Artificially Generated Seizures: The Kurt Eichenwald Incident

In December of 2016, Kurt Eichenwald, a prominent journalist who writes for Newsweek and Vanity Fair, received the following tweet along with a gif (animated picture).

As Eichenwald is publicly known to suffer from epilepsy, it’s reasonable to assume this act incorporated a blatant degree of malicious intent.  After a lengthy three month investigation, the FBI arrested John Rivello of Salisbury, Maryland, the alleged sender of the tweet.  Rivello has been charged in federal court with cyberstalking and could face a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Since the story was widely circulated, there have been additional reports of people sending strobes and flashing images that could potentially trigger seizures.  Obviously, this goes well beyond hate speech designed to inflict emotional pain.  This is an attempt to technologically inflict injury and possibly even death.  It is clearly an attempt to “weaponize” social media.  And by the way, this is hardly the first time an incident like this has happened.  It’s just merely the first high profile one of its kind.

Roughly 1 in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.  An estimated 3 million Americans and 65 million people worldwide currently live with epilepsy.  In two-thirds of patients diagnosed with epilepsy, the cause is unknown.  This begs the larger question, do social media companies like Twitter and Facebook have a moral responsibility to “update” their legal disclaimers, or at the very least, shine a spotlight on the issue?  Are these companies ethically obligated to promote awareness campaigns in the hopes of enhancing personal safety?

There’s a predictably sad truth when it comes to “untested situational dilemmas” in the realm of public safety.  Bluntly speaking, large numbers of innocent people must die or be injured, before there is impetus for significant bureaucratic change.  Being proactive is rarely the norm because it dismantles plausible deniability arguments, while at the same time, inviting speculative lawsuits and increased litigation.

The spectrum of hate speech is rapidly moving beyond the infliction of emotional suffering and mental distress.  We, as a society, have entered a new era.

Sticks and stones may break my bones
but words will never hurt me.

The time has come to rethink that age-old adage.  In the wireless age, it seems to apply less and less.

Take a look at where technology is trending.  The prevalence of cell phones, wireless hyper-connectivity, the faster transmission of real-time information, cyber-bullying and the ability to penetrate and saturate the public with false content, hoax messaging, viral deception, phishing scams, emergency alerts, fake news, etc.

Back in 2011, I speculated about the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede.”  A scenario where a significant number of individuals in a large, confined crowd (stadium, ballpark, etc.) receive deliberately false or panic-inducing information designed to spark a stampede.  The concept is not terribly complex.  It’s simply the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

Seems like it might be a good time for someone to explicitly share the TRUTH.  Official emergency evacuation orders for large venues would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone.  This represents the bare minimum of common sense, public safety information that government and private industry should be willing to divulge.

Since the majority of people don’t spend a lot of their free time speculating about outdated emergency evacuation protocol, maybe it would be wise, if someone, other than myself, stepped up to the plate.  Considering the overwhelming evidence that government and private industry won’t go anywhere near this asymmetric cyber-threat (killing people without conventional weaponry), I would humbly suggest that an individual, perhaps a celebrity, journalist or popular musician, take action on humanity’s behalf.  I’ve been giving it my best shot for several years.  But nobody’s willing to discuss the matter.  Go figure!

Zambia Stampede Analysis

Eight people were killed and 28 others seriously injured in a stampede in Zambia’s capital of Lusaka on March 5, 2017.  A crowd of roughly 35,000 had gathered outside the Olympic Youth Development Center, part of an outreach program sponsored by the Church of Christ.  Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyongo, claimed the hosts failed to properly comply with the provisions of the Public Order Act.  The Zambian government has assured its people that a thorough investigation is underway to determine the cause of the stampede.

An official inquiry is important, but I think a little common sense detective work here might do the trick.

Note the description: Free Entrance & Free Food parcels.

Zambia and surrounding countries in Southern Central Africa have been hit by a severe drought since 2015.  This has led to a spike in food prices across the board.  Now keep in mind, almost 50% of the country falls under the economic classification of extreme poverty.  Obviously, this makes for some volatile circumstances a/k/a triggers.  Money and food can be very powerful motivators.  Especially when you’re broke and hungry.  It makes one wonder… had the ticket NOT explicitly stated “free food,” a mere eight letters, would the stampede have ever taken place?

There’s usually a reason why people panic.  An explanation.  A justification.  People don’t just spontaneously run for their lives.

Last year’s Indianapolis 500 had a record crowd in excess of 300,000, roughly 10x the size of the Zambian crowd.  Hmm, have you ever wondered why the Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn’t release specific attendance figures?  Seems like a peculiar snippet of information to deliberately withhold.  Especially when it’s the most heavily attended sporting event on the planet earth.

Fortunately, the race went off without a hitch.  However, if you were to introduce a few hypothetical, unexpected variables into the equation, it could demonstrably alter the crowd’s psyche.  Things might take a turn for the worse.

What if, during the course of the four hour race, President Trump tweeted… “Hijacking out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport!  Plane has altered course toward central Indiana.  Transponder has been turned off.  Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be at risk!  Get those fans outta there!  NOW!!!”

What if, news reporters, sports journalists and fans at the race were besieged with targeted bomb threats on their social media accounts?  Would information of this nature spread quickly?  Think about it.  The only thing easier than tweeting is re-tweeting.  Copying and pasting is a lot easier than creating original content.

What if a rumor spread that beloved Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was giving away signed footballs at a fixed merchandise location on the concourse?  What might happen when people see others aggressively leaving their seats and unexpectedly running in the same direction, up and down metal steps for no apparent reason?  If you’ve ever witnessed a person fall down a flight of steps, it’s a really uncomfortable feeling.  Keep in mind, the decibel level at the Indy 500 exceeds every other sporting event on the planet earth.  What happens when you can see, but you cannot hear?  I’d imagine that verifying anything becomes a far greater challenge.

Residents of the central U.S., particularly states like Indiana, have become very familiar with cellular emergency notifications.  Now most people don’t question the authenticity of the WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert).  If the text reads, “Tornado approaching.  Take shelter now,” most sensible people will seek shelter.  But what might happen if there’s an accidental saturation of an imminent threat?  What if it’s fake news at the wrong time?  What if it’s real news at the wrong time?

Those were four relatively “colorful” scenarios.  But I honesty doubt you’d have to display this level of cunning to induce an artificially generated stampede.  Truth be told, there are upwards a dozen different ways to push information into large, confined crowds.  These dozen ways morph into an infinite number of options and scenarios.  Since we’re currently in the month of March, try thinking in terms of an NCAA bracket.

So here’s the bad news.  There is no reasonable contingency plan for an artificially generated stampede.  Mitigation wouldn’t be an effective tool for an undiscussable, “black swan” event that occurs in real-time.  O.O.D.A. loops (Observe, Orient, Decide Act) do not function properly when the variable of “time” is removed from the equation.

I’ll state the obvious.  Emergency evacuation protocol won’t function when it’s a self-evacuation.  Because the protocol is rendered worthless and irrelevant.  Because you got a stampede on your hands.  It’s my contention — assuming an insidious degree of malicious intent, accompanied with a certain mark of technical expertise (concerted hack, deliberate or accidental misuse of a wireless alert or opt-in notification system, etc.)… instead of “Houston, we have a problem,”  I think you’d probably be hearing the alternative version.  “Indy, we have a problem.

Unexpected variables can have unintended consequences.  Perhaps the time has come to just tell people the truth.  Cell phones, large crowds and wireless hyper-connectivity might not make for a good mix.  If you honestly believe the scenarios I’ve outlined could never result in confusion or panic, potentially resulting in a deadly stampede, well… that’s okay.  It’s your opinion and I respect it.  Regardless, I think most people would agree, that at the very least, this is uncharted territory.  That something along these will eventually happen… sometime, somewhere at some point.

But I think the superior question is this.  Could any of these scenarios be ATTEMPTED?  What happens when an individual or group willfully decides to test the cracks in the system?  Then what?  Regardless of what transpires, where does society go once the cat’s out of the bag?  Would we continue to maintain the status quo, purposely remaining ignorant and oblivious?  I don’t think so.  Not when someone’s trying to weaponize a stampede(s) and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians.  That’s a pretty big deal.

Therein lies the ethical rationale for having a frank discussion about the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  Because it’s more than a public safety issue.  It is a moral one.


Analysis of the 2017 Jewish Community Center Bomb Threats

Donald Trump’s February 27, 2017 speech before Congress set a new precedent.  It was the first time that bomb threats have been formally referenced in a presidential prime time address.  Is this significant?  I believe it is.  Feel free to make your own determination.

It was the fourth sentence into his speech.  Obviously, Trump thought the issue was important.  Or maybe his professional speech writers thought it was important.  Regardless, someone in the administration thought it was important.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, the first lady of the United States.

And citizens of America, tonight, as we were — as we mark the celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains to be done.

Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.

Over 100 distinct locations have been impacted.  These threats against Jewish Community Centers occurred in waves.  They were delivered in the form of a series.  January 9, January 18, January 31, February 20.  The latest succession came on February 27, the day before Trump’s congressional address.  The fallout has been notable.  Mass evacuations, disruption, chaos, etc.  Fear and paranoia become the norm.  Many parents have also pulled their children resulting in significant financial loss.  These are the typical consequences of sustained bomb threat campaigns.  I wrote extensively about the issue in 2013 when the University of Pittsburgh was plagued with a similar pattern.

There’s a striking similarity between the main page of my AGSAF website (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) and the CNN graphic regarding the recent saturation of automated bomb threats directed at Jewish Community Centers across the nation.


Is it just me, or does anyone see a conceptual equivalence?  Of course, my concerns are of greater magnitude and consequence.  Mammoth NFL stadiums vs. tiny Jewish community centers.  But the model is the same.

NFL security has an unwritten, unspoken “no evacuation” policy.  If they absolutely must, they’ve demonstrated a willingness to stage partial evacuations to the concourses for imminent threats such as lightning strikes.  But complete, full scale evacuations?  Uh, no.  And for bomb threats phoned into their operation centers?  Uh, most definitely no.

For the record, there have been many past incidents of bomb threats being called directly into NFL stadiums while games were in progress.  The National Football League is not magically immune to this problem.  Allow me to reiterate.  The NFL does not evacuate for bomb threat conditions.  Largely because it would establish a horrible precedent.  Now a bomb threat emergency might be a different story, but the circumstances would require a ridiculously high threshold of imminent danger and real-time evidence.  A prerecorded, masked robo-call isn’t going to be sufficient cause.

NFL stadiums are wirelessly hyper-connective environments.  A quick friendly reminder – virtually every fan has a cell phone capable of receiving instantaneous information.  And while the NFL does have a relatively futile protocol in place for handling direct bomb threats, they have absolutely nothing in place to deter threats from directly saturating everyone inside the stadium.  How do I know this?  Well, two reasons.

I.  Real-world monitoring systems do exist (Stingray technology, FPAT – Force protection Alert Tool, etc.).  But a system that separates bad/dangerous information from good/safe information, and filters it accordingly, in real-time no less?  That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Because if the technology did exist, phoned in bomb threats themselves would cease to exist.

II.  At some point, from an operational standpoint, it would be necessary to explicitly inform fans, “Please be advised, if an emergency evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, it is NOT our policy to disseminate the order via your personal cell phone or mobile device.”  That’s because the established protocol requires using the public address in tandem with the video monitors.  NOT CELL PHONES.

The sad truth — Government and private industry just aren’t in the habit of voluntarily exposing themselves, particularly if there could be a serious consequences.  They also don’t actively seek out ways to limit their power or scope of authority.  Plausible deniability is a big part of it.  As is potential litigation.  The lose-lose proposition is very apparent.  It’s part of the overall catch-22…

If you acknowledge a problem exists, you own it.  And if something bad ever happens, you’re totally screwed… because you didn’t do enough to prevent it.  Quite the paradox, eh?  Just enough to keep everyone silent even though the ramifications could be unusually dire.

Americans should consider the possibility of an artificially generated stampede(s).  Scenarios involving cellular-driven panic are becoming more and more common.  Think of it in terms of a reverse flash mob.  Eventually, one of these days, someone’s going to try and perpetrate an act of this nature.  It’s simply the wireless equivalent of “shouting fire in a crowded theater.”  Nothing more, nothing less.

Here’s something to think about.  Regardless of the fallout, people would ask a simple question — “What the hell was that about?”  Even if there were zero fatalities and zero injuries, common sense dictates this news would leak to the general public… that someone was trying to synthesize a panic.  At this point, there will be two very distinct options.  Tell people the truth or deliberately maintain the status quo and dismiss the incident entirely.

If panic and herding instincts kick in, and a sufficient number of people unexpectedly gravitate toward the concourses or rush the exits… it will become a story.  There’s no way to hide strange happenings in the confined presence of 50,000 – 100,000 eyes.  That’s actually 100,000 – 200,000 eyeballs.  And don’t discount the ten of millions of individuals in living rooms, bars and restaurants across the country.  Human beings are visual creatures and modern stadiums have outstanding “line of sight.”  This dynamic extends beyond the action on the field.

One more thing.  With a conundrum of this enormity, humanity won’t get a second chance.


Could Donald Trump’s Twitter Feed Be Weaponized?

trump-twitterWhen I’m asked about the “artificially generated stampede” or “dominipede” (multiple, simultaneous stampedes likely affecting the NFL 1 o’clock slate), I often get this look of skepticism and consternation.

“Well, assuming it’s a cellular-driven panic in the stadium, how would they get everyone’s cell phone number?”

This particular question is frustrating because it demonstrates the linear approach most people have regarding concepts which require a certain degree of cognitive speculation.  Unfortunately, most people have difficulty comprehending hypothetical scenarios in the realm of cyber-security.

Truth be told, there are all kinds of ways to directly acquire a list of cell numbers.

The concerted hack of a wireless carrier provider, the hijacking of an Amber, NWS (National Weather Service) or Presidential Terror Alert, intentional misuse of a reverse 911 platform or opt-in notification system, acquisition of a season ticket holder list in conjunction with a bulk messaging service, Stingray technology (a small lightweight device that functions as a phony cell tower) in tandem with a real-time mass notification system (texts, robocalls, phishing scams, etc.).  Like I said, these are just some of the more obvious direct pathways.  I usually refer to them as “lights out” scenarios.

But there are far simpler methods.  Many of these would bypass the need for any phone numbers.  Instead, they’d utilize the internet and attempt to virally spread disinformation via social media platforms.  This would require little technical expertise.  And yes, it directly applies to our President Elect’s penchant for disseminating propaganda via twitter.

Since joining in 2009, Donald Trump has tweeted over 34,000 times.  This demonstrates an overwhelming proclivity for social media.  Whether it’s fueled by ego or narcissism is wholly irrelevant.  It appears that Trump’s notorious twitter rants are here to stay.

And with 17+ million followers and growing, that’s a pretty big audience.  The majority of his fan base has pledged blind allegiance and seem willing to obediently comply with his rhetoric, without much effort to engage in critical thinking.  Now could this be a recipe for disaster?

What might happen if… during the NFL season on any given Sunday afternoon, Trump’s twitter feed was “hacked?”  What if it relayed the following tweet?

Terrorism Alert!  This is NOT a test.
Emergency evacuations underway at all NFL stadiums.

How might the general public react when faced with this unique tidbit of information?  Would anyone be inclined to share or hit a retweet button (as most people generally know someone who regularly attends NFL games).

Not convinced?  How about one of Trump’s patented tirades… or tweetstorms?

For the sake of authenticity, I’ll try to recreate his stylistically fragmented script, often noted for incorrect punctuation and capitalization, poor grammar, occasional misspellings and alarmist rhetoric.  140 characters might not seem like a lot to work with, but the condensed phrasing could have “unpresidented” implications.  For example…

Emergency FAA report: 5-10 planes hijacked.
NFL stadiums could be targeted.
Get those fans outta there!  NOW!!!

Just briefed. This is real-world.  Not a drill.
All NFL stadiums have been ordered to evacuate.
Exit immediately!  DO NOT PANIC!

FBI/DHS ALERT:  Imminent terrorist threat.
Eastcoast & Midwest football stadiums.
Remain calm.  Exit all venues completely.

Roughly 60 seconds pass.

Presidential Terror Alert:
The United States is officially at DEFCON 1.

Maximum level of readiness.
Stand by for further information and take shelter instructions.

Now let me ask a rhetorical question.  In this day and age, how long do you think it would take for the major cable news outlets (CNN, MSNBC, FOX) to pick up a story like this?  How long until they engage their BREAKING NEWS alerts on live television?  What about the hundreds of local news channels and thousands of reporters?  Their social media platforms?  Print media and radio?  What about… uh, everyone?  It’s called an “info-bomb” but I prefer the term “viral blitzkrieg” as the information would be designed to grow in an exponentially, decentralized fashion.

All you’d really need are a few key buzzwords that evoke fear and a sense of urgency (bomb, active shooter, IED, drone, etc.).  Please note how this specific terminology wasn’t even necessary.  I won’t even bother touching on the prospect of photos, GIFs, videos, links, etc.

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.  There is no realistic, viable contingency plan for something of this nature.  You cannot mitigate a real-world panic and an ensuing stampede.  The only solution lies with enhancing situational awareness and explicitly informing people that official stadium evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their cell phones.  Because the correct protocol dictates using the public address system and the video monitors.  NOT CELL PHONES.  Trust me, if it’s coming from your phone, it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax.  The only other possible explanation would be that someone is trying to evacuate a stadium(s) solely for their own personal amusement.  And that wouldn’t be good either.

Time to interject a little techno-sarcasm.  Did you know there has NEVER been a high profile social media hack?

No celebrities, no politicians, no universities, no retail outlets, no hospitals or pharmaceutical companies, no airlines, no banks, no government agencies or departments.  Everyone and everything is now invincible.  In particular, the NFL is unexploitable and untouchable.  In case you didn’t notice, the sarcasm has continued unabated.

Well, at least the tech industry is safe.  Except for a few insignificant nobodies like Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google) and Mark Zuckerburg (CEO of Facebook).  And oh yeah, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently had his account compromised and suspended due to an “internal mistake.”  Like I was saying, just an assortment of irrelevant nobodies.

Now let me pose a question.  From a hacker’s perspective, who and what would be the most prized target worldwide?  If your answer is Donald Trump and his twitter account… well, I think you just hit the nail on the head.


Don’t worry so much.  That seriously happened back in 2013.

But just for the sake of devil’s advocate, let’s assume the aforementioned Trump twitter hack actually played itself out.  And everyone accurately deciphered it was a hoax and nobody panicked.  Okay, well I guess congratulations would be in order.  Kudos to the collective American consumer and their sharp instincts.

Personally speaking, I think that’s asking a bit much.

The better question is this: Wouldn’t people demand something be done in its aftermath?  You know… since someone was trying to indiscriminately kill about one thousand innocent civilians by weaponizing a series of human stampedes?  Based on prior stadium stampede models abroad, that’s roughly 100 fatalities per stadium.  Oh yeah, and injuries somewhere in the realm of 5,000 – 10,000.  After all, we’re talking about 10+ stadium stampedes.

Wouldn’t the next logical step involve telling people the TRUTH about outdated emergency venue evac protocol?  At the very least, that cell phones are NOT part of the initial equation.  Is that really asking too much?  You’d think there would be a moral and legal obligation to divulge generic public safety info such as this.  But you would be incorrect.  It’s all about plausible deniability, hypothetical litigation and the lose-lose proposition.  Nothing but downside.

So let’s take a gander at the upcoming NFL early game schedule.  If someone truly wished to irreparably pulverize the National Football League and synthesize the next 9/11, two particular days would tend to stand out.

Eight simultaneous games on Saturday, December 24, 2016… the day before Christmas.
Buffalo, New Orleans, Foxborough, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Cleveland, Chicago and Charlotte.

Everyone’s home for the holidays, gathered around the widescreen in the living room.  This would not make for an especially merry Christmas.

But far worse would be New Years Day… January 1, 2017

A season high 12, mostly meaningless games set to occupy the 1 o’clock slate.
Atlanta, Cincinnati, Landover, Nashville, Tampa, Detroit, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis, East Rutherford, Philadelphia and my hometown of Pittsburgh.

Obviously, this would not be a celebratory way to “kickoff” the new year.

What about this year’s Super Bowl in Houston, Texas?

Just briefed by Homeland Security.  Possible hijacking out of ELP (El Paso International Airport).  Super Bowl at NRG Stadium could be targeted!  Get those fans outta there NOW!!!

Plane is a 747 heading from El Paso to New Orleans.  FAA has lost all contact.  Their transponder has been turned off.  Not good.  

Of course the NFL and its security apparatus have it all figured out.  After all, they’re impervious to controversies and scandals.  Because when you think of Roger Goodell and the cadre of multi-billionaire owners, there’s one word that never comes to mind — hubris.

Do you recall the aforementioned sarcasm?  Well, I just took it one step further with a dash of derision, a round of ridicule and a mountain of mockery.

Wouldn’t it be ironic, if following a year of divisive rhetoric about Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails, Donald Trump found himself victimized by a similar fate?  Except vastly worse.  What if pre-teen son Barron grabbed his father’s cell phone off the table and decided to play a silly prank?  Makes you wonder who has a better grasp of wireless technology… the 10 year old or the 70 year old.  Of course, a mischievous billionaire kid would never seek to emulate dear old dad’s impetuous behavior.

Before you dismiss these concerns, it might be a good idea to think about the proliferation and ramifications of “fake news” as well.  Is this particular social media phenomenon escalating or subsiding?   Will there ever be any discernible real-time consequences?

“It’s now clear that so-called ‘fake news’ can have real-world consequences.  This isn’t about politics or partisanship.  Lives are at risk.  Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities.  It’s a danger that must be addressed, and addressed quickly.” — Hillary Clinton (in a December 8, 2016 speech honoring the retirement of Senator Harry Reid)

Ya wanna know something?  Upon reflection, I wouldn’t worry too much.  I’m sure the FCC, DHS, and the FBI have it all covered.  Just like the NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA and the NHL.  Ya wanna know something else?  On the night of the 2016 presidential election, pretty much everyone got it wrong.  The media, the political pundits and the polls. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Hmmm, I wonder if something like that could ever happen again.  I wonder if an isolated single act of cyber-terrorism will manifest itself as an epic, “black swan” event.

Could a “dominipede” be the next 9/11?

Facebook permanently blocked my “sharing” privileges long ago.  But feel free to share the link to this article on any social media platform regarding Donald Trump or the NFL.


Facebook Didn’t Kill 2,000,000… But Could It Kill 1,000?

Facebook “dead” bug

Facebook “dead” bug

Around 4 p.m. on November 11, 2016, facebook declared roughly 2 million of its users dead.  Even founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg was a victim.

People logged into their accounts and saw the following headline:

Remembering (insert name here)
“We hope people who love (insert name here) will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate their life.”

The company later claimed that it was a faulty system update.  A spokesperson apologized,  “For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialized pages was mistakenly posted to other accounts.  This was a terrible error that we have now fixed. We are very sorry that this happened and we worked as quickly as possible to fix it.”

Well, I guess nobody was physically hurt.  The damage was strictly emotional. Hey, it was just a glitch or a bug.  All’s well that ends well I suppose.

Forgive the sarcasm.  Now let me explain why this is actually a big deal.

When false messages are simultaneously pushed to 2,000,000+ individuals, it might be foreshadowing a hypothetical national security breach.   One that could result in an irrevocable calamity.

Facebook recently implemented something called “Safety Check.”  During an ecological disaster or imminent threat (floods, earthquakes, active shooters, suicide bombers, etc.), this feature allows people to quickly share with friends and family that they’re safe.

Facebook utilizes the following information and factors to determine if you’re in the affected area.

* The city you have listed in your profile.
* Your current location, assuming you’ve given facebook access to your phone or tablet’s location.
* Other signals that point to your location.  For example, the city where you predominantly use the internet.

Once you’ve confirmed that you’re safe, facebook prioritizes and relays the messaging to the users on your friends list.  Depending on your social media popularity, this could potentially result in thousands of high priority push notifications and updates for just one individual.  That would represent an exponential distribution of information.  Keep in mind, these algorithms and the intellectual property rights which accompany them are classified.  They are not available for scrutiny, review or public consumption.

Alright, now let’s try a hypothetical scenario based on the recent facebook mass death hoax.

During the NFL regular season, every Sunday features a slew of games that overlap during the 1-4 p.m. time frame.  The total, median attendance for these games is roughly 500,000 fans.  That’s a half million people in stadiums across the country.  These venues provide an extraordinary amount of wireless hyper-connectivity.

Now what does every individual at these games have in common?  Answer: Virtually all of them are carrying an active cell phone.  They’re texting and tweeting.  They’re posting status updates.  They’re showing off selfies and group pics. They’re checking scores and fantasy football stats.  Nearly all of them are sending and receiving instantaneous information.

This is the new norm.  Everyone wants the entire world to know they’re at the big game.  Don’t believe me?  Try going to a game.  Or better yet, just observe the fans during any televised broadcast.  Many appear oblivious to the action on the field, as they’re totally engrossed and beholden to their little smart phone screens.

Now do you recall the facebook “safety check” feature?  What might happen if hundreds, or worse yet, tens of thousands of individuals in targeted locations (NFL stadiums) received an emergency “safety check” while the games were in progress?  How might people react?  How might people react watching others react?  At the game?  Not at the game?  Nearby?  Far away?

What if it wasn’t a “bug” or an “accident?”  What if there was a concerted effort to saturate and target specific stadiums with false information?  Words have consequences.  What might happen in Buffalo and Pittsburgh… if things take a turn for the worse in say, Philadelphia and Atlanta?  In today’s world of wireless techno-velocity, how might people interpret an event that has never occurred, let alone been conceived of?

Yes, I’m talking about a real-world panic… an “artificially generated stampede.”  Whether it’s the result of a programming error or coding mishap really wouldn’t matter.  Would it?

Now here’s the bad news.  There’s about a dozen other ways to transmit information to people’s cell phones.  Social media represents just one of them.  And guess what?  A physical list of phone numbers isn’t required.

Emergency wireless notifications may have altered the playing field.   But the internet has transformed the entire game.

But this is NOT a game.  Historically speaking,  a stadium stampede has a death toll in the 50-150 range w/ 5x to 10x that number of injuries.

People have a right to a heightened level of situational awareness.  People should know that if they received a “safety check” while attending an NFL game, it’s almost certainly an attempt to foment a real-world panic, potentially resulting in a human stampede, or worst case scenario “dominipede” (multiple, simultaneous stampedes).

How can I say this with such certainty?  Well, it’s pretty much common sense.  If an NFL incident commander seeks to launch a real-world emergency evacuation, there’s already a very strict protocol in place.  You use the public address system in tandem with the jumbotron and the video monitors.  You alert the ushers via their headsets.  First, you clear the field.  Then, you evacuate the stands. There are things you say.  And there are things you don’t say.  Like I said, the protocol is paramount.  Nobody in their right mind would initiate a stadium evac via facebook alerts, safety checks or bulk text messaging.  That’s just not how it’s done.  Not only would it be a direct violation of the established protocol, but it would also represent gross negligence, both legal and moral, of an incomprehensible scale.

Go to an NFL game and you’ll see plenty of physical security.  Steel fencing, barricades, bomb detection scanners, video surveillance, magnetometers, scores of low-paid event staff, local police… the majority of which are all in plain sight.  There’s even an airspace perimeter grid that renders drones inoperative.  Oops,  sorry.  Nobody’s allowed to know about the “no-go, drone zone.”

But there’s virtually nothing in the realm of cyber-security.  It’s my contention that this invisible dynamic will be challenged in the foreseeable future.  Eventually, someone will test the cracks in the system.  There’s a discernible inevitability in play.  After all, it’s merely the wireless equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.  Just on a vastly more pernicious scale.

So this leaves us with two distinct choices.

A. You can inform people that there’s a POSSIBILITY someone could try to manipulate the collective behavior of the crowd.  You can explicitly divulge the existing security disconnect (50,000 – 100,000 cell phones in every stadium capable of receiving real-time, false information).  You can tell fans that official stadium evac orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.


B.  You can deliberately choose to leave humanity ignorant.

I’ll take the former.  The NFL and the federal government are aware of this asymmetric cyber-security threat.  And they have chosen the latter.  And they’re going to stick with the status quo… until and unless there’s a tragedy where innocent people die.

It’s a really twisted paradox.

Perhaps the future will unfold differently.  Perhaps nothing bad will ever happen.  Perhaps nobody would panic.  Perhaps there wouldn’t be a stampede.  But I’ll leave you with one vexing question —  what action will be taken after something like this is ATTEMPTED?

I guess it all comes down to a very simple question.  Do people have a fundamental right to know about this stuff?  I believe they do.  It’s why I created the site.


The Twitter Paradox and the Artificially Generated Stampede

twitter-deathRepublican presidential candidate Donald Trump once proclaimed, “To tweet or not to tweet.  That is the question.”  On second thought, maybe it was William Shakespeare or one of the Kardashians.  Not sure it matters.  One person’s visionary is another person’s imbecile.

For several years, I’ve been attempting to deliver an urgent public safety message to the general public.

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd (stadium, ballpark, etc.) and receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

I’m not going to offer a prolonged explanation of the “artificially generated stampede.”  There are 100+ articles on this site.  Pick a few at random and give ’em a read.  If you possess a 9th grade reading comprehension level, I’m fairly confident they’ll make sense.

I’ve written letters to federal agencies, members of Congress and state officials.  I’ve corresponded with NCAA Division I presidents, chancellors and university police chiefs.  I’ve repeatedly tried to gain the ear of the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, WWE, UFC, NASCAR and Indy Racing.  Results have been mixed.

Back when I launched my awareness campaign, I had some moral reservations about using social media to disseminate this specific message.  Because naturally, what if by putting it out there, it puts an idea in someone’s head?  What if someone decides to take the idea and run with it?  What if someone attempts to execute an artificially generated stampede?  It’s the most obvious concern and has been a recurring theme for five years running.

My research indicates that when I broach the subject, even though it’s a very generic concept, about 75% of the initial reactions are along the lines of, “Whoa, I never thought of that.”   Therefore, I believe it’s reasonable to assume that the average U.S. citizen does not have a sufficient grasp of how venue emergency evacuation protocol has been compromised, and in a sense, rendered permanently obsolete.

Nevertheless, I made a moral determination to use social media to spread the message.  Why?  Because I truly believe there is a moral imperative.  People have a right to know the truth.  Either the general population is allowed access to this generic public safety information OR they are not.  Either you tell people the truth or you deliberately conceal it.  These two propositions and their respective outcomes are mutually exclusive.  Much like a coin toss.  It’s either gonna be heads or tails.  You can’t have it both ways.

Since the government and private industry have made a “non-coordinated, covertly subversive” decision to withhold this information, I believe someone should have the courage to step up.  Because it’s reasonable to assume that one of these days, the variables and the dynamic will be put to the test.  Someone will test the cracks in the system.  The artificially generated stampede, whether intentional or unintentional, will eventually be ATTEMPTED.  Now, will it result in a full fledged stampede or worst case scenario dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes)?  Honestly, I do not know.  I imagine that would depend on a variety of factors: the level of technological sophistication, the ability to propel the information saturation in a decentralized fashion (VIRAL BLITZKRIEG), the quantity and variety of attack vectors and the degree of planning, determination and intent.

Now let me be blunt.  I am not the only person who has ever conceived of the wireless equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  However, I may be the only person to write about it… in exhaustive detail.  This leaves me with a uniquely precarious decision.

Is it morally justifiable to disseminate this specific brand of information via social media?

I believe the answer to be a resounding yes.

So why utilize facebook but not twitter?  It’s a question I’ve wrestled with and continue to do so.

Now this might be difficult to accept, but if you believe there’s a discernible inevitability in play… if you accept the futuristic premise of the artificially generated stampede, then you also must accept the fact that social media forums can be used as a weapon of terror.  No, not hurt feelings and lost compensation.  This isn’t about pride or money.  It’s about maiming and killing people, possibly on an incomprehensible scale.

So if you take a long-term event horizon regarding the ubiquitously expanding presence of social media, it stands to reason there’s an analogy in play.  Certain social media platforms would logically be more dangerous than others.  I doubt this will appear on next year’s SATs, but…

facebook : hand gun
twitter : AR 15

There’s this kind of weapon.

And then there’s this kind of weapon.



Another analogy.

posts on facebook : ordinary ammunition
tweets on twitter : hollow-point bullets

A hollow-point bullet has a pit or hollowed out shape in its tip.  It physically expands upon entry.  This decreases its penetration impact and enables it to destroy more of its target.

Yet another analogy.

facebook : using the “like” button
twitter : using the “retweet” button

All of those seemingly harmless hash tags could actually function as “indiscriminate force multipliers.”

For example, let’s speculate that someone wishes to create a panic in an NFL stadium.  The content of the tweet is relatively straightforward.  Just for the sake of argument, we’ll use the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The FBI and DHS have ordered an emergency evacuation for Heinz Field.  Remain calm.  Exit immediately. #pittsburghsteelers #HeinzField #MikeTomlin #BigBen

A second tweet could be sent with the same content, but alternating hashtags.
#NFL #SteelersNation #herewego #AntonioBrown #stairwaytoseven

The possibilities are infinite.

#cityofbridges #gameday #fantasyfootball #RogerGoodell
#postgazette #tribunereview #observerreporter

and so on.

Think of it in terms of bomb threats.  Policy and protocol exist to handle conventional bomb threats.  But not hoax bomb threats scaled for a decentralized, cellular saturation.  Eventually, this lack of contingency planning will come under scrutiny after someone challenges the status quo.  This is not terribly complex.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  Except it would likely be multiple theaters.  Instead of one threat, there are hundreds if not thousands.  Possibly tens of thousands.

Like I was saying, this isn’t rocket science.  There’s even a loose term for it — “infobomb.”  I’ve adapted that definition — “viral blitzkrieg.”  Information specifically attenuated for the purpose of spinning out of control while preying upon people’s fear and taking advantage of wireless communication channels.  This is the reason twitter presents an exceptionally dangerous social media platform.  Unless you curtly divulge the possibility of what might go terribly wrong.  And that’s why I feel uncomfortable using it over the long haul.

Rest assured, there are even bigger questions in play.

* Does a human stampede qualify as a weapon of mass destruction?

* Is it ethically conscionable to produce and advertise a blueprint for how to kill innocent civilians without conventional weaponry?

* What gives someone the right to broach an undiscussable cyber-security threat that could irreparably damage the entire sports and live entertainment industry?

* Can a single individual ultimately be held accountable for “societal engineering,” possibly ushering in a new era of reclusiveness and paranoia?

* Where does one draw the line between relaying necessary public safety information as opposed to haphazard fear mongering?

* Could one person essentially create and define a “black swan” event of irreversible consequence?

In the event of an artificially generated stampede or dominipede, I simply cannot fathom the notion that… well, we learned a valuable lesson, but nothing will come out of it moving forward.  That just wouldn’t make sense.

Think in terms of the aftermath of 9/11.  We witnessed the creation of the trillion dollar Department of Homeland Security as well as awareness campaigns that extend well beyond the airlines.  “See something, say something” applies to just about everything nowadays.  Every arena, every amphitheater, every motor speedway, every stadium, every ballpark, every train station, every county fair, every airport.  Why?  Well, because 9/11 was transformational.  It ushered in a new level of heightened situational awareness, and also, a reliance on cooperation from the general public.  It forced people to recalibrate their expectations regarding personal safety and physical security.

In summation, five years ago I decided to pursue a course of action — informing people of their human rights.  In this case, the right to be aware.  I saw something.  So I said something.  And I will continue to say something.  But do I have all the answers?  Of course not.  When faced with a hypothetically transformative issue that would alter the course of humanity, there’s no room for moral absolutism.  However, there’s plenty of space for moral relativism — propositions analogous to societal, cultural, and technological circumstances.

Make no mistake.  Challenging issues are often paradoxes.  Does a cancer-stricken grandmother illegally consuming a marijuana brownie (to help spur her appetite and cope with the chronic pain) send a bad message to her grandson Billy?  Do DUI checkpoints serve as an effective deterrent and bolster public safety OR do they violate laws governing unlawful search and physical detention?  What about the use of eminent domain to seize someone’s property in order to build a casino?  Does this violate personal property rights OR is it beneficial to the local economy.

My point — it all descends into a judgment call.  There are reasons these “paradoxical” issues are difficult to resolve.  Because anyone with a reasonable amount of intellectual fairness can see how these issues have two distinct sides.  Matters of tremendous significance are rarely black and white.

Let’s just say that it’s kinda difficult to solve a dilemma on behalf of the entire human race… all of it based on a hypothetical no less.  It’s likely impossible.  The best you can do is to present a moral case and deliver an appropriate amount of propaganda in an attempt to address something I’ve come to refer to as the “cataclysmic conundrum.”

After all, if you wanna fix sumpin’, you should admit there’s sumpin’ that needs a fixin’.  Otherwise, you ain’t gotta shot.



Click Don’t Type

ncaa-click-dont-typeOn August 1, 2016, the NCAA Executive Committee initiated some new rules governing the degree of social media interaction between players and recruits.

It’s known as NCAA Proposal 2015-48.



Title:  Athletics Personnel and Recruiting — Endorsements and Publicity — Actions on social media platforms

Intent:  To establish an exception to the restrictions on publicity before commitment that permits actions (e.g., like, favorite, republish, etc.) by an institutional staff member on social media platforms that indicate approval of content on social media platforms that was generated by users of the platforms other than institutional staff members or representatives of an institution’s athletic interests.

In layman’s terms, here’s what this is really about.

Ever since the inception of college football, there has been a “seedy underworld.”  One where coaches, athletic departments and wealthy alumni have tried to curry favor with prospective high school recruits.  The goal being to lure them into signing on with their respective university.  In some cases, it went far beyond purchasing them dinner and drinks.  There have been instances where high school kids were directly given cash, jewelry, iphones… even prostitutes, brand new cars and luxury apartments.

Make no mistake about it.  NCAA football is big business.  With a winning record comes bigger television contracts, brand new stadiums, prestigious bowl games and national championships.  In a word, it’s about money.  No surprise there.

I think we can agree on one thing.  High school kids these days appear emotionally and physically tethered to their cell phones.  They call, they text, they tweet, they post, and so on.

With the prevalence of social media platforms and non-stop flood of electronic information, this presents a real-world, “cyber-conundrum.”  After all, there’s facebook, twitter, snapchat, instagram, pinterest, vine, just to name a few.

The world of social media offers up an unusual predicament.  Coaches should be allowed to persuade kids and sell them on their university… but not go overboard.  Coaches are allowed to get involved… but not too involved.

To help rectify the dilemma, the NCAA Executive Committee devised a straightforward “Click Don’t Type” rule for dealing with social media and recruits.  The NCAA even devised a nifty hash tag campaign, #ClickDontType.  It allows coaches to regurgitate volumes of information at-will.  Kind of like automatic boastful mini-endorsements.

The absurdity here is almost too obvious.  A coach is allowed to befriend or follow a prospective student athlete.  They can private message them.  They can “like” or “favorite” one of their posts.  They can even share or re-tweet it.   But if they comment on a post or about a post, that would be a violation.  And if they “tag” or mention an athlete in a post, that’s also a violation.

Now most coaches are pretty busy.  Hey, it’s a high stress lifestyle.  Whether it be hammering out game plans or schmoozing alumni donors or attending cocktail receptions with the university president.  Let’s just say it’s a time-consuming, multifaceted job.  I would speculate that most head coaches simply do not have the time, desire or patience to constantly monitor and react to the thousands of comments on social media feeds.  Therefore, they’d likely delegate the task to a subordinate.

Rather than spending an entire day following posts on social media, some of these underlings might employ spam bots which get the task done in the most efficient way.  “Bot” is slang for internet robot.  It’s a software application that systematically performs repetitive tasks, such as liking, sharing or retweeting.

So here’s where this could present a problem from the outlook of stadium security.  These NCAA venues, some of which exceed 100,000 in capacity, are increasingly wirelessly hyper-connective environments.  Lots of cellular information being transmitted and received.

Now the overwhelming majority of fans and students who attend these games bring their cell phones into the stadiums.  This leaves them acutely vulnerable to receiving false information.  If an undisciplined high school recruit wanted to pull off a social media prank, it could have dire ramifications.

Imagine the possibility of information like this being “accidentally” re-posted by a head coach or university president .

*** Domestic Terrorism Alert ***

The United States Department of Homeland Security has issued emergency evacuations for the following NCAA Division I football stadiums:  Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH and Beaver Stadium, State College, PA.

Exit immediately. Remain calm.  Updates forthcoming.

Do you see how a hoax like this could potentially spiral out of control?  Virtually everyone has an active cell phone.  What about the coaching staff?  What about stadium employees?  What about teachers and faculty?  What about members of the administration?  What about fans, reporters and local celebrities?

Social media is capable of instantly disseminating information.  And it might not be the harmless banter, that we as a society, have grown accustomed to.  Everything is fine and dandy until someone tests the cracks in the system.

So what’s the solution?  Well, there is no perfect answer.  Why?  Because the weaponizing of a human stampede is currently an “undiscussable” national security issue.  Currently, there is zero commitment to addressing this hypothetical cyber-threat.  Politicians won’t acknowledge it.   Government agencies won’t touch it.  The sports and entertainment world won’t go anywhere near it.

Ultimately, it’s an “X” scenario that requires a deeper compression and understanding, as well as the allocation of situational awareness.  In order to prevent a disaster, sometimes it’s necessary to make people aware of the possibility of the disaster itself.  It’s called a paradox.

If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if it were to happen, you’re totally screwed… because you didn’t do enough to prevent it.  This is an indefatigable catch-22.  And guess what?  It ain’t goin’ away.

Meanwhile, the college football season is underway as the NCAA pushes its commitment to integrity, sportsmanship, inclusion, respect, leadership and the pursuit of excellence.  Yeah, that sounds about right!

While most fans are worried about their favorite receiver making a leaping catch in the end zone, I’m still worried about the catch-22 and the ultimate end game.   Stay tuned and we’ll see how it all pans out.

Feel free to share this article on any social media platform.  #ClickDontType


2016 Hajj Stampede Concerns

hajjThe annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia has arrived.  This year it’s set to commence on Friday, Sept. 9 and will conclude on Wednesday, September 14.  Crowds estimated in the realm of two million will descend upon its holiest cities.

Last year’s Hajj was exceptionally problematic.  This could be the understatement of the century.  According to Saudi officials, a stampede resulted in the deaths of 769 pilgrims.  Yet the Associated Press recorded the number of fatalities at 2,411, nearly 3x that number.  Some estimates went even higher.  Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir claimed there would be a transparent investigation.

“We will reveal the facts when they emerge, and we will not hold anything back. If mistakes were made, those who made them will be held accountable, and we will make sure that we will learn from this in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Transparency and accountability?  The fact that a year later there’s still an irreconcilable discrepancy in the death toll is cause for serious concern.  Saudi officials placed the blame upon foreign visitors, language barriers and their inability to follow directions.  Contrarily, the Saudi government reportedly beheaded 28 people it deemed “responsible.”  It’s hard to say if that will have any meaningful impact moving forward.  Nonetheless, this year features several improvements designed to enhance public safety.  An estimated 17,000 security personnel and police officers will be assigned to help regulate crowd flow.  An additional 800 surveillance cameras have also been installed.

Here are two significant changes.  Both of them should raise a red flag.

The symbolic stoning of the devil will be performed as usual over three days beginning September 11 (not so sure I like the symbolism for this year’s “coincidental” date, but I’ll leave that one for the conspiracy theorists).  Incidentally, it’s also opening Sunday for the National Football League regular season — 9 simultaneous 1 o’clock games, not to mention 14 overlapping MLB games.  Hmmm, I guess every country has their own unique rituals.  However, back in the kingdom, there will be no stoning allowed from 6:00 to 10:30 am on the first day, from 2:00 to 6:00 pm on the second day and from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm on the final day.

Saudi ministry undersecretary Hussain al-Sharif claimed, “This procedure will enable the pilgrims to throw stones easily and will prevent any stampede that may result from overcrowding.”  Forgive me, but that sounds like a bit of an over-simplification.  Note: the most customary Saudi response to past stampedes and loss of life has always been somewhat fatalistic.  It tends to go something like this.  “What will be done, will be done.  The will of Allah will not be questioned.”   I’m not so sure that line of reasoning is of much comfort to those whose family and friends lost loved ones.  After all, an hour of protracted crush asphyxiation, death via bodily compression akin to drowning in air, is not a particularly enjoyable way to perish.

While I’m not an expert on the Hajj, you need not be a wise cleric to realize that shortening the time frame by a total of 12 hours over the course of 3 days could have a potentially dangerous impact on crowd movement.  Wouldn’t participants feel hurried or grow anxious if they can’t satisfactorily complete the most sacred rituals?  Wouldn’t strict adherence to cut-off times exacerbate the conditions on the ground?  And the decision to drastically shift the 4 hour block of time on each day leaves me bewildered.  I’m not sure why you’d want to create alternating time constraints which could potentially be a source for confusion.

But here’s the biggest cause for concern.  This year, Saudi Arabia will be mandating electronic identification bracelets for all pilgrims.


The water-resistant bands will contain personal and medical information as well as their country of origin.  This is designed to help authorities assist in the “identification process” (likely after they’re dead… as the majority of past stampede victims are found completely naked… since their clothing and sandals were forcibly ripped from their bodies).

Regardless, the wrist bands will be connected to GPS (global positioning system) and instruct worshipers on the timing of prayers.  There will be prayer “alerts” and even a multi-lingual help desk designed to aid non-Arabic speaking pilgrims.  While engaged in prayer, the GPS system utilizes a built in compass designed to instruct people which direction to face.

It would appear the Saudi government’s objective is to orchestrate and micro-manage crowd movement.  Not to state the obvious, but their track record hasn’t been so great.

Another observation — the bracelets are manufactured by G4S, a British security consortium with alleged ties to Israeli spy agencies.  The nation of Israel would likely benefit from increased political friction and military tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  And there’s currently a growing rift between the two governments, much of it stemming from Iran’s recent allegations regarding last year’s calamity.

“The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers — instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst, they murdered them,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement on his website marking the anniversary of the disaster.  Tehran directly blames the deaths of 464 Iranian pilgrims on Saudi mismanagement and deliberate negligence.

Now here’s a question you might ask — is there a universal, generic variable which could directly impact the Hajj?   One that has never been acknowledged or put to the test.  Like say… oh, I dunno… hijacked planes intentionally crashing into buildings.  Could wireless communication be used to deliberately spark a mass panic, resulting in a human stampede?

What if someone decides it’s time for payback?  Have you ever heard of “killing two birds with one stone?”  Hint: the great satan (America) and the authoritarian collaborative Sunnis (Saudi Arabia).

But the most vexing.  Someone please tell me.  Why, in the name of Allah, would you entrust Saudi Arabia as the testing ground for technological experiments in the field of crowd safety?  This is a matter of potentially enormous humanitarian consequence.  Seriously, this backwards dictatorship, a government with possibly the worst human rights record on the globe, is gonna supervise the electronic monitoring of the largest gathering of human beings on the planet earth.  Does any of this sound like it makes any sense whatsoever?

Considering the government’s recurring gross negligence amid its proudly defiant stampede tradition, year after year after year after year, how could this possibly be a good idea?

Judging from its history, Saudi Arabia is not the best candidate.  And Mina and Mecca ain’t the ideal locations.  If there’s nefarious intent or vocational incompetence within their communications infrastructure, this strikes me as the ultimate opportunity to perpetrate an “artificially generated stampede,” or even more likely, a worst case scenario “dominipede” (multiple, simultaneous stampedes).

Perhaps I should relax.  I’m probably being a tad presumptive and jumping to conclusions.  After all, the Middle East is a pretty peaceful place these days.  Not many people wishing to do harm unto others.  And there’s minimal geopolitical tension or religious divisiveness.  Now I will admit, there has been an occasional suicide bomber seeking martyrdom.  But for the most part, it’s been a relatively tranquil region.

Well, except while the human race has been there!  Spanning from the Garden of Eden to the present.  Or if you don’t care for the religious context, try the Assyrians of Mesopotamia up until September 11, 2016 and beyond.

Arsenio Hall’s brand of humor never did it for me.  But I do think this qualifies as one of those “things that make you go hmmm.”  Feel free to share this article with anyone who will be in a large, confined crowd on the 15th year anniversary of 9/11.

#Hajj2016 #NFL #MLB


Lessons from the Los Angeles International Airport Stampede

Lester-Holt-TweetIt feels just like yesterday when I wrote an article about a spontaneous panic resulting in a human stampede at a major U.S. airport.  Oh, wait a minute… it was.  What a zany coincidence!  Maybe it’s deja-vu.  Well, not really.

In a span of merely two weeks, yet another U.S. airport was engulfed with panic.  This time it was LAX — Los Angeles International Airport.  If you missed it on the evening news, this LA Times article provides a general overview of what happened.  And here’s an account from the Orange County Register exploring the pitfalls of social media and how it impacted the fluidity of this particular incident.

Regarding all of the turmoil, here was the most common reaction.

“Didn’t this just happen a couple weeks ago at JFK in NYC?”

Once again, “loud noises” were to blame as 911 emergency services were flooded with active shooter reports.  And once again, social media played a prominent role in exacerbating the degree of panic and confusion.

I cannot help but recall an event that happened nine months earlier.  Hoax bomb threats were emailed to school administrators in both Los Angeles and New York City.  The LA Unified School District took the bait and shut down 900 schools.  This was later deemed the biggest “imminent threat shutdown” in the history of the United States as it directly impacted roughly 640,000 people (students, teachers, bus drivers, etc.).  New York City officials evaluated the threat and chose to disregard it.  The conclusion here — two extremely divergent reactions to the same, identical threat.  Naturally, I wrote about it (

But here’s the most important takeaway — these airport stampedes cascaded… from terminal to terminal.  There was a domino effect.  Hmm, maybe a similar panic is capable of spontaneously contaminating NFL venues… from stadium to stadium.  Ya think???

So how about a funny coincidence?  As I’m writing this article, at 1:25 pm on August 30, CNN just reported breaking news.  Multiple US Department of Agriculture offices were temporarily closed in five states after receiving “anonymous threats.”  The affected locations were Fort Collins, CO; Hamden, CT; Beltsville, MD, Raleigh, NC, Kearneysville, WV and Leetown, WV.

As usual, there wasn’t much provided in the way of details, except that the threats were “being analyzed to determine their level of credibility.”  Why would I mention this?  Because events like these seem to happen on a routine, recurring basis.  One day it’s retail outlets, the next day it’s the banks, the following day it’s the schools, city-county buildings, military installations, historical landmarks, restaurant chains.  And if it isn’t a hoax, it’s a hack. Voter identification rolls, healthcare records, bank accounts, social media tampering, website passwords, social security numbers, credit card information, etc.  And trust me, there’s one overriding characteristic in all of them.  The news is reported, “investigated” and then quickly forgotten.

The media and the American public have become dangerously dismissive and desensitized to what has been transpiring over the last decade or so.  If you still need convincing, just ask any FBI agent.  They’ll readily concede that bomb threats have been a debilitating plague and irreconcilable scourge since the early 1970’s.

I’ll close with the following observation regarding the JFK & LAX stampedes.  There was no malicious intent.  No nefarious actor(s).  Things just apparently spiraled out of control.  Now here’s the million, or in this case, multi-billion dollar question.  What will happen when someone or some group of individuals set their sites on NFL stadiums?   What will happen when the most obvious variable (50,000 – 100,000 cell phones in every stadium capable of receiving deliberately false, real-time information) is seriously put to the test?

Hey, c’mon man!  The NFL is invincible… with the obvious exception of the endless debacles that curse their front office every year.  Fortunately, we live in a world where no one would dare test the NFL’s hubristic authority and willful domination.  They’re just too big and strong.  And thank God that everyone on the planet earth loves the United States and has the utmost respect for our federal government.  Crisis averted.

Not to jump to conclusions, but I think we’re seeing the emergence of a trend.  This is becoming less and less of a hypothetical.  Every day we’re witnessing the real-world progression.  It’s already here.  I’m not trying to engage in fear mongering.  I’m just stating the facts and regurgitating the chain of events.

And these incidents are literally staring us right in the face.  In the form of cell phones.  Like I said, it’s already happening.  It’s just a matter of time before this “equation” manifests itself.  Is this really too difficult a concept to grasp?

The time has come to publicly connect the dots.  It is the absolute pinnacle of naivety to assume this dynamic will NEVER be tested in a country filled to the brim with municipal arenas, amphitheaters, motor speedways, convention centers, ballparks, and of course, these mammoth indoor/outdoor stadiums.

This situation is desperately crying out for an adult in the room.   Perhaps someone in the entertainment industry who’s willing to initiate a frank discussion about the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  I have serious doubts that any high ranking politician or someone in the sports industry would possess the moral courage.

And believe me, this goes way beyond phony bomb threats.  Bomb threats and phony evacuation orders are just the tip of iceberg.  There are about a dozen significant ways to transmit hoax information to individual cell phones in large, confined crowds, the content of which, trends infinite.

If you take an objective view with a long-term event horizon, there’s an extremely obvious revelation here.  I’m not the only person on the planet earth who has thought of this stuff.  I know I’m not the only one.  Not only because the premise is absurdly generic, but because I constructed a website designed to advance the case for situational awareness.  And while I won’t divulge a precise number of hits, I will concede that the number of unique visitors falls somewhere between 100,000 and 1 million.

So here’s the deal.  You basically have two options.  You either broach the concept of the “artificially generated stampede” or you make a choice to deliberately keep people ignorant, effectively maintaining the status quo.  Personally, from a moral perspective, I don’t think there’s much of a choice.  Right now, everyone is literally a sitting duck.  What could be worse?  I dunno.  How about standing ducks?   Or even worse, running ducks?

Lessons from the John F. Kennedy International Airport Stampede

jfk stampedeOn August 14, 2016, New York City’s JFK Airport was engulfed with mass hysteria and random human stampedes for a period of several hours.  This erratic behavior was the result of multiple 911 calls and reports of an active shooter.  Here’s a riveting eyewitness account and some relevant video.

Despite the overwhelming tactical response, it would later be ascertained that no such shooter ever existed.  In reality, what transpired was a textbook example of an “artificially generated stampede.”  It’s kind of like a synthetically manufactured panic resulting in a reverse flash mob.

Turns out it was all an illusion based on “rapid disinformation” combined with “contagious misperceptions.”  You see, there was a shooter.  Just not inside the airport.  The gunfire came from 4,818 miles away.  It came from a different time zone on a different continent.  This particular lone shot was fired in Rio De Janiero at Maracana Stadium.

Picture the following scenario:

At JFK airport, or any airport for that matter, there are a slew of television screens.  On that fateful evening, virtually all of them were tuned to the Olympics on NBC.  Everyone wanted to watch the 100 meter dash and learn who’d become the fastest man on the planet.  This race is one of the biggest spectacles in sports history.  Right up there with the World Cup and the Superbowl.  But it unfolds in a matter of seconds.  So naturally, there’s a lot of excitement and an extreme level of heightened anticipation.

A foreboding silence pervades the crowd.  Followed by the word ‘set’ over the public address.  And then a single gunshot is fired in the air.  That same gunshot is simultaneously heard on every continent, in every country, and in every city.  Homes and offices.  Bars and restaurants.  Relayed on live television and radio.  And over the past 2 decades, a new communication medium has emerged.  It’s called the internet.  Try to think beyond the computer in your office cubicle.  Nowadays, there’s plenty of streaming video on all those smart phones as well.  Everyone is tuned in… and tuned up.

So the gunshot is fired and the runners take off.  They literally bolt at lightning pace.  Now let’s add an extra wildcard into the mix — Justin Gatlin, a sprinter hailing from Brooklyn, New York.  His birthplace is less than 10 miles from JFK Airport.  He’s not only a hometown hero, he’s also considered the only credible competitor to Usain Bolt.

Bolt would secure the gold medal in 9.81 seconds.  Gatlin placed a close second in 9.89 seconds and took home the silver.  But the drama was far from over.  There’s a reason they refer to it as the “thrill of victory” and the “agony of defeat.”

The conflagration of these seemingly random variables would ignite an emotional spark.  And that spark led to mass pandemonium in Terminal 8 at JFK International.  Because in a normally subdued environment, the reverberations of one gun shot, followed by the authentic shrieks and miscellaneous screams of viewers bouncing off the walls in a hollow airport corridor would be construed as something entirely different.  The cacophony would be misinterpreted for the presence of an active shooter.  An act of terror.

I’m not going to try and recapture the essence of the chaos.  If you wish to explore what happened, there are plenty of articles and blogs.  Just perform a google search.  However, I am going to make a fairly obvious observation.  We live in an increasingly hyper-connective world.  Wireless capacity and technological efficiency are on the upswing.   Deceptive information can be relayed in an instant and have real-world consequences.

So what’s the takeaway?  Well, if you ask me, it’s fairly obvious.

No.  Contingency.  Plan.

The incident command structure never conceived of how “outlying scenarios” and “unanticipated variables” might impact on the ground conditions.  They never speculated about a potential sequence of events.  They never engaged in out-of-the-box thinking.  They never role played or postulated about a hypothetical attack vector.  Sound familiar?  Well, it should.  Two words: nine eleven.

Here’s something else to consider regarding the incident at JFK.  There may have been a negative outcome, but there were no nefarious actors.  There was no malicious intent.  Things just seemingly spiraled out of control, from terminal to terminal and beyond.

Please forgive me while I aggressively pivot to an undiscussable, asymmetric cyber-security threat.  Humanity is in the early stages of witnessing an emerging phenomenon — the prospect of the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  This might surprise you, but there were three other stampedes that same day.

Fireworks explosion in Staten Island mall leads to customer stampede

Possible gunfire forces lockdown at Raleigh, N.C., Crabtree Mall

France on edge: Stampede injures dozens at Mediterranean resort after ‘gun shots’ spark terror fears

These stampedes had one thing in common.  They all made the daily news cycle and then were quickly forgotten.

So in summation, can we learn anything concrete?  I believe the answer to be a resounding yes.  After all, there’s a lot of concrete in NFL stadiums.  And by the way, concrete itself, can be rather unforgiving.

The mishap at JFK mirrors a fundamental security disconnect with the National Football League.  Individual NFL incident commanders are focused exclusively on their own stadiums.  I’ve witnessed this first hand — a deep resentment and obstinate unwillingness to think beyond the physical confines of their respective venues.

Hell, they won’t even divulge the bare minimum amount of public safety info… that they would NEVER order an evacuation via personal cell phones.  Not to sound condescending, but this is information that most people have never considered.  Why not make it available?  It wouldn’t cost a penny.  You just loop a 3 second message as fans enter the stadium — Please be advised, it is not the policy of (fill in the blank stadium) to order an emergency evac via your personal cell phone or mobile device.

Much like we saw panic spread form terminal to terminal, I think it’s highly conceivable to picture that same degree of panic spreading from stadium to stadium.  Consider the live television aspect and try to focus, not on one individual game, but on the totality of all games being played simultaneously.  The whole is always bigger than the sum of its parts.  Real-world events can have real-world consequences.

Many people reporting on the JFK stampedes, termed it a “domino” effect.  Well, not to sound smug, but there’s a reason I devised the term “dominipede” several years ago.

Domino + Stampede = Dominipede

They also labeled it a “cascade” effect.  I once even joked about the word “cascadium.”  All joking aside, the material on the AGSAF website is based on common sense risk assessment with a long-term event horizon.  I ask you one simple question.  Could something like this be attempted?  If your answer is yes, then what’s the contingency plan?  Oops.  I nearly forgot.  No such game plan exists.

Except this is not a game and there isn’t a plan.

A heavy concentration of mobile devices + an intentionally centralized or unintentionally decentralized cellular saturation of false information = a potentially catastrophic black swan event, a/k/a — a “dominipede.”

Unfamiliar with the term black swan?  Google it.

Unfamiliar with the term dominipede?  Google it.

The 2016 NFL Hall of Fame Game… or Lack Thereof

nfl logoThe August 7, 2016 Hall of Fame between the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts will likely go down as possibly the most “in-fame-us” (infamous) game in NFL history.  Please bear with me as I sift through this mess.

In anticipation of the preseason opener, my girlfriend Gigi and I made the 2 hour mini-trek from Pittsburgh to Canton, Ohio.  But just as the festivities were about to get underway, there was mass confusion.  Half the crowd was entering the newly renovated stadium while the other half was exiting.  Many attendees were in a confused state of disbelief.  The vast majority of adults were complaining and some of their children were in tears.  Nobody knew exactly what was happening.

Why?  Because at 8pm, the game was abruptly canceled.  However, word of the cancellation had already leaked, 90 minutes prior at 6:30pm.  Apparently the grounds crew had used the “wrong paint” for the vaunted NFL logo at midfield.  The turf was a mess.  ESPN reporter Lisa Stahl claimed it was very sticky and gummy, almost like taffy.  ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted how the paint had begun to congeal and it would be the equivalent of “playing on tar.”

David Baker, Pro Football Hall of Fame President, summed it up best.  “You’ve heard me many, many times talk about our values of commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence.  If we don’t have that integrity to respect our players and respect their safety, then we shouldn’t be doing this job.  It was a difficult decision to make.  But in some respects, it was an easy, ethical decision.”

Forgive my cynicism, but I have some serious objections to that statement.  You see, for the past 5 years, I’ve been trying to get the NFL to formally acknowledge the outdated state of their emergency stadium evacuation protocol.  Rather than reiterate my concerns for the hundredth time, I’ll let the website speak for itself. Suffice to say, there exists a looming cyber-security threat with ramifications along the lines of 9/11.

So when I hear an NFL representative speak about values such as integrity, courage, respect and excellence, I tend to take it with a grain of salt.  I only wish his concerns about player safety extended to the 50,000 – 100,000 fans in every stadium.

Isn’t it ironic that the iconic NFL logo was the ultimate reason for the cancellation of the annual kickoff game?  It’s a real-world microcosm.  Not for the circumstances surrounding this one specific game, but rather, the organization itself.  Forgive the trite pun but the NFL literally dropped the ball at the Hall of Fame Game.

The weekend started out fine.  Filled with pomp and splendor, hoopla and pageantry.  There was a Tim McGraw concert on Friday.  Hot air balloon rides and fireworks.  Fashion shows, autograph sessions and merchandise galore.  Hungry fans could satiate their appetites with a $5 hot dog.  And quench their thirst with a $10 draft beer.  The grand parade and enshrinement ceremony would follow on Saturday.  Everything went off without a hitch.  Well, except for one trivial detail.

There was no game.

But this isn’t a game.

Isn’t it peculiar that out of all the seasoned, well-trained security professionals advising the NFL… none of them are permitted to acknowledge the downside of wireless hyper-connectivity?  I’ll give you a clue — the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

So rather than be informed about a variety of hacking scenarios… rather than elaborating on phishing scams, robocalls and social media hoaxes…. rather than analyzing wireless disinformation campaigns, Stingray technology, reverse 911 sabotage and the potential for the deceptive misuse of Amber alerts / campus emergency alerts / weather alerts / imminent threat alerts…. rather than verifying the consequences of spoofed emails, bulk text messaging, facebook algorithms, retweets and the exponential spread of viral information on the internet… rather than admit the existence of a variety of potentially threatening scenarios and devising a simplistic contingency plan, whaddya say we simply ignore it all?

How much credibility and what degree of evidence is necessary?  Why is this subject completely unavailable for public consumption?  Why is this topic avoided, and in some cases, deliberately overlooked and concealed by government and private industry?

The NFL has a bad track record.  Drugs, weapons, the never-ending concussion scandal, NFLPA disputes, tax evasion, fraud, racketeering, DUIs, rape, murder, domestic violence, gang related activity, gambling and draft violations, lawsuits and suspensions for just about anything imaginable… even felony animal cruelty charges and a deflated football scandal.  Perhaps if I approach the subject of “artificially generated stampedes” with a heightened degree of levity, maybe somebody will take notice.

So let’s give it a shot.

Is it a coincidence that Jeffrey Miller, the head of NFL security, resigned in May of 2016?  While the NFL searches for a replacement, the position remains dangerously vacant.  Perhaps they’re searching for a way to reconfigure the job title in order to lessen the degree of future culpability.  What if it’s a mysterious portent?  What might happen if something catastrophic occurred during his vacancy?  Who would there be to blame?

Let’s forget the logical deductions about plausible deniability.  Let’s ignore the prospect of big-pocket litigation.  Let’s completely disregard the lose-lose proposition.  Let’s pretend how there’s nothing to be gained from utilizing a proactive approach.  Let’s dismiss the societal paradox and toss aside the catch-22.  And while we’re at it, let’s pretend there’s some kind of secret technology that prohibits potentially nefarious cellular information from seeping into any NFL stadium, or at the very least, filters out all the “bad” staff.  Is it any wonder that Vice Sports once referred to NFL security as an “extralegal clusterfuck?”

It’s all hogwash!  Or pigskin wash, I suppose.

How about I throw a Hail Mary in the NFL’s direction?  Just some conspiratorial gibberish.  Maybe that’ll do the trick.

September 11, 2016, fifteen years after the most diabolical attack on American soil, the NFL will open its early Sunday slate on the exact same day.  Nine simultaneous games on September 11th.  One of those games will be in East Rutherford, NJ, a location from which the billowing smoke of the Trade Centers could be seen across the Hudson River.

Jets Center Nick Mangold — “It is truly an honor to open the season at home, at MetLife Stadium, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.”

I expect that physical security will be on a heightened state of alert.  Seriously though, has anyone examined the issue of wireless security?  With all of their halftime military tributes and the continued exploitation of our armed forces, the NFL should somberly consider the notion… that every single stadium is currently vulnerable to an undiscussable, cyber-security threat.

It’s called a “dominipede.”  And if you ask me, it sounds like it has the makings of one helluva conspiracy.  Nobody knew about it but everyone was in on it.  I’d explain it further… but nobody’s allowed to talk about it.


Roger Goodell’s twitter Death Hoax

Could Roger Goodell’s recent twitter death hoax ominously foreshadow the demise of its biggest fans… those who regularly attend the games?


But it was only a harmless prank, right?  We all had a good laugh, right?  Well… not really.  Regardless, at least Commissioner Goodell thought it was amusing.

goodell response

Jun 7

Man, you leave the office for 1 day of golf w/ & your own network kills you off.


On June 7, 2016, the official NFL twitter feed was “hacked.”  I use that term in quotation marks because the mainstream media, and much of society, incorrectly defines anything “nefariously computer-oriented” as a hacking incident.  What’s far more likely is this.  Someone simply acquired a username/password and logged into an account.  This does not constitute a hack.  Such activity requires virtually zero technological sophistication.  Incidents like this happen literally every second of every day.

Now fortunately, social media platforms like twitter are only used to deliver information.  Nobody would ever use twitter to inflict mass hysteria and carnage.  Wrong!  The concept of “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you” is a bit outdated.  Allow me to prove it.

There are an infinite number of scenarios.  Just try factoring in a little creativity and a discernible level of malicious intent.  Since I’m from Pittsburgh, I’ll frame it in a way the locals will surely understand.

Example #1:

The Pens just won the Stanley Cup.  Hockey mania is sweeping the Burgh.  I happened to attend the Penguins downtown victory parade.  Everyone was chanting “HBK, HBK, HBK!”  It’s a reference to the line of Hagelin, Bonino and Kessel.  It was such a popular refrain that the regional restaurant chain Primanti Brothers concocted an HBK sandwich (Ham, Bacon and Kielbasa).

Now everybody in Pittsburgh knows about WDVE 102.5.  The local radio station has 25,000 active followers on twitter and 75,000 “likes” on facebook.  They’re the self-described “radio home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”  Now let’s say that in the middle of the first quarter of their home opener, WDVE tweets…

@DVERADIO loves our #Steelers. Free HBK sandwiches at ALL Primanti’s restaurants for the next 102.5 seconds… including Heinz Field locations!!!


Hmmm, an extremely time sensitive offer for a free yinzer delicacy in an alcohol infused environment.  What could possibly go wrong?  Not to worry.  All 68,000 Steelers fans would be way too smart to fall for such an obvious hoax.  Everyone in the stadium would be able to immediately discern how the freebie sandwich offer was purely fictitious.  Even if you received the information via a family member’s retweet.  And more good news.  Heinz Field management has already thought of this specific scenario and devised a real-time contingency plan to alert fans that the whole thing was an elaborate ruse.  Uhh, no.

Example #2:

What about the Steelers twitter feed?

Come get your $7.00 limited edition Stairway to Seven, BIG BEN #7 t-shirt at the Steelers Pro Shop Official Headquarters… while supplies last.


Once again, don’t sweat it.  No Steelers fan would want something like that.  Even so, stadium security has a plan in place.  Event staff has been properly briefed and will make sure everyone forms a single-file line and behaves themselves accordingly.  Even though it’s a phony offer and the product doesn’t exist.  Uhh, no.

