2018 Global Citizen Stampede

Roughly 60,000 attended the annual Global Citizen Festival in Central Park.  Shortly after 7pm, on the cusp of darkness, fans heard a series of sudden, loud popping noises.  Officials would later claim it originated from plastic water bottles.  But some people mistook the sounds for gunfire.  So what happened next?  Well, there was a cascade of terror.  Metal barricades were knocked over as fans physically ran for their lives.  If you listen to the traumatic interviews, many people thought they were going to die.  This wasn’t a simulated fantasy.  On the contrary, it’s exactly what happens during a human stampede.  Fortunately, the bodily carnage was limited to a few dozen injuries.

When people witness others truly panic, the majority of them will invariably experience trepidation.  It’s not a random anomaly.  Genetically ingrained herding instincts are an established commodity.  If you require visual proof, just watch the Animal Channel or execute a “stampede” search on youtube.  I assure you, these aren’t paid actors.  Nobody is manufacturing fake stampede videos.  At least not as of yet.

Some would make the assertion that stampedes “just don’t happen here in the United States.”  Peculiar how there were two additional stampedes this week, back to back, October 7 and October 8, East Coast / West Coast.  One in Atlanta, the other in Hollywood, CA.  I suppose it could be a coincidence.  Or maybe it’s just contagious.  If you ask me, it looks like more of a trend.

http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/several-injured-during-a3c-music-festival
https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/10/08/hollywood-highland-incident/

Every once in a blue moon, authorities will actually do an investigation.  One that sheds light on why the incident occurred in the first place.

I’m often on the receiving end of a very specific question.  How do you actually prevent a stampede?  After all, it is by definition, a stampede.

To them, I reply.  Sometimes there’s nothing you can do.  Too many people in a confined location can result in a bad outcome.  Still, large crowds do not just spontaneously panic. There are always triggers or variables which lead to that panic.

Education and situational awareness are key factors when dealing with generic public safety matter.  Society addresses these problems accordingly.  At some point, our government summons the inertia to confront certain dilemmas.  These often involving morally paradoxical issues of tremendous consequence.  Often brought to the forefront after large numbers of people get sick and/or die.  Straight to the point, eh?

At the personal level, think in terms of the decision to consume drugs and alcohol.  Government mandated warnings are ubiquitous.

Cigarettes – lung cancer.
Liquor – fetal alcohol syndrome.
And of course, prescription drugs – the seemingly endless list of warnings and potential side effects.

Sometimes these warnings take on a more expansive role in the day to day functioning of society.  Often in the form of broader, more socially intrusive, awareness campaigns. Preventing forest fires, thwarting drunk driving, speed warnings in highway construction zones, the dangers of opioid addiction, See Something Say Something, and so on.

But at what point does awareness coincide with deliberate fear mongering?  It’s an intriguing question.  Because the line, or tipping point, is often a murky one.  It changes and evolves with the passage of time.

Take for example, the pre-flight airline instructions and safety demonstration.  Most people just shrug it off and read a magazine.  But if you’ve got anxiety issues and have never boarded an airplane, I imagine it would be a nerve wracking experience.  Think about it.  The flight attendant’s verbally and physically explaining the location of the emergency exits.  Followed by instructions about proper oxygen mask usage and how your seat can function as a flotation device.  Some degree of turbulence is pretty much a given.  However, if you’re flying across an ocean for the first time, and the captain requests that all passengers return to their seats, place their tray tables in an upright position and fasten their seat belts… well, that might be cause for alarm.

My point.  There’s a fine line between dispensing public safety information and engaging in deliberate fear mongering.  Established social mores play a significant role.  Because as time passes, society adapts and views things differently.  Does anyone recall the 1951 “Duck and Cover” government video describing what to do in the event of a nuclear attack?  These days, people would chuckle about the notion of kids hiding under their desks in an attempt to protect themselves from nuclear fallout.

Trust me.  It’s not that people back then were universally stupid.  Far more likely, it was just part of an acclimation process to an unfathomable, hypothetical catastrophe.

But at the time, this snapshot seemed reasonable.  It made sense.

TRANSITION:

The United States, as a country, boasts the largest number of stadiums, ballparks, arenas, amphitheaters, convention centers, motor speedways, etc.  Every city has a combination of these venues.  Many have all of them.  These facilities exist, not in the hundreds, but in the thousands.

So what’s the moral of the story?  What’s the ethical rationale for writing this article?

Allow me to pose a final question.

Does it strike anyone, as the least bit peculiar, that NOBODY is allowed to explicitly warn event attendees… that official emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their cell phones?  Contrary to popular opinion, you’re allowed to know about this kinda stuff.  Perhaps some day in the future, society will “grow up” and acknowledge this hypothetical, asymmetric cyber-threat.  And at the same time, address the blatantly obvious security disconnect (oh yeah, the one where everybody has a cell phone).

Eventually, I guarantee we’ll get it right.  It’s purely a numbers game with a long-term event horizon.  However, I’ll guarantee another thing.  This moment will come, only in the aftermath of a preventable tragedy.  This ain’t mere speculation.  Historically speaking, it’s just how these things seem to work themselves out.  If you require evidence, just google… oh, I dunno… how about… “history of mankind?”

 

War Memorial Stadium Stampede Extrapolation (Little Rock, AR)

I realize it’s a niche cause, but human stampede prevention at major U.S. sporting events is the primary objective of AGSAF (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation).  Go figure.

 

Regrettably, the state of Arkansas didn’t get the memo.

Something went terribly wrong during the annual Salt Bowl in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.  On Saturday night, August 25, 2018, a fight broke out in the concourse.  Rumors of “a gun” sparked instant chaos.  It was followed by a sudden, mass exodus.  High school football fans witnessed other fans panicking and the entire crowd high-tailed it outta there.  This impacted everyone across the board: fans, players, coaches, workers, security personnel, everyone.

Several injuries were reported in the aftermath of the stampede.  Fortunately, there were no fatalities.

Investigators later determined that no gun shots were fired. In fact, there was no gun.  Some claimed it may have been a taser.  The only problem with that line of conjecture… tasers are incapable of producing gunshot like sounds.  Further investigation indicated that metal barricades were knocked over during the scuffle.  More than likely, this is what created the loud bangs which led to the shrieks about a weapon.

So you know how they say “don’t shout fire” in a crowded theater?  Well that same logic applies to not yelling “there’s a gun” in a crowded stadium.

Alright, now let’s venture into the realm of the hypothetical.  If this could happen at a crowded high school football game, could it happen in an NFL stadium?  If you defiantly answer, “Absolutely not!” please stop reading.  Because why even bother.

When it comes to physical security, the National Football League takes a far more proactive approach with stadium safety.  Well. at least that’s the image they try to project.  Endless perimeter metal fencing, crash barricades, bomb detection units, magnetometers, video surveillance cameras, dedicated event staff as far as the eye can see, and of course, the clear bag policy designed to eliminate the presence of anything deemed potentially dangerous.

Catchy slogan, eh?  Today for the Carolina Panthers/Pittsburgh Steelers preseason game on 8-30-18, I counted a total of 20 double-sided “Be Clear on Game Day Safety” signs along the immediate perimeter of Heinz Field.  Hey, just because it’s preseason doesn’t necessarily make the event totally meaningless.  Either way, nice job!  It would appear that Heinz Field management is very concerned about public safety.

Like I was saying, plenty of emphasis on security.  But what about all of those cell phones?  Hmm, last time I checked, virtually everyone has a wireless communication device.  Fans are tweeting and texting, posting pics, checking fantasy stats, streaming video, using mobile apps, placing bets, feverishly monitoring live scores, and so on and so forth.  Remember the days when you “couldn’t get a signal” in the stadium?  Well, those days are long gone.  Cell phones are ubiquitous.

Back in 2012, Roger Goodell launched his NFL Stadium WiFi Initiative.  The objective was for every fan to have maximum wireless capability.  The NFL’s newest venue, Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium, boasts 1,800 Wi-Fi hubs.  That’s nearly the equivalent of two thousand Starbucks in less than a quarter square mile.  Now that’s a lot of band width! And what the venue presumably lacks in wireless hyper-connectivity, they easily compensate for with 2,000+ television screens/video monitors and 3,200 speakers.  And a network of nearly 4,000 miles of optical fiber to boot.  Sounds good, right?  The wireless hopes and dreams, the cellular aspirations of 71,000+ screaming fans… have been adequately placated.  Goodell’s vision… has been a resounding success!  Well, maybe.  I guess so.

Let’s think about this for a second.  An Olympic track has roughly the same dimensions as a football field.  The world record for one lap, the 400 meter dash, is 43 seconds, give or take a hundredth of a second.  That’s a 1/4 mile in less than a minute.  However, you can transmit volumes of information in less than a second.  Take a moment and reflect on the thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots, monitors, speakers, etc.  And oh yeah, 50,000 – 100,000 cell phones.  Could this be just a little bit excessive?  Is it possible that things could take a turn for the worse?  Is there any way this situation could “technologically backfire?”

Short answer, yes… with a but.  Long answer, yes… but what the hell is NFL security thinking?

What’s the contingency plan if someone decides to saturate a venue with weaponized information (bomb threats, phony evacuation orders, active shooter alerts, etc.)?  What about information that goes beyond fake news, i.e., dangerous news specifically attenuated to create fear and panic.  There are roughly a dozen ways to wirelessly transmit such information, both directly and indirectly.  All of them utilizing those disruptive little cell phones.

But of far greater concern, is the possibility, if not probability, of such information being spread in a decentralized fashion.  Just google the term ‘viral blitzkrieg.’  It might not be in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but I can assure you, it exists.  After all, I should know.  I made it up five years ago.  In this day and age, good news travels fast.  But have no doubt, bad news travels faster.

Furthermore, newer NFL stadiums are among the most costly venues on the planet earth.  They’re visually state-of-the-art and feature outstanding “line of sight.”  You can tilt your head in any direction and witness activity.  Not only on the field but throughout the entire crowd.

Lest ye forget about those pesky cell phones.  Each cell phone represents an INFINITE number of negative variables (things that might conceivably go wrong).  Imagine if just a few dozen people received unsettling information and decided their interests were best served by quickly bolting from their seats.  How might such a synchronized, dispersal of panic play itself out in real time?  How might such inexplicable behavior be interpreted?  By the announcers?  By the security?  By the fans?  Remember, there’s no evident source for alarm.  No screams of a bomb.  No shock of a lightning bolt.  No sound of a firecracker.  All you’d get is this baffling, reactive behavior based on erratic observation.

A friendly reminder: cell phones are capable of disseminating false information.  What if a stadium vendor offers steep discounts on official NFL merchandise?  Or free soft pretzels for a limited time?  What if someone near Gate A is handing out hundred dollar bills?  What if Snoop Dogg was spotted along the upper rotunda?  Smoking blunts and handing out complimentary gin and juice?  Timex Social Club said it best back in 1986.

Look at all these rumors, surroundin’ me every day.
Stop (stop) spreadin’ those rumors around
Stop (stop) spreadin’ the lies

But on a more serious note, what if parents snatched up their kids and ran?  What if just one individual quickly scrambled down a flight of steps in the upper tier?  What if, that single individual tripped and fell?  What might be the reaction of others?  What if somebody got wind of a real-time threat?  From someone they implicitly trusted.  Say for instance, a hijacked plane targeting the venue?  What if Donald Trump tweeted an emergency evacuation order for every NFL stadium.  What if his twitter account was hacked?  What if, what if… fill in the blank.

People do NOT just spontaneously panic.  Stampedes happen due to unanticipated VARIABLES, usually grounded in human error.  Most important, you do not (and cannot) mitigate stampedes.  You prevent them.

Considering the current technological climate, I’d be very concerned about the possibility of a different type of stampede.  One deemed “atypical.”  Think more in terms of randomly dispersed pandemonium followed by a congested implosion.  Something few have ever conceived of.  Either way, it doesn’t really matter how it starts.  Because once you have a real-world panic in a large, confined crowd, there’s the potential for a deadly stampede.  And a stampede… is a stampede… is a stampede.

As this article comes to a close, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other high school football stadium stampedes, all of which transpired just this week.  One in Rockford, Illinois another in Wellington, Florida another in Diamond Bar, California and yet another in Irmo, South Carolina. You may have missed them.  I know.  I know.  The news cycle is increasingly busy.  I guess these stampedes just didn’t make the cut.  And for the most part, neither did the one in Little Rock.

On second thought, don’t worry so much.  These were high school games.  And the National Football League is invincible.  Their fans are wealthier.  Smarter.  More civilized.  Superior.  Right?

On third thought, don’t worry so much.  Human stampedes just don’t happen here in the United States.  Well, except for the ones that just happened.  Right?

On final thought, how about we just tell fans the TRUTH?  If, while in any football stadium, you receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from your cell phone or mobile device… it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.  Translation: someone is trying to kill people.

These days, there’s so much emphasis on freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.  I often wonder if it’s the less-explored provision of the First Amendment, freedom of assembly, that will inevitably become a matter of intense public scrutiny.

To the admittedly few people who read this: I hope you come away thinking, “Hmm, this article contains sensitive, challenging subject matter with regard to national security.”  And you’d be correct.  It theorizes of an attempt to indiscriminately inflict mass civilian casualties WITHOUT conventional weapons.  That’s kind of a big deal.  But still, regardless of what anyone might tell you… you’re allowed to be cognizant of this exceedingly generic information.  It’s about situational awareness.  Plain and simple.  Stadium evac orders are NOT delivered via your personal cell phone.  There, I said it.  You either explicitly divulge this or you deliberately keep people in the dark.  Ignorant and oblivious.

It’s about asymmetric warfare.  It’s about cyber-terrorism.  And guess what?  In the year 2018, this topic is still dangerously undiscussable and purposely unavailable for public discourse or consumption.

As football season gets back underway, feel free to share this material in ANY forum regarding human rights, cyber-security and public safety.  And, oh yeah, stadium invulnerability as well!

The 3 Rivers 5K Challenge

Why would I offer $5,000 of my own money to assist the wealthiest sports owners in Western Pennsylvania, two of them billionaires, regarding a generic human rights issue in the realm of venue security?  It’s an unusual question.  One that obviously has an unusual answer.

To prevent mass injury and loss of life in a black swan event that could rival 9/11.

This involves the prospect of twenty, simultaneous human stampedes.

Nine NFL stadiums, eleven MLB ballparks and probably a NASCAR motor speedway.

So I made these little business cards with the following content.  And much to the dismay of the city of Pittsburgh, I hand them out like candy.

 

Attention: Pittsburgh sports fans

The 3 Rivers 5K Challenge

If you can convince Art Rooney II (Heinz Field), Bob Nutting (PNC Park) and/or Mario Lemieux (PPG Paints Arena) to disseminate the following public safety message…

“Please be advised, it is NOT our policy to issue venue evacuation orders via your personal cell phone”

… I will pay you the cash sum of $2,500 and make a matching donation to a mutually agreed upon 501-c3 Pittsburgh area charity.

For additional information:
agsaf.org (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation)

 

Now why would I do this?  Well, because you have a right to know the truth.  Legitimate evac orders for large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, arenas, etc.) would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone.  Why?  Because that’s not how it works.  Established protocol dictates using the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.  This is not convoluted.  Despite what our government (DHS, FCC, NCS4, etc.) and private industry (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc.) opt to deliberately conceal, you are allowed to be cognizant of this tiny, little snippet of basic public safety info.  You’re allowed to know this stuff.  You’re allowed to be aware.  There’s even a spiffy slogan for the dilemma  — “See Something, Say Something.”  If information of this nature were to “emanate” from your cell phone… well duh, some person or malicious entity is actively trying to force an unscheduled evacuation.  Why?   Well, in order to indiscriminately murder innocent civilians.  It’s almost certainly an attempt to contaminate the venues, foment panic and create human stampedes.  Regardless, there are two other remote possibilities.

1.  It’s an accidental wireless, mass transmission.  Similar to the push-notification regarding a pesky North Korean nuclear missile targeting Hawaii.

or

2.  Someone is attempting to evacuate a slew of mega-crowds solely for their own personal amusement.  Just to see if they can pull it off.

But trust me.  Realistically, it would be neither.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are more likely to win the Super Bowl as the Steelers take the World Series.

So here’s why this is a big deal.  And I cannot stress this point enough.  If a scenario like this unfolded, the actual “evac information” would probably be delivered in a manner deemed “sociologically and psychologically unpredictable.”  Uniquely asymmetric and designed to spread virally.  It would be specifically attenuated to create hysteria.  Also, you’d likely be receiving the information second-hand, from those you implicitly trust, i.e., family and friends.  Those concerned for your safety and general welfare.  Those who were hoodwinked by a decentralized, pernicious prank.

If this is starting to sound confusing or conspiratorial, that’s understandable.  So let’s keep it simple.  Although there are roughly a dozen “attack vectors” for saturating large crowds with deliberately false cellular information, not to mention an infinite number of hypothetical possibilities, let’s frame this whole thing in the form of a single Trump tweet.  Or as I like to call it… fake news.  Sound familiar?

Not realistic enough?  How about one of his patented tweet storms?

Note the difference.  The initial tweet was designed to create mass chaos.  However, the tweetstorm takes it one step further.  Panic and confusion accompanied with a blanket, aggressive, time-sensitive command.  And if you believe there’s some top secret, real-time contingency plan for either scenario, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news (spoken like Pittsburgh’s SuperGenius Mark Madden).

Now maybe you’re an ardent Trump supporter who believes the President can do no wrong.  Or perhaps you think he’s a tactical genius, highly versed in emergency evacuation protocol, threat condition analysis vs. threat emergency analysis and the nuanced practicalities of varying venue incident command structures.  Well, so be it.

Or maybe you think his twitter account could never be manipulated or compromised.

(By the way, the tweet directly above is actually legit)

Or maybe you’re one of these internet detectives who realized the date and time stamp on the tweets didn’t correspond with the scheduled major sporting events.

Road block!  I beg you, for just one brief moment, to put on your thinking cap.

Hmm, let’s see here.  Now if I can construct these fake Trump tweets, what’s to prevent me from saturating the internet with this shit?  Using a troll farm in Karachi, Pakistan or Moscow, Russia.  Pyongyang, North Korea or Wilmington, Delaware.  Bulk posting the information via a spam bot on local tv reporters’ social media pages (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.) in the respective cities of every NFL & MLB team.  Every network (CBS, ABC, NBC & FOX), every radio personality, every sports journalist, every member of Congress, every governor and mayor, every Hollywood celebrity, and so on.

Hey, maybe I shouldn’t be such a Debbie downer!  Or in this case, yinzer upper.  After all, I’m quite certain there’s an “angelic internet goddess” that sifts through all those mean online messages.  And she collaborates with a venerable cyber-God who exclusively looks after the national security interests of the United States.  Yes, but of course!  I knew it!  All the really bad stuff gets filtered out!  Cue the Lee Greenwood — God Bless the U.S.A.

E-gad!  This could finally shed some light on Trump’s unwavering support from the evangelicals!  But that’s neither here nor there.

I assure you, this brand of fake news/disinformation would easily become weaponized.  Regardless of validity, credibility or attempts to verify.  Once you hit that send button, it’s out there.  It becomes an open-sourced cyber-attack.

In order to make technically informed behavioral decisions, OODA feedback loops require time.  But cellular transmissions occur in real-time.  This conflict, a fundamentally generic “crack in the system,” cannot be mitigated or substantively reconciled.

Social media experts use the term “info-bomb,” but I prefer the term “viral blitzkrieg,” as it captures the essence of such an attack.  You simply cannot suddenly push dangerous material like this into the public domain without there being significant ramifications.  And yes, I realize it’s all based on speculation.  It kinda helps to view the problem with a long-term event horizon.  Could something like this ever be attempted?  Just the mere presence of such alarmingly unanticipated tweets would have definitive real-world consequences.  From a sheer numbers perspective, I find it extremely doubtful that 100% of those targeted would be dismissive, shrug it off, or instantly decipher the entire event to be a colossal cyber-hoax.  It’s just a numbers game.  Some percentage would panic.  Some percentage would run.  And that’s where those genetically ingrained herding instincts kick in.  Hey, don’t let anyone tell you there’s no downside to this evolution thingy.

Think of it in terms of Isaac Newton’s laws of physics/motion.  But instead of the physical world, it’s the cyber-world.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Where?  When?  Well, two specific dates seem to stand out (9-9-18 & 9-16-18).  I could even approximate the exact time.  3pm.  Why?  Because it represents the biggest bang for your buck.

September 9, 2018:

NFL stadiums — Indianapolis, Baltimore, East Rutherford, New Orleans, Foxborough, Minneapolis, Miami, Indianapolis, Cleveland

MLB ballparks — Toronto, Detroit, New York City, Cincinnati, St. Petersburg, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Denver

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

OR

September 16, 2018:

NFL stadiums — Atlanta, Landover, Nashville, Tampa, Pittsburgh, East Rutherford, Orchard Park, Green Bay, New Orleans

MLB ballparks — Boston, Baltimore, New York City, Tampa, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Houston, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

I’d also be leery of September 30, 2018.  Eight NFL games coinciding with fifteen MLB games as well as a NASCAR race in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Do you see what I’m getting at?  This ain’t terribly complex.  It’s merely the wireless equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater… on cellular steroids sprinkled with a wireless dash of human growth hormone pills.  Just don’t call me Yinzerdamus.

Hey, ever wonder why NOBODY is allowed to talk about it?  Well I have.  And it’s not rocket science.  All the typically taboo conjecture… plausible deniability, hypothetical litigation, the undiscussability precedent (sensitive social mores regarding people being trampled and crush asphyxiated), government resistance to exploring transformative subject matter, the lose-lose proposition (zero upside, enormous downside), the moral catch-22 (you acknowledge it, you own it), and of course, the generational warfare paradox (killing without weapons).  Not to mention the biggest factor of them all.  MONEY.  Even though the solution is free… simply divulging the truth.  One thing is for certain… it’s always about money.

I know.  I know.  Lest we forget, we are the hyper-capitalist capital of the world — ’Merica.

Go figure.

 

Rules for The 3 Rivers 5K Challenge:

Open to any citizen of the United States.
Only one winner.
Payment dispensed in the amount of $1,000 per year for a duration of five years.
Payable immediately upon verification.
$500 cash to the individual each year.  $500 check to the charity each year.

Public safety information must be conveyed at all applicable events: sports, concerts, misc.
Public safety information must be conveyed in two forms: Verbal — public address system (inside or outside).  Written — official program or ticket stub.

For additional information, please call 304-312-1395.

 

Eminem’s Bonnaroo Blast

Rapper Eminem faced criticism following his June 9, 2018 headlining performance at the annual Bonnaroo Festival in Nashville, Tennessee.  During a song ironically entitled “Kill You,” a crowd of nearly 70,000 heard multiple gunshots causing large numbers of fans to suddenly panic, scream and duck.  A spokesperson later clarified that the sound effects were actually a “pyrotechnic concussive effect which creates a loud boom.”  Judging from the video, I’d say that’s debatable.

This came just a year removed from the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States, the 2017 Las Vegas Mandalay Bay concert massacre.  Many wondered if it was appropriate to incorporate multiple gunshot sounds as part of a performance.  Truth be told, Eminem has often used rapid machine gunfire blasts.  However, the Bonnaroo Festival featured a wide range of entertainment, from rap to country to metal to pop music.  So not everyone may have had prior knowledge as to Eminem’s musical tendencies.

A handful of rock’n’roll bands and rap musicians use strobe lighting.  The flashing lights have been known to produce nausea and even full blown seizures.  This has led performers, and venues in certain states, to explicitly disclose their usage and provide ample warning beforehand.  Some venues also warn about the dangers of mosh pits and slam dancing.  My point: precedent and familiarity can result in tangible, proactive legal disclaimers.

In the past, I’ve written about how unsuspecting gunshot sounds can have unforeseen ramifications.  One such incident incident was the 2016 New York City panic at JFK International Airport.  Preceding the highly anticipated 100 meter dash at the Rio De Janeiro Olympics, a starter’s gunshot reverberated on virtually every television screen in every terminal.  Followed by screams and shrieks from travelers which immediately gave way to random chaos.

Just this year, there was a spontaneous stampede at an India railway station in the darkness of night.  But this time it wasn’t perceived weapon fire.  It was slabs of asbestos sheets falling from a ceiling which sparked rumors of an earthquake.  Over 50 travelers were injured in the ensuing mayhem.

Back here in the United States, various shopping malls across the country have witnessed spur-of-the-moment panics.  It’s often anything that creates a loud, sudden bang.  Large promotional placards tipping over, stacks of metal folding chairs sliding off a carrier, or even a random gust of wind blowing out a window.  Anything that causes a sudden jolt can produce “fright and flight” consequences.

Have you ever been driving down the road and heard a police or ambulance siren?  Then, instinctively look to see if it’s safe to pull over.  Only to find out that the siren was actually emanating from a song on the radio or an attorney’s commercial for DUI services.  Again, my point is that unanticipated, synthetic sounds produce real-world reactions.

Back in 2011, I created the term “artificially generated stampede.”  My intention was to describe something which embodies the notion of a cellular or wireless induced panic.  But more and more, I’m beginning to wonder if there should be a corollary term — “accidentally” generated stampede.

Reflecting back on the Eminem concert gunshot controversy, perhaps he would consider a new slogan akin to his candy counterpart.  Instead of “melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” how about “heard in your head, not in your ears?”  Hey, I’m just sayin’… perception lies in the mind of the beholder.

 

Wouldn’t you like to be a Tepper too?

Could the recent $2,000,000,000+ purchase of the Carolina Panthers be the most horribly timed investment decision in the history of mankind?  It’s quite possible.  We’ll get to that in a bit.

School shootings here in the United States and human stampedes abroad have something in common.  They seemingly just keep happening.  But only the major, mass casualty incidents receive significant media coverage.  Would it surprise you to know that there were 3 major stampedes within the last month or so?

April 23, 2018 — Ougadougou, Burkina Faso.  A crowd surge at a religious festival in Somgrande Stadium.  Six dead, unknown number of injuries.  It’s a little ironic that parishioners perished during a faith healing ceremony.

May 12, 2018 — Sierra Leone, Africa.  A presidential inauguration ceremony at National Stadium resulted in 1 dead, 98 injured. Judging from the video, I think it’s reasonable to question the tally of fatalities.

May 14, 2018 — Chittagong, Bangladesh.  A private gathering to celebrate Ramadan left 10 dead, 50 injured.  Wealthy muslims often give out free food and clothing to the poor.  Occasionally, things take a turn for the worse.

Yep, these incidents all had one thing in common.  They all failed to make the news.  For the most part, stampedes rarely make the busy U.S. news cycle.  Unless of course, they happen in the good ‘ol U.S.A.  Then, there’s a public outcry, investigation and demand for accountability.  Like with the recent May 28 stampede in South Beach, Miami, FL which produced a grand tally of 1 person hospitalized with serious injuries.

My point: these incidents are more prevalent than you might think.  You just don’t hear about them on a routine basis.

Regarding stampedes, my specific concerns are centered around the potential for wireless driven panics.  Not sure if anyone has noticed, but everyone seems to be walking around clutching a cell phone.  In their car.  At the gym.  The grocery store, the bar and so on.  And if it’s not in their hand, it’s clipped to their hip like a weaponized sidearm.  Others have some form of ear-piece or alternative headset.  Suffice it to say, these days, when you take a look around, pretty much everyone is “connected.”

Without going into a lengthy explanation, this dynamic could produce serious consequences if someone with malicious intent decided to saturate a string of large crowds with phony evacuation orders, bomb threats, or cellular trickery designed to make people fear for their lives.

But like Forrest Gump would say, “Everything’s fine and dandy.”  Well, until, Donald Trump’s twitter feed is hacked.  Then, all of the public safety planning, contingency operations, strategies and mitigation, tactical emergency response… all of it gets flushed down the theoretical toilet.  For example…

Witness how there was no mention of bombs, IEDs, active shooters, chemical weapons, etc.  Just a vivid reminder of a historical disaster followed by a semi-convincing evacuation command.  I think it’s reasonable to wonder how roughly 1 million individuals attending major sporting events would simultaneously process a sudden info-bomb of this nature.  My hunch is that a decent percentage would “hedge their bets” and start moving aggressively toward the concourses.  This would leave the remainder of people to make sudden observations and quickly draw their own conclusions.

Regardless, that’s three tweets delivered in less than 30 seconds.  With just a few tweets, the incident command structures for every key sports venue in the entire United States are effectively eviscerated and rendered worthless.  Or at the very least, dangerously compromised.  And yes, I realize this is a hypothetical.  But it’s a pretty big one.  Most people express concern about Trump’s twitter feed being misused in terms of a nuclear holocaust, or “nuke-tweet.”  But I believe there are other, more realistic, overlooked precarious scenarios.  This is one of them.  And by the way, there are about a dozen other ways to wirelessly saturate large, confined crowds.  Trump’s twitter account ain’t the only way.  However, it does represent an easily identifiable method.

Transition #1:

I attended the Carnegie Mellon University 2018 commencement on May 20, 2018.

It gave me the opportunity to hear former CMU graduate and keynote speaker David Tepper.  For those unfamiliar with Tepper, he’s a philanthropic hedge fund manager with a net worth of roughly 10 billion dollars.  Not too shabby.  He recently purchased the Carolina Panthers for a record 2.2 billion dollars.  Tepper’s now a distinguished member of one of the world’s wealthiest cartels.  He is an NFL team owner.

Tepper gave an impressive speech, mostly about determination, following your gut instincts and doing what’s morally right.  He was born into a lower middle class family in a rough Pittsburgh neighborhood.  Growing up, he could never afford to attend a Steelers game.  But now he is the proud owner of an NFL franchise.  Quite the rags to riches story.  Tepper relayed an impressive list of personal accomplishments.  But out of nowhere, he stunningly revealed his father’s penchant for domestic violence.  Tepper then tearfully claimed that his greatest achievement was breaking that cycle of domestic abuse.  How he made a solemn vow to never raise a hand to his own children.  This blunt admission received a standing ovation.  Indeed it was a powerful moment.

Transition #2:

For the past several years, I’ve been trying to get the NFL to explicitly warn its fans that official stadium evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.  Why is this important?  Well, if such a directive is coming from your cell phone, it’s almost certainly part of malicious hoax designed to create a panic and an ensuing stampede.

My justification has always focused on the moral rationale.  That people have a fundamental right to know the truth so they can adequately defend themselves.  That it’s a matter of human rights and situational awareness.  That choosing to divulge this hushed, yet very generic information, is the morally right thing to do.  Legitimate stadium evacuation orders do NOT come from your cell phone.  Breaking news: I’m not the only person on the planet earth who has come to this realization.

