January 23, 2014

High consequence and low frequency: A simple phrase with a far reaching meaning for the Homeland Security community. This is what a terrorist attack does; it changes our way of life and forces us to think differently. The one attack that occurs at a low frequency has consequences that extend well past the total number of victims.

To change our way of life, the terrorists do not have to maintain a perfect attack record. Conversely, the Homeland Security community must be perfect. Eventually, we might begin to relax and move past the last attack. We might even start to adjust our security procedures and posture for efficiency and convenience. That is when the next attack happens.

To say preventing or mitigating the next attack is a challenge is an understatement; however, Indicators of the Terrorist Attack Cycle Course (ITAC) is three steps in that direction. ITAC is a three-level course suite starting at Awareness, moving to Basic, and culminating at Advanced. The suite is designed to develop observational skills that - when coupled with appropriate and timely information sharing - could prevent a terrorist attack on a domestic target. The highlight of both the Basic and Advanced courses is the in-depth Red Team scenario-based exercise.

Instructors familiarize students with each of the terrorist attack cycle phases and then separate students into groups for the Red Team exercise. The Red Team exercise requires students to move through the attack cycle as if they were the terrorist cell attempting to conduct an attack on the fictional city of Rosterfield.

"Fire, Police, and EMS; we all work together. Anything the one discipline learns, the others can learn from as well."

-Rudy Medina, FDNY, Bureau of EMS, Communications Division

This requires students to think critically and beyond the scope of their respective disciplines with the goal of creating better observational skills. The Red Team exercise assists students in identifying observable activity and vulnerabilities that they may not have considered. The most recent delivery of ITAC: Basic had 14 students from Law Enforcement, EMS, Fire, Military, Emergency Management and private security that added a variety of backgrounds and view points during each phase of the attack cycle.

After working through the attack cycle from the planning phase to the successful execution of the terrorist attack, students proceed to the case studies. The case studies afford students an in-depth and analytical look at recent real-world events with a focus on the "left-of-boom" or pre-attack events.

Students participate in the Red Team exercise

Students compare and contrast the Red Team exercise with these case studies. These discussions challenge students to apply concepts from the attack cycle and identify observable activity in real-world events. The case studies are followed by a module on information sharing, bringing the course full circle by teaching students ways to report suspicious and potentially terrorism-related activity.

The latest delivery of ITAC: Basic occurred on January 16-17, 2014 at the State Preparedness Training Center with Michael Savallo, Stephen Phillipe and Derek Morrison instructing. ITAC: Advanced is scheduled to be delivered February 20-21, 2014 and the next delivery of ITAC: Basic is scheduled for delivery March 3-4, 2014.

Interested individuals should contact the SPTC at or (315) 768-5689 for more information.