How about this one?

The Department of Homeland Security has ordered an emergency evacuation for Heinz Field. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Remain calm.  Exit the stadium immediately.

Or this one?


Bomb threat emergency notification.  Classification: Imminent.  All fans must proceed to the nearest concourse.  This is not a drill.

Of course, something like this could never happen.  Right?  Newsflash: it already has happened.  During a wildcard 30-17 playoff loss at Heinz Field to the Baltimore Ravens on January 3, 2015.   A mischievous fan executed a real-world prank.  Granted, it was a harmless one.  But what if the individual wanted to reek absolute havoc?  Judge for yourself…

Fortunately, Heinz Field security fixed the problem.  Well, except they didn’t.  In fact, they refused to acknowledge the incident even took place.  This is not a good omen.  I guess the playoff loss was too much of a burden to bear.  After all, the Steelers season was suddenly over.  Well cry me a river… or in this case, three rivers.

My point — I just don’t feel comfortable letting Heinz Field incident commander Jimmy Sacco handle this universal, generic security disconnect (68,000+ mobile devices capable of receiving false information in a wirelessly hyper-connective environment).

The NFL claims to have the finest security specialists.  Many are retired FBI and Secret Service personnel.  Isn’t it peculiar that all of these trained professionals are unwilling to admit how their emergency evacuation protocol is dangerously obsolete?  That it has been irreparably compromised.  That it doesn’t reflect real-world conditions.  That the world has irrevocably changed since 1984.  Hint: Everyone has a cell phone.

Does any of this ring a bell?  Another Pixburgh hint n’at: Concussion.

Heinz Field security will tell you they have everything under control.  That they employ sufficient security and undercover police.  That they utilize state-of-the art video surveillance.  That they already have an evacuation video.  Yeah, okay.  Meanwhile, back in the illusory world of virtual security, I just sent 30 of their Event Staff running to the 500 level of the North end zone.  They were deployed to investigate reports of a woman who was stabbed in the ladies restroom.  Someone texted a message to number 78247 of their in-house security system.  Unfortunately, nobody realized that the information was sent from Karachi, Pakistan.  Takeaway:  On the planet earth, time does NOT stand still during the NFL 1 o’clock slate of games.

What about the prospect of persuading others to unknowingly and unwittingly exacerbate a panic?  Steely Dan even wrote a song about it – “I’m a Fool to do Your Dirty Work.”  Remember, cellular technology functions in real-time.  Just compile the readily available contact info of everyone who works for the local media (television stations, radio stations and newspapers).  Simply send them a coordinated barrage of tweets, spoofed emails, text messages, robocalls, facebook posts, live-streamed threats, etc.  How long do you think it might take before some of them instinctively relay this false information to the general public?  It’s called a “viral blitzkrieg.”  Last time I checked, the media seemed especially beholden to the internet.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but my concerns are “undiscussable.”  My concerns involve circumstances where emergency evacuation protocol is usurped from the incident command structure.  I’m not talking about a challenge to their current evac protocol.  I’m talking about the complete evisceration of their existing protocol.  That’s a pretty big discrepancy.  So how on earth do you address a problem if you’re unwilling to acknowledge the variables even exist?

You see, when it comes to the stadium, cell phones are only used for the fun stuff.  Streaming replays, checking fantasy stats, responding to Steelers trivia questions on the jumbotron, showing off those overpriced 50 yard line seats to everyone in your facebook community, posting selfies with mascot Steely McBeam, you get the picture.  Like I said, only the fun stuff.  Uhh, no.  Wireless communication and the internet are neutral, impartial entities.  There’s no such thing as an omniscient cyber-deity who monitors everything and screens out the bad stuff in real-time.

So you’re probably thinking, wow this guy must really hate the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Wrong.  I’m actually a huge fan.  I’ve been to over a hundred games… and have the ticket stubs to prove it.  This isn’t about me.  It’s about them.

All I want is for Heinz Field security to divulge the bare minimum of easily digestible information… Please be aware, that in the unlikely event of an emergency stadium evacuation, the initial order is NOT delivered via your cell phone or mobile device.  I’m not asking for them to delve into a variety of threatening scenarios.  I’m not asking for them to explain the difference between bomb threat conditions and bomb threat emergencies.  I’m not asking for them to talk about drones or active shooter response planning.  I’m not asking them to disclose the technical specifications for inclement weather evacuations.  I just want them to explicitly tell people, “Hey, if a stadium evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, we don’t use cell phones.”  Existing protocol requires using the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.  NOT CELL PHONES.

I’ve repeatedly explained my concerns to Heinz Field employees — ownership, security, management, media relations, players, etc.  Their collective replies sound something like this: You don’t know what we know.  We have everything under control.  We don’t want your help.  We don’t need your advice.  There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that we don’t reveal.  And it’s all for your own good.

It’s really not that surprising.  NFL league security is structured a lot like the mafia, but even more secretive.  And they’re all hooked on some kind of delusional, clandestine brand of pompous-strength steroids.  They do not seek input or guidance from outsiders.  Here’s an open challenge.  Try calling any team’s front office.  Tell them you read an article on the internet about stadium safety and see what happens.  Even better, call the NFL league headquarters (1-212-450-2000).

So just for the sake of argument, let’s presume that Heinz Field actually does have some “top secret contingency plan” in place to remedy a problem that has never been openly addressed in the history of government or private industry.  A plan to squelch a spontaneous wirelessly-driven panic.  Likely a magical statement delivered over the public address system that can pacify any crowd under any circumstance.  Alright, now try to follow this logical progression.  Let’s speculate that one day they’re forced to engage this plan.  Okay, now in the aftermath of such an occurrence… isn’t it reasonable to assume that someone on the planet earth will ask… what the hell was that about?  What just happened?

And then the truth will surface.  Oh, I see.  Someone was trying to manufacture a panic and foment a human stampede.  At this point, and from this point moving forward, the NFL would be forced to acknowledge the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede.”  Because once the cat’s out of the bag, it would be necessary to adapt.  Creating some form of a widespread awareness campaign would be a legal imperative.  To not do so, would demonstrate an utterly absurd degree of negligence and incompetence.  My point — since it would no longer be a secret, their security apparatus would be forced to openly address the issue.  So for the love of Art Rooney Sr., why not just put it all out there in the first place?  To purposely NOT be proactive demonstrates that same ludicrous degree of negligence.

Call me crazy.  Label me silly.  But wouldn’t everyone be better off if the Steelers just told their fans the truth?  As opposed to the stark alternative — deliberately concealing exceedingly generic safety info.

Is it really asking too much to get ahead of the curve?  Well, of course it is.  Because just the like the Concussion issue, the NFL values revenue ahead of public safety.  Because in the end, it’s about plausible deniability, hypothetical litigation and the lose-lose proposition.  In the end, it’s always about the almighty dollar.

My own personal experiences with the NFL have lead me to one inescapable conclusion.  Their primary motivation is guided entirely by profit.  And this level of monetary hubris extends far beyond the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It applies to all 32 teams.  Much like the young multi-millionaire players think they’re invincible, league management and ownership somehow believe they’re equally untouchable.

Ohh, they’re probably right.  NFL stadiums are immune from acts of terrorism.  Nobody wants to kill innocent people.  Nothing bad ever happens on the planet earth.  Well… except for what’s on the daily news I suppose.

Here’s a final thought.  The Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre is being described as deadliest mass shooting incident in U.S. history.  Crime scene detectives have gone on record.  The most disturbing aspect was not the eerie silence of the bullet-ridden bodies.  But rather, the miscellaneous ring tones coming from their cell phones.  The electronic murmurings and favorite songs, the vibrations and swooshes emerging from the scores of the dead… as agonized friends and family members prayed to hear the sound of their voices.

Imagine the aftermath of a stadium stampede.  Disparate sounds emanating from lifeless human carcasses.  An electronic symphony bouncing off cement walls and echoing throughout the concourses.

Personally, I’d rather not.  So whaddya say?  How about we try and fix the problem?  After all, the solution is FREE.  It doesn’t cost a dime.  All you have to do is just add a 3 second public safety message as fans enter the stadium.  You’d think that would be music to the ears of Commissioner Goodell and the 32 multi-billionaire owners.

Unfortunately, implementing my suggestion carries with it a rather hefty non-monetary price tag.  Because by doing so, it completely obliterates their plausible deniability argument if something were to ever go wrong.  And that’s what this whole thing is really about.

In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Judge Reinhold (Brad) said it best.

Artificially Generated Stampede — learn it.
Viral Blitzkrieg — know it.
Dominipede — live it.

It’s all about situational awareness.  No shirt, no shoes… noooo dice.


Taking Bets on Gary Bettman

nhl_u_bettman_300Gary Bettman has held the post of National Hockey League Commissioner since 1993.  He was named Sports Executive of the Year in 2014.  During his tenure, league revenue has boomed from 400 million to 4 billion. His most recent yearly compensation was 10 million dollars.  Not too shabby.  But with money and profit come responsibility.

Bettman is regularly booed in various arenas around the league, ranging from his appearances at the yearly NHL draft to his annual presentation of the Stanley Cup.  When asked if the negativity ever bothered him, he once said, “Not doing this job, no. You’re always going to have critics. What I’ve always told people: If I take the ice and it’s completely silent, then I’ll know I’m in trouble.”

So if you’re watching the Stanley Cup finals, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the San Jose Sharks.  You may have seen Bettman’s recent appearance on the NHL Network.  He ventured to my hometown of Pittsburgh on Monday, May 30, 2016.  Many sports analysts took note of his unusual behavior and appearance.  He’s normally calm and measured.  But that night, he appeared flustered and discombobulated.

I take full responsibility for this “physiological shift” outside Consol Energy Center.  You see, I had an encounter with Mr. Bettman and explained my concerns about outdated arena emergency evacuation protocol.

I handed him and his sharp-dressed henchman a simple flyer.  Amazing how a sheet of paper with some words on it can turn someone who’s normally as cool as a cucumber… into a pale, white ghost.  It was as if the ice on the rink had suddenly melted right before game 1.

Try reading it and you’ll see what I mean.

bettman flyer

Bettman was there to be interviewed about NHL expansion in Las Vegas and Quebec City.  He was there to address the state of the game.  Instead, he had to worry about the NHL’s “dirty little secret.”  Of course, arena safety across the nation is just the tip of the iceberg.

I guess it all comes down to the million dollar question.  Are the commissioners, or caretakers of professional sports (NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL, NASCAR, UFC, etc.), aware of the fact that virtually everyone in the crowd has a cell phone capable of receiving potentially dangerous, real-time information?  My position — either they’re totally oblivious which would mean they’re all excruciatingly incompetent OR they’re aware of the fundamental security disconnect and refuse to take any meangingful action.  Trust me.  It doesn’t take an observational genius to figure out it’s the latter.  You can’t have it both ways.

Because not only does this exact same paradox apply to professional sports, it also applies to every government agency (DHS, NSA, FCC, FEMA, etc.) and the individuals that represent all branches of government (executive, judicial and legislative).  And oh yeah, it also applies to every country on the planet earth.  That’s a helluva lot of people who seemingly have never conceived of an absurdly generic concept — the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

Is it all just one big coincidence?  No, it’s not.  Am I the only person on the planet earth who has thought of this?  No, I’m not.  It’s called a catch-22.  Acknowledge a problem and you own it.  And if something bad happens, you reap the blame.

Why doesn’t anyone have the courage to address the problem?  That should be relatively obvious.  Plausible deniability, hypothetical litigation and the lose-lose proposition.  A bit less obvious is the nasty generational warfare precedent a/k/a weaponizing a human stampede.  Killing and injuring innocent human beings without conventional weaponry is a matter of tremendous consequence.

Society has demonstrated time and time again that it’s often difficult to resolve transformational civil rights issues with regard to public safety and situational awareness.

* At the micro level: genetically modified organisms, medicinal marijuana, concussions in sports, etc.
* At the macro level: drunk driving, airport screening, protests and free speech zones, etc.

The artificially generated stampede is no different.  If you approach the issue with a long-term event horizon, it will eventually become necessary to have the conversation.  The only question is when.

Humanity is not stagnant.  One of these days, someone is going to test the cracks in the system.  If there’s a tragedy, people will react the ways they often do.  Many will pray.  Many will cry.  Some will celebrate.  Some will feel hostility and rage.  But most importantly, mankind will ask the bigger questions.

* Why did this happen.
* How did it happen.
* What can we do to prevent it from happening again.

So here’s the moral of the story.  If you seek the truth, I’d avoid bothering Gary Bettman.  He probably wishes he’d never stepped foot in the Burgh.  It reminds me of that poignant Dionne Warwick song written in 1968… Do you Know the Way to San Jose.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Mr. Bettman.  But that’s what friends are for.


The Art of Swatting and the Artificially Generated Stampede

bomb-300x168When I tell people about the prospect of an artificially generated stampede (the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater), I often get asked the following question verbatim:

“How would they get everyone’s cell phone number?”

I usually reply, “You gotta realize, they already have your number.”

Then I get that suspicious look.  “Oh, I see.  It’s some kind of conspiracy.  Everyone simultaneously gets a mysterious text message on their phone.”

Bomb threat alert.  Evacuate immediately.

“People observe others panicking and unexpectedly scrambling for the concourses and exits.  Then, they panic and join the herd.  And suddenly, you have a full blown stampede on your hands.  Well, I guess something like that could happen.  Anything is possible.”

“But I still don’t understand, how would “they” get everyone’s cell phone number?”

Rest assured, there are numerous ways.  I refer to them as “lights out” scenarios — wireless carrier hacks, reverse 911 sabotage, deliberate misuse of Amber Alerts / Wireless Emergency Alerts / campus text emergency alerts / weather advisory notifications, opt-in notification abuse, acquisition of a season ticket holder list in tandem with a bulk text messaging program, etc.  But when I begin to explain the prospect of mass trilateration and Stingray technology (a small briefcase-sized device that effectively functions as a cell tower)… well, that’s when I start to lose ’em.  It’s understandable.  Ordinary people don’t give these matters much consideration.

However, if they’re still showing a modicum of curiosity, I delve into a discussion about a term I coined — VIRAL BLITZKRIEG.  Its definition is fairly self-explanatory.

Think in terms of a wireless saturation of information… or “info-bomb.”  But this information would be unique and acutely volatile.  Because its carefully attenuated to spread exponentially in a viral fashion.  Think about it.  Good news travels fast.  But bad news travels much faster (political assassinations, airplane crashes, celebrity deaths, mass shootings, and yes, bomb threats).  Like I was saying, THEY already have your number.  The bad news would likely be coming directly from people you already know.  People you implicitly trust.  Those extremely concerned for your safety and well-being.  People whose behavior has been manipulated by a well-crafted, malicious, convincing hoax.

Another thing: the notion of being able to communicate with someone exclusively via their personal cell number is a bit antiquated.  It’s a very naive, linear approach to wireless communication.  You see, there’s this thing called the internet.  And it has fundamentally changed the nature of how we receive real-time information, particularly regarding social media platforms like facebook and twitter.  And just for the record, there’s no “internet deity” hovering above or regulatory body in charge that sorts everything out, determining what information is true and accurate as opposed to false and inaccurate.  The vast majority of the internet is open sourced and decentralized.  Everyone has a voice.  And those voices can carry weight, particularly when the acquisition and delivery of information is time-sensitive.

Let’s take this conversation and apply it to the recent U.S. elementary school bomb threat plague.  If your kids weren’t evacuated, you may have missed it.  This bomb threat barrage came and went faster than the latest Donald Trump tweeted insult, or “tweetsult.”  It’s already yesterday’s news.

On May 23, 2016, a minimum of 17 states nationwide were bombarded with robocall bomb threats, directed at elementary schools.  In addition, a minimum of 21 schools across England experienced the same dilemma.  All of them were hit near simultaneously.

The FBI referred to the robocalls as a mass “swatting” incident.  Swatting is a relatively new phenomenon.  It’s a cyber crime where someone uses 911 to report a dangerous situation that’s unfolding in real time.  Something like a fictitious hostage situation or a phony armed robbery in progress would be a prime example.  911 receives the information and they forward it to the police who immediately deploy a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team to that specific location.  As of late, many Hollywood celebrities have tried to conceal their physical addresses for fear of being “swatted.”  Obviously, swatting is a frustrating drain on emergency response personnel, not to mention their equipment (vehicles, bomb sniffing dogs, etc.).

Walmart stores across the United States experienced an incredibly similar robocall swatting incident back in late November of 2015.  Coincidentally, it occurred during the biggest shopping weekend of the holiday season (  Of course, the FBI investigation is “ongoing.”  One of these days, I’m sure they’ll figure it out.

I’ll go out on a limb, or distant twig if you will, and conclude that the frequency of these swatting robocalls is going to increase.  From a risk-reward standpoint, the ease of delivery and cost of execution makes it incredibly tempting, especially if there’s no fear of retribution.  The transaction costs, measured in money and quantifiable disruption, are off the charts.  Not to mention creating a perpetual climate of confusion and fear.

So you just learned how society reacts to swatted robocalls.  And these are the administrators and trained professionals.  Newsflash: This is the easy stuff to contend with.

This leads me back to the concept of a “viral blitzkrieg.”

Exactly what will transpire when a significant number of individuals are simultaneously targeted in a large, confined crowd (stadium, ballpark, arena, motor speedway, etc.)?

If it was just the robocalls, I’d be concerned.  But there are about a dozen other ways to transmit malicious hoax information via cell.  Oh, it’s probably nothing to worry about.  I’m sure everyone has everything figured out… even though nobody’s allowed to publicly acknowledge this hypothetical threat exists.  In any event, I’m sure there will be a thorough investigation… AFTER a tragedy takes place.  That should be of tremendous comfort to the families of loved ones who were injured, trampled or crush asphyxiated.


Indy 500… Insecurity

indy500The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 29, 2016.  Event organizers are anticipating a record breaking crowd approaching 350,000.  The approximate capacity of the grandstands is 250,000 plus an additional 100,000 people on the infield.  Just some perspective — roughly 1 out of every 1,000 Americans will be attending this centennial celebration.  Surprisingly, unlike other sports venues, the Indy Motor Speedway does NOT release precise attendance figures.

For the third straight year, the Indianapolis 500 has earned a Level 2 Special Event Assessment Rating from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  This designation paves the way for federal funding.  Emergency response personnel will be up 20% across the board (medics, firefighters, police, etc.).  Helicopters, video surveillance, barricades, checkpoints, the works.  Even the FBI plays an “unspecified role.”

Aside from the roar of the crowd, the Indy 500 differs from other sporting events in one particular way.  Ambient synthetic noise.

A race in full swing can reach about 140 decibels, roughly the same deafening level as the deck of an aircraft carrier.  The closest approximation is standing next to a Boeing 747 upon takeoff… for about 3 1/2 hours straight.  It’s impossible to hear someone unless they’re screaming into your cupped ear.

However, there’s still a way for people to communicate.  And it’s staring everyone directly in their collective faces.  CELL PHONES.  In fact, crowd behavior at the Indy 500 has markedly changed since the turn of the century.  If you take a cursory glance around the racetrack, you’ll find that fans are periodically looking down into their tiny mobile phone screens.  Consider the dizzying spectacle of 33 vehicles traveling in excess of 200 MPH combined with the thunderous, perpetual din.  Wireless communication becomes a realistic way to keep tabs on the actual race.  It’s also an effective means for transmitting and receiving instantaneous information, particularly via facebook and twitter.  The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a wirelessly hyper-connective environment.

Also keep in mind, fans have no direct visual connection with the bulk of the racetrack.  They can only see a “fraction of the action.”  These variables present an unusual dynamic: the ability to witness unusual behavior but the inability to comprehend unusual behavior.


Here’s what I’m concerned about.

If there was a coordinated wireless saturation of information encouraging people to abruptly vacate their seats, it could conceivably trigger a panic… potentially resulting in an “artificially generated stampede.”  Think beyond bomb threats.  Think in terms of convincing evacuation orders.  Perhaps something like this…

The United States Department of Homeland Security has issued an emergency evacuation order for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Remain calm.  Exit the venue immediately.

How might fans react to something like this?  What about time-sensitive offers for free food or discounted merchandise.  What about an unanticipated celebrity sighting or a famous retired race car driver signing autographs?  What if you received an unexpected text from your Aunt Barbara in Detroit, expressing concern for your safety and well-being?

If one witnessed a significant number of people hastily exiting their seats for no apparent reason… how might the average individual react?

So here’s the million dollar question.  Does DHS or Indy 500 security have a realistic contingency plan to effectively handle these scenarios?  Is there some kind of top secret, multi-layered cyber-shield that protects fans from receiving targeted false information (direct and/or decentralized)?  Remember, these are variables that test asymmetric warfare scenarios.  Predictable dilemmas that mankind, for the most part, has yet to encounter.

Label me a cynic, but if they have a game plan, I’d love to hear about it.  Any rational person would conclude that solving a universal security disconnect like this one, would at the very least, require making people minimally aware of the problem itself.  It’s called situational awareness.

So here’s some additional food for thought.  The Indy 500 is the most heavily attended 1-day sporting event on the planet earth.  One that requires using oil and ethanol (high grade gasoline) as a means to maximize American entertainment.  One that coincides with Memorial Day weekend.  One that’s a tourist destination for civilians from all walks of life.  One that’s viewed by hundreds of millions of sports enthusiasts around the world.  One that routinely happens every year in the heartland of the United States.

Now virtually every individual at the Indy 500 will forfeit their cell phone for about 2 seconds (when it’s placed in a small plastic tray as they proceed through a magnetometer).  Then they will retrieve it for the duration.  Has anyone explicitly told fans how their cell phones could conceivably be used to spark a panic… resulting in a stampede?  That their cell phones could actually be used as weapons?  Uhh, nope.

The Department of Homeland Security has a traditionally simple, straightforward, public safety directive.  It will be prominently displayed throughout the entire weekend.

If you see something, say something

So here’s something to contemplate.  Society’s most challenging, vexing problems often have the simplest solutions.

Whoaa!  Wait a second!  Ssshhh!  Government and private industry aren’t allowed to talk about the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Granted, this one’s a bitch because it theoretically involves a tacit admission of how to feasibly kill scores of people without conventional weapons (the weaponizing of a human stampede).

I raised these concerns on the official Indy 500 facebook page, and of course… was permanently blocked.  Apparently, the “see something say something” dynamic does not apply to the intersection of social media and hypothetical acts of terrorism.

Still, the least they could do is just tell people the TRUTH.

An official emergency racetrack evacuation order would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone.

That’s just not how it’s done.  Hint: They utilize this thing called the public address.  That’s how it has worked for well over a century.  Now IMS and DHS are well aware of the fact that virtually everyone has a cell phone.  This is merely the bare minimum amount of public safety information that either of them should provide.  There’s a moral, and many would argue, legal obligation.  Please note: I have no problem with cellular updates AFTER an evacuation has been satisfactorily achieved.  This is strictly regarding the initial order (assuming an evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary).

The element of danger is something that attracts people to the Indy 500.  But what if the most treacherous aspect of this Sunday’s race… is an absurdly generic, scenario that has never been analyzed… let alone acknowledged or addressed?



Old Trafford Emergency Evacuation Analysis

CigYunFW0AEf7ie10 games + 10 channels  = 1 Championship Sunday

That’s the recipe for the final week of the English Premier League.  Ten games being played simultaneously.  It’s a concept deliberately tailored to bolster the intrigue and drama of Europe’s most highly regarded soccer league.

After all, the league’s winner can be crowned on the last match day.  And since the three teams at the bottom of the chart are relegated (demoted) to the lower league, the final week draws a much larger television audience than usual.  Historically speaking, property values in many European cities are loosely tied to how well their soccer team performs.  So if your team finishes poorly, it can impact your financial security.  Just one of the many reasons why emotions are running high.

The significance is felt throughout the soccer world and even here in the United States.  Every game is simultaneously broadcast (NBC, NBCSN, MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network).  The other five games are televised on more obscure channels — Syfy, Esquire, E!, Bravo and Oxygen.  Note: The marketing executives of these channels and their viewing audiences wouldn’t know a soccer pitch from a baseball pitch.  Trust me, there’s a reason they break from traditional programming.  I’ll give you a hint.  It’s about money.

But on May 15, 2016, the spectacle of Championship Sunday went awry.  Something unprecedented happened at Old Trafford, the 75,600 seat stadium home to the iconic Manchester United.

Twenty minutes prior to kickoff, stadium security initiated “Operation Red Code” — the highest state of alert at Old Trafford.  An emergency evacuation announcement was made over the tannoy (the English word for loudspeaker, a/k/a the public address).

“The match has been abandoned for today on police advice.  People in the stadium are asked to remain in their seats while the forecourt is cleared of fans already evacuated from the stadium.  Further announcements will be made as soon as possible.  Thank you.”

Just for the record, this is the correct protocol.  In the unlikely event of an emergency stadium evacuation, a straightforward, concise message is delivered over the public address system.  It’s the superior way to comprehensively reach everyone.  When staging an emergency evac, a clear, unified, no-nonsense directive is the ultimate objective.  It is ill-advised to offer a detailed explanation.  To do so could invite questions, confusion and potentially spell trouble. This is one of the rare circumstances where a public safety directive actually requires delivering LESS information.  Simply stated, you do NOT use the public address system to divulge information about bomb threats, active shooters, lightning strikes, etc.  It’s essentially grounded in the same rationale for not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater or yelling “bomb” in an airport.

Back at Old Trafford, half of the stadium (the Sir Alex Ferguson North Stand and the Stretford End) filtered out.

569698691me00009-manchesterAlthough there was no discernible panic, it’s safe to assume that many in the crowd experienced a heightened state of unease.  After all, such a situation is far from the norm.  Keep in mind, this incident occurred on the heels of the 2015 Paris suicide bombing outside the Stade de France (  Not to mention the more recent act of terrorism in Brussels, Belgium on March 22, 2016.

Spanning a total of 760 games, this was the only full-scale stadium evacuation for the entire EPL season.  That’s 20 teams in the league.  That’s each team playing 38 games.

So what exactly prompted the evacuation?  Well, a suspicious device was discovered in a public restroom.
redi-2This cell phone strapped to a pipe was termed an “incredibly lifelike” explosive device.  And for good reason.  It turns out that the fake bomb was one of fourteen similar devices errantly left behind from a training exercise a few days prior to the game.  Chris Reid, the director of Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd., issued a formal apology and claimed responsibility for the entire mishap.

The bomb disposal unit was called in and staged a controlled detonation.

CigYmf8WEAE8qUVI suppose “all’s well that ends well.”  Well… not really.

Here are three takeaways from the Old Trafford stadium evacuation.

* The incident drew attention to the fact that stationary video recording devices are not permitted in stadium restroom facilities.  Although a fairly obvious observation, most fans have never given this matter any serious consideration.  In the future, a warped prankster or someone with a malicious copycat agenda might take advantage of that specific security disconnect.  It doesn’t require a lot of creativity to smuggle in a piece of string and tie an old cell phone to an empty napkin dispenser.

* During the evacuation, fans seeking answers immediately turned to their cell phones for real-time, real-world information.  Easily accessed social media platforms like facebook and twitter are decentralized, open-sourced platforms.  They are NOT necessarily a source for reliable or credible information.  In fact, it’s actually just the opposite.  They’re more like the “wild west” of the internet.

* Every soccer announcer, at every game, broadcasting on every channel, repeatedly referenced the Old Trafford evacuation.  While most acted professionally and were fairly cognizant of the ramifications, many of them reported speculation about a bomb.  And all of them reported on the arrival of the bomb control disposal unit.  It kinda makes you wonder how they’d react to an unanticipated, unexplainable, mass crowd disturbance.  What might they say if a significant number of fans suddenly abandoned their seats and rushed the concourses?  Just something to think about.

But here’s the biggest takeaway.

The English Premier League has something in common with the NFL.  And it’s more than the word “football.”

The National Football League relies heavily on the intrinsic value of overlapping games.  The recipe for simultaneous, televised games has been a time-tested success.  However, in the NFL, this same formula is also its achilles heel.

We already touched on the fact that 10 simultaneous games + large television viewing audiences = $$$.

Let’s try a few other equations.  But nobody’s allowed to talk about these ones.

*  Malicious hoax information + social media platforms = a potentially bad outcome.

*  Wireless hyper-connectivity + tens of thousands of cell phones = a potentially bad outcome.

*  Lack of situational awareness + untested variables = a potentially bad outcome.

*  Large, confined crowds + isolated pockets of panic = a potentially bad outcome.

Alright, enough with the innuendo.

1 NFL stadium + a saturation of cellular disinformation = the potential for an “artificially generated stampede.”

But let’s not be naive.  An attack on one stadium, would almost certainly be an attack on all of them.  A cyber-security event of epic magnitude.  There’s even a name for it.  DOMINIPEDE (domino + stampede).

But nobody’s allowed to talk about it.  Hmmm, probably not the best scenario when it comes to the future of stadium security, asymmetric threat analysis and contingency planning operations.  Silence isn’t always golden.


Ideal Conceal and the Smart Phone Gun

smart phone gun photoA recent invention by gun manufacturer Ideal Conceal literally has people “up in arms.”  Their product is a double barreled .380 caliber… discreetly and cleverly disguised as a cell phone.

The Minnesota company’s website makes the following claim: “Smartphones are EVERYWHERE, so your new pistol will easily blend in with today’s environment.  In its locked position, it will be virtually undetectable because it hides in plain sight.”
Ideal Conceal gun_1459196688152_1224792_ver1.0Not everyone is a fan of the cell phone gun.  My home state Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is leading the opposition.  He recently wrote a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms calling for an investigation.  But since the product is still in the prototype stage, there’s little that can be done.

As with most controversial products and issues, there are two sides.  Second Amendment purists will argue their constitutional right to bear arms is paramount.  Others will contend this “fugazi product” sets a very dangerous precedent.

The slippery slope argument goes something like this.

Let’s assume these smart phone guns become widely popular.  As they become increasingly prevalent, people would naturally be on the look-out, or at the very least, minimally cognizant of their existence.

Now there are times when police officers encounter hostile situations (rioting, looting, physically taking down a suspect, etc).  As these scenarios unfold, it has become quite common for someone in the crowd to whip out a cell phone and capture real-time video.

Now if I’m a cop, involved in a foot chase and just having tackled a suspect, my adrenalin would naturally be off the charts.  As I’m making the arrest, if I noticed someone reaching inside their coat pocket and pulling out a possible smart phone gun, I might feel that my life is in danger.  What if I open fired and killed the bystander?  Call me naive, but I could easily envision a police officer using this defensive line of reasoning in a court of law as it would be necessary to justify their prior actions and behavior.

I believe most rational people can deduce the “discernible inevitability” here.  You needn’t be Nostradamus to figure this one out.  It’s simply reasonable to conclude, that at a future point in time, a scenario like that would take place.

So do I have any specific proof or actionable intelligence?  Of course not.  I only possess the minimally required, predictable wisdom to theorize a general trajectory for future events.

Hey, I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but smart phones are miniature wireless supercomputers.  They can be used to transmit panic-inducing information.  Let’s maintain the above line of reasoning and try a futuristic riddle.

A terrorist cyber-attack involving cellular communication kills roughly 1,000 people and injures somewhere in the realm of 10,000, near simultaneously, in 10 different major cities across the East Coast and into the Midwest.  And oh yeah, I almost forgot a trivial detail.  There are no weapons.

Your first thought.  Oh, how quaint.  What a binary riddle!  Lots of ones and zeroes.  This guy must be a brain cancer radiation conspiracy theorist or maybe he’s worried about some kind of mass-reverse electro-shock scenario.  Well, not really.

What I’m concerned about is something entirely different.  It’s a black swan event known as a DOMINIPEDE (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes likely impacting the NFL 1 o’clock slate of games).

NFL stadiums are wirelessly hyper-connective environments.  And each venue has 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones. These mobile devices are capable of receiving real-time, false information in about a dozen different ways with content trending infinite.  It’s the most glaringly obvious variable in every stadium.  And it’s literally staring everyone right in the face.

I won’t be filling in the blanks this time.  I’m not going to delve into the who, what, when, where, why and how.  I’ve constructed a website ( and written a book (  It’s one of three that deal with the concept of “artificially generated stampedes.”   Feel free to give it a read.  After all, it’s free.

Okay.  Do you remember how I spoke of the notion of “discernible inevitability?”  Well, I believe that same characterization applies to the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Try thinking with a long term event horizon.  It doesn’t take a crystal ball to realize that at some future point in time, a scenario like this, at the very least, will be ATTEMPTED.  If you believe this to be a reasonable assertion, it might be wise to develop a straightforward contingency plan.

Any such contingency plan would definitively require making people fundamentally aware of the following: smart phones could be used to perpetrate a real-world, malicious hoax… with the ultimate goal of synthesizing a human stampede.

Now logic would dictate, that if someone is willing to go to the trouble of weaponizing a stampede, they’d most likely attempt multiple stampedes (dominipede).  And assuming there’s a realistic progression of malicious intent, the NFL would be the most inviting target (as opposed to the NCAA, NHL, NBA, MLB, etc.).  Simply stated, the NFL 1 o’clock slate represents the biggest “bang for your buck.”   Stadiums are overtly vulnerable.  And there is no legitimate strategy to combat such an act.  Because the threat itself is, by nature, undiscussable.

The final piece of the puzzle is a generational warfare axiom.  But don’t worry.  Complex mathematics isn’t required.

Throughout the history of mankind, human beings have conceived of just about every way imaginable to kill each other.  Rope, swords, bullets, bombs, arrows, guillotines, pits and cliffs… walking the plank, being drawn and quartered, gas chambers, lethal injections… suffocation, immobilization, electrocution, crucifixion, starvation and an endless list of bizarre torture methods that even makes me feel uncomfortable (deliberate sarcasm).

So here are the three questions you must ask.  Taking everything into account, is it REASONABLE to assume that someone, at some future point in time, will try to artificially weaponize a stampede?  As a tool of warfare or terrorism, are human stampedes somehow “off-limits” across the board?  And collectively speaking, what’s the most obvious target(s)?

If you think something like this could never happen — Well, I would encourage you to mentally travel back in time… to September 10, 2001.  And if you think something like this could never be attempted — Well, I would encourage you to visually survey your surroundings.  Cell phones are ubiquitous.

An open admission: I’m not sure how the future pans out, but I would prefer to err on the side of acknowledgment and awareness, as opposed willful suppression and deliberate ignorance.  As you’ve probably ascertained, I’m not the only person on the planet earth who has thought of this.  And I sure as hell shouldn’t be the only one taking an active interest.

I mentioned earlier how this “whole cell phone weapon thing” is gonna be a big deal.  But there’s something that the vast majority of people fail to realize.

A cell phone already IS a weapon.


Preventing Terrorism Through Social Media Act of 2016

chuck schumerSenator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has announced legislation geared toward preventing acts of terrorism.  In a nutshell, it’s a proactive “if you see something, say something” approach to exposing anything deemed potentially dangerous on social media.

Monetary rewards for effectively combating a terrorist act would start at $25,000, conceivably going as high as 25 million.

I won’t debate the pros and cons of such legislation.  However, I do believe there’s tremendous potential for false leads as well as the misallocation of government resources.

Assuming the 2016 Social Media Act becomes law, I have a strong hunch that many members of Congress will become intimately familiar with an undiscussable, asymmetric cyber-security threat… something I’ve termed an “artificially generated stampede.”

The concept itself is not terribly complex.  It’s simply the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater — a decentralized saturation of wireless information, resulting in spontaneous confusion and panic, followed by a crowd surge, leading to a human stampede.

I’m not going to offer a detailed explanation of how something like this could take place.  I’ve written 3 books and roughly 100 articles which outline the methodology in exhaustive detail.  The information is freely available on the internet.  Although I will tell you something.  It’s vastly more complicated than a mass texted “bomb threat” mysteriously appearing on your cell phone.  Smart phones are miniature supercomputers.  There are roughly a dozen major ways to transmit real-time information.  And as far as synthesizing fear or convincing people they should hastily exit a venue, the variables and combinations trend infinite, much like an NCAA tournament bracket sheet.

The AGSAF (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) mission statement has narrowed over the past couple years.  Our current purpose is to explicitly warn event attendees that OFFICIAL emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.  This represents the absolute, bare minimum of information it would be reasonable to divulge.

In the unlikely event of a real-world evacuation for a large, confined crowd (stadium, ballpark, motor speedway, arena, amphitheater, etc.), established protocol dictates using the public address system in tandem with the video monitors (if available).  The overriding objective is to present a clear, succinct, unified, all-encompassing directive.  For obvious reasons, this is not effectively achieved through bulk texts or cellular alerts.

Perhaps at some future point in time, the protocol will change.  But if you ask any knowledgeable incident commander, they will concur with my assessment.  Now if they wish to provide cellular updates and additional information after an evac has been satisfactorily achieved, that’s at their discretion.  I’m solely referencing the initial order to evacuate.  You would NEVER send out a gazillion evacuation alerts.  It’s just not how it’s done.  If something like this happened, it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create a stampede.  There is one other minor possibility I suppose – the notion of someone executing a mass evacuation purely for their own amusement.  But that would seem highly doubtful.

Now you might be curious about the discrepancies posed by weather related alerts, presidential terror alerts or exactly what constitutes a bomb threat emergency as opposed to a bomb threat condition.  These are sub-issues that require a deeper explanation.  Feel free to reference the AGSAF website.

If you’re an intellectually inquisitive human being, you might be wondering… why have I never heard of this “artificially generated stampede?”  Well, there are several reasons.  The rationale for nondisclosure is mostly grounded in a simple catch-22.  If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if something bad happens, you’re screwed.  Even though the subject matter is absurdly generic (much like planes crashing into buildings), it cannot be openly discussed for a variety of reasons — the most obvious one being plausible deniability.  Hypothetical litigation in the aftermath of a tragedy, delicate social mores, purposeful neglect or intentional negligence, the lose-lose proposition and a basic unwillingness to publicly acknowledge negative outcomes are also a definable part of the security disconnect.  Not only is it a generational warfare paradox (the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians without conventional weapons), it’s also a classic risk management paradox (what level of truthful disclosure is deemed reasonable).

And even though it doesn’t cost anything to provide brief snippets of common sense public safety information, like say for instance, “please be aware of the danger presented by broken bats and foul balls”… it’s still about M-O-N-E-Y.

This represents the crux of why you’ve never heard anyone express concern about the downside of wireless hyper-connectivity in large venues.  But trust me, if you’re willing to objectively view the issue with a long-term event horizon, you’ll likely arrive at the following conclusion — the deliberate weaponizing of a human stampede would be a big deal.

Now most people have never given this national security issue any consideration.  But there are a lot of people who already know about it.  So how can I make that statement with absolute certainty?  Well, because I told them.  And I’ve been telling them, and I will continue to tell them, until the matter is adequately addressed.  The alternative is to sit idly by and wait for a tragedy to occur, or at the very least, be ATTEMPTED.  Considering the current and future state of communication technology, such a trajectory is both unacceptable and unsustainable.

So just who are these people who already know about the problem but would prefer to remain silent?  Well, I don’t personally know their names but I can point you in a few pretty solid directions.

As part of an extensive, ongoing public service campaign, I’ve taken it upon myself to post relevant safety information on the official facebook pages of professional sports franchises and NCAA universities.  The result — some of the individuals who moderate those pages have had me permanently blocked.  Here is a sample of the organizations that chose to deliberately deny their fans access to generically critical, life-preserving information.

National Football League — Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos.

NCAA Division I Universities — Southern Mississippi, Baylor, South Carolina, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Tennessee, Boston College, Arizona, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Kansas, Florida International, Western Kentucky, Louisville, Southern Methodist, Idaho, Ball State, East Carolina, Akron, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Toledo, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, Hawaii, Central Florida, Louisiana Lafayette, San Jose State, Wake Forest, Tulsa, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Colorado State, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Notre Dame.

National Hockey League — Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Winnipeg Jets, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings.

National Basketball Association — Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers.

Major League Baseball — Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays.

I’m guessing you weren’t prepared for such a comprehensive list.  Well let me be blunt.  Neither was I.  And this represents just the tip of the iceberg.

So if you happen to be a distinguished member of Congress, you’re probably wondering… how many of my colleagues know about this?  And how long have they known but refused to take any demonstrable action to safeguard the lives of their constituents.  Also, I wonder if any of them or their aides have blocked this guy?  Well, there’s only one way to find out.  Ask them!

I could provide a detailed list of members of Congress.  But I think it would ultimately be detrimental as it snuffs out the important elements of discussion and discovery.  After all, this has always been about raising situational awareness.  So instead, I’ll just publish a list of the 2016 major presidential candidates who determined it was in their best interests to have me permanently blocked:

John Kasich, Marco Rubio, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Lincoln Chafee, Ben Carson, Rand Paul

Apparently, posting such information in a public forum could conceivably have a detrimental impact on a presidential campaign.  Who woulda thought?

Oh, and by the way, here’s something to reflect on.  I sent every member of Congress a letter about this issue on December 29, 2013.  Not an email.  It was a physical letter, with a stamp, in a real envelope, mailed via the United States Postal Service.

Three Senators and roughly a dozen members of the House had the courtesy to respond via the U.S. postal service.  Who were they?  Hmmm, maybe it’s a good time to reach across the aisle and do a little old-fashioned detective work.  If you find that idea unsettling (hey, not everyone enjoys talking to Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid), I’d suggest contacting the Federal Communications Commission, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security or possibly even facebook President and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI)  is on the list of those who took the time and effort to respond.  Ironically, I think he wishes that he had never spoken.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) Deflects Concern Over Stadium Evacuation Protocol

One final thought.  On January 1, 2017 there are 12 simultaneous NFL games scheduled for the time frame between 1p.m. – 4p.m.  I would strongly suggest contacting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and directly ask him about stadium security contingency planning operations.  Considering the fact that nobody’s allowed to acknowledge the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede” or worst case scenario “dominipede”… well, I suspect it ain’t going well.

A black swan tragedy would not be the ideal way to kick off a new year.

So needless to say, if you wish to collect this 25 million dollar “terrorism reward”… well, I just had a powerful revelation.  Just copy and paste the link to this article on the social media sites of every member of Congress.  Facebook, twitter, instagram, whatever.  Hey, maybe you’ll cash in.  Good luck!


Let’s Go Bucs

160307-flying-pirates-baseball-bat-save-mdl-1232p_367647d5193b82da0fabe0deb88df089.nbcnews-fp-1200-800During a March 5, 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates/Atlanta Braves exhibition game at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL, Danny Ortiz lost control of his bat.  As it flew into the stands, an observant father saw the bat coming toward his 8 year old son’s head.  He miraculously extended his arm to prevent what might have resulted in a potentially life threatening injury.  That’s one hell of an instinctual, real-time OODA loop.

Observe — There’s a wooden bat flying at us.
Orient — This is a dangerous predicament.  There isn’t sufficient time to get out of its way.  The bat must be stopped or deflected.
Decide — The best solution is to block it using my arm.
Act — Raises his arm and successfully mitigates the detrimental impact.

Well done. Nice job.

Judging from the picture, the boy seemed preoccupied with his smart phone.  Was he executing a stock trade?  Was he verifying dinner reservations at an upscale restaurant?  It’s really hard to say.  But whatever he was doing, I’m sure it was of tremendous importance.  In fact, if you take a look around the ballpark, he’s not the only attendee who seems distracted… staring downward into those tiny little screens.  Just turn on any MLB game and look at the fans behind home plate.

At any baseball game, at any level, there is a perceived element of danger.  Broken bats and foul balls.  This is such a routine problem that virtually every baseball organization issues both written warnings (on the back of ticket stubs) and verbal warnings (over the public address).  These statements are specifically designed to heighten fan situational awareness about the dangers posed by errant projectiles.  The standard disclaimer is also an attempt to limit liability and exposure to hypothetical litigation.  Think about what might happen if everyone who was ever hit by a foul ball decided to file a lawsuit.  You don’t need a crystal ball to realize that the sport itself would quickly disappear.

I often attend MLB games.  So let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

On May 5, 2015, I attended a Pirates/Reds game at PNC Park.  It afforded me the opportunity to have a discussion with their Director of Security Mark Weaver and some local Pittsburgh police officers in their command post adjacent to section 105.

In the past, Mr. Weaver and I have had multiple conversations about outdated emergency ballpark evacuation protocol.  He has demonstrated a “tepid willingness” to acknowledge some very challenging issues regarding venue security.  While I cannot personally speak on his behalf, I am certain my concerns have resonated.

The main dilemma here is incredibly generic in nature.  I’m worried about the modern, technological equivalent of someone shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Most fans fail to consider the notion that virtually everyone has an active miniature supercomputer in their possession.  When PNC Park is at maximum capacity, that’s roughly 40,000 cell phones.  The vast majority, smart phones. This “inconvenient truth” leaves everyone vulnerable to receiving deliberately false information (phony evac orders, bomb threats, social media rumors, wireless carrier hacks, opt-in notification abuse, bulk texts, spoofed messages, robo-calls, phishing scams, etc.).  If the hoax was convincing and decentralized, it could conceivably result in an unanticipated crowd dynamic — a spontaneous panic, leading to an “artificially generated stampede.”

Weaver’s counter argument centered upon the notion that every fan wouldn’t be that stupid to fall for a hoax.  He also said, “By your logic, we should make a pre-safety announcement every time we launch fireworks.  What if people panic, mistaking the explosions for gunfire?”

Needless to say, I disagreed with that analogy.  I imagine he was playing devil’s advocate, but that particular line of reasoning was exceptionally weak.

I countered, “Considering the recurring game day vulnerability and the possibility of someone eventually testing the cracks in the system, wouldn’t it be the wiser course of action to devise a straightforward contingency plan?  In this case, just simply tell fans the truth.  This could be achieved through a 3 second looped message:

Official ballpark emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via your mobile device.

When an emergency evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, protocol dictates using the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.  You do NOT play text messaging games with large, confined crowds.  No competent venue incident commander would ever attempt to deliver a “cellular” emergency evacuation order.  A. They wouldn’t  B. They shouldn’t.  C. They couldn’t.  This isn’t my opinion.  It’s the industry standard.  And it applies to other facilities as well… stadiums, amphitheaters, arenas, motor speedways, etc.  A clear, unified, all-encompassing directive is paramount.

Now Mr. Weaver is well aware of the underlying conflict, but is incredibly reluctant to take a proactive approach.  He refuses to address the underlying security disconnect.  And for obvious reasons I might add:

Plausible deniability.  In case there ever was an actual stampede, triggered by a saturation of wireless information, people would invariably ask, why didn’t anyone share this little snippet of common sense information?  Why didn’t anybody tell us that something like this could happen, or at the very least, be attempted?  Newsflash: It’s exceptionally difficult to hold people accountable for hypothetical outcomes. There’s a reason Sgt. Schultz (of Hogan’s Heroes fame) would often say… I see nothing!  I know nothing!

Foreseeable litigation.  If history is any indication, when things take a turn for the worse, people immediately seek out the “deep pockets” for punitive and compensatory damages.  In 2016, the average MLB team had a net worth of 1.2 billion dollars.

Lose-lose proposition.  From a monetary perspective, there’s nothing to be gained.  Other than preventing hypothetical injuries and loss of life, the prevailing attitude is “what’s in it for us?”   From a liability perspective, if nobody else is willing to volunteer unique information about venue safety then “why should we?”

And finally, it’s a tacit, voluntary admission that a specific scenario exists which could render a ballpark unsafe.  As you might expect, nobody wants to “go down that road.”

So back to our conversation.  At one point, I mentioned that I happened to know the Pirates owner Bob Nutting.  Everyone in the room was “smirkingly skeptical.”  I informed them that we had spoken several times and he actually agreed with my assessments.  He would say, “Eric, I agree with you but I don’t understand what you want ME to do about it.”  When I replied, “It’s easy.  You own the team.  Just tell people the truth with a 3 second message.”

Please be aware… that in the unlikely event of an emergency ballpark evacuation, the initial order would NEVER be officially delivered via your personal cell phone.

But Mr. Nutting remained intransigent.  I still don’t understand why this is MY problem?  Why should I be ultimately held responsible?  Evidently, we have different visions regarding accountability and liability.  Fair enough, I suppose.

But everyone was still leery of my claim that I personally knew their billionaire boss.  For them, this was the much bigger concern.  So I explained that my oldest brother AJ went to high school (Linsly Institute) with Mr. Baseball.  That Wheeling was a small town and you occasionally run into fellow residents.  That he was a patient of my father who had a local dermatological practice.  That Wheeling locals often referred to him as “Raccoon Bob” (in his youth, he was notorious for trying to befriend raccoons on Corliss Terrace in the Woodsdale section of town).  I even showed them my West Virginia drivers license.

At this point, everyone seemed to realize that I wasn’t making things up.  And they instantly became less patronizing and condescending.  Sensing the importance and the unusual nature of the conversation, all of them suddenly took an interest.  But one of the cops behaved differently.

“You might want to think twice before coming to another Pirates game and telling us how to do our jobs.”

Headstrong, belligerent, aggressive, likes to hear the sound of their own voice, needs to have the last word.  An authority figure on everything.  Even that which they know little about.  At one time or another, I think we’ve all had a conversation with this “type” of individual.

So just when I thought the conversation was gaining a little traction, the topic shifted to human stampedes.  Our friendly Pittsburgh police officer… “First off, fans aren’t allowed out of their seats while the game is in progress.”  Hmm, I wasn’t sure what to make of that statement.  He also interjected that “stampedes don’t happen in the United States.  They only happen at soccer games, where everyone’s drunk.”

When I informed him that stampedes are actually more prevalent at religious festivals (particularly in Saudi Arabia) he chuckingly muttered, “That’s because those sand-niggers pray to the wrong god.”  As you might expect, the room immediately froze and Mr. Weaver abruptly terminated our conversation.

I could further scrutinize the discussion.  But frankly, it was an absolute embarrassment.  And it would shed an atrocious spotlight on the absence of critical thinking skills.  Not to mention a pervasive display of arrogance and disrespect.  So I’ll just try to sum this all up.

Do you remember the young boy?  Playing with his smart phone?  Who almost got hit by the bat?  Let’s reflect on his predicament.

For the 2016 season, MLB issued new ballpark safety guidelines.  They’ve mandated an extension of the protective netting down the first and third base lines.  Now let’s be honest.  The problems posed by broken bats and foul balls have plagued Major League baseball since well before Bill Mazeroski won us game 7 in the 1960 World Series.  My point — this isn’t some brand new revelation in the realm of ballpark safety.

The world is not a static environment.  Variables are constantly changing.  And humanity needs to tweak and adjust itself in response to those variables.  It’s called an OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).

Just like the presence of physical netting, society needs to realize the necessity for improvements in the world of “wireless netting.”  Fans are vulnerable and exposed because they’re being intentionally denied a heightened level of situational awareness.

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Forgive the stale pun, but the government and private industry need to “step up to the plate.”  This isn’t the 500 lb. elephant in the room.  It’s the 15,000 lb. Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Carnegie Science Center.

So will it be the Pittsburgh Pirates?  Call me a cynic.  But based on my personal experiences, I seriously doubt they’re willing to play ball.  I’m not even sure they’d know how.


The RNC, the DNC and the Artificially Generated Stampede

conventions0910The Republican and Democratic national conventions are quickly approaching.  Security expenditures for both events will be unprecedented.  In fact, the Department of Homeland Security just allocated 50 million dollars to the host city of Cleveland.  DHS will surely follow suit with Philadelphia.  Most of the grant money is designated for personnel, wages and physical security (riot gear, collapsible batons, metal fencing, etc.).

However, there’s a persistent looming threat that hovers over every large crowd.  But it’s something that nobody’s allowed to talk about.  And when I say nobody, I really mean it.  Mainstream media, venue management, sports ownership, federal and state government, city officials, basically everyone.  This threat is known as an “artificially generated stampede.”  The concept isn’t complex.  But it is, by nature, undiscussable.  It’s simply the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.

These days, virtually everyone carries an active cell phone.  And these mobile devices are capable of receiving false information in a virtually unlimited variety of ways and means.  If a dissemination of information (phony evacuation orders, bomb threats, panic-inducing content, etc.) was convincing and the saturation was well-timed, and more important, virally decentralized, I suspect enough people might fear for their lives, thus setting off a mass panic.

I occasionally post generic warnings about such an event on sites related to the NFL and NCAA.  If you’re able to objectively think with a long-term event horizon, you’ll eventually come to the conclusion that there’s a “discernible inevitability” in play.  At some future point in time, a scenario like this will occur.  Will it be successful in creating a full-fledged human stampede?  I honestly don’t know.  I suspect that would depend upon a variety of factors.  But will it eventually be attempted?  Yes, of course.

If a renegade individual or terrorist group wanted to commit an atrocity, their degree of malicious intent would likely steer them in the direction of multiple stadiums (dominipede).  Ballparks and motor speedways would be other conceivable targets.  Further down the line, I’d start worrying about amphitheaters and arenas.  But regardless of the type of venue(s), the concept is simple and straightforward.  It does not require a degree in military theory.  Just a little creative thinking and a willingness to challenge the status quo.  It’s merely the weaponizing of a human stampede.

When the Republican and Democratic conventions occur, Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland (July 18 – July 21, 2016) and the Wells Fargo Center in southeast Philadelphia (July 25 – July 28, 2016) will be at the brink of capacity.  Tickets aren’t “sold” in the traditional sense.  They’re given away to lobbyists, political insiders and operatives, prominent fundraisers, delegates, elite representatives and the media.  Take my word for it.  Both venues will be packed to the rafters.  The optics for live television require a raucous full house.

Question: Now what do both arenas have in common?
Answer: They’re both wirelessly hyper-connective environments.

Attendees will be receiving and transmitting massive quantities of real-time cellular information.  Now here’s another question you might ask — is there any type of “cyber-filtration” system or wireless shield that protects individuals from hoax information?  I’m afraid the correct answer is… no.

Question: Now if the threat is so grave, why have I never heard of it?
Answer: Because if you acknowledge the security disconnect exists, you own it.  And if something bad happens, you’re to blame.  The entire premise of the artificially generated stampede is grounded in a catch-22.  This asymmetric, cyber-security threat remains non-addressable and undiscussable.  But does anybody have actual knowledge of the issue?  Uh… yeah.

How can I say this with the utmost certainty?  Well, the official facebook pages for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia Flyers have permanently blocked me for posting my concerns.  I’ve also been blocked by the following presidential candidates: Marco Rubio, John Kasich, George Pataki, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Lincoln Chafee.  This outright refusal to acknowledge, and deliberate attempt to suppress generic public safety information, is NOT a good omen for those who will be attending the conventions.

There’s a very tangible irony in play.  Upon entering either venue, attendees will repeatedly hear a looped message compliments of the Department of Homeland Security.  Please report any suspicious activity.  If you see something, say something.  Now let’s be honest.  You’re allowed to report certain things: an unattended briefcase, a discarded fast food bag, a dubious individual in a dark alley, etc.  But nobody’s allowed to talk about the hypothetical downside of cellular communication.  Once again… this is NOT a good omen.

Both conventions have received the maximum “Tier 1” security designation from the Department of Homeland Security.  Many would argue that the level of logistical security will even supersede events such as the presidential inauguration and the State of the Union.  As far as crowd safety goes, these conventions are comparable to the Super Bowl and the Olympics combined.  Local, state, and federal agencies, SWAT, Secret Service, K-9, rooftop snipers, IED and bomb disposal control units.  Everyone will be on maximum alert, prepared for absolutely any conceivable threat whatsoever.  Well, except for the most obvious one that nobody’s allowed to talk about.

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

What if the government spends all that money and later discovers that the ultimate security solution would have been free of charge?  It’s called telling people the truth.


The Case For Awareness

warningI occasionally post this comment on the official facebook pages of NFL teams and NCAA universities:

Many NFL and NCAA football stadiums have 50,000 – 100,000 active wireless devices capable of receiving real-time, false information. Shouldn’t stadium management explicitly warn fans that official emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones?

Hint: Legitimate evacuation orders come from the public address system in tandem with the video monitors. NOT CELL PHONES.

The federal government and private industry won’t go anywhere near this cyber-security threat… unless there’s a tragedy first. This is not complex.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.

The feedback usually breaks into three distinct categories.

About 60% reply with ad hominem attacks.  Your stupid.  Your paranoid (they almost always use the wrong version of the word “your”).  Stop living in fear.  Go away loser.  STFU.  Of the 60%, about half make a conspiracy oriented remark or claim I must be wearing a tin foil hat.

Around 20% are curious.  Why did I post it?  What’s my agenda?  Many wish to know specific details.  “How would they get everyone’s cell phone number” is a common question.  Some claim the government has it all covered… as if there’s some kind of magical cyber-shield that protects every large, confined crowd from receiving false information.

Roughly 20% are appreciative.  Many reply, “thanks, I never thought of that” or “this is solid information but I’m uncomfortable with the way you go about promoting your cause.”

I’m not really bothered by the knee jerk reactions or lack of critical thinking.  After all, most people have never given this matter any serious consideration.  They aren’t analyzing the issue with a long-term event horizon.  And hey, let’s be honest.  Facebook is a horrible forum to engage the general public on black swan national security issues and asymmetric cyber-security threats.

But here’s what you should find very disconcerting.  It’s the ultimate decision of the facebook page administrators to have me permanently blocked.  With the stroke of a button, the conversation is effectively terminated in perpetuity.  Future access to knowledge of a specific security issue is prohibitively denied.  This dynamic impacts everyone’s personal safety.  And as you might have guessed, nobody else has the courage to assertively place this information in the public domain.  I’m the only one — your exclusive dream destination for “artificially generated stampedes.” In this case, knowledge and situational awareness go hand in hand.

Here’s why it’s a matter of tremendous concern.  Based on the tone and tenor of facebook replies, it’s reasonable to conclude that not everyone has a clear understanding of my objective.  Due to unfamiliarity with the subject matter, many fail to grasp the basic premise… the prospect of a decentralized, wireless hoax saturation, leading to a panic, inevitably resulting in a human stampede.  They don’t quite understand that I’m trying to coerce the teams and universities into just being proactive and divulging the truth (stadium evac orders don’t come from your cell phone).  That I’m encouraging them to address the gaping security disconnect and fix their existing protocol.  Not everyone is capable of connecting the dots.  Most people likely think my goal’s to disparage their beloved sports team.

Now I realize that stampedes in the United States are highly infrequent.  And not only that, but I’m broaching a very sensitive scenario for which there is virtually no historical precedent.  So I’d speculate that most page administrators become irritated or confused.   Many of them would be conflicted.  What should we do?  Should we block him?  Should we delete the comment?  What if he posts it again?  Should we get advice from our legal team, management or public relations department?  What if the scenario he’s describing were to actually happen?  Could we be held liable?  How exactly should we proceed?  These questions quickly become apparent when you venture into the realm of “discussing the undiscussable.”

I don’t fault people for the wide range of reactions.  After all, most people don’t sit around hypothesizing about the repercussions of outdated venue emergency evacuation protocol.  Very few engage in risk assessment for inclement weather conditions (tornadoes, lightning strikes, etc.).  And even fewer can distinguish between bomb threat conditions and bomb threat emergencies.  Some of the sub-issues can actually get pretty complex.

However, this lack of comprehension extends well beyond the fans.  I’ve had countless discussions with NCAA police chiefs and NFL security, many who’ve never conceived of a scenario resembling an “artificially generated stampede.”  Many have never considered the downside of wireless hyper-connectivity and the heavy concentration of cell phones.  Even worse, many are under the illusion that an attack of this nature could not even be ATTEMPTED.  Contingency planning doesn’t exist.  That is not a good omen.  Also, there’s one thing I can assure you of — virtually nobody understands the generational warfare angle… the notion of indiscriminately killing innocent civilians WITHOUT conventional weaponry.  It’s just not a conversation for the average dinner table.

It’s important to provide an actual list of the institutions and private entities that have permanently blocked me.  Because it decisively illustrates the ongoing situational awareness disconnect.  What was it all about?  Was he merely offering common sense, generic information about stadium security?  Or was he peddling some disturbing brand of fear mongering propaganda?

If an artificially generated stampede or worst case scenario dominipede (multiple stampedes) befell the United States, I reckon a lot of people would ask, “Why didn’t anybody tell us that something like this could happen, or at the very least, concede that it could be attempted?  Who knew?  What did they know?  When did they know it?  And why wouldn’t anybody reveal the plain truth (hint: it’s about money).  Most important, why was this guy blocked for divulging relatively obscure, but fairly obvious, public safety info?

Hmmm, remember the people who replied “Your a dumb ass” or “Douchebag Conspiracy Alert !!!”   Maybe they have a point after all.

So here’s the current list of NFL teams that have chosen to block me.

Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens.

And here’s a much bigger list of NCAA Division I universities that have decided they’re better off withholding this unique, albeit absurdly generic, brand of public safety information.

Southern Mississippi, Baylor, South Carolina, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Oklahoma, Indiana, Michigan, Western Michigan, Tennessee, Boston College, Arizona, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Kansas, Florida International, Western Kentucky, Louisville, Southern Methodist, Idaho, Ball State, Akron, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Toledo, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, Hawaii, Central Florida, Louisiana Lafayette, San Jose State, Wake Forest, Tulsa, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Nebraska, Notre Dame.

Last but not least, let’s throw in some MLB franchises that have silenced me.

Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds.

I hate to use a 9/11 analogy but it’s actually a pretty good fit.  Pre-9/11, what if someone had posted on the airline facebook pages an urgent request to “strengthen cockpit doors based on the hypothetical prospect of a group of committed terrorists, armed with box cutters, seeking martyrdom, commandeering passenger planes and deliberately ramming them into high value targets?”  Let’s be honest.  Deciphering and interpreting a statement like that would be pretty difficult.  It might even leave you in a state of confusion and distress.

Sounds familiar, huh?



Football is Family

football is familyThe NFL 2015-16 season has concluded.  And their poster child, Peyton Manning, has come under scrutiny for covering up a sexual assault case dating back to 1996.  You know what?  Maybe it’s a good time to reflect on the their latest marketing campaign — Football is Family.  Has a nice ring to it, ehh?

A dozen 30 second videos which encompass a wide range of heart-warming themes: breast cancer awareness, caring and concern, mentoring, parenting, philanthropy, coping with mortality, community, managing expectations, freedom/military service, heritage and history.

So why the sudden barrage of benevolence?

Call me a cynic but I suspect that NFL marketing executives held a meeting and brainstormed about a way to soften the blow from Concussion.  That movie shined a nasty spotlight on CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  Needless to say, there’s definitely a link between repeatedly getting knocked out cold and the progressive deterioration of one’s mental faculties.

I think the NFL decided it would be in their collective best interest to deflect, or at the very least, attempt to neutralize this deluge of bad publicity.  After all, most lifelong fans are also concerned parents.  If mom and dad came to the realization that their children could face permanent brain damage, it could have a profound impact on the breeding ground for the future stars of the NFL.  The entire channel could be compromised.  Youth football, middle school, high school, college, all the way into the pros.  In a word, it’s about MONEY.

There’s only one concrete way to mitigate this kind of damage.  And that’s to convince everyone that we’re all part of a loving family.  The NFL’s truly concerned for your life, limb and well-being.  Hence, football is family.

Just for the record, I’m not sure Football is Family is the best slogan.  Seriously, most families aren’t very receptive to domestic violence, rape accusations, weapons charges, DUIs, steroid abuse, recreational drugs, cheating, tax evasion, gambling and prostitution.  Not to mention the familiar behavior that encapsulates and glamorizes the NFL… arrogance, show-boating, greed, trash talk, veiled threats and the win-at-any-cost agenda.

I raise these issues because most “families” wish to protect their loved ones from harm.

It’s no coincidence that the NFL has the most extensive security apparatus in all of professional sports.  They hire former FBI agents and DHS consultants, ex-police chiefs and private detectives.   All with the intention of protecting their athletes and employees.  Commissioner Roger Goodell even has a name for it — it’s called protecting the shield.  Because the success of any one franchise is directly contingent upon the economic viability of the other 31 teams.

So we must “protect the shield” because “football is family.”  I guess this makes sense… or does it?  What if I told you the NFL utterly fails this litmus test… in possibly the most absurdly generic way one could fathom.

Let’s draw an analogy.  Typical families teach their children about basic public safety information.  “Look both ways before you cross the street” is a pretty universal message.  It’s about as fundamental as it gets.  Not only do we reinforce this message, we physically hold our children’s hands at the curb.  Why?  Well, we don’t want to see them rammed by a Dodge pick-up truck.

Now what if I told you that the NFL doesn’t care if their fans get killed?  Huh?  Come again?  You’d probably be perplexed and bewildered.  What if the NFL intentionally conceals the most obvious matter regarding stadium safety?  You’d likely reply, “Don’t be ridiculous!”

I’ll keep this as plain as possible and try not to sound condescending.  You see, there are 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in every NFL stadium.  These wireless devices are capable of receiving real-time, false information in more ways than you can fathom (wireless carrier hacks, opt-in notification abuse, phishing scams, reverse 911 platforms, targeted spam, Wireless Emergency Alert sabotage, bulk texting, mass emails, robo-calls, facebook and twitter updates, etc.).

Now I’m not referring to scoring updates and fantasy football stats.  I’m talking about a deliberate saturation of bomb threats and phony evacuation orders — communicative material with the express intention of causing a real-world panic.  This is NOT complex.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  And just for the record, there are additional, more seemingly deceptive ways to encourage fans to rush the concourse.  For example, free food offers, discounted merchandise, impromptu t-shirt giveaways, legendary hall of fame stars signing autographs, celebrity sightings, etc.  It’s critical to think a little outside the box… or in this case, stands.

Now is NFL security aware of this security disconnect?  Do they know that virtually everyone is carrying a cell phone in a wirelessly hyper-connective environment?  Do the incident commanders think they’re living in 1986… or 2016?  Sometimes you have to wonder.

Back to the “crossing the street” analogy.  If the NFL was really part of your family, wouldn’t a proud father like Roger Goodell wish to extend his hand to everyone at a busy intersection during rush hour?  Ideally, he’d wanna hold your hand in a way that makes even Paul McCartney envious.

At an absolute bare minimum, Goodell could let fans know that emergency stadium evacuation orders would NEVER come from their personal cell phones.  Standard protocol dictates that evac information come through the public address system in tandem with the jumbotron/video monitors.  No incident commander in their right mind would stage an evacuation by playing texting games with a capacity crowd approaching 100,000.  Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t.  They simply lack the capability.

Now someday, maybe things will be different.  Perhaps we’ll have transponders implanted in our cerebrums that tell us when to move and how to behave.  But until then… wouldn’t it be in everyone’s best interest if Goodell just leveled with his kids?  After all, we’re family!  We’re supposed to tell each other the truth.

Unfortunately, there’s a litany of reasons why Goodell is not acting as a responsible parent (voluntary admissions about obsolete stadium security, hypothetical disclosure, plausible deniability, foreseeable litigation, etc.).  I’ll sum up his silence in a single world — MONEY.

There is a warped irony in play here.  If you were to actually receive a real-time evacuation order, it might not be delivered in the form of some mysterious text alert.  It would likely be coming from your friends and immediate family… as they would have probably been deceived by the actual hoax itself.  They would be directly reaching out to protect their loved ones.

Such is the cruel paradox of the ARTIFICIALLY GENERATED STAMPEDE, an event that would probably be designed to scale into a DOMINIPEDE (multiple, simultaneous stampedes likely impacting the 1 o’clock slate of games).  Not to sound melodramatic, but in hindsight, an event of this magnitude would almost certainly be viewed as the follow up to 9/11.

Feel free to share this information in any social media forum regarding the National Football League, stadium safety, crowd management and/or bomb threat protocol.


Tamil Nadu Stampede

tamil nadirOn February 7, 2016, four individuals drowned to death in a human stampede at the Tamil Nadu Temple in Tiruvannamalai, India.  The fatalities occurred when a surge of people tried to participate in a holy ritual in a large tank (rectangular pool of water).  Some might be inclined to think… Wow, only four?  Sounds like they got lucky this time.

Let me be blunt.  India has a widespread, universal crowd management problem.  And it isn’t disappearing anytime soon.  The relative frequency of tragedies is increasing, not decreasing.  Here’s some of the major incidents from the past decade.  I won’t even bother with the injury tallies.  Rest assured, those numbers are far greater.

2005, Mandiradevi Temple, Maharashtra – 291
2008, Naina Devi Temple, Himachal Pradesh – 146
2008, Chamunda Devi Temple, Jodhpur – 224
2010, Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, Uttarakhand – 7
2010, Makar Sankranti, Gangasagar Mela – 7
2010, Kripalu Maharaj Ashram, Kunda – 63
2011, Sabarimala Temple, Kerala – 102
2012, Satsang, Deoghar, Jharkhand – 12
2013, Kumbh Mela, Allahabad – 36
2013, Ratangarh Mata Temple, Pradesh – 115
2105, Godavari Maha Puskakaram, Andhra Pradesh – 27

These crises stem from a profound lack of accountability.  I guess the million dollar question is… can anything be done to halt this “systemic stampede progression” or is the nation of India just habitually doomed and condemned.  Is it a consequence of hyper-population?  Could there be isolated pockets of religious zealotry?  Is it about antiquated infrastructure?