But perhaps I made a miscalculation.  Rather than focusing on the ethically challenging aspects of this asymmetric cyber-threat, maybe I should have been a bit more realistic.  Hey let’s face it.  The NFL is a monetary cauldron of greed at near-unprecedented levels.  Bubbling over.  Maybe I would have fared better if I had drawn attention to the potentially staggering fiscal losses in the aftermath of a dominipede (domino stampede).

September 9, 2018 & September 16, 2018:

Just same dates you might wanna keep an eye on.  Both days offer up 9 NFL games, 11 MLB games and a plethora of other major events as mid-September boasts some of the best weather of the year.  All of them overlapping during the 1pm – 4pm time frame.

Remember what I said.  One hack + a few tweets = the makings of a black swan, the likes of which the world has never seen.  I imagine something like this would not bode well for technology, humanity and/or prosperity.

On second thought, who cares?  After all, those professional sports franchise investments are invincible.  Right?  The rich can only get richer.  The economic laws of supply and demand do not apply to NFL or MLB ownership.

So how about an alternative perspective?  It goes something like this.  In seven words.

Bad things never happen… until they happen.

If you know David Tepper, please forward him the link to this article.  Perhaps he could be that one NFL owner who’s willing to take a stand and shed light on the prospect of a potential act of cyber-terrorism which would shatter conventional norms.  Considering Tepper’s disdain for physical violence, it seems like he’d be an ideal candidate.  Regrettably, I already know the collective stance of the 31 other owners.  It’s 31 identical flavors that all taste the same.  It’s the taste and sound of silence.

When the Spoken Word Spreads Like Wireless Wildfire

The core objective of the AGSAF website (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) is to shed light on the prospect of inducing real-world panic via cellular communications.  Specifically, the ramifications and consequences which could arise from a wireless saturation of false information in large crowds, such as stadiums or ballparks.  As is the case, I often find myself referencing the familiar “shouting FIRE in a crowded theater” analogy.  In plain English, I’m worried about the potential for human stampedes.

But very rarely do people actually stand up and shout “fire” or “I have a bomb” or “I am going to kill everyone.”  After all, it’s against the law.  For obvious reasons I might add.  Fortunately scenarios like this aren’t the norm.  They’re the exception.

I guess it all boils down to situational awareness and socially acceptable norms.  Most rational people don’t engage in unrestrained, volatile speech.  They don’t discuss child pornography at kindergarten bake sales.  Or walk into a bank and ask the teller, “Have you ever been held up at gunpoint?”  In that same spirit, I wouldn’t go around randomly initiating discussions about suicide bombings.  Now if you’re at a symposium on terrorism and asymmetric warfare, it’s a reasonable topic.  But if you’re raising the issue of suicide bombers with Secret Service agents at a Donald Trump rally in Elkhart, Indiana?  Well, uh, not so much.

My point.  There’s a time and place for just everything.  Contrarily, the opposite is true.  There’s also NOT a time and place for everything.  I’d hope we could all find some common ground on this one.

That being said, on April 27, 2018, something out of the ordinary transpired at a cinema complex in Redlands, CA.  The latest Avengers movie had just ended.  As the credits started to roll, out of nowhere, a rogue evangelist stood in front of the crowd and decided to preach the gospel.

The preacher, 28 year old Michael Webber, began his speech with an ominous remark…. “If you were to die tonight.”  Followed by loud statements about repenting for the sins of mankind and how judgment day would soon be upon us.

Now remember how I said “there’s a time and place for everything?”  Well guess what?  This wasn’t it!

Many in the crowd likely flashed back to the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting where James Eggan Holmes opened fire on defenseless individuals with an AR-15, killing 12 and injuring 70.  At the time, it was the largest number of casualties from a single mass shooting incident in U.S. history.  Since then, that distinction has been easily surpassed by the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting and the Las Vegas country music festival slaughter of 2017.

The Redlands movie theater crowd suddenly went from blasé and indifferent… into full scale panic mode.  Because when people see others panic, they invariably panic.  It’s called herding instincts.  Suffice to say, everyone wanted out.  Some even jumped over railings in a desperate attempt to get to the narrow corridor leading to the exit.  Several people were trampled and injured amidst the chaos.  There were no fatalities.  However, one woman’s injuries were classified as severe.

So here’s the takeaway.  Do you recall my original analogy?  The one about shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?

Let’s take a moment and compare our esteemed President Donald Trump to Michael Webber, the misguided, overly-ambitious preacher.  What if Donald Trump decided to preach about the NFL… but on twitter?  What if he saw something he didn’t like while watching a game.  Maybe a player taking a knee or raising a fist during the national anthem.  What if someone on the sidelines had their hand in their pocket, instead of properly placed over their heart?  What if someone, anyone, failed to correctly adhere to his higher standard of patriotism?

What if Trump instinctively tweeted… “When NFL players show such blatant disrespect to our Wonderful Country and Great Flag, I’m calling on all fans to pick up and leave the Stadium!  We, the American people, have had ENOUGH!”

If that sounds even remotely the least bit plausible, well, it’s cause for grave alarm.  Because I seriously doubt that Donald Trump possesses the requisite intellectual curiosity or mental acuity skills to grasp that he would be subliminally executing an emergency evacuation order.  Let there be no mistake.  Trump might be the President of the Untied States.  But he does not possess the legal authority to order a stadium evac.  I suppose, if he thought it was necessary, he could weigh-in on the subject and go through the appropriate channels.  But tweeting such an order?  Whatever the reason or rationale, please understand, this would be both a severe evisceration of the existing incident command structure and a dangerously unprecedented violation of the established protocol.

When you’re dealing with packed crowds approaching the 100,000 mark, a single, unanticipated, unplanned presidential tweet could have dire consequences.  As in die… errrr.

 

Unanticipated Variables Within the Standard Bomb Threat Matrix

The AGSAF website deals primarily with cyber-security, public safety, fundamental human rights… and the prevention of human stampedes.  So I often find myself writing articles about outdated emergency evacuation protocol and explaining why the token industry standards are pathetic and dangerously inadequate.

Hint: Everyone has a cell phone.

On April 15, 2018, an unusual incident transpired at a Planet Fitness in Saginaw, Michigan.  A gym member went to access the internet and noticed that “remote detonator” was one of the SSID entries on the available list of Wi-Fi login options.  An SSID is a “Service Set Identifier.”  It’s a technical term for the distinguishable name of a network.  An SSID can be assigned any name whatsoever.  It’s purely at the discretion of the individual, much like a username or password.  Fortunately, most people have enough common sense to avoid choosing names like “ISIS terrorist” or “AR-15 incoming.”  Now it’s just my opinion, but considering the current dynamic on the internet, to rely on an individual user’s judgement, seems like an increasingly bad idea.

Anyway, the building was evacuated and closed for approximately 3 hours as police and bomb-sniffing dogs combed the area for explosives.  Nothing was discovered and the gym reopened.  The consensus opinion in its aftermath was very similar to the overwhelming majority of other bomb threats — “Well, better safe than sorry.”

However, taking into consideration the recent spate of 6 highly publicized, seemingly random bombings in Austin, Texas just last month, perhaps it’s reasonable to err on the side of maximum discretion.  Behold, the bomb threat paradox.  Is it necessary to evacuate?  What if there really is a bomb and we fail to take demonstrable action?

Saginaw Township Police Chief Donald Pussehl issued a statement that the incident falls under protected speech.  “Everything is perfectly legal from a police standpoint.  There was no crime or threat.  No call saying there was a bomb.”

Based on his educational biography, it’s reasonable to assume that Pussehl is in his mid-50’s.

Now I realize there’s a natural obsession with the word “bomb.”  And similar terms, such as detonator, explosive, projectile, grenade, Molotov cocktail, and so on.  But these are NOT the only words or phrases in the English dictionary that could conceivably terrorize innocent civilians.  To exclusively rely on the word “bomb” represents an extremely narrow and linear way of conducting threat management analysis.

Mr. Pussehl has likely dealt with countless phoned-in bomb threats during his tenure.  But I think a reality check is in order.  Especially with law enforcement officials who are less familiar with the current age and pace of technology.  He might have plenty of practical experience when dealing with conventional bomb threats, but when dealing with “hypothetical wireless attack vectors”, it would be my contention that he is either likely “out of his depth,” or much like his industry peers in government and private industry, deliberately chooses to remain “discreetly unaware.”

The days of someone “calling in a bomb threat to the main desk from a pay phone down the street” are increasingly a thing of the past.  There are roughly a dozen significant ways to saturate large, confined crowds with false wireless information.  I’m not terribly worried about the bomb threat model of the 1970’s.  I’m concerned about the potential bomb threat matrix in the year 2018 and beyond.  At some future point in time, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that some individual or group will launch a more comprehensive, tactically decentralized, deluge of bomb threats.  Oh, and by the way, things like this are already happening on the planet earth.  They’re just rarely showcased on the cable news networks.  Sometimes, I honestly wonder if I’m the only person on the planet earth to have noticed that pretty much everyone has a cell phone capable of receiving real-time information.

There are an infinite number of ways to encourage people to move aggressively.  Greed is always a powerful motivator.  Think in terms of free merchandise.  Or deep discounts for a limited time frame.  Celebrity sightings, flash flood alerts, reports of an active shooter, etc. This isn’t complex.  It’s merely the opposite a flash mob.  Instead of encouraging people to quickly gather, the objective would be getting people to quickly disperse.  There’s an endless variety of cellular information which could result in an unanticipated crowd surge, potentially resulting in a human stampede.

So what’s my best advice?  Well, maybe, just maybe, the time has come… to come clean with American citizens.  And for that matter, humanity.

If you find yourself in large crowd (stadium, ballpark, motor speedway, amphitheater, arena, etc.) and are the recipient of a cellular bomb threat or “movement triggering, panic inducing” information via your personal cell phone, it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create a stampede.  Large venues have a very specific protocol for conducting emergency evacuations.  The existing incident command structure would NEVER initially deliver evac orders to your personal cell phone or mobile device.

A.  They wouldn’t.

B.  They shouldn’t.

C.  And even if they wanted to, they couldn’t.  They currently lack the capability.

Again, you do NOT play emergency texting games with physically constrained crowds in excess of 20,000.  That’s just not how these things work.

Please give it some thought.  Now granted, my concerns are unavailable for public consumption.  Fortunately though, I created this handy, dandy website which explains why my specific concerns are “undiscussable.”  More importantly, the site offers the moral rationale for divulging the truth about woefully obsolete emergency evacuation protocol.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  It’s kind of a big deal.

Feel free to share this information with family and friends.  The only viable, over-arching solution lies with enhancing awareness and being proactive.  The alternative is to idly sit by, remain ignorant and just hope for the best.  Considering the vulnerability of the NFL and the prospect of a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes), that would NOT be a particularly sound option.

 

An Open Challenge to Vivek Ranadive

Mr. Ranadive — I will pay you the sum of $1,000 if you’re willing to share fundamental human rights information with fellow Sacramento Kings fans.  This information relates to cyber-security and directly impacts public safety in the confines of Sacramento’s Golden1 Center.

It’s an easy one.  Just tell the fans that… official arena evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.

The average attendance for a Kings game is 17,553.  But last night’s game was less than 2,000.  So why the drastic drop off?

Well, protests engulfed the city over the shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black resident of Sacramento.  He was shot 20 times and pronounced dead at the scene.  Allegedly, police thought he was holding a gun.  But it turned out that the “gun” was actually a cell phone.  Of course we all know that a cell phone isn’t a weapon.  Unless of course, you’re a subscriber to the free AGSAF website.

Protestors managed to shut down the freeway and city streets.  But it didn’t stop there. They also formed a human chain link around the arena entrances.  Venue incident command made the decision to lock the doors and turn away over 15,000 fans.  They also delayed the game about 20 minutes and omitted the national anthem.  The event proceeded without any major issues.

After the game concluded, Vivek Ranadive, the owner of the Sacramento Kings made a bold decision to address the crowd from center court.  Just for the record, professional sports owners rarely engage in this type of activity.

Two excerpts from his inclusive remarks:

We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform.  It’s a privilege but it’s also a responsibility.  It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously.

We recognize that it’s not just business as usual and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place starting with our own community and we’re going to work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again.

I applaud his proactive courage in addressing the crisis as opposed to hiding in a luxurious owners box.  Ranadive is a native of India.  With a net worth of 700 million, he’s also the founder of Teknekron Software Systems.  Engineer, speaker, philanthropist, and most important, he’s a fellow writer.  I don’t know the man personally, but he seems like a progressive, forward-thinking individual.  Someone who thinks with a long-term event horizon.  Someone who truly wishes to make a difference.  Hence, a strong candidate for divulging generic public safety information deemed “undiscussable” by the United States government and private industry.

Now considering Ranadive’s net worth is approaching a billion, I doubt my minuscule offer of a thousand dollars is much of an incentive to spill the beans.  But he does strike me as someone who would understand the critical nature of my concerns and come to the realization that this ain’t about money.  It’s about fundamental human rights and the collective destiny of mankind.  The “artificially generated stampede” is a moral issue.

I’ll gladly make the same offer to any professional sports owner (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS).  Although I won’t be holding my breath.  Hell, I’ll extend the offer even further… to any sitting member of Congress (in the form of a campaign contribution).  Or any cabinet member of the Trump administration.  Or Donald himself.  Believe it or not, considering Trump’s penchant for erratic behavior, loose lips, indiscriminate grandstanding and reckless conduct, he’d actually be a decent candidate.  It does not matter exactly how this information finds its way into the public domain.  Just that it does.  Preferably, before it’s too late.

 

Social Media Impacting Physical Movement

On March 1, 2018, a 19 year old female, identified only as Ye, found herself in big trouble with Chinese authorities in Haiting Bay, Sunya.  Her crime?  She posted a provocative video on the social media network Weibo, China’s twitter equivalent.  The “who’s coming to get me… to have sex… for free” post of her wearing black lingerie in a Hilton hotel room quickly went viral.  Surveillance video showed approximately 3,000 men unexpectedly arriving at the hotel, many going directly to room number 6316.  The front desk of the hotel was also inundated with phone calls.  People wanted to know if the offer was genuine.

After the commotion escalated beyond control, Miss Ye followed up the post with a denial, claiming the entire escapade was a joke.  That she was only seeking to bolster her online following.  But by then, the damage was done.  Police arrested her on a charge of soliciting prostitution.  She was fined $75 and sentenced to 15 days in jail.

While this may not have caused an actual human stampede in the general sense (no fatalities or injuries), it does speak to my larger concerns regarding the triggering of movement sparked by social media platforms.  Similar instances happen all the time.  Most of them encapsulating two other basic needs: money and food.  Terms like cash mob, flash mob, geocaching (cellular scavenger hunts) were never really conceived of… until the internet and cell phone industry took hold.  Protests and political uprisings are another area of concern as they’re often promoted on social media as well.

When I raise the issue of “artificially generated stampedes,” people tend to think quite linearly.  Most envision a mass, unilateral dissemination of cellular bomb threats, leading to a panic and ensuing stampede.  Something similar in nature to what recently transpired in Hawaii during January of 2018.

What people fail to take into account is the naivete of the general population.  Not to mention a lack of awareness surrounding the hypothetical nature of this asymmetric cyber-threat.  Few individuals are prepared for the possibility of a well-coordinated, malicious hoax.  Why?  Because the subject matter is generally unavailable for scrutiny.

There are an infinite number of ways to use wireless transmissions in an effort to convincingly encourage people to quickly move in a specific direction or to a fixed location.  Cellular information can be uniquely tailored to induce panic in large, confined crowds.  Government and/or private industry would be wise to get ahead of the curve on this one.  The next venue might not be some hotel in southern China.  It could very well be a professional football stadium or major league ballpark.  And it might not be an accident.  Even worse, it might not be a single location.

No realistic contingency plan currently exists for the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.  Mitigation, in and of itself, is not a viable option for preventing stampedes.  Why?  Because time is not a factor.  Because there would be no time in your OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).  Again, an artificially generated stampede is a real-world phenomenon that unfolds in real-time.  The only realistic preventative strategy starts with making people aware of the threat itself.

And here’s something that virtually nobody, other than myself, has considered.  The source of such nefarious, cellular information could be coming from those you implicitly trust — family and friends who’ve fallen for a targeted, electronic disinformation campaign.  It’s the potential consequence of another new term we hear with increasing regularity.  #fakenews

 

Nilay Kulkarni

Human stampede prevention is an unusual topic.  Unpleasant as well.  Turns out that nobody likes the notion of mass suffocation and scores of innocent people being trampled to death.  Consequently, you don’t hear too much from leaders in the industry.  Until now.

 

ted.com/talks/nilay_kulkarni_a_life_saving_invention_that_prevents_human_stampedes
youtube.com/watch?v=oa6QT8G-zJA

Both clips are well worth watching.

Nilay Kulkarni, an 18 year old from India, devised and implemented tactical, real-world solutions in an effort to eliminate human stampedes.  He was disturbed with the “inevitable predictability” of stampedes during the Kumbh Mela.  Distressed by the utter sense of fatalism and societal helplessness, he decided to confront the issue head on.

The Kumbh Mela is a religious festival that draws millions to various locations in India.  The event often results in tremendous stress on already fragile infrastructures.  Pilgrims crowd river banks and venture into the water as a means of spiritual cleansing.  Seems everywhere you go, people are really hip to this eternal salvation thing.  Me personally?  Well, not as much.

Now there’s always cause for concern when millions gather in congested locations.  And during monsoon season, it can become an especially dangerous environment.  For decades at the Kumbh, human stampedes have been the norm, not the exception.

Mr. Kulkarni realized that if they were going to comprehensively address the problem, they required accurate, real-time information regarding crowd density.  This was critical so that officials could modulate entry and egress at specific choke points.  Thus, better controlling the flow and tempo of the mammoth crowd.

But his team encountered obstacles.  Distributing RF (Radio Frequency) Tokens to tens of millions of people was impractical.  CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) cameras were too expensive.  Also, significant numbers of people do not carry cell phones during the Kumbh, so information obtained from cell towers was of less significance.

They needed a solution that was inexpensive, waterproof, and capable of acquiring real-time data.

They configured a truly innovative idea — Ashioto (the Japanese word for footsteps).  Strategically placed neoprene mats equipped with pressure sensors that monitor weight and proximity.  Real-time information regarding crowd movement is then wirelessly delivered to those who oversee the festival.  Now are the mats an absolutely foolproof way to prevent crowd turbulence?  Probably not.  But are they a step in the right direction?  Of course they are.

As luck would have it, I also wish to prevent human stampedes and needless suffering, injury and loss of life.  However, the course of action I’ve chosen revolves around disseminating public safety information which is “difficult to share.”  For a variety of reasons.  Among them, divulging an asymmetric strategy for likely killing hundreds and injuring thousands… without weapons.  Oh yeah, and it’s free too.

The solutions for preventing “artificially generated stampedes” are centered around enhancing knowledge and awareness.  But the material has been deemed sociologically undiscussable.  Nobody in government or the sports/entertainment business is willing to divulge this one helpful, little snippet of public safety information.  Still, I always feel morally compelled to just tell people the following…

You’re allowed to know that official emergency evacuation orders for crowded venues (stadiums, ballparks, etc.) would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone.”

Much like Nilay’s neoprene electronic sensor mats, the AGSAF mission statement is a tangible solution.  And if you ask Mr. Kulkarni, I’m pretty confident he’d agree that…

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 personal cell phone…

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

I do have a suggestion for Mr. Kularni.  Keep a watchful eye on your real-time data transmissions.  If accuracy is vital then security is paramount.  And please heed the words of our intellectually esteemed President over here in the United States…

“Computers are incredible.  They do great things.  But hacking is a bad thing.  But now, cyber can be both good and bad.  And we need more cyber.  We need to get better with the cyber.”

 

Transformative Issues and Sensitive Social Mores

Riddle me this:  How do you simultaneously kill hundreds and injure thousands without weapons?

The prospect of artificially generated stampedes presents a challenging dilemma.  I often comment about how the subject matter is “undiscussable.”  It’s my contention that there are reasons why nobody is willing to touch the wireless equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.

I customarily focus on four major aspects: plausible deniability, hypothetical litigation, the lose-lose proposition, and the inability to candidly speak about the notion of indiscriminately killing innocent civilians without conventional weaponry.  Ironically, the overriding solution is free — raising awareness about how cell phone transmissions can be used to create hysteria.  But the whole damn thing simply remains one big, intransigent paradox.  As daytime psychiatric talk show host Dr. Phil says, “you cannot fix what you’re unwilling to acknowledge.”  Deliberately manufacturing a cellular panic resulting in a real-world human stampede(s) is about as ugly as it gets.  Most people don’t wish to talk about speculative mass casualty events, especially ones that involve trampling and suffocation.  Why?  Because by its very nature, the conversation is an incredibly uncomfortable one.  It trends undiscussable.

Perhaps instead of regurgitating my concerns about this specific cyberthreat, let’s analyze it from the framework of a few security, safety and social issues which have had a historically bumpy ride.  The social mores which govern many of these discussions have this ingrained psychological resistance which permeates throughout society.  Most people just “know better” than to say something exceedingly controversial, something that could only be meant to antagonize or inflame the general public, or even worse, inflict financial damage, appear conspiratorial or “put an idea in someone’s head.”  Sometimes there’s stuff you just can’t talk about.

AR-15s and mass shootings — The recent February 14, 2018, Parkland, FL school tragedy left 17 dead and 15 injured.  Here’s a suggestion you’d be unlikely to hear on the national news.  During interviews with politicians and investigators, it’s doubtful any of them would offer up a substantial shift from established policy.  That, for the greater good and to serve as a future deterrent… in the rare instances of civilian mass shootings, it might actually be a good idea to broadcast still photos, and if possible, video footage of the carnage.  Anybody who offered up such a sick suggestion would surely be condemned for such callous indifference to the victims.  But let’s be honest.  If Americans were physically exposed to the human bloodbath, their outrage would grow accordingly and they’d be more inclined to demand action.

It’s possible you might hear someone ask, “Why is it illegal for a 19 year old to buy a beer, but perfectly legal for them to buy a gun?”  However, no competent analyst would utter the same question with greater specificity.  “Why is it illegal for a 19 year old to buy a Bud Light, but they can go into any Walmart and buy an AR-15?”  Although technically accurate, such a statement would unfairly demonize Walmart and Anheuser Busch.  And yes, I’m aware that Walmart discontinued the sale of AR-15s a few years ago.

The media will often report that a shooter had “known psychological problems” and a “disturbing history.”  But if asked to identify the specific brand of anti-psychotic medication they had a prescription for (Zyprexa, Risperdal, etc.), the conversation suddenly goes silent.  Why?  Well, the pharmaceutical industry would be incensed.  Because their corporate image would be irrevocably tarnished.  The major networks are well aware of this.  They’ll report the news, but will never take that additional step.  Why?  Well when over half of the commercials on tv are drug-related, let’s just say, you tell me.  Hint: it’s about money.  The rationale for this is generally unspoken but widely known.  Justification for such policy is discreetly referred to as “the way of things” or as a “necessary evil.”

We’ve witnessed mass shootings at churches, schools, movie theaters, military bases and so on.  So what about a maternity ward or an assisted living facility or a kindergarten bake sale?  What’s to prevent someone from hypothesizing?  Delicate social mores would likely preclude most professional news personalities from broaching this darker angle.  But on the other hand, these days the media is increasingly a free for all environment.  By their very nature, scenarios involving extreme gun violence and mass slaughter are too incendiary.  It’s nearly impossible to have a calm and measured debate about gun control.  Following every mass shooting, you’ll often hear that “now is not the time.”  We need to respect the survivors and give everyone an opportunity to grieve.  Distractions often involve prayers and condolences.  Diversions might include wearing wristbands, lighting candles or changing the discussion to focus on violent video games, post traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues.  Ever hear this one?  That the only person who can stop a bad guy with a gun… is a good guy with a gun.  Or the all-too-familiar… guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Even more disconcerting, how on earth can you have an informed discussion about guns without mentioning the actual word “gun?”  Semantics and talking points almost always dominate arguments involving the Second Amendment.

Regrettably, the impetus for legislation with regard to public safety and national security, often involves large numbers of people being killed under “tragically preventable” circumstances.  You’ll rarely hear people mention this uncomfortable notion, but I can assure you, there’s plenty of historical evidence to back it up.

Airplane crashes — There’s a dirty little secret in the airline industry.  Before the next 747 disappears in the ocean, you might be shocked to know, that if they really wanted to, the airline industry could pinpoint a plane’s exact location.  The FAA could mandate that planes be equipped with more frequent real-time monitoring and geo-location homing beacon devices.  In the scheme of things, the technology is relatively cheap.  But the airlines don’t want it.  In the event of an actual airplane crash in the middle of the Pacific, this would be bad for business.  In most cases, a credible salvage operation would likely cost billions and bankrupt the company.  The airline industry operates on very tight operating margins.  Just ask TWA after Flight 800 was retrieved from the Atlantic.  But why won’t someone else raise the issue?  Well it probably wouldn’t be helpful to the government, the airline sector, the employees, the stockholders, even the passengers.  If you take an objective look, it would be a lose-lose proposition for just about everyone with skin in the game.

Gambling — Ever notice the pervasiveness of gambling?  Video poker machines, church bingo, office pools, the stock market, the lottery, etc.  It would appear that certain types of gambling are here to stay.  Some are even sanctioned and promoted by the state and federal government.  But if you want to place a wager on an NFL game?  Well, for the most part, that would be unacceptable.  So why the discrepancy?  Decades of restrictive, entrenched gambling laws, the complexities of addiction, resistance from organized crime, and so on and so forth.  The forces that be often derail any meaningful dialogue.

Cigarettes — Finally after decades of obfuscation, outright denial, bait & switch, and other tactics, the tobacco industry was hauled into Congress in 1994.  Top executives from the 7 largest tobacco companies were asked point blank if they thought that nicotine was addictive.  One by one, they all replied negative.  I think it’s reasonable to conclude that all of them knew they were lying.  But really, what choice did they have, with the existence of the entire industry hanging in the balance?  What’s the lesson to be learned?  Regardless of the potential fallout, sometimes it’s necessary to “toe the corporate line.”

Human Sex Trafficking and the Catholic Church Molestation Scandal — The sexual exploitation of children is universally regarded as the ultimate heinous act.  It often defies description.  Many impacted would rather remain oblivious or “sweep it all under the rug.”  Quite often, the fallout will ensnare those who had knowledge or should have known, but failed to take any action.  This was clearly evidenced by the high profile resignations surrounding the Sandusky scandal at Penn State University and the Nasser Olympic gymnastics scandal at Michigan State University.  Sometimes, the solution for a horrible predicament is cowardly silence.  People just try to ride it out and hope for the best, hoping the story will exit the news cycle and just fade away.

Forest Fires — Only you can prevent forest fires is the longest running public safety, government sponsored awareness program.  Congress even created an endearing mascot to help spread the word.  Smokey Bear.  Why?  Because in the face of repeated wildfires and environmental devastation, to maintain a position of willful ignorance was deemed inexcusable.  However, back in the mid 1940’s, when the legislation was taken up in Congress, many feared that by making the conversation public, our enemies, both foreign and domestic, might start deliberately setting forest fires.  Hey, it’s a valid concern.  Because there’s an upside and a downside to any major course of action… or inaction.  Paradoxes like this are quite common with public safety issues of tremendous consequence.

Abortion — There was a time when you couldn’t even mention the word abortion.  Instead, you’d hear the phrase “she took care of it.”  The legality to obtain an abortion varies on a state by state basis, from the first trimester to the second trimester to the late term.  Other considerations: rape, incest, life of the mother.  And of course there are the issues of parental consent, birth defects and the viability of the fetus.  When religious sensibilities intersect with political litmus tests, things can get pretty heated.  For much of the conservative coalition, this conversation will never be adequately resolved until abortion is completely illegal.  For them, it’s the equivalent of murder.  Go figure that matters of life and death would be a hot-button social issue.  When stark battle lines are drawn, the range of discourse is greatly diminished.  Those at the forefront do not wish to hear or be exposed to alternative viewpoints.

9/11 — Prior to 9/11, if you claimed that civilian planes were susceptible to being hijacked by suicidal martyrs and rammed into high profile targets, you’d likely be dismissed as a lunatic with a vivid imagination, possibly in need of psychiatric counseling.  But these epic moments in time, these black swan events, have a way of instantly changing the narrative.  Naturally, government inertia kicks in as society alters course and humanity adapts to a new trajectory.  More importantly, the topic and its surrounding sub-issues become available for public consumption.  Tragedy inspires action.  The greater the devastation, the greater the momentum.

In response to 9/11, our government created the Department of Homeland Security.  You’re likely familiar with its overriding mission statement — “If you see something, say something.”  Hey, it’s a great slogan.  Straightforward and direct.

But how does that spiffy jargon apply to a hypothetical, asymmetric cyber-disaster?  Even worse, one that’s generically predictable with a discernible inevitability in play?  History screams that Americans will dutifully suppress their intellectual curiosity while government and private industry faithfully hold steadfast to a course of complicit inaction.  Until…

 

Discussing the Undiscussable: Hacking a Stadium

The first high profile case of “hacking a stadium” transpired during the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Olympics.

The cyber-attack took out internet access and telecasts, grounded broadcasting drones, shut down the Pyeongchang Olympic website and prevented spectators from printing out reservations and attending the ceremony.  This physically resulted in an unusually high number of empty seats.  Preliminary reports indicate the attack was not designed to extract money, but possibly, inflict a different type of damage.  Perhaps even make a political statement of some sort.  Investigators claim the attack was the result of malware installed back in December 2017.  Apparently, it was a year in the making.

But the actual terminology of “hacking a stadium?”  What exactly does that mean?  What could it possibly entail?

Not to state the obvious, but to the best of my knowledge, there’s no way to “electronically hack” a flight of steps or the spiral rotunda or an asphalt parking lot.  Tangible elements like concrete, glass and steel are indifferent to the world of wireless information.  Even in this era of alternative facts and fake news, I’d hope most people could reach a consensus with that one.

I must rhetorically wonder though, could this “hack” have been taken a step further?  Could there be a new precedent?

When there’s no financial incentive, you start venturing into scary, uncharted territory.  So what could be another purpose?  Well, as a military theorist and student of generational warfare, I might throw out the possibility that maybe… just maybe… a different objective could be to kill and injure innocent civilians.  Try thinking in terms of asymmetric terrorism.

If that sounds unsettling it’s because the prospect of weaponizing a human stampede is, by its very nature, undiscussable.  It’s not that government or private industry has never conceived of this threat (the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater).  It’s just that the powers that be won’t acknowledge it… for 4 fundamental reasons:

1.  Plausible deniability

2.  Hypothetical litigation

3.  The lose-lose proposition

4.  The necessary admission that it’s possible to indiscriminately kill innocent civilians without conventional weapons

I’ve thoroughly explored all of these factors on a point-by-point basis.  If you wish to further understand the rationale, just perform a targeted search on the AGSAF website.

