* The intended attackers have bluntly warned
us they're going to do it.
* They're already begun testing
school-related targets here.
* They've given us a catastrophic model to
train against, which we've largely ignored
and they've learned more deadly tactics
"We don't know for sure what they will do.
But by definition, a successful attack is
one we are not ready for," declared one of
the instructors, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Our
schools fit that description to a "T"-as in
Terrorism and Threat.
Grossman, the popular law enforcement
motivational speaker, and Todd Rassa, a
trainer with the SigArms Academy and an
advisory board member for The Police
Marksman magazine, shared a full day's
agenda on the danger to U.S. schools at a
recent three-day conference on terrorist
issues, sponsored by the International Assn.
of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI)
in Atlantic City .
They reminded the audience that patrol
officers, including perhaps some with their
own children involved, will inevitably be
the first responders when terrorists hit.
And they documented chilling descriptions of
the life-or-death challenges that likely
will be faced.
In Part 1 of this three-part report on
highlights of their presentations we focus
on what's known about the threat to our
schools to date, why terrorists have
selected them as targets, and what tactics
you're likely to be up against in responding
to a sudden strike.
In Parts 2 and 3, we'll explore Grossman's
and Rassa's recommendations for practical
measures you and your agency can take now to
get ready, including some defensive actions
that don't require any budget allocations.
Our values. "The most sacred
thing to us is our children, our babies,"
Rassa said. Killing hundreds of them at a
time would significantly "boost Islamic
morale and lower that of the enemy" (us). In
Grossman's words, terrorists see this effort
as "an attempt to defile our nation" by
leaving it "stunned to its soul."
2. Our lack of preparation.
Police agencies "aren't used to this," Rassa
said. "We deal with acts of a criminal
nature. This is an act of war," but because
of our laws "we can't depend on the military
to help us," at least at the outset.
Indeed, Grossman claimed, "the U.S. in the
one nation in the world where the military
is not the first line of defense against
domestic terrorist attacks. By law, you the
police officer are our Delta Force. It is
your job to go in, while in most other
nations cops will wait for the military to
come save their kids."
School personnel, Rassa said, "are not even
close" to being either mentally or
physically prepared. "Most don't even have
response plans for handling a single active
shooter. Their world is taught to nurture
and care for people. They don't want to deal
The American public, "sticking their heads
in the sand, can't be mentally prepared," he
said. "They're going to freak when it
happens," their stubborn denial making the
crisis "all the more shocking."
Noting that "sheep have two speeds:
'grazing' and 'stampede,'" Grossman
predicted that "not a parent in the nation
will send their kids to school the next
day"-perhaps for many days-after a
large-scale terrorist massacre. If day-care
centers-"also on the terrorists' list"-are
hit as well, "parents will drop out of the
work force" en masse to protect their
children and "our economy will be
How we know they're coming.
Al-Qaeda has publicly asserted the "right"
to kill 2,000,000 American children, Rassa
explained, and has warned that "operations
are in stages of preparation" now. He played
vivid videotapes confiscated in Afghanistan,
showing al-Qaeda terrorists practicing the
takeover of a school. The trainees issue
commands in English, rehearse separating
youngsters into manageable groups and
meeting any resistance with violence. Some
"hostages" are taken to the rooftop, dangled
over the edge, then "shot."
"Any place that has given [Islamic
terrorists] trouble, they've come after the
kids," Grossman said. Muslim religious
literature, according to Rassa, states
clearly that the killing of children not
only is "permitted" in Islam but is
"approved" by Mohammed, so long as the
perpetrators "are striving for the general
good" as interpreted by that religion.
He cited instances in Indonesia where girls
on their way to school have been beheaded
and in other countries where children have
been shot, mutilated, raped or burned alive.
In this country this year ['06], Rassa said,
there have been several school bus-related
incidents involving Middle Eastern males
that raise suspicion of terrorist activity.
These include the surprise boarding of a
school bus in Florida by two men in trench
coats, who may have been on a canvassing
mission, and the attempt in New York State
by an Arab male to obtain a job as a school
bus driver using fraudulent Social Security
documents. The latter gave an address in
Detroit, home to a large colony of
Rassa claimed that floor plans for half a
dozen schools in Virginia, Texas and New
Jersey have been recovered from terrorist
hands in Iraq.
The terrorists' tactical model.
