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Training That Saves Lives

Caitlin A. Durkovich, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection
Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection

An Orlando nightclub. A Wisconsin shopping mall. A San Bernardino, Calif., public meeting room. Crowds cheering Boston Marathon runners, or people walking along New York City sidewalks.

In just a few seconds, these became horrific scenes when terrorists used knives, guns and bombs to attack the most unsuspecting Americans, leaving many to ask: “What can I do?”

“Take a class” sounds like a trite reply, but our training has been credited with saving lives.

November is Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month, and I want to take a moment to highlight some of the efforts our Office of Infrastructure Protection has taken to educate and train employees of small and medium size businesses, faith-based organizations, and other venues that attract large groups of people as part of the Hometown Security initiative. DHS provides information, tools, training and resources, including training for active shooter attacks, bomb threat awareness, how to identify and report suspicious activity, and more.

It has never been easier to learn online how to identify and report suspicious behavior, what homemade bomb parts look like, or how to “run, hide, or fight” in an active shooter situation.

While we cannot prevent every attack, we do know that training can save lives. A recent Department of Justice critical incident review of the 2015 active shooter attack in San Bernardino cited active shooter training as a key reason some people survived the attack. Many recognized the active shooter situation immediately and knew to run and hide. Another example is the 2013 Boston Marathon. Hailey Harris of Cambridge, Mass., who survived the second bomb blast, credits DHS bomb prevention training with saving her life. She said she knew from the training to stay sheltered in the event of a second bomb near the first. The second bomb exploded nearby as she stayed sheltered in a restaurant encouraging others to do stay put.

I encourage all business owners to take our online training and reach out to one of our more than 100 DHS Protective Security Advisors (PSAs) across the country for more help. Respected members of the local homeland security community, PSAs help connect people with training, planning, risk assessments and other resilience activities.

At the end of the day, while we cannot eliminate all of the threats we face, we can improve our chances of surviving with training and practice.

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