First Pivot.

In the 150+ articles I’ve written for the site, I’ve NEVER used the phrase “hacking a stadium.”  But ironically, if there actually was a wireless driven panic resulting in an artificially generated stampede, I imagine the media and the entire planet earth would immediately start using that exact phrase.  What exactly caused fans to panic and run for their lives?  Well, the stadium was hacked!  Call me naive, but I think mankind would demand a more definitive, thorough explanation for what happened.

The actual word “hack” seems to cover a vast array of territory.  These days, the media use it with little discretion.  And the general public bandies it about with virtually zero consideration.

For example, the most high profile case of “hacking” was the 2016 presidential election.  If you subscribe to the general narrative regarding Donald Trump’s victory, Russian state sponsored actors created and purchased phony ads, trolled facebook and manipulated social media as much as they could in order to to delegitimize the election results or swing the outcome in Trump’s favor.  I imagine their mission statement went something like this:  Well, we might not be able to hack their voting systems and alter the actual votes.  However, we can do as much conventional damage as possible to cause friction, erode trust and destabilize the democratic process.

But does any of their interference conform to the technological definition or society’s notion of hacking?  Well, not really.

Instead of hacking, I think much of what unraveled during the 2016 election, justifies the creation of a new word.  One that embodies the overall concept of hacking, but without the electronic degree of system penetration and intrusive manipulation.  The word “jacked” would seem ideal.  It’s simple, straightforward and easily digestible for the the general public.  The urban definition of “jacked” implies blatant robbery or brute theft… as in a carjacking.  There’s also the similar term “hijacking.”  In the case of 9/11, planes were hijacked.  They were physically seized and intended for misuse.  Both carjacking and hijacking seem to echo the notion of hacking, but without the necessary wireless finesse or electronic elegance.  The word “hacking” is just too broad and vague.  In time, I suspect the word “jacked” or “cyber-jacked” might rise to prominence.

If my concerns about an artificially generated stampede came to fruition, I doubt it would be the result of a direct hack (wireless carrier, opt-in abuse, Stingray, and so on).  More likely, it would be the result of a decentralized flood of information.  Basically, a wireless info-bomb, a cellular bombardment both deliberate and unintentional, from every conventional direction conceivable (phone calls, text messages, social media platforms, etc.).  Picture a dam being breached.  I normally use the term “viral blitzkrieg” because the initial attack vector(s) would be designed to grow quickly and exponentially.  In essence, the stadium occupants would be overwhelmed with raw, sudden, panic-inducing cellular information.  In a case like this, the stadium would be “jacked,” but not hacked.

Second Pivot.

February 13, 2018 marked an intriguing day of hearings in the United States Senate.  FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and other top defense officials fielded questions on the topic of cyber-security.  Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in his opening statement, said cyber-security is our greatest concern and top priority.  National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers added, “If you think the problem is challenging now, just wait.  It’s going to get much worse.”  The general consensus was that cyber-threats will become bolder, more aggressive and more complex.  That our country must stay ahead of the curve and be proactive.  That we need greater cooperation between government and the tech industry.  And of course, we could always use additional talent and greater funding.  Go figure.

As one might expect, the level of specificity was alarmingly minimal.  Perhaps that changes when they go into private session.  I do not know.

But what I do know is this.  I think it’s very plausible to speculate… that if you take a long-term view… there will eventually be a cyber-incident where innocent people die.  My concerns regarding the the prospect of an artificially generated stampede(s) reflect that very notion.  And while I have zero confidence that this specific cyber-threat will be acknowledged during televised congressional hearings, it’s my sincere hope that someone, anyone in Congress, might be willing to open up this can of worms behind closed doors.  I seriously doubt any politician would have the requisite courage to publicly take the bait.  But one day, I can assure you, it will make for a helluva fishing expedition.

 

2018 Durham Nightclub Stampede

Police investigators at the scene outside the Missoula nightclub in Durham where a 20-year-old student died Wednesday night.

For most people, February 7, 2018 came and went.  But for 20 year-old female college student Olivia Burt, it hurt.  As in the pain was deadly.

Missoula, a nightclub in North East England, was the scene of a crowd surge resulting in a lone fatality.  Long lines had formed to enter a packed venue for the University of Durham’s signature campus event “Game Over.”

 

The desire to get inside was overwhelming.  Some complained of waiting in line for over an hour.  Tension in the crowd was palpable.

The building was already exceeding capacity, so security set up a barricade comprised of glass and metal and refused to let revelers inside.

Allegedly, around midnight, a group of men appeared in the line and started aggressively pushing.  A crowd surge left Olivia Burt being toppled and trapped underneath the barricade.  Initial reports blamed her death on blood loss and blunt force trauma to the head.

An eyewitness account:

“From my right shoulder, there was this massive movement of people who had seen people pushing in.  I got pushed from my right shoulder towards my left, towards my mate who was by the barrier.  You couldn’t control where you were going,” the student said.

“I’m not small and neither is my mate and we were completely at the mercy of the crowd.  You couldn’t get your hands up or anything.  This was very, very quick.  It was one movement and one movement of that secondary queue moving into this first one, moving us left.  We all pushed up against the barrier and the barrier fell down.”

Interesting to note: the establishment was offering discounts on beer and £1 shots of liquor.  The equivalent of a $1.38 per shot.

I recall a campus bar in Wheeling, West Virginia back in the early 1990’s known as Mac’s.  Every so often, while the background music blared, the elderly manager would grab a microphone and activate a siren.  He’d yell out, “tequila shots, 50 cents!”  This special would continue for as long as the siren was flashing, usually 2 minutes or so.  There would always be a sudden surge to the bar as many college kids would purchase 10, even 20 shots at a time.  We always joked how the manager might one day inadvertently cause a stampede.  Hey, but at least it would be an honorable death.  Our friend’s obituary would read — “Lisa Blainey, in her quest for cheap tequila, found eternal peace.”

Furthermore, you couldn’t help but notice the obvious fire code violations at Mac’s.  Occasionally you’d glance out the door and there was a line of 50 people waiting to get inside a bar with a maximum legal capacity of 125.  But there was easily 200 people already crammed in the place.  It was often challenging to move around, let alone, purchase alcohol.  Bar fights were the norm, not the exception.  They also sponsored unusual events like “Drink and Drown” and “Lockdown” — both specifically tailored for getting patrons as inebriated as possible in the shortest span of time.

After years of fielding complaints, the city eventually stepped in and shut the place down as it was termed a “nuisance” by the community.

The reason for my personal trip down memory lane:

Generally speaking, the U.S. and the U.K. would appear less vulnerable to stampedes and crowd crushes.  Because most Americans and Europeans view themselves as “civilized” as opposed to “savage.”  I must remind people.  Crowd surges don’t happen due to a lack of civility.  They happen because of VARIABLES.  Usually violations of established protocol and common sense, public safety measures.

My point — it’s the height of naivete to dismiss the prospect of a panic based on culture or ethnicity.  A stampede is an anomaly.  It’s a phenomenon often outside the scope of “preventative discussion.”  They happen suddenly, in keeping with “fight or flight” instincts.  And all stampedes have one thing in common.  They seemingly occur without sufficient warning, even when history would indicate otherwise.

I currently reside in Pittsburgh, home to many universities and college bars.  Every time you frequent a campus, you’ll see one thing for certain.  Virtually everyone is walking around holding a cell phone.

In these days of advanced wireless technology, it might be a good idea to pose a fairly obvious question.  What could happen if a significant number of people received the wrong wireless information at a bad time…. and in a restrictive environment?

People have a fundamental right to know…

that if they’re in a large, confined crowd (stadium, ballpark, arena, etc.) and receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic inducing information from their cell phone…

it’s almost certainly part of a malicious hoax designed to manufacture a panic, resulting in an “artificially generated stampede.”

It bothers me how often I must explain to people that… you’re allowed to know this.  It might be undiscussable from the perspective of government and private industry, but I assure you, it’s merely common sense information in the domain of fundamental human rights and generic public safety norms.

It all comes down to one word… awareness.

 

The 2018 Nutella Stampedes

A question I often ask myself:  Would people be willing to risk severe bodily injury for a discounted jar of creamy cocoa hazelnut spread?

Surprisingly enough, the answer arrived on 1-25-18.

 

I have a confession.  A guilty pleasure if you will.  Every day, I google the word “stampede.”  I’ll admit, this compulsion is a tad askew.  But what if you studied tsunamis?  Wouldn’t you search on the word “earthquake?”  Hey, it comes with the territory.

So today, when I googled stampede, a slew of “Nutella” entries quickly surfaced.  It turns out, for over a half century, the French have had an ongoing, passionate love affair with this chocolate substitute.  For them, it’s bigger than french fries at McDonald’s.  Who would’ve known?

As part of a one-time, tantalizing sales promotion, Intermarche, the biggest grocery chain in France made a unilateral decision to suddenly discount the product by 70%.  Intermarche has roughly 1,800 grocery stores in France.  They dropped the price of Nutella from $5.75 to $1.75 at every retail outlet.  Now I’m not a big follower of deals on synthetic choco-hummus, but it doesn’t take a coupon-clipping savant to realize that that’s one helluva bargain.

What transpired next was the French equivalent of Black Friday.  Shoppers formed lines like heroin addicts seeking methadone.  When the doors opened, crowd surges were reported all over France.  Everyone was simultaneously looking to stock up and get their Nutella fix.  Well, this left consumers floored.  Literally knocked to the ground.  Pushing, shoving, scuffles and even reports of fist fights.  In some cases, managers imposed limitations on the number of jars per customer.  Others, sensing the prospect of imminent danger, refused to stock their point of purchase displays.  And in a few situations the police had to be called in to restore order.  If you require visual evidence, just do an aforementioned Google search.

Disbelief and disgust followed.  Widespread complaints of shoppers behaving like animals emerged.

Now would I label any of these incidents as full-fledged stampedes?  Should we declare a “National Nutella State of Emergency?”  Well, probably not.

But this incident does speak to my larger concerns about artificially generated stampedes, particularly ones that are economically driven.  Alas, the fundamental laws of supply and demand.  They’re here to stay.  It’s called Econ 101.

In the aftermath of the fiasco, Ferrero, the manufacturer of Nutella, released a statement:

“We wish to specify that this promotion was decided unilaterally by the brand Intermarché.  We deplore the consequences of this operation, which create confusion and disappointment in the minds of customers.” 

Well said!  A more sophisticated declaration than we’re accustomed to.

I’ve been using some Led Zeppelin analogies lately.  Let’s just say, that somewhere in this crowded mess, there was a communication breakdown.  And it resulted in people getting trampled under foot.

Go-it-alone decisions can often have wide-ranging consequences.  Remember, this was not an isolated incident.  Reports of chaos occurred in multiple retail outlets, in different towns, different cities.  One individual’s decision impacted real-world events all over France.

It might seem like a far-fetched extrapolation but this here Nutella incident could very well be a portent for the next 9/11.

Now please don’t call me nutella.  Nuts is okay.  Crazy is fine.  Warped is a lil’ bit, well… warped.

But yes, I’m worried about the prospect of simultaneous stampedes in multiple NFL stadiums.  Most likely manifesting itself during the 1 o’clock slate of games.  It’s a phenomenon I’ve come to refer to as a dominipede (domino stampede).

Try to bear with me.  Instead of Nutella, imagine a scenario where fans started receiving information about steep discounts on officially licensed NFL jerseys.  Those things are cheap to produce, ridiculously marked up, and sell for big bucks.  They’re immensely popular.  Just take a look around any venue on game day.  Other than holding a cell phone, it’s the one thing every fan has in common.

Now let’s speculate that some NFL marketing genius wanted to purge their existing supplies across the board.  And decided to simultaneously engage NFL.com’s social media outlets (twitter, facebook, snapchat, instagram, etc.).  Information about drastic price reductions must be successfully disseminated.  $100 down to $19.99.  Sounds like something just on the border of plausibility, eh?  Get ’em while they last.  The deal of a century.  The opportunity of a lifetime.

Now you might think I’m reaching a bit.  But my instincts tell me that plenty of people would get up and run toward fixed spots in the stadium.  I’m talking about the locations where they sell NFL gear and miscellaneous merchandise.  The larger question — How might other fans mentally and physically react when they see people behaving “irrationally” and rushing the concourses for no apparent reason?

While we’re at it, let’s add a nefarious element into the equation.  What if Roger Goodell’s twitter account was hacked?  Yeah, I know.  Stuff like that never happens.

These are just two random possibilities.  Trust me, the hypothetical scenarios are endless.

But what if something like this happened?  Even if there was no discernible panic.  No demonstrable stampede.  What if it was attempted?

Where do we go from there?  Would anybody ask any questions?  Would anybody be concerned?  Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a dearth of intellectual curiosity these days.

Sometimes It takes effort to speculate.  It’s challenging to think outside the box.  In this day and age of impulsive fake news accusations and harsh, simplistic social media rhetoric, it’s increasingly difficult to keep an open mind.  Being receptive to alternative viewpoints is a challenge.  It requires contemplation and analysis.  Not knee-jerk responses and ad hominem attacks.  So if you have the time, and more importantly the patience, I’ll refer you to a few articles I wrote a while back.

http://www.agsaf.org/911-and-the-dominipede

http://www.agsaf.org/comprehending-the-dominipede

http://www.agsaf.org/comprehending-the-dominipede-part-ii

Nutella and the National Football League?  I wouldn’t normally equate the two, but they might have more in common than you think!

 

Melilla Border Stampede

Another stampede at the Morocco/Spain border occurred on January 22, 2018.  Claiming one life, injuring thirteen others.  This one at the Melilla checkpoint.  I used the word “another” because just last week, a stampede at the nearby Ceuta border left two dead.  After a tragedy of this nature, people customarily ask, “How could this have happened?”  For reference purposes, I wrote an article which offers an “economic explanation.”

When I speak about the prospect for human stampedes, I often get this exasperated, condescending look.  It’s accompanied by a facial expression reflecting the notion that “things like that could never happen in the United States.”  Why?  Because Americans are a more refined people, a more civilized culture.  And we employ vastly superior standards with regard to public safety.

I’ll readily admit that stampedes are less common in the United States.  So it’s difficult to find a relevant comparison.  After all, you don’t hear much about stampedes at the U.S./Mexican border.  Perhaps that’s not a good example.

Still, the obvious question persists.  Why are these people getting trampled at the border?  Well, the explanation is a bit unsettling.  Like most things on the planet earth, it’s about money.  It’s about supply and demand.

So is there an American parallel?  I believe there is.  Think in terms of Black Friday shopping stampedes.  Here’s a popular youtube compilation.  I’m assuming these incidents actually happened.  That they aren’t “fake videos.”

As you can see, perhaps we are NOT the most civilized nation.  Hmm, I guess sometimes things just senselessly spiral out of control.  You’re probably thinking… but wait a minute, it’s merely a frenzy for great deals on merchandise.  People aren’t getting killed or anything like that.  It’s just a good ‘ol fashioned shopping scuffle.  Newsflash:  There’s a much finer line between order and chaos than most people realize.  And money can be a powerful motivator.

Here’s my concern.  If a unique set of circumstances unfolded, all of your preconceived notions and perceptions regarding societal norms… could be abruptly extinguished.  All of that clarity and those rational extincts could be instantly erased.  When large crowds are exposed to sudden, unanticipated variables, it could manifest itself as a shock to the system.

Consider the cellular equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater:

1.  Reports surface of a hijacked plane potentially targeting the Super Bowl.  All those concrete barricades and steel fences can’t stop wireless information.

2.  There was a fictitious, well-crafted, coordinated blitz of ballpark evacuation orders for Game 7 of the World Series.  Play ball!

3.  There’s an incoming missile alert for the Indy 500.  Yeah, I know.  Things like that can only happen in Hawaii.

4.  Fans start receiving cellular bomb threats during the Stanley Cup or NBA Finals.  Hey, no fair!  Bomb threats can only be phoned in directly to the venue’s main lobby.

5.  A superstar musician is throwing out $100 bills from his penthouse near the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade.  Oh, I wouldn’t sweat it.  These days, Manhattan is largely deserted.

See what I’m saying?  It’s not so much about the people.  Everywhere you go, people are people.  Stampedes are all about the variables, unless of course, your name is Ben, Bennett or Benjamin. Then it’s all about the Benjamins.

Take a moment and consider just how ridiculously generic this public safety information is:

Everyone has cell phones… but you’re not allowed to definitively be aware that certain instructions would NEVER be “actionably utilized” to deliver specific information.  I’ll repeat in layman’s terms — LEGITIMATE venue evac orders are NOT delivered via your personal cell phone.  At least not initially in the form of an officially sanctioned alert.  That’s just not how it works.  If a scenario like this was happening, it’s almost certainly part of a malicious hoax designed to create a panic and a stampede.  There really isn’t a credible alternative explanation.

You’re allowed to know this information.  You are permitted to be aware.  Take a long term event horizon and I think you’ll concur that it’s a fundamental human rights issue.

When it comes to certain things, the government and private industry will gladly tell you the truth.  For example, do not eat Tide Pods.  Considering the foul taste of detergent, you’d think that such a disclaimer wouldn’t even be required.  You’re allowed to know that cigarettes are harmful to your health.  That alcohol can impair your ability to operate heavy machinery.  But they can’t tell you the truth about emergency evacuation protocol?  But you’re NOT allowed to know the most fundamental, basic public safety information as it relates to stadiums, ballparks, motor speedways, arenas, amphitheaters, parades, convention centers, mass protests, mega churches, and so on?

Every instinct, ever fiber of my being, tells me that one day in the future, there will be a transformational change of course.  And you’ll instantly be allowed to know the truth.  Regrettably, this will only happen AFTER innocent people are killed.

So if you agree that maintaining the status quo is morally unsound, pick up that aforementioned cell phone and gimme a ring (304-312-1395).  I’ll gladly sell you on the truth.  After all, it’s free!

Oops, I almost forgot.  It’s all about plausible deniability and hypothetical litigation.

It’s ALL about the Benjamins.

 

Super Bowl LII: Don’t Rely on the FBI

Super bowl el aye aye?  Don’t rely on the FBI.

Yo, that’s a pretty catchy rap.  My oh my.  Why oh why?  I try and try.  But you can’t rely, on the FBI.  Makes me wanna cry, cry, cry.  Someone help me out here.  We’ll need to exhume Casey Kasem’s casket.

It’s going to be a busy next two weeks for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  There’s a big showdown in downtown Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 5, 2018.  It’s called Super Bowl 52.

The FBI released a “relatively vanilla” public relations video showcasing their extensive preparations (youtube.com/watch?v=2fRO5JPWFtE).  I’d post the link in its youtube comment section, but it has been conveniently disabled.

I won’t get into all of the logistics.  I’ll eagerly concede that there are a wide-ranging degree of Super Bowl vulnerabilities.  After all, it’s virtually impossible to prevent lone-wolf attacks.  If someone is truly committed and wants to reek havoc, the sky’s literally the limit.

So here’s an open challenge to any FBI agent with a role in Super Bowl 52.  Oh, what the hell.  I’ll open the contest to any member of the FBI.  That’s approximately 35,000 individuals seeking truth and justice.

Here’s the deal.  If you are willing to comprehensively respond to my concerns, or at a bare minimum, just officially acknowledge them, I’ll make a $1,000.52 contribution to a mutually agreed upon charity.  That extra 52 cents is meant to honor the big game, and of course, the FBI itself, whose acronym represents fidelity, bravery and integrity.

On February 5, U.S. Bank Stadium will be filled with close to 70,000 active cell phones. I’m specifically concerned about the stadium being saturated with false cellular information.  Whether that information is a directly disseminated “info-bomb” or arrives in the form of a decentralized “viral blitzkrieg” is wholly irrelevant.  The information would be specifically attenuated to foment a real-world panic.  Resulting in an unscheduled, self-evacuation.  Followed by a human stampede.  Last time I checked, stadium stampedes, and stampedes in general, are bad news.  On any continent.

Keep in mind, there are literally an infinite number of scenarios, but I’ll throw out this specific one.  Exactly what’s the super duper contingency plan for…

Hmm, sounds to me like asymmetric, weaponized information.  A black swan?  A cyber-9/11?  Irregular warfare?  Do any of those words sound familiar?  They probably should.  You hear them on the news everyday.  Far be it from me to lecture any federal agency on the societal gaps in cyber-security, public safety and human rights.  But I’m gonna do, what I’m gonna do.  You wanna know why?  It’s called doing what’s morally right and ethically sound.

Granted, the “Trump hijack tweet” is a tad extreme (unless of course, his account was hacked).  Hence I’ll sanitize the request.  The rules just loosened.  The bar has been lowered.  To be awarded the money, all you must do is publicly explain that… Donald Trump is NOT allowed to tweet a stadium evacuation order.  Now how on earth could anyone, at least anyone knowledgeable about NFL or Super Bowl security, view that as an unacceptable request?

To all you inspecting detecting, inquisitive junior G-Men — there are an endless number of variations here.  The problem’s a little more complex than a renegade Trump tweet.  But I liked this one because it exemplifies my concerns across a wide array of entities.  Twitter (and for that matter, facebook, snapchat, instagram, et al), the Federal Communications Commission (their inability to adequately safeguard the wireless carrier and cellular industries), the Department of Homeland Security (see something, say something) and the executive branch of government (the orange tweeting imbecile in the White House).  Oh, and of course, the FBI (killing people WITHOUT weapons falls a little outside the scope of an official cyber-investigation.  Until of course, AFTER it were to happen).  I almost forgot about the human rights aspect.  Yes indeed, whether you know it or not, you’re allowed to be aware of the fact that emergency stadium evacuation orders are NOT delivered via your personal cell phone.  I’ll give you a hint — incident command uses the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.  This might very well be the most generically obvious, well-guarded secret on the planet earth.

So that’s the challenge.  But my hunch is that I’m gonna be talkin’ to an empty cell phone.  Because the person on the other end of the line doesn’t exist.  Hey, it’s not totally their fault.  This individual cannot exist because of the catch-22.  For the reason that… drum roll please…. if you acknowledge a security disconnect, you own it.  And if something horrific were to actually happen, you’re totally screwed.  Why?  Because you didn’t do enough to prevent it!

It’s called a paradox.  Isn’t it peculiar how nobody out there is allowed to acknowledge the wireless equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater?  Trust me, with all of our stadiums, ballparks, arenas, amphitheaters and motor speedways, it’s more than just some crazy coincidence.

Enough of that.  Back to the FBI 2018 Super Bowl video.  God forbid, if I didn’t take a few jabs at the FBI’s sleek presentation, I wouldn’t be doing my thankless job.

According to their own video, here were the major discussion bullet points for everyone in that mammoth hotel banquet room.

*  Security Considerations and Preparations at the Mall of America
*  Crowd Control Planning
*  Media Management
*  Public Information and Warning
*  Mass Arrest Contingencies
*  Airspace Security
*  Family Reunification

So what’s the one subject heading conveniently missing?  Yep, you guessed it.  Cyber-security.

Michael Hartnett — Crisis Management Unit, FBI Critical Incident Response Group

“we’ll bring tactical teams, bomb techs, people that can respond to a hazardous device incident, we’ll bring social media experts”

Lemme guess.  These social media experts will be assigned to monitor online threats.  The chat rooms, message boards and relevant twitter hashtags will be properly observed and analyzed.  Nice job!

Scott Gerlicher  — Special Operation and Intelligence Division, Minneapolis Police Department

“I think we have done our best to try think about just every contingency, natural or man made, that could potentially come our way.”

I concur.  Well, except for this “artificially generated stampede” thing.  That would be silly silly.  Dilly Dilly!

Alex Khu — Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations

“It really requires the full gamut, at all levels.  Local, state, federal law enforcement and even D.O.D. components.”

That’s a lot of agencies, a lot of departments, a lot of people.  Too bad that nobody is allowed to “discuss the undiscussable.”

Jeff Potts — Chief of Police, City of Bloomington

“The security footprint for the Super Bowl is… is… is… incredible.”

I agree.  It is… is… is… incredibly naive.  The year is 2018.  Not 1998.  Since the widespread proliferation of cell phones 20 years ago, NFL stadium WiFi capabilities have markedly shifted.  All of them trending in the direction of wireless hyper-connectivity.

Believe me, I could ramble on in a way that makes Led Zeppelin envious.  But instead, I’ll just bring it on home.

This whole $1000.52 Super Bowl security contest is legit.  The irony???  The reward could be for as much as a cool million.  But unless some hypothetical FBI agent is willing to stir up a hornet’s nest, sacrifice their career, and quite possibly risk personal incarceration on a felony charge of theoretical wanton public endangerment and conspiracy to commit a speculative act of terrorism, I’m fairly certain the reward will go uncollected.

As our heroically eloquent commander-in-chief would say, “BAD!  NOT GOOD!”

 

Ceuta Stampede(s)

The city of Ceuta, Spain has an unusual dilemma.  Geographically along the border of Morocco, it’s part of the African continent.  However, it’s also a Spanish territory.  So technically it’s part of Europe.  With a population of about 85,000, Ceuta does not have an airport.  So the only way to get from Spain to Spain is by boat.

Naturally, when an atypical situation like this occurs, strange problems are bound to arise.  A picture is one thing…

But an actual video is something different.

It’s some pretty surreal footage.  And trust me, that’s a sanitized version.

Swarms of mostly elderly women, affectionately referred to as “porters” or human mules, basically being used as modern day slave labor.  Strapped with cargo on their backs, the relative mass easily outweighing their personal body weight.  Barely scraping together enough wages to offset abject poverty.  Desperately trying to cross the border at a congested checkpoint.  Imagine the physical exhaustion.  Trudging for miles.  The pressure and anticipation is building.  Emotions are running high.  They finally reach their destination.

Now let’s add some other variables:

1.  A steep hillside, an impenetrable border wall topped with barbed wire and a twisted maze of steel fencing.
2.  A border patrol exhibiting decades of racial bias, prejudice and discrimination.
3.  Cultural and religious differences.  Morocco is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.  Citizens of Spain are predominantly Roman Catholic.
4.  An occasional military flare up and a lengthy history of border skirmishes.
5.  The overarching systemic immigration problem between Africa and the European Union.

Throw all of those ingredients into a boiling pot of stock… and the outcome is a savory serving of steaming stampede soup.

On January 15, 2018, a stampede at the Ceuta border claimed the lives of 2 women.  A year earlier, 4 women died at the exact same location.  Bottlenecks and crowd impatience are the norm, not the exception.  I suppose I shouldn’t be so cynical.  Hey, if you follow the statistical trend lines, things are proportionately improving.  In 2019, the projected death total should be only 1.  Not bad!

So if you’re interested in a low-paying career in human stampede prevention… well, let’s just say you’ve come to the right place.  Feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience.  304-312-1395.  Ask for Eric, or if you prefer, “Saf.”

 

The Hawaiian Missile Alert and the Artificially Generated Stampede

Aloha!

If you watch the news, there’s an overwhelming likelihood you’re familiar with what recently happened in Hawaii.  You’re enjoying breakfast.  Sipping hot coffee.  Nibbling on a toasted bagel with cream cheese.  Enjoying some crisp bacon.  And then… Ka-Boom!

Thirty eight minutes later, the crisis was “remedied.”

However, during those 38 minutes, there was quite a bit of chaos and confusion.  After all, this mass alert went out to over a million people.  Some shared it.  Some retweeted it.  Some dialed 911.  Some called loved ones.  Some had panic attacks and difficulty breathing.  Others meditated and contemplated the meaning of life.  As you might expect, reactions were all over the place.  There is no established code of conduct for an imminent ballistic missile attack, let alone, the possibility of nuclear annihilation.

Fortunately, bad things like this never happen.  Well, except until a few days later on January 16, 2018 when NHK (Japanese Public Broadcasting) disseminated false information about another missile from North Korea targeting their country.

Like I was saying, it’s good to see that everyone’s got their act together.  Quite a relief that all of these techno-bureaucracies are on the same page.

Hear me out here.  I’m not going to examine the state of Hawaii’s jurisdiction in federal matters of national defense.  Or critique the fallout from the Hawaii Emergency Management System that cried wolf.  Or examine the potential for miscalculation and the prospect of things quickly spiraling out of control.

I could post thousands of videos of people panicking and crying, or hysterically freaking out and running for their lives.  I could post videos of people driving twice the speed limit or suddenly pulling over on a busy highway.  I could share footage of the physician and anesthesiologist who were preparing to remove a patient’s appendix.  Or share footage of a father removing a manhole cover and stuffing his daughter into the sewer.

I could write about emergency push notifications and the need for a system that requires greater degrees of specificity, coordination and verification (a two man rule as opposed to it being a unilateral decision).

I could provide plenty of input.  But it would all be unnecessary.  Because rest assured, there will be a thorough FCC investigation.  The correct people will be held accountable and appropriately disciplined.  And our government will adequately address this calamity so nothing like it ever happens again.  Kudos!

And if you truly believe that, I have some beachfront property in Maui I’d like to sell you.

Many national security experts believe the current nuclear threat is at its highest level since the Cuban missile crisis.  Now I’m not particularly well-versed in national missile defense.  But I do know a thing or two about cyber-security.

I’ve written extensively about the concept of cellular-induced panic.

In hindsight, maybe the material is too difficult to digest.  Perhaps it’s just too scholarly.  Instead of the term “artificially generated stampede,” maybe I should start calling it something a little more fun.  How about the “scaredy-cat sprint?”  Or maybe the “scoot, scurry and scamper skedaddle?”

Here’s the deal.  If you own a cell phone, you’ve likely encountered wireless alerts.  It could be an Amber Alert for a missing child.  It could be an active shooter alert on a college campus.  It could be a flash flood, tornado, tsunami, or hurricane alert.  It could be a mandatory take shelter order, water boil order, road closure, city-wide evac, and so on.  We live in a society that relies on cell phones to convey critically time-sensitive, public safety information.

But here’s the crux of the problem.  Nobody from the federal or state government is allowed to explicitly tell people that cell phone alerts would NOT be used for an emergency evacuation at the Super Bowl, the Indy 500, the World Series, NBA/NHL finals, etc.  This is a really big deal.  If there ever was a real-world emergency in a stadium, motor speedway, ballpark or arena, you do NOT use cell phones.  The reason for this is absurdly generic.

Let’s take the Super Bowl for instance…

If a stadium evacuation is deemed absolutely necessary, there’s already a comprehensive strategy in place.  The initial order would be delivered over the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.  The ushers and security would be notified via their head sets.  There are things you would say.  And there are things you would NOT say.  In most cases, you wouldn’t even reveal the rationale for ordering the evacuation itself.  Most important, you’d never blitz 50,000+ fans via their cell phones.  Why?  Because it could very well spark a panic.  Regardless, the venue would lack the capability so it’s kind of a no-brainer.