Or is it about an unwillingness to confront crowd density issues and a failure to engage in disciplined planning?  I don’t know.  You tell me.

There’s a reason I chose to examine this “mini” stampede.  After all, it bears little resemblance to the past carnage involving massive throngs.  The crowd on hand was estimated at only 2,000.  It wasn’t about the magnitude.  It was all about the variables.  A fatal stampede does not require hundreds of thousands of people and an all-encompassing panic.  Sometimes it’s just about the conditions — entrance and egress, ramps and corridors, doors and gates, steps and escalators, bridges and viaducts, locks and barricades.

To the best of my knowledge, no stampede in the history of mankind has ever been successfully mitigated.  Why?  Because it’s simply inconsistent with the definition of the word “stampede.”  Nobody has ever anticipated one, gotten on the loud speaker and made a plea just in the nick of time — Please refrain from trampling each other.  Such behavior will not be tolerated.  Cease your panic.  Those engaged in acts of asphyxiation will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  It’s just not how things work.

The solution for preventing a human stampede revolves around contingency planning and strategizing.  That’s why certain occupations exist.  Software programmers who study crowd volatility, flow and movement.  People who script detailed plans for how to properly execute large-scale evacuations.  It’s why we have ushers, security personnel and the incident command structure as a whole.

Now there is an exception of course.  It’s the current crop of individuals who teach people about the science of crowd management and emergency evacuation protocol.  Think of them as physics instructors who don’t know basic algebra.  Because there’s one aspect of crowd control that nobody’s allowed to talk about.

It’s the fact that virtually everyone has an active cell phone capable of receiving real-time information.

Doesn’t it strike anybody as the least bit peculiar that NOBODY from government (Congress, FCC, DHS, etc.) and across a wide swath of private industry (NFL, NCAA, MLB, NHL, NBA, NASCAR, etc.) is permitted to concede such a generic security disconnect?  Hmmm, maybe there are reasons for the collective silence!  I won’t delve into excessive detail.  Let’s just say that a discussion about “killing innocent people without conventional weaponry” is not deemed appropriate for the daily news.  This is an inevitably predictable, asymmetric, generational warfare issue.  It’s about synthesizing an “artificially generated stampede.”  You don’t get to hear about this material on MSNBC, FOX or CNN.

Now if we lived in a world where people didn’t try to kill one another… well, I probably wouldn’t be worried about this kinda stuff.  But unfortunately, I’m a realist.  Just because so few are willing to admit the problem exists does NOT mean it will magically disappear.

There’s a lesson to be learned here.  Dr. Phil often talks about it on daytime television — you cannot change what you’re unwilling to acknowledge.

One of these days, society will be forced to cope with the issue of wireless hyper-connectivity and its correlative potential for fomenting a mass panic.  And it won’t be pretty.

So here’s the good news.  If you view the problem with a long-term event horizon, I can assure you that it will eventually be remedied.  But here’s the bad news.  I can also assure you, with the utmost certainty, that a lot of people will die and be injured BEFORE it’s addressed.  It’s not terribly complex.  It’s just the difference between being proactive or reactive.  Telling people the truth or deliberately concealing common sense, public safety information.

So what’s the best course of action?  Assuming you’ve read this article in its entirety, the solution should be painfully obvious.  You simply make a commitment to share the TRUTH.  I’ve seen the light… and it’s the AGSAF mission statement.

People have a fundamental right to know…

that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.


The Bomb Threat Extrapolation

bombBomb threats are hardly a new phenomenon.  Just ask anyone from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assuming they’re honest, they’ll tell you it’s the most vexing dilemma in the world of law enforcement.  Why?  Because over 99.9% of them turn out to be a hoax.  Yet standard procedure requires they all be taken seriously.  Because well, what if…

I defy you to find a public safety issue that’s so incredibly generic, while at the same time, dangerously taboo and unavailable for public scrutiny.  And that’s where the problem lies.  How do you realistically confront an issue of tremendous magnitude when authorities and the general public are unable to have a frank discussion?  Answer: you don’t.  The conversation rarely takes place.  Thus, potential consequences and risk/reward management implications grow accordingly and exponentially.

The world witnessed an “undiscussable” scenario play itself out on September 11, 2001.  Passenger planes were hijacked and intentionally used as 250,000 lb. Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Now what if I told you that an entirely different, yet eerily similar scenario could unfold on any given Sunday?  We’ll get to that in a bit.

First, let’s examine a few recent high impact bomb threat situations that never amounted to much.  Except… they did.  They’re paving the path to the future of bomb threat protocol.

Round 1:

So who’s the head honcho of private industry?  Walmart.

In late November of 2015, coinciding with the biggest shopping weekend of the year, various Walmart stores received bomb threats in the form of automated robocalls.  Bomb threats are actually somewhat common for the world’s largest retailer.  But for a coordinated barrage of them to unfold on the weekend of Black Friday was particularly unsettling.

Roughly 100 Walmarts scattered throughout New York, Maine, Kentucky, Wyoming, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, West Virginia and South Dakota were besieged with automated bomb threats.  Although I have no definitive proof, I suspect the number of locations may have been even more widespread.

In some cases, the stores opted to evacuate.  In other cases, the threats were downplayed and shoppers carried on as usual.  Some police departments deployed their SWAT teams.  Others used bomb sniffing K-9 units to conduct extensive searches.  And other law enforcement agencies, sensing it was likely a hoax, did little or next to nothing.

The Walmarts in Sioux Falls, SD are of particular interest.  Why?  Because they didn’t receive the actual threats.  The bomb threat (directed at Walmart) was phoned in to the city police department.  But here’s the dilemma.  There are three separate Walmart stores in Sioux Falls.  Considering the inability to distinguish which store might be in jeopardy, the police chief deployed the bomb squad to ALL three locations.


In the realm of communications, robocalls are nothing new.  This format has been around for decades.  It requires virtually no expertise and is relatively inexpensive.  In the past decade, the degree of automation has become increasingly interactive and surprisingly more realistic.

Subject to human interpretation, a centralized threat can have decentralized consequences.  In this day and age, bomb threats can spread like a real-world virus.  Let’s just say that the notion of “one threat per location” is a little bit outdated.

Bomb threat “bait and switch” techniques have also been around for a while.  Have you ever heard of the following scenario?  A bomb threat gets called in to the high school on the North side of town.  Authorities en masse physically converge in one direction.  Meanwhile, there’s a simultaneous bank robbery on the South side of town.  Was it a coincidence?  Probably not.

Techniques resembling “bait and switch” can easily be mass-replicated in a technological capacity… bulk text messaging, wireless carrier hacks, opt-in notification abuse, phishing scams, targeted spam, etc.  And they can have real-world ramifications… flash mobs, cash mobs, stock market volatility, active shooters, natural disaster evacuations (forest fires, flooding, tornadoes), etc.  For every action, there is a reaction.  It’s not terribly complex.

Round 2:

On Tuesday, December 15, 2015, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education received a threatening email.  New York City officials received and disregarded a similarly-worded threat.  However, L.A. Unified School District Superintendent, Ramon Cortines, felt it was necessary to take action.  “Out of an abundance of caution,” he made the decision to close 900 schools for the entire day.  This determination impacted over 640,000 students, their parents, teachers, bus drivers, etc.  Needless to say, his sole decision resulted in a significant disruption to the nation’s second largest city.  It was the largest “bomb-threat shutdown” in the history of the United States.


Did Cortines make the right choice?  Was he guilty of a knee-jerk reaction based on the prior San Bernadino, CA terrorist incident?  Why did the New York City incident commander choose the opposite course of action?  Should Cortines have consulted at length with the governor, the Department of Education or the FBI?  It’s a difficult question to which there is no definitive answer.

Here’s a copy of the threat.  Feel free to make your own determination as to whether his response was appropriate or justified.


I am emailing you to inform you of the happenings on Tuesday, 12/15/15.

Something big is going down. Something very big. It will make national headlines. Perhaps, even international ones. You see, my last 4 years here at one of the district high schools has been absolute hell. Pure, unmitigated, agony. The bullying, the loneliness, the rejection… it is never-ending. And for what? Just because I’m ‘different’?

No. No more. I am a devout Muslim, and was once against violence, but I have teamed up with a local jihadist cell as it is the only way I’ll be able to accomplish my massacre the correct way. I would not be able to do it alone. Me, and my 32 comrades, will die tomorrow in the name of Allah. Every school in the L.A. Unified district is being targeted. We have bombs hidden in lockers already at several schools. They are strategically placed and are meant to crumble the foundations of the very buildings that monger so much hate and discrimination. They are pressure cooker bombs, hidden in backpacks around the schools. They are loaded with 20 lbs. of gunpowder, for maximum damage. They will be detonated via Cell Phone. Not only are there bombs, but there are nerve gas agents set to go off at a specific time: during lunch hour. To top it off, my brothers in Allah and I have Kalashnikov rifles, Glock 18 Machine pistols, and multiple handheld grenades. The students at every school in the L.A. Unified district will be massacred, mercilessly. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.

If you do end up trying to, by perhaps, beefing up security, or canceling classes for the day, it won’t matter. Your security will not be able to stop us. We are an army of Allah. If you cancel classes, the bombings will take place regardless, and we will bring our guns to the streets and offices of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, and San Diego.

I wish you the best luck. It is time to pray to allah, as this may be your last day.

I would never presume to pronounce judgment in hindsight.  However, I do know one thing.  A single, anonymous email threat, if worded convincingly, can have tremendous consequence.  Also, the manner in which a threat of this nature was disseminated to all major news outlets, and then promulgated, can have significant, unforeseen repercussions.  “Breaking News” is more than a slogan.  These days, it’s a reality.  Even if the content turns out to be deliberately untrue.

Round 3:

Fast forward one month.  On Tuesday, January 26, 2016, a single witness reported hearing three gunshots in the parking garage of the U.S. Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA.

Their facebook page administrator immediately posted the following message on social media:navcenter630-1“All occupants are advised to run, hide or fight.”  Considering the legitimacy of the source, that’s a pretty powerful message.  Especially if you’re an employee or patient who’s casually checking their cell phone vibration.

The Department of Homeland Security has recently issued new guidelines for active shooter situations.  In light of recurring tragedies at schools and military installations, “run, hide or fight” seems to have replaced the archaic notion of “duck and cover.”

There could be unanticipated consequences for this new decree, particularly as it relates to large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, motor speedways, arenas and amphitheaters).  Just something to think about.

Final Round:

Earlier in this article I mentioned 9/11 and referenced an unspeakable black swan event that could happen on “any given Sunday.”  That event is a DOMINIPEDE (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes likely impacting the NFL 1 o’clock slate of games).  Potentially 10 stampedes in cities along the East coast extending into the Midwest.  Based on previous, historical models, that’s somewhere in the range of 100 fatalities per stadium. A total of 1,000 fatalities and 5 to 10x the number of injuries.

Takeaway 1:

In the world of U.S. retail, Black Friday is big money.  But I already mentioned it.  So let’s try Cyber-Monday.  In 2015, Cyber-Monday saw gross revenue nearing 3 billion.

The wealthiest NFL owner is Paul Allen of the Seattle Seahwaks.  The Microsoft co-founder has a net worth of approximately 18 billion.  Cyber-Monday represents a mere 1/6 of his net worth.  Virtually every team owner is a multi-billionaire.  The NFL is about money.  The cautionary release of public safety information is a clear and present threat to the fortunes of the NFL… its players, its management and its owners.

Concerns regarding hypothetical, future litigation take precedence over easily identifiable safety issues.  It’s part of the catch-22.  If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if there’s a tragedy, you’re screwed.  Cut and dry — it’s about money.

Takeaway 2:

The LAUSD bomb threat was a singular hoax which resulted in a massive systemic disruption.  However, there’s a far worse scenario — multi-pronged, decentralized bomb threats.  It’s called a VIRAL BLITZKRIEG, commonly referred to as an info-bomb.  There is no contingency plan for an all-out saturation of bomb threats.

Government and private industry have a moral, and many would argue legal obligation to inform individuals in large, confined crowds that a scenario like this COULD unfold.  I believe they have an ethical obligation to extend a heightened level of situational awareness to attendees of major events.  The alternative option is to do nothing, wait for a tragedy to unfold and then claim ignorance that something of this nature could never have been ATTEMPTED.  In this case, inaction clearly demonstrates moral negligence.  Unless of course, it’s reasonable to claim that nobody could have fathomed the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  Considering the prevalence of cell phones/mobile devices and the abundantly generic nature of the concept, this is no longer a reasonable or maintainable position.

You cannot mitigate human stampedes.  You prevent them.

Takeaway 3:

The social media aspect governing the bomb scare at the San Diego Naval Medical Center set a dangerous precedent.

Social media forums, like facebook and twitter, can be inherently dangerous channels to convey imminent public safety warnings.  This instantaneous transmission of information has an obvious downside as it could conceivably “spook” a large, confined crowd resulting in an ARTIFICIALLY GENERATED STAMPEDE.

Please make an effort to think beyond the obvious.  There’s a commonly overlooked characteristic of the viral blitzkrieg.  The panic-inducing information would likely come from people you implicitly trust (family and friends concerned for your well-being).  It wouldn’t necessarily be in the form of these mysterious, anonymous text alerts.  These same people, concerned for their loved ones, would have fallen prey to a malicious hoax.  So it’s highly likely they would convey an alarmist sense of urgency.

Final Takeaway:

Mankind has a long and storied tradition of NOT being proactive when it comes to generic public safety issues.  Simply stated — large numbers of people must usually die or be injured BEFORE the government and private industry summon the inertia to make significant change.

Now here’s the question you must ask.  Keep in mind that the solution to this problem doesn’t cost a penny.  After all, it’s free… much like warning a person to “look both ways before they cross the street.”  So is it ethically worthwhile to make a voluntary admission of a potential negative outcome (an artificially generated stampede), or something far worse (a dominipede), in hopes of averting a mind-boggling, black swan catastrophe?

I believe the answer to be a resounding yes.

Feel free to share this article with any individual or organization.  Feel free to share its content with ANY discussion pertaining to bomb threat assessment or emergency evacuation protocol.



tabletgateFollowing a 20-18 AFC Championship loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field, the New England Patriots organization expressed displeasure with their Microsoft Surface tablets.  These devices are used to electronically illustrate previous player movements and formations.

On live television, a CBS sideline reporter stated that the devices were non-operational for roughly 20 minutes during the first half.  The tablets used by the Broncos were not affected.

Consensus opinion is that the problems originated from within “the network” and that the tablets themselves were not faulty.

Some quick takeaways:

*  A couple years ago, Microsoft paid the NFL approximately 400 million dollars for the exclusive rights to use their Surface tablets in a league-wide officially licensed game day capacity.   At first, it was a rocky relationship because many NFL commentators incorrectly referred to them as ipads.  From a marketing standpoint, I’d classify this as a public relations disaster.  Almost a half-billion invested and the announcers called the Surface tablet by the name of its chief competitor.  It goes to show that money isn’t always the answer.

*  Immediately following the tablet outage revelation, there was an explosion of activity on social media.  As media outlets and sports journalists waited for more accurate details, posts on twitter and facebook surged.  People chimed in from every direction conceivable.  If someone had a malicious, calculated agenda, this could represent a very exploitable real-time, real-world dynamic.  It’s one where unverified information could exponentially spin out of control.  Keep this in mind.  You’ll soon learn why it’s important.

*  Those Surface tablets weren’t the only wireless communication devices in the stadium.  The vast majority of the 77,122 sold out crowd (exceeding the normal capacity 76,125) was carrying an active cell phone.  Throw in another 1,000 individuals (employees, emergency personnel, media, etc.) and the number of wireless devices was likely in the realm of 75,000.

Now the Surface tablet fiasco is one thing.  But what if I told you there’s an even bigger problem regarding stadium wireless connectivity?  And nobody’s allowed to talk about it.  Not the media.  Not stadium management.  Not NFL security.  Not the billionaire owners.  When I say nobody, I really mean nobody.

I’m referring to the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  But it’s more than a problem or some trivial dilemma.  This is an asymmetric, cyber-security threat of potentially epic magnitude.

Have you ever wondered why nobody is allowed to broach the subject?  Why isn’t this issue available for public consumption?  Well, there is a sound explanation grounded in voluntary admissions and hypothetical litigation.  But let’s keep it simple and just call it a massive catch-22 — if you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if something horrific happens, everyone who knew about it will be held to a greater degree of accountability.  Most lawyers refer to this as the “plausible deniability” argument.

Any solution to this problem would require one thing for certain.  Knowledge.  At the very least, it’s imperative to inform fans that something bad could be ATTEMPTED.  And for that, you’d need to have a basic contingency plan.  You’d require a heightened level of situational awareness.

If you wish to prevent an artificially generated stampede, it becomes necessary to divulge the truth.

People have a fundamental right to know…

that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.
At a bare minimum, it’s necessary to tell fans that… “official emergency stadium evacuation orders would never be delivered via their personal cell phones.”  If an evac’s deemed absolutely necessary, incident command uses the public address in concert with the jumbotron/video monitors.

This established protocol is not open to debate.  You could directly ask the NFL but they’re unwilling to publicly field questions about procedural inconsistencies involving stadium evacuations.  Hardly a shock.

Call me a cynic, but I can assure you, we haven’t seen the last of the NFL scandals. Tabletgate is just one of many.  Spygate, bountygate, deflategate, the list goes on.  Concussions, domestic violence, steroids and HGH, DUI’s, weapons charges, the list continues.  I  suppose it just “comes with the territory.”

But what’s inexcusable is the NFL’s deliberate attempt to conceal critical, generic information about stadium safety.  This is not complex.  There is no role for cell phones during an initial evacuation phase.  Now if the NFL wants to use social media or text updates to provide information AFTER an evac is successfully completed, well… that would be at their discretion.  One thing is certain though.  The vast majority of fans have never given this material any serious consideration.

As I was saying, you have to devise a contingency plan for undesirable outcomes.  Much like Major League Baseball does for foul balls and broken bats.  We’ve witnessed other generic stadium security dilemmas remedied by the recent introduction of magnetometers and the “clear plastic bag” policy.  But the artificially generated stampede remains untouchable.

The biggest threat to the NFL is an undiscussable black swan — the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term “black swan,” google it.

Super Bowl 50 will be held on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, CA.  Levi’s Stadium  claims to be the most “technologically advanced” stadium, not just in the United States, but on the planet earth.  Over 1,200 wifi hubs in an area of less than a 1/2 square mile.  Forgive the hyperbole, but this isn’t advanced connectivity.  It’s ultra-hyper-extreme connectivity.

Earlier, we learned how money and greed trump knowledge and situational awareness.  Sometimes, it’s difficult for those with the most money to actually listen.  They won’t hear the message.  Not because they can’t.  Not because they won’t.  Merely because they don’t wish to.

If you require an additional “Super Bowl” explanation…


2015 Hajj Stampede Analysis


September 24, 2015 was another day of infamy for Saudi Arabia.  A prolonged human stampede engulfed the Hajj, the annual religious pilgrimage to Mecca.  The “official” toll: 769 killed, 934 injured.


This was no stampede in the traditional sense.  The word “stampede” often invokes images of a mass panic.  People running for their lives and being trampled to death.  But what happens when you cannot move?

Keith Still, professor of crowd science at Manchester Metropolitan University, summed it up best, “People didn’t die because they panicked. They panicked because they were dying.”

They suffocated to death.  It’s called compressive asphyxiation.

Saudi Arabia is no stranger to tragedies at the Hajj.  The death count serves as a grim reminder of the dangers of mega-crowds.  When roughly 2 million people descend upon a small geographic location with limited infrastructure, bad things are bound to happen.  Factor in the oppressive heat (average high of 109 degrees F) and a very tight time frame for completing extensive holy rituals… and the Hajj becomes an irregular recipe for disaster.

1990 – 1,426
1994 – 270
1998 – 118
2001 – 35
2003 – 14
2004 – 251
2006 – 346

It’s the official Saudi “highlight reel.”  But I’m a little skeptical of the tallies.  Why?  Because the Associated Press lists the 2015 Hajj stampede death toll at 2,411 (over 3x the Saudi count).  Call me a cynic, but I place a bit more credence in the AP.  I won’t even touch on the injury totals.  Let’s just say those numbers tend to be massively under-inflated as well.

Regardless, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded a full investigation.  He wanted answers.  And I’m sure the commission he created will get to the bottom of everything in a timely fashion (mind numbingly obvious, intentional sarcasm).

150122185219-restricted-saudi-crown-prince-super-169Through the years, the Saudi government has spent billions trying to fix their recurring stampede problem.  They’ve hired some of the world’s finest engineers to erect bridges and viaducts.  They’ve manufactured these sprawling, air conditioned tent cities.  They’ve constructed new roads and corridors to alleviate crowd pressure.  They’ve spent enormous sums of cash on state of the art security and video surveillance.

Regrettably, everything the government is doing… does NOT appear to be working.  Think about it for a second.  Try to picture almost 2,500 individuals suffocating to death.  It’s not a pretty sight.

Sometimes, when you have an irresolvable security issue of tremendous magnitude, it helps to examine the problem through the eyes of a child.  If you were to ask a ten year old for their honest thoughts on the Hajj, I imagine he/she might say, “This place is too crowded.  It’s too hot and it smells bad.  I wanna go home.

I tend to agree.  Rather than spending billions in an attempt to mitigate potential calamities, why not merely address the core issues?  Maybe elderly people shouldn’t be walking 3 miles during peak sun.  Maybe there should be stricter monitoring of choke points and traffic flow.  Maybe recognize the fact that Muslims from abroad might have difficulty assimilating.  There could be problems with the language barrier.

How about we just eliminate the potential for a stampede?  By changing the entire dynamic.  Instead of it being a singular yearly event, why not let people perform the Hajj at their discretion?  Anytime, all year long.  I know, I know… way too obvious.

Now I’d make these suggestions directly to the Saudis myself.  But speaking out against the royal family is a crime punishable by imprisonment and/or death.  In a recent move that sparked worldwide outrage, the Saudi government kicked off the new year with the beheading of 47 dissidents.  Charges ranged from civil disobedience to sedition.  Let’s just say that some dictators don’t appreciate having their authority questioned.  Probably not a good omen for those trying to remedy the safety issues of the Hajj.

So we’re left with this baffling dilemma.  And innocent people will likely continue to die.

I happen to be someone who studies the science of crowd management.  Now if I was seeking guidance here in the United States, I’d likely convene a roundtable of experts from private industry who deal with these issues on a regular basis.  And if I was searching for the best and brightest, it would probably steer me in the direction of the National Football League.  Their incident commanders are responsible for ensuring game day safety and ultimately held accountable for stadium security.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that most of them would agree with my earlier recommendations.  I also think you’d see a broad contempt for those who oversee the Hajj.  Call it a hunch, but I think many would claim that Saudi officials seem to take a more “fatalistic and detached” approach to the recurring stampedes.  Historically speaking, the official Saudi response to tragedy has sounded something like this… “What is done will be done.  The will of Allah shall not be challenged.

Well, that line of reasoning just doesn’t cut it.  That kind of rationale leaves many people, especially myself, exasperated and scratching their heads.  You often ask yourself, “How could everyone be so directly complicit and utterly indifferent?”  It’s frustrating.

Well, here’s the good news.  At least OUR incident commanders and safety officials think differently.  They’re consummate professionals.  All on the same page.  Our government and private industry function in a way that’s vastly superior.  They see a problem, any security disconnect or inconsistencies… surely they’d address the issue ASAP.  They’re literally striving for perfection.  Uh, WRONG.

Here’s a trivial snippet of information.  We live in an era of wireless hyper-connectivity.  It ain’t 1982.  Every NFL stadium has 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones.  These devices are capable of receiving real-time, false information (panic-inducing content, bomb threats, phony evac orders, hoax directives, etc.).  This security disconnect is a constant variable.  It’s not going to magically disappear.

Sensing that the rules of the game have changed, it has become necessary to explicitly warn people about the prospect of someone usurping the incident command structure — ordering their own evacuation with a malicious hoax saturation.  Now there are only two possible reasons such a scenario would unfold.

I.  Someone is trying to artificially generate a panic and manufacture a human stampede.

or far less likely, but still conceivable

II.  Someone is trying to stage a real-world, unscheduled stadium evacuation purely for their own personal amusement.

Either situation could lead to the same result — an artificially generated stampede.

So what’s the answer here?  How do you prevent a catastrophe of this nature?

Well, I’m not sure there’s any ultimate, full proof solution.  But I do know one thing.  At some point in the future, this dynamic will be tested.  It’s just the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  This leaves you with two distinct options: do nothing or do something.  The NFL and our federal government prefer the former — keeping people in the dark.  I prefer the latter — telling people the truth.

Moving forward, which do you think is the superior course of action?

There’s a reason why I mentioned how children view the world.  They tend to state the obvious.  One of these days, an individual, organization, terrorist group or nation state with malicious intent, is going to ATTEMPT to create an artificially generated stampede.  Regardless of what happens… in its aftermath, I suspect many people would ask the following two questions — “What just happened” and “Why didn’t anyone tell us  something like this COULD happen?”

Well the answer’s pretty straightforward.  Someone wanted to kill people.

It’s all very reminiscent of another security debacle.  Planes being hijacked and crashed into buildings.  I think we all know how that one turned out.

Is the NFL Hiding Something Bigger Than CTE

Concussion-Movie-PosterI am a Pittsburgh resident (Reserve Township).  I have attended over a hundred Steelers games.  And I just went to see Concussion.

I found the Concussion movie starring Will Smith to be particularly poignant.  Many will argue it wasn’t an accurate portrayal.  Some will claim the NFL is a venerable and noble institution.  Others will say the NFL and its billionaire owners are getting away with murder.  Like many dramatic documentaries, I suspect “the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

While I would never compare myself to the courageous Dr. Bennet Omalu (the forensic pathologist played by Will Smith), with his educational pedigree and lifetime of experiences, I do think we share a similar perseverance and dedication.  We just want people to know the truth.

For the past five years, I’ve been trying to convince the NFL to “come clean” regarding its outdated emergency evacuation protocol.  FYI:  Every stadium has 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones capable of receiving false information.

My main objective here is to promote stadium safety.  I just want the NFL to explicitly tell its fans that… official emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.  This isn’t conspiracy material and it’s not open to conjecture or debate.  This is very generic, common sense, public safety information.

If a partial or full scale evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, the order is delivered via the public address system in tandem with the jumbotron and the video monitors.  Incident command does NOT use cell phones.

But nobody’s allowed to address this security disconnect.  Nobody’s permitted to divulge the truth.

I often run laps around Heinz Field.  Throw in two parks (PNC, Point State), three bridges (Fort Duquesne, Roberto Clemente, Rachel Carson), three rivers (Ohio, Allegheny and the Mahn) and it makes for possibly the most scenic 5K in the entire United States.

Regatta_MapI don’t wear headphones as I prefer to embrace the sounds of the Burgh.  Much like Dr. Omalu shared his knowledge with medical professionals and co-workers, I often stop to engage Heinz Field employees.  Whether they be security and administration, or even maintenance, groundskeeping and concessions.

And much like Omalu, sometimes my suggestions are well-received.  Other times, people are dismissive.  Sometimes, I’m chastised and ridiculed.  The reactions and critiques are all across the board.  The truth: not everyone is capable of seeing beyond the protocol dilemma.  Not everyone realizes I’m talking about the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede.”

If you still don’t understand, I’ll be blunt.  It’s about an undiscussable, asymmetric national security issue.  It’s about an untested cyber-security threat.  It’s about creating a real-world panic and synthetically manufacturing a human stampede.  It’s about the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  It’s about injuring and killing people without conventional weaponry.  It’s about innocent fans being trampled and crush asphyxiated.

Hopefully, now you get it.

Throughout the movie, I kept getting this eerie feeling of deja vu, as if I was vicariously experiencing the struggles of Dr. Bennet Omalu.  I won’t delve into a methodical review.  However, I would like to focus on the three main themes of Concussion: truth, knowledge and situational awareness.

Omalu’s truth: The extensive nature of the NFL’s concussion problem had been widely suppressed.  Not for years.  But for decades.  Why?  Well, because of concerns about litigation and culpability.  In a word… money.

My truth: Evacuation orders for large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, arenas, etc.) are not delivered via your cell phone.  NFL venues are wireless, hyper-connective environments.  All 31 stadiums are acutely vulnerable to a cellular hoax.  Most fans have just never considered the possibility of how something like this could play itself out.  This doesn’t make them naive or stupid.  It merely makes them oblivious and unaware.

Now you might make the following argument.  What about Amber alerts or weather alerts (tornadoes, floods, mandatory citywide evacuation orders)?  First off, state and federal agencies do not have the authority to call for an emergency stadium evacuation.  That exclusive authority is ultimately in the hands of the incident commander.  Secondly, the dynamic governing the science of large, confined crowds is markedly different from other emergencies.  Why?  Well, it’s due to the risk of accidentally causing a panic that results in a human stampede.  This reasoning is grounded in established procedure and historical precedent.

Omalu’s knowledge: CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is a progressive condition.  Historically, concussions were generally viewed as an isolated problem.  When your bell gets rung, you just gotta shake it off.  Omalu’s research provided scientific evidence of how CTE contributed to the early onset of dementia and other degenerative neurological conditions.

Although I cannot speak for Omalu’s intentions, it appears he didn’t want to eliminate the sport of football.  He simply wanted to provide knowledge and hopefully work with the NFL to make the sport safer.  But as evidence began to mount, the NFL felt “fiscally threatened.”  They deemed it necessary to launch a counteroffensive and discredit his work.  Not to mention their desire to harass and seek retribution upon his employer (highly regarded Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht).

My knowledge: I’ve also come under attack for sharing information, albeit vastly more generic.  There are reasons the government and private industry are unwilling to disclose this material.  Most of it’s based on plausible deniability and hypothetical litigation.  Trust me.  I’m not the only person on the planet earth who has thought of this stuff.  Just the only person to bitch about it.

Omalu’s situational awareness: Players and their families have a right to know about CTE and plan for their future accordingly.  It’s a matter of fundamental human values and how we, as a society, approach life and death.

In the movie, Omalu referenced the skulls of Bighorn sheep.

These animals have double-layered skulls shored with struts of bone for battle protection.  Bighorn sheep are perhaps best known for the head-to-head combat between males. Horn size is a symbol of rank and the mass of the horns is used to a male’s best advantage… as he smashes into an opponent at speeds of 20 miles per hour. Combat has been observed to last for over 24 hours (with approximately 5 clashes an hour) until one of the males concedes.

BighornSheep2Simply stated, human brains don’t function like those of Bighorn sheep.  If parents knew the truth about CTE, they might have extreme reservations about their kids playing football.  And this could lead to a domino effect, poisoning the middle school > high school > collegiate channel.  Not good for the NFL.

My situational awareness: Specific knowledge is important.  Fans have a right to know about a potential “black swan” scenario.  What might happen if a VIRAL BLITZKRIEG (decentralized wireless saturation) occurred during a game.  Imagine the outcome of a real-world “info-bomb.”  If significant numbers of people, scattered throughout the stadium, suddenly and aggressively, started moving toward the concourses and exits for no apparent reason whatsoever?  How might such a rush be perceived?  I don’t wish to get involved in a debate about evolution, but I can assure you that human beings share similarly ingrained herding instincts with other, “lesser evolved” mammals.

And this wireless information might not arrive in the traditionally suspected form of bomb threats and phony evac orders.  There are other deceptively innocuous ways to trick people into hurriedly moving toward the concourses.  Maybe you received information that Franco Harris is giving away signed limited-edition, nerf footballs in the Great Hall.  Or how about 102.5 WDVE offering a promotion for the next 10 minutes and 25 seconds?  Two Primanti’s sandwiches for $10.25 (capicola or cheese steak).  It seems like a reasonable offer.  Why would you be skeptical?

What about spoofed emails, texts and robocalls delivered to the local media? For instance, let’s speculate that every employee at KDKA, WTAE and WPXI was personally targeted with false information?  Note: reporters are often encouraged to break news on their social media pages (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.).  These people are implicitly trusted by the general public.  It’s highly doubtful that these same individuals have a vigorous understanding of emergency stadium evacuation protocol.

Does anyone recall the University of Pittsburgh bomb threat saga from 2012?  One hundred fifty bomb threats in roughly a month.  We learned an important lesson about the physical nature of bomb threats.  Things have changed.  Times have changed.  Long gone are the days when every threat is conveniently phoned in to the main lobby from a land line.  The era of cellular communication and the internet is foreshadowing a dangerously decentralized phase.

A hoax scenario actually became reality during the January 3, 2015 Heinz Field playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.  An individual named Jake Berlin tweeted that if he got 400 retweets, he’d rush the field.  He ended up getting over 5,000.

If any of this does not compute, think in terms of actually turning back the clock and voiding situational awareness.  Let’s stop telling fans about the dangers of broken bats and foul balls in Major League Baseball.  Would that seem appropriate?  My point — society recognizes the inherent value of providing generic public safety information.  In similar fashion, nobody in their right mind would ever rescind “stop, drop and roll” or “look both ways before you cross the street.”

Our planet is not a static environment.  Human beings have a lengthy history and disturbing tradition of searching for unique ways to kill one another.  Just sayin.  Much like planes crashing into buildings, mankind often tests the “cracks in the system.”  Just sayin… shit happens.  An artificially generated stampede could be attempted by a relatively cunning 5th grader.  All it takes is a little creativity, some research and a primitive understanding of cellular communication and the internet.  Anyone can try it.

Now I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a fine line between dispensing the entire truth and engaging in deliberate fear-mongering.  I am not advocating for full disclosure of the distinguishing characteristics between bomb threat emergencies and conditions.  In fact, I’d likely refrain from mentioning specific words like “panic” or “stampede.”  Certain aspects of this remain undeclared for a reason — complex social mores.  I just want the most critical, blatantly obvious omission available for public consumption (stadiums do not order evacuations via cell phones).  Now if the NFL wants to take it a step further and be more forthcoming… well that’s up to them.  But I won’t be holding my breath.  Unless of course, my lungs were deflated… much like the game balls at Gillette Stadium.

I would encourage you to take an objective look at all of this.  As I’m admittedly a huge Steelers fan and enjoy attending the games, what on earth could possibly be my alternative motivation?  Unless I’m some modern day yinzer version of Austin Powers?  And Roger Goodell is Dr. Evil?  Neither seems likely.

Movies often invoke David vs. Goliath scenarios.  I won’t play that card.  However, I did notice a part in the movie where Omalu chose to pay for some medically bureaucratic procedures out of his own pocket.  Nobody has paid me for writing this article.  Nor have I received any compensation for my books or the website (

Sometimes it’s necessary to look beyond money and profit.  Every once in a blue moon, it’s just about the truth.  Plain and simple.

Now assuming you’ve read this far, I’d conclude that you have slightly more “intellectual curiosity” than the general population.  You’re probably asking the question… why does this specific public safety issue warrant overt disclosure?  Why not warn people about drones and active shooters?  What about car bombs or planes crashing into stadiums?  Now that answer is a little more difficult.  The reasoning lies in the potential for a “dominipede” (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes likely impacting the NFL 1 o’clock slate of games).

Unless you want another 100 paragraphs, I simply cannot explain the conceptual nature of a dominipede.  You’re better off sifting through the site or reading one of my three books:

For Pittsburgh residents:
For everyone else:
My autobiography:

Please consider sharing this information on any social media platform.  Unlike NFL seat licenses, season tickets, officially licensed merchandise, parking, etc… my material is FREE.


There are no words

paris crowdOn the evening of November 13, 2015, the city of Paris, France was hit with a barrage of coordinated terrorist attacks. The fallout: 130 dead, 368 injured.

The vast majority of fatalities occurred at a crowded nightclub known as The Bataclan.  However, I’d like to focus on the 4 fatalities which occurred outside the national soccer stadium, the Stade de France in St. Denis.  Three terrorists detonated their suicide vests resulting in three separate explosions.

The first explosion occurred at 9:20 p.m., about 20 minutes after the start of a soccer match between the French and German national teams.  The bomber was prevented from entering the stadium after being turned away by security personnel.  Shortly thereafter, he blew himself up and killed an innocent bystander in the process.  The sound of that detonation was distinctly heard inside the stadium.

Ten minutes later, another self-detonation could be heard inside the stadium.

Twenty three minutes later, the third bomber killed himself.

Investigators later surmised the likely intentions of the terrorists.  It’s reasonable to assume that the first bomber’s objective was to detonate inside the stadium.  Creating a panic that would result in a stampede, which in itself, could result in an extraordinary number of casualties.  Those fortunate enough to make it out of the stadium alive would be met by the two additional suicide bombers.  The tactic of targeting emergency responders arriving at the scene or innocent people fleeing carnage is not uncommon.

I’d like to raise two obvious questions that have alluded reporters and the media at large.

Question #1.  Has anything like this ever happened in the United States?  Specifically, has someone ever blown themselves up outside an NFL or NCAA football stadium of comparable size while a game was in progress?  The answer might surprise you.

In 2005, a sold out crowd of 84,501 was in attendance at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.  During the second quarter, a man identified as Joel Hendrichs blew himself up exactly 173 yards from the stadium.


Rather than rehash all of the intricate details, I’ll refer you to a 2014 article.

I realize it’s an incredibly uncomfortable topic — the prospect of a suicide bomber intentionally trying to weaponize a human stampede.  But what’s even more troubling is the notion of the Oklahoma incident being dismissed and disregarded by the mainstream media.

It’s doubtful the NCAA would appreciate the press shining a spotlight on such a bizarre occurrence.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association is big money and the government is big power.  The “mystery of the Oklahoma suicide bomber” embodies that challenging dilemma between public disclosure and imprudent fear mongering, individual rights vs. state control, see something – say something.

Question #2.  Does stadium management have a moral or legal responsibility to notify fans of potential dangerous activity, particularly if its in the nearby vicinity?  This one gets a little tricky.  Exactly where do you “draw the line?”  Why is it acceptable to notify fans about the prospect of lightning strikes or an approaching tornado, but not real-world terrorist activity?  Like I said, it’s a fine line.

While the game was in progress, Stade de France management made a calculated, deliberate decision to remain silent… just like Memorial Stadium back in 2005.  Even though everyone in both stadiums immediately learned about the incident during the game.  How you ask?  Cell phones.  Information dissemination and retrieval is speeding up, not slowing down.  These days, bad news travels fast.

Wireless technology is the unspoken variable.  Everyone’s allowed to talk about its upside.  Social media updates, checking fantasy football stats, sending pics, taking selfies, convenience.  But nobody’s ever allowed to speak of the downside.  Does a strict adherence to this path seem wise?

So what’s the problem here?  The problem is that every football and soccer stadium, some of which handle crowds in excess of 100,000, seem to be living in this permanent state of denial.  With one hundred thousand people, come one hundred thousand cell phones.  In particular, social media represents a very dangerous, decentralized and unaccounted for variable.  But nobody’s allowed to address the core dynamic.  Nobody’s allowed to challenge the status quo.

This is a recipe for exploitation and disaster.

Just like crashing planes into buildings, someone will eventually test the “cracks in the system.”  I’m not the only person on the planet earth who thinks like this.  Also, I’m not the only person who has ever considered this asymmetric national security issue.  It’s not top secret.

Most would agree that the media and government often appear “seemingly complicit” in cultivating an atmosphere of distrust and a culture of fear.  We live in an era of social media hoaxes.  Recent history indicates that terrorists usually seek high profile civilian targets (airplanes, theaters, public markets… locations where large crowds gather).  Now let’s put it all together.

Stadiums and wireless hyper-connectivity.

If you cannot grasp the prospect of a stampede being intentionally weaponized, well… that’s okay.  Most people never conceived of passenger planes being hijacked and used as 250,000 lb. weapons of mass destruction.  Until it happened.  It’s difficult to conceptualize a hypothetical “black swan” event that irrevocably alters the direction of history, let alone the course of humanity.

And even if the artificially generated stampedes were to fail, isn’t it still reasonable to assume that the dynamic will eventually be tested?  Seriously, in the aftermath of such a thing being ATTEMPTED, even people with limited intellectual curiosity would surely ask, “hey, what was that all about?”  Unless of course, everyone on the planet earth dismissed the incident as a silly, non-threatening prank.  I just can’t follow that line of reasoning.

I originally had two questions but here’s a third.

Question #3.  Why not try to fix the existing problem?  Why not try to address the security disconnect?  Why not devise a straightforward contingency plan?  Especially since there’s a discernible inevitability in play and mitigation is not an option.  Hey, the overriding solution here is free!  YOU TELL PEOPLE THE TRUTH.

At an absolute, bare minimum, just start telling people that official stadium emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal mobile devices.  You don’t need to disclose generically sensitive details about protocol or delve into bomb threats, panic, stampedes, asymmetric warfare, etc.

There’s simply a moral (and many would argue legal) obligation to explicitly divulge the following… legit evac orders don’t come from your cell phone.

The First Amendment protects my right to disclose this public safety information.  In present-day hindsight of a tragedy that would inevitably be compared to 9/11, let’s try to prevent another utterance — THERE ARE NO WORDS.  Sound familiar?  It should.  It’s that same phrase we heard after the Paris terrorist attacks.

One parting shot.  Since our government seems committed to establishing a permanent culture of terror and fear, lemme give it a shot.  How about this for a futuristic headline?  Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it!

10 Cities, 1,000 Dead, No Weapons

The Strathmore University Stampede

of-At-least-were-injureOn Monday December 1, 2015, a sudden panic resulted in a human stampede and the death of one individual.  Over thirty others were injured, four of them critically.  The incident unfolded during an unanticipated terrorism drill at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya.


The college administration conducted the drill with the intention of testing emergency response preparedness and improving campus safety.  Regrettably, officials in charge failed to thoroughly notify students and employees.  So when live gunfire was heard, assuming their lives were in danger, many people panicked and actually jumped out of building windows, some from multiple floors off the ground.  The result: a menagerie of broken bones and severe concussions.

Confusion over the terror alert rehearsal was further exacerbated by the presence of actors, portrayed as Al-Shabbab terrorists dressed in convincing attire.  The Al-Shabbab splinter faction has a strong presence in neighboring Somalia and was responsible for a similarly-themed attack at Garissa University eight months earlier.  147 were killed and scores injured during the prolonged assault in Garissa, Kenya.

Garrisa-Shootings-700x350The distance between the two universities is approximately 230 miles, roughly a 5 hour drive.

Strathmore University officials have issued a formal apology and a promise to compensate the victims.  However, the predictable blame game between the university and the government is expected to continue.

Now your first inclination might be to think… well, 1 dead and 30 injured.  That pales in comparison to other human stampedes.  For example, just 3 months ago, the Hajj stampede resulted in 2,177 fatalities and an unknown number wounded (easily in excess of 10,000).  The Hajj is an annual religious festival in Mecca, Saudi Arabia which draws roughly 3 million.

And you would be correct.  It’s two completely different dynamics.  The Strathmore stampede was the result of a sudden panic based on a lack of situational awareness.  Terrified they might be executed at point blank range, many assumed their odds of survival would be better if they jumped.  On the other hand, the Mecca stampede was based on crowd turbulence.  Its fatalities resulted almost exclusively from crush asphyxiation and mass tramplings.

Considering the extensive discrepancy in the fatality count, one would naturally assume there’s less to be learned from the Strathmore Univeristy stampede.  You’re likely thinking… something like that could NEVER happen in the United States.  Our safety standards, our protocol, our level of emergency preparedness is vastly superior to that of locations in central Africa.  I completely disagree.  And here’s why…

Everything hinges on knowledge, situational awareness and accountability.  Now what if I told you the U.S. government and private industry are incorrigibly negligent in this regard.  Keep reading.

If an individual or terrorist group were planning to “weaponize” a human stampede, the most obvious target would be the National Football League.   With 7-10 games overlapping the Sunday 1 o’clock slate, it doesn’t require top secret government clearance to arrive at this conclusion.  It’s just common sense.

Now here’s the dilemma.  The NFL runs its security apparatus with more secrecy and less accountability than the Secret Service and the mafia combined.  Obviously, this is not a good omen.

Let’s examine the two major security “disconnects.”

The first disconnect is between the NFL and federal, state and city governments.  It involves emergency evacuation protocol and the real-world determination of exactly when to initiate a stadium evacuation.  Currently, the NFL has only demonstrated a willingness to evacuate for inclement weather (lightning strikes, tornadoes, etc.).

The NFL does NOT evacuate for bomb threat “conditions.”  I won’t go into an elaborate explanation of the discrepancies between a bomb threat “condition” and a bomb threat “emergency.”  That would be a separate article in and of itself.  Suffice to say, a “condition” would be something comparable to a phoned-in threat or a menacing note left at the concession stand.  Emergency bomb threat classification requires a much higher threshold of evidence.

Considering the greater frequency of bomb threats being delivered through alternative channels (social media, television and radio stations, police and fire departments, etc.), there exists a moral imperative for greater transparency.  In the year 2015, information travels fast (particularly bad news like celebrity deaths, airplane crashes, active shooter alerts, political assassinations, etc.).  Phony bomb threats fall into this category.  And what do 99.9% of all bomb threats have in common?  Newsflash: virtually all of them fall under the category of a malicious hoax.

With 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in every NFL stadium capable of receiving real-time, false information, a decentralized saturation (VIRAL BLITZKRIEG) could escalate BEFORE incident command has the opportunity to weigh-in.  To the contrary, there is only ONE public address system and ONE jumbotron.  I’ve noticed that NFL announcers often focuses on “match-ups.”  This match-up is neither fair nor realistic.  Because you do not mitigate a human stampede.  You prevent it.

The second security disconnect is absurdly generic, but nobody’s allowed to talk about it.  It exists between the citizens of the United States AND their government as well as private industry.  Doesn’t it strike anybody as the least bit peculiar… that NOBODY ever raises any concern whatsoever regarding the prospect of someone executing the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?

I realize that creating an artificially generated stampede is an uncomfortable subject.  But there’s a discernible inevitably in play.  Even if the stampede itself does not occur, it’s reasonable to assume that once the cat’s out of the bag, it will be attempted and then repeated… until it is successful.  Why?  Brace yourself.  Because it’s an inexpensive way to kill human beings.  It’s called asymmetric warfare.  On cable television, they call it terrorism.

The future of humanity has a long way to go.  We, as a society, have two distinct options.  We can confront this issue directly and choose to explicitly warn people in large, confined crowds (NFL and NCAA stadiums, Major League ballparks, NASCAR and Indy motor speedways, arenas, amphitheaters, etc.).  Or we can dutifully continue on the current path and do nothing.  There’s little room for middle ground.

I’m familiar with how society works.  Innocent people must die before government and private industry summon the inertia to make change or engage in a philosophical shift.  Trust me, I get it.  But if the consequence of inaction could rival the fallout from 9/11, well… I just think it would be a good idea for someone, other than myself, to help get the word out.

People have a fundamental right to know…

that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
 and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Since it’s an election year, I’ll leave you with a relevant quote.

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” — George Washington  

Forgive me, but here’s another inconvenient truth.  Through a collective omission, the National Football League in tacit cooperation with the government, might just be leading the dumb and silent to the concourses and exits, like sheep to the slaughter.



Guns are Good… but not for Goodell

fire-roger-goodell-memeThe NFL has its fair share of scandals and controversies.  I don’t think anyone on the planet earth, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, would dispute that candid assessment.

The most recent crisis unveiled itself on November 15, 2015.  Ed Mullins, head of the New York Police Department Sergeants Benevolent Association, publicly called for allowing off-duty officers to carry firearms in every NFL stadium.  Below is a copy of the petition sent to the National Football League, the United States Senate and every Governor/State House for all 22 states which house NFL teams.

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France, in which a soccer stadium was targeted, the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association demands that Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League, change the policy that forbids on and off-duty and retired law enforcement personnel from carrying firearms into NFL stadiums. This is not only a law enforcement issue, it is a public safety issue that must be immediately addressed. NFL stadiums are often publicly funded and receive monetary incentives paid by tax dollars. We urge all nationwide law enforcement personnel to sign this petition to help put an end to this illogical ruling that puts the lives of so many fans at great risk. Public officials can no longer stand silent. We ask everyone to get involved and make your voice heard.

Interestingly enough, two stadiums (both in the state of Texas — NRG Stadium and AT&T Stadium respectively located in Houston and Dallas) already permit off-duty cops to enter their venues with firearms.  This is a case where state law appears to take precedence over the interests of private industry.  I’m not sure how the conflict resolves itself but it will be interesting to watch as it evolves through the courts.

However, I do know one thing.  The NFL has a “dirty, little secret.”  Human stampedes are bad for business.  And the NFL is absolutely terrified of the prospect of a stampede in any of its 31 stadiums.  Real-world gunfire is one of several scenarios that would likely spark a sudden panic potentially resulting in a deadly stampede.

This makes for a fascinating predicament.  The NFL thrives off emotion and the thrill of big hits.  But that excitement and those injuries must be kept strictly on the field.  Not in the stands and concourses.

Based on historical precedent, the death toll for stadium stampedes usually hovers around the 100 mark.  Injuries easily surpass that total, likely by a factor of 5 to 10x.  Despite what Americans are conditioned to believe, human stampedes do not discriminate based on ethnicity, culture or continent.  Although admittedly less common in the United States, they are a worldwide phenomenon.

While I won’t speak for NFL security, I think its main objective with their Clear Plastic Policy (in tandem with the magnetometers and enhanced screening procedures) is to PREVENT people from carrying concealed weapons into the stadiums.  The NFL will not verify this information because it’s a voluntary admission that their venues could be unsafe.  Then, the matter quickly descends into a tangled web of plausible deniability and hypothetical litigation issues.  But this is more than mere speculation.  It’s just common sense.

It might also be unrealistic to assume that all off-duty police carrying weapons would voluntarily refrain from consuming alcohol, prescription medication or anything that could conceivably impair their judgment.  But that’s an angle for a different article.

I’m not a mathematician, but I do know that the greater the number of weapons in a stadium (particularly in an alcohol-infused environment), the greater the probability that something COULD go wrong.  This opinion is based on raw numbers.  Motivation, rationale or justification for the discharge of a weapon is completely irrelevant.  If you are in possession of a gun on your physical person, as opposed to it being stored and locked away in a cabinet, there’s a greater likelihood of it being fired.

While weapons are indeed a threat to stadium security, I believe the vastly more pernicious threat is one that’s currently under the radar.  One that is by nature “undiscussable.”  One that’s incredibly visible, blatantly generic and abundantly obvious.  But nobody’s allowed to talk about it.

Hint #1: each stadium holds 50,000 – 100,000 active wireless devices.
Hint #2: the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

I realize this statement is difficult to comprehend… but 75,000 miniature super computers in a large, confined crowd are a force to be reckoned with.  They might just “pack a little more punch” than a dozen or so extra guns.  This doesn’t require a government degree in emergency incident management.  All it takes is a 5th grade education and a dash of situational awareness.

Cell phones + wireless hyper-connectivity + false, real-time information (discounted merchandise, free food, celebrity sightings, etc.) and decentralized breaking news (phony evac orders, bomb threats, etc.)  + herding instincts = a potentially bad outcome.

So what could possibly go wrong?  How about a “black swan” event that rivals the impact of 9/11 and irreparably alters the course of humanity.  Let me give you a one word hint: dominipede.  Google it.


Bank of America Stadium Rappelling Incident

bofaLegendary songwriter James Taylor said it best.  “In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina.  Can’t you see the sunshine.”  Well, there wasn’t much sunshine during the November 2, 2015 Monday Night Football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts.  It actually coincided with a torrential downpour.  But aside from the inclement weather, something very unusual occurred early in the 3rd quarter.

Two individuals, John Nicholson, 29, of Lewisburg, PA., and Erica Madrid, 35 of Washington, D.C., rappelled from the upper deck (Section 538) and spent thirty minutes dangling outside the mid-level press boxes.  Hanging in mid-air, the protesters unfurled a banner directed at Bank of America’s financial support of a liquefied gas fracking project headed by Old Dominion.

PanthersProtesters2The game continued on as security cleared a section below.  Charlotte firefighters eventually lowered the pair and they were taken into custody.  Two additional “accomplices” were also arrested: Angela Vogel, 30 of Philadelphia, PA., and David Baghdadi, 38, of Hot Springs, N.C.

Alright, let’s sift through this mess.

The most obvious question — taking into consideration the NFL’s clear plastic bag policy in tandem with the magnetometers and the rigorous screening process required by all 31 NFL stadiums… how on earth did they manage to smuggle in all this rappelling equipment?

I’m afraid the truth isn’t going to sit well with NFL security.  It probably wasn’t that difficult.  Newsflash: the harnesses could have been worn underneath their clothing and the metal hooks could have been passed off as belt buckles.  This equipment would invariably go undetected unless there was a physical pat down (a process the NFL has eschewed due to practicality and litigation concerns).

Two additional questions.  How did security not see the rappelling incident as it occurred and put a stop to it?  Well, it basically took place before anyone knew what happened.  The entire process took roughly 20 seconds.

The other trivial question:  How did they all obtain entry?  Evidence seems to indicate they lawfully purchased tickets through the NFL ticket exchange.

Time for a reality check.  I doubt this is some grand conspiracy or some horrific collapse of NFL security and their screening procedures.  The more logical explanation – It’s just a matter of people testing the “cracks in the system.”

There are a variety of scenarios that NFL security is well aware of but chooses to intentionally suppress, or at the very least, deliberately ignore.

I hate to state the obvious, but a banner tied to a recreational drone could have easily accomplished the same task and possibly made even bigger headlines.  Numerous drone incidents have been reported at stadiums, ballparks and other large, confined crowds.  Yet the subject remains “untouchable.”  The only solution is a reactive, punitive one… punishing the perpetrators of such acts after the damage has been inflicted.  One has to wonder if there’s a contingency plan for a drone hovering above the 50 yard line of any NFL outdoor stadium.  If there is, I’d certainly be interested in hearing it.

I think we learned something else from the rappelling incident — it exposed the NFL’s unwillingness to suspend a game or initiate a stadium-wide evacuation, even if it was just a precautionary evacuation to the concourses.

Interestingly enough, this is not the first time the Carolina Panthers stadium has dealt with a banner problem.  In 2012, there was a similar unorthodox publicity stunt that transpired ahead of a Bank of America shareholders meeting.

gfc_bofastadium_550x374Now as I see it, here’s the larger, overriding concern.  The Charlotte and Mecklenburg County police departments are calling for a complete investigation.  But NFL security wants to squelch any future discussion of the incident.  The NFL has a long and storied history of suppressing or completely ignoring “uncomfortable” topics regarding league security.  Why?  Because shining a light on these incidents could encourage copycat behavior and similarly publicity stunts.

The NFL just wants the whole escapade to quietly go away.  Outta sight, outta mind.  It’s a strategy they often employ.  This pattern of behavior is indicative of the decades-long concussion settlement and the recent scandal involving taxpayer-funded halftime military tributes.  Not to mention the scourge of domestic violence cases, drug violations, DUIs, weapons charges and even a dog-fighting ring.  The list is seemingly endless.

And that’s the conundrum.  Rather than address real-world stadium security issues, it’s in the best financial interest of the NFL (and the 32 billionaire owners) to conceal or ignore them… which brings me to my final point regarding stadium safety.

In the unlikely event of a real-world emergency venue evacuation, protocol dictates using the public address system in conjunction with the video monitors and the jumbotron.  They would not use cell phones.  They wouldn’t.  They shouldn’t.  They couldn’t.

However, inside every stadium are 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones.  Is the NFL aware of this discrepancy?  Do they know there’s potential for exploitation?  Of course they do.

Realistically speaking, there’s only one reason a stadium evacuation order would ever be delivered via personal mobile devices — to injure and kill innocent people.  It would be part of a malicious hoax designed to create a panic conceivably resulting in an “artificially generated stampede.”

So will the NFL come clean and share this immeasurably obvious, generic public safety information with its fans?  Of course not.  It would violate their overriding motto — If you see something, don’t say something.  

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell often uses the phrase “protect the shield.”  It’s a reference to employ any measure required to safeguard the league and its multi-billion dollar brand.  Kinda like the mafia’s “omerta.”  Regrettably, this continued silence could result in a tragedy bordering on the horrific attacks of 9/11 — multiple, simultaneous stadium stampedes likely impacting the 1 o’clock slate of games.  It’s called a “dominipede.”  I think musician Alanis Morrissette sums it up best… Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think.


The Michael Vick Solution

vickMuch to the collective disgust of Pittsburgh animal lovers, the Steelers signed back-up quarterback Michael Vick to a one-year contract on August 25, 2015.  In 2007, the NFL free agent pled guilty and served a 21 month jail sentence for felony animal cruelty charges stemming from evidence he sanctioned a dog-fighting ring.

Ironically, Vick’s big transition came right on the cusp of National Dog Day (August 26).  The major signing resulted in a deluge of bad publicity, particularly for an organization that once prided itself on playing a positive role in the community.

Steelers ownership finds itself in an unenviable position — trying to strike a delicate balance between right and wrong, winning and losing.  And while it’s difficult to justify attaching jumper cables to a mangled, defenseless animal or submerging a battered dog in a shallow bathtub, I do sympathize with the plight of Art Rooney II.  There’s a lot of money on the line.  Despite the altruistic goodwill professed by Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL teams and billionaire ownership are predominately concerned with profit, future revenue streams and winning at any cost.  Morality tends to take a backseat.

As a lifelong Steelers fan, I have devised a simple solution to what will likely be an ongoing public relations relations nightmare a/k/a the Michael Vick era.

The Pittsburgh Steelers can be the first NFL organization to explicitly warn fans that… LEGITIMATE emergency stadium evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.

With 50,000 – 100,000 active wireless devices in every NFL stadium, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that if a scenario like this were to unfold… it’s a malicious hoax designed to create an “artificially generate stampede.”   This isn’t rocket science.  It’s merely the modern, technological version of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

Incident command would NEVER order an emergency stadium evacuation through mass cellular transmissions.  Not only would it be impossibly ineffective, it’s just not how it’s done.  The overriding mission is to present a clear, straightforward, unified, all-encompassing directive.  When dealing with large crowds confined by concrete and steel, this cannot logically be achieved through text messaging or bulk alerts.  A real-world stadium evacuation is accomplished by using the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.

Just ask Jimmy Sacco, director of game day operations for Heinz Field.  Unfortunately, he’s not allowed to address stadium safety issues with the general public.  Even worse, when I tried to broach this subject on the official Steelers facebook page, I was permanently blocked in mid-August of 2015.

But back to the issue at hand — solving the Steelers public relations fiasco in the wake of signing convicted felon Michael Vick.

Currently, none of the 32 NFL organizations are willing to tackle what is in essence an asymmetric national security issue.  The Steelers could demonstrate a higher threshold of concern for fan safety than their 31 counterparts… if they take a proactive stance.  Or they can deliberately ignore the existing problem and continue to do nothing… just like everyone else.

Regardless of whether an artificially generated stampede directly impacts the NFL, there is a discernible inevitability in play.  One of these days something like this will be attempted.  So will Heinz Field management explicitly tell fans the truth about emergency evacuation protocol?  Of course not.  But should they?  Of course.  A simple gesture like that could go a long way toward proving the organization cares about the physical safety of their fans.  Such an act would likely help rehabilitate the Steelers brand.  And It would also serve as a newsworthy precedent in the history of professional sports, easily overshadowing the acquisition of a notorious dog killer.

Sounds like a novel idea and a forward thinking plan.  Regrettably, Steelers ownership and the NFL at-large will only take action in the aftermath of a hypothetical tragedy.  As is customary with advancements in the societal evolution of humanity, people usually must die before the “powers-that-be” are willing to be proactive.

Of course, if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, all of my concerns will be rendered irrelevant.  After all, why would anyone care about such a trivial matter?  Instead of hijacked airplanes crashing into buildings, it’s just a bunch of confused human beings crashing into each other.  And stadium stampedes could never happen in the United States.  They only occur on the lesser evolved continents… like Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.

No big deal.  It’s just a potential black swan scenario reminiscent of something that happened on September 11, 2001.

So regardless of your opinion of Michael Vick or the Pittsburgh Steelers, feel free to share this article.   Believe it or not, freedom of speech is important.  It even takes precedence over winning the Super Bowl.


The NCAA’s Dirty “Little” Secret

michigan_stadium_big_house_2_smallAre you one of the millions of fans who routinely attend NCAA Division I football games?  If you are, this article comes highly recommended.  But if you work in the field of game day emergency management or incident command, this article ain’t optional.  It’s mandatory.

There’s a looming national security threat that nobody’s allowed to talk about.  It’s an existing problem the entire federal government is unwilling to address.  The same dilemma extends to private industry as well… the NFL, MLB, NASCAR and other professional sports organizations.  Regrettably, the NCAA is equally guilty.

The problem I’m referring to is incredibly generic.  Still, most people have never given it any consideration whatsoever.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  It’s called an “artificially generated stampede.”

Michigan Stadium is pretty big.  So let me pose a question.  Could there be a downside to 100,000+ active cell phones in the largest NCAA football stadium?  Are any of those miniature wireless supercomputers capable of receiving false information while a game is in progress?   And could that real-time information influence the collective behavior of the crowd… potentially resulting in a tragedy?

Let’s extrapolate from a recent incident.

On August 12, 2015, the University of Michigan football and basketball official facebook pages were “hacked.”  Starting around 4 a.m. (and for the next 5 hours) the perpetrator posted a barrage of 26 click-bait articles, mostly featuring female celebrities and sexually provocative content.  By 9:45 a.m. both facebook pages were taken down.  Eventually, the university responded with the following message.

Fans – Early this morning, Facebook accounts for Michigan Athletics, football and men’s basketball were compromised. Thanks to diligent work on behalf of our partners at the University of Michigan and at Facebook, we have resolved the situation and deleted any offensive posts.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate the support of our audiences throughout this issue. We greatly value our connections through social media. We continue to monitor our pages and will work with our partners to expedite all inquiries. Thanks for your patience and ‪#‎GoBlue‬.

Unfortunately for the University of Michigan social media department, the saga was just beginning.  Later in the afternoon, the page was “hacked” again.  Additional sexually suggestive content was posted.  A second official facebook message finally appeared at 8:35 p.m., nearly 12 hours later.

Our partners at Facebook have advised us that our social pages are now stable. Out of extreme caution we will monitor all of our platforms throughout the evening and hope to return to normal operations shortly.

We suggest a computer scan for anyone who has clicked on any third-party link from our Michigan Athletics, football or men’s basketball pages between the hours of 3am and 4pm today. We have no indication that any of our other Michigan accounts across all social platforms have been compromised.

Thanks once again for your continued support and patience. ‪#‎GoBlue‬

In the aftermath, all of the objectionable facebook content was deleted.  So let’s take a look at the official University of Michigan August 12 twitter feed and see if we can make a few observations.

Fans of U-M Athletics: We want to acknowledge that our Facebook pages for Michigan Football, Basketball, and Athletics have been hacked.

Please be patient with us as we work diligently to get this resolved.

Thanks to diligent work on behalf of our partners at @UMich and at Facebook, we have resolved the situation and deleted any offensive posts.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate the support of our audiences throughout this issue. Thanks for your patience and #GoBlue.

At this point, it would appear as though the problem was fixed.  However, the twitter feed continued…

Still working with our partners to once again resolve the ongoing hack situation. We apologize for the disruption. Thanks for your patience.

Facebook has advised us our social pages are now stable. We will monitor throughout the evening & hope to return to normal business shortly.

Thanks once again for your continued support and patience. #GoBlue #BestFansEver

Here are some takeaways from the University of Michigan social media escapade:

Michigan Stadium has an official capacity of 107,601.  On September 7, 2013 a game against Notre Dame drew a record crowd of 115,109.  Commonly referred to as the Big House, it’s the largest stadium in the United States.  It’s reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of the fans in attendance are carrying an active cell phone.  This leaves them perilously vulnerable to a wide variety of communications (wireless hacks, opt-in notification abuse, spoofed messages, bulk texts, phone calls and especially the prospect of malicious hoax information posted on decentralized social media platforms).  Yes, I’m referring to phony evacuation orders and bomb threats.  But it could be something seemingly harmless (free food, discounted merchandise, celebrity sightings, etc.).  Anything that might encourage random individuals to move aggressively toward a concourse or fixed location.  Panic, herding instincts, stampedes… these human phenomena go hand-in-hand.

As with other high-profile internet miscues, do not expect a meaningful resolution.  With the vast majority of hacking incidents, it’s exceedingly rare that anyone is ever held accountable.  Because any attempt to resolve the matter invariably results in a public relations nightmare and an ongoing reminder that the company, government agency, or in this case, educational institution, was compromised.  Also, it’s extremely challenging to effectively prosecute cyber-crimes.

Note the university’s general stance on this social media hack.  They seem only concerned about the possibility of accidental downloads and computer viruses.  That is an exceptionally linear and naive view of this matter.  Administration officials and stadium management would never voluntarily acknowledge a scenario that could render a venue unsafe.  It’s considered a slippery slope as they might get “called out” on other sensitive, taboo security issues (drones, IED’s, active shooters, etc.).

There’s also an NCAA league-wide refusal to engage in out-of-the-box thinking.  Just because you believe your venue to be perfectly safe… what if an unexplainable, real-world event transpired in a different stadium?  Hypothetically, what about other Big 10 facilities at Ohio State, Penn State or the University of Wisconsin?  How might a black swan event, such as a human stampede, impact the behavior of fans in other stadiums?  Think about it.  Good news travels fast, but these days, bad news travels much faster (celebrity deaths, airplane crashes, natural disasters, etc.).  Societal communication has changed markedly in the past two decades.  And what’s the most obvious variable that impacts information acquisition in a person’s day-to-day activities?  Answer: wireless technology.

The Michigan Football facebook page has 1.4 million “likes.”  Anyone who uses social media knows what that means.  It means that a wide variety of material related to the University of Michigan Wolverines can “magically” appear in your real-time facebook feed, particularly on game day.  Think beyond how malicious information would directly affect fans inside the stadium.  Consider how a saturation might impact people outside the stadium (in Kalamazoo, Philadelphia, Mexico City, etc.), especially those with friends or loved ones in attendance.  Physical distance is irrelevant.  Timing is everything.  Instead of silly click-bait schemes featuring Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus, what if the following information was transmitted?

The FBI has ordered an emergency evacuation for Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Threat level classification — IMMINENT.  Exit the stadium immediately.  Remain calm.

What if the message was less threatening but plainly convincing?

The University of Michigan alumni association is proud to announce a free t-shirt giveaway in the concourse outside the North end zone.  While supplies last.

What if someone made 26 similarly nefarious posts during a game?

The complicated algorithms that govern social media transmissions are not readily available to the general public.  Is it reasonable that facebook would proactively censor information that might lead to a panic?  If so, how far down the line does this procedural mitigation extend?  AT&T, Cisco, Microsoft, Google, etc.?  The FCC, FEMA, DOE, etc.?

It’s called discussing the undiscussable.  Nobody wants to acknowledge the potential for an artificially generated stampede due to concerns about plausible deniability and foreseeable litigation.  And of course, raising the issue itself is inherently a lose-lose proposition.  Hence nobody is willing to be proactive.

Now here’s the crux of the problem.  Solutions grounded in the realm of mitigation are not viable because human stampedes occur spontaneously.  All OODA loops (observe, orient, decide, act) require TIME to make responsible decisions.  In this case, you aren’t afforded the opportunity to react because events play themselves out in real-time.  You can’t just “hope for the best,” and if necessary, try to “neutralize the crisis.”   Think about it.  The University of Michigan required 5 hours to get the hacking situation under control.  Then, it happened a second time.  The expression “time is of the essence” exists for a reason.  Sometimes you don’t get second chances.

So what’s the solution to this mess?  Let me be blunt.  There are an infinite number of ways to manipulate crowd behavior via cellular technology.  This doesn’t require a masters degree in psychology with a minor in communications.  All it takes is a middle school education and a little situational awareness.  Ironically, the younger generation has a better grasp of the problem because they’re generally better acclimated to the current state of technology.  Unfortunately, at the same time, younger people are less apt to find themselves in positions of authority or command.

As I was saying, there is a solution.  But it requires making a fundamental determination to treat fans with a basic level of dignity and respect.  You must willingly divulge the truth — that LEGITIMATE stadium emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via personal cell phones.  If an evac is deemed absolutely necessary, protocol dictates using the public address in tandem with the video monitors.  You do NOT play texting games with a large, confined crowd in excess of 100,000.  University of Michigan officials and the NCAA security apparatus are aware of this conflicting discrepancy.  It’s not rocket science.

