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  So I often find myself writing articles about outdated emergency evacuation protocol and explaining why the token industry standards are pathetic and dangerously inadequate.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.