Now maybe someday in the future, we’ll all be mentally tethered to our cell phones via some kind of telepathic blue tooth inner-ear device which hooks up directly to the cerebellum.  The sensory information would then regulate motor activity allowing for a properly synchronized crowd response.

But for the time being, in the here and now, that’s not how wireless technology correlates with human bodily functions.  Hey, maybe in the future, things will be different.  But in the present… in the here and now… that is not how it works.

Even if you had the capability to inform everyone via their personal cell phone, you wouldn’t.  Because it would be an incalculable violation of the existing incident command structure.  It would shred existing industry norms and decimate the established protocol.

An aside — I often tell people that Donald Trump is not allowed to tweet a Super Bowl stadium evacuation order.  Whether or not he knows this, your guess is as good as mine.  But considering the whimsical, knee-jerk nature of his twitter rants, I think it’s a legitimate cause for concern.

So what’s the moral of the story here?

You’d hope at this point it would be self-explanatory, but I’ve discovered that it’s quite challenging to divulge information deemed “sociologically undiscussable.”

Yo, I’m more than willing to share.  But nobody’s willing to listen.

Until someone steps up and relays the mission statement from the AGSAF website, this matter will never be adequately resolved.  Perhaps you could be that person?  Or maybe you know someone who’s really important?  I’ve tried my best but I think it’s going to require someone a little “higher up.”

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.

So here’s the good news.  I can unequivocally guarantee that this entire dilemma will eventually be resolved.  In time, everyone will become acquainted with the truth.  But regrettably, there’s a downside too.  It’s called bad news.

An undetermined amount of people will be injured and killed BEFORE we’re all permitted to learn the truth.

Mahalo!

 

Lots of Lines

December 28, 2017:  The Taj Mahal was the scene of a crowd surge.  Visitors pushed their way inside the gates near the scheduled closing time.  Five injuries were reported.  No fatalities, but plenty of anxiety.

January 8, 2018:  The Taj Mahal, constructed back in the mid-1600’s and considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, announced new guidelines in response to the recent crowd crush.  The revered tourist site officially set a 40,000 cap on the maximum number of daily visitors.

January 9, 2018:  A stampede outside a military recruitment drive in the Rohtas district of Bihar, India resulted in 1 death and at least 5 injuries.

January 11, 2018:  A stampede outside Capricorn College in Johannesburg, South Africa resulted in 6 injuries, 1 of them critical.  Prospective students seeking free tuition were lining up to register for classes.

I realize these events are just seemingly minor blips in the daily news cycle.  Your life was likely unaffected.  But I can assure you that others are still coping with the fallout.  Things like this happen more often than you might realize.

Almost anywhere you look, there’s a line.  The bank, the checkout counter, the toll booth, that all-you-can-eat buffet, eh?  But at what point does the human congestion, frustration and anxiety… turn dangerous and deadly?  Well, there’s no precise recipe.  There is no universally accepted manual for how to prevent a human stampede.  But maybe there should be.

Flashback — January 8, 2018:  Large lines form outside Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia for the NCAA Division I championship game.  Georgia vs. Alabama.  It’s an all SEC showdown.  Lengthy queues outside the venue.  The weather is unusually cold and rainy.  Anticipation is high.  Tension is building.  Most of the fans are from out of town.  Few have any familiarity with the new stadium which opened its gates in late August of 2017.

The Department of Homeland Security has designated the game a “tier 1” event.  More checkpoints, more cement barricades, more video cameras, more bomb-sniffing dogs, more police, more undercover detectives searching for scalpers and counterfeit merchandise, more of everything.

Lines outside the stadium reach a standstill.  Some fans have been waiting for over an hour.  It’s quickly becoming apparent, that if things don’t start to move along, a significant percentage of those on the outside are NOT going to make it in for kick-off.

All of sudden, the presidential motorcade zips through.  Donald Trump and his security entourage are briskly escorted inside the stadium.  Trump made a determination that his presence was necessary (On the field.  Surrounded by police.  During the national anthem, of course).

Meanwhile, multiple protests are being held by the NAACP and Refuse Fascism Atlanta.  There’s a general air of hostility.  Both inside and outside the stadium.  Not everyone in Atlanta is a fan of the Trump administration.

Take a moment and consider the totality of this event.  All of the various factors. The direction in which things could have turned.

Of course, long lines are nothing new.  But maintaining public safety is often dependent on random circumstances and unanticipated variables.  There’s a reason people use the term “tipping point.”  It’s that singular moment, or multiple moments, when everything escalates out of control.

Like I was saying, these days there are so many lines.  Verbal lines, too.

Hey, Mercedes Benz Stadium is a fine facility.  A brand new, 1.6 billion dollar NFL stadium.  It’s hardly a shithole.

Football fans are fine people.  And they’re Americans.  But let’s be honest.  Americans, on the whole, are scared shitless.

Think about it.

 

Trump, Twitter and the 2018 NCAA Championship

I’ll willingly concede that the AGSAF website lends itself to speculation.  However, the articles I’ve written our grounded in fact.  They tend to focus on prior stampedes, asymmetric cyber-threats, wireless proliferation, public safety and fundamental human rights.

However, the mix of unusual circumstances and random variables surrounding the January 8, 2018 NCAA Division I Championship at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium is cause for legitimate concern.

I’m worried about an unlikely, but incredibly specific scenario unfolding at some point during tonight’s game.  My concern is that Donald Trump might tweet a temporary evacuation order to the concourses.  This would likely occur during the national anthem or halftime show.

Trump has a lengthy history of feuding with the National Football League and players who’ve engaged in civil protest by kneeling during the national anthem.  He routinely tweets his disgust with the players, as well as league management and ownership, for their lack of discipline and leadership.

His anger and dismay reached a dangerous level on October 8, 2017 during a game at Lucas Oil Stadium between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts.  Sensing that many of the 49ers would take a knee, Trump dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to attend the game.  His admittedly sole purpose was to make an early exit in defiance of the team’s anti-patriotic demonstration.  I was concerned that Trump’s real-time twitter feed could present a volatile variable when it comes to impacting the procedural standards which govern stadium emergency evacuation protocol.  So I wrote an article about the incident.

Let’s take a cursory glance at tonight’s Alabama/Georgia game.

First and foremost, it’s a designated “Tier 1” Department of Homeland Security event.  That’s the highest level designation for a public spectacle.

Secondly, the television ratings will be off the charts.  I suspect that’s why Trump is planning to attend the game.  Normally, the President of the United States does NOT attend sporting events of great magnitude.  Why?  Because it’s a Secret Service logistical nightmare.  Traffic is especially problematic in the city of Atlanta.  Lest the distraction of a presidential motorcade would, at the every least, appear inadvisable.

Several protests have already been planned.  The Atlanta branch of the NAACP is urging fans to wear white and bring white towels.  The color white is intended to mock and simulate “liberal snowflake” sentiment.  The organization has also planned a “twitter storm” which starts at 6 p.m. and will continue until the game is completed.  #AllTrumpsLies is the designated hashtag.

Another group, Refuse Fascism ATL, is planning a “take a knee” demonstration outside CNN headquarters in close proximity to the Mercedez Benz Stadium.

Atlanta police have said they will set up several designated areas for protesters.

Trump is already on the record with this two-pronged tweet directed at Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.  It didn’t exactly endear him with Atlanta voters.

Leading up to the game, the Atlanta Police Department has issued multiple security statements.  Along with the routine “if you see something, say something” request and clear plastic bag reminders,  they’ve also added extensive traffic alerts and “no drone zone” warnings.  In addition, the Chief of Police issued a specific request for people — Do NOT bring guns to the event and do NOT leave guns in your vehicle.  In Georgia, open carry is legal with a proper permit.  However, it’s worthy to note that you may openly carry a firearm in a motor vehicle without a permit in the state of Georgia.

But here’s what really concerns me.  Kendrick Lamar, Grammy award winning artist and political activist, will be performing the halftime show.  But not from inside the stadium.  His performance will be held at the adjacent Centennial Olympic Park and “integrated” into the ESPN telecast.  It’s reasonable to assume there could be a broadcast delay, just in case things get too “contentious.”  Lamar is very outspoken in the realm of police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement and immigration.  These three subjects represent a thorn in Trump’s side.

In my mind, it’s the culmination of all of these unique variables which raise a “red flag.”  I’m specifically concerned that Donald Trump might witness something which “angers” him.  It could be protesters in the crowd.  It could be players on the field, the overwhelming majority who happen to be African American.  Or it could be that one bizarre hypothetical moment when Kendrick Lamar throws a “Make America Great Again” hat on the ground and stomps/spits on it.  Hey, crazier things have happened.  Trump’s narcissistic tendencies, publicity craving compulsion, and impulsive desire to “steal the show” and “hit back 10x harder” make him a credible candidate to tweet something during the course of the game.

And don’t forget, there’s already the established precedent of him evacuating his own Vice President.  So it’s not as if we’re entering uncharted territory.

If you gave me odds on whether Trump will actually tweet during the game, I’d take that bet.  Las Vegas and some internet gambling sites have even set an over/under.  It’s 1.5 tweets throughout the course of the game.  My first inclination is to think he’d tweet the most obvious material — praise the NCAA players for standing and respecting the flag, while demonizing the NFL players who arrogantly despise our military and great country (even though the Alabama/Georgia players will not be taking the field for the national anthem).  Beyond that, the world is literally Trump’s oyster.

Now here’s something to keep in mind.  The world doesn’t always function according to plan.  When you introduce variables into an existing equation…  83,000 fans, cocky young football players on a grand stage, a security atmosphere on steroids, major national television exposure, legions of active protesters, a black activist performing at halftime… and then throw in that one, random spark (Trump’s twitter account), it could very well be a recipe for disaster.

Think about the impact of a presidential tweet-storm — “In response to the DISGUSTING thing I just saw, Donald Trump is calling for all fans in Mercedes Benz Stadium to pick up and leave their seats and exit to the concourses.  Until we can get this HORRIBLE situation under control!  We are proud Americans and will not tolerate the DISRESPECT of our beautiful flag!

Granted, it’s all a hypothetical.  But I can absolutely assure you of one thing.  The Mercedez Benz Stadium incident command structure does NOT have a tactical, contingency plan in place for something of this nature.  And how do I know this for certain?  Well, because throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.  Not just smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!

 

Barclays Center Stampede Revisited

On May 19, 2017, chaos ensued at the end of a hip hop concert inside the lavish Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY).  A crowd panic erupted after fans heard gunshots fired.  The name of the tour, featuring headliner rap star Future, was entitled “Nobody Safe.”  How ironically appropriate.

 

NYPD Lieutenant Tarik Sheppard issued the following statement:

“As people were exiting the Barclays Center, there was music playing over the PA system.  The song that was playing had the sound of gunshots at the end.  In addition, the stage was lowered and it came down faster than normal causing a loud metal on metal crashing sound.  These sounds coupled together startled some people and they began to exit quicker than normal.”

The Barclays Center tweeted a statement of their own:

In early January 2018, two individuals filed separate lawsuits alleging injuries from the stampede.  One directed at concert promoter Live Nation, the other against the venue.

I considered writing about the incident at the time, but it seemed a little fluky and isolated.  Eight months later I’ve reconsidered my original position.

The incident reminds me of similar circumstances that led to a mass panic at JFK International Airport (Queens, NY).  This particular stampede transpired a few months later on August 14, 2017.  I wrote about it extensively.  After all, it’s a mass panic in the 5th busiest airport in the United States.

Regarding both JFK Airport and the Barclays Center, some really strange parallels were in play.  The JFK stampede was actually the result of gunfire, but it came from the 100 meter dash at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  That isolated, lone shot (literally heard round the world), reverberated on the seemingly endless number of television screens inside the airport.  That’s one loud bang!  Followed of course, by screams and thunderous applause from inside the airport lounges, restaurants and narrow corridors.

Takeaway:

When you think of panic and stampedes, most Americans naturally think of religious festivals in India and the Middle East.  Or violent soccer games abroad.  Or protest and civil unrest.

Most U.S. citizens have this pervasive attitude that, with the exception of an occasional Black Friday Christmas shopping fiasco at Walmart, Americans are more civilized and things like that just don’t happen here in the states.  And if they do happen, it’s a complete and utter anomaly.

So when a stampede does occur, you often get this reasoned justification, “Well, it was a unique situation.  Look it was a rap concert in Brooklyn.  What do you expect might happen, when a bunch of stoners, criminals and gang bangers, gather for a concert in the middle of New York City?”

Here’s the deal.  Stampedes happen because of variables, not the sudden breakdown of human civility.  People often forget that human beings are mammals, making our species equally prone to herding instincts.  But people just don’t spontaneously behave like animals… unless there’s a trigger.  Again, people are merely reacting to dangerously unexpected conditions.  They are not collectively altering their entire psychological makeup.  It’s not about the panic.  It’s about the variables which lead to the panic.

One of those “future” variables might just have something to do with cell phones.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a lot of people sitting, standing, walking, jogging, running, even driving… and they all have one thing in common.  They’re all carrying a cell phone.  Listening to music, talking to people, sending texts and tweets, scrolling through their social media feeds, staring intently into those tiny screens.  They’re all seeking instant information and immediate gratification.

So here’s the zillion dollar question — what’s the game plan for when all that wireless information takes a turn for the worse?  Where’s the master plan?  What’s the strategy?

Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no universal contingency plan.  Why?  Because the discussion, is by its very nature, undiscussable.

So why do I have this nagging suspicion… that one of these days… this “adult” conversation will eventually take place?   Likely in the aftermath of a tragedy.

My personal theory regarding this “Future Convo” — hey, it’s better late than never.  And whether shedding light on this asymmetric cyber-threat makes me a nerd, or cool, or whatever, I’m not really sure.  But I do have a hunch, that one of these days, humanity will find out.  Now will I get a thumbs up?  I honestly have no idea.  Your guess is as good as mine.

 

Donald Trump, the Nuclear Button and Super Bowl 52

The POTUS kicked off the new year with a nuclear threat, or if you prefer, “nuke-tweet.”

It made for breaking news and major headlines.  The notion of Trump cavalierly tweeting about nuclear warfare raised a red flag.  Let’s just say that when the schoolyard, cyber-bullying rhetoric ventures into uncharted territory, people tend to get a little squeamish.

An organization called “Resistance SF” reacted by projecting images onto Twitter corporate headquarters.

Their objective was to call out Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and hold him and his company accountable.  They’re worried that some of Trump’s more provocative tweets could incite violence.  They contend that some of his tweets should be removed for not adhering to the twitter “fine print” social media standards.  Others are calling for the suspension of Trump’s twitter account altogether.

“You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.”

Not many people actually read those lengthy e-disclaimers, but that’s the precise jargon for twitter’s code of conduct.  From a legal standpoint, the wording seems a little vague.

Jack Dorsey has defended the @realDonaldTrump account, claiming it’s “newsworthy” and there’s a “legitimate public interest in its availability.”  He also maintains the importance of high level conversations being transparent, as opposed to secretive.

But Resistance SF fired back, “@jack breaks the rules of his own company, Twitter, to amplify a madman and endanger the world.  Jack Dorsey must resign or ban @realDonaldTrump.”

I think you can make a reasonably fair argument for both sides.  But it seems to me there’s an entrenched conflict in play… and it isn’t going to magically resolve itself anytime soon.  That’s the prospect of Trump’s twitter feed being “weaponized.”  And when I say weaponized, I’m not being metaphorical.  I’m specifically referring to the prospect of people getting killed due to an errant Trump tweet.

Alright, let me walk you through some of the trends.

Let’s take a look at three statements.  One posted on twitter.  The other spoken on the campaign trail.  And third, a carefully scripted, recent statement to the press.

This certainly sounds like Trump is contemplating the death, or at the very least, the political elimination of Kim Jong Un and his foreign minister.  It’s either that, or he’s considering the incineration of North Korea.  Not sure it makes much of a difference.  If it’s intended as a joke, it doesn’t sound particularly humorous.  And at a bare minimum, it’s incongruent with twitter social media standards.

Here’s a memorable comment from a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa:

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

The thought of being gunned down by Trump?  I’ll tell you one thing.  It makes me less inclined to stand in the middle of 5th Avenue.  Now granted, I’ll concede he didn’t tweet this.  But what if he posted a link?  Redirecting you to the speech in its entirety?  How exactly does that work?  What’s the official twitter policy on hyperlinks.  Does twitter adequately monitor all of those pesky redirects?  Every day, there’s a total of around 6,000 tweets per second.  That’s 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.  And that’s just the tweets.  What about all the memes, the hashtags, the links, the websites, and so forth?  My hunch is that 100% of all this electronic drivel is NOT being carefully monitored under the guise of public safety, let alone national security.

On January 4, 2017, the Trump administration released a statement regarding a newly published book about chaos and dysfunction in the White House.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Making an accusation about an individual’s state of mental health and framing it in the form of a disease?  Do you remember the official twitter guideline?  “You may not wish for the serious physical harm or disease of an individual.”  Of course, Trump hasn’t posted that material on twitter… yet.

Takeaway — Regardless of how you perceive these tweets, lines or written statements.  Whether you think they’re honest and non-scripted.  Whether you think they’re dangerous or eye-dropping.  I think it’s safe to say that they are, at the very least, a “departure from the norm.”  Now ask yourself a simple question.  Is this situation likely to deescalate and improve?  Or is it more likely to devolve and implode?  Call me a critic, but I’m going with the latter.  You might recall the ubiquitous 1970’s bumper sticker… SHIT HAPPENS.  Well that’s because… it does.

Back to the nuke tweet.  Most people viewed it in terms of apocalyptic consequence.  To be so flippant about the prospect of millions being radiologically annihilated is indeed a conundrum.  Tone and tenor are difficult to decipher with messages of limited character(s).  Adding to the dilemma, Trump isn’t exactly known for subtlety or the ability to convey nuance and complexity.  Most everything he tweets is either blatantly antagonistic or audaciously self-congratulatory.

But even as preposterously terrifying as it is, my concerns really aren’t about the nuke tweet.  I believe there to be “alternative Trump twitter scenarios” which are both dangerously realistic and realistically dangerous.

For example, Trump is well known for decrying the fake news media.  He often singles out specific journalists.  What if one of his most fervent supporters felt he was getting the green light to murder a member of the press, an enemy of the people?  In the aftermath of the intentional killing of a high profile journalist, one whom Trump ostensibly demonized on twitter… would the company take a more proactive stance in actively monitoring, and if necessary, censoring, further future pugilistic tweets?

Trump occasionally makes disparaging tweets directed at Fortune 500 companies.  Coincidentally, sometimes stocks go down.  If Trump tweeted something bizarre and it had a crushing impact on the company’s bottom line, well… that just might resonate with employees.  Hey, if you lose a significant portion of your life savings or 401K, it’s bound to have a detrimental effect on the company’s collective psyche.  Let’s just hope that Trump’s doesn’t antagonize Smith & Wesson.  There could very well be some ugly workplace ramifications.  Even worse, Lockheed Martin.

Protests are another area of concern.  Increasingly common in the era of Trump.  What if he tweeted a suddenly unexpected, time-sensitive daytime curfew in order to break up protests that were already underway?  I seriously doubt Trump has an extensive grasp of the freedom of assembly provisions in the First Amendment.  And I’m not so sure he’d think the rules apply to him regardless.  After all, he’s the duly elected commander in chief.  He’s the boss.  He calls the shots.  Right?  And what about future tweets?  Future protests?  How would all of that pan out?

What if Trump tweeted that he was ordering the National Guard to be stationed throughout “trouble spots” in Chicago?  What if such a pronouncement resulted in spontaneous looting and random violence in the streets?  Where do we go from there?  What’s the official twitter strategy?

All of these scenarios have one thing in common.  Based on historical evidence, they all fall within the spectrum of that which is reasonably predictable.

But hands down, my biggest concern is an “X” event (black swan).  It stems from Trump’s twitter obsession and his perpetual feud with the National Football League.

What if Trump witnessed something “disrespectful” during the national anthem of Super Bowl 52?  Maybe a player taking a knee, or wearing a “Trump is a Loser” ballcap, or not adequately conforming to his perceived sense of patriotic nationalism?  It really could be anything.

And what if he lashed out during the Super Bowl with a twitter tantrum?  Seriously, Trump isn’t exactly known for his measured analytical capabilities.  His most passionate tweets tend to consist of time-sensitive, knee jerk reactions.  What if he impulsively tweeted a temporary evacuation order to the concourses?

For the fans who truly love America, our Flag, our Anthem and have respect for our fallen soldiers!  The time has come to take a stand!!!  President Donald Trump is calling for everyone to leave there seats!  NOW!!!

(Note: I purposely used the wrong “their” in order to enhance the believability factor).

I seriously doubt that Trump has been briefed on stadium emergency evacuation protocol and the related incident command structure.  To be blunt, I just don’t think it would interest him.  And I gotta be brutally honest.  I’m not sure he’d care.  I just don’t think Trump knows… that he is NOT allowed to evacuate an NFL stadium via twitter.  I doubt anyone has sat him down and explained the potential consequences and ramifications.  Why?  Because such a conversation infers the potential for killing people without conventional weapons, a/k/a, an artificially generated stampede.  From a plausible deniability perspective, such a briefing would be a national security paradoxical nightmare, especially with this president.

Here’s a question you might wish to ask.  Based on Trump’s extensive twitter history, is it reasonable to assume, that in the future, something emanates from his twitter feed that correlates with an unanticipated outcome (innocent people getting killed)?  And if so, in the aftermath of such an event, is it reasonable to think that investigators would seek to find out exactly who has access to the @realDonaldTrump twitter handle?  Mark my words, at some point during this administration, there will be an official inquiry into the “degree of access” to his twitter account.  Eventually, the real-world law of averages start to kick in.  It’s nothing personal.  Just a speculative, common sense numbers game.

There’s a word that emerged in 2017-18…  “weaponized.”  I’m not referring to the nuke tweet.  That’s just the unsettling, electronic cannon fodder for the masses.  Try thinking of this in larger terms, something akin to “wireless McCarthyism.”  But this ain’t the 50’s.  Nowadays, in the current twitter blasting environment, everything unfolds on a daily basis.  Some would argue an hourly basis.  My greatest fear — that things unfold on a real-time basis.  And isn’t that what Trump’s twitter feed is really about?  Attacking people, companies and countries… in real-time?  So what exactly makes the Super Bowl off-limits?  Why would the #1 televised event be “out of bounds?”

Just something to consider.

Oh, and by the way, what if Trump’s twitter account gets hacked?  Oops, didn’t mean to go there.  Maybe I should have started from that angle.  Hey, coulda saved you 15 minutes!  It really doesn’t matter though.  These days, reading comprehension skills are on the decline.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask #45.

 

A New Year’s Resolution

Once again, a new year has arrived.  I’ll keep my resolution straightforward and simple.  In 2013, I created a website which comprehensively lays out the moral justification for divulging the truth about outdated emergency venue evacuation protocol.

At face value, I realize that doesn’t sound particularly exciting.  But it’s actually kind of a big deal.  Because if someone were to attempt a cellular evacuation of a large, confined crowd, it’s assuredly part of a more elaborate plan — a malicious hoax designed to create a real-world panic and induce a human stampede.

The only other possible reason you might receive an evac order via your mobile device is that someone is trying to empty out a facility, solely for their own personal amusement.  Call me a purveyor of negativity.  Label me a cynical observer.  But if there’s an actual wireless saturation, I seriously doubt it’s an attempt at fun and games.  Trust me, some person or some group is trying to weaponize a stampede.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.

Panic and big crowds do NOT mix.  Stadiums, ballparks, arenas, amphitheaters, motor speedways, mass protests, parades, convention centers and so on.  Some would argue that mankind is merely a random collection of large crowds.

So why the website?  Well, if you view the problem with a long term event horizon, there’s a unusual dynamic in play.  A paradox for the ages.

Sometimes, society can’t handle the truth.

In this case, government and private industry are both unwilling to share common sense, public safety information.

Yes, I realize that openly discussing how to indiscriminately kill innocent civilians without conventional weapons is a direct violation of sensitive social mores.  I can see why that would upset most people.  But there’s an absolute necessity to revamp the societal game plan.  Because if this issue isn’t proactively addressed, the fall out could be particularly dire.  That’s correct — the prospect of multiple stampedes.  If someone really wanted to “pull a number” on the United States, I think it’s reasonable to conclude they’d seek multiple, simultaneous targets, as opposed to a single, isolated target.  Unless of course, it was one high profile event.  For example, the Super Bowl, the NCAA football championship, the Indy 500, etc.

A question of merit I often get…

Why shouldn’t we warn people about other potentially negative outcomes?  The possibility of someone using a large vehicle to ram pedestrians?  Or the possibility of someone spraying a crowd with machine gun fire?  Or what about drones equipped with chemical weapons?  There’s a seemingly endless list of horrific possibilities.

What makes the “artificially generated stampede” so unique that it requires a proactive disclaimer?

Well, that’s the million dollar question I’ve set out to explain.  There is no definitive, textbook answer.  The best I can do is raise awareness and keep writing articles.  Ones that prescribe the moral and ethical framework for divulging the truth.

As logically rudimentary as it may sound, you have a fundamental right to a heightened level of situational awareness.  You, your kids, your parents, your friends and family.  Simply stated, you’re allowed to know the truth.  And since so many people have never given the issue any serious consideration, it makes humanity dangerously unaware.

The other option is to continue to keep people in the dark.  Until of course, someone makes a concerted effort to wirelessly weaponize a stampede.  It always comes back to that same binary decision.  Tell people the truth OR deliberately conceal it.

So yeah.  I’m still searching for that one person.  I’ve pretty much given up on politicians and members of Congress.  I’m more hopeful that someone in the entertainment biz might take up the cause.  It’s simple enough.  Just tell fans… hey, if it’s ever necessary evacuate this facility, please be aware that the information would NEVER be initially delivered via your cell phone or mobile device.  That’s just not how it works.  If an evac is deemed necessary, protocol dictates using the public address system, usually in tandem with video monitors.

Maybe you’re not Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh.  Or the city’s chief of police, Scott Schubert.  Or councilwoman Darlene Harris, whose district encompasses both Heinz Field and PNC Park.  Maybe you’re not Art Rooney II, the owner of the Steelers.  Maybe you’re not Bob Nutting, the owner of the Pirates.  And guess what those five individuals have in common?  Well, I’ll give you a hint.  They’re all aware of the problem but purposely choose to remain silent.  Hey, why open up a hypothetical can of speculative worms?

Like I was saying, you might not be Bruce Springsteen, headlining a concert at PPG Paints Arena.  But maybe you’re his friend, Joe Grushecky, playing at Club Cafe on the South Side.  You might not have the swagger and sway of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.  But maybe you’re the high school football coach for Pine Richland (Gibsonia).  Maybe you’re not world renowned investigative journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame.  Maybe you’re just Gene Collier, a prolific sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

My point — sometimes the perceived “industry heavyweights” conveniently lack the courage to take action.  Sometimes it’s the little guy or gal in the room who’s needed to demonstrate a greater degree of ethical clout and moral clarity.

Money is not the answer.  I repeat, money is not a panacea here.  In this case, the solution encompasses information, knowledge and awareness.  The prospect of an artificially generated stampede echoes other transformational public safety issues, i.e., wildfire prevention, impaired driving, and so on.  And the willingness to be precisely transparent mirrors the statements we teach our children, i.e., “stop, drop and roll” and “look both ways before you cross the street.”

My contention is pretty basic.  Everyone’s allowed to know.  You either divulge the truth… or conceal it.  It’s just a matter of when and how society makes this collective discovery.  Before or after?  Before a tragedy occurs?  Before an attack is attempted?  Or after innocent people sustain serious bodily injuries?  After they die?

All of us have something in common.  We all make choices regarding life and death, health, education and public safety.  Now it’s your turn to make a resolution.  Do you know someone… anyone who’s willing to truly make a difference?

If you require a more substantive explanation of this asymmetric cyber-threat, just gimme a ring.  304-312-1395 and ask for Eric.  That’s me.

 

Oxford Stampede Deja Vu

It seems like just a month ago when I wrote an article about a spontaneous panic resulting in a stampede… in London, England… on Oxford Street, no less.  Same Brit time, same Brit channel, I suppose.  Surprisingly similar, both resulted in a spattering of injuries but zero fatalities.  I guess every once in a while, history repeats itself.

Oxford Street is a 1 mile long stretch of road in the city of Westminster on London’s West End.  It’s a premiere European shopping district, with around half a million daily visitors.

Once again, on December 26, 2017, there were reports of shots being fired.  But there was no gunfire.  And yet again, sudden hysteria overtook the streets.  Followed by a mass contingency of police swarming the area.  I wonder, at what point, does an overwhelming display of tactical force, actually contribute to a civilian state of anxiety?  The speeding vehicles, the flashing lights, the sirens, the drawn firearms.  When does the civil trepidation reach a breaking point?  A possible answer — when everything begins to mimic the look and feel of troops in an active war zone.

I’m starting to wonder if there’s a little bit of “societal conditioning” in play, specifically in the form of cognitive dissonance.  That’s the psychological stress derived from a person simultaneously holding two or more contradictory beliefs.  This mental discomfort is usually grounded in morality.  But I’m starting to wonder if there could be a “panic precedent.”  The precise location(s) where the proliferation of wireless technology collides with a sudden jolt of fear.  Translation: history has demonstrated, time and time again, that you should generally be safe when venturing into a large, confined crowd (stadium, ballpark, etc.).  But what if an “X” variable entered into the equation?  One that you never fully considered or anticipated because it’s unavailable for public consumption.

In layman’s terms, it just seems like everyone is scared these days.  Maybe they’re worried about their kids being abducted or the toxins in their food.  Maybe it’s the opioid epidemic and perceived gang violence.  Maybe it’s the mass shootings or continual coverage of terrorism, both foreign and domestic.  Maybe it’s just the news in general.  The practice of coordinated fear mongering, whether it be intentional or unintentional, seems to be approaching new levels.  It might not necessarily be one specific thing.  It’s more likely an amalgamation of everything.

All this negative information comes in waves.  Every channel, every website, every email, every text.  Every ringtone, every swoosh, every vibration.  This techno-styled, info-bombardment is testing established norms.  And plenty of it is being relayed in real-time via social media.  Let’s take a look at the top headlines from the latest Oxford stampede.

