died from inhaling toxic fumes, not from the actual blast. It can make the difference in your survival if you wet a towel, put it over your mouth and nose as a filter and stay low — heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect along the ceiling first.
Also consider: Filter masks (meeting the N95 standard) for home, work, your luggage, briefcase and/or auto glove compartment. These block nearly all particles in the air, are lightweight and compact and cost less than $2 each. Various brands are available at medical-supply stores and on the Internet.
Avoid the highest-risk situations. These include commuter areas, such as bridges, tunnels, train stations and transportation hubs at the height of rush hour, specifically 8:30 am to 9 am and 5:30 pm to 6 pm. Muslim Terrorist favor these times because it’s easy to blend in and bomb damage is maximized. Obviously, you need to get to work and home, but adjusting your travel time by as little as 30 minutes can greatly decrease your vulnerability.
Also avoid hotels and office buildings that have underground parking garages. Muslim terrorists love car bombs because they cost little and can bring down an entire structure. Terrorists also target glassed areas at airports because they can be a source of lots of deadly shrapnel in an explosion.
Be careful handling mail at home and the office. When you open your mail, do it conscientiously. Look for any crystals or powder on the surface, discolorations of the wrapping or envelope, oily spots or stains. Visually inspect the item for protruding wires or aluminum foil. Other signs of suspicious letters and parcels include excessive postage… noncanceled postage… return labels that don’t match the stamped postmark… unexpected mail from an overseas address.
Use a letter opener instead of tearing open an envelope with your fingers. Never blow into an envelope to open it or sniff its contents.
If you are suspicious of a letter or package, don’t take it to show others or to a police station, fire department or doctor’s office. Leave it where it is, and cover it with anything that’s handy — clothing, newspaper, a trash can. Call 911. Exit the room, and close the door behind you. If possible, turn off all radios and cell phones in the area because they could be used to transmit a signal that could trigger a bomb.
Always have plenty of gas in your car. Your tank should never be less than half full. In an emergency evacuation or a crisis, you may not have the time or opportunity to get gas.
Prepare for getting stuck at work. During a crisis, you may not be able to go home or even be allowed on the street. Stash nonperishable food, water, a small flashlight, a portable radio and a first-aid kit at work in case you’re trapped there overnight.
In Israel today, every floor of a new building or addition to an existing building must be equipped with a floor protected space (FPS) — a room that has a blast door, a filtered ventilation system and emergency lighting as well as phone and radio reception.
DURING/AFTER A CRISIS
Question instructions that don’t seem right. Numerous survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center reported hearing repeated announcements over the public-address system to remain in their offices. When it comes down to a split-second decision between following anonymous advice or following your gut, go with your gut. Each of us has natural instincts that help keep us safe.
Stay away from the middle of the flow of pedestrians if you are evacuating a crowded public place. You are likely to get trampled if you fall. Your best bet is to get behind a counter or next to a wall or pillar, then scan the area for exits that aren’t blocked.
Don’t automatically run from an explosion or sounds of gunfire. Running could expose you to stray bullets or flying, shrapnel-like debris. It’s usually better to hit the ground first and assume a tucked position. Pull your upper arms and elbows to your sides to guard your heart and lungs. Cup the palms of your hands over your ears to protect the arteries in your neck and your hearing. If you have children with you, cover them with your body.
If need be, try to locate a safe place to move to — for example, behind a pillar or a wall. When you move, stay as low as you can and get to the location as quickly as possible.
If you are a short distance from a protective barrier, roll along the ground with your arms over your head until you reach it.
Beware of second bombs. Muslim terrorists often plant a second explosive, usually in a parked car, near the vicinity of an initial bomb. The goal is to kill or injure emergency aid workers as well as curious onlookers attracted by the first explosion. Clear out of the area as soon as you can.
Call your children’s school before rushing there after a crisis. Students may already have been evacuated. If you can’t reach the school, call the local police station. Also, insist that school officials have an evacuation policy in place. For example, how will you be alerted if the school can’t get through by telephone? Where will the children be taken in the event of evacuation or injuries?
Conserve energy if you are trapped in debris. Concentrate on slowing your breathing to help calm your nerves and lower your blood pressure. Try not to shout too much — it will weaken you and cause you to inhale dust. Alert rescuers by tapping on a wall or pipe. In extreme situations, urinating can help rescue dogs pick up your scent.
Invaluable information on how to care for yourself and others in the event of a biological, chemical or nuclear attack is available from the US Department of Homeland Security, 800-237-3239, www.ready.gov.
Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Juval Aviv, president and CEO of Interfor, Inc., an international corporate intelligence and investigations firm based in New York City. Formerly, he served as a counterterrorism officer with the Mossad, the Israeli secret service… a security adviser for El Al Airlines… and a special consultant to the US Congress.
He is author of Staying Safe: The Complete Guide to Protecting Yourself, Your Family, and Your Business (HarperCollins).