So we’re left with two distinct options.  You either disclose the truth and get ahead of the curve OR you make a deliberately calculated decision to leave fans oblivious and uninformed.  This is not complex.  It’s simple and it’s moral.  It’s simply a moral decision which extends beyond profit.  It’s not about money.  It’s about life and limb.  And until the NCAA is willing to acknowledge the problem, every person in every NCAA stadium will remain at-risk.

If you believe my concerns have merit, feel free to share this link on any social media platform.  Freedom of speech is a hot commodity these days.

Deflategate PSI – pounds per square inch OR public safety information?

kraft and goodell

A highly publicized excerpt from the nationally aired press conference on July 29, 2015…

I was wrong to put my faith in the league.” — Robert Kraft


Those were the words of Bob Kraft regarding the 4 game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady for the upcoming 2015 NFL season.  Apparently I have something in common with the owner of the New England Patriots.  With a reported net worth of 4.3 billion, I can assure you of one thing.  It’s not our financial status.

Since 2011, I have continually petitioned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL ownership/management to explicitly warn their fans that…

LEGITIMATE emergency stadium evacuation orders would NEVER come from their personal cell phones.

Reason being, if something like this happened, it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create a human stampede.  There’s one other minor possibility I suppose.  It’s the notion of someone trying to evacuate a stadium solely for their own personal amusement.  Regardless, either scenario presents an exceptionally dire outcome – an unplanned, unanticipated evacuation.  Knowledge of this matter is common sense, public safety information grounded in the conceptual nature of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  It’s about the prospect of weaponizing a stampede.  Nothing more, nothing less.

If it’s deemed absolutely necessary to stage an official evacuation, no competent incident commander would ever try to contact fans individually via their personal mobile devices.  That’s just not how it works.  When initiating a stadium evacuation, protocol dictates using the public address in tandem with the video monitors.  You provide a clear, concise, unified directive.  You do not play texting games with large, confined crowds.

So here’s the problem.  Not only does the NFL refuse to take any significant action. They won’t even acknowledge the conflict itself exists.  The fact that every stadium is filled with 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones capable of transmitting false information seems to allude them.  Of course, the entire NFL isn’t that aloof.  Nor is this about a mesmerizing level of incompetence.  So considering what’s at stake, why won’t they be forthcoming?

There are several reasons the NFL is unwilling to acknowledge the subject.  They’re all pretty obvious: foreseeable litigation, plausible deniability and the lose-lose proposition.  Also, the NFL would never make a voluntary, specific admission about any scenario which might render a stadium unsafe.  The general consensus regarding security is to focus on the more preventable, generic safety issues (vulgar language, excessive alcohol consumption, banned items, etc.).  The prospect of cell phones being used as weapons doesn’t quite make the list.  Nobody’s even permitted to broach the subject.  And don’t even get me started on the problems presented by recreational drones.  This video (–wFfipvA) from Clinton, Connecticut (roughly 100 miles away from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA) surfaced on the internet less than 2 weeks ago.

So here’s the question we must ask.  Does the NFL have a moral obligation to divulge this information (stadium evac orders don’t come from cell phones)?  I believe they do.  And here’s why.  If it was the prospect of a singular stampede… well, that’s one thing.  But there exists a doomsday scenario called a “dominipede,” a reference to multiple, simultaneous human stampedes.

A large number of games overlap the same Sunday time frame (1pm – 4pm).  Hypothetically, if there was an “artificially generated stampede” in just one stadium, it’s reasonable to assume that fans in other stadiums would receive real-time news via their personal cell phones.  At this juncture, being present in ANY stadium would likely be viewed as an incredibly undesirable location.  The notion of hearing about a unique “black swan” event, particularly from people whom you deem trustworthy, could conceivably set off a cascade or domino effect as fans wish to abruptly exit the premises.  It generally takes a minimum of 22-25 minutes to satisfactorily evacuate an NFL stadium.  However, the variable of widespread panic renders this aspect irrelevant.  Good news travels fast.  But I assure you, bad news travels faster.

Historically, most stadium stampedes worldwide have resulted in casualties near the hundred range.  Assuming a dominipede played itself out, it could conceivably impact a maximum of 10 stadiums.  I believe 1,000 deaths and somewhere in the range of 5,000 – 10,000 injuries is a realistic tally.  Naturally, this is not an acceptable outcome.

Since you cannot mitigate a human stampede, the only reasonable course of action is to treat fans with the dignity and respect they deserve.  Blunt honesty is the only option here.  You simply make a moral commitment to be forthcoming.  How you ask?  A 3-5 second looped message over the public address or an unambiguous warning on the back of ticket stubs would be an excellent starting point.  A heightened level of situational awareness is paramount.  Regardless, we’re dealing with an inconvenient truth.  You either tell people or you don’t.  There is no grey area.

Now faced with this momentous decision, the NFL has chosen the path of “deliberately oblivious inaction.”  While I understand, and to some degree even sympathize with their dilemma, there is a moral imperative to divulge the truth — legit stadium evac orders would never be delivered via your personal cell phone.  It’s just that simple.  Sometimes I think a fifth grader should raise these concerns.  Perhaps they’d gain a little more traction.  I do know one thing though.  Relying on the federal government, Commissioner Roger Goodell or any of the 32 billionaire owners is a recipe for disaster.  They will never willingly challenge the status quo.

So when Patriots owner Robert Kraft  gets all choked up over the deflated ball “scandal” and says things like “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.”   Well, let’s just say it resonates.

When Commissioner Roger Goodell says, “My job is to protect the integrity of the NFL and to make sure the games are as safe as possible.”  Well, let’s just say it reverberates.

When not a single person employed by the entire NFL is willing to even remotely consider any potential downside regarding the wireless hyper-connectivity in every NFL stadium…

When the most important technological considerations are the ability to post selfies, check fantasy football stats and receive real-time scoring updates…

When all major decisions appear exclusively driven by revenue, profit and the bottom line…

Let’s just say that if you take an objective overview, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that… well, something just ain’t right.  When the “professionals” refuse to acknowledge existing facts and negative variables… when the “experts” decline to address plainly observable vulnerabilities… when the “security” purposely avoids contingency planning…

Well it’s just a matter of time before someone tests the cracks in the system.



NCS4 Best Practices Guide, Volume III



The NCS4 (National Center for Sports Safety and Security) is a government organization based on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.  It primarily serves in an advisory role to the NCAA.  In mid-July 2015, the NCS4 released its latest edition of “best practices.”

This manual attempts to cover virtually every topic about venue safety and security… with one glaring exception.  It omits the overwhelming presence of personal cell phones and the ability to wirelessly transmit and receive false information while an event is in progress.

The looming prospect of a decentralized, real-time saturation of information leading to an unexpected evacuation, likely resulting in a panic and inevitably, an artificially generated stampede is far more than the 500 lb. elephant in the room.  It’s also a black swan scenario.  If executed with malicious intent, there’s the potential for a 9/11-like tragedy.  Yes, I’m referring to a “dominipede” or domino stampede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes likely impacting the NFL 1 o’clock slate).

I’ve offered the NCS4 input in the past — repeatedly encouraging them to explicitly warn fans that LEGITIMATE emergency venue evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.  Not only did they demonstrate an unwillingness to embrace this common sense, public safety position, they also banned me from their facebook page.  Most of them surely understand the fundamental security disconnect, but just like other government organizations, nobody wants to step up and directly confront the issue at hand.  Why?  Because it would be a blatant admission that the problem itself exists.  If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  This catch-22 is a familiar refrain.

There’s an obvious reason that you would NEVER initiate a real-world evacuation through cellular means (social media alerts, bulk text messages, mass notifications, etc.).  Why?  Because that’s just not how it’s done.  Regardless of the reason for an evacuation, the paramount concern is to present a unified, cohesive, all-encompassing directive.  This is not responsibly achieved by trying to contact everyone on a subliminal, individual basis via their personal mobile devices.  Emergency evacuations are serious business.  That’s why it’s imperative to use the public address system and the video monitors… so there’s absolutely no room for confusion whatsoever.

Doesn’t it strike you as a little peculiar that nobody ever raises the possibility of a potential downside to 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in any NCAA or NFL stadium?  This same generic safety concern applies to other sports organizations as well — MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, NASCAR and INDY Racing.

Isn’t it odd that cyber-security is continually referenced as one of the most imminent threats to U.S. national security yet everything is presented in terms of identity theft and economic consequence, not injury or loss of life?

Let’s analyze a few statements from the 2015 “Best Practices” guide.

(page 22) – heading Command and Control, subheading Communications:

Ensure that you do not rely on any single method/system of communicating for operational or emergency communications.  Especially cellphones as they are the first to go out in a crisis.

Wireless communication is typically very efficient, but the statement cell phones are “the first to go out in a crisis” is somewhere in the realm between misleading and incorrect.  It also seems poorly worded.  Information delivered via the public address system and video monitors supersedes cellular transmissions because both occur in real-time.

(page 36) – heading Cyber Security, subheading Policy and Planning:

In today’s world this has become a greater risk due to its potential for far reaching impacts based upon cyber systems controls over large segments of our environment and there extensive use.

The NCS4 encourages readers to address cyber-security issues.  But it neglects to mention the presence of cell phones in large, confined crowds.  In certain cases, this number can exceed 100,000.  And by the way, it’s “their” not “there.”

Has it ever occurred to the NCS4 that somebody might try to evacuate a large stadium without the knowledge or consent of the incident commander?  The most likely reason being a malicious attempt to induce a human stampede.  There is one other possibility I suppose.  The notion that someone might try to stage an evacuation solely for their own amusement.  Either way, wouldn’t it be a good idea to develop a contingency plan?  You know, just in case.

(page 37) – heading Cyber Security, subheading Training

DHS and FBI can assist with training programs.

The Best Practices report routinely references guidance and assistance from DHS and the FBI.  However, neither federal department is willing to address the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede.”  The federal government is rarely proactive with transformational matters concerning public safety.  Its general preference is to “fix” a problem in the aftermath of a tragedy.  Think in terms of planes crashing into buildings.  Compounding the dilemma, no government department has a vested interest in tackling the issue.  The risk/reward return ratio is very unfavorable.  Reasons being… plausible deniability, foreseeable litigation and the voluntary admission that a scenario exists which could render a venue unsafe.  The federal government is also not in the habit of diminishing or marginalizing its power or control (in this case, limiting the options of the FCC, FEMA, WEA, etc.).

p. 48 – heading Behavioral Issues, subheading Disturbances – Pre, During and Post Game

Be proactive, since at some point in time you will have to address these issues.

Formally addressing a wide range of issues is a necessary component in being proactive.  The NCS4’s recent edition delves into celebratory disruptions/rioting, civil disturbances/demonstrations, drunk and disorderly conduct, field encroachments, fighting, illegal drug use/possession, throwing objects and the use of vulgar language.  Considering the historical prevalence of human stampedes in stadium settings worldwide, it seems anomalous how there’s no mention of the word “stampede” in the entire 172 page document.

 p. 75 – heading Crowd Dynamics/Management, subheading Evacuation/Sheltering

Anticipate that an incident could occur that causes a non-ordered impromptu/panic mass evacuation – consider how you will respond.  This is clearly the most dangerous of situations due to panic.  Plan your response of how to use the crowd flow, your environment and methods of communication.

Excellent!  I agree.  It’s imperative to anticipate negative outcomes.  Unfortunately, the NCS4 won’t offer any specific examples governing the evacuation process.  This is typical of government bureaucratic reports so as not to offer tangible evidence if things take a turn for the worse.  Much of the overall report appears vague and specious.  Considering the seriousness of the issues presented, it would be beneficial to offer some real-world, concrete examples grounded in precedent.

p. 76 – heading Evacuations/Sheltering, subheading Communication

Communication may take many forms such as signage (posted non-electronic and electronic), public address, radio, social media, and in person.  You should leverage all forms.

This statement is patently false.  During an evacuation, you should NOT leverage “all” forms.  The number one, overriding objective in any large scale evacuation is to reach the largest captive audience possible in a clear, concise, efficient fashion.  This is not achieved through cellular transmissions.  Why?  Because it’s not the optimum means of communication.  Many fans don’t have cell phones.  Many have them turned off.  Many wouldn’t hear a ringtone or notice incoming information.  It’s simply not a verifiable, reliable way to contact EVERYONE.  That mission is vastly better served through the public address, the video monitors and to a lesser extent, stadium personnel (ushers, security, etc.).

(p. 109) heading Incident Response Plans, subheading Cyber Intrusion/Attack

Protect systems that have operations and control over various aspects of the facility.  Many components of today’s facilities are operated via cyber programs that control the components (i.e. HVAC, lighting, PA, video boards, etc.).

The NCS4 maintains a purposely narrow view of cyber-security.  Yet again, there’s zero admission regarding the presence of personal cell phones.  Wireless carrier hacks, intentional misuse of opt-in notification systems, widespread social media hoaxes, spoofing, spamming, bulk text alerts… these represent far more realistic cyber-security threats as opposed to someone trying to “hack” the PA or manipulate a jumbotron.

(p. 110 cont.)

Pre-planning is important to preventing an incident from getting out of control and precipitating violence.

I agree.  I also agree with daytime talk show host Dr. Phil who often says, “you cannot change what you won’t acknowledge.”  Is any of this starting to sound like it makes sense?

(p. 112) under the same heading, subheading Evacuation/Relocation/Shelter-in-Place

Life safety under all conditions is first and foremost.

Apparently, life safety isn’t as important as they would have you believe.  Virtually everyone in the crowd has an active cell phone.  These mobile devices can be used to function as decentralized weapons, saturating false information (both intentionally and inadvertently) in an attempt to induce widespread panic.  The myriad of cell phones in any large venue constitutes a relatively new, societal variable.  And this variable cannot be ignored in perpetuity.  Eventually, someone will test the cracks in the system.

(page 124) – heading Risk and Threat Assessment/Vulnerabilities and Planning, subheading Assessments

Conduct a Risk/Threat Assessment for vulnerabilities of ALL events and collect Intelligence/information.  Risk and threats exist, but until identified and ranked for mitigation there is a potential for disaster.

I agree.  But what happens when you won’t conduct a specific threat assessment because it’s a seemingly impossible issue to resolve?  Transformative issues are often paradoxical.  They are usually solved through knowledge and awareness (forest fires, impaired driving, etc.) as opposed to allocating funds (building bridges, paving roads, etc.).

Furthermore, human stampedes develop instantaneously.  You do not mitigate a stampede.  You prevent it.  Mitigation is not an option.  Because the act of mitigation requires time (the successful completion of an O.O.D.A. loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).  I know of no stampede in the history of mankind where an incident commander or authority figure prematurely brought it to a halt.  It’s inconsistent with the definition of what constitutes a stampede.

Legit venue evac orders are not delivered via personal cell phones.  You either explicitly tell people this… or you don’t.

page 158 – heading Technology Use/Implementation/Innovation/Information Management, subheading Social Media

Use Social Media to inform attendees of security, weather or other emergency issues and monitor feedback.

For the love of god, NO!  You do not use social media to stage a successful evacuation of a large, confined crowd in any way, shape or form.  Social media is a decentralized platform.  Anyone can weigh in.  Platforms like facebook and twitter are easily manipulated, challenged and marginalized.  If anything, it’s an ideal means for perpetuating a hoax.

Now if you want to use social media to provide updates AFTER the initial evac is underway, I have no problem with that.  If you wish to tweet about what time the game will resume or post information about where to seek shelter, those matters are best left to the discretion of incident command.

Let’s try to sum this up.

In the Appendix of the most recent Best Practices report, there are a total of 102 individuals listed as “contributors” from the 2015 National Intercollegiate Athletics Safety and Security Summit.  The Steering Committee has an additional 13 prominent individuals from the worlds of law enforcement and emergency management.  A wide variety of federal agencies (DOJ, FCC, FBI, DHS, FAA, OSHA, BATF, NTSB, NWS, NIMS, NFPA, CALEA, etc.) also provide input.  Am I to presume that none of these experts or organizations have any concerns whatsoever about how wireless hyper-connectivity could impact venue safety?

Another hot-button issue involving outdoor sports venues is the presence of recreational drones.  Once again, the word “drone” appears nowhere in this exhaustive, 2015 report.  Sound familiar?  Forgive me for sounding cynical, but I’m starting to sense some bureaucratic consistencies.

Every page in the entire 2015 Best Practices report has statements about being proactive.  Stage drills, troubleshoot, think outside the box, establish and follow protocol, implement a strategy, if you see something say something, expect the unexpected.  Stay ahead of the curve.  Be alert.  Take action.  Anticipate, observe, analyze.  Investigate, respond, coordinate, collaborate.  Regarding safety, do everything you can to be safe… with one enormous exception, of course.

I realize the threats I’m addressing are considered taboo, but this is not challenging subject matter.  I’m not the only person on the planet earth who has these concerns.  I’m just the only person willing to make an issue of it.  You either make a conscious decision to tell people the truth (legit venue evac orders are not issued via their personal cell phones) or you choose to purposely leave them in the dark… in a state of perpetual ignorance.

There’s a much simpler question at hand.  At some future point in time, will the concerns I’ve raised regarding artificially generated stampedes inevitably have to be dealt with?  If you believe the answer to be affirmative, the moral decision is to take definitive action — in this case, simply divulging a universal, inconvenient truth.  Unless of course, you honestly believe the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is not a credible concern.

Realistically, rather than focusing purely on the negative outcome (human stampedes), perhaps a better path forward is to ask yourself an obvious question.  Could something like this be attempted?  The answer to which… is a resounding yes.  And if that’s the case, whaddya gonna do about it?  I’m afraid the current answer is… nuthin’.



Crisis Management at Camden Yards

oriolesscheduleApril 2015 will largely be remembered for the rioting which engulfed the city of Baltimore, Maryland.  I’m going to specifically focus on how the Baltimore Orioles organization contended with this real-world crisis.  My concerns are centered around wireless communication technology and how it impacts the issue of ballpark emergency operations.

Key moments of the timeline and relevant observations:

Before the full scale rioting of April 27, there were minor protests near Camden Yards on Saturday night (April 25).  As a result, precautions were taken as reported by the Baltimore Sun…

Moments after the Red Sox made a stunning comeback to tie the game at 3 in the top of the ninth, stadium public-address announcer Ryan Wagner, on behalf of the mayor’s office and the city police department, issued a sobering declaration to what remained of the announced 36,757.  Because of unrest caused by the ongoing protests downtown over Freddie Gray’s death, the fans at Camden Yards were in a lockdown, told they were prohibited from leaving the ballpark until further notice.  Demonstrators had blocked an intersection right next to the ballpark, but fans were allowed to depart not long after the Orioles’ 10-inning win.

Saturday night Orioles
This information was issued via the public address system in tandem with the jumbotron.  The Baltimore Orioles have a fan opt-in text alert notification system, but did NOT utilize it to convey the update.  Social media was NOT used as an official channel to disseminate information via individual cell phones.  Reason being — such an act would be in direct violation of established protocol.

Takeaway: Camden Yards security followed proper procedure with regard to a perceived threat.  As a result, other than some minor inconveniences, no meaningful incidents were reported.

Monday, April 27 would provide an entirely different dynamic.
General consensus indicates the rioting commenced around 3:30 pm.

Some background information for Camden Yards:

Gate Opening Times:
NEW IN 2015!  For all Orioles home games, all gates will open two hours prior to game time to allow fans to enter the park.  Gate opening times are subject to change.

The vast majority of home games have a 7:05 pm regular start time.  On Monday evening, evidence indicates the gates opened on schedule at 5:05 pm.

At 6:19 pm, as witnessed on live television (CNN), officials made a determination to close the gates.  By this time, roughly 1,000 fans had already been admitted inside the ballpark.

Immediately after the closing of the gates, the Orioles issued the following two statements via the public address system AND their official twitter page.  Security also posted a graphic on the widescreen:

6:20 pm, April 27

After consultation with Baltimore City Police Department, tonight’s game between the Orioles & White Sox at Oriole Park has been postponed.

6:22 pm April 27

An announcement regarding a make-up date will be made asap. Fans are encouraged to keep their tickets & parking until more info is available
monday night. Orioles
Here’s the question you must ask.  Why was twitter used under this circumstance and NOT used during the April 25 incident?  Answer: the ballpark was still virtually deserted, hence the possibility of fomenting a panic was deemed negligible.  Also, they wanted to alert fans of the cancellation… those who had plans to attend the evening game but had not made their way to the venue.

Have the producers of major news networks been properly briefed on the consequences of dispensing emergency management information in real-time?  In this case, BEFORE the cancellation was made official.  Are they aware that their actions with regard to large, confined crowds could potentially have real-world consequences?

Note how future announcements would be made “asap.”  I’m not challenging any of the decisions made by Orioles security.  However, I do think it’s important to quantify what constitutes “asap.”  The time lag before the next statement would be roughly 17 hours.  In a world where people have come to rely on obtaining accurate information within seconds, such a lengthy delay invites the prospect of contamination and the dispensation of intentionally false material.

On 4-28, around noon the following day, the Orioles released these two statements via social media:

After consultation with Major League Baseball and state and local officials, tonight’s game between the Orioles and the White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been postponed.

An announcement regarding the make-up date will be made as soon as possible. Fans are encouraged to keep their tickets and parking passes until more information is made available.

Coordination between private industry and city, county and state officials takes time.  Although there was no tacit admission, I imagine that federal officials and agencies were also in the mix.  It takes time to sift through a complicated situation, especially when there is a new precedent being established (the postponement of professional sporting events due to civil unrest).

In this case, the riots were an unexpected variable.  And naturally, when an unanticipated, challenging variable disrupts the norm, the best solutions do not come easily.  It was determined that the Tuesday game would be cancelled.  The Wednesday game would be played at Camden Yards in front of an empty ballpark.  The entire weekend series against the Rays was moved to Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida.  These were NOT routine decisions.  They were unprecedented.

Please know that I have few qualms with how the Orioles handled a volatile situation.  I’m merely demonstrating how large bureaucracies, by their very definition, require extensive collaboration to make responsible decisions.

The events that transpired all had one thing in common.  They all took time. Troubleshooting, risk/reward and cost/benefit analysis, weighing the consequences, coordination among parties… these things require tremendous consideration.  Every decision requires multiple, interactive O.O.D.A. (observe, orient, decide, act) loops.

The proliferation of wireless mobile technology in ballparks and stadiums has irrevocably altered what used to be a level paying field.  Of particular concern, social media is interactive and decentralized.  Deliberate and convincingly false information can be widely disseminated without room for debate, verification or recourse.  This does not bode well in times of crisis when emergency management decisions require a strict adherence to a disciplined chain of command.

With that in mind, perhaps the time has come to expose people to some pretty generic, common sense public safety information… dialogue that’s hovering dangerously underneath the radar.  When a venue evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, protocol dictates using the public address system and the video monitors.  You do not issue emergency venue evacuation orders with a gazillion, personalized text alerts.  That’s just not how it’s done.

Camden Yards has a maximum capacity of 45,971 + ballpark employees.  That’s conceivably 46,000 cell phones (miniature supercomputers) capable of receiving and circulating false information.  Orioles security has 1 public address system capable of dispensing accurate information.  Is anyone, aside from myself and a class of Baltimore 5th graders, able to conceptualize this massive security disconnect?  Is it really that complex?

So here’s the final takeaway:

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
 and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

The time has come to share this information with the general population.  Let’s get ahead of the curve.  It’s time for someone (other than myself) to step up to the plate.  Let’s play ball.



Comprehending the Dominipede: Part II

DominipedeCover finalWhen I raise the subject of a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stadium stampedes), it’s usually greeted with some degree of skepticism.  Now there’s an understatement.  I’m often described as paranoid, delusional, agoraphobic, fear mongering, the list goes on.  I routinely see comments like TLDR or ^^^ spam ^^^.  Many claim I wear a tin foil hat.  Others advise me to “lay off the meds” or “try and be brave while attempting an escape from the confines of my parent’s basement.”

I’ve basically had to immunize myself from all of this.  Social media forums like facebook are an atrocious place to raise asymmetric national security issues.  After all, facebook lends itself to one-sentence replies and quickie memes, not serious commentary or analysis.  Unfortunately, if you didn’t already know, the internet is filled with these “heroic journalists.”  Someone’s always willing to chime in.  They’ll even get passionate about a statement like this…

The current state of venue emergency evacuation protocol is dangerously obsolete.

Now let’s be honest.  Half the country has no idea what that means.  And even if they did, most wouldn’t care.  I’m not writing about celebrity breakups or bad weather forecasts.  This material involves unconventional threat analysis and generational warfare issues (the weaponizing of human stampedes).  Nonetheless, social media offers the fastest and easiest way to dispense information and gain exposure for AGSAF.  So I guess there’s a balance.  Sorry.  Just had to get that off my chest.  If you keep reading, you’ll appreciate why it’s relevant.

This article will deal with the nuts and bolts of the hoax aspect — the ingredients to manufacture a dominipede.  Since it is by definition a “black swan” event that would reshape the landscape of society and redefine the symbiotic relationship between technology and humanity, well… let’s just say I think it warrants a brief run-thru.

There are literally an infinite number of ways to foment panic in a large, confined crowd.  I’m predominantly concerned with the wireless aspect.  When I try to explain the concept, the majority of people respond with, “Oh, I get it.  Everyone in the stadium gets a text message from their cell phones.  Probably an emergency evacuation order or a bomb threat.  Some people panic and run.  Then, people see others panic which causes them to panic.  Everyone suddenly wants out.  Herding instincts kick in and there’s a stampede.  I get it.  I guess something like that COULD happen.  Anything is possible.”

Then I often hear the question, “But how would they get my phone number?”  To which I reply, “THEY already HAVE your phone number.  The threat is coming from those you trust implicitly, likely family and close friends.”  And then I get that predictable look of confusion and bewilderment.  “Why would they do that?”  The skepticism continues, “Has anything like this ever happened before?”  To which I jokingly reply, “Absolutely!  There was a stampede last weekend at Heinz Field.  Happens all the time.”

Perhaps a better question is this.  Can the delivery of real-time cellular information compel people to physically move?  I don’t know.  You tell me.  Flash mobs, cash mobs, bomb threats, imminent tornado warnings, tsunami & flash flooding alerts, political protests, celebrity sightings, the financial trading pits, organized looting, civil unrest, a run on the banks, just to name a few.  So let me explain why the earlier perception is dangerously naive and how it represents an incredibly narrow, linear approach to the problem at hand.

But first, a disclaimer.  You cannot totally discount the direct path:

*  a wireless carrier hack
*  deliberate misuse of an opt-in notification system
*  sabotage of the WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert)
*  an SMS (short message service) bulk text with a defined list of numbers

Any and/or all of these modes of information dissemination could play an integral role.  In many ways, they represent “lights out” scenarios.  But I don’t think they constitute the “essence of the dominipede” and how it would actually transpire.  Ironically, when I stumbled upon the issue in 2011, that’s how I originally conceived of it.  It took me about a year to fully grasp the hoax aspect.  So I try not to cast aspersions on those who don’t instantly see the bigger picture.

As I was describing, most people think in terms of this unilateral, mysterious mass text message that hits everyone in the stadium near simultaneously.  They’re picturing it like an official Amber Alert in a church setting.  But that’s probably not how it pans out.

Let’s speculate that someone with malicious intent seeks to wirelessly contaminate a football stadium.  This would invariably lead them to instigate an “electronic avalanche of information,” something I refer to as a VIRAL BLITZKRIEG (a decentralized saturation of information intended to grow exponentially).  Think of it like a “delegation of broad authority whose purpose is to unwittingly spread a hoax and spark outright chaos.”  If you wish to extrapolate from the technical side, try googling any of these terms:  STINGRAY, MINIATURE HERO,  WARPARTH, BADGER, CHANGELING.

Rather than exploring a tech-heavy angle, let’s keep this as simple as possible.  Does anyone remember a childhood game called “Chinese Whispers?”  I don’t wish to offend anyone’s ethnic sensibilities.  It goes by several other names: pass the message, secret message, grapevine, and the aptly named broken telephone.

Here’s how it works.  One person whispers a message to another.  Each individual passes the message down the line using the same subdued technique.  Errors in content typically accumulate during the process.  Reasons for the changes usually include impatience and anxiousness, accidental corrections or intentional omissions.  When the last person reveals the original message, much to everyone’s chagrin, the content has been substantively altered.

This game serves as a metaphor to illustrate the pitfalls of cumulative human error.  It also demonstrates the unreliability of rumors and the inconsistencies with spreading gossip.

Now let’s take the “secret message” analogy and apply it to the NFL’s opening day 1 o’clock slate of games.  If we successfully introduce the VIRAL BLITZKRIEG variable, you have the defining ingredient for the largest game of “pass the message/broken telephone” in the history of the mankind.  You have individuals in every stadium, ever bar, every restaurant, every vehicle, every home… every place where people are watching or listening to the games.  It’s not just the stadiums.  It’s any location where there are mobile devices and the ability to communicate.

I’m not clairvoyant, but I can do a reasonably good job of predicting the actual barrage of “whispering” that would ensue.  Except this information would not be delivered in hushed tones.  It would be the loudest clamoring in the era of cellular technology.

the phone calls…

*  Are you okay?  Is everything okay?
*  Hey, are you alright?  Is everything alright?
*  Do you know what’s happening?  Did you just see what happened?
*  Something bad is going on!  You need to get out of the stadium!  Now!

the text messages…

*  WTH!  WTF!
*  Are you at the game?
*  Is anything weird happening at the game?
*  I need you to get out of the stadium!  PLEASE!  I’M BEGGING YOU!  I LOVE YOU!

I imagine it would echo the content that followed another black swan event… 9/11.  But the dominipede would feature vastly greater transmissions of confusion and chaos.  Because it all happens near simultaneously and nobody can offer a credible explanation as to why.  O.O.D.A. (observe, orient, decide, act) loops are rendered nonexistent.  Mitigation is irrelevant.  You cannot shut down an event that happens in real-time.  Reliance on the ill-defined Standard Operating Procedure 303 a/k/a the internet kill-switch is a recipe for disaster.

It’s vital to remember that everyone is witnessing and experiencing an event near-spontaneously.  The interpretation and reaction, especially from live sportscasters, carries tremendous weight in a very minimal time frame.  Other seemingly critical positions like incident command and emergency response are irreparably compromised.  Regardless, the chain of command structure was usurped and eviscerated so they never really mattered in the first place.

This is where social media truly backfires.  Individual fans would be overloaded with information from multiple, credible sources.  Everyone is either wishing to report the news, safeguard the lives of loved ones or both.  And at the same time, neither having the slightest knowledge of emergency evacuation procedures nor being able to comprehend the unique gravity of the hoax threat.  Remember, for the fans in the stadiums, much of the source info will be derived from social media.  People aren’t accustomed to comprehensive explanations.  People respond with snippets of information that are brief and powerful.  People respond with their fingers, not with their heads.  Next, they’d instinctively respond with their feet, as opposed to their fingers.

The unilateral phase of information delivery has concluded but the saturation is still growing exponentially.  More important, it is now decentralized.  I won’t hazard a precise guess, but I know the origins of the stampedes are measured in seconds, not minutes.  Eventually, the communications infrastructure likely gets shut down via SOP 303 (much like the air space following 9/11).  But by then, much the same, it’s too little too late.

Here’s the problem as I see it.  Too many people think in terms of the end result… a human stampede.  They’re mentally conditioned to ignore the sequential process or the build-up.  And they’re far too dismissive of the core element — the creation of an untested, synthetic variable resulting in large numbers of people moving aggressively to fixed locations in the stadium, whether it be the concourses or the exits.

Picture 9/11 unfolding as it did, under the scrutiny of live national television. But now consider the possibility of all four planes hitting each target simultaneously.  There would be no orientation phase.  The result — you would have known immediately that it was an act of terrorism.  No room for any debate whatsoever.  The difference is in the timing.  It could have been an accident, but with a dominipede, when one stadium gets hit, I think it’s pretty obvious they all tumble.  You don’t get a do-over.  No preseason.  No second chances.  This is why I often speak of the moral imperative for simply divulging the plain truth — legitimate stadium evacuation orders would never come from your personal cell phone.  Why take that step?  Because I’m not the only person on the planet who has thought of all this.  Just likely the only person to write about it… in exhaustive detail.

If you wish to play devil’s advocate, that’s fine.  From a debate perspective, I think you’ll discover that trying to defend the status quo is an incredibly weak position.  Because every argument is grounded in a premise that legitimizes ignorance.  That people remain better off not-knowing or oblivious.  It also infers that crowd safety is enhanced by a lack of situational awareness.  This makes no sense.  Unless the rules of the game have changed, most Americans are still supportive of their First and Second Amendment rights.  Everyone has the right to defend themselves.

Now regrettably, I don’t carry any weight with the National Football League.  And even if I did, the slightest hint of inertia would be geared toward suppressing or ignoring my concerns.  Discrediting me?  Don’t be silly.  You cannot refute that which you are unwilling to acknowledge.

I can assure you.  The NFL will never make a voluntary admission about the real-world disconnect with emergency evacuation protocol.  Because if they did, it would be a stark admission that a hypothetical scenario exists — one which could render their facilities unsafe.  And if you think they’re willing to put human safety ahead of profit, I have multiple bridges I’d like to sell you.  Actually, this statement merits clarification.  Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL ownership would be more than happy to shed light on this issue and even willing to fix it… but only AFTER large numbers of people are injured, trampled and crush asphyxiated.  I can assure of something else.  They all know about it.  Go ahead and ask them.  Just make sure to get a recording.  That could be some really valuable footage.

Keep in mind, the dominipede is the cruelest hoax ever perpetrated.  It’s a nefarious attempt to initiate mass deception and indiscriminately kill civilians without weapons.  And it actually relies on the goodwill and empathy of man as opposed to our inner demons.

If you think about it, the recipe is pretty simple.  1 part humanity, 1 part technology.  Top it off with a lie.  Everyone knows the generic ingredients for a dominipede but nobody’s allowed to admit they know an actual recipe exists.  Worst of all, they’re holding the position of executive chef at all of the world’s finest restaurants.  But they aren’t getting paid.  Hell, they didn’t even realize they were gainfully employed.  And that’s what makes it the ultimate conspiracy — a defining act of generational warfare… even surpassing the incomprehensible attacks of 2001.


The Rick Rescorla Comparison

RescorlaMemorial - agsaf.orgRick Rescorla is widely known as “the man who predicted 9/11.”  He held the position of Chief of Security for Morgan Stanley from 1985 to 2001, overseeing the physical safety of thousands of company employees.  Putting the lives of others ahead of his own, he perished during the World Trade Center attacks.

I find myself in a very similar predicament to the late Rick Rescorla.  Although our concerns differ, they both deal with undiscussable, speculative national security issues.  His involved airplanes targeting buildings.  Mine involves wireless communication being used to foment human stampedes.  First, a little background.

In 1990, Rescorla advised the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to increase security and monitoring for the basement parking garage of the World Trade Center.  His concerns were dismissed on the basis of cost, precedent and unnecessary fear mongering.  His premonitions turned out to be entirely accurate.  In 1993, a truck bomb detonated in the garage level.  Although this attack failed to destroy the Towers, it did significant structural damage.  It also killed 6 people and injured roughly a thousand.

Rescorla and his security team theorized that it was just a matter of time before there was another attack.  Except this time, the perpetrators would come “through the air.”  Rescorla was extremely worried about the possibility of an airplane, loaded with explosives, flying directly into one of the buildings.  Once again, Rescorla voiced his concerns but was rebuffed by the NY/NJ Port Authority.

After the 1993 terrorist attack, Rescorla chose to take the initiative.  He made a unilateral decision to enhance emergency planning and contingency operations.  He instituted evacuation safety drills on a regular basis.  These training preparations impacted everyone at the financial services firm across the board, from the janitors to the secretaries to the top executives.

Sensing a permanent state of vulnerability, Rescorla encouraged Morgan Stanley to relocate their corporate operations to neighboring New Jersey.  But since the company’s lease ran through 2006, his suggestion was discarded.

Well… we all know how this one turned out.

While I would NEVER profess to be a hero like Rick Rescorla, our stories do have a lot of interesting parallels.

*  We’ve both aired unique concerns about a “black swan” event — a future incident that dramatically impacts the course of humanity.  An occurrence that ushers in an era of irrevocable change.

*  Both subjects are inherently undiscussable or taboo.  Even though the artificially generated stampede (the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater) is exceedingly generic in nature, it appears society will be unable to directly confront and remedy the dilemma at hand… until it happens.  Or at the very least, is attempted.

*  Both scenarios test the established limits of the First and Second Amendments (freedom of speech, situational awareness and the right to defend oneself).

*  In the face of a preventable tragedy, both predicaments encourage society to be proactive as opposed to reactive.

* Both scenarios rely heavily on elements of asymmetry and the introduction of new concepts in generational warfare.  His — using the plane itself as an actual weapon.  Mine — using decentralized information as a weapon.

*  Both feature an unprecedented “rate of return” on your investment.  The total cost to perpetrate 9/11 was estimated at $250,000.  However, the immediate economic fallout was in the billions.  Many would argue the long term impact, in excess of trillions.  An artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, could be attempted with an investment of time, minimal research and an expenditure of maybe a thousand dollars.  As an act of terrorism, the transaction cost is unfathomable.

*  They both invite a paradoxical question.  Which is the superior course moving forward… action or inaction?  What if by putting it out there, you inadvertently put an idea in someone’s head?  Prior to 9/11, how many people envisioned a plane intentionally flying into a building?  Multiple buildings?  Prior to an artificially generated stampede, how many people have had discussions about a VIRAL BLITZKRIEG (a saturation of cellular-induced panic)?  Multiple, simultaneous panics?

From what I can ascertain, Rescorla was confronted by an entrenched level of resistance.  I’ve encountered this as well.  These are challenging issues that require an adjustment of thought and reasoning, not simply an allocation of resources.  It requires deliberation with a long-term event horizon.  Money alone cannot not fix this problem.  In many ways, it actually serves as an impediment.

I suspect Rescorla’s safety drills were not well-received.  Picture yourself as a Morgan Stanley executive on a vital overseas conference call or a securities trader involved in a multimillion dollar transaction.  Now let’s drop everything and walk down 50-75 flights of steps.  I also suspect many dismissed his concerns as paranoid or delusional because it involved a warped scenario that very few could mentally grasp or were willing to comprehend.  Informing people that an airplane could fly directly into their office cubicle was probably not the best way to ingratiate himself with fellow employees.

Rescorla was passionate about a hypothetical because he had a very specific vision of how history would unfold.  Much like I envision an artificially generated stampede morphing into a dominipede, I think it’s highly likely that Rescorla conceived of the prospect of additional planes.

Rescorla spoke out.  But nobody listened because there was no perceived immediate benefit.  The upside was not “tangible enough.”

I’ve taken my concerns to members of Congress, relevant government departments, sports team ownership and management, collegiate athletic institutions and their respective leadership, private industry, charitable organizations, social media groups, news outlets, etc.  Once again, nobody wants to take action because “there’s nothing in it for THEM.”

Now assuming you’re a critical thinker, it’s reasonable to be wondering the following…

What about other ways to create a panic resulting in a stampede?  What about drones carrying hand grenades?  What about active shooters and truck bombs?  Why not warn people about blimps, as was portrayed in the movie Black Sunday?  What makes the artificially generated stampede so unique that it exclusively demands disclosure?

Well, the answer to that one’s a bit more complex.  Fortunately, the information is out there — 3 books and 70+ articles on the website.  Best of all, it’s free.  And so is the solution.  Awareness.

One final thought.  While 9/11 is rife with inconsistencies and conspiracy theories, here are two indisputable facts.  The first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 am.  At 8:55 am, multiple official announcements were made over the building-wide public address system in the still-undamaged South Tower, reporting that the building was “secure” and that people should return to their offices.

My point — on that fateful day, everyone in charge got it totally wrong.  Even when the most reasonable course of action was to evacuate and err on the side of caution, South Tower employees were explicitly told to stay put.  Fortunately, there was this one guy named Rick Rescorla, armed with only a bullhorn and common sense.

rick - agsaf.orgRescorla refused to adhere to the establishment.  On 9/11, his actions saved countless lives… regrettably, at the expense of his own.

A “dominipede” (multiple stampedes) is a black swan event that transpires in real-time.  Mitigation is irrelevant.  There are no second chances or dress rehearsals.  You either tell people or you don’t.  Other than myself, is there anybody out there in the government or the entire NFL who’s willing to just acknowledge the crux of the issue (50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in a stadium capable of receiving real-time, false information)?

Oops, I forgot.  Nobody’s allowed to talk about it.  Sounds familiar, eh?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
-George Santayana (The Life of Reason, 1905)


The Grateful Dead Solution to the Artificially Generated Stampede

read - sonofsaf.comThe remaining members of the iconic rock band The Grateful Dead have announced a 50th year reunion concert.  It will be held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois on July 3-5, 2015.  All three nights are completely sold out.  Venue capacity for each show will be approximately 70,000.

OBJECTIVE:  Try to convince one of the band members to explicitly inform fans that… legitimate emergency stadium evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal phones.

Why you ask?  Because when a stadium evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, standard protocol dictates using the public address system, usually in tandem with the video monitors.  Reason being — it’s necessary to present an all-encompassing, unified directive.  Under no circumstance whatsoever would you attempt to individually alert each person.  That’s just not how it’s done.

This is indisputable, common sense, public safety information.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well… not really.  It’s critical to understand the NFL’s perspective.

Soldier Field is one of 31 National Football League venues.  Regrettably, despite the proliferation of smart phone technology, the NFL front office remains unwilling to acknowledge that their emergency evacuation protocol is outdated.  Some would argue obsolete.  The reasoning behind this is both exceedingly visible and blatantly obvious.  Virtually everyone in the crowd has an active cell phone!

These mobile devices function as miniature wireless super computers and are capable of transmitting real-time information (hoax bomb threats, phony evacuation orders, spoofed messages, etc.).  The saturation of such false information could come in an array of formats (wireless carrier hack, abuse of an opt-in notification system, bulk text messaging, social media blitz, reverse 911 platform, robo-calls, emergency alerts, etc.).  It could be both deliberate or unintentional.  Simply stated, if something like this were to happen, it is an attempt to induce widespread panic.

Panic and stadiums do not mix.

The NFL will not acknowledge this predicament for three basic reasons:  plausible deniability, foreseeable litigation and the lose-lose proposition.  They will never make a voluntary admission about a scenario which could render a stadium unsafe.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does not allow the media to field speculative questions in this realm.  Extreme Networks, the Official Wi-Fi Analytics Provider of the NFL, is equally reluctant to address the complexity of this very generic issue.  The website explores this matter in greater detail.

The federal government (Congress, DHS, FCC, etc.) also refuses to publicly acknowledge this asymmetric, national security threat — the prospect of weaponizing a human stampede.  As you might except, the notion of indiscriminately killing people without conventional weapons is a touchy subject.  Once again, AGSAF provides a more thorough explanation.

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
 and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Or we can be a little more straightforward.

Official stadium evacuation orders do NOT come from your personal cell phone.

I’ve been searching for someone to deliver this message for a little over 3 years.  The challenge comes not from the truthfulness of the message.  The dilemma I usually encounter is a “societal uneasiness” or trepidation.  Others will claim my concerns are stupid or meaningless and often “conspiratorial.”  However, when asked to explain their logic, the ad hominem attacks continue or there’s an attempt to shift the conversation.

Here’s why.  There has never been a transparent admission of the problem itself.  This issue, by its very nature, is undiscussable.  Nobody’s permitted to talk about the potential downside of 50,000 – 100,000 hot cell phones in any NFL stadium.  Whether or not the subject matter merits consideration isn’t even really the issue.  The question you must ask yourself — WHY is it completely unavailable for public consumption?  And there’s your red flag — a total lack of situational awareness.

To top it off, there’s a taboo question that’s even more unsettling — could something like this be attempted?  Seriously, is it asking too much for human beings to get ahead of the curve on this one?  Especially since it’s just a modern variation of shouting fire in a crowded theater.  This isn’t Big Bang Theory physics with Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

Please consider these recent quotes…

Concert promoter Peter Shapiro: “The Grateful Dead truly are a great American rock & roll band so to have their final shows take place July 4th weekend in Chicago creates a lot of potential for magic to be made.”

Lead guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio: “The Grateful Dead are not just a genuine piece of musical history, but also an important part of American history.  They really embodied the American concept of freedom”

I generally agree with these characterizations of history and freedom.  During the summer of 2015, I’m hoping for a different kind of magic to be made.  A different demonstration of independence.  I’m merely asking someone in the band to finally divulge the uncomfortable secret that many already know, one that will eventually become common knowledge.

Over the years, I’ve grown dissatisfied with the strategic incompetence of the NFL and the bureaucratic indifference of government.  What this situation calls for is a high profile Bob Barker-inspired individual.  Remember what happened at the end of each Price is Right episode?  He’d urge viewers to get their pets spayed or neutered.  Help control the pet population.  It was a moral plea that had nothing to do with the game show.  And it didn’t cost anything.  Give it some thought.  There could be some very similar parallels.  Just change the last name from Barker to Weir.

There has been a lot of speculation that these reunion concerts are purely an attempt to cash in.  With all the financial interests at stake, here’s a convincing way for the band to squash these rumors.  Follow my advice and share this information with the world — legit stadium evac orders don’t come from your cell phone.  This info doesn’t cost a dime.  It’s priceless.  What better evidence that not everything revolves around greed and money?  If you can think of a better way, lemme know.

So furthermore, why the Dead?  Because these concerts are being billed as a once-in-a-lifetime event, the exposure will be significant.  There will be live simulcasts streaming to every continent.  This is not your typical stadium concert (Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, etc.).  Although I would certainly make the same appeal to them as well.  After all, ANYONE is allowed to dispense common sense information about public safety.  We are afforded that right under the provisions of the First Amendment.

If you’re personally acquainted with any of the following band members: Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bruce Hornsby, Trey Anastasio, Jeff Chimenti… or if you personally know any individuals affiliated with the band or their management, I’m begging you to consider sharing this article with them.  I hope that’s not asking too much.

The time to share this information is NOW, not in the aftermath of a preventable tragedy.  There is a “discernible inevitability” in play.  One of these days, the “wireless fear” dynamic will be tested.  Many would argue it already has.  Either way, we’re left with two distinct choices.  Do something or do nothing.  Be proactive or reactive.  This might sound presumptuous, but I think I know where the late Jerry Garcia would have stood on this.

In a 1967 interview conducted by CBS’s Harry Reasoner, Jerry Garcia said, “What we’re thinking about is a peaceful planet. Nobody wants to get hurt; nobody wants to hurt anybody.  We would all like to live an uncluttered life, a simple life, a good life, you know.  And, like, think about moving the whole human race ahead a step or a few steps, or half a step, or anything.”

“Moving the whole human race ahead a step or a few steps.”

Hmmm, sounds like some good advice.

I had the distinct pleasure of attending 3 Grateful Dead performances at Soldier Field.  A very memorable show in the summer of 1991 and two others (6-25-92, 6-26-92).  Although this gives me no additional “standing” to pursue my case, I can assure you of one thing.  I was standing and moving for the duration… a far superior outcome to being trampled and rendered motionless.

As a “Dead veteran” of 46 shows, I was an ardent admirer of how the band permitted, and even encouraged, fans to tape and freely distribute their live concerts.  This decision transformed the music industry and it still continues to resonate.  In keeping with that spirit, I would encourage you to spread this information and help redefine society moving forward.  Please share this article at-will.  It’s a little more important than another “hippies-gone-wild” celebration video.

If you don’t feel compelled by the moral argument, please consider sharing this material as an act of civil disobedience.  Trust me, there are a lot of billionaire NFL owners and cowardly government representatives that do not want this information in the public domain.  So if your mail order tickets were rejected or you can’t afford the thousand dollar price tag for the 4th of July concert… just think of it as a patriotic substitute.  Share this article and help set off some internet fireworks.  Wave that flag.
Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation


How to Terminate the Inglewood Stadium Project

inglewood stadiumThe most likely way to prevent an NFL team from relocating to Los Angeles is to squash the new stadium proposal in Inglewood, California.  Information contained in this article and the website does serious damage to the moral credibility of Rams owner Stan Kroenke.  It will also become necessary to disclose the National Football League’s “dirty, little secret” as I demonstrate a level of either mesmerizing incompetence or professional subterfuge.  Either makes Kroenke an exceedingly poor candidate to oversee a billion dollar development project.

The major news out of the NFL is the possibility of a franchise relocating to Los Angeles.  Kroenke is leading the charge with a stadium development proposal for Inglewood.  Several teams are rumored to be in the relocation mix:  San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Raiders and the St. Louis Rams.

Sports writers are naturally drawn to stories about player indiscretions (drunk driving, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc.), but the overarching themes usually involve money.  The NFL is the most profitable sports league in the world.  Future revenue streams always make for a compelling story line.  And nothing is bigger, both literally and figuratively, than the construction of a brand spankin’ new stadium.

As I’ve stated, the press usually focuses on money.  However, this isn’t about a $100,000+ political contribution to the campaign of Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts from the same company tasked with the stadium construction (Hollywood Land Co. based out of San Francisco).  Small world, eh?  This isn’t about the NFL which currently operates as a tax-exempt organization under section 501 (c-6) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Conveniently labeled and organized as a not-for-profit trade/industry association despite the NFL front office hauling in record profits of nearly 10 billion this year with an admitted goal of reaching $25 billion by 2027. And this isn’t about Stan Kroenke who happens to be married to a Walmart heiress.  It’s not about the second wealthiest NFL owner desperately trying to increase his leverage and fortune.

I lied.  It’s about Mr. Kroenke a/k/a the 6 BILLION Dollar Man.  It’s all about him.








The NFL’s most alarming problem involves divulging the truth.  And not only will the truth set you free, it is free.  It wouldn’t cost Kroenke a dime.  But in this case, he refuses to publicly convey vital information about stadium safety.  Kroenke reminds me a little of Jack “you can’t handle the truth” Nicholson.  Well, not quite.

So finally, what’s the dark secret?  I will tell you.  It is the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede” and the potential for a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stadium stampedes likely impacting the 1 o’clock slate).  The website does a sufficient job of elaborating on the mechanics.  Three books and 70+ articles on the subjects of outdated emergency evacuation protocol and advancements in asymmetric generational warfare (killing without weapons).

Still, I’ll summarize.  Roger Goodell’s vision for every NFL stadium is maximum wireless connectivity.  There’s little reason to believe the Inglewood project would deviate from this mission statement grounded in hyper-connectivity.  It’s all part of the “Stadium WiFi Initiative” established back in 2012.  You might recall it being hailed as the “living room” experience.

Now last time I checked, virtually everyone in the stadium has an active cell phone.  With the Inglewood project, that would be 80,000+.  These mobile devices are capable of disseminating false information.  The overwhelming concern here is a real-time saturation of bomb threats and phony emergency evacuation orders, both unintentional and deliberate.  Since the vast majority of fans have never given this matter any consideration, it leaves you with two distinct choices.  You either tell people about it and substantially increase their level of situational awareness… or you let them remain completely ignorant and oblivious.

Let me ask you a straightforward question.  Is it reasonable to assume that Stan Kroenke has never been briefed on the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede?”  It’s simply the modern, technological version of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Middle school kids can carry on an insightful conversation about this stuff.  Comprehending the notion of a cellular-induced panic doesn’t require a doctorate in Physics from Stanford.

Why is it that not a single person affiliated with the NFL has ever publicly spoken of this — a potential downside to all these cell phones in any of their stadiums?  Why is any discussion about wireless hacking and social media hoaxes off limits?  Why won’t they tell the truth about evacuation protocol?  Allow me to explain.  And please take note.  Because in the aftermath of a national tragedy, a deliberate act of silence could be regarded as a felonious act of criminal omission.

I understand the dilemma of being proactive.  It would be a voluntary admission that a specific scenario exists which could render a stadium unsafe.  Hmmm, and such an admission would be in direct conflict with all that money flooding in.  Once again, common sense safety issues take a back seat.  We’ve previously seen this narrative unfold with the prolonged concussion lawsuit settlement and the league’s recent domestic violence troubles.

Profit has an uncanny knack for keeping people tight-lipped.  Revenue has a tendency to impose its will on morality.  But in this case, the solution is really simple.  Just explicitly inform fans that LEGITIMATE emergency stadium evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.  If an evacuation’s absolutely necessary, they use the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.  Because it’s necessary to present a clear, unified directive.  This is Evac Protocol 101.  You don’t send out a blitz of text alerts.  This is not rocket science.  Out of roughly 200 NFL and NCAA stadium incident commanders, I defy you to find just ONE who would disagree with the assessment above.

But in the end, it’s always about money.  I understand that.  However, this particular safety issue is hovering around a fifth grade comprehension level.  And when every politician, every government agency (DHS, FCC, NSC, etc.), every sports writer in journalism and broadcasting, every billionaire NFL owner and every stadium manager adamantly refuse to acknowledge the possibility that something like this could at the very least be attempted, let alone happen.  Well… call me naive, but that spells trouble.  Eventually someone will test the cracks in the system.

Some will make the argument that this is a broader societal problem.  Hey, this affects the sports industry across the board: NCAA, MLB, NASCAR, etc.  Why doesn’t one of those organizations step up?  And why aren’t you casting aspersions on the inaction of politicians and complacence of government?  Shouldn’t they shoulder the blame as well?  Short answer yes.  Long answer no.  The legal explanation doesn’t pan out because it’s a hypothetical.  So all we’re left with is a moral quandary and the circular catch-22.  You acknowledge a problem, you own it… and if something bad happens, you’re screwed.

So why Kroenke?  Here’s your answer.  Some degree of moral accountability is necessary at the highest levels of authority.  Even if you’re afforded the luxury of not having to play by the rules.  Even when you’re a multi-billionaire.  Every rational human being still makes judgments of “right and wrong” when it comes to matters of “life and death.”  If we can’t trust Kroenke with such an elementary stadium security issue, then how on earth could we possibly find him ethically competent to preside over a billion dollar stadium development project?

A lot of things are driven by profit, but freedom of speech is a hot commodity these days.  Sometimes it’s necessary to speak up.  If you disagree with my analysis, here’s a million dollar challenge.  Forget that.  Let’s call it the billion dollar challenge.  Just try asking Stan Kroenke about this issue in a live, televised forum.  See if you can find a reporter with the guts.  Best of luck.  That person won’t be a reporter for long.  Hero?  Yep.  Reporter.  Nope.

* AGSAF (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) is currently seeking a spokesperson, preferably a high profile athlete or celebrity/musician, who’s willing to tell Americans that “legitimate venue emergency evacuation orders do NOT come from their personal cell phones.”  Regrettably, not a single member of Congress appears interested.  Many know about the problem but willfully choose to steer clear.  Not much of a surprise.  After all, there’s no money in it.

Feel free to share this article on any social media platform.

Deficiencies with Mueller’s Report on the Ray Rice Scandal

robert-mueller-nfl-2On January 8, 2015, former FBI Director Robert Mueller issued an investigative report outlining the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic assault in an Atlantic City casino elevator.  This entire multi-month saga serves as a microcosm for a much broader asymmetric threat to U.S. national security.  I’m referring to a black swan event known as an “artificially generated stampede.”

I’m not going to address allegations of whether or not NFL executives viewed the infamous elevator tape (before it found its way into the public domain).  What I wish to explore is the shield of “plausible deniability” under which the NFL currently operates.

The NFL front office has layers of personnel specifically designed to protect its executives from becoming aware of potentially damaging information.  It’s structured much like other organizations which safeguard their leadership hierarchy: industries such as banking, auto, tobacco, etc.  Sometimes things function more smoothly if specific people at the top don’t know “everything.”

Regarding the Ray Rice assault, the buffer zone of plausible deniability was irrevocably compromised due to the existence of surveillance footage.  Just the mere knowledge of such a video’s existence became a problem in and of itself.  There were also alleged conversations.  Furthermore, there was an electronic trail of information.  That’s what made it such a messy situation.  When the story blew up in the media, it required some form of resolution.

Any rational thinker would conclude that something bad must have happened in the elevator.  But acknowledging or seeking out the footage became a lose-lose proposition — kind of a “we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t” scenario.  With little to gain, deferring to the criminal justice system seemed like the wiser, safer and easier choice.

But all the while, there was a timeless refrain of “we should have done more.”  The Mueller report could have provided an opportunity to assess the NFL’s chain of accountability and examine existing protocol for past and future incidents.  But the Ray Rice investigation had an exceptionally narrow scope and focus.  This was not an accident.  It was by design.

Why?  Because the NFL, which often operates under a veil of tight-lipped secrecy,  would prefer to maintain the status quo.  Regardless of the outcome, it was imperative that the bureaucratic infrastructure remain unchallenged.  Anything that could demonstrably impact the existing “hear no evil, see no evil” methodology might open up a can of worms and quickly spiral into a public relations nightmare.

NFL owners Art Rooney II and John Mara oversaw the Mueller investigation.  I would call into question their impartiality as they have a vested financial interest in its outcome.  Nonetheless, they issued a joint statement:

“As owners, we are the first to agree that the NFL did not have a sufficient policy in place to deal with players or other personnel accused of domestic violence.

“This matter has tarnished the reputation of the NFL due to our failure to hand out proper punishments. It has been a wake-up call to all involved and we expect the changes that have been made will lead to improvements in how any similar issues are handled in the future.”

I disagree with their assessment that it has been a “wake-up call.”  I also disagree that it will lead to “improvements.”  If that were the case, the NFL front office would actively examine and address the potential for artificially generated stampedes in any of their 31 stadiums.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III statement:

“We concluded there was substantial information about the incident – even without the in-elevator video – indicating the need for a more thorough investigation. The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident.”   

Hmmm, sounds like an elementary case of woulda, shoulda, coulda.  So why didn’t anybody do anything?

For decades, the NFL has operated under a mafia-inspired structure designed to protect executives and ownership.  Let’s face it.  There’s a lot at stake.  In the aftermath of an artificially generate stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, the NFL would have to answer one of the most blatantly obvious questions ever conceived…

Did ANYONE affiliated with the NFL ever consider or discuss the notion of 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones capable of transmitting intentionally false information (emergency evac orders, bomb threats, etc.) while a game is in progress?  When I use the term “anyone,” I’m referring to security experts, stadium management, web technicians, social media consultants, season ticket holders, tv commentators, journalists, etc.  That’s a pretty big list of people and a wide range of perspectives.

Are we to assume that an issue this generic has NEVER been broached?  The American public might have an affinity for the pharmaceutical industry, but if you were to claim the contrary, that’s a really difficult pill to swallow.

In an ideal world, you simply do what’s right.  In this case, you explicitly warn people that official stadium evacuation orders don’t come from cell phones.  This is not complex.  If an evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, they use the public address system in tandem with the video monitors — to present a clear, unified directive.  But as you can see from the Ray Rice scandal, when the stakes are high, people don’t necessarily do what is right.  They do what is right… for them.

When it comes to stadium safety, the NFL adheres to outsourced, centralized decision making.  Policy doesn’t evolve from the bottom and flow upward.  Policy comes from the top and is dictated downward.  Every team and stadium must comply with identical standards.  This makes it exceedingly difficult to engage in problem solving and troubleshooting, especially when dealing with emergency evacuation protocol and the potential for human stampedes — which are by definition, extraordinarily taboo subjects.

I’m open to an informed debate about the pros and cons of centralized NFL security with regard to decision making and procedural implementation, but I defy you to find anyone willing to make the argument that the specific concerns I’ve outlined in this article would support the current, bureaucratic structure.  One dominated by public relations concerns, driven by profit and dedicated to maintaining the status quo.

The whole thing’s kind of an oxymoron.  The NFL likes its fans to get loud!  But the NFL front office is not very receptive to hearing the actual words.

This isn’t about domestic violence.  It’s about domestic silence.  In keeping with that sentiment, I penned a book and freely published it on the internet.  It’s the game day journey of a Pittsburgh 5th grader as he tries to expose the flawed state of security at Heinz Field.

The Immaculate Rejection

Feel free to share this book.  The information is valuable, but in keeping with the NFL paradox, it will never be for sale.

One final thought.  In a January 13, 2015 briefing, President Obama declared how we must improve our nation’s cybersecurity, especially in the wake of the Sony and CENTCOM hacking scandals.  However, you’ll never hear Obama discuss the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  Because the same premise of plausible deniability which guides the NFL applies to the federal government as well.

Analysis of the Jake Berlin twitter Hoax at Heinz Field

heinz fieldDuring the January 3, 2015 nationally televised playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, a fan at Heinz Field pulled off a real-world twitter prank.  He convinced enough people that if he received 400 retweets, he would rush the field.




Screw it, #Steelers are losing anyway. 400 RTs and I’ll run onto Heinz Field
10:11 PM – 3 Jan 2015
6,370 Retweets 3,632 favorites


Eighteen minutes later, here’s the concerned expression of Jake being “carted away”  by Heinz Field security.



10:29 PM – 3 Jan 2015
5,096 Retweets 5,017 favorites


Note how the number of re-tweets easily surpassed Berlin’s expectations.

Newsflash: it turns out the whole thing was a well-executed hoax.  Mr. Berlin successfully created the “wireless illusion” that he was going to charge the field but was intercepted by stadium security and escorted from the venue.  Truth be told, it was merely a publicity stunt designed to gain 15 seconds of fame and increase internet traffic for his website.  I would deem his twitter endeavor a major success.

Let’s explore a little beyond the surface.

Berlin showed just how easy it is to sway large segments of a captive audience via social media.  He exploited people’s time-sensitive emotions (playing off their curiosity and pesky enthusiasm) and got them to engage in physical activity.  In this case, merely entering a command on their computer or mobile device.

But what if Berlin had a malicious agenda?  What if his goal had been to manipulate people inside the stadium — getting them to physically and aggressively move toward a specific location?  What if it was a convincing offer of free Primanti sandwiches or discounted Steelers merchandise?  What if there was a high-profile celebrity sighting… say rap musician and longtime Steelers fan Snoop Dogg, hosting an impromptu party at a kiosk.  He’s signing autographs and giving away free alcohol.  Would there be any reason to be skeptical?  Especially when thousands of people are reaffirming the same precise message.  Perception is everything.  There’s a fine line between manipulating fingers… and manipulating feet.

Let’s make it a little more believable.  What if someone made intentionally false claims that an individual was giving away free scratch-off lottery tickets?  What about someone randomly handing out $100 bills near Gate A (the most prominent point of entry and exit)?

Sound familiar?  It should.  Only two days earlier was the January 1, 2015 New Years stampede in Shanghai, China.  Eyewitness accounts claimed the stampede was triggered by drink coupons, disguised as cash, being thrown from an establishment’s balcony.  I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy, but this assertion was repeated by virtually every news outlet.  The final death toll was 36, with countless injured.  Of course, something like this could NEVER happen in the United States.  Because, Americans are less susceptible to hoaxes?  (please read that sentence until you get the inflection right)

And what if it isn’t a single perpetrator?  What if hundreds are involved?  What if there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt to encourage fans to hurriedly exit the stadium?  How might others react when they see people rushing, pushing and shoving?  What happens when fans see more than one person trip and fall down a steep flight of concrete steps or get tangled in an escalator?  A stampede is by definition… a stampede.

Modern NFL stadiums offer exceptional line-of-sight, not just toward the field, but throughout the stands and multiple levels.  Evolutionary naysayers might deny it, but herding instincts are an easily verified commodity.  When people see others panic, they panic.

With minimal technological ingenuity and a little creativity, Berlin pulled off a real-time, real-world hoax.  There was no concerted wireless hack.  There was no abuse of opt-in notification or text alert systems.  This unverified story was quickly reported as fact by the Associated Press, Drudge Report, USA Today, etc.  In their quest to quickly get the story out, reputable organizations fell prey to their ambition.  They got it wrong.  The gullibility of the press and those who frequent social media has been illustrated time and time again.  Will these mediums continue to be exploited in the future?  Or does it all magically cease in 2015?

Now here’s some additional irony.  I was at Heinz Field for a July 27, 2014 international friendly soccer game between Manchester City and AC Milan.  Near the end of the game, two young fans rushed the field and took a selfie with renowned striker Mario Balotelli.

They were physically escorted away by field personnel, but not before they instantly sent this picture to their followers… and essentially the planet earth.







Even though I witnessed the incident with my own eyes and later researched it, I had never given any thought to the notion of a “phony incursion” onto the playing surface.  It just goes to show that when it comes to stadium security, you need to think outside the box and develop contingency plans for a wide array of events.  Not everything dangerous is eliminated by a transparent 12″x6″x12″ plastic bag.

The “I was going to rush the field but got upended by security” hoax is the least of the NFL’s problems.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m concerned about far deeper asymmetric threats.  I’ve explored countless scenarios where manipulation of social media platforms can impact physical movement, mostly grounded in fear and panic (credible evacuation orders, bomb threats, etc.).  Think in terms of a “reverse flash mob.”  Instead of summoning large numbers of people and quickly bringing them together, you’re simply doing the exact opposite.  It’s not as complicated as you might think.

Attendance for the Heinz Field playoff game was listed at 62,780.  How many of those fans were carrying cell phones and actively using them while the game was underway?

Large, confined venues must realistically address the problems presented by the proliferation of cellular technology.  Awareness and contingency planning are essential.  But you cannot change what you’re unwilling to acknowledge.  This is the diabolical catch-22 regarding the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.

The Berlin case appears silly at face-value, but it speaks to a much bigger issue.  It tangibly demonstrates why the NFL must make an acknowledgement and formal admission — Cell phones are capable of disseminating false information.  We are not the only entity capable of distributing real-time information to fans in any of our 31 stadiums.  This is not top-secret.  It’s common sense.

Heinz Field security was completely oblivious to this prank as it unfolded.  And even if they had known, there was little they could have done.

I once voiced my concern about an artificially generated stampede to a police chief/incident commander for a major NCAA Division I University.  He snapped back, “Well if someone tried that, they’d be spending the night in jail!”  To which I replied, “What if that person lived outside the United States?  What if you couldn’t determine who did it?  What if it was thousands of people unknowingly relaying hoax information?”  Needless to say, I could sense his anger and frustration.  People in positions of authority often fare poorly when confronted with scenarios outside their realm of expertise.  It gets even worse if you mention variables they’ve never considered.

Perhaps Mr. Berlin did the National Football League a favor.  Maybe their front office will engage in a comprehensive discussion and forge a new path forward.  Regrettably, I must be blunt — if you think the NFL is willing to make a voluntary admission that its stadiums could be unsafe, you are a fool.  The NFL will disregard the entire incident because it would compel a greater degree of accountability.  Being proactive takes guts.  It’s ironic how a sports league that relies on “courageous professionalism” would choose to function in a way that belies unconscionable cowardice.

Will the Steelers take legal action against Jake Berlin?  If you believe they will, you are seriously mistaken.  They don’t want the added attention because it exposes critical, underlying vulnerabilities with the generic, outdated models that currently govern stadium security.  If you require proof, just try asking Jimmy Sacco, Director of Stadium Management (1-412-697-7150).  I can assure you… your call will go unreturned, just like mine (January 5, 2015 at 1:37 pm).

You might find this to be an unusual, eerie coincidence.  But I wrote a book about the inconsistencies of Heinz Field security a month before the Berlin incident even transpired.  Unlike most books, mine are free and conveniently available online.

The Immaculate Rejection
(Warning: contains violent content and graphic imagery)

Troubleshooting hypothetical stadium security issues is an admittedly difficult process.  So I’ll leave you with one final thought.  When you think of the mafia, you think of Omerta.  Fahgettaboudit.  Compared to the NFL’s code of silence, that’s small cannoli.


The Immaculate Rejection

IMMACUALTE REJECTIONMy third book concerning the controversial issue of “artificially generated stampedes” is now available online.

The Immaculate Rejection is the story of a Pittsburgh 5th grader who attempts to resolve an untouchable, asymmetric national security dilemma.  His commitment and determination are not well-received.

This book, as well as my others (Dominipede: Book of Fear and Sonofsaf: odd, oh biography), are entirely free of charge.  Please consider sharing them.



TRIA and the Artificially Generated Stampede

tria600On December 10, 2014, the NFL owners conducted their final meeting of the year in Irving, Texas.  Their primary objective was to evaluate and implement a new version of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.  Considering the endless parade of drug accusations, weapons and impaired driving charges, domestic violence scandals, etc., an improved strategy moving forward was probably a good idea.

However, there are two issues of vastly greater significance.  You can speak publicly about the first one.  But the second one is unavailable for public or even private consumption.  It is by nature… undiscussable.

The public issue is TRIA (the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act).  Legislation was enacted shortly after 9/11 so insurance carriers wouldn’t bear the fiscal brunt for a CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) attack on an NFL stadium.  Since a catastrophic attack of this kind would be deemed an act of terrorism, it’s understandable the government would play a role in covering losses and compensating victims.  The big question — at what point should the insurance industry get bailed out by the federal government?  Another question — what if the attack was a conventional one, not officially labeled as a terrorist act?