BBC — Oxford Street panic: Woman hurt after ‘shots fired’ false alarm

Sky News — Shopper ‘stampede’ after false reports of shots fired

The Independent — Woman hurt after ‘shots fired’ false alarm during Boxing day sales on London’s Oxford Street

Metro — Panic on Oxford Street as people thought they heard ‘gunfire’

Daily Star — Panic as police scramble to ‘shots fired’ in Oxford Street

Daily Mall — Boxing Day shoppers flee in panic on Oxford Street as stampede leaves one injured and armed cops respond to report

Huffington Post UK — Oxford Street Panic: Police Respond to Reports of Gunshots But find Nothing

Express.co.uk — LONDON PANIC: Shoppers stampede in busy Oxford Street over fake gunshot reports

thejournal.ie — Panic on London’s main shopping street amid inaccurate reports of shots fired

International Business Times UK — Chaotic scenes in Central London after shoppers stampede following ‘reports of gunfire’

The Sun — Oxford Street panic as shoppers ‘run and scream’ after false reports of shots fired during Boxing day sales

ClickLancashire — Panic on Oxford Street after ‘shots fired’ false alarm

HeraldScotland — Sales shoppers flee Oxford Street in ‘gunfire’ panic

mirror.co.uk — Panic on Oxford Street as hundreds of shoppers run and scream

Evening Standard — Panicked shoppers flee Oxford Street after false reports claim ‘shots fired’

Every reliable media source in and around London reported on this incident.  Therefore, we’ll assume it actually happened.  These days, if you don’t like the news or it doesn’t conform to your personal world view, there’s a growing tendency to dismiss it entirely.

Every headline contained certain key words.  Panic, stampede, and of course, ‘shots fired’… even when there were no shots fired.

“Weaponized information” is a term that came to prominence in 2017.  Our perceptions about what constitutes the “weaponizing of words” might be a little outdated.  Cyber-security is still focused on various internet phenomena: hacking, ransomware, phishing schemes, bots, DDoS attacks (Distributed Denial of Service), identity theft, state sponsored cyber-terrorism, social media manipulation, and so on.  We’re still focused on how the information is perceived.  Not how it could directly impact real-time, real-world events.  Riots, looting, protests, civil disruption, and yes…. even human stampedes.

It might be a wise idea to take a broader overview of cyber-criminal behavior and examine where it’s trending.  I’ll give you a hint — it’s mobile threats and connected devices. The IoT (Internet of Things) is an emerging battlefield.  Analysts and commentators sometimes reference the IoT, but rarely make any substantive, long term speculation as to what’s in store for us.  Other than to say, it’s going to get much worse, before it gets any better.  Wow.  How profound.

Let us assemble the ingredients.  Panic and fear?  Check.  Instant wireless gratification?  Check.  The confusion resulting from reality vs. fake news?  Check.  Now toss in a ubiquitous sprinkling of cell phone addiction and spread generously with a healthy dollop of paranoia.  And maybe just a dash of cyber-bullying and a hint of hacking.  All those key components just keep on popping up all over the planet.  It seems to me that society is gradually mixing up a stampede cocktail.  I wonder how long it’ll be until this dreaded concoction manifests itself in the United States?  Some would claim it already has.  At the very least, the reservations have been taken and the dinner party awaits.

Happy gnu year!

I often wonder if 2018 will be the year when humanity becomes acquainted with the “artificially generated stampede.”  If I was a bookie, I wouldn’t rule it out.  Neither should you.

 

Super Bowl 52 and the Super Paradox

Uh-oh!  Donald Trump just tweeted during Super Bowl 52.

Wow!  Bet you never saw that one coming.  In hindsight, maybe those additional 140 characters weren’t such a good idea.

Oh, don’t worry so much.  Nothing unusual ever happens on twitter.  It’s always the same predictable drivel.

or

or every once in a while…

Yes.  That seriously happened back in 2013.

I guess when you tweet 36,600 times in 8 years, you’re bound to cover just about everything.

When it comes to twitter, here’s something to keep in mind.  All tweets have one thing in common.  They’re simply a collection of characters.  Letters, numbers and symbols.  Nothing more, nothing less.

PIVOT.

Every year, a slew of articles are written about Super Bowl security.  2018 is no different.  After all, the Super Bowl gets a Department of Homeland Security Level One Special Event Assessment Rating.  It’s the highest threat level designation.  And it sounds like they’ve got everything covered.  Thousands of officers (uniformed, undercover, SWAT, bomb squad, snipers, etc.), dozens of additional camera installations, 2 miles of fencing and concrete barriers, 100 explosive-detection dogs, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters, and so on.  Every federal department, every state agency is looking for an angle.  DHS, FBI, even the Coast Guard.  They all want a piece of the action.  Hey, it’s one of the biggest bashes on the planet earth.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Much is happening in the invisible domain of wireless infrastructure as well.

Once again, the NFL has brought in Extreme Networks to provide stadium Wi-Fi.  The move is necessary to alleviate routine network congestion.  Last year’s Super Bowl in Houston featured Wi-Fi usage in the 11,000+ terabyte data range.  That’s because everyone at the big game needs to post ‘dem selfies, share those pics and stream that real-time video.  Gee whiz, if you can’t prove you’re in attendance, what’s the point of even going to the Super Bowl?

So back to my original concern.  Considering all that physical safety and technological security, will someone… anyone… just tell me what U.S. Bank Stadium’s game plan is if Trump tweets about a hijacked plane hitting the building?  I know, I know.  Apparently, this guy hasn’t heard about the no-fly zone?  Well yeah, I have.  But I’m not sure that covers it.  And truth be told, I’m pretty sure nobody else got the memo — 66,000+ fans, sports enthusiasts, mankind, take your pick.

Of course, Trump would know better.  Right?  Well, I’m not so sure.  Lots of people watch the Super Bowl.  It’s a pretty big deal.  What if he was feeling jealous about the size of the crowd?  What if he envied the “unpresidented” television ratings and decided to make the Super Bowl about himself.  Maybe he witnessed something that made him upset (someone kneeling during the national anthem or not properly holding their right hand over their left ventricle).  Maybe he’s angry that so many people are watching the commercials, as opposed to following @realDonaldTrump #MAGA.  It’s really hard to say.  It’s been a long year.  Has anyone noticed that #45 is kinda impulsive and behaves with the intellectual sophistication and judicious temperament of a wild teen on Maury Povich?

But on the other hand… maybe a private plane is flying toward restricted air space.  Maybe a pilot inadvertently turned off their transponder.  Maybe Trump received an emergency briefing regarding preliminary reports of an actual civilian plane hijacking.  Or maybe his twitter account was hacked.  Remember?

My point — bad things don’t happen.  Until they happen.

Here’s the deal.  There is no real-world contingency plan for the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded stadium.  Let alone, a black swan occurrence during what many consider the biggest, one-day sports spectacle of the year.

Minneapolis Commander Scott Gerlicher, Super Bowl public safety director — please forgive me.  I beg you.  I don’t wish to crash your big, huge Super Bowl party.  Especially in the Trump era.  I’m sure it’s gonna be a really, really great event.  Wonderful, terrific, amazing, incredible, and quite literally, super!!!

But you might want to “kick off” your safety meetings by acknowledging the question a silly child would ask.  What if, someone bad, tries to do something mean, with all those cell phones?  Ya know, the question the adults in the room refuse to put on the table.  The one that’s been deemed undiscussable.

There’s a reason that all of those talented professionals and all of those skilled experts are reluctant to chime in.  Call me naive, uh, uh, I dunno.  But it’s something called a catch-22.

Acknowledge a problem, and you own it.
And if something bad happens, you’re totally screwed.

Because you didn’t do enough to prevent it!

It’s funny how all that money and all that security can’t touch a challenging paradox.  Maybe “funny” isn’t the best choice of words.  Let’s go with “dangerously ironic” instead.
And that could very well be the “melodramatic understatement” of the new year.  No exclamation point required.

Post Script:  I’ve never dedicated an AGSAF article, but this one goes out to @wpxigigi.  Her contempt for Trump inspires me, as it should… all of us.  Nostrovia!

Lambeau Field Bomb Threat Incident

Whoops.  What happened here?

A minivan is shown on top of other vehicles after an incident in the Lambeau Field parking lot Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Police say a fired food service worker rammed a former co-worker’s car at Lambeau Field, bringing numerous law enforcement agencies to the Green Bay Packers’ stadium. (Adam Wesley/The Green Bay Press-Gazette via AP)

Seemingly defying the laws of gravity no less.

Statement from Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith:
On Dec. 22 at 1:06 p.m., officers of the Green Bay Police Department responded to Lambeau Field for what was initially reported as an Active Shooter incident.  As officers were responding, several 911 calls were made reporting a vehicle had crashed into the side of the building inside the southeast loading dock and a male exited the vehicle with a gun.  Officers arrived within five minutes of the above time, and had the suspect in custody at 1:12 p.m., within six minutes of the initial call.

During the investigation, officers learned the suspect was a former employee with the food vending service at Lambeau Field.  The suspect was terminated in early December 2017 due to having an altercation with a fellow employee.  The suspect was at police headquarters early in the day to report what he believed was an illegal termination to officers.

At 1:06 p.m., the suspect located the victim in the parking lot of Lambeau Field.  The victim is believed to be the same person the suspect had the altercation with earlier this month.  Using his vehicle, the suspect intentionally rammed the victim’s vehicle causing the victim’s vehicle to collide with five other vehicles in the area.  The victim fled on foot and the suspect chased him in his vehicle.

The suspect ultimately drove his vehicle down the southeast loading dock of Lambeau Field, entered the building via a loading ramp, and crashed into a storage room inside Lambeau Field.  The suspect fled the vehicle on foot and was arrested without incident by Green Bay Police officers.

The suspect is a 20-year-old male/Asian resident of Green Bay.  The exact charges are unknown at this time as investigators are actively working to interview the victim, witnesses and suspect.

After the suspect was in custody, the Brown County Bomb Squad was called in to clear the suspect’s vehicle.  Nothing suspicious was found and no weapons were located.  The loading dock of Lambeau Field is a restricted area and there were no fans or players in the area at the time.  There were fans inside the stadium and shoveling out the bowl but they were not in any danger.  Officers initially requested schools to be put on lock down; however, since the suspect was taken into custody so quickly, the schools never locked down.

The Green Bay Police Department is the lead investigating agency and is being assisted by the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Brown County Sheriff’s Department, and Ashwaubenon Public Safety.  The investigation will be ongoing and there is no threat to the community.

Tomorrow’s game will be as safe as any other game at Lambeau Field.  We may relocate some officers’ assignments, but the safety protocols will be generally the same.

Statement from Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy:
The Green Bay Packers express our gratitude to our local law enforcement officials and our security staff for their quick response to the incident today at Lambeau Field, which was resolved safely.

At no time during the isolated incident was the general public in danger and all the public areas of the stadium remained open for normal business.  Preparations for tomorrow night’s Packers-Vikings game continue and all gameday operations will continue as planned.

The safety of our employees and guests is a top priority. We will continue to work with all appropriate officials to review today’s event.

Now for some observations:

Overall, it would appear this volatile situation was handled with efficient professionalism.  My only major concern would be the open gate which enabled the man access to a stadium loading ramp.  However, Lambeau Field tends to operate in a more community friendly environment than most NFL stadiums.  For example, roughly 500 local volunteers were inside the stadium shoveling out snow when the incident transpired.  I’m quite sure that Lambeau’s game day protocol and security are significantly more stringent.

Something else to note:  Police were initially called to the scene in response to receiving several 911 calls of an “active shooter” in the ramp area of the stadium.  In the aftermath, no weapons were found.  Other than the vehicle, of course.  Also, the Packers official statement initially identified the man as a 20 year old.  He was later correctly identified as 40 year old Chay Vang.  Sometimes, in the urgency of the moment, real-world facts can get distorted.

The Packers issued an identical statement on their twitter and facebook.  A brief sentence with a discreet link.

Green Bay Police Department & Green Bay Packers statements on Friday incident at Lambeau Field: http://pckrs.com/dbsh6

This is where my concerns grow a bit murkier.  Considering the gravity of the situation (a disgruntled employee using a vehicle as a potential deadly weapon, both outside and inside an NFL stadium), I do believe it was necessary to get ahead of the story and address the situation on social media.  Note: There really is no “best practices guide” for how to divulge active shooter or bomb threat information on social media.  And if you think the NFL feels uncomfortable with voluntarily exposing information about concussions, domestic violence, kneeling for the anthem, and so on… well, I can assure you of one thing.  Bomb threats are easily the most dreaded and challenging topic.  Just ask yourself the most obvious question — What if the flow of information results in a panic?

Now would this situation have been handled any differently had it transpired during the game?  My speculative hunch is a resounding yes.  However, would 81,441 Packers fans all exercise the same degree of measured discretion with regard to their own social media activity?  I seriously doubt it.

With such a bizarre occurrence and so many witnesses, the only viable solution was to be as straightforward as possible.  The Packers social media posts and statements were coherent, and for the most part, accurate.  However, a red flag concern is the potential for online reaction.  Once the material is placed on the internet, it gives anyone the ability to chime in.  What if someone were to comment… “I know that man personally.  He told me that his friends, armed with AR-15’s, are coming to “finish the job.”  Could real-time information like that be tagged, shared or retweeted?  How might a scenario like that play itself out?

More importantly, what if there was a deliberate, targeted attempt to saturate open-sourced social media applications?  Is there really any feasible contingency plan for the wireless equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded stadium?  Uh, let me be blunt.  NO, there isn’t.

Something else to keep in mind.  When the mayhem transpired, the news of it broke near simultaneously, from multiple sources.  Check the stories among the prominent football social media sites — The Big Lead, ESPN, 247 Sports, etc.  And everything from WHBL Sheboygan to The New York Times.  The stories are relatively indistinguishable, hastily copied and pasted.  Generally speaking, on the internet, acts of plagiarism are trending less egregious.  If a false narrative was concocted, this rush to dispense information could have unintended negative consequences.

In the media, both mainstream and alternative, we’re increasingly hearing the term “weaponized information.”  It might be wise to start game planning and strategizing for unsettling, unpredictable variables in cyber-world.  Lambeau Field is a wirelessly hyper-connective environment.  And what object is virtually everyone carrying?  Bratwurst?  Large draft beer?  Well the beer might be ice cold, but you’re getting warmer.

The correct answer — a cell phone.  Ding-ding-ding!

The NFL is an admittedly powerful institution.  But when it comes to random, decentralized exposure on social media, they are just as vulnerable as any other organization in the realm of government and private industry.  The world is an unusual place.  Strange things happen.  And the next stadium emergency might not be so easily contained.  In the cellular world, steel gates and metal fences and concrete barriers mean zilch.  Unless of course, it’s the fans getting physically smashed into them.

Just a friendly public service announcement.  One that nobody’s allowed to talk about.  Except me, I guess.

 

The Civilian Battlefield and the Internet of Things

As part of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to rebuild our depleted armed forces, the administration called for a significant military budget increase.  Trump signed the fiscal 2018 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) into law during December 2017.  It authorizes about $700 billion for the U.S. military.  That number is a rough estimate.  For the sake of argument, let’s just say it’s in excess of a half trillion dollars.  Hey, what’s a few hundred billion between friends?

There exists a provision that could force the federal government to upgrade its out-of-date IT systems.   If you’re unaware that IT stands for information technology, don’t bother continue reading.

The U.S. government currently spends about 80 billion dollars per year on IT.  That’s a relatively hefty sum.

The Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act is part of the NDAA.  But it’s facing some roadblocks in Congress.  One of its goals is to establish a $500 million fund for updating IT systems.

A premise of the new initiative is to improve technological connectivity.  This falls under the wireless heading of the “Alliance for the Internet of Battlefield Things Research on Evolving Intelligent Goal-driven Networks” (or AIBT REIGN for short).  Oh, those helpful GAT KOG LALs (government acronyms that keep on getting longer and longer)!

AIBT REIGN has been assigned the task of devising applications for “wireless rifles.”  The ultimate objective being to have them securely and remotely manned via the internet.  If you ask me, that’s a bit unsettling.  Seems like it could literally back-fire.  Conducting short range arms fire from Colorado in places like Afghanistan?  But I do suppose it would realistically prevent loss of life and reduce future health care costs.  Regardless, you’ll soon understand why this is relevant.

Oh, and by the way, remote warfare is already here.  It’s been here for quite some time.  Newsflash: U.S. CentCom is headquartered in Tampa.  Lots of “stuff” going on down there.

My point — tactics and strategies evolve, weapons evolve, the military itself evolves.  This has been happening since the dawn of civilization.  It’s called military theory.  And there’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty.  As long as war exists, warfare will never be stagnant.  The historical evidence is irrefutable.

PIVOT.

When I’m asked about the “artificially generated stampede,” I often get two specific questions.  The first one — How would they get everyone’s cell phone number?  I’ve written a plethora of articles about that one.  So I’ll address the other commonly asked question — Has anything like this ever happened before?

“Well of course it has!  Don’t you remember last year’s Super Bowl when a cellular-induced panic led to a massive stampede at NRG Stadium in Houston (43 dead, 320 injured)?  Surely that was the real headline!  Not the New England Patriots record 2nd half comeback and stunning overtime victory.

My true reply — “You need to analyze that question with a long-term event horizon.”  The superior question is… “Will something like this ever be attempted?  And if so, shouldn’t we do something about it?  What steps are being taken to prevent it?  And most importantly, why is such generic subject matter largely unavailable for public consumption?  Why is it undiscussable?”  The answers are disturbing… but important.  Hey, that’s kinda the reason I created the site.

In keeping with that spirit, here’s a thought.  Military rifles and cell phones have something in common.  Both are still evolving.

Most people never envisioned a cell phone being used as a high resolution camera.  Or to execute a stock trade.  Or to monitor blood glucose levels.  Or function as a television remote control.  Or activate your outdoor lights.  Or offer precision geo-location via tri-lateration (cellular scavenger hunts).  Or be attached to a drone and capture and transmit real-time video, to best analyze the projected path of wildfires and devise rapid response plans.

Back in the day, cell phones were only used for “wireless talking.”  But over time, things change.  Much like Peter Brady’s unique vocals during a riveting studio performance of The Brady Bunch Kids — When it’s time to change, you have to rearrange.

Alright, now in the words of a slightly more prolific rock’n’roll band, Led Zeppelin, let’s bring it on home.

Cell phones can function as weapons.  People just don’t know it… yet.

Civilian planes were hijacked and used as weapons… to target large buildings.
Cell phones can be hijacked and used as weapons… to target large buildings.

At a brief glimpse, it would appear that U.S. military interventionism worldwide is on the upswing.  This has been the case for several decades.  It’s called “empire.”

All military conflicts have one thing in common.  That being a resistance.  People don’t appreciate being invaded, attacked and occupied.  Hint: They fight back.  Sometimes in ways that are unanticipated and unpredictable.

Think about the evolution in play.  Give it some thought.  If you successfully completed this article, you’ll probably get there.

 

2017 Chittagong Stampede

A December 18 stampede in the city of Chittagong, Bangledesh claimed the lives of at least 10, with an estimated 50 seriously injured.  The number of fatalities is expected to rise.  The chaos ensued outside the Rima Community Centre following the funeral procession of local city mayor, Mohiuddin Chowdhury.  Mourners had gathered for a traditional Muslim feast.

Consensus opinion — the stampede was the result of a crowd surge.  Too many people, too little capacity.

Many headlines blamed the source of the stampede on “free food” being offered.  However, it should be noted there were 13 other feasts that day commemorating the life of Chowdhury, drawing crowds estimated in the 100,000 range.  If free food was really the proximate cause, why weren’t there security issues at the other locations?  At all the other venues, the services were carried out peacefully and efficiently.

The crowd dynamic which triggers an actual stampede is usually an amalgamation of multiple variables.  In this case, a crowd of roughly 10,000 had already gathered outside a 2-story building with a maximum capacity of 4,000.  Apparently, loudspeakers outside the venue were used to inform the public that there was a sufficient number of meals available.  This could have actually made matters worse.  Almost having a “reverse psychology” impact on the anxious crowd.  After all, why would officials be preemptively trying to placate the crowd?  Perhaps they sensed that things were on the verge of turning ugly.  I think it’s reasonable to assume that such “unanticipated proclamations” could have heightened the overall level of suspicion and agitation within the crowd.

The bigger issue seemed to be the single gated entrance leading into the facility.  Not to mention the lack of security and police.  When the gate opened, the packed crowd grew frantic.  Pushing, shoving and so on.

Another possible contributing factor was the degree of slope in front of the gate, at the end of a “slanted” road.  The unusual configuration could have played a role.

Like most stampedes, the majority of victims were not trampled.  They suffocated during the crush.

This wasn’t the first human stampede.  And it certainly won’t be the last.  So here’s a suggestion.  In the aftermath, rather than focusing on pictures of sandals and articles of clothing…

Maybe the time has arrived to use more graphic illustrations.

Now will this solve the problem, preventing future stampedes?  Probably not.  But it does bring a grim reality to the forefront.  Politicians and city officials might feel additional pressure to be more proactive.  Focusing on safety and prevention as opposed to taking a more fatalistic approach… simply compensating the families who lost loved ones in a preventable tragedy.

 

Net Neutrality and the Artificially Generated Stampede

Net neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle.  It calls for an internet that supports free speech.  It protects your ability to communicate online.  It means that ISPs (internet service providers) are obligated to maintain open networks.  They shouldn’t block or manipulate content.  The same rationale applies to your cable company.  It’s none of their business what you watch and how much television you consume.  Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with what’s on the internet.

An “artificially generated stampede” is a term that does not currently exist.  I have a strong hunch that one day this will change.  At some future point in time, an individual or group, will deliberately attempt to create a cellular-induced panic resulting in a human stampede.

So why would this happen?

A philosophical version — If you take a long-term event horizon, there’s a discernible inevitability in the realm of generational warfare.

The adult explanation — It’s a cost effective way to inflict terror and randomly kill and maim innocent civilians.

A child’s perspective — Bad people do mean things.

Let’s examine both issues through the lens of net neutrality.  Rather than getting bogged down in the details, I’ll make a few generalizations.  Since its inception, the internet has generally been viewed as the “technological wild wild west.”  Anything goes.  Reigning in net neutrality would chip away at this perception.  The Trump administration wishes to give a greater degree of micro-managerial authority to the internet service providers.  Companies like Comcast and Verizon would exercise greater power in managing what content we see online and the manner in which it’s viewed.  It would put them in a position to potentially determine winners and losers.  In a broader sense, eliminating net neutrality increases the authority of private industry and seeks to scale back government oversight.  It markedly shifts the power to control the internet from big government to the private sector.

I think it’s reasonable to draw the following conclusion: As this transition evolves, private companies would be emboldened to seek greater profit from the sale of information.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Lots of pop-up ads, time sensitive offers, emails, text messages and so on.

So how would this play itself out in the current divisive political climate?

I imagine the general tenor of the argument would go something like this:

Republicans — We need to unleash the power of capitalism.  The internet is better off without extensive government regulation.  Just because Walmart knows your toilet paper preference, that’s really not a big deal.  Get over it!  You’re not that important.  Markets need to function efficiently!

Democrats — Online privacy is paramount.  We can’t live in a world where all of our personal information is gathered up by big business, bought and sold to the highest bidder.  We don’t wish to be targeted with endless advertisements based on automated profiles.  Welcome to George Orwell’s corporate version of 1984!

Independents —  There’s merit in both arguments.  Not everything is black and white.

So here’s a likely real world scenario.

Let’s say I go to Heinz Field for a future Steelers game.  With the current state of the internet, I might see a few things pop up in my social media feed.  Maybe I’ll get an unsolicited text message offering up a free appetizer at a nearby restaurant.  Or perhaps a generous discount on a personalized jersey.  But for the most part, the degree of cellular intrusiveness is relatively benign.  Some people appreciate that.  Others want more overtures.

However, if net neutrality is degraded, over time, I expect people would be bombarded with a greater number of unsolicited offers and super deals.  Targeted merchandise galore.  Once again, some people would appreciate the potential savings.  Others would not.

Would a shift in net neutrality directly impact the  AGSAF website (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation)?  Honestly, it’s hard to say.  The site might be more likely to get throttled (intentionally slowed down).  Probably over hypothetical litigation concerns.  But I kinda doubt it.  Because my website is not designed to generate revenue.  It deals with three major components — cyber-security, public safety and fundamental human rights.  Its overriding mission is to enhance situational awareness and prevent injury and potential loss of life.  But at the same time, it also lays out a thorough blueprint for indiscriminately killing innocent civilians.  Suffice it to say, neither government nor private industry would directly benefit from acknowledging the site’s existence.  Quite the contrary, in the aftermath of a tragedy, it would likely raise some ugly concerns with respect to plausible deniability.  So regardless of the current direction of net neutrality, I expect there would be no demonstrable impact.

However, if my concerns about the artificially generated stampede came to fruition.  Well, that trajectory would immediately change.  Why?  Because people would want to know who exactly perpetrated such an insidious act.  Where did the list of cell phone numbers come from?  Who had the list?  Please note: This is vastly more complicated than a lengthy list of cell numbers.  It’s extremely doubtful everything would be that simplistic.

All the customary journalistic questions would surface… Who, what, when, where, why and how.

I suspect, that in the aftermath of a cellular-induced panic resulting in an artificially generated stampede, many people would shout a one-word, common refrain… CONSPIRACY.  Even though the actual panic was likely the result of an exponentially-driven, decentralized hoax.  Many would ask, “Alright, someone must have had a master list of cell phone numbers.  How did they get their hands on it?  Where did it come from?”  Then the conspiracy theories would start rolling in.

Was it Iran?  Was it the North Koreans?  Could it be Russia?  China?  Or a guy sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds?
Was it our own government?  A deep state operative?  The FCC, NSC, US Cyber-Command or one of the other federal acronyms?
Was it the cell phone companies?  The internet service providers?  Facebook?  Google?

I suspect the American people would be exposed to these conspiratorial theories in perpetuity from every direction conceivable.  A black swan event of this magnitude would literally be the gift that keeps on giving.  It would be the equivalent of a “conspiracy Christmas parade.”  Every single day thereafter, revelers endlessly embracing the reason for the season.

Happy holidays.

 

Stealing the Super Bowl

For the past 10 years, I’ve been concerned that somebody might try to “steal the Super Bowl.”  Now what exactly does that mean?  Well, it means that some person out there with a specific agenda… would try to take advantage of the biggest, live televised event in the United States.  And exploit it to their advantage.  Seriously, if you wish to dispense propaganda, what better an opportunity to promote your cause?  Black Lives Matter, Abortion is Murder, Impeach Trump, #MeToo, etc.  With the eyes and ears of the world aggressively focused on Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 4, 2018, from 6pm – 11pm, it seems like the optimum moment to state your case.  A hundred million+ captive viewers is a pretty big deal.

But what also concerns me is the potential for real-time manipulation, of and/or by, the players, owners, coaches, fans, advertisers, producers, announcers and basically anyone with skin in the game.  In theory, that number trends endless.

What if North Korea launched a nuclear missile during the big game?  And it was targeting Hawaii?  If the announcers declined to broach the subject, there would be ethical ramifications.  To purposely remain silent while the country was facing an imminent nuclear attack… well, that just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Alright, that’s a tad extreme.  Let’s try something within the realm of workable rationalism.

Let’s say it’s the Steelers vs. Saints.  Shortly after kickoff, multiple pipe bombs are detonated in the respective cities of Pittsburgh and New Orleans, targeting innocent civilians in crowded sports bars.  U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota is heavily fortified, but these alternate locations would represent high value, soft targets of a different nature.  It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that such an attack was terror-inspired.  Whether foreign or domestic, the notion of it happening in these two specific cities could not be dismissed as some random coincidence.  Reports of injuries and casualties immediately surface.  All of a sudden, the announcers are faced with a perilous challenge.  How do you make this news publicly available on live television and avoid sparking a panic, or at the very least, significant disruption, in sports bars in Pittsburgh, New Orleans and across the country?  It’s my contention that they would be morally compelled to alert the viewers.  After all, what if there were additional bombs at other sports bars?  A decision to purposely conceal critical, timely, incoming information ain’t gonna work here.  As you can see, this particular threat extends beyond public safety.  It’s a challenging hypothetical with a moral component of unexplored consequence.

Even though it’s uncharted territory, there exists a loose precedent.  Most people learned about the 1980 assassination of John Lennon during a Monday Night Football broadcast.  Howard Cosell’s words had an unforgettable emotional impact because of the unique timing of the event and the worldwide significance of the shooting.  Did the shooter, Mark Chapman, intentionally time his killing with Monday Night Football to ensure maximum exposure?  Back then, I doubt it.  But nowadays?

John Lennon was killed 37 years ago.  Quite some time before the explosion of social media.  And well before the emergence of powerfully, decentralized technological platforms like facebook and twitter.

My classic example for stealing the Super Bowl is theoretically grounded in the “weaponization” of social media.  Weaponization, eh?  Yes.  It’s a word that’s suddenly on the uptick.

I often throw out the following scenario.  What if Donald Trump tweeted that a hijacked plane might be targeting the Super Bowl?  Even worse, what if his twitter account was hacked?  If that’s the case, you should officially place a single bet.  That all bets are off!

But what if Trump just witnessed something he didn’t like?  Antonio Brown is the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.  He’s a black superstar and a publicity seeker with an enormous social media following.  What if Brown whipped out a bright red Make America Great Again hat, threw it on the ground, and defiantly stomped on it DURING the national anthem?  All of a sudden, this sounds a little more plausible.  Agreed?  We’ve got an impetuous president with an insatiable appetite for television and a perpetual desire to criticize the NFL.  Now what’s the back-up plan for when Trump tweets… Antonio Brown is a pathetic DISGRACE!  All self-respecting Americans must pick up and leave their seats.  If you love our FLAG and our GREAT country, you need to show it!  By temporarily moving to the concourse. NOW!!!

If any of that sounds familiar, it’s because a few months ago, Trump evacuated his own Vice President Mike Pence from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, the home of Super Bowl 52, has a capacity of 66,655.  If a few hundred people were to unexpectedly herd toward the concourses, I imagine a lot of people, at a bare minimum, would wonder “what the hell is going on?”  If that number was greater than a thousand, I suspect it could spark a panic.  After all, something like this would be both totally unanticipated and utterly unprecedented.  Certain things just don’t mix.  One of them is the perception of large numbers of people behaving irrationally in unfamiliar, confined spaces.

Still not concerned?  Let’s make it even more believable.  Just before the Super Bowl is set to begin, Antonio Brown sends out a tweet containing a pro-shot video of him and his buddies throwing Trump/Pence t-shirts and yard signs into a roaring fire, making incendiary comments about Trump’s children and mocking his ability to lead the nation.  #BLM #Resist.  Do you honestly think that Trump, the “twitter pugilist,” the “reckless counter-puncher” who “hits back 10x harder,” would patiently wait for 5 hours until the Super Bowl safely reached its conclusion?  Uh, no.

