Preparing for a Paris-Style Attack in the United States

 The NCSP keeps pace with emerging threats to bolster preparedness.

The ISIL attacks in Paris on November 13th left the world stunned. How did this happen? Increasingly across New York State and the country, the attacks have prompted the question: “what if it happens here?”
Since it was founded in 2007, the National Center for Security & Preparedness (NCSP) has been dedicated to working with emergency responders and the homeland security community to proactively answer those questions. The NCSP is part of the University at Albany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC), and provides homeland security training (especially counter-terrorism training), research, and subject matter expertise.

Being prepared involves staying current with the ever-evolving threat landscape, effectively sharing threat information, and encouraging vigilance on the part of the general public and responder community at large. The NCSP brings together subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the country who have an average of 27 years’ national and international experience. This diverse group of perspectives allows the NCSP to develop flexible solutions to complex issues from all sides.

“Face to face communication between EMS and Law Enforcement on-scene command facilitates integrated response.”

The combined efforts of NCSP SMEs, researchers, and staff keep the Center, its partners, and its clients ahead of the curve regarding emerging and evolving threats. For example, in 2011, the NCSP began training responders and analysts on the dangers and indicators of Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP)-based improvised explosives. While it is difficult to produce TATP that is stable enough to transport, the precursors are relatively accessible – making TATP an enticing choice for terrorists. TATP was the primary explosive used in the suicide vests employed during the November 13th Paris Attacks. The workshop, developed for the NY State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), highlighted the indicators of TATP manufacturing. If responders and analysts are aware of the indicators, they may be able to identify a threat before it is realized.

While the homeland security community prepares and takes measure to prevent a Paris-style attack from occurring again, responders must be ready when the need arises. Should a similar attack occur on U.S. soil, our emergency responders must be well trained in neutralizing the threat and providing immediate care to victims; in short, stopping the killing and stopping the dying. The 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India highlighted this need. Operatives from the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba laid siege to India’s largest city for three days using highly-trained active shooters and improvised explosive devices. The Paris attacks used strikingly similar tactics.

“An EMS student re-evaluates a patient whose condition has declined due to incorrect initial care. This demonstrates how consequences of initial actions affect outcomes within a training scenario.”

In early 2009, the NCSP began development on the Advanced Active Shooters Scenario: Tactics & Operations (A2S2) course based on lessons learned from the attacks in Mumbai. This DHS-approved course trains law enforcement, EMS/fire rescue, and bomb technicians for an integrated response to a complex, coordinated attack. Students are immersed in scenario-based activities, challenging them to incorporate techniques learned in skill lanes and emphasized through discussion in order to achieve higher level objectives involving decision making and judgement.

Courses like A2S2 seek to change behaviors through consequences generated by Subject Matter Expert Instructors and Training Role Players, based on the actions students take. The course was developed for the NYS DHSES, and since 2009, 837 responders from 216 agencies, including FDNY and NYPD, across 57 counties in New York State have completed this course. Students have also come from NJ, MA, PA, CT, and Australia.

Preparing for a Paris-style attack will involve continued cooperation and commitment across the homeland security and public safety communities. The NCSP has already begun integrating lessons learned from the attacks in Paris, along with those in Beirut, Mali and San Bernardino; into its training efforts. The Center is excited to be a part of the new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, where its expertise will promote experiential learning for the next generation of emergency preparedness leaders, thinkers, and practitioners.

  • “Law enforcement escorts EMS into a warm zone, functioning as a rescue task force.”
  • “Burn moulage on a casualty of a simulated IED explosion.”
  • “NCSP Subject Matter Experts deliver the TATP workshop for emergency responders and analysts in April 2011.”
  • “EMS and Law Enforcement command coordinate resources and priorities.”
  • “EMS evaluates a patient while Law Enforcement conducts a search and establishes a perimeter during a simulated complex coordinate