Paris Terror Attack and Lessons Learned

            “Je suis Charlie.” The phrase, which simply means "I am Charlie", has caught on as the slogan to show solidarity in the fight against radical Islamic terrorists. 

            By now, you’ve seen the news and coverage about the brutal terror attacks in Paris. When I was in law enforcement, it was common after a tragedy to review what had happened, especially if it involved an officer safety issue, and look for lessons that could be learned so future police officers in that situation would respond differently and survive the incident. 

            So what lessons can be learned from the events in Paris? To get the most benefit, take a very broad approach, looking for general ideas to prevent a similar tragedy, not just duplicate this exact case, as every situation will be a little different.

            First, these suspects were known to have terrorist ties and were on a no-fly list. Once persons are identified as having terrorist ties, authorities should monitor what they are up to. Of course, this is an ongoing and challenging issue, but society needs to set some barriers to anyone who promotes violence or has ties with those that do. This same type of issue played out in Australia when one person held multiple hostages. That suspect has allowed into the country for political asylum, but was involved in the murder of a domestic partner, accusations of sex assault in 40 cases and had terrorist ties as well. Unfortunately, most of us have no control over this piece, unless the threats are coming from an internal source.

            Second, take threats seriously. One of the most common security mistakes is that of not taking dangerous situations or threats as seriously as we should. In this case, a police officer was assigned to protect the magazine’s editor after threats were made. However, the police officer was not able to stop the attack. Even if he were armed, it was not enough to match the terrorists, who had rifles. If the threats were taken more seriously, the officer should have been able to monitor the approaches to the building and control access before the terrorists could enter the building. Being able to set up a perimeter, either with cameras or an actual physical presence would have helped create an early deterrent or obstacle for any attack. In this case, the terrorists actually went to the wrong address first, and then were stopped by a locked door until an employee was forced to open it under duress. Early warning would have possibly given time for the would-be victims to escape, hide or barricade themselves behind shelter.

            Third, any group that could be a target of terrorists should focus on building security awareness amongst employees and educate everyone to be on the alert for suspicious activity. Any attack follows a surveillance stage. The surveillance stage is really the best opportunity for security personnel or other employees to identify the pending danger. Persons taking photos or loitering around a target location could easily be gathering intel. Attackers will often try to take pictures of security cameras and their locations, as well as watch security personnel making rounds or conducting patrols. Sometimes, an attacker may call in a bomb threat or other type of threat to see what the response is and help identify how many security personnel may be at the site and get an idea of the response protocols. Other ways that a terrorist may test security is by trying to enter restricted areas or parts of a building that are normally for employees only. 

            Fourth, take action. Once these warning signs or even a combination of some, are seen, it is critical to take some action to thwart or divert an attack. In the case of the Paris attack, the death threats may have been the first warning. If employees or security had noted activity around the premise, it is likely that some of the surveillance stages would have been seen. If that had happened, the next step would have been to increase the presence of armed police or security officers, both visible and plain-clothes, to deal with possible attack.

            Of course, the real challenge is our own internal human nature. It seems to be natural to make excuses for threats and deny that anything bad is really tied to the suspicious activity. And the cost of extra protection measures is another big deterrent. 

            That brings me to the last lesson learned. Every organization should create a plan in advance on how to deal with a variety of security issues, including what the response will be when a threat is received. The plan should include awareness, training and a response component, combining all the above lessons learned. 

            Bon sécurité.

Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC, a Colorado-based security consulting firm. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate

Watch Out for the Saber Tooth Tiger!