There is a reason that contingency plans don’t exist for scenarios like these.  It’s because, by their very nature, they are “hypothetically undiscussable.”  Mostly due to the sensitive nature of stadium emergency evacuation protocol, coupled by the fact that such an action would involve indiscriminately killing innocent civilians without conventional weapons.  The weaponizing of a stampede and scenarios like these are known as “black swans.”  Similar to 9/11, nobody was really allowed to raise the prospect of hijacked airplanes intentionally destroying high value civilian targets… until after it happened.  For much the same underlying reason, you won’t be hearing about the wireless equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater… until after it happens… or is attempted.  The material will remain unavailable for public consumption.

Speaking of Trump, his personal twitter account is currently ranked #20 (44 million followers).  On December 13, 2017, shortly after Doug Jones (D-AL) defeated Roy Moore (R-AL) for the Alabama U.S. Senate seat, Trump tweeted and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper responded…

But guess what?  Cooper’s twitter feed, which has 10,000,000 followers, was hacked.  These social media hacks have become so commonplace.  They barely even register as a blip in the news cycle.  The reply quickly went viral because it seemed so uncharacteristic of Cooper.  The twitter security issue was eventually fixed, but not until an estimated hour had passed.  Sixty minutes might not seem like a great deal of time.  But when the entire world is focused on a single event, say for instance the Super Bowl, a lone malicious tweet could have tremendous consequence.

Time doesn’t magically stand still during the Super Bowl and Trump isn’t the only person with a twitter account.  One of the more notable accounts higher than Trump — CNN’s Breaking News ranks #16 with 54 million followers.  Some of the others accounts and individuals that draw Trump’s ire… @BarackObama (97 million followers), @nytimes (40 million… #failing), @cnn (38 million… #fakenews), @HillaryClinton (20 million… #crooked).  Don’t dismiss these other accounts in the top 100 — @NFL, @ESPN, @sportscenter.  High profile twitter handles often function co-dependently.  Meaning the individuals who administer these accounts have a greater time-sensitive inclination to share, tag, like, favorite, tweet and retweet.

Just an aside — guess who’s currently #10 on the twitter list with 64 million followers?  It’s our good friend Justin Timberlake, who coincidentally will be performing at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime extravaganza.  Small world, isn’t it?  Wasn’t he the co-conspirator of “nipplegate” at Super Bowl 38?  What if Timberlake had an automated tweet ready to go during his performance?  A deliberate promotional stunt designed to go viral?  And someone of significant repute decided to weigh in.  What if a fellow celebrity like Katy Perry or Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift or Rihanna or Lady Gaga decided to chime in?  Or even worse, had their account hacked?  And what if said hacker had an agenda that went beyond bullying or making crass statements?  What if the content was designed to create a real-world panic?  It’s not a terribly complex concept.  Think in terms of the wireless equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.  Those 5 musicians all have twitter followings in excess of 75 million.  They’re respectively ranked #1, #2, #4, #5 & #7.

Here’s the deal.  We live in an increasingly hyper-connective world.  Real-time tweets are analyzed with tremendous scrutiny.  It might be a good idea to finally start thinking outside the “cellular box.”  Every day, with the media coverage dominated by the latest hack and/or lingering anticipation of the next presidential twitter tirade/tweet-storm, it might be a wise idea to explore vulnerabilities regarding existing wireless expectations.  Don’t forget the excessive hash tags, automated bots, online identity theft and society’s propensity for viral hoaxes.  Maybe it’s time to reconsider our conventional approach to major events with respect to TECHNOLOGICAL FRAGILITY.  Regrettably, no such term currently exists.  Hmm, maybe there’s a reason for that.

In the days of the Colosseum, the games were held below.  I fear the moment in time when the games are held above, when the fans become the players, when the spectators become the combatants.” – sonofsaf

 

Roger Goodell + the NFL Owners = Hubris

Great news!  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just signed a five year contract extension.  5 years for 200+ million.  Not too shabby!

His precise salary is unavailable to the public.  When the NFL dropped its federal tax exemption, the league was no longer required to disclose his yearly compensation.  However, consensus opinion is that it will now hover around 40 million per year.  Goodell took the job in 2006.  Between 2008 and 2015, he was paid more than 200 million as well.  Perhaps someday, Goodell will achieve the heralded status of billionaire.

According to Forbes, the 10 richest NFL team owners are worth a combined 66 billion.  Throw in the next 22 owners, all of them worth over a billion, and you’re basically talking about NFL ownership having a combined net worth of roughly 100 billion, with a margin of error of a few measly billion I suppose.  Once again, not too shabby!

I’m betting all these owners have one thing in common.  Other than being old, male and white (with a few exceptions), they don’t have a lot of people telling them what to do.  They’re likely set in their ways.  Seriously, as long as the money keeps rolling in, why would anyone want to shake things up?

So what does all that money get you?  Mansions, tax-payer funded stadiums, private jets, Lamborghinis, lobster and caviar I suppose.

But it also brings with it something else… HUBRIS.  Few people would have the temerity to question their actions, judgment and behavior.  So it’s natural to develop quite an ego.  Hey, they don’t call it the billionaire boys club for nuthin’.  Along with that kind of exclusivity likely comes a healthy heaping of haughtiness.  Many speculate that of the seven deadly sins, “pride” is the most dangerous.  But could it the deadliest?  Perhaps.

In light of Goodell’s massive new contract, several NFL writers were asked the following question.  What’s the biggest challenge facing the league?  What’s Roger Goodell’s #1 priority?

Dan Graziano — Prepare for the next collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA (players association).

Mina Kimes — Examine the viability of Thursday night football.

Mike Sando — Focus on improving the game itself.  Stress football over finances.

Aaron Schatz  — Create a clear, uniform standard for player punishment.  Fines, discipline, suspensions, etc.

Kevin Seifert — Concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

Seth Wickersham —  Rejuvenate and replenish the league’s executive staff.

Field Yates — Emphasize player health and safety.

All of those sound like credible concerns.  And I’m sure there are many more.  Cable television contracts, new stadium construction, foreign marketing, expansion and relocation, etc.  Some are worried about the underlying “thug culture” which promotes gun ownership and domestic violence.  Others are concerned about painkillers, steroids and personal growth hormones.  And of course, recreational drugs such as marijuana.  Donald Trump frequently tweets about what he considers the biggest problem — kneeling for the national anthem and disrespecting the American flag.

But what if I told you that everybody is wrong?  What if everyone has it totally wrong?  What if there was a looming, hypothetical threat that could destroy the NFL as we know it?  What if there was a black swan scenario which could decimate the entire National Football League… and it was literally and physically staring EVERYONE in their collective faces?

Let me cut to the chase.  It’s the cell phones.  Plain and simple.

If someone decides to execute the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater, there might be a negative outcome.  And what if that person targeted more than a single stadium?  What if their bull’s eye was the entire slate of 1 o’clock games?

Of course, something that horrible could never happen.  Right?  No worries.  Because we all live in a country where bad things never happen!  Right?  Yeah, right!  The planet earth is a peaceful place… or so it looks from space.

Nobody seems remotely concerned about fan safety.  Kind of odd, because fans are lifeblood of the NFL.  After all, without the fans, the game would pretty much cease to exist.

For a brief moment, reflect on the human condition of panic and the universality of stampedes.  Think about all those people addicted to their smart phones.  Think about all that wireless hyper-connectivity.  Consider the escalation of social media hoaxes, disinformation and fake news.  If you ask me, this entire dynamic seems ripe for the taking… er uhh, hacking.

Silly Americans!  The only thing you can hack is the banks.  And the hospitals.  And the pharmaceutical companies.  And the airlines.  And universities.  And retail chains.  And brokerage firms.  And political campaigns.  And just about every federal department and state agency.

Nobody would be permitted to hack the NFL.  Nobody’s allowed to hack a stadium.  That’s off limits!  Cyber-security simply doesn’t apply to the National Football League.

Do you recall my earlier references to the term “hubris?”

On second thought, don’t sweat it.  I’m probably the one who’s delusional.  Because the NFL is invincible and bad stuff never happens.  Yeah, like with Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump for the presidency or Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.  Yep… nobody ever gets it wrong.

 

Multiple Drone Incidents at NFL Stadiums

On November 26, 2017, 55 year old Tracy Mapes of Sacramento, CA piloted a drone over two NFL stadiums.  The drone dropped written leaflets, hurling unusual allegations of corruption at the media and government.

 

The first incident occurred during the second quarter of the 49ers/Seahawks game.  Windy conditions and a steady rain appeared to hamper the effort’s overall success.  Levi’s Stadium security was unsuccessful in their effort to apprehend the drone operator or secure the drone itself.  Mapes then drove 33 miles and repeated the same stunt at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum during a Raiders/Broncos game.  As he attempted to leave the area, he was spotted, detained and arrested.

Federal and local laws prohibit drone flights near NFL games due to safety concerns.  As one might expect, NFL security had no comment but was conducting an internal investigation.  This doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  The prospect of drones hovering over stadiums is a touchy subject.  It’s also part of a larger paradox because it raises some very ugly possibilities.  What if the drone crashed into the stands and someone was sliced by a propeller blade?  What if the drone was flying a banner that read — “DEATH TO ALL MUSLIMS!  #MAGA.  What if the drone was spewing sarin gas?  What if the drone was dropping cash bills, with the hopes of inciting an isolated crowd surge?  How might fans react to any of these scenarios?

It’s all part of an “undiscussable” catch-22.  Because if you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if something bad happens, you’re at fault… because you didn’t do enough to prevent it.  These professional sport mini-paradoxes are more commonplace than you might think.  Usually, the reason for silence or avoidance of the subject is a matter of hypothetical litigation.

Not until recently was it mandatory to walk through a magnetometer to gain entry into an arena, ballpark or stadium.  The threat of concealed weapons has always existed.  But the general mindset surrounding the nature of the threat began to evolve, and eventually change, in a post 9/11 environment.

Major League Baseball has finally mandated that netting be extended down the first and third base lines.  Yet fans in MLB stadiums have been getting hit by foul balls and broken bats since the inception of baseball.  However, a recent, life-threatening head injury to a young girl at Yankee Stadium seemed to escalate concerns.

Vehicle crashes at NASCAR races can be spectacularly unpredictable.  Although rare, sometimes debris from a car can flip over the protective fencing and into the stands.  You’ll often see fine print disclaimers on the back of ticket stubs.  These days, most disclaimers are trending less specific.  It’s a predictable outcome in a hyper-litigious, deep pocket-seeking society.

“The holder of this ticket expressly assumes all risk incident to the event, whether occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual event, and agrees that all participants, sanctioning bodies, and all employees, agents, officers, directors and affiliates and subsidiaries, are hereby released from any and all claims arising from the event, including claims of negligence.”

In a court of law, blanket statements like this can prove more effective than touching on matters of specific liability.

So what about drones?  Well, here’s the scoop.

With evolving situations like those presented by drones, it’s often necessary to wait until a definitive tragedy unfolds.  Then, in the aftermath, the incident gets played out in the court of public opinion, and later resolved by a branch of government.  But it’s incredibly challenging to make new laws and institute ordinances based on hypothetical scenarios, particularly those in the realm of public safety which may have transformational, long-lasting consequences.

Takeaway:  I don’t personally know Mr. Mapes.  But I do know that his issues with the media and government go back well over a decade.  Mapes obviously had an agenda of some sort.  And he was attempting to maximize that agenda by taking advantage of the media and the NFL.  He specifically chose the only week of the 2017 NFL season (out of 17 weeks) when the 49ers and Raiders both hosted simultaneous home games.  He patiently waited 3 months for his window to open.  It was the only opportunity he had to hit both stadiums.  Obviously he was seeking the “biggest bang for his buck.”  And guess what?  That patience likely helped his story trend on social media and become national news.

Mapes took advantage of a single, isolated, synchronized event during the NFL season — 2 concurrent games in the state of California, in close proximity during week 13.  He successfully exploited a “chink in the NFL’s armor.”  One that’s not overly apparent, I might add.  One that few would consider.

The actions of Mapes parallel my concerns about the prospect of a “dominipede” a/k/a domino stampede.  If an individual had the requisite malicious intent necessary to orchestrate a cellular-induced panic, it’s likely going to wind up being more than a single stadium.  Why?  Because the ammunition is readily available inside every NFL stadium.

50,000 – 100,000 cell phones?  Check.
Wireless hyper-connectivity and hundreds of wifi hubs?  Check.
6-10 games simultaneously overlapping during the 1-4pm time frame?  Check.
Unfamiliarity with the concept?  Definitely check.

Sure, the magnetometers do a nice job of keeping weapons out.  But cell phones get a total pass.  Why?  Because it’s the current societal norm.  The prospect of using wireless technology to foment panic isn’t available for public consumption.  Well, that is until something horrific happens… or at the very least, is ATTEMPTED.

Seriously, can anybody offer me a coherent explanation for the rationale behind refusing to inform fans…

that legitimate stadium evacuation orders are NOT delivered via their personal cell phones.

Seems to me like some relevant, straightforward, public safety info.  Trust me, there are reasons that generic information like this is deliberately concealed.  I’m not the only person in the United States, or for that matter, on the planet earth, who has thought of this stuff.  It’s a classic case of plausible deniability.

Unfortunately, we as a society, must sit around and actually wait for a stadium to be saturated with phony evac orders.  That’s how it works.  Then, the government and private industry will come to the rescue — Oh, by the way, this isn’t how official evacuations are conducted.  So sorry we couldn’t have been more forthcoming.  This is how dangerous, unique scenarios play themselves out in the real world.

And just a final thought.  If and when something like this were to happen, the information won’t be a pleasantly crafted text alert.  “Forgive the intrusion.  At your earliest convenience, please consider gravitating toward the nearest concourse.  Thank you for your cooperation.”  I hate to sound pessimistic, but it will assuredly be something far worse, carefully calculated and vastly more sophisticated.

 

Nomophobia and the Artificially Generated Stampede

Every year, a few new words pop up in the English dictionary.  “Nomophobia” might be a contender in 2018.  It stands for “NO MObile PHOne phoBIA” — an abnormal, irrational fear or source of stress stemming from an inability to communicate using one’s cell phone.  Whether there’s no coverage or your mobile device is dead, that’s some scary stuff!

Cell phone addiction appears to be on the rise.  There’s ample anecdotal evidence that the compulsion to constantly use one’s mobile device has a negative impact on work or study, life and relationships.  As a result, self-absorption is on the upswing.

In 2017, 77% of Americans owned smart phones.  That’s a significant increase from 35% in 2011.  That trend line is growing, not receding.

When people invoke the negative impact of cell phones, they usually focus on the dangers of distracted driving.  Some worry about the long term prospect of brain cancer, although such claims appear to be widely debunked.  Others point to more general themes of introversion and the tuning out of society.  A new South Korean study demonstrates a correlation between nomophobia and higher degrees of depression, insomnia, anxiety and impulsivity.  We’ll focus on the latter two emotions in a little bit.

People often ask me two very specific questions about the “artificially generated stampede.”

“Well, assuming it’s a cellular-driven panic in a stadium, how would the perpetrators get everyone’s cell phone number?”  Rather than bothering with a lengthy explanation, I’ll just refer you to the AGSAF website.  I’ve written plenty of articles that explore the prospect of a wireless carrier hack, opt-in notification abuse (Amber alerts, weather alerts, etc.), Stingray technology and mass tri-lateration, social media saturation, phishing scams, viral hoaxes, and so on.  Simply stated, with the current state of technology, you do not require a person’s cell phone number to transmit real-time information to their mobile device.  To believe otherwise, exposes a dangerously naive and very linear perception in the wireless age.

The other question I often get… “Well, assuming a significant number of people received an imminent threat via their cell phone (bomb threat, emergency evacuation order, imminent danger, etc.), do you really think everyone would just spontaneously panic and run for their lives?”  My customary response goes something like this.  “I don’t know.  It’s hard to say.  It would likely depend on several factors: the quantity, saturation and sophistication of the attack vectors and the ability of the malicious hoax itself, to become “convincingly decentralized.”  For example, if I received a mysterious text alert that reads “There’s a bomb in the stadium,” I’m honestly not sure what my response would entail.  I imagine I’d survey the crowd and seriously examine the behavior of those around me.  However, if I received an unexpected phone call from my Aunt Barbara, and she’s screaming information about active shooters, begging me to exit the stadium immediately… well, let’s just say I’d be inclined to take her concerns more seriously.  The credibility factor increases substantially if there’s a trusted, personal frame of reference.

In case you haven’t noticed, stories about hoaxes and fake news are becoming increasingly common.  And just for the record, there are roughly a dozen ways to push wireless information into large crowds.  My concerns go far beyond phone calls and text messaging.

Now if Donald Trump tweeted, “Hijacked planes might be targeting NFL stadiums.  Get those fans outta there!  NOW!!!”  Honestly, I’m not sure how that one plays out.  Because even though the threat is generically possible, it’s still uncharted territory.  There is no real-world contingency plan for the wireless, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.  I imagine mankind would react in their usual fashion.  Assuming there was an unprecedented tragedy… first, they’d cry.  Next, they’d pray.  Then, they’d place blame, address the underlying issue and make attempts to heighten the population’s level of situational awareness with regard to this new found threat.  Think in terms of “see something, say something,” except on a much broader scale.

One thing I do know.  Mankind has a historically bad track record when it comes to acknowledging hypothetical threats in the realm of public safety.  Token example: 9/11.

Back to nomophobia.  I think it’s safe to say that smart phone ownership and cell phone addiction are on the rise.  If the specific concerns regarding anxiety and impulsiveness are accurate, other emotions would likely go hand-in-hand.  Nervousness, trepidation, agitation, hysteria.  And that would seem to lend greater credence to the prospect of herding instincts resulting in an artificially generated stampede.

 

Kasarani Stadium Stampede Observations

After months of civil unrest and a redo of the August 8, 2017 presidential election stemming from “irregularities,” Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as the President of Kenya for his second and final 5-year term.  Large crowds gathered early, outside the 60,000 seat Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi.  The opposition party described the event as a “despotic coronation” and encouraged citizens to protest.

Naturally, this led to a chaotic scene outside the venue.

Exacerbating the confusion, event organizers claimed the ceremony would be simulcast on the nearby wide screens.  But none were available.  Meanwhile, the stadium was filled to capacity and people were turned away in droves for the non-ticketed event.

Suddenly, there was a crowd surge outside the main entrance.  Police responded by firing tear gas and beat people back with their batons.

There’s often a fine line between clashes and civil unrest, a crowd collapse and a stampede.  At what point does a panicked crowd morph into a human stampede?  Must there be a certain number of injuries?  Fatalities?  Some experts label it a stampede only when the crowd density exceeds 6-7 individuals per square meter.  At that point, people tend to form a “fluid mass” and the risk of death via compressive asphyxiation becomes a stark possibility.

As usual, I imagine the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  Much like definitions vary between a conflict and a war, a skirmish or an assault, these things are open to interpretation.  After all, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  It’s a matter of perception.  There really is no definitive, universally accepted term for what precisely constitutes a human stampede.

Feel free to judge for yourself.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cih5We4dOE

An interesting side note:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to attend the event, along with a dozen major leaders of African countries.  However, according to the Israeli Times, the Shin Bet (our Secret Service equivalent) refused to green light his appearance, citing the “massive crowd” and concern for his “personal safety.”  Perhaps they had examined some recent history.

The African continent has been the site of multiple stadium stampedes.  In 2017 alone…

February 10, 2017 — Luanda, Angola : 17 killed, 61 injured
March 6, 2017 — Lilongwe, Malawi : 8 killed, 40 injured
July 15, 2017 — Dakar, Senegal : 8 killed, 60 injured
July 29, 2017 — Johannesburg, South Africa : 2 killed, 17 injured

Did these recent incidents play a role in their decision making?  Was the prospect of crowd violence simply too overwhelming?  I don’t know.  You’d likely have to ask them.

Takeaway:  Human stampedes are becoming increasingly common around the globe.  What was customarily a problem for soccer stadiums and religious festivals has become much broader in scope and magnitude.  Rock concerts, parades, retail outlets, airports, night clubs, humanitarian aid stations, political rallies, and so on.  A stampede is a real-time event.  It’s all about crowd dynamics and unexpected variables.  It doesn’t lend itself to mitigation.  The only realistic preventative solutions are grounded in the realm of enhancing public safety awareness.  And of course, the preparation and execution of contingency planning.

So here’s a thought!  Taking into consideration the proliferation of cellular technology and wireless hyper-connectivity… taking into account the large number of stadiums, ballparks, arenas, amphitheaters, motor speedways, etc. in the United States and across the planet… taking into account the impact of mistaken alerts and false emergencies, social media hoaxes and the dissemination of alleged fake news… disinformation and misinformation.  Well, it might be a sound idea to explicitly warn fans that LEGITIMATE venue evacuation orders would NEVER be initially delivered via their personal cell phones.  Why?  Because if a scenario like that were to unfold, it’s inexplicably part of a malicious hoax designed to create an unexpected panic, potentially resulting in a deadly stampede.

Isn’t it peculiar how some of the most obviously generic, easily anticipated problems are the most difficult to address?  Anyone out there notice all these people staring into those tiny ubiquitous screens?  They appear “electronically tethered” to their mobile devices.

So I’ll keep this simple.  Cell phone notifications and emergency stadium evacuation orders do not jive.  Comprendez?

 

Oxford Circus Tube Stampede Observations

What reportedly began as an altercation between two men in a London subway, quickly escalated into a mass panic and human stampede at the Oxford Circus terminal.  To put it bluntly, the Oxford Circus turned into a potentially deadly circus.

Initial reports claim 16 people injured, 1 seriously.  Fortunately, no fatalities were reported in the November 24, 2017 incident.

Metropolitan Police said the inexplicable confusion occurred coinciding with numerous 999 calls.  Descriptions varied widely, from bombs to gang fights to shots being fired.  Some even claimed to have seen people who were shot.

But there was zero evidence of any weapons being fired.  The emergency evacuation address system was activated, which ironically, may have further exacerbated the panic.

According to social media online analytics tool Trendsmap, words like “Oxford” and “tube” appeared in hundreds of thousands of tweets in the hours surrounding the incident.  Hashtags with the word “MetropolitanPolice” jumped exponentially.

Keep in mind, London is a city on edge.  Other recent mass panics and deadly terrorist attacks include Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, Borough Market, the parliament and most recently, the tube at Parson’s Green.  Don’t forget, British citizens are less than a year removed from a suicide attack which killed 23 at an Ariana Grande Concert in Manchester, England.  Over 500 were injured in that incident which stoked fear worldwide.

This comes just one day after 300+ were killed in an Egyptian Mosque attack, when a teenage bomber detonated his suicide vest and a terrorist group open-fired on those fleeing the building.

These kinds of attacks tend to resonate and contribute to a culture of fear.  The more attacks, the greater the sense of public trepidation.

Would an attack on Black Friday shoppers at retail outlets really be that unthinkable?

Here’s an interesting side note:

England has a slightly different strategy for dealing with a perceived terrorist attack.  In the United States, it’s “run, hide, fight.”

But the British protocol is “run, hide, tell.”

It’s often followed up with another British slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  That slogan and graphic originated back in 1939 during Great Britain’s involvement in World War II, to help thwart panic in the face of devastating air raids.

Takeaway:

When the panic broke out, popular singer and British entertainer Olly Murs was at Selfridges, a European chain of upscale department stores.

Let’s take a look at his real-time tweets:

Fuck everyone get out of @Selfridges now gun shots!! I’m inside

Really not sure what’s happened! I’m in the back office… but people screaming and running towards exits!

Evacuating store now!!! Fuck heart is pounding

Being told no shots in Selfridges! Have no idea the whole store went crazy!

I’m safe and in hotel with loads of people! So many different stories flying around just hope everyone is safe

Now observe what happens when television news personality Piers Morgan enters the equation:

Piers MorganVerified account @piersmorgan

Stop tweeting mate @ollyofficial. Nothing happened.

Olly MursVerified account @ollyofficial  — Listen piers! I was shopping and then all of sudden the whole place went mad, I mean crazy people running & screaming towards exits. We found a small office to hide to which loads of staff and people were saying there was shots fired. If you was there you’d have understood mate.

Piers MorganVerified account @piersmorganNo. You listen, Olly. When you have millions of followers be very careful what you tweet. There were no shots, in fact nothing happened at all. So you stirred extra needless panic by tweeting false information.

Olly MursVerified account @ollyofficial — No you listen Piers.. your comments are unfair mate. It’s Easy to say now it was nothing but in a state of shock and panic I was trying to make people aware of what was happening. Which I was lend to believe by staff and customers that someone was shooting.

Despite what actually happened I’m so glad it was nothing serious and I hope everyone got home safely

Olly Murs has 7.8 million followers on twitter.  Piers Morgan has 6.24 million followers and is assuredly more connected to the network news, live television and real-world events.

Final takeaway:

These real-time tweets echo my larger concerns regarding the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.

Fortunately, something like this could NEVER happen in the United States.  Because the most prominent citizens of our country use twitter in a demonstrably more rational, competent and judicious manner.  Hint: #45 currently has 43.4 million twitter followers.

And one additional warning:  Just because you later edit, correct or delete a tweet… doesn’t mean the initial information was never sent and redistributed.  Mitigation and damage control are inconsequential and irrelevant in the aftermath of a tragedy.

 

Morocco Stampede Analysis

A stampede claimed the lives of 15 women in the Essaouira region of Morocco on November 19, 2017.  Projections of the number seriously injured varied considerably in the town of Sidi Boulalam.

 

Generally speaking, Morocco is one of the wealthier countries on the African continent.  Yet much of the rural population, recently struck by severe drought, has not fared as well economically.  High unemployment is the norm.  The daily wage hovers in the $3 range.

A crowd of less than a thousand had gathered at a food distribution center when the crush ensued.  Recipients were being allotted $16 worth of flour, sugar and cooking oil.  Regrettably, supplies were limited.

Poor organization and limited security were blamed for the tragedy.  A government investigation will likely reach  the same conclusion.

Takeaway:  This might come across as a “simplistically harsh” assessment, but the underlying rationale for human stampedes is often rooted in the economic scope of supply and demand.  Free food and fresh water can play an impactful role when a country has been afflicted by drought and famine.  Sheer desperation, coupled with basic human survival instincts, often produces dire results.

Mammoth religious festivals and crowded sports venues are often the scenes of memorably historic, high profile stampedes.  But it would be wise to acknowledge how tragedies, much like the one that unfolded in Morocco, are growing in frequency.

Careful planning can help to mitigate potential disasters.  However, the fundamental laws of supply and demand will always have the last word.  And every so often, let’s just say an outcome can be particularly… unyielding.

I often remark about how real-time cellular notifications and social media offers for free food could have serious consequences in crowded venues.  Whether it be clam chowder in Boston, jambalaya in New Orleans or cheese steaks in Philly.  In the new wireless age, I doubt everyone in the stadium would be able to discern the likelihood of such a seemingly innocuous and tempting offer… actually being a deliberate hoax.  One designed to manipulate crowd behavior and spread in an exponentially decentralized fashion… sparking an unanticipated crowd surge and potentially resulting in a deadly stampede.  Just something to consider.  Hey, if it’s too good to be true, it’s likely untrue.  Regrettably, nobody’s allowed to acknowledge and game plan for hypothetically negative outcomes… even if they’re generic and easily executed.

One day, society will step up and have a meaningful discussion about these transformational flaws regarding venue safety and security.  Unfortunately, if history is any indication, this will likely happen in the aftermath of a preventable tragedy.

 

Spartan Stadium Evacuation Analysis

Thunder and lightning ripped through East Lansing, Michigan forcing a weather delay during the much anticipated November 4, 2017 game against Big 10 rival Penn State.  Attendance for the game was listed at 71,605.  The stadium was completely evacuated.  The contest would resume 3 1/2 hours later.

 

“As soon as the area is deemed safe, the stadium may re-open and public address systems will notify you of that occurring.”

Please note the emphasis on using the jumbotron to convey critical instructions (not social media platforms like twitter and facebook).  Now this doesn’t mean that social media shouldn’t be trusted.  Obviously, it can be a useful tool for disseminating information.  For example, weather-related updates, designated take-shelter areas, alternative traffic routes, etc.  However, in stadium emergency situations, it is imperative to rely exclusively on the public address system in tandem with the video monitors.  Because it’s the superior and most effective way to initially reach everyone in a clear, cohesive, unified fashion.

Here’s why this is important.

There’s basically a swath of social media accounts affiliated with Michigan State University and Spartan football.  Let’s focus specifically on twitter.

Michigan State University has a seemingly endless number of twitter feeds related to their NCAA DIvision I football team.  Michigan State University, MSU Police, MSU football, MSU marching band, MSU administration, MSU alumni, Spartan Stadium, Spartan athletics and so on.  But wait a second.  There are some additional twitter feeds you may have failed to consider — The Big 10 Network, the NCAA, NCAA football, Fox Sports, ESPN, various commentators, reporters and sports analysts, etc.  And guess what?  Some of the 70,000+ fans are utilizing twitter as well.  Let’s just agree that there’s a wide array of twitter accounts directly related to game day activity.  Any of them could be used to influence real-time, real-world behavior.

There’s even a twitter account for the MSU mascot… Sparty @TheRealSparty.  Hmm, kinda reminds me of someone.  Oh yeah, Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump.

Well, on November 2, 2017, just two days before the MSU-PSU game, a “twitter customer support employee” disabled Donald Trump’s twitter account.  For 11 minutes, the account was both inactive and temporarily deleted.  All because someone apparently had an “axe to grind” on their final day of employment.

Of course, I’m virtually certain that every twitter account related to the MSU-PSU game entailed a much higher degree of security than the POTUS account.  In case you even need to ask, this is referred to as “techno-sarcasm.”

Now fortunately, nothing bad could ever happen with any of these twitter accounts.  Right?  Nobody would ever try to release an “info-bomb” or throw a “cellular monkey wrench” into the situation.  Nobody would dare test or try to exploit the vulnerabilities in their stadium incident command structure.  Of course not!

So let’s make sense of this on a grander scale.

There’s a massive security disconnect in play.  And it’s a pretty obvious one.  In the case of Spartan Stadium, it’s 70,000+ active cell phones vs. 1 public address system.

Human beings are a twisted bunch.  If there’s a way to kill people (in this case, without conventional weapons), I think they’ll eventually stumble upon it.  Oh yeah, it’s free too!  Nice touch, eh?  Think about it.  The military uses fire to burn people, water to torture people, bullets to kill people, radiation to sicken people… isn’t it a little naive to think that someone wouldn’t try to create a panic… and synthesize a human stampede designed to injure and crush people?

