Enemy at the Gate: Stay alert to guard safety

Nov. 1, 2001
On September 11, 2001, the United States of America was sucker-punched by a bunch of fanatics who were sent to their deaths along with 6,000 plus innocents

On September 11, 2001, the United States of America was sucker-punched by a bunch of fanatics who were sent to their deaths along with 6,000 plus innocents, by a maniac who has the audacity to call us the great Satan. The attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington hurt us, but we are still on our feet. We were all angry and maybe a little scared right after it happened, but the anger and fear were replaced with a cold resolve after we heard the President’s speech and his promise that we will bring those responsible to justice.
Justice will take time my friends, and we will win, but we as a nation must expect getting hurt some more while we close in on them. Some of us will lose friends and family in the final battles. While this will be a hard price for us to pay, the only alternative to not wiping out terrorism is to give our kids and grandkids a world filled with ever increasing levels of terror.

Weapons of terrorism
Terrorism’s main weapon is the creation of individual fear and loss of confidence in government’s ability to protect its citizenry. Religious or political terrorist groups are usually well financed and trained. Depriving them of their funding and their leadership will cause the rest of the terrorist followers to dissolve into splinter groups who will continue to fight for power amongst themselves.
Speaking in broad terms, most terrorists are not impossible to catch. Their speech and actions give them away because their brains have been laundered with hate propaganda. Hate and fanaticism always makes one jerky and suspicious. Your average terrorist is not superior in strength or intelligence; the opposite is usually true. The trick to defeating them is not to get sucker-punched in the first place. So stay alert, stay aware, and be smart, and we will win this war on terrorism a whole lot faster.

Know your enemy
What can you as an aviation professional do to stop terrorism? First rule in any battle is to Know your Enemy. Get on the Internet and do a little research on terrorist tactics. Find out who they are, what they want, and see if any of the previous tactics can be used against your place of business.
Control the playing field
Second rule is to Control the Playing Field. It’s your hangar, your airport, your facility. If anything looks suspicious on the parking lot, ramp, inside the terminal, or hangar, look into it! Trucks and cars that are parked close to buildings, sealed boxes left in bathrooms, people hanging around all day with video cameras or taking notes all need to be investigated. Rethink the access to fuel facilities, parts rooms, baggage transfer areas, and sterile areas.

Plan for the worst
The third rule is to Plan for the Worst. Have both an individual and company action plan in place to handle all possible terrorist acts including chemical, biological, hostage takeover, and bombs. Make sure your company’s action plan dovetails with the city, country, or airport’s emergency manual or plan. Have a list of emergency telephone numbers by the telephone so you can call if something looks suspicious or the worst has happened.

Keep everyone informed
Fourth rule is to Keep Everyone Informed. Rumors and not knowing what is going on can destroy company morale and raise an individual’s level of anxiety over the long run. Make sure your employees know the emergency plan and every few months have a dry run so everyone knows their part. Encourage your employees to get First Aid and CPR training. When employees are empowered and trained, the level of concern goes way down.

Control information
Control Information is the fifth rule. If someone asks too many questions on specific areas like, "How are bags screened?", or "What ID is allowed on the ramps?", or "When do fuel trucks deliver fuel to the fuel farm?"; tell them that you are busy or don’t know but you can find out. Ask them for their name and phone number and you’ll get back to them. Most likely, they will hang up, or leave, or you will get a false name and number. Either way, be sure to call the airport police, FBI, or local police immediately.

Challenge everyone
Sixth rule is Challenge Everyone. Whether you are in a small airport or a large facility, you should know what the ID of airport security and FAA personnel looks like. If anybody looks suspicious at an airport at first glance, it is the FAA. This is because our job is to ensure safety. So we appear to look too alert, too focused on what is happening around us to be just a passenger or another airline employee. There are three kinds of FAA employees that you will find at the gate area, ramp, or on board the aircraft.
1. Federal Air Marshal. They will do their best to blend in and will ride in the cabin and make sure nobody wants to take over the plane.
2. FAA Security Inspectors. They check the passenger screeners.
3. FAA Aviation Safety Inspector. These folks have jump seat authorization. You might see him or her on the ramp checking the aircraft or seated in the cockpit or standing in the cabin. If you are not sure who they are, challenge them and ask them for their ID.

Check the credentials
Federal Air Marshal’s ID will be a gold badge with blue lettering that spells out the words "Federal Air Marshal" along with a photo ID card. The Air Marshal is authorized to carry a weapon. So the bulge in his jacket is not his palm pilot.
FAA Security Inspectors don’t carry any heat but they do have a gold badge with blue lettering that says "FAA Special Agent," as well as a photo ID.
The FAA Aviation Safety Inspector will be either operations or airworthiness type and is not authorized to carry a weapon. These folks have two picture IDs, FAA Form 8000-39, which says the Inspector has access to the ramp and the FAA 110A form, which is required in order to ride the jump seat. Besides the picture ID, you should check the 4-digit ID number above each photo. If you are not sure if the individual is FAA, ask a couple of questions like, What is your ID number? He should repeat the 4-digit number. Or better yet, ask him what office he works for and the office telephone number and then make the call.
Let us not forget that America is best known for its teamwork. We aviation professionals can help the President and ourselves win this battle over terrorism by becoming pro-active in our nation’s defense. We must garner within ourselves the same fire and will-to-win attitude that united our country during World War II. This is not a hard thing to do. Our grandparents and parents have shown us how it’s done. It’s our turn, and we must not fail them or our children. May God Bless America!

About the Author

Bill O'Brien