A "dress rehearsal for what terrorists plan
to do to us" has already taken place, Rassa
and Grossman agreed. That was the brutal
takedown in 2004 of a school that served
children from 6 to 17 years old in Beslan,
Some 100 terrorists were involved, nearly
half of whom were discreetly embedded in the
large crowd of parents, staff and kids who
showed up for the first day of school; the
rest arrived for the surprise attack in
SUVs, troop carriers and big sedans. Across
a three-day siege, 700 people were wounded
and 338 killed, including 172 youngsters.
If a similar assault were launched against a
school in your jurisdiction, how would you
and your agency respond?
Consider this modest sampling of challenges
that were deliberately planned or arose from
the ensuing chaos at Beslan, as outlined by
* The school was chosen because it was one
of the taller buildings in the area and had
a very complicated floor plan, making a
rapid and effective counter-assault by
responders extremely difficult. Offender
weaponry included AK-47s, sniper rifles,
RPGs and explosives, with everything the
terrorists needed carried in on their backs.
RPGs were fired at a responding military
helicopter and at troops.
* More than 1,000 men, women and children,
including babies, were penned in an
unventilated gym and a cafeteria. As the
days passed without food or water and inside
temperatures rose to 115 degrees, survivors
were eating flowers they'd brought for
teachers and fighting for urine to drink out
of their shoes in desperation. Women and
some children were repeatedly and
* Adult males and larger male students were
used as "forced labor" to help fortify the
building, then shot to death. Bodies were
thrown out of an upper-story window, down
onto a courtyard. Attempts at negotiation by
responders were used by the terrorists
strictly as an opportunity to buy time to
solidify their fortifications.
* Surviving hostages were surrounded by
armed guards standing on deadman switches,
wired to explosives. All entrances to the
building as well as stairwells and some
interior doorways were booby-trapped.
Youngsters were forced to sit on window
sills to serve as shields for snipers.
"Black widows" (potential suicide bombers)
were rigged so their bomb belts could be
detonated by remote control when leaders
considered the timing was right. The
terrorists stayed cranked up on some type of
amphetamine to keep awake.
* Armed, outraged parents and other
civilians, some of them drunk, showed up and
started "rolling gunfights" outside in a
futile effort to defeat the takeover. The
crowd identified one embedded terrorist and
"literally ripped him apart." The media was
everywhere, unrestrained. So many people
were milling around that responders often
could not establish a clear field of fire.
* When troops finally stormed the school in
a counter-assault on the third day, "pure
pandemonium" reigned. Soldiers and the kids
they were trying to rescue were gunned down
mercilessly. Explosions touched off inside
started multiple fires.
* Responders who made it inside had to jump
over trip wires as they "ran" up stairs
under fire from above. By then terrorists
were holding hostages in virtually every
room. Rescue teams were subjected to
continual ambushes. Gunfights occurred
predominately within a 6-ft. range, with
some responders having to fight for their
lives in places so cramped they couldn't get
off their hands and knees.
* Some children successfully rescued from
the building were so crazed by thirst that
they ran to an outdoor spigot and were
killed by a grenade as they filled their
hands with water.
* Terrorists who escaped during the melee
ran to homes of embedded sympathizers who
hid them successfully and were not
immediately suspected because they were
considered "non-strangers" in the community.
Some townspeople who volunteered to help as
stretcher bearers for the injured were, in
fact, embedded terrorists.
* During the siege "at least four people or
agencies claimed to be in charge. Actually,
no one was in charge and no one wanted to
"Osama bin Laden has promised that what has
happened in Russia will happen to us many
times over," Grossman warned. "And Osama
tries very hard never to lie to us."
Probably not so many terrorists involved at
a single location. Moving that big a
contingent into place would likely attract
too much attention and thwart the attack.
Grossman describes a more likely
possibility, in his opinion:
Terrorist cells of four operatives each will
strike simultaneously at four different
schools. They'll probably pick middle
schools with no police officers on site,
where the girls are "old enough to rape" but
students are not big enough to fight back
The targets will probably be in states "with
no concealed-carry laws and no hunting
culture" and in communities where "police do
not have rifles."
Rural areas may be favored, where 30 minutes
or more could be required for responders to
arrive in force.
The attackers will "mow down every kid and
teacher they see" as they move in to seize
the school. They'll plant bombs throughout
the buildings, and "rape, murder and throw
out bodies like they did in Russia."