On December 10, a six year extension of TRIA cleared the House with resounding support (417-7).  The Senate passed TRIA earlier in the year by an overwhelming majority as well (93-4 on July 17, 2014).  Considering the current acrimonious climate in D.C., bipartisan vote margins like these are especially rare.  Likely the result of extensive lobbying efforts from a variety of key economic players and high profile interests.  Aside from the NFL, TRIA is critical to the underlying stability of several other industries.

If there was a terrorist incident at an NFL stadium, I suspect the government would step in to remedy the situation.  Such a “bailout” would be consistent with how the government has protected other sectors of the economy (banking, insurance, automobile manufacturers, etc.).

Currently, the TRIA level for government intervention is any loss exceeding the $100 million threshold.  Over the next six years, that amount will gradually increase to $200 million.

Here’s why these numbers are important.  To date, there has never been a CBRN attack on an NFL stadium.  The insurance industry has established the year-to-year risk probability of such an incident in the 5% range.  However, stadium stampedes are a global phenomenon.  They are a better indicator of catastrophic damage because they are grounded in historical precedent.

In past human stadium stampedes, the death toll usually ranged in the realm of 50-100.  Injuries were roughly 5-10x the number of fatalities.  Ten examples from the past four decades:

1981 – Karaiskakis Stadium, Athens, Greece, 21 killed
1982 – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (former Soviet Union), 66 killed
1985 – Heysel Stadium, Brussels, Belgium, 39 killed
1988 – Kathmandu Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal, 93 killed
1989 – Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England, 96 killed
1996 – Mateo Flores Stadium, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 83 killed
2001 – Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa, 43 killed
2001 – Accra Sports Stadium, Accra, Ghana, 127 killed
2009 – Houphouet-Boigny Stadium, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 19 killed
2012 – Port Said Stadium, Port Said, Egypt, 72 killed

Here’s why these numbers should catch your attention.  In the aftermath of 9/11, the vast majority of families settled with the government for an average of 1.8 million per victim.  One hundred million dollars might seem like an arbitrary number, but if you do the math from a stampede perspective, it starts to make a lot of sense.

Although fundamental triggers may vary, my overriding point is this — when there’s a legitimate panic resulting in a human stampede in ANY stadium, fatalities are the norm, not the exception.  Blunt force trauma, trampling and crush asphyxiation are ways in which people die.  There’s even the possibility of being forcibly ejected off the concourse or spiral rotunda.  This is not complex.  It’s simply what happens when there’s a stampede.

Earlier in this article I referenced an issue that is “undiscussable.”  That issue is an artificially generated stampede — a sudden rush of people likely the result of panic-inducing information and/or false emergency evacuation orders delivered via personal cell phones or mobile devices.  Government and private industry are currently unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of such a black swan event.

Forgive the rhyme, but it’s a taboo catch-22.  Because If you acknowledge a problem exists, you own it.  And if it were to happen, the prior admission makes you susceptible to a greater degree of accountability and liability.  Make no mistake about it.  The presence of 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in every NFL stadium has irrevocably impacted the essence of emergency evacuation protocol.  This isn’t a 500 lb. elephant in the room.  It’s a 15,000 lb. Tyrannasaurus Rex in the stadium.

During the Falcons/Packers Monday Night Football game on December 8, 2014, ESPN replayed the unfiltered Howard Cosell announcement of the John Lennon assassination from December 8, 1980.

Take a moment and consider the progression and acceleration of information delivery.  Think about social media and how easy it is to engage in deception and spread a malicious hoax.  Wireless technology has fundamentally shifted the playing field from where we once stood in 1980.  Most everyone learns of calamitous breaking news on a simultaneous, individual basis… from their smart phones.

If an artificially generated stampede were to occur, I suspect the federal government would label it an act of terrorism.  However, the blowback from such a declaration could be quite severe.  Here’s why.  When people ask the obvious “who dunnit” question, they’d immediately come to the realization that many of the “perpetrators” were those influenced by a real-time, real-world hoax.  Most of them would be friends and family whose only intention was to contact and protect their loved ones.  In the event of an artificially generated stampede, those who experienced a personal loss might not appreciate our own government labeling them as suspects, or in the worst case scenario, terrorists.  Especially since so many individuals in the federal government and the NFL already knew this very generic problem existed, but willfully refused to address it.  Hmmm, sounds like another catch-22.


The NFL’s Dirty “Little” Secret

Roger-Goodell-Phone-smaller1If you personally know an NFL television announcer or prominent sports journalist, I beg you… please encourage them to read this five minute article.  Its content could save countless lives and prevent a debilitating 9/11-like outcome.  If that’s asking too much, then so be it.

This is all about the NFL’s dirty little secret.  But as you’re about to find out, the secret ain’t so little.  It’s overtly generic in nature.  Therefore, with each passing slate of NFL 1 o’clock games it’s becoming more and more difficult to conceal.  It’s not going away.  Well… not until an unforgivable tragedy occurs.

There is an asymmetric national security concern that continually hovers over every NFL stadium.  It’s something the entire NFL front office and every owner along with their staff, security and stadium management either willfully suppress or are completely unaware of.  This behavior, whether deliberate or not, is not exclusive to the NFL.  This blind ignorance, and in some cases arrogance, extends well into various branches of the United States government and its respective institutions (DHS, FBI, FCC, DOE).  Even individual members of Congress are culpable.  Again… this problem’s not going to magically disappear.

All the other issues faced by the NFL — domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, cheating scandals, homicides, animal cruelty — they all pale in comparison.  The question becomes… is the NFL aware of the problem?   There are 3 possible explanations:

1.  Everyone affiliated with the entire NFL organization is grossly incompetent.
2.  The level of myopic hubris is so overwhelming that everyone dismisses the problem because they view the NFL as completely invincible.


3.  They’re worried about plausible deniability and litigation of an unheralded scope and magnitude.

Let me be candid.  It’s the third option.  So exactly what am I referencing?

It’s called an artificially generated stampede which could easily metastasize into a DOMINIPEDE.  A dominipede means multiple, simultaneous human stampedes.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, that’s understandable.  Why?  Because it’s a term that does not exist.  Because it’s a historical event that simply hasn’t happened.  Yet.

If you require an explanation as to how such an event could occur, simply delve into any of the 50+ articles on the agsaf website.  Wireless carrier hacks, misuse of opt-in notification systems, bulk emergency alerts, phishing scams, coordinated robo-calls, sabotage of a reverse 9/11 platform, Stingray technology, mass texts and emails, disclosure of season ticket holder lists, the intentional saturation of social media resulting in a decentralized flow of real-time, imminently threatening information, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Anything designed to electronically convey an urgent sense of widespread panic.  And by the way, never underestimate the power of a simple phone call.

Sports announcers are accustomed to a familiar refrain.  Fans enter a stadium, take their seats, cheer and boo and eventually depart.  But what if nearly everyone started scrambling for the exits?  What if a scenario unfolded that defied routine expectations?  If people suddenly started behaving irrationally and there was no reasonable explanation, how might the announcers react?  Would they advocate a sense of calm reassurance even when they see something has gone terribly awry?

A sports announcer’s natural inclination is to report what happens on and off the field.  It’s a combination of professional integrity and job performance, often ingrained in decades of experience.  They relay the basics: who, what, when, where, why and how.  But if they witnessed sudden, violent movement in the crowd… if they saw aggressive pushing and shoving toward the concourses and exits… if it began to resemble a human stampede… well, it’s my opinion that virtually every sports commentator would have absolutely no idea what’s taking place.  They’d have no clue as to why such an unusual phenomenon is happening.

If they’ve never been briefed on the prospect of an artificially generated stampede, that would spell bewilderment and confusion.  If they’ve never been briefed on the prospect of a dominipede, that would spell disaster.  Any comment or observation would spread like wireless wildfire.  Any words they utter could subject every in-use stadium to potential mayhem.  It’s imperative they not unknowingly feed into the chaos and spook the crowds in other stadiums.  Words born of confusion have tremendous live consequence.

So here’s the current state of this mess.  The federal government and the NFL are purposely silent.  The vast majority of fans remain in the dark.  Unless the truth is disseminated through some kind of broad awareness campaign, every stadium attendee will continue to remain dangerously unaware of their surroundings.

If you’re unwilling to tell the fans about it, you need to place all your trust in the live television announcers.  And just for the record, this is an atrocious strategy.  Why?  Because with the advent of cellular technology, everyone has become part of the same level playing field.  It also implies that no one has ever been properly briefed on the notion that every NFL stadium contains 50,000+ active mobile devices capable of transmitting and receiving false information.  Those odds are a long shot.  Probably in the realm of 7 billion to 1 (7 billion being the population of the earth.  And since I’m the only person who could remotely conceive of weaponizing a stampede, the one would naturally be me).

Let’s play devil’s advocate and try the other side of the argument.  People should NOT be aware of the fact that stadium evacuation orders aren’t delivered via cell phones.  That seems to be an incredibly weak position.  Not to mention inherently cruel.  It’s reminiscent of back in the 1950’s when the government advised children to hide under their school desks in the event of an atomic explosion.  Hey, at least the government was pursuing a course of action.  Nowadays, they opt for the same direction as the NFL — plausible deniability and cowardly silence.

Even with government mandated PSAs, there is no comprehensive solution to this problem.  However, there is one thing that would go a long way toward improving the current situation.  And that’s for someone with courage and conviction to step up to the plate.  Just put it out there.  Legitimate stadium emergency evacuation orders would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone.  Like I said, it’s not the best plan, but it’s a good place to start.  It’s certainly superior to inaction.

Just put the message out there.  You needn’t go into a lengthy explanation of bomb threat conditions or emergency evacuation protocol.  All you need to to do is convey a simple truth.

that if you’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from your cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Legitimate stadium emergency evacuation orders would NEVER initially come from your personal mobile device.  It’s just that simple.  If an evacuation is deemed necessary, you use the public address system in tandem with the video screens.  It’s imperative to reach everyone in a direct, unified fashion.  The only reason any of this might sound the least bit controversial is because it’s untested, unexplored territory.

If you read this article and came away with the idea that what I’m proposing (laying the fate of entire stadiums in the hands of the broadcast announcers) is not a solid game plan… well, you’re absolutely correct.  It’s a horrible contingency plan.  Further compounding the absurdity, one individual from Wheeling, WV should not be solely responsible for what is essentially a fundamental human rights issue and matter of universal public safety.

Unfortunately, until the NFL and the federal government get their act together, it’s among the best of a series of very poor options.

Make no mistake about it.  This is a civil rights issue.  We’re dealing with the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  It’s all about situational awareness and the right to defend oneself.  Sometimes when current leadership fails the population, it’s necessary to look to the past for words of guidance and wisdom.

People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society. – Vince Lombardi

Civil rights battles are won because you fight them. – Martin Luther King

How pathetic, that in this day and age, we must rely on platitudes spoken roughly a half century ago.  Feel free to share this article on any social media platform.


Mystery of the University of Oklahoma “Suicide Bomber”

Hinrichs1On September 20, 2014, I attended a nationally televised college football game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown, WV.  I spent some time in the visitors section of Milan Puskar Stadium.  This gave me a unique opportunity to comprehensively speak with several fans who attended a game nearly 10 years ago in Norman, Oklahoma.

I wanted to hear their thoughts and perceptions regarding exactly what happened during an October 1, 2005 contest between Oklahoma and Kansas State.  I’ve written about this in the past, but some of these eye-witness accounts renewed my interest while giving me a greater understanding of what transpired that fateful night.

On the day in question, at 7:50 pm (shortly before halftime), a 21 year old student named Joel Hendrichs blew himself up while sitting on a bench next to the George Lynn Cross Hall.  This happened 173 yards from Memorial Stadium.  There were no other injuries or fatalities.

Campus-MapAn investigation later revealed that he was carrying a backpack filled with 2-3 lbs of TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide).  In the realm of explosives, TATP is generally regarded as a fertilizer substitute, kind of a poor man’s ammonium nitrate.

The FBI eventually concluded that it was an isolated incident.  Although there was rampant speculation that Hendrichs may have been a “Muslim sympathizer” or had extremist political motivation, the FBI ruled out the likelihood of terrorism.  Hendrichs apparently acted alone.  A sold out crowd of 84,501 was in attendance.

Keep in mind this was 2005.  Cellular technology was widespread, but consumer smart phones did not exist.  Major interactive social media platforms like facebook were barely on the map.  Other real-time, popular modes of communication, such as Twitter, were not yet in existence.  This incident occurred two years before the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre which spawned the mandate for the government requirement of campus emergency mobile alert systems.  These campus-wide alerts fall under the domain of the 1990 Clery Act which calls for timely, widespread notification of imminent danger or emergency situations on campus.

This begs the question — what if something similar happened in the year 2014?  Would they utilize the campus text emergency alert system?  Would they disseminate a message via twitter or post a message on the official university facebook page?  Safety and security issues involving large, confined crowds offer a precarious dynamic.  So what’s the protocol?  Has it substantively changed in lieu of the expansion of social media combined with improvements to stadium wireless connectivity?  Could citizens and stadium attendees access such real-time information?  Would they share it?  What about the role of the local news media?  Would they temporarily suspend the game?  Would they evacuate the stadium as a precautionary measure?  Would they make an announcement over the public address system?  Under what circumstances is it acceptable to “leave everyone in the dark?”  What if there had been an additional “suicide bomber” and they had taken no demonstrable action?

These are ALL valid questions.  They’re all centered around the 500 lb. elephant in the room — the fact that almost everyone in the stadium has an active cell phone that’s capable of transmitting and receiving false information.  This one variable has dangerously leveled the playing field, particularly in the graded stands.

Oklahoma administration officials opted to let the game continue.  However, they did not permit fans to exit the stadium at halftime.  This was inconsistent with standard game day protocol.  With roughly 6 minutes left in the game, an announcement advising fans that certain exits had been cordoned off was delivered over the Memorial Stadium public address system.  No mention was made of a bomb threat emergency or the individual fatality.  Incident command chose to suppress specific information.

Just for the record, I believe University of Oklahoma officials and emergency personnel acted admirably and made the correct decision.  They handled a challenging situation quite well.  Admittedly, this was a tough one.  There are few superior answers to such a bizarre incident which naturally lent itself to shock, confusion and frantic rapid response.

Regarding the Hendrichs self-detonation, here are some of the notes I took away from my recent conversations on September 20, 2014.

When asked to describe the sound, a man specifically referred to it as “loud crackling boom.”  “It’s the kind of noise you hardly ever hear.”  Another person likened the sound to a “bridge demolition.”

One individual told me, “They didn’t let us out at halftime.  That was when we really knew something was up.  Because everybody was walking around asking the same questions.  What happened?  Why won’t they let us out?  What was that thunder noise?”

Everyone I spoke with referenced an “uneasy trepidation” and “taboo confusion.”  That seemed to be the consensus.  Rumors of a bomb or IED (improvised explosive device) were rampant.  Good news travels fast, but I can assure you, bad news travels much faster.

One person told me (I’m paraphrasing here), “I remember the game was high scoring and I think that helped actually calm the crowd down a bit.  The action on the field helped distract the fans’ attention from the rumors.  I mean, even if somebody killed himself, there’s not much you can really do about it anyway.”

I’ll readily concede that I have far fewer resources than the University of Oklahoma, their police department as well as the FBI.  But I do think there’s some fairly obvious conjecture.

First, who on earth heads out on a Saturday night with a backpack full of explosives and ventures next to a packed college football stadium?  I cannot read the mind of Hendrichs but this behavior certainly has an air of malicious intent.  It’s not normal behavior.  But then again, neither is blowing yourself to smithereens.

Journalist Mark Tapper echoes my thoughts.  What better place to detonate a bomb guaranteed to both kill and maim many, as well as incite terror and possibly a stampede that would kill and injure more people?  My guess is Hendrichs was kept from reaching his target by a premature detonation.  Add the proximity of the Micro-Biology building and you may have the potential for a kind of bio-bomb that could have guaranteed utter chaos in and around the stadium.

According to the nonprofit 501-C3 organization, in 2005, there were 32,637 suicide deaths in the United States.  Here’s an interesting question for the FBI investigative team — How many of those deaths were the result of a TATP self-detonation?  My hunch would be zero.  That alone should raise a big red flag.

I can’t speak to why this historical event unfolded.  I also can’t speak to Hendrichs’ motivation.  But there is one overlooked aspect to this story which piqued my interest.

One month before the University of Oklahoma incident, an event of mammoth proportions occurred as the war in Iraq was churning full throttle.  On August 31, 2005, the Al-Aaimmah Bridge stampede in Baghdad claimed the lives of 953 Iraqis. This was the worst human stampede of the decade (in a war zone no less).

baghdad bridge stampedeThis story never really registered in the American news media.  It was covered and then dropped.  Why?  Well… because Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf states on August 28-29.  Our nation’s disaster completely dominated the news cycle.  The continuous hurricane coverage lasted for weeks.

If, and I’m just speculating… if Hendrichs was familiar with the Baghdad bridge stampede and the least bit sympathetic to those who perished, is it possible he thought about creating a stampede of his own?  I’m not a psychiatrist but I think a graphic story like the Al-Aaimmah stampede might resonate in the head of someone characterized as mentally unstable.  Taking into account the fact that stadiums are obvious, high value soft targets, is it possible he had broader intentions?  Could it have been a retaliatory lone wolf-style failed attack?  At the absolute least, I think all of this rises to the level of “more than just an unusual coincidence.”  If no one from the FBI investigative team didn’t at least raise the possibilty of a stampede, I’d be forced to conclude that the entire team was excruciatingly incompetent.

While I try not to engage in conspiratorial thinking, I do think its reasonable to conclude that he may have drawn inspiration and motivation from the Baghdad bridge stampede.  Seriously, picture a stampede with a thousand fatalities on New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.  Would the media cover a story of that nature?  I expect they’d devote more time and resources than a brief news blip.

The lack of media coverage for the Hendrichs story was reminiscent of a 2010 incident in which a disgruntled man, Joseph Stack, flew his single-engine plane into the IRS office in Austin, Texas.

 austin texas plane crash

Stack and IRS Manager Vernon Hunter were killed.  Thirteen others were injured.  One would surmise that a story of this magnitude might linger for a while.  But it was hastily reported and quickly disposed of.  I suspect this is part of a larger “clandestine gentleman’s agreement” between the government and the media so as not to glamorize such incidents that could impact our national security — ones that might encourage copycats or “give people ideas.”

stackSo once again, why were these breaking news stories dropped so abruptly?  Well, if you’re thinking what I’m thinking – and I’m not really faulting the media or even the government for that matter.  This would appear indicative of rationally justified, unwritten FBI policy.  Criminal investigations usually involve connecting the dots.  However, with the Hendrichs case, our national security may have been better served by NOT connecting the dots.  Or it might have been a case of “we do not wish to connect the dots.”  The less said, the better.  Not everything is black and white, particularly in the realm of asymmetric national security issues.  Sometimes exposing the truth or even engaging in mere speculation can have unsettling ramifications.

Here’s why I wrote about the Hendrichs story.  It epitomizes the “fine line” of exactly “how far we should go” when informing the general public about matters of stadium safety and security.  Would I advocate telling fans about the possibility of an individual parachuting into the stadium throwing hand grenades?  Of course not.  What about the possibility of hovering drones dispensing sarin gas?  Of course not.  What about someone pulling up next to the main gate and spraying machine gunfire?  Of course not.  Why?  Because all of these fear-mongering scenarios fall within a reasonable level of recognized comprehension and known feasibility.

But should we tell them about the looming prospect of an artificially generated stampede?  OF COURSE.  That’s a resounding yes.  Why you ask?  Because there is a generic, discernible inevitability that something resembling it will one day occur.  At a minimum, it will one day be attempted.  Therefore, the underlying principles of the artificially generated stampede need to be available for public consumption.  The general public has a fundamental right to be cognizant of the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  There is no “grey” area.  You either tell people or you don’t.

Many people ask me why I write so extensively about this subject.  My answer is simple.  It’s because the case must be made for telling people the truth about obsolete emergency evacuation protocol.  Everything hinges on awareness.  Since it will one day be a matter of government policy (much like forest fire prevention), I consider it vital to put this information in the public domain.  Every article I write helps to build the case and achieve that specific goal.  The alternative is to stand idly by and simply wait for a tragedy to occur, possibly one of unspeakable magnitude.  I believe the latter option is morally unacceptable.


9/11 and the Dominipede

remembering-9-11-attacksIn the wake of another 9/11 anniversary, I thought it would be helpful to explore the conceptual nature of a dominipede through the prism of 9/11.  The dominipede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes most likely impacting the NFL 1 o’clock slate of games) is a hypothetical scenario.  But I think there’s much to be gained from exploring some key similarities.

Black Swans

9/11 was a black swan.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s used to describe those incomprehensible moments in time that produce substantive change and alter the “way of things.”  As society adapts and moves forward, people often reflect in hindsight.  How could we not have seen it coming?  Why were we oblivious and ill-prepared?

Pre-9/11, everyone was familiar with the prospect of plane hijackings and suicide bombers, but few people ever theoretically connected the two.  Sometimes, the government and bureaucratic institutions cannot seemingly address an issue, no matter how generic it may be, until AFTER a tragedy has occurred.  It’s just a cold, hard truth regarding the inertia of big government and functionality of large organizations.

My research indicates that nobody is willing to address the core dilemma presented by the dominipede — the possibility of someone usurping the authority of incident command and launching their own, unsolicited stadium evacuation (almost surely with the intent of fomenting a human stampede).  I refer to this as “discussing the undiscussable.”  Hardly anybody’s willing to talk about it.  Assuming my hunches are accurate, if fans started receiving information or had evidence about real-world stadium stampedes elsewhere, they’d likely conclude their present location is unacceptable.  They’d wish to leave, or at the very least, aggressively move toward the concourses and exits.  As people see what’s unfolding, the herding mentality kicks in.  When authentic panic ensues, there’s no recourse.  Mitigation is not an option.  You do not mitigate stampedes.  You prevent them.

If you’re unwilling to acknowledge this overtly generic hole in stadium security (50,000-100,000 active cell phones capable of receiving and transmitting false information), you simply cannot address the problem… let alone try to solve it.  Public awareness is the cornerstone of any viable strategy designed to combat an artificially generated stampede.


It has been estimated that the 9/11 attacks required as little as $250,000.  9/11 had an unfathomably high ROI (return on investment).  For the cost of a nice house in the suburbs, Al Qaeda’s attack inflicted damage in the trillions resulting in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and reconfiguration of the U.S. government, increased airport security and the implementation of TSA guidelines, not to mention the costs associated with multiple wars.  Many would argue that the 9/11 attacks are still a significant drain on the economy.

But a dominipede would set a far more disturbing precedent.  It could conceivably be attempted at virtually no cost whatsoever.  I can assure you, the psychological ramifications, monetary damage and physical toll of multiple stampedes would be significant.  Cost free and costly.  It would dramatically change the “way of things.”

Limited number of actors

Assuming you subscribe to the official narrative of 9/11, a total of 19 terrorists were ultimately responsible.  A dominipede could be executed by a single individual.  Recent history indicates that small numbers of people can inflict tremendous devastation to a nation’s infrastructure (controlling dams and roadways, sabotaging pipelines, etc.) and their collective psyche (public beheadings, suicide bombings, torture, etc.).  The future of warfare appears to be trending in the direction of economic systemic disruptions and distinctive acts of terrorism.

Generational Warfare

The U.S. military has a relatively well-defined business model.  It relies on government funding to build things that require large sums of money (bombs, ships, planes, etc.).  But a dominipede has no measurable costs or traditional weaponry.  There are no soldiers, no guns, no ammunition.  A dominipede harnesses the power of a large, confined crowd and uses the intangible elements of fear and timing.  This is more consistent with a 9/11-style act of terrorism as opposed to the old-school conceptualization of war, an aerial bombardment followed by a ground invasion.  A dominipede has little to do with our traditional notions of warfare, i.e., lengthy occupations and nation building.  As the largest manufacturer and distributor of military hardware, the Unites States is a poor candidate for trying to get a handle on weaponless warfare.

Multiple, simultaneous targets

It has been suggested that the original 9/11 plot called for as many as 10 separate hijackings.  However, it was presumably scaled back for logistical reasons regarding operational secrecy and execution.  Assuming someone tried to initiate a dominpede, they would most likely exhibit a serious progression of malicious intent.  The NFL slate of 1pm games would be the obvious choice.  Such targets would be consistent with “getting the most bang for your buck.”


Before 9/11, few people ever conceived of commercial aircraft being commandeered and used as suicidal cruise missiles.  Much in the same way, few people have ever contemplated the notion of weaponizing the transmission of cellular information potentially resulting in artificially generated stampedes.  Just like tall buildings, stadiums are high value targets.  While a stampede may be an out of the ordinary, phenomenal event, it’s also just a phenomenon.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Cracks in the System

The 9/11 plot took advantage of existing vulnerabilities.  At the time, there just really wasn’t a game plan to address the possibility of hijackers seeking martyrdom.  It was never part of the general discourse.  In a pre-9/11 world, if you had voiced concerns over multiple commercial planes near simultaneously crashing into buildings, you’d have likely been deemed mentally unstable or ridiculously paranoid.  Regrettably, people make these same snap judgments when you try to explain the premise for a dominipede.

Element of Surprise

Acts of terrorism are more likely to be successful if there’s an element of surprise.  It’s virtually impossible to plan for every potentially negative outcome.  Much like 9/11, a dominipede would capitalize on unpreparedness, unfamiliarity and untested societal expectations.

Much like the hijackers commandeered relatively empty flights, I’m deeply concerned about the smaller market NFL teams — cities and stadiums where it would be easier to quickly and more credibly saturate a population with false or panic-inducing information.

9/11 witnessed passenger planes being used as missiles.  A dominipede utilizes cell phones to generate panic and confusion.  Both involve instruments we normally don’t view as weapons.

Military operations rely heavily on strict compliance and chain of command.  However, a dominipede would likely, although not necessarily, incorporate a heavily decentralized saturation of information.  The people you trust the most could be the ones inadvertently sealing your fate (prodding you to exit).

Most important, conventional past models do NOT apply.  In the aftermath of 9/11, it became necessary to throw out the old rule book.  Fortunately, the solution to the artificially generated stampede is simple and easy.  Just tell people the truth.  Give people the knowledge to adequately defend themselves.  In keeping with that idea, the solution is pretty much free.  Begin physically informing people that legitimate stadium emergency evacuation orders would NEVER come from their personal cell phones.  Snippets of knowledge, such as stop, drop and roll or look both ways before you cross street, are inexpensive commodities.  It doesn’t cost much to get the word out.

There’s a reasonable inevitability that an artificially generated stampede or a full scale dominipede will one day be attempted.  It might be successful.  It might not.  Either way, it will force a comprehensive discussion.  Since the government and the NFL will eventually have to be forthcoming, why not make a superior, moral decision?  Share this unpleasant information now and get ahead of the curve.

Adjusting perceptions

In the United States, roughly 30,000 commercial aircraft (major and regional airlines) take off and land without incident on a daily basis.  The same rings true for football games.  How many stadiums have hosted games without a stampede?  It has been said plenty of times… the most dangerous part of flying is the drive to the airport.  Although it’s reasonable to have aviophobia (fear of flying), the actual chances of a plane crash or hijacking are statistically insignificant.  Although it’s reasonable to have agoraphobia (fear of large crowds), the prospect of a human stampede is equally negligible.

In football stadiums, we occasionally see physical conflicts (altercations and random injuries).  And every so often there’s congestion and limited jostling, but nothing even remotely resembling a stampede.  Very few people consider the possibility of their lives being placed in imminent danger when they enter or exit a stadium.  That is where our current societal expectations lie.  Two variables missing from this equation are mobile devices and fear.  Add the element of a cellularly-induced panic and the circumstances would change markedly.

Although stampedes are more prevalent in developing regions (India, the Middle East and Africa), they are a global issue that affects ALL nations and ethnicities.  No culture is immune from the emotions of fear and panic.  To naively downplay or purposely avoid a discussion about the potential for human stampedes is unwise and inconsistent with current public safety standards.

The National Institute of Health did a study of human stampedes released under the heading of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.  During the 27 year period from 1980-2007 there were a grand total of 215 global stampedes resulting in approximately 7,069 deaths.  That’s an average of 33 fatalities per stampede.  An accurate tally of injuries is much more difficult to obtain, but I can assure you of one thing.  It’s vastly greater.  Broken bones, cracked ribs, concussions and oxygen deprivation are commonplace.

The study concluded: Standardized collection of epidemiological data pertaining to human stampedes is strongly recommended, and further study of this recurrent, distinctive disaster is warranted.

I agree with that assessment.  Furthermore, I would encourage the exploration of hypothetical mechanisms that could trigger stampedes.

During the last 7 years, human stampedes have become less common in the mainstream news.  This isn’t because they happen with less frequency.  It’s merely a decision that these incidents are not worthy of the news cycle.  For example, 3 human stampedes occurred just last month.

Mexico City, Mexico – Three fans were killed when pandemonium ensued after a wall collapsed at a rock concert.

Conakry, Guinea – At least 34 were killed during a celebratory rap concert marking the end of Ramadan.  A combination of overcrowding and lax security were deemed the cause.

Cairo, Egypt – Nine people were killed outside a military academy in Egypt.  Relatives were seeking to visit their loved ones.

You might be familiar with these incidents.  You might not.  However, you cannot deny these stampedes occurred.

One final observation.  The new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, CA has 1,200 WiFi hubs.  That’s four times the league average.  That’s an absurd amount of connectivity for less than a half square mile.  Let me pose a glaringly obvious question.  Could there be a downside?

Football is an admittedly violent sport.  That aggression manifests itself on the playing field.  Much of the violence has been overshadowed by recent domestic altercations.  We’ve seen it on the field.  We’ve seen it in our homes.  We’ve even seen it in elevators.  Is it possible that same violence could take on a different form… in the steps and the stands, the concourses and rotunda, spiraling into the gates and exits?

In a September 19, 2014 press conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the crowd, “I’m focused on doing my job to the best of my ability.  We can’t continue to operate like this.”  I realize he was referring to the NFL’s policy dealing with the scourge of domestic violence.  However, that same statement could just as easily apply to obsolete emergency evacuation protocol — the consequences of which, if left unresolved, will permanently alter the course history.  As I’ve maintained, the solution is a simple one.  The NFL and the federal government must make a bold commitment to share the AGSAF mission statement because

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
 and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.


Eddie Vedder Solution to the Artificially Generated Stampede

come back

Me and my frostitute (she has a thing for cupcakes) are heading to the Pearl Jam concert at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.  It’s the fall tour opener that falls on October 1, 2014.  My name is Eric Saferstein and I live in Wheeling, West Virginia

I am issuing an open challenge to lead singer Eddie Vedder.


I urge you to share with your fans this common sense, public safety information…

legitimate venue emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone

Any competent incident commander would agree with that statement.  Cell phones are capable of transmitting and receiving false information.  When an evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, standard procedure dictates you inform everyone all at once with a clear, unified directive.  You do not send out a gazillion text alerts.  You communicate using the public address system possibly in tandem with video screens.

Most people have never given these matters any serious consideration.  They’re left perilously in the dark.  Fans have a right to this heightened level of situational awareness – the right to know it would be a hoax.  This is far more than a matter of public safety.  It’s a hypothetical issue in the realm of asymmetric national security, the consequences of which could redefine humanity.  The artificially generated stampede (or worst case scenario dominipede) just hasn’t happened.  Yet.

Why Cincinnati?

In 1979, a human stampede before a Who concert at Riverfront Coliseum claimed the lives of 11 people.

Teva Ladd, 27
Walter Adams, Jr., 22
James Warmoth, 21
Phillip Snyder, 20
David Heck, 19
Stephan Preston, 19
Peter Bowes, 18
Connie Burns, 18
Bryan Wagner, 17
Karen Morrison, 15
Jacqueline Eckerle, 15

I don’t have to remind band members of the Roskilde, Denmark tragedy in the summer of 2000.  Nine fans lost their lives.

I’m calling on Eddie Vedder to exercise his First Amendment rights.  This issue is being purposely ignored by political leadership, sports institutions (NFL, NCAA, MLB, etc.), venue management and the U.S. government as a whole.  There are two major reasons why people won’t touch it — plausible deniability and foreseeable litigation.  These are powerful motivators for concealing information.  Political activism and the truth go hand in hand.  From what I can tell, Vedder has a penchant for speaking the truth and an insatiable thirst for social justice.  He seems like the perfect candidate.

Our planet is not a static environment.  It’s often defined by “black swan” events which result in substantive change.  One of those moments occurred in 1913 — The Italian Fire Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan.  Seventy three individuals (mostly children) perished in a tragic stampede.  An accurate list of their names does not exist.

7057_lOne hundred years later, the time has come to divulge the technological, modern  equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  At some future point, there will be a concerted effort to weaponize a stampede.  Here’s the sequence we must prevent.  Mass transmissions are delivered with an electronically deafening silence.  Then.. you see the panicked reaction.  Then… you witness the aggressive movement toward the exits.  Then… you hear the gasping screams of chaos as it becomes impossible to just breathe.  People are either crush asphyxiated or they fall down and get trampled.  There’s nothing to save you.

The melodramatic scenario I’ve described is not a matter of if.  It’s a matter of when.  There’s a discernible inevitability in play.  Stampedes are a global phenomenon.  And the same evolutionarily ingrained herding instincts that existed a century ago are still alive and well.

Pearl Jam occasionally encores with a cover song by The Who.  Baba O’Reilly serves as a poetic microcosm for the artificially generated stampede.  Many people incorrectly know this song as “Teenage Wasteland.”  In a way, it mirrors the same misdirection and confusion that could result if a large, confined crowd succumbed to a VIRAL BLITZKRIEG — the cellular release and saturation of hoax evacuation orders and/or panic-inducing information designed to impact a specific location(s).

Who guitarist Pete Townsend – “This whole notion of teenage wasteland, it’s not about getting wasted, it’s about life wasted.  I take full responsibility for the fact that my generation complained about the state of the world, and did absolutely nothing to change it”.

I would humbly ask Eddie Vedder to reflect on that message.  In a single moment in time, Vedder has the ability to change the world.  He can ignite this conversation by simply sharing the truth.  Perhaps he could broach the subject by calling for a moment of silence, honoring those crushed to death 35 years ago in the exact same building.  Ironic that he could make the case in a venue named after a bank.  Because in a hyper-capitalistic country where money is considered the ultimate solution to almost every conceivable problem, this is one where $$$ has no bearing whatsoever.

Eddie Vedder could follow in the footsteps of a legendary television entertainer.  One with a different style and charisma.  Similar dedication and resolve but a completely different agenda.

Bob Barker, the iconic host of The Price is Right, would close every episode with a compassionate plea.  Help control the pet population.  Have your pets spayed or neutered.  This had absolutely nothing to do with the game show.  Barker realized the moral imperative for preventing the needless suffering of helpless animals.  And he decided to do something about it.  Those two sentences spawned a narrative that improved the course of history.

I would implore Eddie Vedder to seize this moment and alter our collective destiny.  He has the recognition, stature and worldwide credentials.  Somebody, someplace, somewhere, sometime needs to step up and confront this issue.  Preferably BEFORE there’s a disaster.  This requires being PROACTIVE, not reactive.  I’m doing all I can.  But I just need a little assistance.

Mr. Vedder, I am faithful you will help me.

On October 1, 2014, let’s change the world.  Tell them about the potential for artificially generated stampedes.  Just tell them the truth.  Isn’t that what rock’n’roll is all about?

Carpe diem.

Feel free to share this information on any social media platform.



Roger Goodell, Ray Rice and the Artificially Generated Stampede

goodell1In February of 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice physically assaulted his then fiance in an Atlantic City, NJ casino elevator.  He knocked her completely unconscious with a single blow to the head.  The NFL “investigated” the matter and Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a 2-game suspension after Rice entered into a pretrial domestic violence intervention program that would lead to the dismissal of a third-degree aggravated assault charge.

A video of the actual attack, released by celebrity website TMZ, surfaced on September 8, 2014.  After the public outrage, Goodell came under intense fire for his “slap on the wrist” punishment.  Goodell would later concede, “I didn’t get it right.  Simply put, we have to do better.  And we will.”

Ravens ownership expressed similar sentiment.  “Seeing that video changed everything.  We should have seen it earlier.  We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously.  We didn’t and we were wrong.”

But people wanted to know more.  They wanted to know if Goodell, or anyone affiliated with the NFL had seen the “knockout” video.  Furthermore, they wanted to know why the NFL never tried to get their hands on it.  Keep in mind that Goodell was quick to acknowledge the existence of such a tape.  Wouldn’t logic and mere curiosity dictate a more thorough investigation?

With all their Department of Homeland Security connections… with all their security consultants and former Secret Service/FBI employees… with all their reach and influence… are we really to believe that the NFL could not have secured the videotape?  Or is it more likely they didn’t WANT to view it?

Common sense is a hot commodity these days.  This seems like a case of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

I think it’s fairly obvious that the NFL front office was facing a lose-lose proposition.  The interests of league officials would be better served if everyone remained in the dark.  Hence, they chose to avoid the most damning video evidence.  At the very least, there was a concerted attempt to limit the case’s exposure and ignore the wider social impact of domestic violence.  However, Goodell and the NFL brass are quickly discovering a harsh reality.  In the current age of Orwellian technology (video surveillance, location and data tracking, electronic storage, voicemails, etc.), maintaining an aura of plausible deniability is becoming more and more difficult.

As commissioner, Goodell’s main function is to “protect the shield.”  It’s a term he often uses — a subliminal reference to the NFL logo and integrity of the league.  Regrettably, there’s an asymmetric national security issue that few in the NFL are willing to acknowledge.  It’s a matter of common sense and public safety.  But this one involves a traumatic blow to the psyche of an entire nation… as well as mankind.

I sense some very dangerous parallels with the handling of the Ray Rice incident and the prospect of artificially generated stampedes in NFL stadiums.  I’ve noticed a broad consensus when it comes to “discussing the undiscussable.”  All of my research indicates a collective, unspoken arrangement to steer clear of talking about extremely negative outcomes.  Why you ask?  Two words — plausible deniability.

Simply stated, there are 50,000+ active cell phones in any NFL stadium.  These mobile devices are capable of transmitting and receiving panic-inducing information and phony evacuation orders in an infinite number of ways.  If things take a turn for the worse, it could result in a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes).  These aren’t the concerns of anti-terrorism experts or criminal conspirators.  They’re the concerns of an astute 4th grader.

What really worries me here is the NFL’s proven track record, especially when you reflect on the concussion issue.  The league is still reeling from a near billion dollar settlement in the concussion class action lawsuit.  In this case, generating revenue appeared to take precedence over player health and safety concerns.  After decades, the truth about traumatic brain injuries finally came out.  When stalling became an indefensible strategy and denying the problem became a joke in and of itself, the NFL had no other choice but to address the matter.  But they didn’t do it willingly.  They were dragged kicking and screaming by a formidable army of lawyers, players and physicians.

Roger Goodell has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller (2001-2013) to launch an investigation into the NFL’s handling of its own investigation.  Even though Mueller is familiar with the concept of simultaneous disasters (planes crashing into buildings), I’m not sure he’s the best candidate for the job.  In 2012, I took my concerns about artificially generated stampedes to the FBI.  I never heard back from them.

With an artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, you’re not afforded the opportunity to do better or get it right.  There is no second chance.  And there’s no time to consult with your attorneys.  In fact, there’s no time at all.  My chief concern has never been the existence of a single video.  It’s the future existence of thousands of videos.


Lizard Squad vs. AA Flight #362 Analysis


On August 24, 2014, American Airlines flight #362 (Dallas > San Diego) was diverted to Phoenix for an emergency landing.


Lizard Squad tweet4.jpgThis twitter threat allegedly came from an individual (or group) known as Lizard Squad.
Earlier that day, Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for DDOS attacks on several online gaming systems.  Among them was the Sony Playstation network.  Although the attacks were widely reported as “hacks,” they’re more accurately termed as “distributed denials-of-service.”  Picture how a pizza shop’s business might be impacted if it was bombarded with thousands of fake phone-in delivery orders.

John Smedley, the President of Sony Online Entertainment, was on board flight #362.  He made three separate entries on his personal twitter account.

Awesome.  Flight diverted to Phoenix for security reasons.
I hate American Airlines
Something about security and our cargo.  Sitting on Tarmac.

Lizard Squad carried on, posting a picture of an airline ticket from the flight, a video of 9/11 footage and veiled threats regarding ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria).

At some point, Smedley became aware that his presence on the plane was directly related to its emergency landing.

Yes. My plane was diverted.  Not going to discuss more than that.  Justice will find these guys.

After the plane was cleared to resume its journey, Smedley’s tweets continued…

I wish the national media would stop letting these DDOS trolls occasional use of the ISIS crap be taken seriously.  Seeing news accounts

that make it sound like that’s serious.  Media please don’t get trolled.  those Isis guys are pure evil and shouldn’t be conflated with trolls.

Finally, when he realized the likelihood of this story being picked up by the national media, there was a meager attempt at damage control.

btw when I was bitching about American yesterday it was simply because I’m tired of paying $25 a bag and $10 for food after the ticket.

One quick note — the mainstream media often refers to any technology mishap as a “hacking” incident.  These characterizations frequently imply a greater level of technological sophistication than is warranted.

Here’s some major takeaway points from the Lizard Squad incident:

  • It’s glaring evidence of how someone can become ensnared and potentially contribute to a real-world crisis.  Just how easy is it to coerce the unwitting participation of an average individual?  And what’s the game plan for thousands of simultaneous threats directed at hundreds of airlines?  From a decentralized social media perspective, I truly doubt any contingency plan would be sufficient (assuming one even exists).
  • If someone wanted to ground an airplane via the internet, they would have a better idea of how to go about it.  It exposed a threshold level of circumstances — specific online activity that can result in the diversion of a commercial airplane.  This could serve as a template/blueprint for future copycats.
  • It illustrates an ability to impact national security and high profile OODA* loops (the scrambling of fighter jets and critical, snap decisions from traditionally bureaucratic organizations such as the FAA and the FBI).

Whether or not the plane’s diversion was justified is well outside my realm of expertise.  Although the threats were layered and multifaceted, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that those in charge suspected they were not credible.  The plane’s emergency landing was more likely executed out of an abundance of caution.  Also, the unfolding of events in the public domain could have been a factor.  Taking no action whatsoever could have been perceived as an act of negligence.

  • Assuming Lizard Squad is a small group or lone individual, it demonstrates a dangerous level of technological super-empowerment.  This fact should not be dismissed just because it’s disconcerting and difficult to address.

The artificially generated stampede represents a far more serious conceptual dilemma.  Cell phones can be used to transmit and receive information including illegitimate evacuation orders and hoax bomb threats.  Think of it in terms of a crowded football stadium.  Fans acting as cars involved in a “wireless demolition derby” with zero distinction between friend or foe.  You either acknowledge the presence of 50,000 – 100,000 mobile devices OR you don’t.  If you choose the latter, the consequences could be devastating (a dominipede).  The general public is not familiar with the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.  They lack situational awareness.  Even worse are the security “experts” — the ones familiar with the overt disconnect in evacuation protocol.  There’s this relentless, pervasive state of oblivious denial.  This isn’t a failed strategy.  It’s not a strategy at all.  When presented with a dangerous hypothetical, they’re choosing the path of intentionally blind ignorance.

Finally, the Lizard Squad incident shows the increasing difficulty in adapting to real-world technological conditions.  Human stampedes can develop instantly consistent with herding instincts and “fight or flight” triggers.  You’re not afforded the necessary time to assess the situation.  So what happens when OODA loops are rendered irrelevant or cease to exist?

I think it’s important to extrapolate a bit.  Could the dispensation of mass information impact widespread personal, physical movement?  The artificially generated stampede resembles a “reverse flash mob.”  Instead of summoning a large group of people, it’s simply an effort to force a sudden evacuation.  It’s not really that complicated.  At the very least, the fact that virtually everyone is in possession of an active cell phone demands a general contingency plan.  Simply put, it’s imperative to physically warn people that legitimate stadium evacuation orders do NOT come from personal cell phones.

There seems to be an outdated, 1950’s way of thinking when it comes to bomb threats.  The industry consensus is that if it happens, it can only be a singular threat.  And that threat will be received and processed by a switchboard operator conveniently located at the main desk.  This is blatantly inconsistent with real-world conditions.  Regarding emergency evacuation protocol, it’s as though every stadium incident commander is operating at a kindergarten level during nap-time.  ALL of them are asleep at the switch.

And here’s the most vexing question.  Why am I the only person concerned about such a generically inevitable national security issue?  Furthermore, why is it my responsibility to fix this mess?  If you have any insight, I’d be very receptive to hearing your thoughts.


* OODA loops characterize the manner in which decisions are made.  Observe, orient, decide, act.


NCS4 2nd Edition “Best” Practices Guide

NCS4 logoThe NCS4 (National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security) just published the July 2014:

“Intercollegiate Athletics Safety and Security”  — 2nd Edition Best Practices Guide.

Most of the content provides brief descriptions of widely held industry standards.  Situational analysis and risk management are the common themes.  It’s obviously geared toward college football stadiums but the general fundamentals can be applied to other large venues (motor speedways, ballparks, arenas, etc.).

My specific area of concern deals with outdated emergency evacuation protocol and the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  I found it peculiar that the word “stampede” exists nowhere in the entire 126 page document.  The closest approximations were “crowd disturbance, rioting and field encroachment.”  Let’s examine some inconsistencies within the NCS4 document.

Below are some subject headings and quotes I found relevant.

Risk and Threat Assessment/Vulnerabilities and Planning

A risk/threat analysis is one of the most important elements of a comprehensive safety and security plan.

Without the assessment one cannot effectively develop and implement a security and safety plan – Because you won’t know what you don’t know!

I agree with the exclamatory emphasis.  I’m all for developing a strategic game plan to deal with emergency situations.  But if formulating one is so critical, why is there no mention of a human stampede and its potential triggers?  Stampedes in the United States are admittedly rare.  But considering the severity of such an event, this should be a priority.

Technology Use/Implementation/Innovation/Information Management
Social Media subheading

build expertise and experience with social media platforms (Text, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.)

Use social media to inform attendees of security, weather or other emergency issues.

While I do agree that social media forums and cellular communications can be an important tool for providing information to event attendees, they need to specifically state that under no circumstance whatsoever would you order a legitimate, real-world venue evacuation through ANY of these channels.  This is a blatant omission of negligence.

Cyber Intrusion/Attack

Develop and implement a security plan for computer and information systems hardware and software…

Many components of today’s facilities are operated via cyber programs that control the components (i.e., HVAC, lighting, PA, video boards, etc.).

It’s extremely troubling that the potential for a cyber-attack is viewed under such a one-dimensional microscope.  At face value, it would seem the NCS4 is only interested in the unlikely possibility of someone sabotaging the public address system or maybe manipulating the jumbotron feed.  While this could be cause for concern, what about all the individual cell phones?

In some football stadiums, there are 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones.  The majority are smart phones that function as powerful individual supercomputers.  These devices can be used to transmit and receive false information.

Why is there no mention of the deliberate or accidental misuse of campus text emergency alert systems or official university facebook/twitter feeds?

What about information operation campaigns such as BADGER (bulk email messaging) and WARPARTH (mass text messaging), MINIATURE HERO (bidirectional instant messaging and acquisition of contact lists), CHANGELING (spoofed emails) and VIRAL BLITZKRIEG (a bombardment of information designed to saturate a specific location and exponentially spread panic)?

What about STINGRAY technology (a device that functions as a fake cell tower and can acquire real-time cell numbers of individuals in a specific geographic area).  What about the potential for sabotage of reverse 911 platforms and the WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) system.

These considerations hardly scratch the surface.

Maybe I should simplify.  What about lies and hoaxes?  What about hacking?  Unless you’re living underneath a rock, isn’t there a malicious hacking incident on an almost daily basis?


Anticipate that an incident could occur that causes a non-ordered impromptu/panic mass evacuation – consider how you will respond.  This is clearly the most dangerous of situations due to panic.

The 2014 Best Practices Guide references all kinds of potential reasons for an evacuation.  It mentions incident response for severe weather, power or utility failure, active shooters, aviation incidents, structural collapse, earthquakes, hazardous materials, suspicious packages, bombs, bomb threats and even acts of terrorism (nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons).

It identifies a plethora of reasons explaining WHY an evacuation could take place.  But it never broaches the subject of HOW a legitimate evacuation order is delivered.  Shouldn’t fans be made aware of the fact that the initial order to evacuate would NEVER be delivered via cellular platforms?  You use the public address system, possibly accompanied by information displayed on the jumbotron.  This is Emergency Evac 101.  Surely this supplemental piece of knowledge is warranted.

I understand how the government and private industry function with regard to litigation and plausible deniability.  I fully comprehend the scrutiny and blame game that ensues in the aftermath of a tragedy.  However, the information I’m requesting is absurdly generic in nature.

I’ll confess… it’s difficult to plan for every contingency.  It’s another thing to know about a problem and deliberately ignore it.  I’ve sent plenty of emails to the NCS4 staff and had multiple conversations with their director Lou Marciani.  I feel they’ve been adequately briefed on the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  Their only noticeable response has been to disable my ability to leave comments on their facebook posts.  Perhaps mitigation is a viable strategy after all!  Either they believe my concerns are without merit OR they prefer to bury their heads in the sand and look the other way.  Why do I get the eerie feeling it’s the latter?

Now I’m going to try and play devil’s advocate.  There is this one oddly worded statement that addresses the unpredictability of the cyber-security issue.

In today’s world this has become a greater risk due to its potential for far reaching impacts based upon cyber systems controls over large segments of our environment.

I’m going to surmise that “far reaching impacts” could be a thinly veiled reference to action that might induce a human stampede.  “Cyber systems controls” sounds like it could imply widespread access to the internet and wireless communication platforms.  And “large segments of our environment” probably infers just about everyone and everything (human beings and machines).

The entire guide is plain spoken and relatively straightforward with the exception of that one cryptic statement.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

In the appendix, over 100 individuals are listed as contributors to the 2014 Best Practices Guide.  You would think that just one of them would have insisted on a detailed explanation of exactly HOW you evacuate a venue.  Especially since the protocol is supposed to be uniform throughout all 50 states.  Then again, the NCS4 is part of the United States government.  I probably shouldn’t be getting my hopes up.


2014 MSU Spartan Stadium Bomb Threat

Notre Dame v Michigan StateJuly 2, 2014 was a challenging day for Michigan State University.  Two individuals were charged with phoning in a bomb threat to the MSU police central dispatch.  The threat was allegedly directed at Spartan Stadium.  The venue and surrounding area were evacuated.

Two Lansing, Michigan residents, Cynthia Marie Spade and Anthony Robert Shearer, were quickly taken into custody and arraigned on July 3.

The timing of this incident was curious as it happened over the summer while the campus was relatively empty.

Let’s take a closer look at how everything unfolded.

Police said the threat was phoned in around 3:15pm.  Police swept through the stadium and adjacent buildings telling employees to exit.  A fire alarm was also activated to help expedite the evacuation process.  No explosives were found.

Here’s the statement posted on the official MSU twitter feed:

July 2, 2014
12:47pm (3:47pm Eastern standard time)

MSU Police are investigating a bomb threat at Spartan Stadium. The stadium & surrounding areas have been evacuated. Please avoid the area.

This statement was immediately retweeted 277 times.

Some responded with jokes and quips…

  • Don’t worry; the timer was sure to malfunction
  • scUM fans trying to get that home game back against Sparty
  • But how can I watch the explosion, then?

Less than two hours later, the following “stand-down” order was posted on the official MSU twitter feed:

July 2, 2014
2:38pm (5:38pm Eastern standard time)

MSU Police give all clear after bomb threat at Spartan Stadium. More info:

One person replied…

  • great job today following protocol and keeping everyone safe.. Thank u

Identical content was posted on the official MSU facebook page:

Wednesday July 2, 2014
12:48pm (3:48pm Eastern standard time)

MSU Police are investigating a bomb threat at Spartan Stadium. The stadium & surrounding areas have been evacuated. Please avoid the area.

However, there was a great deal of confusion expressed in several replies…

  • I expect the President of the University to issue a statement answering the legitimate question of why the entire campus was not notified via cell phones, etc. This begs the question, is there a campus wide notification system in place? If not, why not?
  • I found this out thru our news! It would be nice to be alerted especially to those of us that were near campus! What’s the use of alerts if we never get notified
  • I get a text when someone gets their stuff stolen at night, but not for a bomb threat during the day when I’m actually in class?! Ridiculous.
  • Why am I finding this out through Facebook and not MSU alert
  • If it’s true that student alerts aren’t active in the summer, that’s crazy! There are more students at MSU during the summer than there are at a lot of colleges during the standard academic year!

Now here’s the post from the MSU police department facebook page.  Note the time discrepancy and a greater degree of specificity:

Michigan State University Police Department
21 hrs · Edited · Wednesday, July 2
1:01pm (4:01pm Eastern Time)

  • CAMPUS ALERT: A bomb threat was called in to police central dispatch to report a bomb at the MSU Spartan Stadium. All stadium personnel, Central Service, Running Track, and Tower have all been evacuated to the shelter of Wells Hall and the South Side of Munn Arena. We are asking everyone to stay out of the area until further notice.

Michigan State University Police Department
4 hrs Thursday, July 3
5:45am (8:45am Eastern time)

  • Reference MSU Alert: The early development of suspects led investigators to believe the threat was not credible and therefore did not necessitate an emergency alert. Normal evacuation protocols were followed as a precautionary measure while investigators completed interviews of two suspects that were in custody.

That follow-up “reference alert” was posted roughly 17 hours later.

Here’s an excerpt from the MSU Police facebook page:

Protection, Planning, Response, Recovery, Mitigation

Protection, planning, response, recovery, mitigation are the five phases of managing any emergency or disaster. This is the responsibility of the MSU Police Homeland Security and Planning Division. We accomplish our goals by working across department lines to coordinate the efforts of all those involved in the four phases. This includes working with and preparing all first responders, all recovery efforts, all units of the University and all units of Local, State and Federal government.

This would normally sound like a fine mission statement.  However, in the event of an artificially generated stampede, it’s rendered entirely worthless.  A human stampede is an event that unfolds in real-time where O.O.D.A. (observe, orient, decide, act) loops are nonexistent.  Simply stated, there is no time to assess the situation.  Therefore, it’s imperative to rely on AWARENESS, not mitigation.  You do not mitigate an artificially generated stampede.  You take the necessary steps to prevent it.  In this case, that means telling people that legitimate emergency evacuation orders (specifically for large, confined crowds) do NOT come from personal cell phones.

Now you could make the following argument: what if a presidential terror alert (through the Wireless Emergency Alert system) is the source of a mass cellular evacuation order?  Well, if any individual (president, chancellor, governor, etc.) or government body (DHS, FCC, FEMA, etc.) exercised such a degree of extreme indiscretion and poor decision making, then they would bear the ultimate responsibility for pursuing that course of action.  Until the law specifically states that the federal government can violate the chain of command, usurp the incident commander’s authority and disregard the freedom of assembly provision afforded by the First Amendment, the power to evacuate a stadium should be held exclusively under the jurisdiction of the incident commander and those individuals he/she relies upon to make that final decision.

Steven Beard is a Michigan State Police Officer and functions as a liaison with the Department of Homeland Security.

beardCoincidentally, I had a conversation with Officer Beard about stadium emergency evacuation protocol on June 16, 2014 (just 18 days before this incident transpired).  During our 26 minute conversation he refused to definitively “rule out” the possibility of exclusively ordering an evacuation of the football stadium via cellular platforms (specifically the campus text emergency alert system).  There are other incident commanders who hold this same position.  It was my contention that under NO circumstance whatsoever would you deliver the INITIAL evacuation order via cellular transmissions.  I believe such an action could result in tremendous confusion, possibly sparking a panic.  It would markedly increasing the prospect of a human stampede for the following reasons:

  • Not everyone owns a cell phone.  Of those that do, some might not have them physically on their person when the information is disseminated.  Some might not check their messages or even have them powered on.
  • Many stadium attendees would not be signed up for the campus text emergency alert system or connected to the official MSU twitter feed, MSU campus police facebook page, etc.  These forums are generally opt-in notification platforms.
  • The precise wording of an evacuation would require tremendous care so as not to spook the crowd.  Such a carefully worded statement might not even exist.  If it does, I’d like to see it.  There’s a huge difference between a statement lit up on the jumbotron, available for everyone to see, and a cryptic, simultaneous bulk cellular message available only for select scrutiny and random interpretation.

The most important consideration when issuing an emergency evacuation order is a clear, unified directive.  This is achieved through the public address system, perhaps in conjunction with the jumbotron.  To insinuate that “using cellular platforms is an option” is a serious error in judgement.  It completely defies the context and spirit of an effective evacuation.  You do NOT toy with the emotional status of stadium crowds in the 50,000 – 100,000 range.  You do NOT play messaging games with large, confined crowds.

This is not an appropriate time to experiment with newer strategies, especially since very few stadium attendees have any relevant knowledge about evacuation protocol.  Such matters are held very “close to the vest” as evacuation protocol is a sensitive issue.  Why is this?  Well… because of the potential for a panic resulting in a human stampede.  The possibility of a mass, cellular stadium evacuation order needs to be taken “off the table.”  The notion that anyone handling emergency preparedness would not agree with this assessment is extremely troublesome.  I understand the desire to keep your options open.  I also understand that evacuation protocol and the science governing large crowds is a continually evolving dynamic.  But there are certain things you would just simply never do.  Why?  Because it defies common sense, established precedent and could ultimately be construed as an act of criminal negligence.

When delivering an emergency evacuation for a crowded stadium, a straightforward, focused directive is essential.  You use the public address system.  You notify the entire stadium that the game has been temporarily suspended and ask for their cooperation.  Then, you disseminate a message clearing the field of all players and personnel.  You repeat that message until the playing surface is satisfactorily empty.  Then you disseminate a message to clear the stands.  You repeat that message until the stands are satisfactorily evacuated.  You do not deviate from this approach.

Now if you want to provide FOLLOW-UP information AFTER the initial evacuation order, I have no problem with that.  For example, cellular notifications could be an excellent option for keeping people in the loop (explaining the rationale behind the evacuation, offering good options for shelter, announcing when the game will resume, etc.).  But as far as the INITIAL evacuation order goes… you do NOT use cellular platforms.

This also begs the question of the precise wording of such a message.  If you’re willing to avail yourself of this evacuation strategy, it would require some very specific terminology as to why the order is taking place.  Current protocol generally does not condone offering a reason, whether it be for inclement weather (such as lightning strikes) or a bomb threat emergency.  The general industry consensus is to avoid getting bogged down in a lengthy explanation.  It’s not an appropriate time to engage in untested semantics.

If you were to initiate a stadium emergency evacuation order via cellular transmissions, it’s human nature that people would question “why” they are being told to evacuate.  Many would have no clue what’s going on.  Naturally, they would start asking questions rather than strictly comply.  This could irreparably disrupt command and control.  Once again, a clear, unified order is critical.  And that is why you use the public address system.

Please keep in mind that there’s a substantial difference between a bomb threat “condition” and a bomb threat “emergency.”  It should come as no surprise that just because someone phones in a bomb threat, leaves a menacing note or scrawls the word “bomb” on a restroom mirror DURING a major event… that, in itself, does not necessarily justify a complete, full scale evacuation.  This falls under the heading of “generally known, but undocumented” policy.  The reason is obvious.  PRECEDENT.  An evacuation for a bomb threat condition would be an atrocious precedent and likely encourage copycats.  Situations like these (bomb threat conditions) occur far more often than is known to the general public.  Bomb threat emergency classification requires a much higher threshold of evidence.

During the Spartan Stadium incident, a conscious decision was made to not engage the campus text emergency alert system.  Although the Clery Act (notification of criminal acts and emergency situations on campus) dictates timely awareness, I tend to agree with the decision that was made.  Since emergency responders realized the strong likelihood of a hoax, a decision to utilize the campus text emergency alert system would have likely been counterproductive.

The Clery Act, although well-intentioned, became law in 1990.  It never took into account the possibility of everyone in the stadium having a cell phone — having access to deliberately nonfactual, real-time information, hoax bomb threats and intentionally false evacuation orders.  If confronted with a real-world emergency stadium evacuation, the initial utilization of the campus text emergency alert system and social media platforms is unacceptable (unless of course, the stadium is empty, as was the case with the MSU Spartan Stadium incident).

Regrettably, the federal government has yet to evaluate this issue.  It’s my contention they will remain reactive and complacent until a tragedy unfolds.  What’s ultimately necessary here is taking a proactive stance and the issuance of formal guidelines.

Here’s the final takeaway from this incident.  When specifically dealing with a stadium evacuation, “public facebook responses” and “twitter feedback” can have serious ramifications.  Affording everyone else the opportunity to “chime in” is a breach of established protocol.  There would appear to be a “cheapening” or “degradation” of authority.  Social media combined with the speed of transmission and the potential for false information and/or deceptive humor or deliberately incendiary comments could produce dire consequences.  This is another major reason you would strictly employ the public address system, possibly in tandem with the jumbotron.  These mediums do a superior job of maintaining a calm, orderly evacuation process because they offer a unilateral transmission of information.  The last thing you’d want are random, unqualified individuals offering their opinions or rhetoric.  Misinterpretation and confusion are unacceptable characteristics when dealing with an emergency stadium evacuation.

All in all, I credit the MSU police department for coping with a difficult situation.  Considering the circumstances, this incident likely fell under the general heading of “better safe than sorry.”  This is consistent with the current narrative for how to deal with a bomb threat condition.

This is admittedly difficult to sift through.  I sympathize with the plight of incident commanders because the vagaries of the Clery Act do not address the unique conditions presented by a stadium evacuation.  And that’s ultimately the reason to just start simply telling people… that in the unlikely event of a stadium emergency evacuation, a legitimate order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone.  If you were to receive this kind of information, it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.  Human beings have a fundamental right to possess this degree of situational awareness.  They deserve access to this generic knowledge in order to adequately defend themselves.  This is a time-sensitive, public safety issue.

I had a previous conflict with Michigan State University regarding this matter.  In 2013, I was sent an email on behalf of MSU President and NCAA Executive Chair Lou Anna Simon.  I believe its content was disingenuous and deliberately deceptive.

Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium current capacity is listed at 75,005.


2014 Drone Incident at PNC Park

pncparkdroneDuring a June 26, 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park, a “drone” suddenly appeared… hovering in the outfield.  The remote control model aircraft was quickly spotted by fans and announcers.  Local police were notified.  The individual was told to cease its operation.  He willingly complied and was neither cited nor arrested.  A near sell-out crowd of 36,647 was in attendance.  The FAA has launched an investigation into the matter.
Obviously this was not a CIA-operated Predator drone equipped with Hellfire missiles.  It was a small airborne remote control device.  These hobby enthusiast toys have been around for decades.  This is a vexing issue because it’s uncharted territory.  Technically speaking, no laws were violated.  There’s little in the way of FAA regulation or guidelines.  Also, it’s difficult to predict the future societal applications of drone technology.  For all we know, drones (instead of air-propelled rocket launchers) might someday be used to entertainingly dispense t-shirts and hot dogs.
No reason to be alarmed… or is there?  It begs the following question.  Instead of an attached camera, could a small drone (quadcopter) be equipped with bullets or chemical weapons and be used to indiscriminately attack stadium attendees?  And if so, what might happen as an immediate consequence?  Could it spark a human stampede?
In many of my discussions concerning the prospect of artificially generated stampedes, I occasionally heard the following observation — There are other dangerous scenarios that could foment a human stampede.  For example, what if someone lobs a hand grenade over the wall or sprays machine gunfire near a crowded entrance?  How about the deliberate misuse of the jumbotron or public address system?  What if someone starts screaming at the top of their lungs, “I have a bomb!”  Why shouldn’t we inform the public about these possibilities?  How much information must we divulge in the spirit of public safety?  Exactly where does one draw the line?
So why must we tell fans that emergency evacuation orders do NOT come from cell phones?  What makes this situation so much different?
The answer is somewhat nuanced.  First and foremost, the vast majority of fans have never conceived of hoax evacuation orders and cellular induced panics.  There’s simply no situational awareness.  In crowds ranging from 50,000 – 100,000, this is a recipe for disaster.  When a large group witnesses a tangible threat, they collectively discern what’s transpiring.  False information delivered wirelessly is vastly more dangerous because there is no centralized focal point.  Reaction would be “intrinsically personalized” and more diverse. 
Such an attack would be unique, asymmetric and TRANSFORMATIVE.  It would require the conceptualization of timing and information being utilized as weapons.  With other scenarios, we’re afforded the opportunity to visualize the mode of attack.  With an artificially generated stampede, there’s no familiarity.  It’s difficult for people to fathom an attack on a ballpark in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania originating from an apartment in Peshawar, Pakistan (or anywhere for that matter).  It’s challenging to comprehend an act of terrorism, cloaked in a veil of secrecy, initiated from a seemingly ethereal distance. 
The truth… and this is where it starts to sound a tiny bit conspiratorial.  It sets a new precedent in the realm of generational warfare.  Injuries and casualties are inflicted without the use of conventional weaponry.  A stampede becomes the actual weapon of choice.  And this is where you start to “lose” people.  They become leery and skeptical, not because of the implausibility, but because it’s unfamiliar societal terrain.  Americans are hardwired to think of weapons in terms of guns and bullets.  But information?  Not so much.  And of course there’s the more obvious point – It hasn’t happened… yet. 
Perhaps two relevant questions are “could it happen” and “will it happen.”  A reasonable answer to both would be an unequivocal yes.  To make the assertion that an artificially generated stampede will never be attempted is patently ludicrous.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. 
It’s strikingly similar to passenger planes being hijacked and intentionally crashed into buildings.  Give it some thought from a pre-9/11 perspective. 
  • People were familiar with the notion of civilian plane hijackings. 
  • Planes have been used as weapons (kamikaze pilots).
  • History is replete with suicide bombers and acts of martyrdom.
Unfortunately, we were unable to piece it all together due to the lack of precedent.  As a result of 9/11, everything changed.  Such would be the case with the artificially generated stampede. 
So why does this matter require transparency?  Answer: Because of the potential for a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes).  It’s just like planes being flown into buildings.  And why would the perpetrator(s) settle for just one venue and a single stampede?  Assuming an inherent progression of malicious intent, it’s painfully obvious that an attack would incorporate multiple targets.  Have you ever heard of the expression “go big or go home?” 
Now I’m not suggesting you alert fans to every conceivable threat that could happen.  I’m not saying you should divulge sensitive details about evacuation protocol.  I’m not asking you to explain the difference between a bomb threat condition and a bomb threat emergency.  I’m not even telling you to reference the possibility of a stampede.  I’m simply stating that at the absolute very least, there’s a moral imperative to tell people… that in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, a legitimate order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone. 
It seems we’re left with two distinct choices.  One is to do nothing.  This choice is morally negligent.  The consequences of inaction are too extreme.  Or we can do something.  At a bare minimum, why not just tell fans the truth?  An emergency venue evacuation order would NEVER come from your personal cell phone.  Eventually this will become common knowledge (likely in the aftermath of a tragedy).  So why not just be proactive and place this information in the public domain? 
The artificially generated stampede could very well be the most inevitably obvious public safety crisis of this century.  It’s both easily conceived and deliberately ignored.  Why not acknowledge the issue and try do something about it? 


DominipedeCover finalOn May 22, 2014, I self-published my second book on the internet.

Dominipede: Book of Fear is a comprehensive analysis of an asymmetric national security threat.

The tragedy I’ve outlined can be averted.  There are solutions.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.



2014 Kitwit and Kanshasa Stampedes

congo stampedesThe Democratic Republic of the Congo has had its fair share of issues with human stampedes in 2014.  In April, the city of Kitwit hosted a music festival honoring the late singer King Kester Emeneya.  During the concert, two generators supplying power to the city failed.  This resulted in a venue blackout which triggered a panic and a rush to the exits.

The fatality toll was originally listed at roughly a dozen but eventually increased to at least 40.  The provincial government released a statement blaming the stampede on “a rush of enthusiasm due to the audience.”

Although the tragedy was linked to the failure of power generators, I wouldn’t term it an artificially generated stampede.  It’s merely a verbal coincidence.  However, take note of the trigger.  Observers are often too quick to label the cause of a stampede under the general heading of “panic.”

On May 12, 2014 the city of Kanshasa hosted a rival soccer match between TP Mazembe and AS Vita at the Tata Raphael Stadium.  Late in the game, down by a score of 1-0, the home fans became agitated and began throwing “missiles” onto the pitch.  Some claim that police officers on the field were being harassed and pelted with stones.  Security responded by launching tear gas into the stands.  Plumes of smoke temporarily blinded people and caused them to scatter in various directions.  The end result… 14 pronounced dead due to the crush.