All of these hacking incidents.  All of these viral hoaxes.  All of these phishing scams.  All of this social media tampering.  All of this spam.  All of this discussion about “weaponized information.”

There’s one commonality.  These events happen.  Then, people complain about it for the duration of a news cycle.  Yet nobody is held accountable.  And the incidents are quickly dismissed and conveniently forgotten.

One of these days, I suspect something “bigger” will transpire.  A large venue, likely a football stadium will be targeted with a saturation of false information (bomb threats, phony evac orders, etc.).  And everyone will ask the same exact question… “Why didn’t anyone tell us that something like this could happen (or be attempted)?”

 

Taipei Stampede Analysis

An October 28, 2017 stampede in the capital city of Taiwan resulted in 23 injuries, one of them critical, requiring hospitalization.  The Taipei city government was holding its annual senior citizen day offering “lucky tickets” and “free prizes” to those in attendance.

Unfortunately, a larger than expected crowd turned out.  Officials were anticipating a crowd of less than 10,000.  But according to the Government Information Office Central News Agency, roughly 70,000 showed up.  Many arrived hours before the event began.  Taipei Mayor Ko Wenje issued an apology and told reporters that city officials had committed an “estimation error.”

Adding to the chaos and confusion, event organizers neglected to arrange a queue surrounding the free gift distribution area.  Police eventually managed to restore order.

Yes, there were zero fatalities.  But it still speaks to the larger issue at hand.  Large crowds + poor planning = the potential for a deadly stampede.  The Taipei stampede registered as barely a blip in the news cycle.  Unless you were directly impacted, it will be quickly forgotten and dismissed as an isolated incident.

However, we can always learn something.  Public safety relies on anticipating unexpected variables that may surface and creating a proactive game plan.  It’s the fundamental reason for following established protocol and adhering to an incident command structure.

Last time I checked, everyone has a cell phone capable of receiving false information.  And there are a variety of ways to disseminate such information— hacking, opt-in abuse (Amber Alerts and imminent threats, i.e., flash floods, hurricane and tornado warnings, etc.), phishing scams, phone calls, viral hoaxes, robocalls, targeted spam, Stingray technology, bulk text messaging, etc.  And don’t forget the most consequential platform… the internet.  Social media platforms like facebook and twitter are capable of instantly transmitting massive amounts of information.  Note: Algorithms govern these mediums.  Sometimes the bots appear to have “minds of their own.”

The content of such fictitious information conceivably trends infinite — bomb threats, phony evacuation orders, time sensitive offers for free merchandise, celebrity sightings, etc.  Try to think in terms of a reverse flash mob.  But instead of urging people to come together and unite, you’d be giving them a myriad of reasons to aggressively move or evacuate.

So maybe someone should devise a “societal contingency plan.”  Perhaps, at a bare minimum, inform people that emergency evacuation orders for large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, arenas, etc.) would NEVER be issued via your personal cell phone.  In the event of a real-world venue evacuation, protocol dictates using the public address system.  NOT CELL PHONES.  The most critical component to a safe and successful venue evac is the ability to reach the largest number of people in a clearly declarative, all-encompassing, succinct fashion.  This is not best achieved via cellular technology.  Even if they had the ability to wirelessly contact everyone (they don’t)… they wouldn’t.  Because it would be an egregious violation of the existing protocol.

Our country has thousands of large venues.  Not hundreds.  Thousands.  And hey, since it’s conceivably a matter of life and death, just please know that you’re entitled to a heightened degree of “situational awareness.”  Simply stated, the general public should be aware of such generic public safety information.  But the government and private industry deliberately conceal this specific information.  Both are entrenched with maintaining the status quo to further their own interests.

1.  Plausible deniability — If you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  Why take on the unnecessary risk?

2.  Hypothetical litigation — In the aftermath of a preventable tragedy, people immediately look for the deepest pockets.

3.  Lose-lose proposition — If others aren’t willing to be proactive, why should we?  There’s seemingly nothing to be gained.

4.  Money — Even though the solution is basically free, there’s no profit to be had.

5.  Social mores — Human stampedes are a sensitive subject.  They usually involve innocent people suffocating to death.  Such material is often deemed “undiscussable.”

Let me reiterate.  I am not the only person on the planet who has thought of this stuff.  The concept is not a complicated one.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Have you ever wondered why nobody’s permitted to raise the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede?”  Well I have.

What Happens in Vegas Does NOT Necessarily Stay in Vegas

Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of roughly 22,000 country music fans at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.  The final tally: 58 dead and 500+ injured.  It was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in the history of the United States, surpassing the 49 killed in the 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre.

 

The public unexpectedly learned a few new things from the 10-1-17 Las Vegas incident.

Aside from reigniting the perpetual debate on gun control, three distinct sub-issues were thrust into the media spotlight.

* Bump stocks
* The proximity of fuel tanks and large crowds
* The prospect of a sniper attack on innocent civilians from an elevated position

All three of these issues share one thing in common.  Prior to them surfacing, they were never really available for media scrutiny or public consumption.  By and large, all three of them were “undiscussable.”

1.  The focus on gun violence abruptly shifted to bump stocks.  The purpose of these accessories is to transform semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns.  The upgrade is fairly substantial.  Instead of 1 or 2 shots per second, the total number of shots “bumps up” to 9-10 shots per second.

Most gun owners purchase weapons for hunting and self defense.  However, the majority of gun owners in the United States were unfamiliar with even the mere existence of “bump stocks.”  Well, that is… until they became a highly publicized killing appendage.

My point — There will NOW be a public conversation about the pros and cons of bump stocks.  Prior to October 1, 2017, there was no such debate.

2.  Reports indicate Paddock also targeted two large aviation fuel tanks roughly 2,000 ft. below his 32nd floor suite.

The tanks are situated on land owned by McCarren International Airport.  It has been verified that a “single bullet” did penetrate one of 43,000 barrel tanks.  However, it failed to cause a fire or explosion.  Still, it should be noted that “incendiary bullets” do exist.  As does “tracer ammunition.”

My point — Incendiary bullets and tracer ammunition are almost exclusively used in the darkness of night for military grade applications.  Prior to October, 1, 2017, they were rarely spoken of in the mainstream media.  Well, that is… until the prospect of a massive fireball near 20,000+ individuals became a source of concern.

3.  There is ample evidence that Stephen Paddock researched and scouted locations in other cities (Chicago and Boston).  Paddock actually booked a room in August for Chicago’s Lollapalooza Festival in Grant Park but never showed up.  As for Boston, the hotels in close proximity to Fenway Park did not offer a well-positioned view of the venue.  Paddock also rented multiple condos overlooking the “Life is Beautiful” Festival which took place in Las Vegas in late September.

My point — The notion of a sniper with an arsenal of fully automatic machine guns, raining down a torrential downpour of bullets, into a large, confined crowd was basically unspoken of.  The mainstream media would never have raised the specter of something like this.  Because they’d be assuredly ridiculed for imprudent fear-mongering.  You simply can’t talk about it.  Well, that is… until it happens.

So what have we learned about these real-world hypotheticals?  Well, we discovered that certain issues are, by their very nature, undiscussable.  As Americans witnessed with 9-11, you really can’t have an informed discussion about the possibility of hijacked civilian aircraft functioning as 250,000 lb. Tomahawk cruise missiles… until it happens.  You can’t have an on-air discussion about weaponized anthrax… until people become targeted recipients via the U.S. postal service.

Such scenarios involve having realistic discussions about incredibly ugly hypothetical outcomes.  Ones so abhorrent they border on that which is inconceivable.  In government, in private industry, and even in the press, the sensitive social mores which govern these conversations render them unspoken.  Incidentally, that’s how meaningful shifts in public policy occur.  Bad things happen.  Conventional norms get challenged.  And to be blunt, this usually involves large numbers of people dying (breached dams, forest fires, nuclear meltdowns and other mass casualty events).

So what’s my point?  Much like the prospect of an artificially generated stampede or worst case scenario “dominipede” (multiple, simultaneous stampedes), you aren’t going to hear about the cause —a wireless saturation or cellular-induced panic… until it happens.  Or at the very least, is attempted.

The wireless equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater has wide-ranging implications.  This topic is transformative.  It involves very sensitive subject matter from a variety of perspectives: cyber-security, public safety, situational awareness and human rights.  It’s my contention that humanity would not be receptive to a discussion about the specific cause of how scores of innocent people were crush asphyxiated or trampled to death.  All part of a malicious hoax no less.  Unless of course, it were to happen.

My final point — The concerns I raise involve an incredibly generic concept with a discernible inevitability in play.  They apply to large crowds everywhere (stadiums, ballparks, motor speedways and so on).  One of these days, I suspect an individual or group will decisively test the cracks in the system.

So what’s worse?  Having an admittedly uncomfortable conversation OR coping with the fallout from a preventable tragedy?  You decide.

Like I’ve been saying, bad things never happen.  Well, until…

 

Tirumala Stampedes

On October 11, 2017, a “short circuit” near the entrance of a Tirumala temple resulted in a stampede.  Six people were seriously injured.  No fatalities were reported.

Panic swept through the crowd when a woman shouted concerns about being electrocuted.  However, responders from the electric company claimed there was no faulty wiring.

This is the temple’s second stampede in less than a week.  On October 7, a drone collided with a bird and crashed into a tree, resulting in an “uncomfortable” grinding noise which sparked a panic.  Once again, several injuries but no fatalities.

The collective nation of India is still recovering from yet another incident that transpired on September 29, 2017.  A bridge at the Elphinstone train station in Mumbai was the scene of a deadly stampede.  Twenty three killed.  Countless others injured.  A government committee placed the blame on “rain and rumors.”

During a sudden, torrential downpour, a large cluster of people searched for cover resulting in a mass bottleneck.  Slippery steps and wet concrete exacerbated the already dangerous conditions.

Multiple survivors lent credibility to an additional explanation.  Apparently, a female flower vendor cried out ‘phool gir gaya‘ (flowers have fallen) which may have been misinterpreted by commuters as ‘pul gir gaya‘  (the bridge has collapsed).

Sometimes, investigators are quick to assess the cause of human stampedes.  They’re often attributed to a lack of personal space and physical boundaries.  There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this position.  Especially in hyper-populated communities and congested locations/destinations.  But of far greater relevance is the existence of “unanticipated variables.”  Whether it’s a power surge, a bird strike, or the floral equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, human beings are highly susceptible to sudden pandemonium.  When people see others panic, they panic.  It’s called herding instincts.

Considering the prevalence of cell phones in large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, etc.), it might be prudent to explore the possibility and potential likelihood of a “cellular-induced” panic.  Last time I checked, these miniature wireless supercomputers are capable of efficiently receiving real-time information.  Bad news travels fast.  And in this new era of social media hoaxes, disinformation and “fake news,” society really needs to be proactive.  A single, ill-timed presidential tweet could have extremely unpleasant, real-world consequences.

The alternative option is to maintain the status quo and hope that nobody ever tests the cracks in the system.  Label me a pessimist, but if you examine this cyber-security issue as I have, with a long-term event horizon, I think you’ll invariably reach the same conclusion.

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.

So… if people have a right to this heightened level of situational awareness.  Then… government and private industry have a moral responsibility to share this information.  But they won’t.  At least not until there’s a tragedy.  It’s lamentable but this is how hypothetical conflicts in the realm of human rights and public safety predictably play themselves out.

 

Trump “evacuates” VP Mike Pence from Lucas Oil Stadium

Since elected in 2016, I have been extremely concerned that Donald Trump might tweet an evacuation order for an NFL stadium.  This specific hypothetical reached a dangerous new level on Sunday, October 8, 2017.

Vice President Mike Pence made a “surprise” appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana for a 1 o’clock game between the hometown Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.  Roughly twenty members of the 49ers opted to kneel during the national anthem.  Based on the team’s past behavior, this was a predictable outcome.

What immediately followed was an outraged Pence, his wife Karen and their Secret Service contingency briskly exiting the stadium.  Mike Pence promptly issued a tweet storm and official statement of his own…

I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.

At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience…

…now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us…

While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem.

I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.

We were proud to stand – with all our @Colts – for our soldiers, our flag, and our National Anthem.

Donald Trump weighed in with the following tweet (also during the game) —

To not believe this was a carefully contrived, public relations/branding maneuver would be the absolute height of political naivete.  The actions and deliberate behavior of everyone involved was obviously coordinated.

Trump even verified this himself with a tweet the following morning.

The trip by @VP Pence was long planned. He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!

I’m not concerned about the misuse of city and emergency resources or the inconveniencing of NFL fans in a manner resembling Bridgegate.  Not to mention the Air Force 2 diversion from Las Vegas to Indianapolis, and then back to California (at an estimated cost of an extra quarter million dollars).  I’m worried because it was a concocted, premeditated plan.  Trump encouraged an elected official, the Vice President no less, to prematurely exit the stadium as part of a larger publicity stunt.

Did Mike Pence or any members of the Trump administration notify Lucas Oil Stadium security about the possibility of an early exit?  I doubt it.  That’s a pretty big deal because such an abrupt departure could signal a national emergency of some sort.  Would it be unusual to wonder why the Vice President was whisked away?  Especially with all eyes in the stadium focused on his section.

But here’s the larger problem.  Trump exhibited that he has absolutely no qualms with using the Vice President, his wife and their entire security detail, as a real-time prop in front of a large, confined crowd of 65,612.  Even worse, Pence was obviously part of the charade since its inception.

What might happen if Trump gets “caught up in the moment” and veers off script?  What if he gets carried away?  What if he tweets the following…

I’m calling on all Colts fans to stand up for our beautiful flag, our wonderful soldiers and our great country…

… and leave their seats and head to the concourses.  Our nation will learn to respect the stars and stripes!

Is it unreasonable to think that this, or something like this, could happen?

Now why would this represent a problem?  Well, because if a scenario like this unfolded, it would demonstrate a substantive attempt to exploit and eviscerate the standards which govern the stadium’s emergency evacuation protocol.  If such a scenario doesn’t qualify as an act of felonious, wanton endangerment, I’m not sure what would.  It would also violate the freedom of assembly provisions offered by the First Amendment.

Simply stated, Donald Trump is not allowed to evacuate Lucas Oil Stadium.  Neither is the mayor of Indianapolis, the chief of police or anyone else in a position of relevant authority.  There’s only one individual with the authority to issue a stadium evac order.  And that’s their incident commander, Troy Glendenning whose official title is Director of Facilities and Grounds.  If you have any doubt about this, give him a call (1-800-805-2658).  If he accepts your phone call (he won’t), he’ll verify everything I just said.

Much like airports, nuclear facilities and the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lucas Oil Stadium, and all NFL stadiums for that matter, are designated as tier 1 security infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security.  Donald Trump has surely been notified of this.  To treat the venue as a political photo-op and orchestrate a pre-planned evacuation demonstrates either blatant ignorance or outright contempt.  More important, it sets a very dangerous precedent.

Trump’s “passion” for the flag might just end up getting innocent civilians killed.  Hey, just don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

 

Will Donald Trump Order an NFL Stadium Evacuation?

During a September 22, 2017 U.S. Senate rally for candidate Luther Strange (R-AL) in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump spoke the following…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kg8FoYE1lc

 

I posted the video link because the actual transcript is distressingly incoherent.  But the most important part was his closing sentiment…

When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee… when they’re playing our great national anthem… (collective boos from the crowd) the only thing you can do better is if you see it… even if it’s one player… leave the stadium.  I guarantee things will stop.  Things will stop.  Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave.

Reaction to Trump’s comments has been widespread and swift.  Whenever Trump engages in hot-button issues or bombastic rhetoric, this is almost always the case.  But most of the social media outrage focused on his reference to ostracized QB Colin Kaepernick (get that son of a bitch off the field right now).  The premature evacuation angle received virtually no attention.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with a carefully measured, crafted statement.

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.  There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.  Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

If I were Goodell, I would have issued an additional statement.  Please do not encourage NFL fans to prematurely exit the stadium.  Such behavior could interfere with NFL stadium security and is in direct violation of our existing emergency evacuation protocol.

Of course, the following day Trump doubled down with a mini-tweet storm…

If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…

…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!

several hours passed

Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!

around 7 am Sunday, September 24, Trump continued to tweet…

If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast.  Fire or suspend!

…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.

Whenever Trump interjects himself into controversy, one thing is for certain.  He doesn’t go quietly.  If you require additional evidence, picture this in terms of building the wall or fake news.  Crooked Hillary’s emails or the Obama birther controversy.

His infamous twitter tirades basically commenced the day he activated his twitter account.

Personally speaking, I don’t think Trump’s gonna let this matter go.  In fact, considering the NFL’s “national anthem flap” has been in the news for over a year, I’m actually astonished he didn’t weigh-in sooner.

But here’s what people fail to grasp.  Donald Trump might be the President of the United States, but he does NOT possess the authority to launch an NFL stadium evacuation.  The same principle applies to me as well.  I am also not allowed to launch an NFL stadium evacuation.  The ONLY person allowed to initiate a real-world evacuation is the stadium incident commander, preferably after consultation with other sources (the league front office, local officials and usually a weather liaison).  None of this is open for debate.  But whether or not Trump’s aware of this… is up for debate.  An even scarier scenario — he might not think the rules apply to him simply because he’s the “Commander-in-Chief.”

I expect many players to make a wide range of “political statements” today (sitting, taking a knee, raising a fist, locking arms, etc.)  Trump’s reactive use of twitter could provoke a potentially dangerous, real-time, social media response.  If he tries to drive a divisive wedge and test a fan’s enjoyment of the NFL vs. their loyalty, patriotism and love of country, it could yield unanticipated consequences.

Just an aside — Trump has a strong personal connection with Jets owner Woody Johnson and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.  Both have home games scheduled for 1pm on Sunday, September 24.  This might make him a bit more observant and “passionate” about what transpires.  Nine simultaneous games are scheduled for the 1 o’clock slate in some of the NFL’s most notable stadiums (Chicago, Philadelphia, East Rutherford, Foxborough, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Buffalo, Detroit and Indianapolis).

Obviously, Trump has the ability to tweet a stadium evacuation order.  But here’s the billion dollar question.  Would he?

What if he interpreted an entire team kneeling in protest as a direct challenge to the authority of his presidency?  Would he just let it go?  How might someone known for his “thin skin” and impulsive tweeting react?

Trump isn’t known for his thoughtful analysis and critical thinking skills.  He is not one to offer tempered, judicious responses.  However, he is known for being impetuous and exhibiting signs of hostility.

What if Trump tweets for a temporary evacuation, but just to the concourses?  Instead of a full scale stadium evacuation?  He is likely unaware that the former is equally dangerous.

Another variable to consider… there are a lot of people on the sidelines.  The players, the back-ups, the coaches, the assistant coaches, team medical personnel, audio visual communication teams, reporters, officials, cheerleaders, mascots, and of course, stadium security and the police.  That’s a lot of individuals with different views and varying agendas.  Different political outlooks as well.

What if, and I realize this might seem like a bit of a stretch, but what if someone on the sidelines decide to take it a step further?  And throws a “Make America Great Again” hat to the ground and steps or spits on it.  Or even worse, maybe throws down a Trump/Pence yard sign and publicly urinates on it at the start of the national anthem?  Would Trump just let it go?  Could he resist the temptation to tweet?

Oh yeah, one other thing.  There’s also 50,000 – 100,000 fans in the stands… with 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones.  Many of whom have a blood alcohol level that exceeds the legal limit.  Trust me.  I’ve attended over 100 Steelers games.  Fan behavior can quickly escalate out of control.

NFL stadiums are some of the most wirelessly hyper-connective environments on the planet earth.  Some contain over 1,000 wifi hubs.  That’s the cellular equivalent of 1,000 brick and mortar Starbucks coffee shops within a 1/4 mile radius.  All of them encased in concrete, glass and steel.

So here’s the hypothetical scenario that should be cause for alarm.  Just after the national anthem, what if a large, scattered contingency of people, triumphantly and aggressively, start moving toward the concourses… just as the game’s about to start?  This would represent something that doesn’t make sense.  How might others in the stands react?  Many fans would have no idea why this is happening.  How might they interpret a black swan event… something that is easily conceivable, but at the same time, has never occurred?

Human panic and stampedes don’t just spontaneously occur.  They are a result of unexpected VARIABLES.

What if Trump witnesses something he finds contemptible?  What if Trump’s phony, contrived rage triggers an emotional tweet like this?

If you love our country and support our flag (and this great nation), you will exit the stadium.  NOW!!!

In conclusion, I believe that Trump’s twitter feed could be that specific, unanticipated variable which triggers, or at the very least, is a contributing factor, to an “artificially generated stampede.”  And label me a pessimist, but judging from the tone and tenor of his previous, recent tweets about the NFL, his reckless, ill-conceived behavior could demonstrably function as an act of terrorism — producing a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous stampedes likely impacting the 1 o’clock slate of games).

 

Russian Bomb Threats

From September 10, 2017 to the present, Russia has been plagued by rampant bomb threats and emergency evacuations spanning nearly 100 cities.  I’m guessing you haven’t heard about the crisis.  And aside from this article, you probably won’t be hearing about it anytime soon.

The entire U.S. news cycle has been dominated by other things.  Hurricanes, the Mexico earthquake, the continuing North Korean nuclear debacle, the ongoing investigation of alleged Russian influence into the 2016 presidential election, and of course, Donald Trump’s twitter feed.

There’s simply no room for the Russian predicament.  So I’ll recap.  According to Tass, the official Russian news agency, since mid-September, about 400,000 people have been forced to evacuate.  Over 1,000 buildings have been targeted with robo-call bomb threats — shopping malls, airports, schools, universities, museums, night clubs, theaters, corporate headquarters, government agencies, hotels and train stations.

Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defense Committee, has termed it a “full-scale cyberwar,” referring to it as “telephone terrorism.”  Economic fallout from the first week was estimated in the range of 5 million dollars.

But did you notice anything interesting about the list of buildings?  It included just about everything except the high value targets that would offer the biggest bang for your buck… arenas, amphitheaters, stadiums and hospitals.  That’s one helluva coincidence, eh?

Maybe these wireless robo-terrorists deliberately left them off the list.  Maybe they have a conscience after all.  Yeah, right!

So why aren’t hospitals and large sports and entertainment venues being targeted?  Well guess what?  There’s a pretty good chance they are.  These venues just have a different threshold for what constitutes a bomb threat emergency.  This is challenging to explain as the standards differ from culture to culture, country to country, and even person to person.

The rationale for not evacuating these types of venues is grounded in PRECEDENT.  If a command decision was ordered to evacuate a massive soccer stadium based on a flimsy robo-threat, it would establish an atrocious precedent.  As it would likely encourage and embolden future copycat behavior.

It’s also a matter of established procedural accountability within their incident command structures.  Simply put, just because someone in the facility receives an anonymous, voice-modulated bomb threat doesn’t mean you engage in a full scale evacuation.  Because in actuality, it would do far more harm than good.  It’s all about the perceived risk-reward return ratio.  The cost of inaction vs. the cost of action.

Keep in mind, every single one of the 1,000+ bomb threats shared a commonality.  They all turned out to be hoaxes.

Emergency evacuation protocol is an admittedly sensitive topic.  Because there’s always the lingering prospect of a potential panic, resulting in a deadly stampede.

The Russian bomb threat scourge echoes my concerns about the probability of an artificially generated stampede.  Much of the same underlying rationale and complex social mores are used to justify deliberately concealing the fact that… an official stadium evacuation order would NEVER be delivered via your personal cell phone.

Yet, the general public is denied situational awareness regarding this specific aspect of public safety.  It remains, for the most part, an “undiscussable” issue in the realm of cyber-security and human rights.

With all the new found emphasis on what President Trump has termed “cyber”, we need to do something more than simply vowing to do “better.”  The time has come to address the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater (Hint: 50,000 – 100,000 cell phones in every NFL stadium capable of receiving real-time, false information).  There’s a discernible inevitability that one day this dynamic will be put to the test.  We need a comprehensive strategy and concrete contingency plans.

It’s my contention that society must be willing to alter, or at the very least, acknowledge and challenge the current existing state of vulnerability.  Either that, or be willing to cope with the hypothetical fallout.  The ramifications of which, could be irreparably severe.

 

Amazon’s Wireless Blunders

When I’m asked about the artificially generated stampede, I often use the term “malicious intent.”   Because how could a rogue individual, or state sponsored terrorist group, try to synthesize a wireless panic without seeking to do immense harm?  Just in case you weren’t aware, human stampedes are pretty ugly.  Lots of people suffocating and getting their brains bashed in.  I realize that sounds unsettling.  But this is what actually transpires during a deadly stampede.  I don’t think that’s up for debate.

As far as the traditional stadium model, try to think less in terms of the actual stampede… and more in terms of a sudden, unexpected, disjointed, rush to the concourses.  If fans witnessed hundreds of individuals, from various locations in the stadium, suddenly jumping up from their seats and sprinting toward the concourses, how might unique activity like this impact the collective behavior of the crowd?  Would everyone simply ignore it?  Does real-world panic lessen the anxiety of a crowd?  Or does the panic dynamic spawn a state of even greater fear?  I would think the latter.

At a bare minimum, I suspect people would wonder “what the hell is going on?”  I don’t think that’s an unreasonable assumption.  I also think it’s reasonable to assume that some might be confused, having witnessed such a bizarre, spontaneous, unexplained event.  Some might assume there’s a problem and decide to “hedge their bets”… and join the herd.

With that said, two trends within the cellular industry have given me cause to readjust my original line of reasoning.  I can increasingly envision a scenario where there’s no malicious intent whatsoever.

Automatic push notifications in tandem with “frequently bought together” algorithms could cause an “accidental” stampede.

Take for instance, the largest internet retailer on the planet — Amazon.  On September 21, 2017, two separate stories about the company began trending on social media.

The first was a mass email that someone had recently purchased a gift from your baby registry.

An Amazon spokesperson apologized for the indiscriminate, bulk email and blamed the incident on a “technical glitch.”  Recipients received follow-up emails from Amazon with a subject line: “Oops!  We’re sorry, we made a mistake.”

In the scheme of life, giving birth and having a baby is a pretty big deal.  I suspect such a notification would trigger an emotional response from women who’ve had fertility issues, miscarriages, or even worse, experienced the loss of an infant.  It might also come as quite a shock to a husband or boyfriend who hadn’t been informed that a baby’s on the way.

These corporate “apology” emails for faulty wireless transmissions and technological disinformation have become increasingly common.  So much so, that they’ve become the new norm.

Another story about Amazon surfaced on the very same day.  This one prompted a very unusual allegation.  That Amazon was encouraging their customers to construct homemade bombs.  Now how on earth could this be true?

Well, it’s called an algorithm.  When customers buy certain products, they create a consumer profile.  Now this isn’t a big deal if you’re purchasing toothpaste and mouthwash.  But if you’re buying large quantities of magnesium wire and aluminum powder, it’s a different story altogether.  You could find yourself directly targeted with discounts and incentives for additional bomb making components (pressure cookers, batteries, fuses, switch activators, etc.).

Rest assured, I’m not suggesting that Amazon is knowingly promoting a culture of bomb making.  But I do think the matter warrants a closer look, and at the very least, an examination of the potential consequences of the underlying algorithms.

So how do these two unconnected incidents relate to the prospect of an artificially generated stampede?

Here’s a hypothetical based on my hometown, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Heinz Field.

Let’s say that Primanti Brothers decided to give away free cheese steak sandwiches during the game.  As part of the promotion, they teamed up with WDVE 102.5, the official radio station and live game day broadcaster of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

@DVE loves our #Steelers!  Free cheese steaks for the next 102.5 seconds!  At all participating locations, including Heinz Field!!!

Consider a real-time blitz of push notifications (texts and email alerts) in tandem with social media postings on facebook, twitter and instagram.  Think about how such information would be received by fans inside the stadium.  Think about how such time-sensitive information would be interpreted by friends and family outside of the stadium who personally know someone at the big game.

Would they forward it?  Would they share it?  Would they hit a re-tweet button?

Would people question its authenticity?  Would they disregard it?  Or would they instinctively react?

And finally, does stadium security have a real-world contingency plan for this hypothetical?  If you think they do, well… I’ve got some bridges I’d like to sell you.  The Fort Duquesne, the Roberto Clemente and the Andy Warhol.

One last thing.  Regarding the example I cited.  There was no malicious intent.  No hacking.  No technical glitches.  No complex algorithms.  It was merely the wrong message at the wrong time.  Of course, something like this could NEVER happen.  Right?

 

2017 Nairobi Election Day Stampede

A primary school in Nairobi was the site of an election day stampede.  On August 8, 2017, voters went to the Starehe polling station to cast ballots for the next leader of Kenya.  Twenty four individuals were hospitalized with an array of injuries.  Fortunately, no fatalities were reported.

Apparently, some voters arrived up to 6 hours early in hopes of being the first to cast a ballot in the hotly contested presidential election.

Chaos started when people could not identify their stations.  When some began walking around to confirm where they were supposed to vote, others thought they were jumping the line.  Police were unable to control them.” — Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Vice Chair Consolata Maina

Observation:

When people think of human stampedes, they normally think of massive crowds.  Stadiums and concerts in the tens of thousands or religious pilgrimages in the millions.

But stampedes aren’t necessarily related to crowd size.  They have more to do with logistical aspects and unexpected variables.

In this case, the school had 21 separate polling stations.  Each station was anticipating about 700 voters.

None of this sounds out of the ordinary.  However, if you introduce the variable of “poorly” or “inadequately” marked polling stations.   Well, that would naturally spawn confusion.

Let’s put this in American terms.  If you spent the entire night camping out for front row Beyonce tickets, and then come morning, learn you’re in the Slayer line.  Well, I imagine you’d become distraught and angry.

Takeaway:

When emotions are running high… when people are impatient and constrained by time… If you introduce just one, lone variable (poor signage), it can result in sudden confusion and spontaneous chaos.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the planet earth is a crowded place.  Every single day, there are thousands of events.  And for the most part, all of them peacefully transpire without incident.  But every once in a while, something unexpected happens.

The Nairobi election day stampede echoes my concerns about the potential for a cellular-induced panic.  After all, it’s just another unanticipated variable.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Either way, the problem is easily remedied by being proactive and providing relevant information.  In the case of the Nairobi stampede, clear signage and better coordination would have likely averted a catastrophe.

In the event of an “artificially generated stampede,” giving people access to some very generic public safety information (legitimate venue evacuation orders would NEVER initially be delivered via your personal cell phone) could make all the difference.  It could be the difference between everyone returning home safely… or a tragedy.  It’s my contention that government and private industry have absolutely no business deliberately concealing this critical snippet of public safety information.  Yet, they do.  And it’ll remain the status quo… until that specific variable (a sudden saturation of false, wireless information) is put to the test.  And when that eventually happens, I have a strong hunch the outcome will NOT be a favorable one.

 

FNB Stadium Stampede Observations

On July 29, 2017, 2 people were killed and 17 injured while trying to enter the soldout FNB Stadium before a match between the Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.  It was the third African soccer stampede in less than a month.  Malawi, Senegal and now South Africa.  As some individuals are in critical condition, the death toll is expected to rise.

With a capacity of 94,736, FNB stadium is the largest venue on the continent.

Before the game, an unexpected crowd surge occurred outside Gate J.  Accusations of counterfeit tickets have emerged and an investigation is underway to determine the cause.

Takeaway:

*  Regardless of the chaos, the game went on as scheduled.  Stadium management chose NOT to divulge what had transpired.  At the very least, you’d think a brief moment of silence would have been appropriate.  I’d contend that stadium officials are “playing with fire” when they deliberately conceal information that can easily be obtained.  We’re living in 2017.  Bad news travels fast.  Word of mouth is just one aspect.  Over the course of a 90 minute match and a half hour intermission, it’s reasonable to conclude that a significant number of fans would be interested in accessing breaking news via their cell phones.  Some in the crowd might have had difficulty processing the notion that the entertainment proceeded as scheduled… even though fans, friends and family, had just been killed and injured in hideous fashion.

*  Consider the possibility of any sold-out event.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a stadium.  It could be an arena, amphitheater, ballpark, etc.  It could be a rock concert, political rally, religious gathering, etc.  Anything that inspires passion and solidarity.  Anything where demand is high and supply is limited or nonexistent.  It got me to thinking.  In this day and age of easily xeroxed print-out tickets, it would be especially uncomplicated to just show up and start handing out pieces of paper to fans who are desperate for entry.  At a bare minimum, it would create tremendous confusion and the potential for a “hostile bottleneck” at the turn styles.  If you’re objective is to manufacture chaos, it’s a helluva lot easier than strapping on a suicide vest.  Once again, if your objective is to kill and maim, the ROR (rate of return) is unprecedented.  And the transaction costs (a stack of 8.5″ by 11″ paper) are fundamentally unfathomable.

So what’s the contingency plan?  Where’s the situational awareness?  What’s the plan to educate the general public about the prospect of something like this happening, or at the very least, being attempted?  Whoops, I nearly forgot the catch-22.  If you acknowledge the mere existence of a hypothetical problem, you own it.  And if something bad were to ever happen, you’re totally screwed because you didn’t do enough to prevent it.  This isn’t rocket science.  It’s a very generic paradox.  And even though the solution is free (discussing the undiscussable), please don’t be naive.  It’s always about money.  In this particular case, deep pockets and theoretical future litigation.

Imagine something like this transpiring at an NFL game.  Would Americans be as tolerant or indifferent?  I’m not so sure.  Such a bizarre hoax, resulting in the weaponization of a human stampede, would certainly have reverberations in the court of public opinion.

So once again, what’s the contingency plan?  If a direct link is established between the counterfeit tickets and the FNB Stadium stampede, I’m afraid we’ve got a larger problem which must be resolved.  One that demands societal accountability.  Ignoring the incident, and leaving fans oblivious to its root cause, would seem an immoral course of action.

The FNB Stadium stampede echoes my concerns about the prospect of an “artificially generated stampede.”  After all, what does everyone in the stadium have in common?  Well, they’re all carrying active cell phones in a wirelessly hyper-connective environment.  There are roughly a dozen different ways to saturate a crowd with deliberately false information.  Think in terms of wireless carrier hacking, opt-in notification abuse (Amber alerts, weather-related alerts, etc.), robocalls, bulk texting, deliberate misuse of social media platforms like facebook and twitter, phishing scams, cellular viruses, email hoaxes, the list goes on.  If executed with a degree of cunning and malicious intent, the possibility of such information spreading in a convincingly decentralized fashion is very high.  And in that case, the information would likely end up coming from those you trust.  Those who fell prey to a hoax.  Those concerned for your personal safety and well-being.

Like I said before, it’s 2017.  Good news travels fast.

But bad news always travels faster.

 

Senegal stampede observations

It seems like just a few days ago when I wrote an article about an African soccer stampede.  One that resulted in 8 fatalities and roughly 50+ injured.  Oh, wait a minute.  I did.  It’s like having deja vu all over again.

The former stampede transpired in Malawi, Africa.  This one in Senegal.  Adding to the sadistic irony, both stadium stampedes had the exact same number of fatalities (8).

The circumstances were different, but the results the same.  On July, 15, 2017, at the Demba Diop stadium in Dakar, a fight broke out in the crowd.  It quickly escalated into a massive brawl between rival factions.  Police fired tear gas and everything mushroomed completely out of control.

Many articles about the Senegal stampede mentioned how stampedes have become “common” in Africa as stadium safety standards are “low.”

Hmm, low safety standards, eh?  Gimme a break!  Personally speaking, I think that sports writers in the United States should give some thought to the ridiculously outdated emergency evacuation protocol standards which govern the rest of the “advanced,” err uh, “civilized” world.

This is relatively straightforward material.  So I’ll break it down.

Fact: Virtually everyone has a cell phone.

Fact: Sports venues are increasingly hyper-connective wireless environments.

Fact: If you have to evacuate, you do NOT issue the order via cell phone.  Even if you had that capability, you would NOT.  Because it would violate all existing protocol.

Fact: If you must evacuate, incident command uses the public address system, in tandem with the video monitors.  As it’s vital to reach as many fans as possible in a uniform, direct, cohesive fashion.  Once again, you do NOT utilize cell phones.

This security disconnect is both apparent and generic.  Now you might make the argument… well, fans are too smart to be duped by a phony cellular evac order.  Well, my friends, if something like this did transpire, it’s likely not gonna come in the form of a friendly “We kindly request your cooperation.  Please exit to the nearest concourse at your earliest convenience.”

Since someone, or some group, is attempting to weaponize a human stampede in order to indiscriminately kill innocent civilians, there would likely be an inherent degree of deception and malicious intent.

For example, if Donald Trump tweets… Hijacked planes could be targeting NFL stadiums.  Get those fans outta there!  NOW!!!

Then, we later learn, his twitter account was hacked.

Yeah, something like that could never happen!

Well, I hate to sound like a pessimist.  But bad things never happen… until they happen.  It’s called the future.  It’s called the news.

And in the aftermath, here’s the typical progression.  People cry.  Then, they pray.  Then, they address the issue.  They acknowledge a security disconnect exists and come to the realization that a contingency plan is required.  Then, they fix the problem.

My position — since the solution is free (explicitly telling people that emergency evacuation orders for large, confined crowds are NOT delivered via their personal mobile devices), it might be a wise idea to get ahead of the curve.  Rather than viewing it from the “lose-lose perspective” of government and  private industry (plausible deniability and hypothetical litigation), it helps to consider the issue from a human rights perspective.

Either you’re allowed to be cognizant of this little tidbit of public safety information… or you ain’t.  And since it’s a generic matter of venue security, and to a certain degree, life and death… how ’bout we just divulge the truth?  Whaddya say?

If you happen to know of a high-profile individual, say a politician, entertainer, sports celebrity, etc., please ask them to read this article.  If they possess the requisite moral courage to speak up, have them contact me immediately.  And we’ll fix the problem!  We’ll tell people the truth.  It’s really that simple.

 

2017 Malawi Stampede Observations

A July 6, 2017 stampede at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi resulted in the deaths of 8 people, seven of them children.  At least 62 injuries were reported.  The chaos ensued as fans were trying to enter the venue.  Apparently, the opening of a specific gate had been delayed.  Fearing they might be turned away, fans grew impatient and allegedly tried to force their way inside.  Police responded by firing tear gas at the unruly crowd.

This event was free to the general public.  A championship soccer match at the stadium would be followed by an Independence Day celebration.  A military parade, fireworks, live music, etc.  I’m not an expert on entertainment in South Central Africa, but I imagine for the citizens of Malawi, it was the equivalent of a Super Bowl on the 4th of July.  Demand was likely high… and supply limited.  The stadium’s maximum capacity is 40,000.

An investigation into the cause of the stampede has been ordered by President Peter Mutharika.

In my discussions about human stampedes, I often hear the comment “Well, things like that just don’t happen in the Untied States.  We have safer stadiums and superior crowd control measures in place.  Also, Americans are just more “civilized.”

Here’s my counter-take.

Oddly enough, a few days later, a different stampede made the news.  But this one transpired last July at a Gwen Stefani concert in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Fans from the lawn seating area surged into the pavilion.  It never registered on my radar until a woman, Lisa Stricklen, sued the singer for $150,000.  The damage cited:  a broken tibia in her leg, physical suffering, mental anguish, lost wages, etc.

The allegation is that Gwen Stefani, the lead singer, unilaterally encouraged fans from the general admission lawn area to rush the pavilion.

“I don’t think anybody’s gonna care.  Just fill in anywhere you like!  Who cares about your lawn chairs?  You can get new ones!”

The result — A huge crowd of concert-goers stormed the reserved seating area, overwhelming security staff and breaking through barricades.

The lawsuit also alleges Stefani said, “I got in so much trouble for telling you guys to come up here.  It was fun but you guys kind of have to move out of the fire lane, or else I’m dead.  So can you please get back to your seats?”

So what exactly happened here?  If you seek to connect the dots, I don’t think this requires a seasoned investigative journalist.  Stefani’s suggestive commentary obviously resulted in the crowd surge.  Now were there any fatalities?  No.

But still, I think it speaks to the point that unanticipated variables are a leading, or at the very least, a contributing factor to stampedes.  Large crowds do not just spontaneously panic.  Introducing unexpected variables into any equation can markedly change the overall dynamic.  A sudden shift in crowd behavior can come at any time, in a virtually infinite number of ways.

Final takeaway — In the late 90’s, technology shifted.  Society changed.  I don’t know about you, but these days, I’ve noticed a lot of people staring into their cell phones.  If they’re not analyzing the miniature screens, they’re grasping them much like an evangelical preacher holds a bible.  Quite often, these tiny super computers are directly compressed against their heads and faces.  They emit even the slightest shake or sound… and human beings react like Pavlovian dogs.  Everywhere, people are totally immersed in their cell phones, beholden to their wireless devices.

So hey, maybe it would be a prudent idea to let people know that stadiums and amphitheaters do NOT issue emergency evacuation orders via your personal cell phone.  Then again, common sense is a hot commodity these days.  It makes you wonder why such an obviously generic recommendation isn’t available for public consumption.  Isn’t it peculiar how this specific, hypothetical directive remains “undiscussable?”

Then again, maybe it’s just me.

 

The 2017 Cassandra Award

Please consider nominating me for the first annual Cassandra Award.  The window for submitting nominations ends on November 1, 2017.

http://www.warningsbook.net/nomination.php

This particular award is named after Cassandra, a character from Greek mythology.  The gods bestowed upon her the ability to accurately predict the future, but at the same time, cursed her with the prospect of nobody willing to take seriously her prognostications.

 

Conceptually speaking, the objective of the award is to shed light upon potential tragedies and prevent foreseeable, hypothetical disasters.

This would certainly apply to my concerns regarding a “dominipede” (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes).  The modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater is fundamentally a generic threat.  Yet, by and large, is also a paradox, thus rendering it undiscussable.

This particular asymmetric cyber-threat leaves humanity with a binary decision.  We can either acknowledge the current security disconnect with regard to emergency evacuation protocol for large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, arenas, amphitheaters, etc.)… or make a conscious decision to maintain the status quo and deliberately suppress common sense, public safety information.  Simply stated, you either address the matter or purposely leave people ignorant (venue evac orders are NOT delivered via your personal cell phone or mobile device).  It’s my contention that the latter option is morally unacceptable.

Since 2011, I have made continual efforts to remedy this looming national security threat.  The issue transcends public safety and cyber-security.  It involves situational awareness and human rights as well.

In 2013, I founded AGSAF (the Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) and created the agsaf.org website.  This website lays the ethical framework for proactively acknowledging the nature of the threat.  The website contains 100+ original articles which offer the moral rationale for taking action… in this case, simply divulging the truth.  Like many Cassandras, this position puts me directly at odds with the federal government and private industry.

My credentials also include the 4 books I’ve self-published and made freely available on the internet.  I’m currently working on a fifth.

sonofsaf.com — an unusual autobiography which raises the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.

dominipede.com — outlines the prediction for a dominipede (multiple, human stampedes likely impacting NFL stadiums)

TheImmaculateRejection.com — a fictionally disturbing portrayal of my encounters with Pittsburgh authorities, seen through the eyes of a fifth grader

NegativeFeedbackLoop.com — a comprehensive how-to-guide for dismantling the National Football League

And finally, I have written countless blog entries.  Feel free to sift through any of them.

Any questions or concerns, please contact me directly (304-312-1395).

Below is my personal information for the Cassandra form.

Eric Saferstein
sonofsaf@mail.com
304-312-1395

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Lessons from the 2017 Katsina Stampede

At least five dead. At least fifteen injured.  Mostly children.  Those were the grim results of a human stampede which took place in Katsina, Nigeria on June 19, 2017.

A well-known philanthropist was arrested in connection with the incident.  Apparently, he was giving alms at his private residence when the crowd spiraled out of control.  Each individual was receiving cash charity in the amount of 500 naira.

I was curious exactly how much that was in terms of US dollars.  Turns out the amount converts to $1.58 per person.  Doesn’t sound like much, eh?

Of course, Americans would never demonstrate a “lack of restraint” for such a paltry figure.  But what about the inverted amount?  $8.51?  Still don’t think so?  Yeah, we’re way too civilized… I suppose.

How about I challenge your conventional perspective?  But first, you must be willing to think outside the box.

$8.51 is almost the exact cost of a Primanti’s cheese steak at Heinz Field, one of the stadium’s most popular concession items.  Considering the size of the sandwich, it’s a pretty decent bang for your buck.  Tomatoes slices, coleslaw, compressed meat, cheese and French fries.  All things considered, it’s definitely better than a $5.00 hot dog.

Heinz Field has 2 Primanti Brothers concession stands.  Both are located on the lower 100 level.  One in the middle of the East concourse, the other in the middle of the West concourse.  Both are fixed locations.

Some additional observations:

Roughly 68,000 fans are in attendance for most regular season home games.  Heinz Field has consistently sold out every game since it opened in 2001.

Locally renowned radio station 102.5 WDVE is the obvious, go-to source for on-air coverage.  On game day, the station routinely tweets.  Their official twitter account has a following of 27,300.

So what if, during a Steelers game, WDVE tweeted the following…

@DVERADIO loves our #Steelers.  For the next 102.5 seconds, FREE cheesesteaks at all Primanti’s locations!  Including Heinz Field!!!

How might fans in the stadium react to such a promotion?  Hmmm.  A credible sounding, extremely time-sensitive offer in a relatively intoxicated, frenetic environment.  Would some fans in the lower level unexpectedly leave their seats?  Would they aggressively move, in  the same direction, toward the concourses?  What about fans in the upper level?  Would any of them swiftly run down the steep steps of the 500 level sections.  Would any charge down the spiral rotunda?  What if a few people, in different scattered locations in the upper tier, simultaneously fell down?  What if some started pushing and shoving, tripping or falling?

How would a freak occurrence like this be perceived by others?  Remember, this is an unforeseen event.  It would certainly be out-of-the-norm.  Last time I checked, NFL stadiums have outstanding “line of sight.”  With just the slightest tilt of your head, you can basically see anything that transpires in real-time, all around the entire venue.

How would this lone, single tweet be “digested” by fans who are NOT in attendance?  Would any of them retweet this unanticipated, generous offer?  Is it possible that some people might quickly share this information with friends, family and season ticket holders whom they know are in attendance?  Considering the source, would these people question the validity of such an offer?  Would they have any reason to be cynical or suspicious?  Or would they instinctively react?

Is the theory of evolution just a theory?  Specifically, with human beings and other mammals, is there any scientific evidence to support the concepts of “group panic” and “herding instincts?”

Last time I checked, virtually everyone at Heinz Field had an active cell phone.  It is a wirelessly hyper-connective environment.  Information about the number of wifi hubs or “hotpsots” at Heinz Field is hard to come by.  But one of the newer stadiums, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara has 1,200 distributed antenna systems.  Give that some thought.  That’s the cellular efficiency and technological capacity of 1,200 Starbucks in roughly the length of 1/4 mile.

Let’s just say that if your desire is to call, text, post, stream, send, upload… well, you’ve come to the right place.

Now why did I reference the recent, seemingly obscure Katsina stampede in Nigeria?  And what does this have to do with a hypothetical concern about stadium safety in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?  It’s all about a one-word answer… VARIABLES.

When you introduce unforeseen, unexpected variables into a routine sequence of events… an unanticipated, dangerous outcome can take place.  Keep in mind, the WDVE tweet is only one isolated variable.  If someone had malicious intent, I imagine they would introduce multiple variables.  And it’s highly probable that information would be designed to strike fear and manipulate peoples’ emotions (bomb threats, active shooter alerts, phony evacuation orders, etc.).  More importantly, the information would be carefully attenuated to spread rapidly in a decentralized fashion.

So let me pose four final questions.

Have hackers ever sought to take advantage of social media platforms?  Uh, yes.

Is there a contingency plan for handling my single, hypothetical WDVE tweet?  Uh, no.

In the course of human history, has a stampede ever been “effectively mitigated?”  Once again, the unfortunate answer is a resounding no.  It would defy the very definition of a “stampede.”

The final question is an ugly one.  Is it possible to wirelessly weaponize a human stampede?  Take a long-term perspective.  Is it reasonable to assume something like this will one day be ATTEMPTED (the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater)?  And in what direction is humanity and society trending?  What about technology and the distribution of wireless information?  Are things escalating or being scaled back?  I guess the broader question is… do human beings look for innovative ways to kill one another?

I dunno, you tell me.

You must remember this.  A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.

In that same vein…

You must remember this.  A tweet is just a tweet, a lie is just a lie.

 

Observations from the 2017 Turin Stampede

A crowd estimated in the 20,000 – 30,000 range gathered in San Carlo Square to watch a televised broadcast of the UEFA championship.  Hometown soccer club Juventus of Turin, Italy was playing Real Madrid in the final.  Late in the game, an unexpected panic ripped through the crowd.

Italian news agency ANSA is reporting injuries totaling 1,527.  Several fans were critically injured.  Remarkably, no fatalities have been announced… as of yet.

Video footage of the incident is readily available.  But there’s still some uncertainty over exactly what caused the spontaneous chaos.

Some claim it was firecrackers mistaken for an explosion.  Others maintain several individuals shouted concerns about a bomb.  Several metal barriers collapsed as well, smashing into the concrete.  The loud clapping noises could have been construed as a detonation.

To be frank, it was likely a combination of everything, coupled with heightened anxiety over the recent suicide bombing in Manchester, England (5-22-17) and the unanticipated bomb threat emergency evacuation of 80,000 at the Rock AM Ring music festival in Germany (6-2-17).  Europe is understandably jittery these days.  As is most of the planet.

A May 28, 2017 stampede at the National Stadium in the Honduras capital of Tegucigalpa left 5 people dead and dozens injured.  Was it the sale of counterfeit tickets?  An overly aggressive sold-out crowd?  A narrow entrance and corridor?  The investigation is ongoing.

A few days later on June 2, 2017, another stampede resulted in 70+ injuries as a gunman stormed a resort casino in Manila, Philippines and set off multiple fires.  The death toll was listed at 36.  Surprisingly, none of the victims were shot as the incident was the result of a botched robbery, not officially designated as terrorism.  News agencies claim scores of individuals died from suffocation.  But whether it was the result of smoke inhalation or a byproduct of the stampede has yet to be determined.  Perhaps it was a combination of both.

So here’s an all-encompassing takeaway from these incidents.

Stampedes are a global phenomenon.  They happen on all continents, even Antarctica (think beyond the human race).

It is exceptionally challenging to devise contingency plans or mitigation strategies when dealing with human stampedes.  Because OODA loops (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) are rendered inconsequential.  Also, elements of panic and fear are difficult to quantify.

The best solution lies within acknowledging the notion that every human stampede is unique.  Stampedes can occur when unexpected variables are introduced into the equation.  Thus, authorities need to be proactive, not reactive.

So here’s a simple, straightforward suggestion.

Government and private industry should advise fans in large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, motor speedways, arenas, amphitheaters, etc.) that legitimate emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.

In the event of a real-world venue evacuation, incident command utilizes the public address system, and if available, the video monitors.  Because it’s imperative to reach the greatest number of fans with a clear, unified directive.  This isn’t up for debate.  This is how it’s done.  The protocol is very specific.

While I appreciate the notion that emergency evacuation protocol is a sensitive subject, the time has come to simply let fans know… that if the command order to evacuate is coming from your cell phone, it’s almost assuredly a hoax.

You’re probably asking “why is this so important?”  Well… it’s kinda important because someone would be trying to weaponize a stampede.  This isn’t 1977.  It’s 2017.  Cellular technology is here for the duration.

This leaves us with a binary decision.  Tell people the truth or leave them in the dark.  The AGSAF website (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) lays out the moral argument and justification for divulging the truth.

Worldwide governments and private industry deliberately conceal this generic public safety information because it’s in their best interest.  It is an existing paradox with a lose-lose proposition.  It’s a catch-22 mired in issues regarding plausible deniability and hypothetical litigation.  Simply put, it’s about money.

It’s my contention that fans have a fundamental right to a heightened level of situational awareness.  Suppressing common sense, factual public safety info (like ‘stop-drop-roll’ or ‘look both ways before you cross the street’) is in my opinion, ethically unacceptable.  Then again, this would hardly be the first time governments and private industry have demonstrated a lack of moral compass.

 

Was Ethiopia’s 2016 Stampede “Artificially Generated?”


On May 26, 2017, an Ethiopian high court formally charged two people with terrorism, claiming their actions resulted in a human stampede that killed 55 individuals.  Human Rights Watch has maintained the death toll was significantly higher.

The stampede occurred during a religious festival in the politically sensitive Oromia region near the capital of Addis Ababa.

Tufa Melka stands accused of “snatching a microphone from community leaders and causing trouble during the festival.”  His actions may have triggered a panic, something akin to shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

Another individual, Kedir Bedasso is accused of “orchestrating violence by cell phone.”  “Orchestrating” was the term used by virtually every article in a Google search.

When one envisions an orchestra, it implies the instruments of a multi-faceted, collaborative symphony.  In essence, Bedasso is being charged with conducting a “symphonic panic.”

Think about it.  The term “orchestrating” involves a degree of sophistication and malicious intent.  This likely extends beyond directly transmitting unilateral information or merely placing a phone call.  Although the phrasing of the terrorism charges is vague at best, I think it’s safe to assume that Bedasso will be held to account for instigating… the “technological, modern equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.”

How could something like this be achieved?  Well, there are a variety of possibilities.  Without going into extensive detail…

*  A concerted wireless carrier hack.

*  Opt-in notification abuse (platforms like emergency alerts, Amber Alerts, imminent weather threats, etc.).

*  A bulk text messaging program in concert with a designated list of cell phone numbers.

*  The utilization of Stingray technology in tandem with a real-time robocall program.

*  Viral blitzkrieg — a bombardment or saturation of social media (facebook, twitter, etc.), carefully attenuated to spread in a decentralized, exponential fashion.

*  phishing scams, targeted spam, mass trolling, etc.

These methods are some of the major ways to conceivably foment a real-world panic.  And it should raise a red flag for one distinct reason.

Because if the charge is valid, it’s a blatant admission that mankind is capable of weaponizing a human stampede.  And if that’s the case, in this era of cellular proliferation, it would seem wise to craft specific legislation regarding this undefined, yet incredibly generic, wireless attack vector.  In straight talk that means “get the word out and warn people.”

Not only is this uncharted territory, it’s a pretty alarming precedent.  It’s an open acknowledgment (in a court of law) that one can indiscriminately kill scores of innocent human beings without conventional weaponry.

I have serious doubts whether the United States, the biggest supplier and distributor of military grade weapons, would be willing to make such an admission.  After all, we make the weapons.  We sell the weapons.  I hate to sound like a pessimistic conspiracy theorist, but this would NOT bode well for the military industrial complex.  The Trump administration, or for that matter any administration, would seem ill-advised to make this specific concession.

 

SunTrust Ballpark’s “Nonexistent Emergency Evacuation”

During the 3rd inning of a May 23, 2017 Braves/Pirates game at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, an emergency evacuation order suddenly popped up on the jumbotron.  Followed by a blaring alarm for about 5 seconds.  With zero explanation or confirmation given over the public address system, play on the field continued.  The umpire decided to ignore the message and allowed the game to carry on.  Apparently, venue management was unfazed as they knew it was a blunder.

However, many fans exited their seats and headed for the concourses.  Others remained seated.  Some expressed confusion and a sense of heightened anxiety.  Take a moment and consider that many attendees could have been psychologically impacted by the recent headlines of a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert.  That terrorist attack occurred only one day earlier on May 22, 2017 at England’s Manchester Arena.  The explosion killed 23 people and injured 59 others.

An entire hour passed before SunTrust Park’s twitter account released the following statement:

The false alarm at SunTrust Park earlier was due to a malfunction.  Everything is operating normally.  We apologize for the inconvenience!

Please note how this incident was described as a malfunction… as opposed to an “accident,” or in more common parlance, “screw up.”

I’m not going to speculate on whether the evacuation order was accidental, deliberate or the result of a nefarious act.  Realistically, based on the fact that it’s a brand new venue which has hosted only 20 regular season games prior, I imagine it probably was an accident.  Someone from within the stadium operations incident command structure likely overreacted to a seemingly minor incident and “pressed a button” or partially activated their standard evac protocol without sufficient cause or proper consultation.  So will there be an internal investigation?  Will anyone be held accountable?  Uh, no.  Like other similar electronic mishaps, it will register as a blip in the news cycle and be quickly forgotten.

Forgive the cynicism, but the Atlanta Braves official twitter apology struck me as utterly disingenuous.  Here’s why.

First and foremost, if ballpark management was legitimately concerned about setting the record straight, they would have directly reached out to the fans.  They would have issued an apology over the public address system and included a message on the jumbotron.  Instead, Braves management opted for an obscure follow-up from the venue’s twitter feed.

This apology was an attempt to publicly convey remorse… in the least significant manner possible.

SunTrust Park’s twitter account has 28,000 followers.  The Atlanta Braves twitter account has 1.04 million followers.  Rather than directly implicate the MLB team and their operations, they opted to “retweet” the information from a more dubious source.  Thereby, decreasing their position with regard to plausible deniability if the unthinkable occurred — a real-world panic and ensuing “artificially generated stampede.”

The SunTrust Park facebook page has 93,556 followers.  The Atlanta Braves facebook page has 2.05 million followers.  Those represent significantly larger audiences.

If the Braves organization truly wished to be forthcoming, why did they exclusively use twitter as opposed to facebook?  Or even better, use both platforms.

John C. Malone, the chairman and majority shareholder of Liberty Media, is the “clandestine” owner of the Braves.  His net worth is estimated at 7.2 billion dollars.  By any standard, Mr. Malone and his business interests would certainly qualify as “deep pockets.”  However, the ballpark is technically (and conveniently) owned by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority.  This strikes me as clearly an attempt to limit foreseeable blame, prospective liability and exposure to hypothetical litigation.

If you were one of the 25,040 in attendance at SunTrust Park on May 23, 2017, feel free to share our observations and concerns with Larry Bowman, Vice President Stadium Operations and Security, Atlanta Braves.  404-522-7630

 

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.

article-2282450-182f013f000005dc-496_634x216

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.

agsaf.org/could-donald-trumps-twitter-feed-be-weaponized

 

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.

or

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.
gun

And then there’s this kind of weapon.
ar-15-1024x301

 

 

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
#KDKA #WPXI #WTAE #WQED
#WDVE #WXDX #WYEP
#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.

band1

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 (http://www.agsaf.org/the-bomb-threat-extrapolation).

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 agsaf.org 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?

Roger-Goodell-death-hoax-3

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!!!

hbk

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.

BIG BEN

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?

*** FCC FLASH OVERRIDE ***

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…

http://www.agsaf.org/analysis-of-the-jake-berlin-twitter-hoax-at-heinz-field

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

http://www.agsaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/bettman-flyer-1.png

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 (agsaf.org/the-bomb-threat-extrapolation).  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.

3dMap1

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?

#indy500

 

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 (http://www.agsaf.org/there-are-no-words).  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 (agsaf.org) and written a book (dominipede.com).  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.
160307-flying-pirates-baseball-bat-save-mdl-1232p_367647d5193b82da0fabe0deb88df089.nbcnews-fp-1200-800

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.  agsaf.org

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?

http://www.nfl.com/videos/football-is-family

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.

Takeaway:

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.

Takeaway:

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.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

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.

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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.

 

Tabletgate

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… http://www.agsaf.org/super-bowl-xlviii-security-and-the-artificially-generated-stampede

 

2015 Hajj Stampede Analysis

hajj

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. http://www.agsaf.org/reflections-on-the-2012-university-of-pittsburgh-bomb-threats

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.  http://www.agsaf.org/analysis-of-the-jake-berlin-twitter-hoax-at-heinz-field

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 (agsaf.org).

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 agsaf.org site or reading one of my three books:

For Pittsburgh residents: theimmaculaterejection.com
For everyone else: dominipede.com
My autobiography: sonofsaf.com

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.

Bowl_02

Rather than rehash all of the intricate details, I’ll refer you to a 2014 article. http://www.agsaf.org/mystery-of-the-university-of-oklahoma-suicide-bomber

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!

DOMINIPEDE
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 (youtube.com/watch?v=FI–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

ncs4

 

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.”

 

 

ncs4.com/sites/default/files/attachment/intercollegiate_best_practices_guide_ncs4_2015.pdf

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.

dominipede.com

 

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 agsaf.org 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 agsaf.org 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.

agsaf.org
Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation

logo

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 agsaf.org 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.

stan-kroenke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 agsaf.org 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
theimmaculaterejection.com

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.

 

Berlin-1

 

JAKE BERLIN @RLBRLN
Follow
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.

Berlin-2

 

JAKE BERLIN @RLBRLN
Follow
SOMEONE TAGGED THE STEELERS AND SECURITY CAME TO TAKE ME AWAY. OH MY GOD
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.

Balotelli

 

 

 

 

 

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

theimmaculaterejection.com
(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.

  • theimmaculaterejection.com
  • dominipede.com
  • sonofsaf.com

 

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n73GFvAyIjs

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.

OR

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 suicide.org, 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.

Cost

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.”

Weaponization

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.
 
Asymmetry

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

American_Airlines_flight_heading_to_San__1943660000_7541075_ver1.0_640_480

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 manip