DHS Current Winter Holiday Season Threat Awareness – by Ron Benvenisti

At the present time DHS is unaware of any specific, credible reporting indicating a threat inside the United States during the upcoming winter holiday season. We are continuing to assume that upcoming winter holiday celebrations and associated events, beginning with Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, could be attractive targets for international terrorists or homegrown violent extremists  who have shown persistent interest in conducting attacks targeting mass gatherings.  DHS will continue to monitor potential threats emanating from foreign terrorist organizations — particularly individuals associated with or inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS)—in the event that these groups intend to advance plotting efforts in the near term to coincide with the holidays. These include numerous groups in New Jersey and will provide focus locally in particular, here in South Jersey.

Terrorists view holiday-themed events as potential targets due to a combination of factors, including symbolism of the events, the presence of large crowds, and the possibility of extensive media coverage of an attack at this type of event. Recent violent extremist messaging by Foreign Terrorist Organizations has encouraged attacks targeting large crowds in the West using “all available means” to inflict mass casualties, specifically highlighting the prospect of widespread media attention and the potential for mass casualties at notable holiday-related events. We expect to see an increase in holiday-related threat reporting—much of which will be of dubious credibility, vague in nature, or uncorroborated—that is likely intended to encourage attacks by Homegrown Violent Extremists or incite fear. While such messages are rarely indicative of a specific, credible threat, they serve as a reminder of terrorist interest in these targets and could influence some HVEs to target mass gatherings or high-profile events.

Connect, Plan, Train, and Report

As a Public Service DHS provides free tools and resources to communities because the Department recognizes that communities are the first line of defense in keeping the public safe and secure. The Department encourages businesses to Connect, Plan, Train, and Report. Applying these four steps in advance of an incident or attack can help better prepare businesses and their employees to think proactively about the role they play in the safety and security of their businesses and communities.

1: Connect: 

Reach out and develop relationships in your community, including local law enforcement. Having these relationships established before an incident occurs can help speed up the response when something happens. 

  • Develop relationships with local law enforcement and businesses in your area. Invite local law enforcement to tour your business.
  • Connect with community security and preparedness organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s public-private partnership program “InfraGard.”
  • Contact the local DHS Protective Security Advisor who is available to support your efforts. Communicate with your customers and let them know about the security measures you are taking to ensure a positive experience and to maintain public safety.
  • If your business is located at or near a Federal facility, connect with DHS’s Federal Protective Service at 1-877-4FPS-411. 

2: Plan: 

Take the time now to plan on how you will handle a security event should one occur. Learn from other events to inform your plans. 

  • Be aware of current threats related to your geographic region or impacting your business sector.
  • Develop plans, including security, emergency response, emergency communications, and business continuity plans, while considering the protection of your employees and customers, access control, closed-circuit television, signage, suspicious activity reporting, and parking security.
  • Evaluate your security requirements and design a monitoring, surveillance, and inspection program that is consistent with your business operations.
  • Develop evacuation and shelter-in-place plans, and ensure that multiple evacuation routes are clearly marked with appropriate signage and that rallying points are available.
  • Develop and implement a security plan for computer and information systems hardware and software.
  • Engage local first responders (police, fire, medical) in all of the above efforts to ensure your efforts are in synergy with theirs. 

3: Train: 

Provide your employees with training resources and exercise your plans often. The best laid plans must be exercised in order to be effective. 

  • Train employees on identifying and reporting suspicious activities, active shooter scenarios, and what to do if they suspect an improvised explosive device (IED).
  • Ensure they understand security basics, emergency response, business continuity plans, and increased awareness of potential threats.
  • Exercise your emergency communications plan.

4: Report: 

“If You See Something, Say Something™” is more than just a slogan. Call local law enforcement. 

  • Post details on reporting suspicious activity and encourage employees, tenants, and visitors to report suspicious behavior to property management security or local law enforcement.
  • Things to consider include unattended vehicles; repeat visitors or outsiders who have no apparent business in non-public area; abandoned parcels, suitcases, backpacks, and packages; and other unusual activity.
  • Get involved with the Department’s “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign.

Free DHS Programs, Resources, and Tools You Can Use: 

Information on DHS cybersecurity programs is available at www.dhs.gov/cyber.

To find out more about the Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign, go to http://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

For tips from the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team, go to https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips.

  • InfraGard is a public-private partnership between the FBI and the private sector that represents individuals from businesses, academic institutions, State and local law enforcement, and fire and EMS agencies, as well as other participants dedicated to sharing information, education, and intelligence. Please go to https://www.infragard.org/.

Wishing all of you a Safe Holiday Season!


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