Again, take note of the trigger.  On this occasion, it was disruptive fan behavior that escalated out of control.  Different reasons yielding the same result.

It’s tempting to conclude that the citizens of Congo are somehow more susceptible to stampedes.  Observers are more prone to stereotyping residents of central Africa as violent or lawless or less civilized.  These assumptions are dangerous and incredibly misguided.  Human stampedes are a WORLDWIDE phenomenon.

Stampedes are caused by a wide variety triggers.  Claiming that a stampede was caused by panic is similar to a coroner stating that an individual’s death was the result of his dying.  Once a stampede starts, it will run its course.  There are no cases on record where a real-world stampede has been successfully diffused.  It’s a stampede.  It would preclude the very definition.  The solutions lie in awareness and prevention, not mitigation and denial.  At some point in the future, a “cellularly induced” or artificially generated stampede is inevitable.  Wouldn’t it be a wise course of action to anticipate and plan accordingly?  Maybe just start telling people that emergency venue evacuation orders don’t come from cell phones?


Malicious Hoax Aboard the MV Sewol

90386d1397764978-south-korean-ferry-mv-sewol-flips-1-2-sunk-shallows-people-trapped-sewol-1On April 16, 2014, a South Korean ferry capsized while carrying almost 500 people.  Roughly 300 individuals, mostly high school students, were reported missing.

This particular tragedy took some unusual twists and turns.  Initial reports claimed the number of survivors to be significant.  But as the truth emerged, the outlook became very grim.  It was an incredibly painstaking process.

Mysterious text messages began to surface from the ship.

“I am still alive… in the cafeteria please help me my battery is running out please believe me”


“My phone is not working I am inside the boat I can’t see anything”

These messages quickly circulated and spread like wildfire through social media, well after the boat had fully submerged.  The texts contained sufficient detail purposely designed to prey off the desperation of loved ones.  Predictably, hope soared.

The government abruptly squashed these revelations and announced that all messages were a malicious hoax.  But it should not be faulted because the speculation had been fueled by the media.  Even friends and family members conceivably shared in the blame.  Anyone who posted or shared these messages could be construed as guilty, regardless of their intent.

This in turn sparked violence at Jindo where the bodies were being recovered and identified.  Relatives accused authorities of not doing enough to save the children.  Many believed their loved ones were still alive.  They hurled objects and skirmished with authorities.

The circumstances surrounding the South Korean ferry incident are a prime example of a “viral blitzkrieg” — a bombardment of information designed to saturate a specific location, resulting in an emotional/physical response.

Here’s a question one might ask.  Could the intentional spreading of malicious hoax information have more turbulent consequences in real-time?  For example, could a phony bomb threat or false emergency evacuation order spread through a large crowd… fomenting a real-world panic?  The answer is yes.

The dilemma here is obvious.  In the current technological age, it’s impossible to verify the validity of social media content.  Information can be monitored but not controlled.  The problem worsens immeasurably when trusted, conventional media streams are utilized.  In theory, just reporting the story itself could exacerbate existing conditions on the ground.

Consider the impact of a live, televised human stampede in an NFL stadium.  Would such a unique occurrence be calmly disregarded by everyone?  Or would its transmission and viewing impact behavior in other stadiums?  Breaking news extends well beyond the act of relaying information.  It resonates.  It is a phenomenon.  There are consequences.

Let’s make three reasonable assumptions:

  • The pace of technology will continue to accelerate.
  • Malicious hoaxes will occur in the future.
  • A coordinated disinformation campaign can impact the emotional status of a large crowd.

If you believe these three statements to be accurate, the only logical course of action is to make the following information available to the general public.

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone…
it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.


Risk Assessment for the Artificially Generated Stampede


On April 15, 2014, I submitted the following article for publication with the Risk Management Society.


Risk Assessment for the Artificially Generated Stampede

From a risk management perspective, few hypothetical scenarios can match the gravity presented by the artificially generated stampede.  It could very well be the asymmetric national security predicament of the century.  At its core is a simple question.

Do people have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede?

This is obviously a common sense, public safety issue.  It’s merely the generic, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Calling, texting, tweeting, alerting.  Hacking, spoofing, an intentional saturation of information or manipulation of social media.  In the current wireless environment, the ways to perpetuate a real-time, real-world hoax are seemingly infinite.  Everyone is “cellularly susceptible.”  There are no reasonable contingency plans.  Incident commanders (those tasked with the ultimate authority to issue an emergency evacuation) no longer have the same degree of authority and control they once possessed.

And the damage could be particularly severe.  It stands to reason that if someone acted with malicious intent, they’d likely seek to impact additional in-use venues.  I refer to this phenomenon as a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes).

So why has this issue never been floated in the public domain?
The suppression would appear intentional.  It stems directly from the catch-22.

If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if it were to happen, you reap the blame.

Too obvious?  Perhaps.  But it does explain the motivational lack of interest on behalf of the NFL, the NCAA and the federal government.  These institutions go to extraordinary lengths to protect fans and citizens.  However, plausible deniability and foreseeable litigation are significant liabilities.  More often than not, culpability and profit trump safety.

Furthermore, this matter involves discussing the undiscussable.  Indiscriminately killing people without conventional weapons is a dangerous precedent in the realm of generational warfare.

Now there are some who would make the case for mitigation.  Surely the government has a handle on this matter.  There must be some top secret communication filtration system.  It’s my opinion that such an assertion is patently ludicrous.  If this were the case, problems arising from bomb threats would have been eradicated long ago.

There’s another inherent problem with relying on the notion of mitigation.  It requires that a reasonable amount of time elapse during the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop.  Since human stampedes occur spontaneously, each phase is rendered irrelevant.  OODA loops simply cease to exist.

When mitigation becomes an exercise in futility, the only plausible solution can be universal awareness campaigns.  If you give it some thought, the paradox of the artificially generated stampede is similar to the historical dilemma presented by forest fires.  Both require a broader acknowledgment and moral acceptance of the problem.  Only you can prevent forest fires.  Stadium evacuation orders are not issued via cell phones.

So let’s say you’ve made the official determination to begin sharing this information.  From a risk management perspective, how far do you take it?  That’s a good question because it involves delicate social mores.  Many people would offer up the following argument.  What if by putting this information out there, you inadvertently put an idea in someone’s head?  Now this line of reasoning is not entirely without merit.  However, I would counter that it mirrors the same justification used for forest fire awareness campaigns.

The overriding question becomes… is it reasonable to inform the general public about something the majority of incident commanders and industry professionals are already well aware of?  That a legitimate stadium evacuation order would NEVER be delivered through personal cell phones.  Regardless of the sensitivity surrounding emergency evacuation protocol, I believe the time for transparency has arrived.  The seriousness of this issue demands a solution.

Should we be proactive and start notifying people about this hypothetical risk?  Absolutely.  Because there’s a discernible inevitability to an event like this being attempted.  Whether or not it’s ultimately successful is an entirely different question.  It stands to reason that it will be attempted until it is successful.  I base this assumption on the fact that human beings have always searched for innovative ways to kill each other.  If people are willing to fly planes into buildings, it stands to reason they’d be willing to foment stampedes.

The conundrum presented by the artificially generated stampede requires that we take some form of action.  People have a right to defend themselves.  This includes the right to obtain knowledge of potentially dangerous situations.  It’s the same reason we notify ballpark fans of the danger presented by broken bats and batted balls.  The artificially generated stampede just hasn’t happened yet.  However, this has no bearing on the moral imperative to raise awareness.  A dominipede is not an acceptable outcome.

So what’s the best solution?  The most important consideration is balancing the public’s right to know without engaging in unnecessary fear-mongering.  Granted, it’s a fine line.  Therefore, I’d keep the message as simple as possible.

As a matter of future policy, I would encourage dispensing the following information to anyone entering a large, confined crowd (stadium, arena, amphitheater, motor speedway, political convention, etc.).

Please be aware… that in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, such an order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone or mobile device.

I’d recommend using any means available: the public address system, the jumbotron, ticket stubs and event programs.

It’s a simple, clear message.  But most important, it’s the truth.


Vince McMahon Solution to the Artificially Generated Stampede

vince mVince McMahon, Chairman and CEO of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), seems ideally suited to address the dilemma presented by the artificially generated stampede.  Over the past year, I’ve given the matter a great deal of thought — exactly who is well-positioned to solve this foreseeable national security crisis?  I consider him to be a member of exclusive company along with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, President Barack Obama, former NFL Head Coach Bill Cowher, the rock band Pearl Jam and the writers of South Park.

The recent publicity from Wrestlemania XXX gave rise to me examining the possibility of Vince McMahon.  Wrestlemania XXX took place on April 5, 2014 at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.  The attendance figure was 75,167.  Official NFL capacity is listed at 76,468.  There’s a discrepancy due to the additional field seating, but for the sake of argument, let’s just conclude the venue was sold out.

This marquee event is one of the few spectacles capable of selling out a major NFL stadium.  This gives Vince McMahon an unusual opportunity.  One that I believe he might be willing to take advantage of.

The WWE could start routinely informing fans that “a legitimate emergency evacuation order would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone.”  With its worldwide exposure, an event like Wrestlemania would be a golden opportunity to get this message out in the public domain.

It has become apparent that the U.S. government, the NFL and the NCAA are unwilling to disseminate this public safety information.  The WWE is in a unique position to fill that void.

To most, divulging this information would just seem like good ol’ fashioned common sense.  But with it, would come tremendous blowback.  You would be indirectly limiting the government’s authority.  You would also be exposing its inability to protect its citizenry.  Furthermore, you’d be leading the charge into an unexplored realm of national security… the prospect of using a human stampede as a deadly, asymmetric weapon.  Killing people without conventional weapons is a big deal.  Very few people are willing to go on the record with this issue.  The stakes are high.

McMahon seems like an ideal choice for several reasons:

  • Vince McMahon has already battled the behemoth U.S. government.  In 1993-94, he repelled federal steroid trafficking and conspiracy charges.  Rather than settle the case, he rolled the dice and went to trial.  He was eventually acquitted.  He fought the law… and HE won.
  • When compared to other billionaires, he has demonstrated a willingness to “bleed for his brand.”  Granted, much of it’s wrapped in theatrics, but it’s nearly impossible to find members of the fiscally super-elite who are willing to endure physical punishment, emotional torment and verbal abuse.  Vince not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.
  • Back in the late 1980’s, McMahon made a conscious decision to “out” pro wrestling.  He chose a bold course of action.  He conceded that the product was not entirely legitimate and more accurately termed as “sports entertainment.”  He decided that the days of condescension were over.  What better an individual to level with the American people?
  • His wife Linda McMahon has demonstrated political aspirations.  In 2010, she ran for a U.S. Senate seat.  Her campaign slogan, “A businesswoman, not a politician, for Connecticut” reflected a desire to shake things up.  It’s reasonable to assume that Linda and Vince share similar visions.  Exposing outdated emergency evacuation protocol for large venues would be uncharted territory, much like a high-profile political campaign.
  • Since 2003, WWE has held a yearly event called Tribute to the Troops.  It has taken place in Afghanistan, Iraq and various military bases in the United States.   McMahon’s desire to entertain our military is more than an extension of patriotism.  It reflects a greater, unwavering commitment to safeguard U.S. citizens as well.
  • The U.S. government, the NCAA and every professional sports organization remain mired in a purgatory-like state of inaction.  As a legendary promoter and marketer, I think McMahon would relish the opportunity to “one-up” these institutions.  But of greater importance, history would vindicate him for taking action and doing what is morally right.

Rest assured, this revelation would send shock waves.  Once the cat’s out of the bag on such a grand scale, there is no turning back.  Vince might even construe it as the ultimate payback for the hell the federal government subjected him to.  But the beauty of it all… this time it would be McMahon who’s on the side of human rights and civil justice.

In the year 2014, Vince McMahon again demonstrated his penchant for risk.

Writer Jonathan Snowden…

At WrestleMania 30, for the first time in decades, the WWE shifted the paradigm.  The risk, as it was in 1985, is huge.  Rather than distribute the show on pay-per-view, a time-honored delivery platform that has made the company hundreds of millions of dollars, WWE has shifted the show onto its new online WWE Network.  The WWE, once again, is on the cutting edge of technology, gambling that its fans are ready for something new.

Regardless of all the hype and shenanigans tied to pro wrestling, people should not dismiss the bravery and tenacity of Vince McMahon.  When it’s all said and done, an ample supply of courage is what’s needed here.  Plain and simple.  For there to be meaningful resolution, a powerful issue requires a courageous individual.

The more I reflect on this matter, the more truly convinced I become.  Vince McMahon is the perfect candidate to publicly broach the issue of the artificially generated stampede.


Bill Cowher and the NFL “Heads Up” Program

bill cowher pic

The NFL is conquering new ground with regard to player safety, particularly in the realm of concussion prevention.  Coincidentally, this is coming on the heels of a near billion dollar judgment against the organization.  Go figure.  Sometimes an industry suddenly becomes proactive when faced with effective litigation and colossal financial loss.  It quickly finds its moral center.

The NFL had been warned about player concussion issues for decades.  But now it takes them seriously.  This scenario worries me because it closely resembles my concerns regarding a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes likely impacting the 1 p.m. slate of games).

In 2012, I warned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and every NFL owner about the outdated state of emergency evacuation protocol and the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  Unfortunately, because it remains a hypothetical, there are no immediate consequences for failing to address the issue.  There’s little incentive for taking action.  Plus, the federal government won’t touch it.  The cons outweigh the pros.

So it descends into a dangerous game of intentional ignorance and complacence.  Even worse, the few who have had the courage to engage me often offer flimsy justifications, excuses and ad hominem distractions for their inaction.

“We have an excellent track record when it comes to venue safety.”
“Our stadium cell coverage isn’t that great.”
“The circumstances you’re describing wouldn’t trigger a mass panic.”
“These stampedes you speak of have never happened.”
“If it’s such a big concern, why isn’t anyone else taking action?”

Yes.  All these points could have merit.  But they all dodge the issue.  And they’re all regrettably consistent with the catch-22 that looms over NFL stadiums like a biblical plague.

I’m inquiring about a very specific facet of emergency evacuation protocol — the notion that a legitimate evacuation order would NEVER originate from a personal cell phone.  Some in the industry are aware of this.  Many are not.  But the vast majority of fans have never even considered it.  This makes them incredibly susceptible to the prospect of a malicious hoax.

It has become apparent that no NFL team is going to voluntarily step up and share this tiny snippet of information with stadium attendees.  The real reason is ugly.  Everything is linked to potential litigation and plausibility deniability.  It’s not about life and limb.  It’s all about money.  A lot of money.  The premise is intrinsically embedded in the financial stability and survival of the entire NFL.

Team management, ownership and NFL governance aren’t going to be proactive.  It’s much like they treated the concussion issue: ignoring the problem until they were held financially responsible.

It’s necessary for an individual to come forth and address the issue.

The message could be complex:

  • Explaining how all in-use stadiums are technologically and physically connected through real-time, real-world events.
  • Discussing how people could be manipulated by a viral blitzkrieg (information saturation).
  • Engaging in a frank discussion about widespread panic and herding instincts.

We at AGSAF believe the message is simple:

  • Stadium emergency evacuation orders do NOT come from cell phones.
  • If you get an evacuation order or panic-inducing information, it’s almost certainly a hoax.

Daytime talk show host Dr. Phil has a penchant for saying, “This situation needs a hero.”

On March 24, 2014, a potential hero sent me an email on behalf of the NFL “Heads Up” concussion awareness campaign.  That person was former NFL head coach and CBS analyst Bill Cowher.  I think Cowher would be an ideal choice to broach the subject of the dominipede.  His Super Bowl win puts him in very exclusive company.  He has a strong blue collar work ethic and gritty straightforwardness.  He has bridged the gap from player, to coach, to executive, to television personality.  Most important, head coaches are responsible for making big, final decisions.  They are accustomed to being held accountable.

Whether it’s Cowher or not, this person would need to be unwilling to back down.  Because you’ll likely be ostracized.  Trust me.  Even though it’s a common sense, simple message about public safety, you will be incurring the wrath of the entire U.S. government, private industry and venue management both large and small.  Government is generally averse to major change.  It prefers the status quo.

They call it the status quo for a reason.  The reason being… it’s usually the path of a coward.  Love him or hate him, his name may sound like the word “coward” but believe me, Bill Cowher ain’t no coward.

Let’s parlay the NFL’s recent commitment to player safety and extend that same concern to fan safety.  The concussions that take place on the grassy turf could just as easily occur on the cold concrete.

Let me put this in more tactical terms for any NFL owners and executives within earshot.  The financial toll of a dominipede would easily be in the billions.  If you think the concussion settlement was bad news, I suggest you take a long, hard look at the AGSAF website.  A friendly warning though — it shakes things up a bit.  If you don’t think the material is compelling, you’ll likely need your head examined.


2014 NCS4 Convention


I received an email on March 18, 2014 from the National Center for Sports Safety and Security.  It contained the itinerary for the NCS4 summer convention to be held in Indianapolis, IN.  Below is an excerpt:


Attendees will have an opportunity to visit sport facilities in their industry.  During the visit, the host will provide a facility safety and security tour and discuss advancements in their security plans.  A discussion scenario will be conducted to enhance best practices.

Lucas Oil Stadium  (Home of the Indianapolis Colts, NFL)
Discussion Scenario: Drone Attack

Bankers Life Fieldhouse  (Home of the Indiana Pacers, NBA)
Discussion Scenario: Power Failure

Butler University (Hinkle Arena)  (Home of the Butler Bulldogs, Division I)
Discussion Scenario: Bomb Threat

Carmel High School  (Home of Carmel Greyhounds)
Discussion Scenario: Active Shooter

Indianapolis  Motor Speedway (Home of Indy 500)
Discussion Scenario: Weather

Victory Field (Home of the Indianapolis Indians of the International League)
Discussion Scenario: Fan Injury/Death – Localized Crisis

Since AGSAF deals with stadiums and the potential for human stampedes, let’s focus on the discussion scenarios scheduled for Lucas Oil Stadium and Hinkle Arena.

First and foremost, I’m under the likely assumption that the choice of venue was designed to mirror the representative threat.  Lucas Oil Stadium would be a dubious location to carry out a drone strike… because the stadium is a dome.  I find it doubtful that any self-respecting terrorist would select this particular target for a drone attack.  Unless of course, you could conceivably sneak the drone into the stadium in fragmented pieces in 12″x6″x12″ transparent plastic bags while avoiding the scrutiny of security and metal detectors.  Then, somehow discreetly assemble the drone without arousing suspicion. That would be a tall order.

But wait a minute!  Lucas Oil Stadium is currently one of three NFL stadiums with a retractable roof.  Yes… I will voluntarily concede this point.  However, it’s rarely used for NFL games mostly due to weather related contingency issues.  And while difficult for me to dissect the mind of a terrorist, I imagine that he/she would be wise enough to discern a better target.  A permanently open-air stadium would seem the smarter choice.

The other discussion panel will focus on the prospect of a bomb threat at Hinkle Arena.  Please note how the word “threat” is singular.  I’ve never studied the bomb threat protocol for Hinkle Fieldhouse (its correct name), but I imagine it conforms to most other indoor venues.

The notion that incident commanders (those tasked with the ultimate authority to order an emergency evacuation) still think in terms of a singular, isolated bomb threat is cause for tremendous concern.  And of course this lone bomb threat would be conveniently phoned in to the venue’s central lobby or main desk so it could be dealt with properly, efficiently and accordingly.

Forgive me for not being a “1950’s safety purist” in the year 2014.  I hate to raise this inconvenient truth… but doesn’t virtually every fan in the venue have an active cell phone?  What about everyone who works for the major broadcasting affiliates in Indianapolis (NBC – WTHR, ABC – RTV6, CBS – WISH and FOX59)?  What about the print media and their employees (The Indianapolis Star, Post-Tribune and 36 other local newspapers)?  What about radio stations and social media?  Could any of these people be the recipient of a bomb threat?  Would all of them simply ignore it?  The last time I checked, cell phones were used for the purpose of mobile communication.

There’s a reason I’ve made a mockery of these questions.  It’s called “discussing the undiscussable.”  And as the threats become increasingly obvious and more pronounced, their “undiscussability becomes undiscussable.”  I know it’s difficult to broach these subjects.  I understand human sensibilities.  But if you’re going to demonstrate a willingness to engage, you must do it realistically.  Or why even bother?  These “discussion scenarios” might be about safety, but emergency evacuation protocol is not a game.  Human stampedes are a very real phenomenon.  Just because they occur less frequently in the United States does not imply that our culture, our people are somehow immune.

The stakes are immeasurably high and I realize it’s an uncomfortable subject.  But now is not the time to “brush off” the problem or “ease into” the conversations or maintain a “civilized tone.”

I do not think it’s wise to inform fans of every feasible threat (drone attacks, suicide bombers, active shooters, etc.).  In theory, someone could parachute into a stadium while simultaneously throwing hand grenades.  Is it wise to explicitly warn people this could happen?  Of course not.  Because it’s unrealistic and entails a degree of excessive fear-mongering.

The difference between those scenarios and an artificially generated stampede is the likelihood and ease of the act being attempted.  Whether or not it would be successful shouldn’t even be the ultimate criterion.

I don’t have all the answers.  But I do know a great place to start.  Just tell fans that legitimate stadium evacuation orders don’t come from personal cell phones.  It’s a simple message and it’s the truth.  Some day this will become common knowledge (in the aftermath of a tragedy).  Can anyone offer a substantive reason for not putting this basic information in the public domain?

It’s 2014.  Technology has changed.  The world has changed.  We must change.


Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) Deflects Concern Over Stadium Evacuation Protocol


On December 29, 2013, I sent information to ALL 535 members of the United States Congress.*  Below is text from the letter mailed to 2012 Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI).



I am deeply concerned about the inadequate state of emergency evacuation protocol at stadiums and arenas in the state of Wisconsin.

People have a fundamental right to know that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device, it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede. 

I would strongly encourage you to explore legislation regarding this issue.  In the interim, please contact those responsible for venue security and request they increase awareness concerning this urgent matter of public safety.

Thank you,

Eric Saferstein
45 Ridgewood Avenue
Wheeling, WV  26003


Much to my surprise, I received this response.

pryanI respectfully disagree with his contention that this matter falls outside his jurisdiction.  Any American citizen has the First Amendment right to tell others that a legitimate emergency stadium evacuation order would never originate from their personal cell phone.  As a leader and avid fan of the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers, Congressman Ryan would be an ideal choice to broach this subject.

Since the issue is universally applicable, I felt morally compelled to bring this matter to the attention of the entire Congress.

As of March 20, 2014, I have received a grand total of 12 written responses.^  If you wish to view any of this correspondence, please contact me.  I have also been the recipient of phone calls, mostly from congressional aides.

Considering the incredibly generic nature of my concerns and the overwhelming implications for national security, I was truly disheartened that not a single member of the House or Senate would take a moment and give me a phone call to explore the issue further.  I would characterize the overall performance of the United States Congress as “predictably egregious.”

And while I do applaud the diligence of those who responded, there seemed to be a consistent theme of “pass the buck.”  Most informed me that although they appreciate my concerns and would like to help, it was a matter of long-standing tradition and professional courtesy to refer such matters to my own representative.  Please keep in mind that each letter expressed concern for the safety of constituents from their home state.

I am represented by First District Congressman David McKinley (R-WV).

I had provided him with substantial documentation regarding outdated emergency evacuation protocol for large, confined crowds (stadiums, amphitheaters, arenas, etc.).  I quickly got the impression that he was not interested in addressing this issue.

Here’s why this is incredibly troublesome.  Upon being elected, every member of Congress takes an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  Let’s focus on how the artificially generated stampede impacts the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment consists of more than the right to defend oneself by owning a gun.  There’s an obvious degree of required knowledge and situational awareness.  It’s necessary to learn how to safely store, correctly load and fire the gun.  It’s vital to be cognizant of the proper circumstances surrounding gun usage (as witnessed by recent “stand your ground” litigation).

People should be aware of the fact that a cell phone, if used to convey panic-inducing information, takes on the potential form of an asymmetric weapon.  People don’t normally view trees as weapons, but if the wood is used to create a spear, you now possess the ability to inflict injury.  Most people never envisioned passenger planes being used as 250,000 lb. cruise missiles… until 9/11 occurred.  These same analogies extends to cell phones and malicious hoax communications being used to create artificially generated stampedes.

I was hoping that just one of our esteemed representatives would have expressed a greater interest.  The notion that individuals tasked with safeguarding the lives of American citizens won’t acknowledge this potential threat to national security is more than alarming.  It’s mind-boggling.

I would encourage U.S. citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights.  At the next town hall or public forum, ask your Representative if he/she believes a scenario exists where widespread cellular technology could directly impact crowd safety.


* – 4 letters were returned to sender as undeliverable – Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Congressmen Gus Bilarikis (R-FL), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL)

^ – Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Congressmen George Miller (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), John Carter (R-TX), Adam Smith (D-WA), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)


FPAT (Force Protection Alert Tool)



FPAT (Force Protection Alert Tool)

Based on the University of Southern Mississippi campus, the NCS4 (National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security) sprang into existence in 2006.  It was established under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security.  The NCS4 is generally regarded as the premiere government liaison to the sporting industry.  Their mission is to support the advancement of safety and security through training, professional development, academic programs and research.  They provide strategic guidance, assistance and advice on critical industry issues.

The NCS4 recently collaborated with Radiance Technologies located in nearby Huntsville, Alabama.  Their chief goal was to determine the effectiveness of a new software technology.  The product is known as FPAT (Force Protection Alert Tool).

The overriding objective was to analyze real-time internet traffic in order to better assess threats to public safety and venue security in a timely fashion.

A direct quote from their recent report:

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have quickly risen to prominence in usage by a large majority of the public.  The nature of social media makes it easy to use these tools as a platform to coordinate and conspire malicious acts and disrupt events and threaten venues and large groups of people.  By monitoring real-world social media, FPAT could be used to enhance situational awareness and detect potential threats that are expressed in unstructured social media forums.

FPAT searches for key words in cellular transmissions: synonyms, root words and derivations of terms that could denote emergency situations and/or criminal activity.

Words like arson, assault, bombing, counterfeiting, kidnapping, riot, stampede, theft, trespassing, vandalism, etc.

Phrases like disorderly conduct, illness-related medical emergency, etc.

If FPAT finds suspicious terminology, it then relays that contextual information to a central command location.  In theory, this should enhance situational awareness and lessen the duration of emergency response time.

On November 23, 2013, NCS4 and Radiance Technologies launched the initial test of FPAT during a college football game at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, MS.  Some key information:

  • The system monitored wireless communications within a 1,000 foot proximity of the stadium perimeter.
  • Twitter was the only social media forum to be monitored.
  • FPAT was utilized during the time frame of 12:30 PM – 5:30 PM.
  • The final attendance was announced at 22,134 out of a capacity of roughly 37,000.  By NCAA Division I standards, this is an admittedly low attendance figure.


According to evaluators, the experiment worked well.  It met or exceeded expectations with regard to alerting and usability.  However, of great interest should be the fact that even though FPAT met the “alerting criteria,” it failed to provide notifications in a “reasonable time frame” due to a lack of “demonstrable data points.”  There were several incidents where the transmission of information was stalled or backlogged.

Now here’s my takeaway:

I’m not going to even touch on the constitutional aspects of this technology.  To be honest, I’m not sure whether this is even legal.  It’s also not my primary concern.

I’m concerned that someone, in the aftermath of a tragedy, might claim that this was the best technology and means AVAILABLE to mitigate an artificially generated stampede (a sudden rush of people likely the result of panic-inducing information delivered via cell phones or mobile devices).

Such a claim would be downright ludicrous.  The obvious reason being — there is no way to mitigate a human stampede.  The solution lies in prevention and awareness, not mitigation.

I’m also deeply worried that administrators and authorities will remain reliant on this new technology rather than being forthcoming and acknowledging the bigger picture.  At some point you just need to start telling stadium attendees…

If you receive an evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information via your cell phone, it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Adding to this dilemma, there are additional ways to induce a sudden rush of fans.  None of the following transmissions employ suspicious or threatening key words. Any of these statements could result in large numbers of fans suddenly moving in an aggressive fashion.

  •  There’s an old man handing out $100 bills in the concourse outside Section 108!
  • I can’t believe it!  Bruce Springsteen is signing autographs next to the information kiosk!
  • Quaker Steak and Lube is giving away free buckets of garlic hot wings!  They’re testing out a new flavor right now!  While supplies last!

A few admissions:

The last time I was in Mississippi was during the mid 1990’s.  I’ve never been to M.M. Roberts Stadium or visited the University of Southern Mississippi.  I know nothing of trials and tribulations of their campus police department.  And I’ll readily concede that FPAT technology is still in the admittedly formative stages of development.

But here’s what I do know.  The prospect of a stampede ranked very high in the category of “Incident Classification Importance.”  FPAT was used to sense key words like “stampede” and “crowd crush.”  During the course of the evaluation, no keyword searches were returned that dealt with stampedes.

But seriously, what if there had been a suspicious transmission?  Do the creators of FPAT or the USM tactical command really expect someone to announce (via Twitter no less) their intention to instigate a human stampede.  Even more worrisome is the delusional notion that law enforcement could actually prevent an artificially generated stampede.

The concept of utilizing mitigation requires an O.O.D.A. loop.  You observe what’s happening, orient yourself, decide what to do and then take action.  An artificially generated stampede is by definition, an event that transpires in real-time.  You simply would not be afforded the opportunity to make thorough evaluations and assessments.

And even if you could take instantaneous action, what would you do?  Make an announcement over the public address within that precise millisecond?

“Stop stampeding immediately!  Anyone engaged in the act of running for their life could be deemed negligent and tried in a court of law.  Stampeders can face stiff penalties… including potential felony charges, fines in an amount no greater than $10,000 and a maximum term of imprisonment for a duration of no less than 5 years.”

Hailing from West Virginia, I can think of one practical application for FPAT.  And that’s a quicker emergency response to a couch burning.  But an artificially generated stampede?  You cannot be serious.


Miami Marlins Step Up to the Plate

miami_marlins_logo_detailOn Monday, February 24 at 2:37 PM, I left a brief voice mail for Miami Marlins Director of Security, Greg Terp:

Hello sir,

My name is Eric Saferstein and I’m calling from Wheeling, West Virginia.

The reason for the call – I wanted to touch base with you on the issue of your emergency evacuation protocol.  I believe the standard used by Major League Baseball is really outdated.

I’m particularly concerned about a scenario where someone tries to evacuate your ballpark without your knowledge or consent, likely a mass cellular hoax, probably an attempt to create a panic which could result in a stampede.

Anyway, I created a website that offers some contingency plans and I’d very much like to share it with you.  I’ve been getting a lot of feedback on it as of late.

If you would, please give me a call me at your convenience.  My number’s 304-312-1395 and my name’s Eric.  Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you.

Mr. Terp did not return my call.

However, on Wednesday, February 26 at 7:44 AM, I got a call from Detective Aschen Brenner with the Miami Office of the Florida Division of the Department of Homeland Security.

Miss Brenner wanted to know why I left a “threatening” message at the Marlins team headquarters.  I explained to her that I have some very tangible concerns about fan safety which stem from the widespread advent of cellular technology.  She then inquired as to what my “intentions” were.  Once again, I explained how my concern for fan safety was universal and it applied to all large, confined crowds, not just the Miami Marlins ballpark.  I had left the same message with several other MLB organizations.

She made the assertion that the DHS is actively addressing this issue “behind the scenes” and they simply cannot make all the relevant information available to the general public.  I explained how the problem can only be ultimately solved through awareness campaigns, not mitigation.  She encouraged me to read about Fusion Centers (extensions of the DHS which operate and handle security issues at the state and local level).

During our 25 minute conversation, her tone and tenor changed markedly.  It actually became a very pleasant back and forth as we touched on various subjects such as emergency evacuation protocol, the hoax culture and cyber-security.  Most important, we discussed the notion that in today’s age of rapid cellular technology, combined with the popularity of social media and the breaking news phenomenon, incident commanders no longer possess the same degree of authority they once had.  Everyone has access to real-time, real-world information.

We then touched on other transformational issues.  If memory serves me correct, the call ventured into topics of emergency preparedness, civil rights, situational awareness and the lingering catch-22 (encompassing the dilemma presented by the artificially generated stampede).  We also discussed the Department of Homeland Security’s “If you See Something, Say Something Campaign.”  Obviously, this could not be more relevant.

In closing, I asked her to share the AGSAF website with her colleagues and explore the possibility of taking action (Simply start telling people that legitimate evacuation orders don’t come from cell phones.  The industry standard is to use the public address system).  Detective Brenner said, “Well, there’s only so much we can do.  Our resources are limited.”  To which I replied, “Well, snippets of knowledge are generally an inexpensive commodity.  Information like “stop, drop and roll” or “look both ways before you cross the street” doesn’t really cost that much.  And on that note, we said our goodbyes.

For me personally, this was a big deal.  I’ve received plenty of calls from concerned, appreciative and sometimes annoyed individuals.  Members of law enforcement and those who deal with emergency preparedness, police chiefs and incident commanders all across the United States.  But this represented my first verbal contact with the DHS.  I originally sent then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano a letter on March 1, 2012, but I never received a response or any feedback.

There is a strange irony in all of this.  Detective Brenner echoed this sentiment during our conversation.  She mentioned how the American public has become irritated with the presence of “big brother.”  And that’s what makes this matter so disturbingly amusing.  I would actually welcome the federal government’s intrusion into my personal life.  They can feel free to monitor my phone calls and emails.  I’ll gladly relinquish ALL of my personal privacy in order to solve the far greater, vastly more urgent, societal issue.

The issues presented on the AGSAF website are transformative.  They will eventually be addressed, likely in the aftermath of a tragedy.  Since the artificially generated stampede is a looming public safety issue with incredibly dire ramifications, it’s my desire for the United States government to be proactive.

Our government goes to tremendous lengths and expenditure attempting to raise awareness on behalf of a variety of public safety issues.

From the big topics — airport screening, forest fire prevention, drunk driving campaigns, anti-smoking initiatives, etc.

To the seemingly trivial topics — requiring the disclosure of the amount of riboflavin in a bowl of Fruit Loops.

And there in lies the catch-22.  If the federal government acknowledges the problem, they own it.  And if a tragedy occurs, they reap the blame.  But it wouldn’t stop there.  An entire administration would be instantaneously delegitimized and rendered completely ineffective.  And while I sympathize with their dilemma, I place greater stock in the protection of innocent life and civil rights over political expediency.

So here’s my request.  It’s pretty straightforward… to Detective Brenner, current Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, President Barack Obama or basically anyone with a concern for public safety and fundamental human rights.

Just start telling people that if they’re in a large, confined crowd (stadium, arena, amphitheater, ballpark, motor speedway, etc.) and receive an emergency evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their personal cell phone… it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

This catastrophe can be prevented.  All it takes is someone brave enough to pose a simple question.  And that very question lies in the center of the cell phone of the AGSAF logo.



Event “Safety” Alliance

event safety allianceFounded in January 2012, the Event Safety Alliance is a 501 C-3, not-for-profit, professional trade association comprised of roughly 2,000 individuals.  It mostly consists of people in the sporting, music, leisure and entertainment industry.

Their mission statement is pretty straightforward.


For a nominal fee ($49.95), you can even order the “Event Safety Guide.”  This book is hailed as the first published safety guide directed specifically at the live event industry.  It’s a compilation of the best operational practices currently available.  It covers emergency planning, weather preparedness, crowd control, fire safety and a myriad of other technical issues.  In an effort to provide the best possible information, helpful planning checklists and industry standards are culled from departments within FEMA: NIMS (National Incident Management System) and ICS (Incident Command System).

An excerpt from the ESA website regarding its origins:

“This is a massive undertaking, intended to be transparent and ALL inclusive, it is our mandate to give each individual the opportunity to participate in the process and take part in the peer review that will complete this long overdue work. EVERYONE will have the ability to review and comment on the work and the process as we move forward.”

Thank you for your participation…YOU are the Event Safety Alliance!

Sensing this inviting atmosphere of cooperation, I posted a concern about outdated emergency evacuation protocol on the Event Safety Alliance facebook page in mid-January of 2014.  I wrote about how the ubiquitous presence of cellular technology has fundamentally altered the playing field.  Incident commanders no longer have that same level of authority and control over the dispensation of real-time information.  I posted the AGSAF mission statement.

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their personal cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

From a major event perspective, it’s difficult to fathom a simpler message designated to foster an atmosphere of fan safety and awareness.

I’d be more specific about the exact time and date of the post, but my comment was abruptly DELETED.   But it didn’t stop there.  The ESA, in its infinite wisdom, disabled their whole comment section.  Not just from that one post.  At some point between January 17-20, 2014, they eliminated ALL comment sections from their entire facebook page!  Now nobody can comment on anything.

… YOU are the Event Safety Alliance.  You?  Who??  Me???

You’re probably wondering if I possess definitive proof of my post being the reason for the communication takedown?  Nope.  Let’s just say I have a strong hunch.

Further augmenting the irony, their facebook page still offers the following statement…

“We welcome you and would like you to join us in our mission to make all events a safer place.  We encourage readers to post comments relevant to the original post.”

Talk about sending a mixed message.  We want you to express your opinion.  But technically speaking, we won’t be giving you the option.  How’s that for a paradox?

So here’s the obvious question.  Why would they do this?  Well… it’s difficult to speculate, but I’ll give it a shot.

I think when I posted that single sentence, I opened up a can of worms.  I raised a transformational issue, one which has not yet been dealt with… by mankind.  One that irrevocably alters the established terrain of communications, emergency management protocol and humanity at-large.

The underlying premise for any emergency evacuation is based upon the key notion that the incident commander has direct authority and control over the initial evacuation order.  But wait a minute.  This simply does not comport with real-world conditions.  At some NCAA football games, there are as many as 100,000 active cell phones in the stadium.

Think about it.  Each fan has potential exposure to an evacuation order and/or panic inducing information on an INDIVIDUALIZED basis.  Phone calls, social media transmissions, texts, notifications, alerts, etc.  The notion of a hack or viral hoax is material for a book in itself.

Even if every single person had the cognitive ability to properly assess the situation, dismiss such an evacuation order and remain perfectly calm, wouldn’t it be wise to prepare a contingency plan?  After all, some people get a little skittish when they hear or see the word “bomb.”  Ya know… just in case someone, somewhere on the planet has a nefarious agenda.   I dunno… maybe just let people know the following:

Please be aware… that in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, a legitimate order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone.  

Any competent incident commander would wholeheartedly agree with this statement.

Occasionally looping that one sentence over the public address system would be a good place to start.  That’s all it would take.  A straightforward, no-nonsense acknowledgment that society has changed.  On the other hand, all those ESA industry experts would have to come to some sort of new consensus.  Sounds challenging, particularly when you don’t allow for any outside input.

They’d likely have to publish an entirely new edition of the “Event Safety Guide.”  Even though they’re a non-profit organization, this could prove rather costly.   And it could be embarrassing for a ton of other organizations (NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, IRL, MLS, etc).  And it would present some new challenges for the federal government (DHS, FCC, DOE, FEMA, FBI, NSA, etc.).  That’s a slew of letters and acronyms.  Change is a real bitch!

If any of this concerns you, I’d start by contacting ESA President Jim Digby.  But he doesn’t offer an email address.  And his organization doesn’t divulge their physical address.  They also don’t have a publicly listed telephone number.  Maybe you could inquire in their comment section.  Oops, sorry.  I forgot.  No comments allowed.

Zombie Apocalypse Prank

top-cell-phone-pranksOn February 11, 2013, the regularly scheduled programming on KRTV in Great Falls, Montana was interrupted by a hijacked EAS (Emergency Alert System) message.

“Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living.   Follow the messages onscreen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

This youtube video has been viewed over 1 million times.

The same “zombie alert” happened in other cities as well: Marquette, Michigan and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

So how exactly did this happen?  The consensus opinion is that a hacker took advantage of a default password.  This was not the result of technological sophistication.  A decent analogy would be a burglar whimsically entering a house because the front door was left wide open.

Just FYI — it’s ironic how the fictitious alert coincided with a lie detector test.  We have become an increasingly “gotcha” society.  Is it reasonable to assume the “next big gotcha moment” could overshadow the endless parade of lie detector and paternity tests?

The EAS is part of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.  It is jointly coordinated by FEMA, the FCC and the National Weather Service.  The Emergency Alert System is generally not lacking in government oversight and compliance.  In other words, it’s tightly monitored.

Now let’s try a hypothetical experiment.  What if something non-zombie related occurred during the NFL Sunday televised slate of afternoon games?

*** FCC Flash Override ***
The FBI has announced an emergency evacuation of the following NFL stadiums:  Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

How might the general public react to this scrolling message?  I doubt everyone would be dismissive and stay focused on the game.  I imagine they would immediately try to contact loved ones inside the stadium, or for that matter, ANY stadium by ANY means possible.  Keep in mind that a malicious individual could easily conceive of a vastly more threatening message.

Let’s take a trip back to October 18, 2006.  The Department of Homeland Security warned NFL officials in Miami, New York City, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland about a possible threat involving the simultaneous use of dirty bombs.  The “intelligence” was obtained from multiple posts on an internet website.  Even though an FBI official was quoted as saying the “credibility of the threat was beyond ridiculous,” the U.S. government opted to err on the side of caution.

Of course the mainstream media immediately jumped all over the story.  This incident demonstrates the increasing blurring of the lines between fact and fiction, reality and hoax.  Whether or not the threat was deemed credible, stories of this magnitude tend to resonate in the public conscience.

Now you might make the following argument… well, the government’s surely on top of this matter.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  My personal research indicates a gross level of incompetence and purposeful neglect.

Consider the following: every NFL team has a cellular opt-in notification system that offers fans instantaneous information regarding scoring, coaching personnel, player injuries, etc.  Instead of a routine halftime scoring update, what if it’s a panic-inducing mass text message?

Once a message is delivered, there is no recourse.  Real-time information has real-world consequences.  There is no magical shield to prevent the “bad stuff” from getting through.  The NSA might engage in monitoring and eavesdropping, but as far as I know, there’s no split-second filtration system.  If it had one, the bomb threat problem as we know it, would not exist.

Oh, and just one final, trivial thought.  It need not be a technical hack or insider manipulation.  The viral blitzkrieg scenario involves a simple, blanket saturation of information.  Tweets, texting, bulk messaging platforms, alerts, social media, facebook, twitter, snapchat, emails, phone calls, robo-calls, etc.  It’s capable of being executed, and likely better suited for, a disgruntled teenager.

Not to worry, I’m sure the government has the problem covered.  Up until now, they’ve done a fine job in the arena of hoax prevention.  Though let’s be honest.  There are a few exceptions –  just some minor slip-ups:

AP Twitter account hacked, ‘explosions at White House’ crashes DOW

New Jersey Civil Emergency Alert: Take Shelter Now

Fortunately, the media has their back:

Gore Beats Bush

Gabbie Giffords (D-AZ) is Dead

Supreme Court Reverses Obamacare

Don’t worry.  I’m sure the NFL will provide an exceptional third line of defense.  After all, nothing bad ever happens on this planet.  Nobody important would ever engage in the age-old art of deception.

Bill Clinton – “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

George W. Bush – “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Barack Obama – “If you like your plan, you get to keep your plan.

Call me crazy, but holding 7.2 billion people to a higher standard than these three doesn’t seem particularly wise.  By the way, if you’re wondering whatever happened to the zombie apocalypse hacker… well, I wouldn’t worry about it.  I’m sure the federal government has the matter well in hand.  Worst case scenario: we could rely on the outstretched hands of zombies.  I’ve heard they take a very hands-on approach.


Spread Disinformation, Sow Confusion

METLIFE-STADIUM-SUPER-BOWLSuper Bowl XLVIII is less than a week away.  The game’s being played in New Jersey, but all of the spotlight will be on New York.  The Super Bowl Boulevard is located in the Times Square section of Manhattan but kickoff is set for 6:30 PM in the town of East Rutherford.  Still confused?  I would hope not.


But if you have an interest in the bigger issues… false flags, foreseeable conspiracies and the future trajectory of technology vs. mankind, please continue reading.

As expected, the level of security for Super Bowl 48 will be unprecedented.

Some excerpts from a recent NBC News report:

This Super Bowl, says Ed Hartnett, former head of the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Unit, “truly defines the word ‘challenge’ when it comes to security.”

There is no intelligence indicating that terrorists have targeted the game or related events, but Hartnett says that doesn’t mean that threats don’t exist: “I would list them in priority order being a suicide bomber, a vehicle laden with explosives and a mass shooter or mass shooters similar to the Kenyan mall, or the Mumbai incidents,” he said. His concerns are echoed by law enforcement officials overseeing the game.

The above statement reflects the most obvious concern: conventional weaponry.  As a result, security personnel will utilize barriers, expand perimeters and visually monitor geographic locations.

The documents also discuss an emerging threat: computer hacking.  Could criminals use a cyber-attack to hit the infrastructure and control systems for the game?  While not considered likely, officials recall what an accidental blackout did to last year’s game.  Many of the key players in developing this year’s security plan attended the game in New Orleans and learned from the Superdome outage, which delayed the game for 34 minutes early in the third quarter.

It would appear the prospect of “hacking” is officially on the table.  Yet the ramifications of a cyber-attack seem narrowly focused on infrastructure related issues.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Cetnar of the New Jersey State Police is the man in charge of security at the game itself.  His task as incident commander is to make sure the matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos goes off without a hitch.  That requires planning for a triple threat: “Everything that we’re doing has an air, land and sea concept,” he said.

“Air, land, and sea.”  Once again, this echoes a time-honored, established pattern of thinking.  A predictable approach like this appears geared more toward the allocation of financial resources.  Major budgetary decisions appear grounded in familiarity and precedent.

Law enforcement is also concerned that “hacktivists” – hackers with social or political aims — could exploit social media to “spread disinformation, sow confusion.

This seems to be the only public mention of compromised emergency evacuation protocol.  It is the sole acknowledgement of any concern regarding the potential for an artificially generated stampede.  And at best, it’s incredibly vague.

“Spread disinformation” — Is this about manipulating the line in Vegas?  Is it about intentionally trying to deceive NFL statisticians?

“Sow confusion” — Confuse who exactly?  The coaching personnel?  The players on the field?  The officiating crew?

Let me explain.

“Spreading disinformation and sowing confusion” is a subliminal inference directed at the media and stadium occupants.  But there’s nothing subtle about it.  Super Bowl 48 is the biggest televised event in the United States.  East Rutherford, NJ has a population of roughly 8,000.  On game day, it burgeons to 10x that number.  80,000+ individuals in a tightly restricted area covering 1/15 mile.  Sunday’s game has been designated by the Department of Homeland Security as a Tier 1 event.  Offering obscure hints and cloaked innuendo about spectator safety is unacceptable.

What’s truly frustrating here is the utter lack of “out-of-the-box” thinking.  Spending millions upon millions in the name of heightened security but failing to acknowledge the simplest aspect of tactical awareness.  People deserve to be cognizant of the fact that legitimate evacuation orders do not originate from cell phones.  Not just in NFL stadiums, but anywhere a large, confined crowd gathers (outdoor amphitheaters, state fairs, arenas, political conventions, motor speedways, mega-churches, shopping malls, etc.).  This is an inevitable civil rights issue.  Denial of information this blatantly apparent is worse than rescinding the knowledge of “stop, drop and roll” or “look both ways before you cross the street.”

Just ask the Super Bowl’s incident commander, Edward Cetnar.  He’ll confirm everything I’ve written.  Although I imagine he’d be more succinct.

As one further reflects, it becomes painfully ironic.  Here we’ve assembled the nation’s top security experts, military personnel with the highest accolades, dedicated law enforcement, the finest emergency responders — and still, nobody is willing to ask the most obvious question.

Maybe if it was posed by a young child…

Instead of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, what if someone texts “bomb” in a crowded stadium?

Of course, it’s a little more complicated and technologically all-encompassing.  But that is the basic essence.

What if Met Life Stadium fell victim to a virtual saturation of bomb threats, i.e., a “viral blitzkrieg?”  What happens when large numbers of attendees simultaneously begin receiving evacuation orders and/or panic-inducing information via their wireless devices?  Now add the ingredient of heightened paranoia due to the extreme security measures already in effect.  And toss in a crowd that’s completely oblivious.  All the security in the world cannot squelch, suppress or inhibit the human emotion of fear.  It’s just that simple.

NFL Chief Information Officer Michelle McKenna Doyle recently said, “Our hope is that this is the most connected live event in sports history.”

And therein lies the paradox.  For if you acknowledge this incredibly generic concept, this black hole of societal awareness — then it is you who will bear the burden of consequence.  If disaster strikes, those in positions of authority will ultimately be held accountable.  It’s just the same old blame game, but with an inhuman, cold-blooded catch-22.

Perhaps my expectations are too imposing.  Is the United States government or the National Football League actually capable of being proactive?  Is this asking too much?  Would either institution really be willing to address this transformational issue?  Maybe the Super Bowl is too grand a stage.  I just wish someone (other than myself) would be bold enough to ask the question.

In the January 28, 2014 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama stated, “Our security cannot depend on our military alone.”  I concur.  He may have been referencing foreign policy abroad, but the domestic implications have never been more time-sensitive.


University of Oklahoma “Shooting”








On January 22, the University of Oklahoma’s official twitter feed transmitted the following message:

OK university twitter update





Soon after, the shooting was flashed as Breaking News on all the cable news outlets (television and websites).

The sprawling campus immediately went into lockdown mode.  Over the next several hours, additional twitter updates provided seemingly relevant information.

All university operations and classes eventually returned to normal after the true
cause was determined: machinery backfire from a nearby construction vehicle.

When assessing this situation, I think it’s fair to note that a student was shot and
killed a day earlier on the campus of Purdue University.  Purdue University is located in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Fortunately, what resulted from the University of Oklahoma incident was only campus-wide anxiety and inconvenience.  No injuries were reported.  So it would appear that this case of the mistaken emergency alert will likely end up in the virtual dustbin of “texty tweets.”  No harm done.

Allow me to offer an alternative perspective.

During an October 1, 2005 football game at Oklahoma University’s Memorial Stadium, a crowd of 84,501 was enjoying the 2nd quarter when fans heard a “loud rumble” in close proximity to the stadium.  No official explanation was given as to the source of the noise, but fans claimed it sounded similar to a “low-clap” of thunder.

During the intermission, fans were not allowed to exit the stadium.  Many fans remained “anxiously unaware” throughout the remainder of the game.  When the game ended, the public address system was used to convey information regarding closed-off exits and alternate modes of egress.

What spectators actually heard during the 2nd quarter was an individual who blew himself up with TATP (triacetone triperoxide) less than 200 yards from the stadium.  That is correct.  The bomber, identified as OU student Joel Henrichs III, was immediately killed in the explosion.  The FBI and local authorities launched an extensive investigation and determined it to be an isolated incident with no ties to terrorism.

Although initially reported by national media outlets, the story was quickly withdrawn from the mainstream news.  Considering the magnitude of a person blowing themselves up outside one of the largest entertainment venues in the midwest, this raises a series of other questions.  But I’d prefer to focus on the issue at hand.

Have University of Oklahoma officials been properly briefed on the potential consequences of sending out an “accidentally false” emergency notification?  What if their Twitter feed was hacked or intentionally misused?  Even if the information was factually correct, are they aware it could trigger a mass panic resulting in an artificially generated stampede?  The 2005 self-detonation in Norman, Oklahoma occurred well before Twitter became socially relevant in 2007.  Do current models governing emergency alert systems accurately reflect the changes in social media and technological advancements made in the past decade?  Are the Department of Education and Federal Communications Commission on top of this?  What about the Department of Homeland Security?

The Department of Education has been woefully inadequate in addressing this area of concern.  It’s largely due to the sensitive nature of emergency evacuation protocol and difficulty in coping with the other issues that would naturally surface as a result.  This matter clearly falls under the guise of the 1990 Clery Act which governs the timely, public notification of criminal activity on campus.  And it should be addressed by the NCAA Executive Committee as well.  But you cannot address any of the sub-issues without a broader acknowledgement.  Because when it’s all said and done, it’s a civil rights issue.

People have a fundamental right to know that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device… it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

You simply cannot micromanage this degree of awareness.  Not only is it exceedingly relevant, it’s the truth.  Plain and simple.  I’ll even concede that pertinent follow-up information could be delivered via cellular platforms.  But only AFTER an initial evacuation order is delivered in a unified, coherent fashion (through the public address system, and perhaps if available, the jumbotron).  It’s not as complicated as it sounds.  It’s just a matter of current emergency evacuation protocol norms.

I notified OU President David Boren of this matter in multiple 2012 letters and an email sent in 2013.  On all three occasions, he neglected to respond.

The University of Oklahoma has an enrollment of just over 30,000 students.  Official capacity for Memorial Stadium is listed at 82,112.  The largest crowd ever exceeded 86,000 in a 2012 contest against Notre Dame.

Much to it’s credit, the University of Oklahoma staged an emergency drill at Memorial Stadium in 2007.  More than 500 students and emergency responders participated in a stadium evacuation resulting from a simulated gas line rupture.  At the time, it was the first ever drill of its kind in NCAA Division I history.

While I see nothing wrong with performing risk assessment and threat analysis, I would submit the following.  There’s a big difference between a meticulously coordinated drill involving less than 1,000 cognizant participants AND a real-time, real-world unplanned scenario with 80x that number.


Cellular Intimidation in the Ukraine

bigbrothercellUkraine has been the scene of recent civil unrest.  Clashes with police in the capital city of Kiev have become commonplace.  Looting, fires, injuries and fatalities are on the rise.  Even the use of catapults has been documented.

Opposition leaders have accused the government of provoking the turmoil by creating violent factions within the protesters.  Sowing the seeds of dissent has long been an effective way to quell large protests.  This strategy incorporates the basic Roman principle of “divide and conquer.”  Nothing new there.

Of particular interest are the recent actions taken by the Ukrainian government.  Laws restricting the right to publicly assemble have gone into effect.  There has been a crackdown on wearing masks and helmets.  Erecting tents and sound systems now require special permits.

But the greatest concern revolves around something that occurred on January 21, 2014.  An ominous, bulk text message was disseminated.  It targeted everyone in the vicinity of the protests.

“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”


From an Orwellian perspective, this is like feeding any hope of a social contract between a government and its citizenry directly into a paper shredder.

Exactly where the message originated from remains a “mystery.”

Three wireless carriers (Kyivstar, MTS and Life) denied any involvement or collusion with the government.  Kyivstar, the largest mobile communication service provider, suggested the possibility of a “pirate” cellphone tower being used to propagate the information.

The phrasing of the message seemed purposely designed to intimidate its recipients.  The specific jargon appears carefully attenuated to echo the sentiment expressed in recent oppressive laws governing the right of assembly.

The ramifications of such an unsolicited, mass text message are designed to set a lingering, menacing precedent.  It doesn’t take a degree in clinical psychology to determine the lasting societal impact.

While this incident is certainly unsettling, it raises an even greater concern as to the prospect of fomenting an artificially generated stampede.  The unfolding crisis in the Ukraine reminds us of just how powerful words can be.  Take a moment and reflect on the consequences of other hypothetical messages and what could happen to unsuspecting crowds elsewhere.

While the mass text in the Ukraine was certainly part of a vindictive agenda, there was still a modicum of restraint.  What would happen if the message incorporated an extreme degree of malicious intent?  An engulfing, blanketing message designed to have a mentally suffocating effect.  If people were to panic, it could get physical really fast.


Stampede Dynamics

mosque picThe new year was ushered in by a human stampede in northwestern China.  Fourteen people were pronounced dead.  The January 5, 2014 stampede was allegedly triggered by the distribution of free bread at the overcrowded Beida mosque in the Ningxia region.

Authorities blamed the tragedy on familiar indicators: gross incompetence, poor crowd control measures and a lack of organization and managerial oversight.

As a result, four individuals were fired: the county and township heads, the county’s director of religious affairs and a deputy police chief.  The mosque’s administrator has been detained on a suspicion of criminal negligence charge.  Although this particular stampede was of limited size and scope, I doubt the firings were of much comfort to those who lost loved ones.

We’ve all found ourselves in dangerously overcrowded situations.  Have you ever felt the “push and pull” of fans at a general admission rock concert?  Have you ever been forcibly lifted off your feet by Mardi Gras revelers in the narrow confines of Bourbon Street?  Have you ever witnessed the aggressive mob mentality as shoppers gather on Black Friday?  These are the typical American conceptualizations of a stampede.

Historically speaking, human stampedes are more common in Asia, Africa and Europe.  Americans associate stampedes with combative bargain hunters, unruly protests, flash mobs and celebratory fans tearing down goalposts.  While there may be elements of anxiousness and trepidation, I can assure you that most people are not fearing for their lives.  Their senses may be heightened, but most aren’t anticipating a life or death struggle.

In the aftermath of a stampede, if a lead investigator were to say, “Well… the crowd just panicked.”  Well… that would likely be an insufficient explanation.  People want to comprehend the reasoning behind how and why a tragedy unfolded.  They want answers.  And that’s when you hear the traditional roll out of excuses regarding organization, planning and management.  But I can assure you of one thing.  The essence of ANY stampede stems from one dominant characteristic – human panic.

So what exactly is it that transforms a large crowd into a churning machine of injuries and fatalities?  Let me give you a hint.  It’s called REAL PANIC – the legitimate fear that your life could abruptly end.  When the physiological behavior of the crowd dramatically shifts.  When you hear the screams.  When parents think their children might die.  When you see that first person get knocked to the ground.  When you witness a person tumble head-first down a steep flight of concrete steps.  When any of these things happen, all behavior that’s customary and routine is tossed out the window.  Now take those unscripted, individual emotions and exponentially multiply them by the size of the crowd.

American ignorance and hubris adds a critical dimension to the equation.  The vast majority of Americans have never been impacted by a full throttle human stampede.  They simply cannot grasp a hundred people being trampled or forcibly ejected over the railing of a soccer stadium.  Or far worse, a thousand people suffocating from compressive asphyxiation in a condensed area, such as the 1990 Hajj (a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia), the 2005 Baghdad Bridge stampede or a bomb shelter in 1941 Chongqing, China.  They’ve just never witnessed the raw impact of genetically ingrained herding instincts.  It’s one thing to read about it in a brief newspaper clipping.  It’s entirely another thing to be an actual participant.

As I was explaining earlier, it’s best to put aside your preconceived notions of what constitutes a human stampede.  A legitimate stampede is a unique phenomenon that Americans are simply unfamiliar with.

There’s an enormous difference between:

believing the notion that “those things” just don’t happen here


believing the notion that “those things” could NEVER happen here.

There are all kinds of steps you can take to mitigate a disaster, but real-time, real-world panic has a way of instantly transforming the situation on the ground.  All the regulations, all the security, all the precautionary measures — none of it matters, if and when, the panic is genuine.  But the bigger mistake is believing that Americans are somehow fundamentally different or less susceptible to the dynamics that govern human panic.  We aren’t.


A Small Step in a Big Direction

imagesIllinois Governor Pat Quinn just signed Senate Bill 1005 into law.  Its purpose is to discourage attempts at creating malicious flash mobs through electronic communications.  It went into effect January 1, 2014.  The bill overwhelmingly passed the Illinois House and State Senate.

The new law calls for lengthier incarceration if you’re found guilty of using electronic communications to solicit or commit the offense of “mob action.”  It seeks to address the growing problem of social media being intentionally used to instigate hostile flash mob gatherings.  Its current focus revolves around issues of looting and random violence.

SB 1005 came about in response to the socially media-driven mobs that spontaneously terrorized Chicago’s famous MAG Mile in March of 2013.  The Magnificent Mile is a prestigious section of Michigan Avenue.  It is home to vast retail stores, museums, restaurants and some of the tallest buildings in the United States.

While this legislation does address the issue of violent mobs, it fails to focus on the more serious prospect of targeted human stampedes.

A little background is helpful.

While I agree with the general sentiment of SB 1005, it fails to take into account the possibility of mass numbers of people falling prey to a deliberate hoax.  The primary concern here is an artificially generated stampede or dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes).  Hypothetically speaking, if unexplainable human stampedes were to suddenly take place in large football stadiums (say, for instance in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Houston), it’s reasonable to assume that millions of people would head straight to social media, particularly facebook and twitter.  Cities hosting overlapping events would immediately be impacted by the ensuing viral blitzkrieg, or “info-bomb.”

People who embrace social media often fancy themselves as “renegade journalists.”  They’ll post a wide variety of information: celebrity deaths, sports scores, local traffic and weather updates, etc.  But they seem especially drawn toward showcasing anything in the realm of “live” or “breaking” news.  Naturally, if you wish to be the center of attention, that’s where the action is.

Social media is particularly vulnerable to the hoax culture because there’s an inherent level of trust among established contacts.  If such an unfathomable catastrophe were to transpire, I seriously doubt the new breed of social media junkies would stand idly by.  They’d be motivated to take action.  Many would call and text.  Others would post and tweet.  Consequently, the situation would spiral out of control as larger concentrations of people are bombarded with threatening information.  In specific locations, these people would panic… and they would run.

The notion of retroactively seeking punishment against potentially millions of people who unknowingly contributed to real-world human stampedes is a ludicrous one.  I imagine the Illinois courts would have a difficult time determining exactly who, among the millions, acted with deliberate intent.  And while I go to great lengths to avoid the “c” word (conspiracy), I would encourage you to think about it from that perspective.  Nobody knew what was happening, but somehow, everybody was in on it.  SB 1005 is a micro-targeted solution to a much broader problem of tremendous scope and magnitude.

There’s only one universal solution to this issue.  And that’s awareness.  While I salute the Illinois legislature for being proactive, they need to acknowledge that this is but one tiny aspect of a much larger civil rights issue involving the right to defend oneself.  The concept of an artificially generated, or information-based stampede, sets an expansive precedent.  Tentative, piecemeal legislation is not the answer.  Politicians and those in charge of venue security need to acknowledge that the best solution involves an all-inclusive acceptance of how cellular communications, social media and the prospect of a malicious hoax present a dangerously unresolved situation.

Of course it all starts with raising awareness.  People have a fundamental right to know… that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone, it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.  A legitimate evacuation order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone.  What percentage of the population is currently aware of this?  It’s hard to say.  Tops… maybe an honest 5%?  Do your own research.  Just ask anyone.  They’ll all say the same thing.  “Whoaa… I never thought of that.”

There was a famous rapper who died in 1996, just before widespread cell phone use came of age.  Ironically, his words still resonate in 2014.

Don’t believe everything you hear.  Real eyes, Realize, Real lies. – Tupac Shakur


Comprehending the Dominipede

Comprehension_000Sometimes a word or an idea is ahead of its time.  Such is the case with the term “cyberspace.”  It was coined by science fiction author William Gibson in 1982.  He was describing his vision of a global computer network that linked people, machines and sources of information throughout the world.  Gibson was conceiving of a way to navigate through virtual terrain.  This concept would eventually become a universal reality… roughly 15 years later.

A “dominipede” refers to multiple artificially generated stampedes — simultaneous human stampedes likely the result of a mass cellular hoax involving perceived evacuation orders and/or panic-inducing information.  Domino + Stampede = Dominipede.  The term itself does not exist… as of yet.

People often have difficulty comprehending the nature of a hypothetical event.  This is understandable.  After all, how is anyone supposed to accurately predict the future?  Even with the most sophisticated technology, coupled with access and insight into every past event, it’s very difficult to predict “future history.”

Here’s an open admission.  I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t speak with omniscient beings.  I also don’t have top-secret government clearance and access to classified information.  So this leaves me with two basic ways to predict a future hypothetical calamity.  One method involves the common sense approach of “connecting the dots.”  The other method requires “thinking outside the box.”

One way to conceptualize a dominipede is through the prism of 9/11.  When people talk about 9/11 you often hear words like spectacular, bizarre, horrific, unconventional, unimaginable, unfathomable.  Our government termed it an “asymmetric” attack.  But is that really an accurate classification?

Think about it.  We’ll assume that you subscribe to the conventional narrative of 9/11.  People knew that passenger planes could be hijacked.  The worldwide airline industry had witnessed countless hijackings, both successful and unsuccessful.  Additionally, people knew that planes could be used as weapons.  World War II was replete with the legendary heroics of kamikaze pilots.  And the evidence of individuals willing to martyr themselves is overwhelming.  The term “suicide bomber” is virtually synonymous with terrorism.  Let’s connect the dots.

  • Hijackings occur.  That’s a fact.
  • Planes can be used as weapons.  That’s a fact.
  • Acts of terrorism often employ suicide bombers.  That’s a fact.

So when it comes to 9/11, why is it that nobody was able to connect the dots and take preventative action?  There are plenty of specific answers to this question.  But a superior answer lies within the concept of government inertia.  The United States government is a risk averse, massive bureaucracy.  Sometimes a cataclysmic event “must seemingly happen” before government can acquire the necessary momentum to address its underlying vulnerabilities.  This is especially true with regard to acts of foreign and domestic terrorism.  Simply stated, the government has enough difficulty tackling formidable problems in the here and now.  It’s not particularly well-equipped to address consequential hypotheticals.

Now let’s revisit the 9/11 analogy and apply it to the dominipede.

  • Cellular technology and interconnectivity are on the rise.  That’s a fact.
  • The pace of information delivery is accelerating.  That’s a fact.
  • Hoaxes are becoming increasingly prevalent.  That’s a fact.
  • Human stampedes have happened and will continue to happen on ALL continents (with the obvious exception of Antarctica).  That’s a fact.
  • Human beings have a dark history of searching for innovative ways to kill each other.  That’s most definitely a fact.

Another way to comprehend the dominipede involves “thinking outside the box” and grasping its underlying “essence.”  Let’s try and find some relative context.

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake originated off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

tsunamiAs you can see, the tsunami’s impact was felt as far away as the tip of South Africa.  This was admittedly a natural disaster but it helps to acknowledge the “rippling effect.”  When the global ecosystem faces a significant disruption, it’s impossible to contain the fallout.  A massive wall of water could just as easily be a blitzkrieg of information. And from a technological perspective, everything on our planet is spiraling in one direction — rapid interconnectivity.

Powerball is pretty much a national lottery.  It builds upon itself.

Naturally, when there isn’t a winner, more people start buying up more tickets and the payout grows accordingly.  There’s often a feeding frenzy mentality.  Some refer to it as lottery fever or hysteria.  Consider the behavior of your family and friends, coworkers and the media.  Everything culminating toward an exponential build-up, until that singular moment of truth — the drawing.  That one centralized moment impacts every ticket holder, in every single location, instantaneously and simultaneously.

In 2010, the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East and Northern Africa.

arab-spring-mapMany countries experienced civilian uprisings, protests and bloodshed.  Some governments were transformed.  Others cracked down.  Regardless of how everything panned out, the message of greater personal freedom was intrinsically powerful.  It spread in real-time and had real-world consequences.

So what are the underlying characteristics of these three events?  Interconnectivity, emotion and synchronization.  What might happen if you combine all of these ingredients?  And in what direction is the trajectory of society trending?

Major policy decisions are always centered around the dissemination of a message.  When humanity seeks to comprehend substantive issues and events (both inspiring and catastrophic), we rely upon the management of information.  But the dominipede is a hypothetical, so one must rely on thinking outside the box.  Unfortunately, time and awareness are critical components in this equation.

Now here’s the million dollar question — exactly what could happen when you have no time to solve a problem you don’t know exists?  Even worse, what if people know about an impending problem but simply refuse to address it?  As I mentioned earlier, predicting the future is no easy task.  But I do know one thing.

Synchronized fear + large crowds that have no idea what’s going on = a very negative outcome.

I’ve been very reluctant to invoke 9/11 in my writings, but there’s a reason I used it in this article.  Much like intentionally crashing a hijacked plane, the artificially generated stampede is simply another “crack in the system.”  With every passing day, these cracks continue to expand.  If the problem is not dealt with, if the cracks don’t get sealed… the likely outcome is a dominipede.


Super Bowl XLVIII Security and the Artificially Generated Stampede

Superbowl 48Super Bowl 48 is quickly approaching.  The big event is set for February 2, 2014 at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.  However, this year is a little different.  Not only is it the first “cold weather” outdoor Super Bowl, but it’s also guaranteed to surpass all prior championship games in the realms of security, media coverage, profit and technological connectivity.

Even though planning for the Super Bowl begins well over a year in advance, it’s difficult to get an estimate on the total cost of security.  Due to its “Level I” security designation by the DHS, federal officials seem reluctant to divulge even a rough estimate.

When you factor in the influx of additional FBI agents, security consultants, outside specialty contractors, mobile command and control, crowd management personnel, military assistance, surveillance equipment, SWAT teams, radiological, biological, chemical and nuclear detection teams and equipment — the costs begin to escalate.  Now factor in a few other federal and state agencies and residual concerns regarding 9/11.  It’s safe to say that overall security expenditures are spiraling in one direction… upward.