From the Suburban Survival blog

Imagine how different your life would be if you lived in caveman times. For one thing, you wouldn’t be reading this, unless I took the time to carve it out on stone or drew it as pictures on a cave wall somewhere.
Now imagine the kinds of things you might worry about. Many of today’s worries would be gone, but others would take the place. You might be thinking about the day in the office (okay, just another cave) at the wheel factory, wondering why a square doesn’t roll as well as an octagon. Maybe, it has to do with the octagon having more sides?
But as you leave, you remember the news that a saber tooth tiger had been spotted in the area a few nights ago. In fact, you heard that a neighbor’s cousin had actually seen it! As you begin the walk home through the fading daylight, you grip your club just a little bit tighter and make an effort to peer into the darkest shadows in the woods around you, with your ears tuned to the slightest sound. Quickly, the thoughts of work and octagons and square wheels are gone, evaporating as a cold fear clings to you, tighter than your wooly-mammoth onesie.
After a long walk, you make it home to your cave without encountering the vicious beast that had preoccupied your thoughts. The cave never seemed so cozy, but no time to think about the tiger anymore as your wife wants you to do something about the kids who refuse to play outside and spend hours staring into that new-fangled fire that you insisted on bringing home.
And now a quick trip back to the future, or at least the present day. How different we live, not just in terms of technology, but also how accustomed we get to living in a society that is relatively safe. There are no more saber tooth tigers ready to pounce as we head home from work. In fact, we hardly give safety or security a thought at all as we go about our business.
Although we often ignore them, there are still risks. You may not need to carry your club with you everywhere, but it is still smart to stay aware of your surroundings and alert to what is going on around you. The best security advice you could follow is quite simply to stay aware.
Criminals often count on catching victims unaware and being overwhelming them by surprise. I just recently read an interesting article on tactics used by pick-pockets. Some of the pick-pockets interviewed in the article admitted that if they saw a potential victim paying attention to those around them and alert to his or her environment, the crook would pick a different, easier, target to ply their illicit trade.
It is easy advice, like locking your doors when you leave, but still often ignored or overlooked. It is very easy to lose that awareness, perhaps now more than ever. After all, never before in history have people had such access to distraction as we have today. Smartphones are a huge cause of our alertness-deficiency. You can hardly walk down the street without seeing many of the people around you with the phone up in front of them, their head tucked down and thumbs flying over the virtual keypad. Texting. Tweeting. Facebooking. Googling. And maybe even some reading. All are constantly screaming for our attention.
Even at a stop light, look at the driver’s around you. You’ll almost always see at least one person sneaking in a quick text or message. More alarming is the number of people driving around who don’t even wait for a stoplight to continue their messaging. You can easily pick them out by their erratic speeds, weaving and generally clueless.
So, if you are serious about personal safety and security, put the phone away. When you are walking to your car or down the street, take the time to look around you. Is there anyone lurking around who seems suspicious or groups of people who may be paying an overly amount of attention to you?
Police officers develop observation skills by constantly looking at passing vehicles or pedestrians. Training officers grill recruits about a description of the driver in the red car that just passed, or ask for a description of someone standing on the corner you just drove through. Police officers also learn to watch the hands, for signs that someone has a concealed weapon or may be reaching for one.
Build your own awareness through similar drills. Make the effort to pay attention to people in your surroundings and note something about their description, even something as simple as jacket color or something distinctive. As you do this, you will also notice those things that make you say "mmm." Even if it is on a subconscious level.
Today, you may not have to worry about attacks by a saber tooth tiger and certainly should not live in fear. Be smart and stay alert to your surroundings and you will be well on your way to avoiding the modern version of our hungry tiger.

Suburban Survival Tip - Stay off the cell phone when walking around town and watch out for saber-tooth tigers. 
Photos from Wiki Commons

Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate

4 Tips to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Successful

               I have never been a big believer in New Year Resolutions. My thinking is that if you want to change something such as lose weight, work out harder or get rid of a bad habit, then do it when you decide to make the change, rather than waiting, potentially months.

However, it is still a good time to take a look at ourselves and our lives and seek areas to improve. With a new year in front of us, it is a good time to look at the new calendar like a blank page stretching out in front of us. If you are motivated to make some changes, keep some of these tips in mind.

1.           What do you want to accomplish? Think of your own personal goals, not what your boss wants or what co-workers are shooting for. Rather, think of what it is that you are missing or want to get done.
2.          Find the obstacles holding you back. What is keeping you from your own ideas on success? Keep in mind that success does not just mean financial gains, but could, and should, include personal development. Are there talents that you are not using? Skills that you are leaving undeveloped? Once you identify what is holding you back, it will be much easier to overcome that challenge.
3.          Control your priorities. It is easy to lose focus on goals with all the distractions at work or at home. Last minute demands from the boss or urgent client requests can easily shake you from your own priorities. Always make time for yourself, to keep an eye on your path, despite the distractions.
4.          Take small steps. The road to success must include setting realistic goals. If your goal is a big one, break it up into manageable steps with each one bringing you closer to your finish line. For example, if you want to spend more time growing your network, think of two or three people a week to connect with, rather than trying to get through your entire contact list in one month. If your goal is to make better use of your time, set a goal of spending one hour, three times a week, dedicated to that ‘better use’ rather than try for never wasting anymore time.

These four tips can help move your New Year’s goals from the ‘to do’ list, to the ‘done’ list by year’s end.

Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate