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Safety First – How can you be terrorism aware?

From the recent Plano Police Department shooting, to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, terrorist threats are still prevalent. A Plano police officer shows us how to detect and report threats of terrorism.
Safety tips from a Plano Police Officer – how do you call 911?

Local Profile has partnered with Plano Police‘s crime prevention officer Chris Bianez to bring you important information on safety in Collin County. We will cover a different topic every week.

These may seem scary to talk about; the world can be a scary place. But rather than inciting fear, we want to help you be aware and empowered to make your Safety First.

The beginning of September brings a heaviness with it for many Americans. It's a still-grieving remembrance of a national tragedy: the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

There were 2,996 people killed in the September 11 attacks, as the world watched in real-time an unbelievable act of terrorism that took so much away from so many.

In the 20 years since, we've seen terrorism take on different forms: bombings, shootings, vehicle attacks. Especially as we observe to 20th anniversary of 9/11, many people are wary and on edge with terrorism's potential still in memory.

The Secretary of Homeland Security even issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin regarding the "current heightened threat environment" across the country right now.

What is driving the "heightened threat?" Several elements, including: pandemic-related stressors contributing to increased societal strains, the reopening of institutions (like schools and church), continued coverage of Afghanistan falling to Taliban control, or even extremists who may derive inspiration from events such as 9/11 in the lead-up to its anniversary.

And after the recent shooter who murdered a Garland woman and attacked the Plano Police Department claimed to be inspired by foreign terrorist acts, the heightened concern over terrorism threats is valid.

How can you be aware and informed about threats of terrorism?

Whether it's something you observe that just seems off, or if a possibility becomes an active threat, here are some guidelines from Plano Police Officer Chris Bianez.

Being terrorism aware tip #1: Stay vigilant to "off" behavior (that includes on social media!)

Sadly, there are people out there who just want to be known for something - anything. That's why it's so important to be vigilant, and report anything that just doesn't look right, or something that seems off.

After the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017, investigators found out that the shooter had actually gone to a shooting range beforehand, rented out all of the lanes, and laid targets on the ground. He was walking up and down the aisles, shooting down at the targets later. Now of course, he knew that people would fall to the ground or go down for cover when he planned the attack. He would walk up and down the aisles of that church, and shoot them. So he practiced that, and rented out all the lanes at a shooting range so no one would see him shooting down at targets.

But that should have been a clue to the range master that day.

Also, if someone uses their social media to post something that might foretell a pending act of violence, like "today's the day" or a "next week, people will see..." kind of thing, screenshot and share with law enforcement. A lot of times in the past, we've seen people who actually will announce what they're about to do. It's important to notify authorities so that they can do the follow up.

You know that gut feeling, that intuition telling you something's not right. Sometimes you can't articulate it. The good news is you don't have to articulate it -- but you can trust it and report it.

Being terrorism aware tip #2: If you see something, say something

When we get a call from a citizen, that's a great lead. More often than not, people fail to call and later realize they should have called. So we're really trying to emphasize that if they see something, they should say something.

You don't have to know for certain that a crime has been committed. All you have to do if you see something suspicious -- a person, vehicle or circumstance -- immediately call 911 and get the officers to come out and investigate.

The Department of Homeland Security has a site for reporting suspicious activity and potential terrorism tips, once local authorities have been utilized first.

Being terrorism aware tip #3: Keep yourself informed

Keep up to date on the DHS materials and announcements, and keep an eye on the travel advisories that the U.S. government has put in place.

You can read the latest National Terrorism Advisory Bulletin, and further educate yourself on the current state of terrorism, and what might be potential catalysts for threats that you should be aware of right now.

Also, know how to calmly make a 911 call (and know that it's okay to call 911!) in order to communicate what's important to the dispatcher, so that local police can get to you and investigate the threat - whether it's active, or something that you believe is just "off."

It could save a lot of lives.

Learn more about staying informed about emerging public threats from Officer Bianez: