A recent report from the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has revealed that since 1995, a much higher percentage (33%) of terrorist attacks in the United States were conducted by unaffiliated individuals, rather than by organized groups.
From the Oklahoma City bombing to more recent attacks like Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, and the University of Alabama, another commonality has also been revealed; in 80% of the incidents, red flags and warning signs exist, but are often not identified.
There are many reasons red flags go unreported. Victims or bystanders may fear retaliation or they may feel like their report will be ignored or they might think they are just being overly suspicious. And sometimes victims or bystanders make reports but the person receiving the report decides it is not serious or forgets or other.
However, in order to save lives and prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future, suspicious activities and other red flags must be reported to the appropriate personnel immediately and ongoing. By providing employees, victims, bystanders, responders and third-parties the ability to confidentially report suspicious behaviors, they will feel more comfortable and more likely to move from bystander to hero.
Many times one single behavior might not constitute a genuine threat, but when all of the dots are connected, a serious problem may be revealed. For example, maybe one employee hears that John Doe has threatened to “make everyone pay”. A different employee learns that John recently broke up with his girlfriend. A third employee sees John putting a suspicious bag in his locker. Each of these events separately may not be reason for concern, but when connected….
Organizations must ensure they are “connecting the dots” at the individual level and sharing the right information with the right people at the right time. And lessons learned show the right tools can help make the shift from “lone wolf” terrorists to “lone wolf” heroes.