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What Should You Share on Social Media?

Might your good intentions make you a target?

Last week the Disaster Zone podcast was about “A Growing Threat of Violence Against Public Officials.”

I mentioned in a subsequent blog post here that emergency managers could become targets for extremists. In response to that, I received the information below that is one emergency manager’s experience with becoming a target of harassment and threats. The lesson I draw from all of the information shared is yes, it can happen to you.

From a reader:

“I listened to your podcast and wanted to provide you with a report from a series of threats that I received last year while planning a full-scale exercise for our fire responders and healthcare agencies.

“Each year the U.S. Health and Human Services with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) requires that CMS agencies conduct a tabletop and full-scale exercise to evaluate their emergency plans. I write and coordinate the exercises in Jefferson County, Kansas, and usually have other counties/agencies participate.

“We had already done the tabletop exercise with a wildfire that burns several acres, and reaches a nursing home, our Public Health offices and other responder buildings along with half of the city of Oskaloosa. The full-scale was to continue that same scenario and use 50 volunteers as live role-players to allow for Triage to be conducted. Other volunteers would stand as patients to be moved from each of the county long-term care facilities to alternate sites as part of the Continuity of Operations plans for each.

“Attached please find the report that I had submitted to our Kansas Fusion Center, Kansas Bureau of Investigations and the F.B.I. as well as our local Sheriff Department. The various agencies noted the veiled threats, but since there was not a direct threat against me, were not able to do much investigation. The closest one was the email on 9/13/2022, ‘Piece of sh**,’ and the emails from ‘Phil Shifley’ which when received made us cancel the exercise.

“At the beginning, I was receiving 40-50 calls per day, and then it stepped up to over 100 calls each day in the last week before the first scheduled day of September 24, 2022. We had rescheduled the exercise to October 15 due to other events planned in the county on the 24th. Both flyers for the original and fall-back date are attached.

“September 24, 2022, was identified by conspiracy groups due to a speech made by German politician Friedrich Merz made on the day after the Russian invasion of the Ukraine (February 24, 2022) but had said September 24, 2022 in his speech. (See attached)

“Due to the various emails and phone calls I received, we ended up cancelling the exercise, especially after a series of emails from a ‘Phil Shifley’ which I have also attached here [Not attached]. The name is part of an advertising campaign by DirectTV.

“That Phil Shifley LinkedIn site has a large amount of likes that are too large to include here.

“Most of the calls or emails were about how much we were paying the actors to do the disaster actions, or accusing me of planning a False Flag event, and in some cases, that we were filming it to say it was attacks that would be attributed to the war in the Ukraine.

“I spoke with all of the callers, explaining this was a local training exercise for firefighters/EMS to be prepared for wildfire injuries. Some believed me, many did not, and some only cussed me out and then hung up. I even received an email from a Q-Anon supporter (Attached).

“Many calls or emails referenced activities I recognized as Antifa type events. I found that my original request for local volunteers had been grabbed and posted on almost every type of social media site, many I had never heard of. I received calls from all around the world, every province in Canada, every U.S. state, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and different locations in Europe. Many were blocked as to caller ID.

“Our Sheriff had requested that I carry a firearm, which I did, and I also was at the location that had been advertised as our exercise site, on the first date and then the secondary date, and observed on the first one two suspicious vehicles that each originally turned into the fire station, but quickly left after seeing there was no exercise in progress.

“Both vehicles had blacked out windows. The first had no license plates or identifying numbers visible and the second had plates from Canada.

“No suspicious vehicles were apparent on the secondary date. I had received continuing phone calls up to the end of October, but the emails stopped after Sept. 24.

“Conclusion: I have learned to not openly discuss training or exercises on social media, and only make requests to my known volunteers.”
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.