One could credibly argue that this will be the “Security Bowl.”

The last three Super Bowls ranked as the most heavily watched programs in U.S. history.  Each game had a total viewership of roughly 110 million individuals.  Unless you live under a rock, you’re likely aware of what’s going on the evening of February 2, 2014.

The Super Bowl is always the center of the media universe.  And by virtue of neighboring New York City being the number one media market in the United States, this means even greater visibility.

I think you can easily make the claim that Superbowl 48 will be the “Coverage Bowl.”

It’s generally assumed that wagering (legal and illegal) on the NFL title game exceeds 10 billion worldwide.  Last year, a 30 second ad sold for an average of 3.8 million.  Official merchandise, consultant salaries, the regional economic impact, etc. — the Super Bowl is always big bucks.

If you renamed it the “Money Bowl,” you’d be on safe ground.

I could comment on the level of technological connectivity at Met Life Stadium, but I’ll just let these testimonials speak for themselves.  They speak volumes.

Mark Lamping, New Meadowlands Stadium Co. President and CEO

“Through the use of technology, we have set the bar for sporting venues in terms of fan interaction, stadium management and our ability to adapt to changing consumer demands.  In working with premier technology brands, such as Cisco and Verizon, we bring to our fans one of the most tailored and unforgettable experiences in sports today.”

John Mara, President and CEO, New York Giants

“Never before has any sports venue integrated so many cutting-edge technological developments.  When fans enter New Meadowlands, they are going to feel like they’re stepping into the future.”

Woody Johnson, Chairman and CEO, New York Jets

“When you’re watching a game at home, comforts don’t stop at the screen and we don’t believe the enjoyment of a live sports event should stop at the field.  We’ve made the New Meadowlands Stadium more information-rich than any sporting venue has ever been — and we’ve made it as comfortable and well-stocked as your dream kitchen and living room.”

Steve Tisch, Chairman and Executive Vice President, New York Giants

“We’re proud to be leading the charge in creating the premiere sports stadium and setting the gold standard for technology use in the new stadium.  Our $100 million investment will allow the stadium to stand the test of time, and our sound technological infrastructure will serve us well today and far into the foreseeable future.”

Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon Communications Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

“As a cornerstone partner of New Meadowlands Stadium, Verizon is helping create a home team advantage for New York Jets and New York Giants fans.  This exciting destination is changing the game for how we engage with sports and entertainment, and is a model for future interactive arenas.”

John T. Chambers, Cisco Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

“Cisco is committed to delivering world-class solutions for sports and entertainment, and we are delighted to help New Meadowlands create this state-of-the-art facility, one of the finest multipurpose venues in the world.  This new venue will feature the latest technologies in video and interactive solutions, providing fans with a truly memorable experience.”

I’ll assume these executives know what they’re talking about.  This goes well beyond technological interconnectivity.  It sounds more like technological hyper-connectivity.

Perhaps we should call it the “Connectivity Bowl.”

Now with all these security measures, with all the media coverage, with all the big money interests, with all this hyper-connectivty… has anyone bothered to ask one simple question?

What if large numbers of people in the stadium suddenly receive panic-inducing information or an evacuation order via their cell phones while the game is in progress?

Has anyone warned spectators that it would almost certainly be a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede?  Don’t human beings have a fundamental right to this miniscule chunk of knowledge?

In the aftermath of an artificially generated stampede, I could envision Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL front office going into damage control mode.  They would claim that even though the tragedy was unforeseeable, they still did everything possible.  After all, the 2008 NFL Fan Code of Conduct specifically states how when attending a game, fans are required to refrain from the following behaviors:

  • Behavior that is unruly, disruptive or illegal in nature.  I believe a human stampede would apply.
  • Failing to follow instructions of stadium personnel.  Yet again, a human stampede would apply.

Elsewhere in the guidelines, the NFL puts the onus on team staff to enforce the rules and lays out repercussions for what can happen when fans don’t follow the rules. When asked about whether or not the NFL feels it can do more to create a safe atmosphere, NFL Public Relations Executive, Rich Aiello said, “We can always do more.

Mr. Aiello, as an NFL PR exec, I’m glad you’re concerned about fan safety.  And since you’d like to do more, here’s a thought — how about warning fans that evacuation orders don’t come from cell phones?  Since I doubt this will happen, just promise me one thing.  That in the aftermath of an artificially generated stampede, the NFL doesn’t plead total ignorance.  Trust me on this.  It would be an uphill public relations battle since Commissioner Roger Goodell and every NFL owner was informed of the possibility in 2012.

So exactly what are the contingency plans if fans receive evacuation orders and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phones while the Super Bowl is in progress?  Well let me give you a hint.  They don’t exist.

Truth be told, even after having written this article, I’m not terribly concerned about an artificially generated stampede at Super Bowl 48.  Why?  Well, not because it couldn’t happen.  I just think that any person or organization willing to perpetrate an attack of this nature would likely possess an extreme degree of “malicious intent.”  And this would obviously lead them in the direction of inflicting the greatest amount of collateral damage (multiple, simultaneous stampedes).  And that would likely steer them toward the 1 o’clock slate of games.


The Impact of Klayman v. Obama

Screen-Shot-2013-12-16-at-3.22.19-PMThe December 16, 2013 ruling of Klayman v. Obama is especially relevant to the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  D.C Federal District Court Judge Richard Leon, a 2002 George W. Bush appointee, presided over the case.

Judge Leon’s decision jeopardizes a portion of the federal government’s domestic surveillance operation — the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program.  This program enables the all-encompassing collection of massive reams of cellular information (phone call identity, frequency, location and duration).  His decision suggests that NSA conduct is unconstitutional and violates the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of American citizens.  In the post-Edward Snowden leak era, this case is venturing into uncharted territory.  It is complex, controversial and will likely face a lengthy adjudication process.

The government’s position is that the comprehensive metadata collection and storage program serves as a valuable tool in combating terrorism.

Leon countered, “The government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.”  None of the three cases cited by the government illustrate how telephony metadata can prevent or protect against a terrorist attack involving any apparent urgency.

At some point, it’s reasonable to assume that the federal government will be pressured into providing legitimate evidence of how the bulk collection of telephony metadata can thwart a terrorist attack.  Since the stakes are immeasurably high and most law is determined by factual precedent (not vague speculation), the familiar “this is a classified matter involving sensitive national security which cannot be divulged” explanation will likely be insufficient.  But if pressed, the government could assert how the NSA program has become a necessary component in the safeguarding of “large, confined crowds.”

As it relates to an artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, such an assertion would be intentionally false.  Here’s why.  There is no viable way to control the fallout from a human stampede.  By definition, it is an event that unfolds in real-time.  Critical reactive decisions, such as the issuance of a presidential terror alert or internet shutdown order, could not be orchestrated in seconds by massive bureaucracies.  Furthermore, such actions would likely be ineffective without a prior degree of public awareness.  Most important, the notion that mitigation could serve as a feasible strategy for preventing or lessening the severity of a real-world, human stampede is simply implausible.  It does not make sense.

Now here’s what makes all of this particularly frustrating.  Although the NSA won’t admit to it, it’s “a given” that the agency has obtained cellular location and tracking metadata on crowds of 50,000+.  It’s also reasonable to assume they’ve been doing this since the means became available.  The methods of acquisition are numerous… cell phone tower dumps, mass trilateration (utilizing GPS tracking), Stingray technology (an electronic surveillance device that simulates a cell tower and captures information), season ticket holder lists, etc.

So let’s assume these “cellular footprint lists” exist.  The burden of proof would logically fall upon the U.S. government to prove otherwise.  Here are some relevant questions:

  • Does the federal government have a legitimate need in acquiring this information?  If the current (classified) justification involves the safeguarding of large crowds, this would be a blatant contradiction.
  • Is this information shared with other government agencies (FCC, DHS, FEMA, etc.), corporations and/or individuals?  How long is it stored?  Is it secure?
  • Has this information ever been sold?  Such information would hold tremendous value to those in the corporate arena or anyone with a nefarious agenda.
  • Does the U.S. government acquire metadata of large crowds in foreign countries (soccer stadiums, religious festivals, political protests and conventions, etc.)?

When I speak of artificially generated stampedes, I often use the term “discernible inevitability.”  It’s impossible to know the specifics of an event which has yet to transpire.  With certain aspects, one can only speculate and make generalizations.  But I do understand the “future trajectory” of mankind.  In the aftermath of an artificially generated stampede, whether here or abroad, I think there would be one overriding question.

  • Was there a list?

In the event of a dominipede, I suspect society would ask another question.

  • How could this have happened?

Simple questions like these would be front and center.  So when President Barack Obama reassures Americans that “nobody is listening to your phone calls” and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein tells reporters, “this is just metadata,” I think it’s reasonable to conclude that they’re either oblivious, ill-informed or intentionally trying to deceive.

I’ll eagerly concede that I don’t have all the answers but I do have an important question.  I would implore any reporter to ask administration officials, “Could the metadata itself conceivably be used as an indiscriminate weapon?”


DARPA Proposal and the Viral Blitzkrieg

darpa_50th_logoDARPA (the Defense for Advanced Research Projects Agency) is an agency within the DOD (Department of Defense).  It was established in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration in response to the Soviet Union launch of Sputnik 1.  DARPA’s original mission was to prevent technological surprise and ensure that U.S. military technology was superior to that of our enemies.

DARPA often conducts research and development projects in the fields of technology and science.  This would encompass a wide range of disciplines designed to address the full spectrum of national security.  The organization is noted for “thinking outside the box” and avoiding the trappings of government bureaucracy.

In 2013, DARPA accepted bids for a proposal termed “Defense Against National Vulnerabilities in Public Data.”

DoD DARPA SBIR 2013.3 – Topic SB133-002

The objective was to investigate the national security threat posed by public data available either for purchase or through open sources.  In other words, could a modestly funded individual or group deliver nation-state, damaging effects using only public data (open-source information)?

DARPA’s goal was to identify and assess hypothetical real-time vulnerabilities and construct plans to mitigate the potential damage.

Pertaining to the artificially generated stampede, my greatest fear is the potential for a viral blitzkrieg (a bombardment of information designed to saturate a specific location(s) and exponentially spread panic).  The conceptual similarities between the DARPA proposal content and the viral blitzkrieg are textbook.

A viral blitzkrieg:

  • would require very little technical expertise.  Sophisticated computer skills, hacking or elaborate manipulation of communication channels are all unnecessary.
  • would require virtually no funding.  From a monetary perspective, the transaction cost (rate of return) would easily set a new precedent in the realm of generational warfare.
  • could be attempted by a determined, single individual.  The Department of Homeland Security is often preoccupied with “lone wolf” scenarios.  As a foreseeable act of terrorism, there would be little need for a larger organizational structure and traditional command and control operations.

Regarding the viral blitzkrieg, a major concern is the exposure and vulnerability of the traditional media (television, radio and even print).  People in this industry would not likely possess extensive knowledge of stadium evacuation protocol.  Adding to the problem, their established name recognition affords them an automatic degree of implicit trust with the general public.  Furthermore, all their relevant contact information (phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts) is overtly placed in the public domain.

A viral blitzkrieg would rely heavily on individual, disparate reactions.  A very high percentage of those in the media have smart phones and are actively encouraged to use social media (facebook, twitter, etc.).  Those real-time reactions could have real-world consequences, especially in the event of a hoax evacuation order or perception of an imminent threat.  Good news travels fast.  Bad news travels faster.

As stated in the “Defense Against National Vulnerabilities in Public Data” proposal, the chief goal is to “develop methodology for risk assessment and mitigation.”  The defining characteristic of the artificially generated stampede involves the acceptance that real-time mitigation is a futile strategy.  This juxtaposition makes for a chilling, volatile contrast.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the viral blitzkrieg’s bitter irony.  Incident commanders (those entrusted with the authority to order evacuations) tend to be older individuals.  The speed, penetration and saturation of the information age is something fundamentally foreign to many of them.  Most would be very leery of making any substantive changes to evacuation protocol, especially since current models have functioned successfully for decades.  On the other hand, the younger generation has a far better comprehension of wireless communications and the internet, particularly the instantaneous delivery of information.  Unfortunately, when you take an overview of the industry, you’ll quickly discover that very few young people actually hold these jobs.  And that same dynamic exists with NCAA leadership and NFL ownership.  Yet another direct contradiction.

Sometimes you cannot see the forest for the trees.


Pearl Jam Solution to the Artificially Generated Stampede

Pearl-JamFor the purpose of this article, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) provides a decent conceptual definition of “mitigation.”

Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life by lessening the impact of a disaster.  It involves analyzing risk, reducing risk and insuring against risk.  Effective mitigation requires that we all understand risk, address hard choices and invest in societal well-being.  Without mitigation actions, our collective safety is jeopardized.

Real-time mitigation is an incorrect strategy for combating an artificially generated stampede.  During a real-world stampede, OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loops are rendered meaningless because time is a nonexistent variable.  There’s no opportunity to assess the situation and mitigate the disaster.  Any attempt to control widespread panic would be unsuccessful because once a stampede commences, there’s no way to put the “panic genie” back in the “stadium bottle.”  It simply doesn’t work that way.

Human stampedes can develop instantly, consistent with “fight or flight” response mechanisms a/k/a herding instincts.  Since mitigation is not an option, any comprehensive solution would require a certain degree of speculative anticipation and foreknowledge.  Therefore, heightening awareness becomes absolutely critical.  Awareness is the only viable strategy for preventing an artificially generated stampede.

Regarding our country’s largest football stadiums, my research has led me to two inescapable conclusions:

  • the NCAA has identified the problem but is unwilling to publicly address the issue or offer any guidance
  • the NFL has been entirely disinterested and wholly unresponsive

Pertaining to this aspect of emergency evacuation protocol, both are unwilling to alter the status quo.

What desperately needs to happen is a broad awareness campaign.  You must start physically informing people that a legitimate evacuation order would never be delivered via everyone’s individual cell phones.  Whether it’s running a looped message over the public address system, outlining common sense information on the jumbotron or physically handing out literature, neither organization is willing to do what’s necessary — educate the public.  You need to tell them.

Since the stakes are immeasurably high, I devised some alternative methods to prevent artificially generated stampedes.  One was a political solution for the President of the United States.  Another idea was a premise based on the culture of Hollywood.  At its core, the artificially generated stampede is an incredibly generic concept.  It’s simply the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  The same principles that govern stadium safety apply to any locations with large, confined crowds, including arenas and outdoor amphitheaters.  With that in mind, I conceived of another solution involving the music industry.  I’ve termed it the Pearl Jam Solution.

On June 30, 2000, Pearl Jam played an outdoor festival in Roskilde, Denmark.  During the set, nine fans lost their lives in a human stampede near the front of the stage.  The concert was halted as emergency responders dealt with the severely injured and the lifeless bodies of those trampled to death and crush asphyxiated.

When band members speak of the Roskilde stampede, one truly senses the impact felt by such a grotesque calamity.  The following quotes were taken from the documentary “Pearl Jam Twenty.”

singer Eddie Vedder:  “I just didn’t want it to be true.

bassist Jeff Ament:  We’ve gained a “unique perspective on where we’re at and how fragile life is.

guitarist Stone Gossard:  “From that point on, we rethought everything.  I think we kind of quantify everything that’s happened to us as pre-Roskilde and after Roskilde.

Ten years later in a 2010 Berlin anniversary concert, Vedder reflected on the tragedy… “we learn things about ourselves and have an appreciation of life that we didn’t understand before.”  His comments outline the devastating emotional toll of human stampedes. “It’s not like we’re thinking about it anymore today, because it’s really something we’ve thought about everyday.

It’s conceivable that during the Roskilde grieving process (which they admit to be ongoing), band members held themselves personally accountable.  It was originally alleged by Danish police that Pearl Jam “whipped the crowd into a frenzy” and should be held “morally responsible.”  Pearl Jam later issued an official statement.

During a 2013 sold out Pearl Jam concert at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, a severe storm necessitated a weather delay.  Vedder made the initial evacuation announcement.  Although the venues differ considerably, the Roskilde tragedy was partially blamed on the muddy grounds resulting from earlier heavy rainfall.  Judging by his tone and tenor, I believe Vedder has retained a marked understanding of what can happen when you mix large crowds with inclement weather.

Pearl Jam would appear uniquely qualified to broach the subject of artificially generated stampedes for the following reasons:

  1. Their prior involvement with a deadly stampede
  2. The band carries with it an exclusive degree of respect and admiration
  3. Longevity and worldwide popularity (1990 to the present)
  4. Industry relevance and strength of touring — the band routinely plays on all continents
  5. A history of political activism — they’ve been notoriously outspoken on issues involving war, the environment, social justice and fundamental human rights

Rock bands have a distinct perspective on live events.  Once a concert starts, there are no more practice sessions, no more sound checks.  The same notion applies to human stampedes.  By its very definition, an artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, is a “live” event.  History would not offer a dress rehearsal.

Of course any U.S. citizen has a definitive First Amendment right to weigh in on this topic.  But very few will, largely because there’s no financial incentive and it involves morally delicate, hypothetical subject matter.  And aside from the AGSAF website, the issue just isn’t part of the public domain.

Let me remind you of something.  The moral dimension of the artificially generated stampede extends well beyond a single, isolated tragedy.  The looming prospect of a dominipede makes this the least known, most unpredictable national security threat faced by the United States of America.  And one more thing… there are no second chances with multiple, simultaneous human stampedes.  Humanity would not be afforded a do-over.

Feel free to share this article on any social media platform.

The Problem With Standard Operating Procedure 303

INTERNET-KILL-SWITCH-300x2551In 2006, the NCS (National Communications System) approved Standard Operating Procedure 303.  The content of SOP 303 is not available to the general public.

SOP 303 is commonly referred to as the “internet kill-switch.”  It provides an explanation for the “shutdown and restoration process of commercial and private wireless networks during times of national crises.”  The underlying rationale is that it contains information used to deter the triggering of radio activated bombs or IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

If deemed necessary, such a decision would be ordered by homeland security advisors or individuals within the DHS (Department of Homeland Security).  It would be coordinated through the NCC (National Coordinating Center) based on prior input from the NSTAC (National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee) and other related agencies.  The NCC would be responsible for determining if a shutdown is necessary based on a “series of questions.”

In anticipation of a 2011 San Francisco protest, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cut off all cellular service inside four transit stations for a period of three hours.  The BART incident has sparked a renewed interest in the government’s power to shut down internet access and other communication services.

In 2011, the White House asserted that the NSC (National Security Council) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy have the legal authority to control private communications systems in the United States during times of war or other national emergencies.  In 2012, the White House approved an Executive Order seeking to ensure the continuity of government communications during a national crisis.  The DHS was granted the authority to seize private facilities, when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.  The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is preparing to implement policies governing the shutdown of communications traffic for the “purpose of ensuring public safety.”

In July of 2012, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center) submitted a request to the DHS for:

  • The full text of Standard Operating Procedure 303
  • The full text of the predetermined series of questions that determines if a shutdown is necessary
  • Any executing protocols related to the implementation of Standard Operating Procedure 303, distributed to the DHS and other federal agencies or private companies, including protocols related to oversight of shutdown determinations

In August of 2012, the DHS claimed it was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records” pertaining to this matter.

On February 27, 2013, EPIC filed a lawsuit calling for greater transparency.  The United States District Court for the District of Columbia rejected DHS arguments that its protocols surrounding an internet kill-switch were exempt from public disclosure and ordered the agency to release the records within 30 days.  The court had two overriding concerns:

  • The accuracy of the DHS claim that it would substantially compromise “techniques for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.”
  • The overly broad interpretation of the safety exemption – “encompassing possible harm to anyone anywhere in the United States within the blast radius of a hypothetically unexploded bomb.”

I suspect the DHS will appeal on the grounds that the release of any such information would directly compromise national security interests.

The generally accepted, public consensus surrounding SOP 303 concerns the hypothetical wireless detonation of bombs or IEDs.  While this does represent a legitimate concern, I believe there is an overlooked matter of even greater importance — artificially generated stampedes.  I would implore EPIC, particularly those presently involved with litigation regarding SOP 303, to familiarize themselves with this national security issue.

Concerning the prospect of artificially generated stampedes, mitigation strategies are neither realistic nor viable.  It’s likely the DHS will assert that declassifying SOP 303 protocol could endanger the lives of citizens in large, confined crowds (particularly NFL and NCAA football stadiums).  Please be aware that such a statement would not only be purposely misleading, but patently false.

This ongoing case will involve sensitive, yet very generic subject matter.  It is an incredibly challenging issue, both legally and conceptually.  It’s my contention that the United States government would prefer this conversation not be held in the public domain.  If you wish to discuss this matter further, please contact me.

Eric Saferstein



Remotely Controlled Stampedes

Remote ControlHand me the remote.

Stop scrolling so fast.

Turn down the volume.

When most people hear the words “remote control,” they usually think in terms of changing the channel.  But using a remote represents more than an attempt to determine what’s on television.  It’s an action that results in mental activity and physical movement.  Every single time you hit an arrow button, an OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop occurs.  Most people don’t analyze the underlying process too much, probably because their behavior has become so instinctual and routine.  Needless to say, society has quickly adapted to the concept of remote control technology.

Different types of remote control devices influence decision making.  And they influence physical motion, or a lack thereof.  TV remotes even spawned the term “couch potato” which has a negative, lethargic connotation.  Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 are video gaming platforms.  They require skillful hand-eye coordination and rapid response.  Faster decisions are generally rewarded accordingly.  A garage door opener is another type of remote control device.  It triggers hesitation.  How many times has your spouse hit the button and slowly drifted toward the rising door?  It’s fascinating how so many people have this strange inclination to shave 2 seconds off their entry.  Is this purely a coincidence or is it part of something bigger — some form of subliminal, technological conditioning?

You might not be aware of it, but nearly everyone is carrying a remote control device.  They’re called cell phones.  This technology follows us everywhere and has a substantial impact on our day-to-day activities.  A little perspective is important.  Back in the 1950’s, if you told people that everyone will someday have a portable phone calling device, they would have likely questioned your mental health.  Now tell them you’ll be using that same device to trade stocks, store and play music, send photos, book a flight, activate a dishwasher and cancel your dinner reservations… all without speaking.  Call me naive, but I’m pretty sure they would have questioned your sanity.  Take a moment and reflect on the progression of communication, technology and society.

Cell phones heavily influence our choices and emotions.  A call from the doctor’s office evokes immediate concern.  A call from child protective services is reason for alarm.  A call from a debt collector can elicit irritation, anger and anxiety.  These situations have evolved into social norms.  And our government has helped us along the way.  In case of an emergency, dial 911.

The U.S. government has recently expanded on its ability to remotely contact its citizens.  This public service is called WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts), formerly known as PLAN (Personal Localized Alert Network) or CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System).  It’s basically a nationwide mobile emergency alert system under the jurisdiction of the FCC and FEMA.  It can be used to deliver:

1.  Alerts issued by the President
2.  Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
3.  Amber Alerts

All of these scenarios involve the transmission of real-time information.  They can create elements of concern and apprehension, fear and panic — further evidence that cellular technology directly impacts human emotions.

Let’s shift gears for a moment and talk about drones.  Drones are one of the newer, high-profile weapons of war.  Make no mistake about it, the United States leads the way in targeted assassinations from great distances.  Drones are by definition a remote controlled mechanism of modern warfare.

Modern drones came into militarized existence around the same time as another technological innovation, the campus emergency alert system.  When a university deals with a time-sensitive crisis such as a shooting or reported lone gunman, they’ll use this communications medium to rapidly distribute a mass text alert.  In extreme situations like these, the message invariably calls for a campus “lockdown” until the situation can be resolved.  A lockdown is an effective means of restricting widespread physical movement.  It is another method of implementing remote control.

Here’s a good question.  Is it reasonable to assume the opposite could happen — the delivery of intentionally untruthful alerts specifically designed to create a mass panic?

The planet earth has a population of roughly 7 billion.  Currently, there are about 6 billion active cell phones in the world.  The projected number of active mobile phones will exceed the world population by 2014.  Am I the only one who has considered the possibility of cell phones being used as weapons?  I doubt it.  Am I the only person to make an issue of it?  As far as I’m aware.

So is it reasonable to warn the population that cell phones can be used as weapons of warfare, or at the very least, a method of coordinating mass, simultaneous movement resulting in human stampedes?

Should people be aware of this very generic concept?  Of course.
Are they?  Not as far as I’m aware.

We the people deserve that fundamental human right.


Tough Questions

tough-questionsWith regard to the AGSAF website and awareness campaign, I’m often asked the following question. “What kind of feedback have you received?”

As of early November 2013, I have accumulated numerous emails, letters and phone calls.^

The NFL has offered no feedback whatsoever.

The NCAA community has demonstrated a considerably different reaction.  So far, I have acquired 42 official responses from 30 universities.*  The term “official” refers to written or emailed correspondence from university presidents, chancellors and their staff, legal counsel, campus police and those responsible for game day management and stadium security.

Many universities (74%) chose not to respond.  I believe this was based on two factors: the degree of difficulty in addressing the issue at hand combined with concerns regarding liability, litigation and plausible deniability.

Of those who did respond, the common elements were:

  • an expression of appreciation for bringing this matter to their attention
  • a declaration of how they take these matters very seriously
  • a closing promise to share and review my concerns

But sometimes when I raise the issue of artificially generated stampedes, people in leadership positions tend to obfuscate.  Whether it’s unintentional or deliberate would be a matter of opinion.  However, I think it’s safe to say that most have difficulty formulating a response.  Since the questions I’m posing are highly provocative, it’s understandable when they try to “dance” around the issue.  It’s troublesome as well.  Troublesome but understandable — a tough combination.

I liken it to a professional boxer who is continuously ducking, dodging and weaving or a skilled politician trying to distract, deflect and pivot.  Rather than directly confront the specific issue of artificially generated stampedes, they choose to engage on the more general topic of stadium security.  They’ll often reference:

  • an emphasis on proper training procedures for ushers and staff
  • a reliance on increased security and enhanced screening procedures
  • the routine testing and review of stadium command and control operations
  • the benefits of reserved seating as opposed to general admission seating
  • the use of evacuation videos with an emphasis on exit visibility
  • a commitment to curbing unruly behavior often attributed to alcohol consumption
  • how their venue construction and architecture adheres to current NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) Life Safety Code regulations
  • how even though they have the utmost confidence in their campus text alert system, such a platform would not be utilized in an emergency evacuation scenario

All of these bullet points represent valid stadium security measures.  But they all have one thing in common.  None of them adequately address the issue of cellular technology being used to purposely trigger a stampede.  Every bullet point seems carefully attenuated to either sidestep the topic or substantively alter the conversation.

What I find particularly worrisome is that people seem unwilling to recognize how the terrain of society has shifted.  Cellular technology has altered real-time, real-world conditions.  Officials seem solely focused on their own stadiums, their own security, their own campus alert systems, their own evacuation plans.  None of them seem willing to acknowledge that they are part of the larger NCAA community.  This is very alarming.

It’s my fundamental contention that if a significant tragedy occurred in one or more stadiums, it would most certainly impact other locations.  In today’s age of simultaneous live broadcasts and mobile interconnectivity, just how quickly would word spread of human stampedes?  Good news may travel fast, but I can assure you that bad news travels much faster.

It’s no wonder that people try to avoid the issue of artificially generated stampedes.  Even I am considerably reluctant to throw out hypothetical examples of NFL or NCAA teams, stadiums, cities and time zones.  If delving into these specifics makes me feel uncomfortable, I can only imagine how such forthrightness might dissuade others (especially those who are ultimately responsible for stadium security and fan safety).

One can argue the finer points of stadium security until the fat lady sings (or in this case, until the final buzzer sounds).  But at the heart of it all, there’s a very simple point to be made.

There are police chiefs and incident commanders who are in charge of stadium security.  These individuals are well aware of one guiding principle — that under NO CIRCUMSTANCE WHATSOEVER would you ever conduct an emergency evacuation by transmitting information to everyone’s personal cell phone or mobile device.  That’s just not how it’s done.  Since the vast majority of stadium attendees have never given any consideration to these matters, one can argue that this makes them dangerously unaware.

It’s really not that big of a deal.  Just tell people the truth… that in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, a legitimate order would NEVER originate from their personal cell phone or mobile device.  This statement will eventually become common knowledge, so why not just get it out in the open.

Football might be a dirty game, but it’s time for the NFL, the NCAA and the federal government to finally come clean.


* – University of Cincinnati, University of Missouri, Clemson University`, University of Virginia`, Virginia Tech`, Rutgers University`, Eastern Michigan University, University of Nebraska, University of Southern California`, San Jose State University, University of Oregon, University of New Mexico, The Ohio State University`, University of Washington, Duke University, US Army West Point`, University of Georgia, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Wisconsin, Penn State, Northern Illinois University`, University of North Texas, University of Miami`, University of Arkansas, Wake Forest University, Georgia Tech, University of Houston, Notre Dame University, University of Minnesota, Colorado State University, US Air Force Academy, West Virginia University

` – indicates multiple responses

^ – Phone calls are difficult to measure and quantify.  Therefore, I’ve decided to omit that information.  Feel free to contact me and I will provide a more comprehensive analysis and a list of the additional universities.


Why Lou Anna Simon Should NOT Be The Next NCAA President

lou anna simonIn 2012,  I raised the issue of artificially generated stampedes with every NCAA Division I university president and chancellor.  I received a total of 26 written responses.  An overview of that correspondence can be found here.  Michigan State University President, Lou Anna Simon, chose NOT to respond.  This was certainly her prerogative.

On August 13, 2013, I sent an email with the following content to NCAA Division I leadership.

In 2012, I sent you multiple letters regarding outdated emergency stadium evacuation protocol.

Stadium attendees have a fundamental right to know that a legitimate evacuation order would NEVER originate from their cell phone or mobile device.  Such an action would almost certainly be an attempt to induce widespread panic and create an artificially generated stampede.  This transformative issue has still not been addressed by the NCAA, the NFL and the federal government.

I implore you to take a moment and review the content of this website.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me immediately.
Thank you for your consideration.


Eric Saferstein
45 Ridgewood Avenue
Wheeling, WV  26003

cell: 304-312-1395

I received informative responses from the following institutions: University of Notre Dame, University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, University of North Texas, University of Houston, Rutgers University, Wake Forest University, Georgia Tech and The Ohio State University.  I also received a reply from the University of Miami.  If you wish to read any of the above correspondence, please contact me.

In addition, on August 30, 2013, I received an unsolicited response from NCAA representative Janice Whitehead.


Dear Mr. Saferstein:

Thank you for your email. The NCAA takes security issues seriously, and the safety of our student-athletes and fans is of the utmost importance.  We will share your materials with our security experts for further review.

—–Original Message—–

From:<>                     []

Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 10:15 AM


Subject: stadium security

President Simon,


Stadium attendees have a fundamental right to know that a legitimate evacuation order would NEVER originate from their cell phone or mobile device.  Such an action would almost certainly be an attempt to induce widespread panic and create an artificially generated stampede.  This transformative issue has still not been addressed by the NCAA, the NFL and the federal government.

I implore you to take a moment and review the content of this website.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me immediately.
Thank you for your consideration.


Eric Saferstein
45 Ridgewood Avenue
Wheeling, WV  26003

cell: 304-312-1395

As you can see in her response, the opening sentence from my initial email was deleted.  This sentence was crucial because it offered vital context and information.  It’s my contention that President Simon chose to intentionally delete this sentence.

This is very disturbing for three distinct reasons:

  • In the event of an actual stadium stampede, it’s a meager, premeditated attempt to assume a position of plausible deniability and purposely lessen future culpability.
  • The prospect of an artificially generated stampede is a matter of national security. Failing to respond in her capacity as President of Michigan State University demonstrates an inability to address a serious issue and one in which there could be a foreseeable conflict of interests.
  • It demonstrates either a lack of situational awareness or an exceptional degree of naivete.  Surely President Simon was aware that an identical email was sent to over a hundred of her peers.  For her to knowingly alter such correspondence, or for that matter any correspondence, constitutes a reckless decision.

It is possible that President Simon is completely innocent of this accusation.  It is conceivable that Janice Whitehead, who authored the response, sensed that information contained within the original email could be damaging to Simon’s current standing or future career aspirations.  And therefore, Janice Whitehead knowingly altered it of her own volition.  But this scenario seems highly unlikely.

The President of the NCAA wields enormous power and influence.  If NCAA Executive Committee Chair Lou Anna Simon has any intention of seeking this particular leadership role, the concerns I’ve raised call for an immediate explanation or at the very least, a greater level of clarity.

If you can shed any light on this matter, please contact NCAA President Mark Emmert.


South Park Solution to the Artificially Generated Stampede

peg1-stars-hollywood-signIn 2011, I made a personal commitment to raise awareness regarding the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.  I wrote a book about the topic.  The following year, I arranged a meeting with the FBI.  I informed them of my decision to initiate an extensive letter writing campaign.  I took my message to the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Education as well as the NCAA, NFL and several other organizations.  Results have been mixed.  I’ve documented many of my findings and observations on the AGSAF website/e-newsletter.

It has always been my contention that mitigation is not an effective strategy for combating an artificially generated stampede.  Awareness is the key element.  This would entail extending a specific degree of knowledge to the general public.  The essence of that message is best described in the AGSAF mission statement.

People have a fundamental right to know…  

that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
and/or panic inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Furthermore, I believe that all human beings deserve to know that in the unlikely event of a stadium emergency evacuation, a legitimate order would NEVER initially originate from your personal cell phone.  It’s as simple as that.

But as you might expect, an overriding catch 22 keeps getting in the way.  For if you acknowledge or draw attention to a problem, you own it… and if it happens, you’re to blame.  A familiar analogy is the infamous “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” memo from August of 2001.  In the aftermath of 9/11, this memo’s leak was very damaging to the credibility of the Bush administration.  When attempting to asses hypothetical national security issues, the spread of knowledge and information can become a critical, future liability.  And even the tiniest paper trail can result in a bureaucratic train wreck and a public relations nightmare.

Much like the circumstances surrounding 9/11, very few are willing to acknowledge that artificially generated stampedes are an inevitable national security issue.  Here’s a question you might ask yourself.  Which action seems easier to perpetrate — the spreading of a mass, cellular hoax OR the execution of multiple hijackings and intentional crashing of passenger planes?

Even though the artificially generated stampede is a simple matter of public safety, the federal government is disinclined to be forthcoming.  Our government is in a difficult spot.  It’s faced with two bad choices.  Either acknowledge the catch 22 and brace the notion of accountability OR choose to remain intentionally ignorant to the point of woeful neglect and gross incompetence.  Neither is an enviable option.  And without a clear directive or any substantive guidance from the federal government, the NFL and NCAA are far less likely to broach the subject.  So everything remains in a dangerously extended state of limbo.

In my continuing effort to heighten awareness and inform the general public, I began to explore one additional strategy.  I termed it the “Hollywood Solution.”  I’ve often envisioned the possibility of a high profile Hollywood producer creating an epic movie documenting a full-blown dominipede (a cascade of simultaneous human stampedes most likely impacting the NFL).  The movie itself would venture into the undiscussable nature of human stampedes — why they happen and how they’re triggered.  If you have a powerful, urgent message, cinema is a great medium for conveying information.  Everyone might not be well-read, but just about everyone watches movies.

With the recent passing of Tom Clancy, I revisited this idea.  Clancy was well-known for his national security, political action thrillers such as Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October and most notably, The Sum of All Fears.  He seemed like the ideal candidate.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my concerns could be more easily addressed in a 30-minute South Park episode.  The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have a satirical format that encapsulates various types of humor (dark, surreal, ironic, shock, etc.).  And their syndicated cartoon has considerable worldwide reach.  My hunches tell me that creating an artificially generated stampede episode would be right up their alley.  The South Park founders have demonstrated an inclination for:

  • engaging in controversial political discussion
  • bashing organized religion
  • discussing taboo topics and showing unusually graphic and distasteful imagery

With these bullet points in mind, I created a narrative for a future episode.  Instead of writing an actual script, I’ve provided a brief synopsis for each scene.  A couple of the scenarios I explore may seem absurd, but the triggers are intrinsically linked to the concept of artificially generated stampedes.  They also resemble themes expressed in past South Park episodes.

South Park Solution


Scene 1:  The local church in South Park is raffling off a block of tickets to the upcoming Denver Broncos game at Sports Authority Field.

Scene 2:  The winners are selected.

Scene 3:  Everyone boards the bus for the journey to the big city.

Scene 4:  During the trip, everyone is obsessed with social media.  Every passenger has this overwhelming, insatiable desire to tell the world that they’re heading to the football game.  Texting, tweeting, sending pictures, calling, hacking, vining (the creation of short looping videos), selfies, instagram posts, continual facebook status updates, check-ins, etc.

Scene 5:  This self-absorption and narcissism continues during the game.  Nobody seems concerned about the action on the field.  They’re all engrossed in their cell phones, receiving and transmitting as much information as they possibly can.

Scene 6:  All of a sudden, bomb threats and evacuation orders simultaneously overwhelm large numbers of cell phones resulting in a mass panic.  An artificially generated stampede rips through the stadium.  People are screaming and crying, tripping and falling.  Naturally, many fans are crush asphyxiated or trampled to death.  Some are forcibly ejected off the spiral rotunda.

Scene 7:  The following day back in South Park, a church service and candlelight vigil are held.  The pastor explains the mystery of why bad things happen to good people.  It’s all part of God’s master plan.  We’ll learn from this incident and move forward.  In keeping with this theory, the pastor announces another church sponsored Broncos ticket raffle and another chartered bus trip.

Scene 8:  Once again, the bus leaves for Denver.  Some on board appear a bit edgy, but the majority are still preoccupied with social media platforms (more of the same behavior exhibited in scene 4).

Scene 9:  During the game, everyone’s cell phone begins conveying information that Miley Cyrus and Erik Estrada are holding an impromptu wedding reception on the lower concourse.  They’ll be twerking and signing autographs.  The entire stadium becomes gripped with an instantaneous case of celebrity, hero-worship.  And of course, another stampede ensues.  But there was no marriage.  It was all just a deliberate hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

Scene 10:  Another solemn memorial service is held, and sure enough, the pastor invokes the relentless human spirit and themes of 9/11 (we will never forget).  And in the repetitive South Park tradition, he offers up a defiant cure — the recurring Denver Broncos getaway.

Scene 11: This time during the ride, people are considerably more hesitant to embrace social media.  They demonstrate a little more discretion but eventually throw caution to the wind.  Outside the stadium are newly constructed warning signs that illustrate how fake celebrity weddings can be used to induce stampedes.  The public address system is running a looped message that disputes the possibility of other unlikely couples (Chewbacca & Cher, Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky, Sally Struthers and Meatloaf, etc.)

Scene 12:  Once inside the stadium, people are engulfed with information via their cell phones.  This time it’s about free hot dogs being offered at the concession stand.  Of course, this sets in motion yet another human stampede.

Scene 13:  Back at the church, another day of grieving is upon us.  The pastor’s sermon is the same established narrative.  Once again, he references the indomitable human psyche and how there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.  If we stand united, we’ll make it through these horrific tragedies.  And of course, he offers up another Denver Broncos excursion.

Scene 14:  But on this occasion, the townspeople are beginning to ask themselves, “Why do we keep falling for these malicious hoaxes?”  First it was bomb threats, then it was celebrities and now it’s hot dogs.  Needless to say, everyone’s on pins and needles.  They’ve all grown very leery of social media.

Scene 15:   The periphery of the stadium has more warning signs posted and looped messages concerning the potential dangers of free food.  Not only hot dogs, but also hamburgers, nachos, cotton candy, etc.

Scene 16:   Once again, stadium attendee cell phones are flooded with information about a free hot dog giveaway.  However, on this occasion, everyone has wised-up.  They know the hot dog messages are a sham.  It’s just another lie designed to create an artificially generated stampede.  As they’re congratulating each other for not being foolishly swept into another panic, a follow-up message comes across their cell phones.  This time the hot dogs will have MUSTARD!   The lure of the condiment proves too powerful an incentive.  And of course, another stampede breaks out.

Scene 17:  The next week people are walking aimlessly outside the stadium, mired in fear but still with a look of resolve and grim determination.   In the background, the public address system is warning fans about the dangers of condiments.  As the credits role, the list extends beyond mustard and includes other perceived condiments… ketchup, relish, chili, mint jelly, mini-marshmallows, pencil shavings, glue, etc.


Philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) coined the following phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  There are several other variations, but I think this one pretty much sums it up.

An artificially generated stampede can be sparked by a seemingly infinite number of triggers.  It cannot be solved through mitigation.  At some point in the future, likely in the aftermath of a horrific but preventable tragedy, the federal government will summon the inertia to inform its citizenry and openly discuss tactics of prevention.  Any core strategy will be centered around simple awareness campaigns.  I’m not a seasoned philosopher or political scientist, so I’ll just ask the most obvious question.  Why do we have to wait for the government to get its act together?

NFL Stadium Emergency Evacuation Videos

emergency-evacuation1National Football League stadium emergency evacuation videos are a touchy subject.  Simply stated, evacuations aren’t supposed to happen unless the circumstances are exceptionally dire.  Further complicating the matter, it’s difficult to candidly broach the subject when much of the rationale and many of the underlying components are held under a veil of tight-lipped secrecy and innuendo.


There are 2 basic reasons to stage an evacuation:  dangerous activity or the perception of an imminent threat.

With regard to inclement weather, such as lightning strikes, the NFL consensus seems geared toward delaying start times and temporarily suspending games.  It’s a reasonable and viable means of avoiding an evacuation scenario.  NCAA football stadiums seem to exercise a little less discipline.  They’ve exhibited a greater willingness to engage in full scale evacuations when dealing with extreme weather.  Such was the case during several college games in early September of 2011.

In the 2013 Baltimore vs. Denver NFL season opener, the kickoff was delayed 34 minutes.

broncos statementIssuing a voluntary evacuation statement could have unintended consequences.  Giving a sold-out crowd of 76,000+ the opportunity to make their own decisions is a potentially dangerous course of action.  But I think it signals something else.  There seems to be a league-wide reluctance when it comes to ordering full scale evacuations.  I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the NFL is deeply concerned over the notion of setting an “evacuation precedent.”

In week 2, there were additional lightning related weather delays in Tampa Bay (Attendance: 60,870) and Seattle (Attendance: 68,338). The games were suspended as players and personnel were cleared from the field, but no evacuation was ordered for the fans.  Some fans even chose to remain in their seats.

seahawks statementIn all three weather delays, it appears that officials handled the situation well.  They exhibited a reasonable amount of cautionary discretion.  However, it’s more anecdotal evidence that the NFL is less inclined to stage complete evacuations.

Emergency evacuation protocol is sensitive material.  At the core of everything is the notion of distinguishing a bomb threat condition from a bomb threat emergency.  For obvious reasons, this is a highly nuanced dilemma.  It should not come as a surprise to know that just because someone phones in a bomb threat or leaves a menacing note at the concession stand… that in itself, is likely insufficient reason to stage an evacuation.  A bomb threat “emergency” invokes a much higher threshold of evidence.

Let me be very blunt.  There is ample documentation of multiple NFL stadiums receiving bomb threats while games were in progress.  But no evacuation orders were issued.  And the reason is obvious – it would set an atrocious precedent and likely encourage copycats.  The evacuation of any NFL stadium due to a bomb threat “condition” would likely be viewed in hindsight as an abject failure.  In cases like this, the best evacuation is simply NO evacuation.

Yet, amidst the confusion, NFL stadium emergency evacuation videos are becoming increasingly visible.  Of the 32 NFL teams, a total of 16 have videos posted on their official websites (Arizona, Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis).

Sixteen NFL teams do NOT have evacuation videos posted on their official websites (Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington).

This is noteworthy because it demonstrates a lack of meaningful guidance from the NFL front office.  Unfortunately, when the subject matter is taboo and emergency preparedness norms vary, it can produce mixed results.  Some teams seem willing to promote these videos in the interest of fan safety.  Others appear more reserved about venturing into uncharted territory.  Some might even think that evacuation videos do more harm than good.  A clear directive on this matter from the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would seem advisable.

Now just because a team opts to forgo displaying a video on their official website doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t created or shown evacuation videos.  It’s merely a determination to not post the video.  Also, many teams opt to employ written statements concerning evacuation protocol.  For example, both New York teams share Met Life Stadium.  The NY Jets display an evacuation video on their official website whereas the NY Giants do not.  The Giants just have a series of carefully worded statements.  Same stadium but different teams.  Different organizations.  Different people.  Different interpretations and approaches.

I viewed the 16 NFL stadium evacuation videos.  All of them are roughly 1-2 minutes in length.  The majority of each video clip is devoted to providing a detailed explanation of how fans should exit the venue, specifically by level and section.  But oddly enough, NONE of the videos reference exactly how the instructions for an evacuation would be disseminated.  That is correct – none of them. There’s simply no mention of utilizing the public address system or the jumbotron.

Of the 16 videos…

None of them discuss the possibility of an artificially generated stampede.  This is wise.  It’s best not to delve into hypothetical scenarios as it would likely become a slippery slope.  Exactly where does one the draw the line?  Raising such an issue could also be viewed as imprudent fear mongering.

Nine of the videos (56%) reference a reliance on obtaining assistance, information and direction from ushers and staff members.  Seven (44%) make no mention of this.

This is a noteworthy discrepancy because in the event of an unanticipated emergency, such dependence on “lesser authority figures” could actually lead to a heightened state of confusion and the potential for a greater degree of unpredictability.  A successful emergency evacuation relies heavily on the delivery of a single, unified, coherent message.  Further augmenting the problem, most stadiums run their evacuation public service announcements during generally “low impact” moments, particularly as fans are filtering into the stadium.  This would appear to be a monetarily driven decision designed to not interfere with the game or high profile advertising.

Thirteen of the videos (81%) stress the importance of how fans should remain “calm” and/or exit in an “orderly” fashion.  Three (19%) made no reference to any human emotions or behavior regarding an exit strategy (Carolina, New Orleans, and St. Louis).

Twelve of the videos (75%) mention that escalators and elevators are not to be used in the event of an emergency evacuation.  In fact, the New Orleans Saints video references the non-use of escalators and elevators on 4 separate occasions.  Four (25%) made no mention of escalators or elevators (Kansas City, Green Bay, San Diego and Seattle).

The big overriding question… from a risk assessment/management perspective, is it REASONABLE to tell people that they would never receive a legitimate evacuation order from their cell phone?  Even though none of the 16 videos reference how an evacuation order is disseminated, I believe it is both appropriate and necessary.  Any competent incident commander (the individual with the authority to order an evacuation) will readily concede that under NO CIRCUMSTANCE WHATSOEVER would you launch an evacuation by transmitting information to everyone’s individual cell phone.  Because it could jeopardize the entire process.  It’s the one issue where there would be unanimity.  In an industry filled with difficult judgement calls and ill-defined parameters, this is the one assertion where there would be total agreement.  But nobody is willing to acknowledge or address the fundamental issue of outdated emergency evacuation protocol.  So the entire discussion remains dangerously underneath the radar.

Stadium safety and security is a continually evolving issue.  The NFL is currently immersed in its new “clear bag” policy.  Although the NFL won’t overtly disclose why the clear bag policy was implemented, I think it’s fair to assume that a major reason is to discourage and prevent attendees from bringing any kind of weaponry into a stadium.  The discharge of a weapon is one of those circumstances that could necessitate a full scale evacuation.  And full scale evacuations just simply aren’t supposed to take place.  If you think about it, it’s really kind of ironic.  Because while security is inspecting the trinkets and cosmetics in a “12 x 6 x 12” zip lock bag, many fans are physically raising a cell phone in their other hand.  Needless to say, the hand holding the cell phone doesn’t receive as much scrutiny.


Duck and Cover Analogy

images-6If you need a good chuckle, just take a look back at the U.S. government’s “Duck and Cover” campaigns of the 1950’s.  Obviously, in the event of a nuclear attack, the wisest course of action is to hide under your desk.

You might make the argument, “Well, back then, we just didn’t know any better.  People, society, the world… it was simply a different time.”  There was an understandable, pervasive naivete.  Think about it.  In those days, the biggest problems in the classroom were fidgeting, chewing gum, cheating and truancy.  These days we’re concerned about bullying, teen pregnancy, sexual assault and gun violence.  It appears that society has “grown up” and is more willing to acknowledge its shortcomings.  Nowadays, we confront the difficult issues directly.  Because we have no choice.

I disagree.  As it pertains to emergency bomb threat evacuation protocol, the duck and cover ideology is alive and well in 2013.  It’s governed by a singular, all-encompassing assumption… that every bomb threat will be properly phoned in to a central authorized location.  So it can be dealt with in a way that is appropriate, efficient and orderly.

At face value, this appears to be a fine plan.  But there’s one critical, overlooked component.  And the dilemma is painfully obvious.  Nearly everyone in the stadium has an active cell phone.  This makes every stadium attendee individually susceptible to panic-laden information.  Current emergency evacuation protocol does not take into account this inherently evident, irrevocably altered dynamic.

Sixty years later, we’re dealing with the same “duck and cover” problem all over again.  There exists a societal intransigence, an unwillingness to discuss the undiscussable.  Anyway you look at it, the prospect of an artificially generated stampede is a very generic idea.  Instead of a single threat, there’s a myriad of threats.  It’s really that simple.

Since mitigation is a futile real-time strategy, there would appear only two options.

  • Do nothing and remain at risk.
  • Acknowledge the compromised state of emergency evacuation protocol and address the matter head on.

If you really think about it, at least “duck and cover” was a demonstrable course of action.  Back then, at least our government made a feeble attempt to address the matter.  What we’re currently faced with is a protracted state of dangerous inaction, rising to a blatant level of moral, and possibly criminal, negligence.

Public Address Message

speakerartificially generated stampede – a sudden rush of people likely the result of panic-inducing information delivered via cell phones or mobile devices

I have a concrete, common sense way to combat the artificially generated stampede.  In all honesty, it will likely not be enough to avert a tragedy.  But it’s certainly worth a shot.  The effort to raise awareness needs to start somewhere.  The other option is to do nothing.  In my opinion, that choice is morally negligent.

Now you might argue, is it all worth it?  And the answer is most definitely.  Because even if the stampedes don’t happen, the issue will eventually become front and center when some person or group tries to maliciously stage an evacuation(s).  Whether or not they’re successful shouldn’t even be the big question.  Think of it in these terms.  Has anyone ever intentionally pulled a fire alarm without cause?  This scenario just requires a greater degree of effort.

Let’s use a little deductive reasoning.  We’ll examine the issue from the perspective of large football stadiums.

A.  There are individuals (police chiefs, incident commanders, stadium managers, etc.) who possess the ultimate authority to issue an emergency evacuation.  People who hold these positions are cognizant of the fact that a legitimate order would never be initially disseminated via mass cellular platforms.  It would be delivered over the public address system, perhaps in concert with the jumbotron.

B.  The vast majority of event attendees have never thought about these issues.  Therefore, it’s reasonable to conclude they are dangerously unaware.

The question becomes, “Do event attendees deserve the right to possess this same degree of knowledge.”  Even though evacuation protocol is sensitive subject matter, it’s my contention that they do.

So here’s my recommendation.  Utilize the public address system at all major events (football games, auto racing events, concerts, etc.) to broadcast the following message in a looped format as fans enter the venue.

Please be aware… that in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, such an order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone.

Let’s dissect it.

Please be aware – denotes a polite, pleasant effort to bring the issue to everyone’s attention.  Awareness is paramount.

I use the “…”  to enhance the pause inflection and allow the speaker to inhale.

unlikely event – infers an important acknowledgement that an unanticipated evacuation would not be the norm.

emergency evacuation – use of the word “emergency” is both reasonable and necessary.  A hoax threat would almost certainly be characterized or cloaked under the general guise of an unexpected emergency.

such an order – “order” infers it would likely come in the form of a highly suggestive declaration or overt command.

would NEVER originate – emphasis on the word “NEVER.”   Unless the federal government, particularly the Federal Communications Commission or the Department of Education under the auspices of the Clery Act, acknowledges that it has the legal authority to execute large scale evacuations through mass SMS (short message services) delivered via cellular platforms, I believe the word “never” to be accurate.  It seems highly unlikely the federal government would preemptively assert control and assume responsibility for these hypothetical situations.  However, in the aftermath of a tragedy, I think it’s reasonable to believe the government (both federal and state) would seize a more substantive role.

“originate”  – implies a variety of communication techniques (emails, phone calls, text messages, etc.) and methods (intentional misuse of an opt-in notification system or wireless carrier, sabotage of a text alert system, spoofing, any type of concerted hack, a viral blitzkrieg, etc.).

personal – the word “personal” helps reinforce the notion of disparate, individual reactions rather than an all-encompassing, orderly, collective response.

cell phone – It could also be appropriate to add the phrase “or mobile device.”  But at this point in time, I think the term “cell phone” is sufficient.

So let’s read it one more time.  Please be aware… that in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, such an order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone.

This statement is consistent with current emergency evacuation protocol.  I have several other variations, but I believe this one sums it up as succinctly as possible in a relatively plain and straightforward fashion.  I believe it would be counterproductive to offer excessive justification or use more aggressive terminology including buzzwords like “bomb, panic, stampede,” etc.

I tried to pattern the statement after a familiar, automated airport security warning.

“Passengers… do not leave your belongings unattended.  Luggage or bags left unattended will be seized by airport security.”

Both are highly suggestive recommendations designed to create situational awareness.  It’s important to note that the recently adopted airport security warnings have evolved into “routine policy.”  You might not regularly hear this warning, but society has witnessed the gradual extension and application of this policy into other realms (schools, trains, courthouses, shopping malls, etc.).

My objective is to spread awareness with regard to the artificially generated stampede.  This same degree of situational awareness would obviously apply to arenas, auto-racing facilities, political conventions, county fairs… any location with large, confined crowds.

Other than the obvious “what if you put an idea in someone’s head” argument, there are two foreseeable downsides to using this message.

A.  It’s an open, honest admission that a situation could arise in which the host venue does not have complete control of the evacuation process.  The implication is subtle, but could have legal ramifications in the aftermath of a tragedy.  People might argue that the warning wasn’t sufficient or “strong enough.”

B.  It disqualifies the federal government from claiming the authority to launch evacuations of large venues via cellular platforms.  At some point in the future, especially in the aftermath of a dominipede, it’s highly likely the U.S. government would wish to demonstrate greater control over the ability of citizens to congregate in large gatherings.

I’d even be willing to concede the following… that there could come a future point in time where legitimate evacuation orders are exclusively delivered via cellular directives.  But as a society, are we there yet?  Is that where the current societal expectation lies?  Absolutely not.  It’s not even a close call.

I think it all comes down to a simple question.  Does providing this one sentence for public consumption do more harm than good?  Is it reasonable?  With regard to the artificially generated stampede, I believe there’s a certain “discernible inevitability” of it being attempted (whether successful or unsuccessful).  Therefore, I believe the warning message is a wise and necessary measure.


The Prevalence of Cell Phones

cell-phonesCell phones are generally regarded as the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world.  According to the 2013 PEW Research Center Internet & American Life Project, American adults that own a cell phone hit a record high of 91%.  Of that percentage, 56% have “smartphones.”


A smartphone is a mobile phone that includes advanced functionality beyond making phone calls and sending text messages. Most smartphones have the capability to surf the web, display photos, play videos and check and send e-mail.  As with most technology, as the costs of production becomes less prohibitive, smartphone ownership will likely continue to increase.

A 2012 Cisco Systems marketing video showcases the future of this technology.  Regarding the evolution of fan interaction with mobile technology, one might say that we’re still in the early stages.

This 2 minute, sleek production provides an excellent backdrop for my larger concerns.  Most major entertainment venues are searching for ways to augment their cellular coverage while avoiding jammed networks and system disruptions.

Two words – maximum connectivity.

It’s difficult to find any reliable data on what percentage of people bring their mobile devices into major sporting events.  But a simple, cursory look at the fans will lead you to the conclude that very few purposely choose to abandon their cell phones.  And unless my eyes deceive me, plenty of people are using their techno-gadgets while the games are in progress.

cell imagesOn a related note, most stadiums have gone to extraordinary lengths in the name of fan safety: enhanced screenings, the NFL’s newly instituted clear bag policy, curbing alcohol sales in the latter stages of the game, etc.  They’ve even established “narc” lines which enable people the opportunity to discreetly report unruly fan behavior.  Not to dismiss any of these concerns, but in this era of ubiquitous mobile technology, isn’t it about time we take a fresh look at emergency evacuation protocol?

Call me naive, but wouldn’t a cellular-induced, human stampede fall under the jurisdiction of event safety and security?  Considering the fact that an ever-increasing number of fans have instant access to real-world information (both accurate or tainted), I think the mission statement for AGSAF has never been more relevant…

People have a fundamental right to know… that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device, it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.


Asiana Airlines Hoax

asiana-flight-crew-names-hoax-video The July 6, 2013 Asiana Airline Flight 241 en route from Seoul, South Korea crashed landed in San Francisco, CA.  It was the worst major U.S. aviation disaster since 2009.

In its aftermath, a news anchor for Oakland’s KTVU fell victim to an age-old, tasteless prank.

Of course, this was just an incredibly shallow, but ultimately successful practical joke.  I doubt too much thought or deliberation went into it.  But let us examine the red flag concern:

*  Nobody caught it before it aired

You’re probably asking yourself, “How could nobody have caught it?  Was everyone working on this news package a stoic, seemingly mesmerized zombie?”  Well, perhaps.  But here’s what’s odd.  This prank went undetected, not only by the anchorwoman, but also by individuals in multiple departments (including assignment editors, producers, graphics, editors and directors).  Real human beings spoke these fictitious names and wrote them as well.  And here’s what’s really scary.  The phony names were then verified through a government agency.  The NTSB blamed the mishap on a “summer intern,” but their apology speaks for itself.

NTSB statement on erroneous confirmation of crew names

July 12, 2013

The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.

The NTSB does not release or confirm the names of crew members or people involved in transportation accidents to the media. We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today’s incident.

Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated.

Office of Public Affairs

490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW

Washington, DC 20594

(202) 314-6100

Kelly Nantel

Just an aside – isn’t it peculiar that an anonymous, summer intern could function as the NTSB’s liaison for the worst nationwide aviation disaster in the last 4 years?

The Asiana Airlines prank should evoke great concern for two reasons:

A.  The scale and magnitude of the story

Major U.S. airline crashes always qualify as breaking news.  All the factual information is already in the public domain.  Accompanying details should be easily vetted.  Falling prey to this type of “low-brow” hoax is a bad omen.  It speaks directly to the inability of trained professionals and their ability to discern fact from fiction.

If a major city’s network affiliate could be duped…  If the National Transportation Safety Board could provide erroneous information…  Now remember, this singular incident likely originated with one individual and then spun out of control.  But what would happen if something much bigger transpired which had real-world consequences?  What could happen if someone was dedicated to carrying out a prank with an extreme degree of “malicious intent?”  What happens when thousands upon thousands of targeted hoax threats make it through the system at large?

B.  It speaks to the “finish first at any cost” mentality currently pervading the news industry

It’s always about being first.  First to break the story.  First on twitter.  First to be heard.  First to be noticed.  This incessant compulsion to “make” or “break” the news, rather than “report” the news is a very dangerous precedent.  How many times have we witnessed the media get it wrong?  And they’re often huge stories, not just the material you’d find buried somewhere in the lifestyle section:

  • Gore beats Bush
  • Supreme Court overturns Obamacare
  • Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) pronounced dead

With the normalization of the 24/7 breaking news cycle, we’ve come a long way since Dewey defeated Truman.

Harry TrumanThis leads us to another question.  Has the United States ever experienced a widespread cellular hoax that could have had dire ramifications and placed innocent lives in jeopardy?  The answer might surprise you.  The 2011 “Civil Emergency: Take Shelter Now” text message was disseminated through three counties in heavily populated, central New Jersey.

civil emergencyAside from the confusion it created (what happened, what should we do, why must we take shelter), the 911 system was flooded with calls and temporarily rendered useless.  In the event of a real emergency, this would not bode well.

Here are some relevant questions one might pose:

  • What if something comparable happened during a professional football game in East Rutherford, NJ?
  • Would people have behaved differently if they received this message at 12:26 am instead of 12:26 pm?
  • Although apologies were issued, why has nobody stepped forward and accepted ultimate responsibility?

Hoaxes and cellular devices make for a dangerous combination.  It’s not a matter of if there will be a next one, it’s a matter of when.  When will the United States government take the hint?  Will it be another stock market nosedive?  Will it revolve around a politician’s shame or a celebrity’s embarrassment?  Or will it inevitably result in bodily injury and loss of life?

So here’s the question – will the U.S. government take action before or after the next major calamity?  Considering the stakes, this question should not be a rhetorical one.


Think Before You Run

AGSAF logoGood parents and teachers make children learn common sense safety measures.  When we’re young, we often hear phrases like “stop, drop and roll” or “look both ways before you cross the street.”  My father had his own notorious favorite – “Get your shoes outta the middle of the floor!  I almost tripped and broke my neck!”  These command statements usually deal with motion and the ability to protect oneself.


In the aftermath of an artificially generated stampede or dominipede, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that society will witness the emergence of a new phrase.

“Think before you run.”

This straightforward instruction would apply to the prospect of receiving panic-laden information delivered via cell phones.  It would also encompass any cellular directive instructing a person to physically engage in an act of movement (likely regarding a hoax evacuation order).

If you think about it, our lives are governed by signals.  A yellow light at a busy intersection forces you to make a choice.  Speed up or slow down.  The opening bell on Wall Street sends traders into a flurry of activity.  Watch the collective reaction of soccer fans when the referee blows the final whistle.  These events are commonplace and people generally react accordingly.  There’s virtually no expectation of bodily injury or loss of life.

Such is the case when large numbers of people simultaneously use their cell phones.  Because of the routine frequency, there’s no expectation of these individual acts culminating in mass hysteria.  There’s no precedent.  We’ve seen it all before.  Notions of fear and panic just aren’t part of the current equation.  And there’s certainly no prognostication for a human stampede.

But widespread cell phone use has introduced broader implications for society at-large.  It has added a new, previously unexplored variable into crowded situations.  Eventually, this issue will have to be addressed.  Human beings will be forced to alter their previously defined expectations.  And it will also become necessary to reprogram our societal behavior.

Generally and historically speaking, there’s only one way to summon inertia for transformative change.  Regrettably, large numbers of people usually have to unexpectedly die.  There just hasn’t been that one defining moment… yet.  A singular moment in time that galvanizes society to recalibrate, change its perception and move forward.

I’m viewing all of this over a long-term event horizon.  It’s all part of the game.  The game called life.  And every so often, it becomes necessary to change the rules of the game.  Cellular technology has permanently changed the rules of the game.  That’s why the forest fire analogy is so appropriate.  Fires have been around since the dawn of man.  But in the 1940’s, things finally reached a tipping point.  And with that tipping point, government made a collective decision to do something about it.  It launched awareness campaigns.

Our modern day equivalent is the implementation of enhanced airline screening procedures in the wake of 9/11.  The circumstance of multiple planes flying into buildings introduced a different set of variables and dictated a new approach.  Government abandoned the outdated airline screening protocol.  Similarly, rapid advances in communication and technology are literally beckoning for a new approach.  We just haven’t reached that tipping point… yet.

The main difference between the fallout from 9/11 and a dominipede – it doesn’t necessitate spending trillions of dollars.  Instead of money, it all hinges on awareness.  This is a good thing because snippets of knowledge and wisdom are generally an inexpensive commodity.

But our federal government is unlikely to adopt a sweeping, new policy unless there’s a massive allocation of financial resources.  Adding to the problem, unless politicians “have their feet held to the fire” or think they’ll be personally held accountable, our government isn’t inclined to undertake a major course of action.  Now let’s factor in the current climate of partisan acrimony and congressional disfunction.  And finally, making the matter even worse is the overriding catch-22.  If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if it were to happen, guess who reaps the blame?  Four big reasons why it’s so critical to defy the entrenched status quo.

So why can’t we make this major adjustment BEFORE an easily predictable tragedy takes place?  Are our societal expectations so low that we simply cannot adapt and grasp the concept of prevention?  I know what you’re thinking.  But It’s all based on a hypothetical.  The problem I have with that argument – when the outline and conceptual nature of the future tragedy reaches the threshold of being so blatantly obvious and inevitable, it becomes necessary to take action.  If the prospect of a dominipede doesn’t evoke concern…

I’ll readily concede that I don’t have all the answers, but I will assure you of one thing: adherence to the current path is unsustainable.  We’ll never have all the relevant information.  The who, what, when, where and why will remain unavailable… until disaster strikes.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young summed it up best.  Teach your children well.

“Pay attention.”  “Keep your head up.”  “Watch where you’re going.”

Society will have its new slogan, likely sooner rather than later.

“Think before you run.”

Why not make it sooner?


Bridge Stampedes

New River 1On June 28, 2013, a young man identified as Douglas Henrique de Oliveira died after he “fell” from a viaduct (a small bridge) in Belo Horizante, Brazil.  His death came during protests that have engulfed much of Brazil during the Confederations Cup soccer tournament.  His “falling” was likely the result of a sudden rush of protesters in which he was involuntarily pushed over the edge.  Or he may been impacted by tear gas or rubber bullets in clashes with police.  Regardless, it reminded me of past stampedes involving bridges.

Historically speaking, bridges can be dangerous.  Countless have died during the construction and demolition phases, particularly in times of war.  Vehicular accidents on bridges often introduce unusual elements of danger.  These structures are sometimes an instrument of suicide as was evidenced in the 2006 documentary film “The Bridge.”  It examined a rash of such incidents at California’s Golden Gate Bridge.  When most people think of major human stampedes, they immediately think of stadiums and religious festivals.  However, due to their inherent nature, bridges are sometimes the location of tremendous carnage.

Brooklyn 1
In 1883, the much anticipated Brooklyn Bridge was opened to the general public.  It linked Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East RIver.  On the day of the grand opening, an estimated 150,000 people flocked to the bridge and paid the penny toll to walk across it.  A week later, a large crowd was walking across the bridge when someone allegedly yelled, “the bridge is collapsing.”  A panic immediately ensued and 15 people were trampled to death.

Baghdad 1
Fast forward to 2005.  The Al-Aaimmah Bridge stampede killed an estimated 953.  This event represented the single, biggest loss of life during the U.S. led occupation of Iraq (2003 to the present).  During a religious procession, pilgrims had to cross the bridge over the Tigris River in order to reach a shrine in Baghdad.  Tensions were already running high based on earlier mortar attacks that day.  Although difficult to substantiate, rumor of an impending suicide bomber quickly spread through the crowd and triggered the crush.  Most were trampled to death or asphyxiated.  Some of the victims drowned to death as they were forcibly ejected into the river below.
Cambidoa 1
Fast forward another 5 years to Phnom Penh, Camboida in 2010.  The capital city attracted a huge crowd for the annual Water Festival.  An estimated crowd of 8,000 gathered on the bridge for the festivities.  It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what triggered the panic.  There could have been multiple factors.  Some have blamed police for firing water cannons which may have led to accidental electrocutions.  Many claim that the natural sway of the bridge combined with soaring temperatures and overcrowding led to the panic.  Truth be told, it was probably a confluence of several things.  But the inevitable result of all this pushing and shoving was one of the worst disasters in the history of Cambodia.

Pertaining to the Baghdad and Phnom Penh stampedes, it’s not difficult to notice an eerie similarity.  The aftermath of litter – shoes and clothing literally ripped from the bodies of the victims.

In 2012, my girlfriend and I attended Bridge Day in Fayetteville, West Virginia.  This annual event is held in late October and commemorates the completion of the New River Gorge Bridge.  The span is temporarily closed to vehicles as crowds (estimated in the 80,000 range) gather to watch as people BASE jump into the New River Gorge.  It has been held every year since 1980, with the exception of 2011, when it was canceled due to concerns regarding 9/11 and the possibility of a terrorist attack.

New River 2
While I seriously doubt that Bridge Day in central West Virginia would be a likely terrorist target, the event does raise some practical and logistical concerns.  I made a key observation that day.  People seemed to have problems with cell reception.  Lots of unavailable service issues and plenty of dropped calls, likely due to an extreme increase in cellular traffic.  It’s also a mountainous, rural area with a low population density.

But even with the poor cell coverage, I still wondered… just how many festival-goers, law enforcement officials and emergency responders have ever been briefed on the potential for an artificially generated stampede?  Other than my close personal friends in attendance, I’d predict that number to be statistically insignificant.

Observations from Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee

images-9In 2012, I notified every NCAA Division I president and chancellor of my concerns regarding the potential for artificially generated stampedes.  Out of those 119 individuals, only one of them responded not once, not twice but on three distinct occasions.  This indicates more than a high degree of courtesy and professionalism.  I believe it to be a safe assumption that former President Gordon Gee of The Ohio State University viewed my concerns as credible.

