The Transportation Security Administration released unclassified bulletins that provide guidance specifically to commercial vehicle operators on how to identify potential active shooters and presence of IEDs, as well as recommended countermeasures for such attacks.
The Risk Reduction Section of TSA's Highway and Motor Carrier Branch issued the "Attack Method Awareness Bulletins" earlier this week to provide security-related information that may be used for security planning purposes.
In its guidance on active-shooter scenarios, TSA defines an active shooter as a person or persons who appear to be using firearms, in most cases, to actively engage in killing or attempting to kill others in a populated area. TSA added that an active shooter displays no apparent pattern or method to the selection of victims.
TSA provided a list of nine behaviors that may indicate a person might be about to engage in an active shooter situation. For example, the person may appear to be nervous, preoccupied or exhibit a blank stare. An active shooter may appear out of place and exhibit odd behavior, pray repeatedly and fervently to him or herself, appear profusely sweaty despite weather conditions or may wear bulky clothing that could conceal weapons.
TSA further advised that organizations have planned escape routes in case of an active shooter situation and all belongings should be left behind. While evacuating, those fleeing the scene should prevent other individuals from enterig an area where the active shooter may be, and they should keep their hands visible to law enforcement officials and follow their instructions as the exit the active area.
If an evacuation is untenable, the besieged should hide in an area outside of the shooter's view, block entry to hiding places and lock door, silence all cell phones and other personal electrionic devices, and call 911 as soon and as safely as possible.
As a last resort, TSA recommended that attempts be made to incapacitate the shooter and to act with "physical aggression and throw items" at the shooter. TSA said common office supplies such as paperweights, food cans, flag poles, chairs and fire extinguishers are among the items that can be used as weapons in these instances.
The active-shooter guidance was issued in response to the Dec. 9, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., when Adam Lanza went from classroom to classroom shooting at students, teachers and administrators. In all, Lanza killed 20 students and six adults before killing himself. Lanza also shot and killed his mother in her home before going on his rampage.
But in other instances, an armed suspect may appear to have a specific purpose. On Jan. 29, disgruntled neighbor Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a Dale County school bus in Midland City, Ala., pulled a gun on bus driver Chuck Poland and demanded that two students be handed over. Poland refused and positioned himself between the gunman and other students on the bus, who evacuated out the rear emergency door. Dykes then allegedly shot Poland four times and fled the bus with a 5-year-old boy with special needs. Dykes hid with the boy in a man-made, underground bunker for the next six days until an FBI hostage rescue team breached the compound, killed Dykes and rescued the boy.
William Arrington, general manager of TSA's Office of Highway Motor Carrier, said the guidance was developed in part from lessons learned from these tragedies as well as corporate security assessments of commercial vehicles operators.
Arrington spoke as a former Maryland state trooper and a concerned parent when he told STN that he personally opposed any programs that seek to equip non-police personnel on school grounds to carry concealed weapons in an event to respond to active shooter scenarios.
As for IEDs, a news report this week from Phillips, Maine, said a 4-year-old fake pipe bomb was found attached the undercarriage of a spare school bus. The Maine State Police bomb squad was called to inspect the 8- to 10-inch-long device that was duct taped near the fuel tank. News reports said it was later determined the fake pipe bomb was part of a pre-trip and post-trip inspection training exercise initiated in 2009 as part of a Maine Association for Pupil Transportation exercise.
The same day, TSA also released its guidance on how to spot suspicious packages, especially near "combustible areas" or in step wells, access points or other public areas. TSA recommended that "robust vehicle security" programs be implemented that include vehicle security inspections. Recommendations included being on the lookout for abandoned vehicles on the side of the road, suspicious vehicles that emit chemical or petroleum odors and vandalism and other damage to security cameras.
TSA also recommended that commercial operators implement specific reporting procedures for reporting any suspicious items or activity to company management, law enforcement or the First Observer Program. Arrington added that TSA hopes to continue to receive feedback on its guidance and other assessments from commercial operators, especially the school-bus industry.