U.S. Faces Al-Qaida Terrorist Threats, Lacks Vigilance Since 9/11, Speaker Says

Emergency management expert Gordon Graham addresses risk management, homeland security at IAEM Conference.

by / November 20, 2008

The nation has become complacent since 9/11 and lacks a healthy respect for the risks we face from terrorism, according to Gordon Graham, who captivated attendees at the 56th International Association of Emergency Managers Conference Nov. 18, 2008, in Kansas City, Kansas.

Graham, a 33-year veteran of law enforcement, an attorney and internationally recognized source on risk management, cited recent attempts by homegrown al-Qaida cells that plotted destruction within the country. One group aimed to kill members of the U.S. military at Fort Dix. One member delivered pizzas to Fort Dix. Another member tried to convert a videotape to DVD but the store clerk who was dubbing the tape alerted officials after seeing the men shooting and shouting for jihad. U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie was quoted as saying "I couldn't be sure what would happen," if they hadn't gotten the tip.

Another group was found in possession of job applications from Oakland, Calif., and Philadelphia police departments.

"You have to have a healthy respect for the dangers you face," Graham said. "We're not respectful of risk; we've fallen into complacency with regard to terrorism."

Graham said there are people inside and outside an organization who can do harm both intentionally and unintentionally, and he said vigilance is the only way to protect against outside threats, and vigilance isn't what it was on Sept. 12, 2001. He said for a public safety agency or any other organization to be a "mission-ready organization" it has to be vigilant in terms of hiring good people, making them accountable and continuously training.

Graham suggested testing employees daily. He said when an employee signs on to a computer at the beginning of a shift, a drop-down box with a quick quiz would keep employees learning. He said employees should be tested regularly about their core critical roles before a disaster. "When a disaster occurs, most don't know [their core roles] until after the fact," he said. He said training should be continuous -- daily even.

"Training has to be constant and rigorous," he said. "Every day is a training day."