The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University 2

The Ohio State University 3

A 2012 article in The Lantern, Ohio State’s widely circulated newsletter, outlines some of my wider concerns.  It details a move toward increasing cell phone coverage at Ohio Stadium.  OSU is not the only major university moving in this direction.

And don’t forget that Commissioner Roger Goodell has made this a matter of policy for every stadium in the National Football League.

Police Chief Michael Cureton oversees security for the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, the second largest college venue in the state of Ohio.  He echoes my broader concerns in this letter.

University of Cincinnati

I’m sure that both Gordon Gee and Michael Cureton would agree with following statement: that under no conceivable circumstance would any responsible party ever launch an emergency evacuation by notifying fans directly and/or exclusively through their cellular devices.

This begs the obvious question… what would transpire if someone with a nefarious agenda decided to set in motion their own evacuation(s)?

If questioned about the potential for human stampedes, I imagine that you might hear about a somewhat archaic system that alerts those in charge of security to immediately allow fans access to the field.  Although this represents a step in the right direction, it does not adequately address the underlying problem presented by the artificially generated stampede itself.  It’s merely an attempt to lessen the severity of a potential calamity.  Mitigation is not a solution.

The state of Ohio boasts an unusually large concentration of NCAA Division I football stadiums.

Dix Stadium, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Doyt Perry Stadium, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Glass Bowl, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio
Peden Stadium, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Yager Stadium, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Summa Field at InfoCision Stadium, University of Akron, Akron, OH

But none of these venues are comparable to the awesome size of Ohio Stadium.
Ranked in the top 5 of all college football stadiums, The Horseshoe broke its previously established attendance record in an October 6, 2012 meeting against the University of Nebraska (106,102).

Other university leadership ultimately accountable for providing a safe game day experience also acknowledged my concerns.  I received an additional 6 responses which reflect oversight on behalf of some of the largest college football stadiums.

President Rodney Erickson, Penn State, Beaver Stadium  (106,572)
President C.L. Max Nikias, University of Southern California, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (94,392)
President Mike Adams, University of Georgia, Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Chancellor Harvey Perlman, University of Nebraska, Memorial Stadium (92,000)
President Jay Barker (2), Clemson University, Frank Howard Field at Memorial Stadium (81,500).

Reflections on the 2012 University of Pittsburgh Bomb Threats

pitt bomb threats image-1During March and April of 2012, the University of Pittsburgh experienced what could only be termed a bomb threat epidemic.  During that span, roughly 150 bomb threats resulted in creating a climate of fear and continuous disruption.  Making matters worse, there seemed to be no discernible pattern to the bomb threats.  Dormitories, classrooms, off campus facilities and even vacant buildings were targeted.  Threatening communications were delivered to individuals, the university, local television and print media outlets, the Pittsburgh police department and other miscellaneous organizations.  They would occur randomly, at any time, on any given day.  Aside from the financial costs, it is nearly impossible to quantify the anxiety and havoc wreaked by the sporadic barrage of bomb threats.

A self-described intelligence analyst known simply as “Andrew” decided to set up a blog in an attempt to consolidate all the pertinent information.  This person claimed to have no affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh.  His motivation appeared to be purely altruistic.  And let me be honest, if you examine his entries, you’ll quickly discover an unparalleled level of professionalism.  He also exhibited ample discretion with an incredibly sensitive topic.  I believe the stopthepittbombthreats blog is the superior, defining source for factual, public information related to the 2012 University of Pittsburgh bomb threat plague.

His blog contained a wealth of information.  There’s far too much to adequately sift through and analyze.  So instead, I’d like to take a look at his final comments and offer some additional insight.

Concluding Remarks

It is absolutely imperative that law enforcement both locally and nationally take a long, hard look at this case. With bare minimal resources, the perpetrators managed to create a disproportionately high level of disruption. If these kinds of anonymous cyber “attacks” are executed at the macro level, the level of disruption could be off the charts. So four important takeaways to consider:

  1. Re-evaluate the warning-response threshold concerning bomb threats,        specifically on the campus of educational institutions.
  2. Law enforcement and university policymakers must establish “best practices” concerning anonymous threats. This series of events has shown beyond a doubt the homeland security instructions on how to deal with bomb threats are grossly insufficient in the cyber age.
  3. Social media is a powerful tool to collect and disseminate information to the public, especially in situations where the media is unavailable to perform its duties (if indeed it is ethical to even do so).
  4. Social media is also a tool a perpetrator can use to collect counter-intelligence. Perpetrators can also use social media to analyze and manipulate public emotions.

I wholeheartedly agree with these recommendations and observations.  Let’s take a closer look at the statement in his preamble…

If these kinds of anonymous cyber “attacks” are executed at the macro level, the level of disruption could be off the charts.

I have a hunch that Andrew may have been referring to the potential for artificially generated stampedes, in particular, a dominipede delivered via a viral blitzkrieg.

In 2012, I initiated a comprehensive letter writing campaign to alert the federal government about the potential for a dominipede.  I contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then wrote to the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Education.  Of these three agencies, I received only one response.  It was in a letter dated April 12, 2012 from the United States Department of Education, Office of Post Secondary Education.

Dept. of Eductaion
Now here’s my takeaway.

It’s my contention that the DHS and FCC do not respond to civilian concerns regarding hypothetical national security threats.  But not only did they fail to address my concerns, they wouldn’t even acknowledge receiving my correspondence (likely a result of the catch-22 – if you acknowledge a problem, you own it and if it happens, you’re to blame).  This would appear to contradict the DHS “If you see something, say something” campaign.  The federal government seems to be saying, “We desperately want to hear your concerns, but we will neither confirm nor deny them.  Furthermore, in certain cases, we won’t even acknowledge them.  Because in the event you’ve touched on a plausible concern, a tangible paper trail could eventually be a source of extreme embarrassment, exposed incompetence and severe political repercussions.”

I think it’s a safe assumption that in the aftermath of an artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, not only would the public demand answers but there would also be some very high profile resignations.

So why did the Department of Education respond instead of the other more seemingly relevant agencies?  I believe the letter from the DOE (which appears to have been meticulously crafted) was composed in error.  It should have neither been written nor sent.  The DOE is likely not in the habit of receiving inquiries regarding sensitive, hypothetical national security issues.  Their written response was likely the result of a procedural lapse or omission in policy.  Regardless, I do appreciate their effort even though I feel it failed to adequately address the essence of my concerns.

The 2012 University of Pittsburgh bomb threat saga is a real-world microcosm.  It represents a defining precursor to the legitimate concerns I have raised regarding the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.  This issue must be addressed by the federal government.  The only remaining questions are when and how.

When will the United States government acknowledge this looming asymmetric threat: before a tragedy or after a tragedy?  I cannot answer this.  But based on past government tendencies and behavior, I suspect it would be after.

How could the federal government go about acknowledging this issue?  This one’s a little tougher.  I would implore President Barack Obama to read an article I wrote entitled, “The Obama Solution.”  At this time, I believe it’s the best viable solution from a national policy perspective.

On a final note, perhaps we need an overhaul in the manner by which our government assesses asymmetric national security issues, particularly those in the realm of communications and technology that fall under the jurisdiction of cyber warfare.  At some point, it could be necessary to create an independent organization outside the scope and bureaucracy of the federal government.  Their sole purpose: to analyze “easily identifiable yet untouchable” issues and directly report them to the highest levels within the presidential cabinet.

We the people, as a nation, cannot exclusively rely on the federal government to adequately protect its citizenry, especially in a situation like this where there appears to be a proven disinclination to acknowledge the existence of the problem in the first place.

Daytime talk show host Dr. Phil pretty much sums it up… “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”

Drunk Driving Comparison

imagesThe issue of drunk driving rose to nationwide prominence in the 1980’s.  California resident Candace Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving when her daughter was hit and killed by a recidivist drunk driver.

People might think existing laws are too harsh or possibly too lax, but there’s a general consensus that drunk driving is a legitimate public safety issue.  But what’s interesting is the degree to which it has become micro-managed by the federal government.  We’ve seen a gradual strengthening of existing laws regarding what constitutes an unacceptable blood alcohol level.  From 1.0, to .08 and now it has been suggested that it be further reduced to .05.

If you can approach the drunk driving issue with such a degree of specificity (down to continual modification of the decimal point), then I think you can make a blanket case for disseminating the AGSAF mission statement to the general public.

People have a fundamental right to know that if they are in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device… it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

This is simply a matter of knowledge.  It may be an uncomfortable discussion, but it’s still a basic issue of public safety.  When compared to the prospect of an artificially generated stampede, to hold the DUI standard to such a higher degree doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

The government can be incredibly precise and proactive with laws governing other activities deemed harmful.  Fines for speeding in a construction zone are often double the amount.  With regard to the sale of illegal narcotics, there are stiffer penalties for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or playground.  How about aviation screening procedures?  Exactly what constitutes a knife, a blade or an acceptable amount of a liquid substance?

The federal government often goes to great lengths when it specifies exactly what action and behavior is considered to be “dangerous.”  Is it really asking that much to make the AGSAF mission statement available for public consumption?  It’s certainly something the overwhelming majority of the public would agree with.  It might be a touchy subject, but it’s neither confusing nor complex.  People have a fundamental human right to know the truth.  Knowledge is power.

Is the Artificially Generated Stampede a Black Swan?

black swanNassim Nicholas Taleb, a prolific writer and economics professor, popularized the term “black swan.”  It refers to an epic event that comes as a surprise (to the observer), has a significant impact and is rationalized in hindsight.  An event like 9/11 would be a prime example.  Although conceivably foreseeable, it was difficult to predict and virtually impossible to prevent.  In the aftermath of a black swan, you’ll likely hear the obvious comments “how could this have happened” and “we should have known better.”

Black swan theory refers exclusively to unexpected events of magnitude and consequence.  These events often play a dominant role in history, molding public opinion and shaping future policy.

So could you classify an artificially generated stampede as a black swan?  Most definitely.

It easily meets the first criterion.  The United States has witnessed countless stadium sporting events.  But there’s virtually no expectation of a human stampede because it simply isn’t the norm.  So to watch people suddenly run for their lives would come as quite a shock: to stadium attendees, the television viewing audience and society at large.

It also meets the second criterion of incredible significance.  From a generational warfare perspective, this is uncharted territory.  Absent are the customary tools of war.  Smart phones and information become lethal instruments.  Harnessing the power of a human stampede and using it as an indiscriminate weapon of terror would be a considerable advancement in the realm of asymmetric warfare.

The third criterion (rationalization in hindsight) is where things get a little interesting.  This may come as a surprise, but artificially generated stampedes are nothing new.  In 1941, a stampede in Chongqing, China killed roughly 4,000 people.  It’s widely regarded as the worst stampede in the history of civilization.  During a prolonged Japanese aerial bombardment, scores of Chinese looked for coverage in a bomb shelter.  Upon hearing the all-clear siren, many went back above ground only to hear the warning siren sound again.  The massive crowd rushed back upon itself resulting in thousands being asphyxiated and trampled to death.  It could be argued that the trigger, an ill-timed blaring siren, was artificial in nature.

I think it’s a safe assumption that an artificially generated stampede triggered through cell phones is at some point, inevitable.  Texting “bomb” in a packed stadium is merely the 21st century equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Take an objective look at the multitude of internet related hoaxes that are readily adaptable to cellular platforms.  Hacking, phishing, catfishing, spoofing, swatting… the list continues to grow.  Remember when you were guaranteed a financial windfall from a wealthy Nigerian diplomat providing you send him the necessary funds to bribe a prison guard.  The world has come a long way in a short span.

But all these hoaxes and fraudulent schemes are nothing new.  And it doesn’t take a social engineering genius to realize the end game.  It’s not personal shame or fiscal damage.  It is bodily injury and loss of life.  For this reason, I believe an artificially generated stampede would be easily rationalized in hindsight.  What I doubt humanity is adequately prepared for is the potential for multiple stampedes, a/k/a the dominipede.  I just don’t believe it’s conceptually on the radar.  All the relevant data are out there, readily available but unaccounted for in risk management programs.  The problem stems from an overall lack of government accountability and societal disengagement.  It’s that same old catch-22.  If you acknowledge the problem, you own it.  And if it were to happen, guess who gets the blame?

Nassim Taleb once stated, “A small number of black swans explains almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.”  Taleb was not in the business of predicting black swans.  His desire was to encourage societal awareness and accountability while at the same time building resilience and robust strategies against negative outcomes.

One day, I suspect you’ll hear all three terms (artificially generated stampede, dominipede and black swan) referenced in the same sentence.  What will the human race learn as a consequence?  It’s hard to say.  But I do know one thing.  In the aftermath of a dominipede, a cataclysmic event so ominous yet easily predictable, I’d suggest Taleb ditch his teaching career.  Maybe he and I could open a consulting firm and teach the federal government how to better safeguard the lives of its citizens.

The Obama Solution

images-15Pertaining to the artificially generated stampede, is it reasonable to assume that the United States federal government has in place a massive communications kill-switch?  And is it plausible to claim that if they do, they also have a top secret, reactive speech in place for the President to address the entire nation in the aftermath of its use?  One that explains how the government came to everyone’s rescue just in the nick of time?  Then, an additional explanation outlining how they’ve been anticipating the possibility of an artificially generated stampede and will now institute these “awareness” campaigns in the name of public safety.  And furthermore, there was a contingency portion of the speech in the event of a dominipede that explained how it was “a necessary evil” to sacrifice innocent lives at one or more select venues in order to preserve the greater, overall public safety.  We wanted to tell you, but we couldn’t.  We knew it could be bad, but our objective was to make sure it didn’t end up being THAT bad.  Does any of this make sense?

Even more bizarre is an assumption that the government has some type of all-encompassing, real-time monitoring and filtration system.  Every text message, every e-mail, every phone call, every potential hack.  I’ve already touched on this subject many times, the notion that mitigation might serve as a comprehensive strategy to combat the artificially generally stampede.  If and when OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loops are nullified, any response plan would be rendered useless.  How could mitigation in a pre-artificially generated stampede society be considered a viable strategy?

Call me naive, but I just don’t see it.  I simply don’t buy it.  You’d basically have to sell me on the following premise… that the SECOND the stampedes originate, someone in the highest position of ultra-authority, acting on behalf of the U.S. government, yet unaffiliated with the U.S. government, can issue the “kill-switch” order.  Once again, call me naive, but this seems conceptually ludicrous.  Since I’m the only person (that I know of) to broach the topic of the artificially generated stampede, I consider myself to be a confident spokesperson on the subject.  And as a self-professed “expert,” it’s my contention that no such master plan is currently in existence.  And even if the telecommunications kill-switch specifically existed to combat the artificially generated stampede, it would be impossible to effectively activate, monitor and properly control a desirable outcome.

I often speak of the need for immediate awareness campaigns.  It’s one thing to make that assertion.  It’s another thing to explain the actual process.  Since we’re talking about a fundamentally transformative topic of immense magnitude, this requires a more thorough explanation.

The artificially generated stampede is far more than a problem requiring the allocation of money.  You cannot simply ask the FCC to issue new guidelines and order the construction of warning signs at relevant venues.  Due to the nature of the dilemma, it necessitates a vastly bolder approach.

The most practical, superior solution would entail the President of the United States,  Barack Obama, stepping up to the plate and demonstrating REAL leadership.  In this case, I’d recommend an address to the nation.  Perhaps he could relay his concerns in the form of a 21st century Fireside Chat and reference the “only you can prevent forest fires” analogy.  Radio was an effective format for Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Not only did it help conceal his physical deterioration due to his ongoing battle with polio, it also allowed him to explain the reasoning for social change, both slowly and comprehensively.  Maybe Obama could launch this unprecedented announcement via social media, possibly streaming it over the internet.  Obama could highlight some of the personal death and injury hoaxes he has endured while in office.  He could use these incidents to personalize the issue and sell the American public on the concept of awareness campaigns.

I would also encourage him to issue an open challenge to a one-on-one debate with any high ranking politician that feels this is a poor idea (anyone that virulently opposes awareness campaigns).  Considering the anecdotal evidence, the direction of history as well as the mounting urgency, I find it hard to believe that anyone would accept this debate.  Even though the artificially generate stampede is a hypothetical, if you are a proponent of deductive reasoning, you should be able to sift through this mess and coherently explain all aspects.  Any challenger overtly taking potshots or using propaganda would not fare well, especially if a debate was held in an interactive, town hall format.

I realize this defies convention wisdom, but sometimes you must evolve beyond the confines of the established socio-political structure.  With the security of American civilians at stake, this is one of those times.  The terms of peril dictate a break from the pattern of business as usual.

I do sympathize because this would open up Obama to vicious, rehearsed attacks from the general opposition.  You would certainly hear accusations of fear mongering and the claim that he thinks Americans are too stupid to know the difference between reality and a hoax.  He would be portrayed as a condescending elitist and patronizing professor.  There would also likely be claims of further government intrusion into our everyday lives. The general public is incapable of protecting themselves.  We, the nanny-state government, must do it for you.  These narratives are all too predictable.

This is not an easy case to be made.  It’s very challenging to issue warnings based upon hypothetical scenarios.  Inevitably, there would be political blowback.  The only upside is that Obama doesn’t have to worry about running for the presidency as his term will expire in 2016.  So the only thing at stake is the reputation of the Commander-in-Chief and the executive branch versus a future scenario where innocent people die.  Quite the paradox.

So here’s one option.  Do nothing.  Just wait for the natural course of events to unfold and hope for the best.  Pray that it’s isolated in scope and the death/injury count remains low.  Until the American public actually sees an artificially generated stampede transpire, they’ll likely go about their daily drudgery in a collective state of ignorance and/or denial.

Unfortunately, having studied stadium stampedes in other countries and also factoring in the spiral rotunda, excess amenities and the general difficulty in obtaining entry and exit due to ironically enhanced security procedures, I cannot help but think that any hypothetical scenario is a grave one.  Factor in a perpetrator’s “progression of malicious intent,” and this substantially increases the potential for an extremely negative outcome (a dominipede).

And here’s the other option.  Carpe diem.  Seize the moment and confront the issue.  Which choice seems wiser?  I’m admittedly biased, but I prefer the latter.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) Acknowledges the Artificially Generated Stampede

images-10Joe Manchin, the recently elected senator from West Virginia has often been viewed as someone who brings a common sense approach to big government.  His town hall meetings throughout our state have been well received.  He has demonstrated a penchant for listening to the problems of everyday Americans.

Senator Manchin addressed my concerns regarding the potential for artificially generated stampedes in this letter.

joe manchin response
Not only did Manchin acknowledge the problem, he demanded answers.  Here is an official response from Joe Thornton, Director of Military Affairs and Public Safety for the state of West Virginia.

Joseph Thornton response
Joseph Thornton response page 2

From his days as a state legislator to his six years as Governor to his current role, Senator Manchin has always been committed to a philosophy of “retail government” – in other words, connecting with all of his constituents and making service to them his top priority.  I can attest to this having personally attended one of his town halls at West Virginia Northern Community College in January of 2011.  This particular stop was labeled as a “Call for Common Sense” with a focus on job creation.  His intention was to hear from citizens outside the beltway.  Manchin, like many others, realize that the mammoth U.S. government bureaucracy is ill-equipped to handle all future challenges.

Manchin has exhibited a willingness to take unpopular stands.  In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, he demonstrated a desire to craft stricter gun legislation.  He reached across the aisle to Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) pushing for enhanced background checks.  Although the bill ultimately died, it was a bold effort championed by the freshman senator.

This came on the heels of an emphatic endorsement from the gun lobby.

Fairfax, Va. – The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is endorsing Joe Manchin for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.  “Joe Manchin is committed to protecting the Right to Keep and Bear Arms guaranteed to all Americans,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF. “His strong dedication and voting record have earned him an “A” rating from the NRA-PVF, and we proudly endorse him for re-election to the U.S. Senate.”

I believe Joe Manchin would be an ideal “point-man” to broach my concerns in the halls of Congress.  Based upon the following:

  • Manchin’s common sense approach to solving problems mired in big government bureaucracy
  • his decision to risk an “A” rating and directly oppose the NRA’s stance on background check legislation
  • his willingness to engage in bipartisanship
  • his determination to buck public sentiment in a very pro-gun state and likely face the backlash and future political consequences

Publicly acknowledging the artificially generated stampede would appear to have a
very limited upside, especially in the realm of political capital.  Considering his
track record, I believe Senator Manchin may be more receptive than his peers in
acknowledging the potential to asymmetrically deliver mass casualties via the
induction of mass panic.

If a politician who became nationally famous for the campaign ad “Dead Aim” is willing to firmly oppose the NRA, he would seem like an ideal candidate to support putting human safety ahead of the government’s entrenched status quo as it pertains to established, outdated stadium evacuation protocol.

Please consider contacting Senator Manchin and airing your concerns regarding this matter.

Senator John Rockefellor who announced plans to retire at the end of his term did not respond to my concerns.

Ticket Stubs

wvu-pitt ticketTicket stub disclaimers are quite the anomaly.  Even though they often account for 50% of the surface area of the actual ticket, the vast majority of event-goers never read them.  However, they contain some powerful information.  Let’s focus on the fine print from a sporting event.

The most prominent section deals with rules governing ticket refunds, admission, transference, forfeiture, etc.  There’s also a clause which permits the use of your identity.  And there’s often a waiver of consent to be searched prior to admittance.

With regard to liability, you’ll often see the following statement:  Ticket holder assumes all risks incident to the game or related events, including the risk of lost, stolen or damaged property and personal injury.

On baseball ticket stubs, they take it one step further.  There’s a specific warning encompassing the danger presented by broken bats, batted balls and other objects that could be thrown into the stands.  They go the extra mile with this disclaimer because it is a reasonable expectation based on historical precedent.  The routine frequency of broken bats and foul balls represent a situation unique to the sport of baseball.  Thus, it necessitates a higher standard of waiver liability.

In the aftermath of a high profile artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, I would expect to see new government mandated warnings on the back of ticket stubs.  Considering the gravity of such an event, I cannot envision any scenario where this would not quickly become the law of the land.  This new ticket stub disclaimer would exist across the board.  My hunch tells me it would apply to all sporting and entertainment venues, even those with a capacity as limited as 1,000.

For ticket stubs:

“If you receive an emergency evacuation notice and/or a panic-inducing message on your cell phone or mobile device, it is almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.  Always wait for official confirmation from the public address system.

I could envision similar disclaimers making headway into the cellular industry when an individual purchases a cell phone or enters into a contract with a retailer or wireless carrier.

For cell phones:

“By entering into this contract for cell phone services, or using this or any cell phone, the purchaser acknowledges the risk that cell phones can be used to generate dangerous situations, such as mass panics or stampedes, through the use of intentionally false, disseminated information.  The purchaser knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks, including but not limited to the risk of sustaining serious bodily injury and death, that are in any way related to such cell phone-related dangerous situations.”

I suspect at some point, this waiver might even be elevated to the status of a separate contract, similar to a HIPAA privacy form.

Can you convince the entire population to voluntarily leave their cell phones behind before entering a venue?  Call me a cynic, but I just don’t see that happening.  Even in the aftermath of one of the worst human tragedies, the notion of everyone voluntarily giving up the “right to bear” a cell phone does not seem realistic.

Not to play the role of a psychic, but I could foresee some future societal implications.  Many people would use the excuse of a stampede in order to avoid attending major events.  “I’m not going to that concert.  What if there’s an artificially generated stampede?  I’m not going to that game.  What if there’s a dominipede?”

Since I’ve been analyzing hypotheticals for the past couple years, here’s another one.  The hypothetical litigious fallout from a dominipede would be indescribable.  Just who would bear the greatest burden of liability?  The venues, for not providing a safe, stampede-free environment?  The cell phone manufacturers, for neglecting to inform the general public that their devices could be used as weapons?  The wireless carriers, for allowing the transmission of dangerous information?  The people, who unknowingly exacerbated the panic?  The federal government, for failing to adequately protect its citizenry?

It all sounds like one hypothetical big mess.  Until it were to happen.  Then it would instantly become one REAL big mess.

AP Twitter Account Hacked


On April 23, 2013, the Associated Press twitter account was hacked.


That message was sent to approximately 1.9 million AP followers.  It was then immediately retweeted approximately 4,000 times.

This sent the New York Stock Exchange into a temporary $200+ billion nosedive.  Automated trading bots recognized key words from information sources deemed legitimate and it was instantly determined that there “could” be a national emergency.  History has demonstrated that a perceived national crisis will have a negative impact on the broader markets.

“It was unprecedented in terms of how fast liquidity disappeared and trading activity pegged at extreme levels,” said Eric Hunsader, founder of Nanex. “When you value speed over everything else, you end up with algos that will shoot first and ask questions later, There’s simply no time for them to do any fact-checking.”

Shortly thereafter, traders realized the AP account had been compromised and the whole thing was a hoax based on a bogus tweet.  But the damage had already been done.  Oddly enough, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 152 points at the close of trading.

Stephen Ward, Director for the Center of Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, succinctly echoes my greater concerns in a front page USA Today article.  He claimed that a hoax tweet had the potential to do far more than just financial damage.

“It could have had people trampled, real injuries. This is the world we live in now. And in light of this, news organizations have to certainly increase security procedures so that they can’t be hacked easily. … (If it was phishing that led to this), that is not proper security. They’ve got to review the security procedures. We can’t control non-professionals or individuals using social media. But as news organizations, we have to hold the line here.”

Dr. Ward seems cognizant of the wider problem.  Even if we install better security procedures and fine tune the rules governing the media, it’s impossible to control the population at-large.  It’s just a matter of time before someone with an evil agenda decides to disseminate panic-laden information while a real-world event is in progress.  The possibility of a viral blitzkrieg could even outweigh the dangers presented by a concerted hack.

“When you have the ability to get a newsworthy event in 140 characters or less and you can instantly move a market, you know what this means. You’re going to bring out a lot of people who know they can move a market,” said Todd Schoenberger, managing director at LandColt Capital. “How can you regulate it? You really can’t regulate it.”

“The hack attack demonstrates the perilous position in which we find ourselves with social media and technology,” Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said in a commentary for CNBC. “It also may well have been illegal.”

I’m sure there will be thorough investigations by the FBI and the SEC.  While it’s comforting to know that they’ll allocate the necessary resources, I would encourage them to parlay what happened into a mandate to conduct hypothetical assessments of other potential real-world hacking scenarios.  This would surely lead them to the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  In the aftermath of such an event, or worst case scenario dominipede, government investigations would be of little or no comfort to the actual victims.

Smokey the Bear Analogy

images-14The catch-22 presented by the artificially generated stampede is best understood through the lens of another famous government awareness campaign.

Only you can prevent forest fires.

Its origins date back to 1944.  The United States Forest Service decided it was necessary to educate the public about the dangers of forest fires.  So the United States government created a marketing campaign featuring an endearing mascot, “Smokey the Bear.”  This was more than a practical decision.  It was a moral one.  Forest fires represented a threat that would never subside.

Most people think that 9/11 was the first ever coordinated airborne assault on the continental United States.  Technically speaking, this is not the case.  Prior to the ad campaign, the Japanese Empire launched the Oregon Lookout raids in 1942.  It was an attempt to set ablaze rural, coastal areas.

With the potential for wide scale forest fires, discussion of the weather became an incredibly sensitive topic.  Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, an emergency wartime agency came into existence.  Under the expansive guise of national security, the “Office of Censorship” monitored weather reporting in order to protect the war effort.

In 1944-45, Japan renewed their war effort by launching roughly 10,000 “fire balloons”  into the jet stream off the Pacific coast.  Only a tiny percentage caused actual damage.  Still, these hydrogen balloon bombs were reportedly discovered in 17 states as well as Mexico and Canada.

Surely some of our legislators had mixed emotions about the Smokey the Bear forest fire campaigns.  What if, by publicly displaying our trepidation, the Japanese seized upon those fears?  What if they prepared military strikes intentionally designed to ignite forest fires and wreak devastation?  The fact that the Japanese followed this exact course of action must have caused many Congressmen to second guess their budgetary allocations.

The Japanese fire campaigns were generally regarded as an abject failure.  Regardless, we can learn a great deal.  Because there’s a potential upside and downside to any course of action… and inaction.

There are some eerie parallels with what happened then and what COULD happen in the here and now.  I would encourage you to examine the anticipated trajectory of where we’re heading regarding the future of the First Amendment.  How might those freedoms be impacted by an artificially generated stampede, or in the worst case scenario, a dominipede?  Just something to think about.

Emergency Evacuation Simulations

images-17Stadium evacuation simulations are popping up on the internet.  Though with some of them, you might feel inclined to question the level of realism in the event of an actual emergency.  Call me crazy, but I’m not sure these colorful robots adequately portray any sense of anxiety or urgency.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think there’s great value in simulating emergency evacuations.  I just think the creators of this video confused the terms “exiting” and “departing” with the conceptual nature of an emergency evacuation.  I’ve seen countless videos of human beings in a panicked state.  In the event of a real, human stampede, I don’t think it takes a doctorate in physics to conclude that this reenactment would hold little scientific value.

On the other hand, here’s a simulation of a bomb explosion on the lower level 3rd base line at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA.  This video was produced by Redfish Group, a software company based in Santa Fe, New Mexico focused on studying crowd movement and evacuation dynamics.

PNC Stadium Crowd Dynamics Evacuation

Since its opening in 2001, I have attended over 40 events at PNC Park (the vast majority were Pirates games, a 2005 Rolling Stones/Pearl Jam concert and even a wedding reception).  As fans will attest, the ballpark has some tremendous sight lines offering spectacular views of the field and the city.  I’ve made it a point to sit in virtually every section.  As a common spectator, I believe I have a fairly decent grasp of this venue.

The first thing I noticed about this experiment was the accuracy of the attendance figure.  Redfish could have performed a simulation using the ballpark’s maximum capacity (38,000+), but they settled on a more realistic figure near 15,000.  This lends a great deal of credibility.  PNC Park does approach sold-out status a few times a year, but it’s hardly the norm.

I also believe, in the event of an actual explosion, their estimates of people being trampled seem reasonable.  Notice how some of the simulated individuals run onto the playing field in a desperate attempt to flee the explosion.  It’s difficult to fathom how everything would play out under real-world conditions, but I think it’s safe to assume that the Redfish reenactment is vastly superior to the conditions portrayed in the soccer stadium evacuation in Dusseldorf.

Now you’re probably thinking… “Hey, wait a minute.  But there’s an actual bomb in this video.  It’s based on a real bomb going off.  Of course people are going to run for their lives.  And a slew of people are going to be trampled.”  This is true.  Next you’ll make the assertion, “People would never behave like that if the threat wasn’t overtly visible.  Information delivered via cell phones would never result in everyone simultaneously running for their lives.”

I strongly disagree with that statement.  It’s critical to note that human stampedes can result from a wide variety of triggers.  An artificially generated stampede might not come in the form of a “bomb” threat.  It could simply be an urgent evacuation order from a reliable source.  It might be relayed in the form of free food or heavily discounted merchandise.  It could be reports of a famous celebrity who appeared and is spontaneously signing autographs.  A command to evacuate could even come from a family member who’s concerned for your safety and well-being.  What if it was a phone call from your spouse who’s sitting at home 30 miles away watching a televised breaking news segment?  A stampede could stem from anything that encourages people to aggressively move toward an exit or concourse.  Anything that results in an unanticipated, sudden rush of the crowd.

The most important lesson here is this.  Nobody voluntarily participates in a stampede.  Nobody opts to willingly join a stampede.  Until it happens.  Until you find yourself engulfed by one.  This is Stampede Dynamics 101 with an emphasis on herding instincts.

The last time I checked, the scenarios I’ve presented simply aren’t on everyone’s “radar.”  And until this issue is brought to the forefront and becomes available for public consumption, the general population will remain dangerously ignorant.

Since I already referenced my hometown baseball team, here’s a final thought.  On the back of all ticket stubs is an “assumption of risk” disclaimer.  This waiver absolves liability resulting from injuries inflicted by broken bats and foul balls.  The United States federal government mandates these warnings.  I would implore legislation augmenting those disclaimers to include the following…

Cellular communication devices can be used to create artificially generated stampedes.  If you receive panic-inducing information or a message demanding an immediate evacuation, wait for official confirmation from the public address system.

Twitter Confusion

images-5On April 9, 2013 the following twitter hashtag #nowthatcherisdead made its rounds through social media.  It was intended to reference the death of Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of England.  However, some people fell victim to misinterpretation.  They incorrectly assumed it conveyed the message “now that Cher is dead.”  Needless to say, there was no correlation between the deceased leader and the living singer/activist.

A similar incident occurred following the death of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il.  In 2011, twitter was abuzz with reports that “Lil Kim is dead.”  Due his diminutive stature, the tyrant was sometimes condescendingly referred to a “Little Kim.”  But many people mistakenly assumed it was a reference to Lil Kim, the female rapper.

Twitter has a 140 character limit that governs its short message service.  It’s a unique social medium because it seemingly promotes the usage of ad hoc abbreviations, urban slang and often a disregard for proper punctuation.

Consider the following scenario.  A famous celebrity is attending a game at a newly built stadium.  He/she has a massive twitter following and sends out the following tweet.

“This stadium is da bomb!”

In this case, “da bomb” would likely denote luxury and excessive amenities, not an incendiary device.

“Did you see that bomb?”

In the second case, a “bomb” is a reference to a 50+ yard touchdown throw.

Although unlikely, in the age of twitter there’s always the looming prospect for potential confusion.  In theory, these real-time hypotheticals could have severe ramifications.

The stadium is being evacuated.
The stadium is being evacuated?

Note how a single question mark can alter the inflection, interpretation and potentially a course of behavior/action.  The first statement is declarative.  The second statement encourages one to ask the question why.

Through electronic messaging, particularly in the twittersphere, brief snippets of information can grow exponentially.  It’s as simple as hitting a retweet button.  Notions of censorship and content filters are a mere afterthought.

High profile information can be distributed faster than televised breaking news.  In the 2012 Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, details outlining each count of the verdict were made available via twitter nearly 2 minutes before anything was reported by the major networks.  The Penn State independent student-run blog, Onwardstate, correctly reported the entire verdict: 45 out of 48 guilty counts.  Every cable news outlet was on site and had tremendous resources at their disposal, but it appears as though Twitter beat them to the punch.

Society has witnessed an increasing trend in the inaccurate reporting of breaking news (Gore wins the presidency, Obamacare overturned by the Supreme Court, Congresswomen Gabby Giffords is dead, etc.).  Perhaps, in an effort to obtain more factual information, we should take a fresh look at the all-encompassing manner in which society acquires and delivers breaking news.  And another question must be asked.  Do Twitter and other social messaging sites conform to established levels of journalistic standards and procedures?  At the very least, these issues require closer scrutiny.

1993 University of Wisconsin Stampede

images-8One of the worst stampedes in U.S. history took place on October 30, 1993 at the University of Wisconsin.  Fans rushed the field following a 13-10 upset victory over the Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium.  There were no fatalities but the final injury count was 73, with 6 listed as critical.

This video highlights the waning moments of the game, the crowd surge and accompanying celebration.  This particular human stampede had the necessary force to tear steel railings directly from a concrete foundation.

It’s interesting to note that the force of less than 10 people pushing in the same direction can generate up to 1000 lbs. of force – enough to bend steel and topple brick walls.  When most think of human stampedes, they envision people being trampled to death.  However, the vast majority of individuals die while remaining upright through a process called crush asphyxiation.  It’s the equivalent of suffocation or drowning in air.

Chief of Police/Vice President Susan Riseling addressed my concerns in a letter dated May 7, 2012.

University of Wisconsin

She referenced several policies and procedures for enhanced stadium security, but failed to address the most perilous, lingering concern: the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  Still, it’s difficult to assess blame or responsibility when no other NCAA Division I schools have acknowledged the issue.  And of course, the federal government has failed to offer any viable input or solutions.  They’ve also neglected to offer any guidance moving forward.

The capacity of Camp Randall Stadium is 80,000+.  When full, it becomes the fifth largest “city” in the state of Wisconsin.

If you have concerns regarding fan safety at Camp Randall Stadium, I would suggest contacting these individuals:

Governor Scott Walker
Senator Ron Johnson
Senator Tammy Baldwin

Roger Goodell’s WiFi Initiative

Roger Goodell has served as the Comissioner of the National Football League since the retirement of Paul Tagliabue in 2006.  He has often been referred to as “the most powerful man in sports.”  That’s quite a distinction.  Whether or not you agree with his positions on dispensing fines, player safety or labor relations, most would concur that he has taken a very bold “hands on” approach to many aspects of the game.

One of his recent policy positions involves the WiFi initiative introduced at the May 22, 2012 NFL owners meeting in Atlanta, GA.

Some excerpts from the transcript:

On WiFi fan initiative:

The initiative is to get WiFi in all of our stadiums both for mobile devices including telephony. We want to make sure fans when they come into our stadiums don’t have to shut down – they can bring their devices. We want them to have access to the same amount of information, have access to our RedZone channel, have access to highlights, and be able to engage in social media including Fantasy Football. When you come to our stadiums, we want to make it a great experience. That is what it is about.

On how expansive it would be:

That is the trick. We want to put it in all 31 stadiums. We want to make sure the same service is provided and the same technology is there for the fans. The costs vary from the different proposals we have. It is part of the reason we are looking for new technology partners that can help us address what I consider pretty complex problems.

On if it is realistic to expect it to be in for 2012:

No. It is possible we could get a stadium or two stadiums in, but it is a pretty big undertaking.

On if he would want all stadiums to launch at the same time:

Not necessarily. We have talked about a pilot. We have talked about New Orleans – we are in New Orleans this year having the Super Bowl there. That might be a good start. But there are several teams that are very aggressive in this area that have some very good technology available in their stadiums. We are learning from that, and our fans are engaging with it, which is the best news for us.

Goodell’s WiFi expansion initiative is often referred to as the “living room” experience.  This objective of affording everyone in the stadium the opportunity to remain fully connected would seem to juxtapose the red flag concerns I have raised regarding the potential for artificially generated stampedes.  To offer every fan this degree of hyper-connectivity and unfettered access to cellular communications would seem to violate the “essence” of emergency evacuation protocol.  Evacuation protocol requires a singular, carefully scripted message.  The potential for thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of random directives would not bode well in a calm and orderly evacuation.  Assuming the perspective of a viral blitzkrieg, this WiFi initiative would appear to trend in the worst direction possible.

I notified Roger Goodell and every NFL owner of my concerns in correspondence dated May 1, 2012.  Unlike the flood of responses I received from NCAA leadership, there was no acknowledgement whatsoever from anyone affiliated with the National Football League.  This alarming contrast constitutes a red flag and highlights the possibility of divergent agendas.  Is it reasonable to conclude that NFL ownership is more fundamentally driven by economic factors (to the detriment of overall fan safety) than its NCAA counterparts?  I believe this would be a fair characterization.

I’ll concede that if your goal is to offer stadium fans unlimited access to the NFL Red Zone package, video replays, fantasy football stats and other real-time experiences associated with the game, then the WiFi initiative would appear ideal.  But from an outlook of fan safety under extenuating circumstances, it could have particularly dire consequences.  Goodell often tells people that as NFL Commissioner it’s his job to safeguard the integrity of the game or as he puts it “protect the shield.”  I’d encourage him to take a moment, reflect and think outside the box.  The grim realities of the game: the injuries, concussions and jarring hits, could someday extend well beyond the playing surface.

Department of Homeland Spelling

images-18In 2008, the United States Department of Homeland Security released a report concerning stadium security.  Other than the individuals who wrote it, I think it’s safe to say that very few have read this comprehensive dossier.

The report basically outlines every conceivable threat to stadium security.  I hate to sound pessimistic, but I get the sense it was written for the following reason:

to elaborate on every potentially fathomable problem so that in the event something unfortunate did happen, an official could reference the content buried somewhere in this exhaustive account.

They could point to evidence in the report and claim they were in the process of addressing the matter.  But until then, they were neither derelict nor negligent.

On page 41, there’s even a reference to the possibility of food borne illness obtained from mayonnaise left out in the sun.  Oh, and by the way, they misspelled “mayonaise.”  On the same page, they speak of the accidental release of chemical, biological or radiological weapons.  This sounds a little more pressing.  I’m not trying to nitpick, but shouldn’t it be an “intentional release.”  And by the way, I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but they misspelled “accidential.

On page 44, they break down the stadium population into various sub-groups (grandstands, suites, offices, even the concessations).  Yep, you guessed it.  I think they meant concessions.

Perhaps among its numerous directives, the Department of Homeland Security should issue some kind of revamped bureau-wide spellcheck policy.   I do believe it would fall within their restrictive budgetary constraints.

My apologies if this post came across as flippant or purposely offensive.  Rest assured, I take matters concerning stadium security very seriously.  I think that’s why I’m left a bit flabbergasted.  Read the official report.  It touches on every potential hazard, every conceivable previously explored threat known to man.
With one major exception… the potential for an artificially generated stampede.

One would think that a hypothetical scenario which completely eviscerates existing emergency evacuation protocol might be worthy of a paragraph or two.  Then again, that would likely open up a can of worms.  It would necessitate exploring more challenging concepts and likely result in a much longer report.  Most importantly, it would be a concrete admission of a real-world problem that requires a universal solution.

Regarding the artificially generated stampede, I’ve often spoke of the overriding catch-22.  The notion that if you acknowledge the problem, you own it.  If a lead official is properly briefed, they become accountable.  And if a disaster happens, the administration would reap the blame.

Perhaps this explains my cynical tone.  With the prospect of a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes) and a hypothetical injury and death count which boggles the mind and irreparably alters the course of humanity, our Department of Homeland Security has chosen to focus on an entirely different threat… an accidential mayonaise spill at the concessation stand.

Stampede Perceptions

images-2Human stampedes only happen in third world countries.  Human stampedes only take place at religious festivals and soccer stadiums.  They’re more likely to occur in nations which assign less value to the lives of their citizens.  The United States is a wealthier, more sophisticated culture.  We’re more concerned about the welfare of others.  We have superior standards regarding public safety.  Stampedes don’t happen here because we’re a more “civilized” society.

I’m not so sure.  This footage from the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium’s 2010 Electronic Daisy Carnival might make you reconsider any previously conceived notions.

When most people think of stampedes, they conjure up images of people being trampled to death.  Though by and large, this is inaccurate.  The vast majority of people perish while remaining upright through a process called compressive asphyxiation.  You suffocate from the crush.  It’s the equivalent of drowning in air.

Now you might be inclined to think, but this was a rave!  Aren’t these electronic music festivals flooded with alcohol, ecstasy and other dangerous amphetamines?  The majority of these kids must be under the influence of something.  Perhaps.  I have no evidence to the contrary.

But what about the recurring scene of some of the world’s deadliest stampedes, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia?  Fatality counts during the Hajj boggle the imagination.

Recent estimated death totals from the Hajj:

July 2, 1990 – 1,426
May 23, 1994 – 270
April 9, 1998 – 118
March 5, 2001 – 35
February 11, 2003 – 14
February 1, 2004 – 251
January 12, 2006 – 346

As you might expect, the injury tallies are considerably higher.

I think we can generally rule out drugs and alcohol as contributing factors.  Is it wise to blame religious extremism?  Probably not.  Finding inner peace and humbling oneself are the main reasons for participating in the Hajj.  The cold hard truth – it’s all about logistics.  Crowd turbulence coupled with the induction of panic results in tragedy.

But here’s something else to consider.  In the first minute of the Electronic Daisy Carnival footage, everyone is physically stuck in an open-air stairwell.  Fortunately, most are eventually able to break free from the human stranglehold.  But what if there had been a locked gate and/or an enclosed exit?

Such was the case during the 2012 Egyptian soccer stampede that killed 73 and injured hundreds.  Originally, the fatalities were considered to be the result of fan-on-fan violence and clashes with Egyptian security forces.  But what if I told you that the majority of people died in human stampedes?  What if I made the assertion that the stampede WAS the violence?  Would it shock you to find out that the majority of bodies were recovered at one of the stadium exits?

My point is this.  Stampedes are blamed on all kinds of factors: barricades, narrow corridors, hooliganism, drugs and alcohol, mismanagement of security, etc.  It’s easy to assess blame in the aftermath of tragedies like these.  But at the heart of everything, it’s always a matter of panic and physical logistics.  It’s really that simple.  Anytime there’s a large mass of people in a confined location who wish to suddenly relocate, tragedy can strike.

Here’s the moral of this story.  From a historical perspective, a culture or nation may have experienced a small number of human stampedes.  Some countries may never have experienced one.  But this makes them no less vulnerable to the prospect of a stampede, or in the worst case scenario, a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes).  I believe the United States government should be more cognizant of this unprecedented hypothetical.

USAFA Superintendent Understands the Stakes

images-2 I received a response from Lieutenant General Michael C. Gould, Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy dated March 24, 2012.  It reaffirmed my concerns regarding outdated emergency evacuation protocol in U.S. football stadiums.

Air Force Academy

His handwritten notation of thanking me for “having the courage to step forward” meant a great deal.  As an individual with a seemingly endless resume of achievements, awards and decorations, those words had a special resonance.

As a pilot with thousands of flight hours under his belt, he may have been in a better position to sift through and weigh the underlying content of my letter.  He has surely grown accustomed to witnessing the ramifications of action… and inaction.  At some point, all that real-world experience with OODA loops (observe, orient, decide, act) begins to add up.  It would certainly have an impact on comprehending the difference between a false flag and a red flag.

Truth be told, Falconi Field in Colorado Springs is not one of the most heavily occupied football stadiums in the country.  Nonetheless, I believe the Superintendent was able to distance himself and more easily understand the bigger picture.  Issues of great magnitude are best often solved by individuals who routinely solve big problems.

At its core, the artificially generated stampede represents a fundamental societal problem.  It’s not exclusive to football stadiums and sporting events.  It could just as easily apply to a shopping mall, rock concert, megachurch or a county fair.  Any crowded, congested setting is conceivably at risk.  And in today’s technological world, this hypothetical threat isn’t going to magically disappear.

As I’ve maintained, the premise of artificially generated stampedes is a looming problem.  You cannot just simply wave a crowd control wand.  You cannot simply accept the inevitable and hope for the least disturbing outcome.  Because real world actions have real world consequences.  And it is for that reason, we must confront the issue directly.  Acknowledgement and awareness will always be the cornerstone of any counter-strategy.

New Orleans Superdome

300px-Superdome_from_Garage During a 2012 NFL playoff game between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints, Shawn Payton, 34, a Jackson, Michigan resident, phoned in 2 separate bomb threats to the Mercedes Superdome.  The crowd attendance for this event was listed at 73,038.

An FBI affidavit states that Payton made two separate threats.  At 9:12 pm, the Superdome’s Gate F reception desk received a call in which Payton stated, “I will blow up your building.”  A second call was made at 10:03 pm in which the caller stated, “Hi, I want to relay a message to the sideline.  If your stupid Southern team keeps winning, there will be reper… severe consequences, OK?

These threats were assessed internally and it was correctly determined that a full scale emergency evacuation was unnecessary.

Payton was formally indicted by federal grand jury and charged with one count of sending threatening communications through interstate commerce, a charge that carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In June of 2012, Payton pled guilty to a felony count of “transmitting threats to injure in interstate communications.”   In September of that year, a federal judge sentenced Payton to 3 years probation and 60 days home confinement.

Considering the magnitude of the game, the national news media jumped on the story.  Until recently, bomb threats at high profile sporting events were not usually made available for public consumption.  Such action was uncommon and generally deemed counterproductive.  However, there seems to be a national shift in this long held position.  This could be attributed to a few factors:

  • a greater prevalence of bomb threats
  • an increasing variety of mediums in which threats can be delivered
  • a gradual, societal desensitization of the potential negative consequences due to the increasing frequency of bomb threats

Is it reasonable to conclude that bomb threats are almost becoming “passe?”   There seems to be a “begrudging acceptance” among those who professionally assess such threats.  An “Ughh… this is likely NOT a credible threat.  But we’re required to take it seriously.  So we WILL get through it” attitude is often the case.

Dependence on a manual or scripted flow chart can be very helpful in assessing singular, conventional threats.  However, AGSAF is more concerned with the potential for mass, multilateral, asymmetric communications.  Such safety concerns are an area of extreme neglect.

In 2013, the Mercedes Superdome was in the news once again.  It played host to Superbowl XLVII.  Roughly 108 million viewers watched as the infamous “blackout” occurred early in the second half.  The origins of the blackout were eventually traced back to a relay switch that observed power fluctuations and functioned properly.

CNN’s anchor Don Lemon delved into the cause of the blackout in a live, breaking news segment.  As one could imagine, it was exceedingly difficult to acquire accurate, real-time information.  At one point, Lemon made a reference to reports of a “fire in the boiler room” of the Superdome.  Suddenly, he appeared to be admonished through his IFB (Interruptible Feedback).  Lemon recovered but appeared visibly frustrated.  At the end of the segment, he threw his pen and lamented about the level of difficulty and degree of confusion with reporting breaking news events as they transpire.  Is it possible that a producer was simultaneously warning him of the ramifications of “shouting fire in a crowded theater” during a national broadcast?

Breaking news transcripts are made available on the CNN website.

Oddly enough, the official CNN breaking news transcript from during the Superbowl is unavailable.  It would appear that it has been intentionally omitted from their website.  This was breaking news DURING a televised event with a viewership exceeding 100 million.  Other than it being a potential source of embarrassment, is it possible that sensitive, hypothetical information was accidentally speculated upon or inadvertently released?

In the aftermath of the blackout, many people questioned as to “why” it happened.  Viewers wanted to know the cause.  But very little coverage was given to the question of “what could have transpired if…”

As for other network coverage, MSNBC did not interrupt its regularly scheduled programming.  Fox News offered a brief synopsis of the blackout and returned to their regularly scheduled programming.

Total attendance for Superbowl XLVII was listed at 71,024.

Staring Down Stampedes

agsaf final logo*Over the past decade, it has been difficult to not witness a fundamental shift in societal behavior.  I’m referring to this strange tendency for anyone and everyone who suddenly hears a ding or a vibration to immediately look downward.  They’ll instantly tilt their heads and stare into the screens of their cell phones.  It’s almost as if society is collectively bowing its head.  But it’s not a church service and there isn’t much in the way of reverence.

You see it everywhere.  Look at the fans behind home plate.  Stand in any grocery store check-out line.  Walk through an airport.  Go to a bar and observe the general behavior.  Everyone is staring down.  It’s reminiscent of the experiments conducted by Ivan Pavlov, the Russian scientist.  He would ring a bell every time he fed his dogs.  After repeated conditioning, the dogs eventually began to salivate at the sound of a bell, even when there was no food.

When I use the reference “staring down stampedes,” it’s not as metaphorical as you might think.  Assuming the prospect of an artificially generated stampede, you would literally have to stare down any threatening information and conclude that it’s almost certainly a hoax.  It may not seem as overtly dangerous, but the analogy is consistent with staring down the barrel of a shotgun.  The weapons just take on a different appearance.

Remember 9/11.  Everyone looked up into the sky.  They tilted their heads back and stared up in disbelief as passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center buildings.  They witnessed the smoke as it billowed from both towers.  Why do I get this eerie feeling that there will be a next time… only people will first look downward and then react accordingly?

I view all of this from the simple perspective of balance.  At the heart of everything, there are general themes of balance that dominate human behavior and govern our collective choices (social, economic, political, militaristic, etc.).  There are ramifications and repercussions to newly established societal trends.  What goes up, inevitably will come down.  As I’ve maintained, this is a societal problem that will eventually have to be addressed.  Human stampedes could happen anywhere, not just the worst case scenario football stadiums.  Every venue is in play (arenas, ballparks, auto racing facilities, shopping malls, megachurches, county fairs, etc.)

Regarding the logo, I purposely wanted to keep it as simple as possible.  The major sentiment I wanted to convey is that there’s a serious problem with simply placing blind faith and complete trust every time a cell phone rings or vibrates.  As humanity has already witnessed, information is not always truthful or accurate.  That’s why I chose the question mark.  I purposely wanted to keep it vague.  I didn’t want to focus solely on the stampede, but rather the larger concept, specifically the notion of widespread disinformation intentionally designed to create a civil disturbance.

I  struggled with using the imagery of a bomb.  I finally opted for a subtle, somewhat discreet (if that’s possible) depiction.  I deliberately left it open to interpretation.  Because remember, the information delivered through a cellular device is anything that results in a sudden rush of people.  Reflect on that for a moment.

It could be something relatively innocuous.  It could be the promise of free food, future tickets or discounted merchandise.  In our hero-worship driven culture, it could be the revelation of a sports figure signing autographs or an unexpected celebrity sighting.

Or it could be something far more direct – scenarios expressing imminent danger, such as bombs, improvised explosive devices, fire or even chemical weapons.  Considering the prevalence of these items in the mainstream news, it’s not as abstract a possibility as one might think.  Or it could come in the form of a realistic government mandated evacuation order.  The information could even be delivered from a trusted news source, friend or family member.  Cellular devices can relay a virtually infinite array of panic-inducing messages and information.  It could invoke a multitude of themes and several, different modes of delivery.

The domino “S” is self-explanatory.  Having already coined the term “dominipede,” I needed to convey the concept of multiple, simultaneous artificially generated stampedes.  Think of it in terms as a modern-day, technological equivalent of the domino theory.  Instead of countries falling to communism, it denotes a series of stadiums succumbing to panic.

Although not seen very often, the diamond symbol refers to civil disturbances and natural disasters.  This encompasses criminal activity involving bomb threats.

The traditional color of yellow was chosen to convey caution.  The color pink was selected to reflect emergency incident management.  If an artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede unfolds, it would necessitate explanatory signage be displayed at ALL future large gatherings.  Although such signage might take on a different appearance, I predict it would bear many conceptual similarities with the AGSAF logo.

Dominipede documentary

dominipede doc When discussing the artificially generated stampede, I often hear the comment, “Wow, this would make a great movie.”  So in 2012, I focused on writing a documentary entitled “Dominipede.”   At the time, my intention was to produce it and send a copy of the DVD to every member of the United States Congress.  This way, in the event of such a tragedy, it would be virtually impossible for our political representatives to offer up excuses of plausible deniability.

I eventually came to the conclusion that I was getting ahead of myself.  Not only did I lack the necessary technical skills and financial resources, I had larger, procedural issues regarding how this issue is brought to light.  Yet, I would not dismiss the notion of finding a “Hollywood solution” to the artificially generated stampede.  What if a high profile producer (Speilberg, Stone, etc.) were to frame the issue in a big budget, Tom Clancy-like movie?  Since the U.S. government refuses to address the problem, maybe an answer could emerge from somewhere in the entertainment industry.  I see some interesting parallels with the 2002 blockbuster hit “The Sum of all Fears.”   Since the stakes are so high, it just seems unwise to reject alternative paths.

The documentary itself is presented on the blog in reverse chronological order.  It’s divided into 3 distinct sections (the past, the present and the future).  Some segments take a while to upload due to the extensive number of video clips.

Part 1 focuses on crowd behavior, themes of power and superempowerment, the role of sports in society and various natural/manmade disasters.  It examines how certain tragedies result in government action and closes with a look at the history of human stampedes.  Finally, I pose the question, “What’s the modern day, technological equivalent of shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater?”

Part 2 addresses the nuts and bolts of an artificially generated stampede and the potential for a dominipede, a tragedy along the scale of 9/11.

Part 3 deals with the overriding catch-22 and other moral hazard issues.  It also offers a few potential solutions.  I revisit themes of superempowerment and close with a simple premise. In a society based on lies, the dominipede would likely come to be known as the biggest lie in the history of humanity.

If you wish, feel free to sift through the documentary.

If you’re interested in creating a documentary or a movie with similar conceptual themes, please contact me.

2013 Stampedes in India and Africa

india-africaOn January 1, 2013, in the capital city of Abijan, Ivory Coast, 61 people were killed and countless others injured as the result of a human stampede.  The rush occurred as people flooded out of the stadium following a celebratory New Years Eve fireworks display.  The stampede came as a result of a human trap when wooden barricades and tree trunks were strategically placed across the Boulevard de la Republique.  It has been speculated that gangs of thieves deliberately created the bottleneck in an attempt to pick pockets and steal cell phones.  An investigation is ongoing.

Human stampedes are usually blamed on mass panic.  But what people fail to comprehend is that there are legitimate reasons for that panic.  Massive crowds of individuals do not collectively just decide to spontaneously run for their lives.

The 2013 Ivory Coast stampede resonates because it demonstrates an insidious degree of malicious intent.  Assuming the accusations are true, the stampede itself could be described as a purposely designed, indiscriminate weapon.  At face value, this represents an ugly shift in generational warfare patterns.  The notion that you can orchestrate a mass killing without the use of conventional weaponry is an alarming precedent.  Whether or not it was their ultimate intention to kill innocent civilians, I believe it’s reasonable to classify the Ivory Coast stampede as an act of domestic terrorism.

A different kind of stampede occurred during the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela.  On February, 2013, 36 people were killed at a train station in Allahabad, India.  Initial reports claimed the panic ensued following the collapse of a railing on a footbridge.  It was further exacerbated by police charging the crowd with wooden sticks in a desperate attempt to control the rush.

However, a more thorough analysis indicates the stampede was the direct result of an announcement over the public address system.  Apparently, a scheduled departure was altered from platform 4 to platform 6.  When the verbal announcement was made, fearing they would miss their train, large numbers of people suddenly moved in the same direction with an overwhelming sense of urgency.

Assuming the statement regarding the platform change is accurate, this indicates a prime example of an information based, artificially generated stampede.  Its origins were likely accidental, or at the very least, unintentional.  Either way, it’s a marked contrast to the Ivory Coast stampede from a month earlier.

Stampedes in heavily populated nations are sometimes blamed on social mores.  It’s often incorrectly assumed that when a society engages in diminished personal boundaries and closer interaction, it could manifest itself in a greater susceptibility to human stampedes.  While it does make sense that hyper-populations have a greater frequency and number of stampedes, the notion that those cultures are more prone to panic is unsubstantiated and erroneous.  As a country, why would we be so naive to think it couldn’t happen here?

Clery Act Impacts Eastern Michigan University

images-4In 2012, I sent a letter to every NCAA Division I president and chancellor regarding outdated emergency stadium evacuation protocol.  One of the more germane responses came from Eastern Michigan University President Sue Martin.


Eastern Michigan University

The Mid-Atlantic Division houses most of the smaller NCAA Division I football stadiums.  Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, Michigan fits into this category.  With a maximum capacity of roughly 30,000, it rarely approaches that level.  Yet that does not make it any less susceptible to the prospect of human panic.

As referenced in her letter, in a September 2011 game vs. Howard University, it became necessary to stage an emergency evacuation due to high winds, a heavy downpour and lightning strikes.  Other major stadiums including the University of Michigan, University of Iowa and University of Notre Dame ultimately made the same critical decision to launch full scale evacuations that day.

You might be thinking…  a weather related evacuation is staged for vastly different reasons than a bomb threat emergency evacuation.  And you would be correct.  However, they do both fall under the general auspices of federal legislation introduced in 1990.  The Clery Act requires institutions to give timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees.  Compliance is monitored by the United States Department of Education which can impose civil penalties, up to $35,000 per violation, against institutions for each infraction.

Eastern Michigan University was fined a record $357,500 for failing to warn the campus of a student’s assault and death that occurred in 2006.  Beyond reporting the incident, the school was fined for violating federal crime-reporting laws.  It has been seen as a wake-up call on how universities report and display statistics on crimes that occur on university campuses.  The incident brought forth university-wide changes in campus safety and safety notifications.  The incident also brought changes in university administration, including the dismissal of the university’s president, John A. Fallon.

I noticed a greater likelihood in the acknowledgment of my concerns among universities that have been fined for federal violations of the Clery Act.  The most notable being the 2008 Virginia Tech massacre.  Their vice president of operations, Sherwood Wilson, responded directly to me on multiple occasions.

Penn State president, Rodney Erickson, addressed my concerns as well.  Coincidentally, they are currently under investigation for possible violations of the Clery Act as a result of the highly publicized Jerry Sandusky conviction for repeated child molestation.

I believe the tragedies endured by these schools and their administrations have heightened both their sensitivity and the degree of seriousness in how they approach such matters.

When referencing the prospect of an artificially generated stampede (or likely any human stampede for that matter), the problem with the Clery Act is its vague description as to what would constitute a “timely” warning.  There are no specific guidelines.  Incidents are open to interpretation.  An artificially generated stampede would surely transpire in real-time, in a matter of minutes if not seconds.  And further complicating the matter, any use of the campus text emergency alert system would likely have a detrimental effect.  It would almost surely exacerbate the existing panic.  I defy you to find any incident commander or police chief in charge of stadium security who would execute an emergency stadium evacuation solely through the campus text alert system.

The artificially generated stampede scenario represents an impossible conflict that has yet to be addressed by the federal government.  I would ask anyone reading this post to request written confirmation from the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, Department of Education for a greater degree of specificity as to what constitutes the “delivery” of “timely” warnings of “crimes.”  More substantive guidelines, less open to speculation and interpretation, would surely result in improved compliance with federal law.  Furthermore, an artificially generated stampede supersedes the definition of a crime.  It is an act of terrorism.

General Reactions to the Artificially Generated Stampede

images-7Most of my friends are in the 30-45 year age bracket and generally represent the full socioeconomic spectrum.  The majority live in the northern panhandle of West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania.  Most are married. Most have children.  Many have college degrees with a wide variety of occupations.  I have no reason to think they’re radically different from other social groups.

When I explain the concept of artificially generated stampedes, I get three typical reactions.  I’d like to examine each of them because I believe my friends are a fair cross-section of society.

First, the selfish response.
I’d say this accounts for roughly 25% of the reactions.  There’s a simple, straightforward disavowal.  “This wouldn’t impact me.  I don’t attend those kind of events because I don’t like large crowds.”  They’ll often shift the conversation to something about their family or friends, preferring to discuss work, weather, sports, gossip, or other more personal concerns.  In a similar vain, I often hear, “I’d prefer not to think about it.”

Perhaps some people just don’t wish to discuss these things.  Since it involves life-threatening scenarios, they might consider it to be an uncomfortable discussion, much like religion or politics.  Some just might not enjoy talking to me.  I can accept that.  But for whatever reason, about a quarter of the people I engage simply don’t wish to discuss the concept of artificially generated stampedes.  Fair enough.

Second, the skeptical response.
I’d say this accounts for another 25% of the reactions.  “Even if I received a panic-laden message and/or saw others running for their lives, I would remain calm and let the situation play itself out.”  They wouldn’t join the crowd.  They’re cognizant of their surroundings and know the difference between a credible threat and a hoax.  Simply stated, they’d just know better.

Although I might question their self-described ability to remain perfectly calm and rational during an unfolding crisis, there’s no way I can prove they would behave differently.  However, I do believe the general population is unaware of or vastly underestimates the power of the genetically ingrained herding instincts we share with other mammals.  Once again, it’s my opinion that some of these people are “kidding themselves.”

Third, the “whoa… I never thought of that” response.
I’d say this one is the most common.  Inevitably, we discuss the multitude of ways an event like this could transpire.  Needless to say, it tends to be an eye opening conversation when you start offering real-world examples and examine the progression of recent history, particularly regarding communications technology.

There’s a reason I wrote this article.  I believe there’s a certain “discernible inevitability” to the artificially generated stampede.  In the most basic of terms, at some point in the foreseeable future, instead of shouting “fire,” someone will text “bomb.”  And it will result in a human stampede.  And factoring in the progression of malicious intent, there will likely be more than one.

So when people purposely refuse to engage on a subject (with potential ramifications along the scale of 9/11), simply because it’s uncomfortable or could be detrimental to their personal interests, I believe this to be morally unacceptable.  If a dominipede were to take place, this is simply not an acceptable outcome.

As I stated earlier, when I broach the subject of artificially generated stampedes, the “whoa… I never thought of that” is the most common reply.  The public knows about the harmful effects of drugs, obesity, drinking and driving, forest fires, etc.  At the core of it all, this is a simple public safety issue.  So until I’m convinced that a reasonable majority of U.S. citizens are familiar with the concept of artificially generated stampedes, I will continue with these electronic newsletter updates as well as a general awareness campaign.

It all comes down to one basic question.  Does the general population have a fundamental right to know this information?  I believe they do.


imagesA couple years ago, I began researching the issue of text-induced stampedes.  Since it was, and still is, mostly grounded in the hypothetical, I knew I’d need to devise some names for a few terms that do not exist.  So I did.

First, I concocted the term “artificially generated stampede” which I defined as…

A sudden rush of people likely the result of panic-inducing information delivered via cell phones or mobile devices

Originally, I thought SMS (short message service), specifically text messaging, was the primary concern.  But the more I explored the potential for text-induced panics, the more I began to realize how the mode in which information is delivered could easily metastasize.  It could be something as simple and direct as a phone call.  And it could even come from a trusted, credible source.  Social media, specifically mediums like facebook and twitter, became a fundamental issue.  With the increasingly efficient level of technology in play, the manner in which non-verified information can exponentially spin out of control became an overriding issue.

This led me to the term “viral blitzkrieg” which I defined as…

A bombardment of information designed to saturate a geographic region and exponentially spread panic

I think this term is self-explanatory.  A physical blitzkrieg invokes images of the German bombardment and invasion of Poland in World War II.  Blitzkrieg operations capitalize on the element of surprise, general enemy unpreparedness and “lightning quickness.”  However, this one is information based.  The notion of executing a viral blitzkrieg is particularly troublesome. Not only because it requires only a minimal degree of technological proficiency, but it would certainly result in others unknowingly exacerbating an attack.  The notion of tricking people into participating in an attack on innocent civilian allies is a very disturbing precedent.

And finally, this led me to the term “dominipede.”

Multiple, simultaneous human stampedes likely the result of a viral blitzkrieg

I knew I’d need a term for simultaneous, related human stampedes.  After all, if a black swan, 9/11-like event were to transpire, history would require it be assigned a unique name.  Once again, a wartime analogy seemed most appropriate.  I think it’s a safe assumption that most people reading this article are familiar with the fundamentals of the “domino theory.”  The domino theory was offered to conceptually justify U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  The notion that if one nation falls to communism, others in the region would eventually succumb.  Countries would fall like dominoes.  Simply combining the words “domino” and “stampede” seemed to make the most sense.

I also thought the religious reference and loose translation of the Latin phrase “Anno Domino” was appropriate.  In the aftermath of a horrific tragedy, people often turn to religion and prayer for some degree of comfort.  Much like people define our historical chronology in terms of a pre and post 9/11 world, I could easily envision people making those same references to a dominipede.

I suppose the word “dominipede” requires a little getting used to.  But it does bear a resemblance to other odd sounding, disaster-oriented terms (tsunami, tornado, haboob, avalanche, hurricane, etc.).

OODA Loops

simple-ooda-loopOn August 5, 2012, I was on the receiving end of a surprise phone call from Lou Marciani.  Dr. Marciani is the director for the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security based on the University of Southern Mississippi campus.

I inquired how he came across my phone number.  He explained that the university’s chancellor, Dr. Martha Saunders, had forwarded my correspondence to him for his consideration.

We spoke for about an hour on a wide array of topics involving stadium security.  He seemed very interested in the concerns I had raised regarding the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.  Our conversation centered mostly around the potential for misuse of the campus text alert emergency system.

Although my concerns were speculative, we came to a general consensus that if someone used the campus text alert system to purposely send a panic-laden message while an NCAA football game was in progress, it could have dire, real-time consequences.

Our only disagreement stemmed from methods and tactics.  He seemed more interested in trying to solve this hypothetical problem from a mitigation standpoint.  He wanted to conceive of a plan designed to neutralize panicked crowds in the immediate aftermath of the transmitted messages. In other words, he wanted to put the “panic genie” back in the bottle.  More than once, he stated “for every problem, there’s always a solution.”

And while I generally agree with the latter statement, I don’t think he had fully taken into account the evisceration of the OODA (observation, orientation, decision, action) loop.  This loop, credited to American military strategist John Boyd, serves as the foundation for any decision making process.  Aside from applications on the battlefield, this template has much broader universality.  Coaching, big business, litigation, filling up your gas tank, etc.  It’s even the underlying reason you’re reading this post.

All OODA loops require one thing… time.  If one lacks a sufficient amount of time during any of the 4 phases, the loop itself can be severely compromised.  The entire premise of the artificially generated stampede is centered around the elimination of the OODA loop.

I’m convinced that once an all-encompassing message goes out, there’s simply insufficient TIME to implement a coordinated counter-response.  The damage transpires in real-time.

Dr. Marciani and I would speak again.  He thanked me for my diligence and claimed that I had brought an interesting perspective to light.  He said my efforts to spread awareness were not in vain.  But he closed with a statement I’ve heard echoed by many others. “You’ve given us a lot to think about, but ultimately, there’s only so much you can do.  You just can’t be expected to solve all the world’s problems.”  In retrospect, I’m thinking that he may be correct… but hey, at least I’ll give it a shot.  Stay tuned and we’ll see how it all turns out.