Emergency vehicles responding and children
fleeing will be blown up by car bombs in the
In all, 100 to 300 children could be
slaughtered in a first strike.
Terrorists capable of this are already
embedded in communities "all over America,"
Grossman and Rassa agreed. More will
probably gain entry surreptitiously from
Mexico, making southern California
potentially a prime target.
It's a grim picture, for certain. "But if we
think there's nothing we can do to prepare,
that is a defeatist mentality," Rassa said.
"We ought to be trying. If we're not trying,
we're failing. We may as well give up our
guns and surrender now.
"I can't think of a better thing to train up
for than protecting our kids. If we try but
fall short, look at how much else we'll
still be able to handle than we can now.
"What made most of us do active-shooter
training? The killings at Columbine. Are we
going to wait for something far worse than
that before we do the most that we can to
stop the terrorists who are coming for our
"4 Ds" For Thwarting Terrorists' Plans To
Massacre Our School Children
By Chuck Remsberg
Senior PoliceOne Contributor
Part 1, we documented the
plans of Islamic terrorists to strike U.S.
schools in murderous raids, claiming the
lives of hundreds of children, as reported
at a recent anti-terrorism conference,
sponsored by the International Assn. of Law
Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI).
In Part 2, we summarize countermeasures
proposed by one of the conference
instructors, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author
of the popular books
On Killing and
As Instructor Todd Rassa pointed out in our
first installment, if we are not trying to
prepare for and thwart the daunting
terrorist threat to our schools and
children, we are, in effect, conceding
defeat and surrendering without a battle to
those who would obliterate us.
There is no simple master plan for an easy
victory. But the cumulative effect of many
seemingly small countermeasures, effectively
applied on a large scale by individual
officers and their agencies, can have a
Here are some of the practicalities that
Trainer Dave Grossman suggested we consider
in beginning to address the critical problem
of terrorists coming for our kids.
That's overcoming denial. And where schools
and terrorist attacks are concerned, denial
U.S. schools continue to take extensive and
overt measures to guard students against the
threat of fire, with drills, alarms,
sprinkler systems, building codes, etc.-even
though there has not been a single child
killed by fire in any American school in the
last 25 years, Grossman declared.
In contrast, well over 200 deaths have
occurred from school violence by active
shooters and other non-terrorist offenders
over the last dozen years, and Islamic
fundamentalists are believed to be plotting
attacks that will claim hundreds of child
casualties in a single blow. Yet efforts to
significantly harden schools as a target of
violence have, for the most part, been slow,
timid or nonexistent.
"We need to treat the threat of violence
like the threat of fire. But if you try to
prepare for violence, people think you're
crazy, paranoid," Grossman said.
"Denial is the enemy. It's a big, fluffy
white blanket we pull up over our eyes to
convince ourselves the bad men are never
going to come. And while we pull that
blanket up, bad guys come and kick us in the
"Let's face the lessons terrorists have
already taught us in blood and lives. They
are coming, and they may well come for our
schools, our kids. We've had all the warning
in the world. And if we continue living in
denial, then all the lives they've claimed
to date have been sacrificed for nothing."
Besides working to eliminate the big D
(denial), Grossman cited four others we need
to focus on:
An armed police presence in a school can
provide strong deterrence against attack,
Grossman argued. "Terrorists are willing to
die, but they desperately don't want to die
for nothing, without completing their
tactical objective. They want a body count."
To squelch would-be attackers, some Israeli
schools deploy on-site police at squad-level
strength, and armed guards accompany all
class fieldtrips, usually one per 10
students. But even with a single armed
officer in a school, "the prospects of a
massacre go way down," Grossman said.
unarmed security in or around
schools is both pointless and ethically
derelict, in his opinion. "Don't give
someone responsibility for human lives and
not give them the tools to do the job. You
wouldn't give a firefighter just a hat,
uniform and badge, and no hose or water."
Should teachers be armed? At least two
states (Utah and New Hampshire) now
authorize concealed-carry permits in
schools, according to Grossman, and the
Federal Safe Schools Act allows for it.
Faculty with military experience and a
willingness to receive additional training
could be a starting point.
"Even one or two armed teachers in a school
can make a difference," Grossman said. But
given the current American mind-set, "you
have to push this envelope very gently."
"The ultimate achievement is a terrorist
takeover that doesn't start," Grossman said.
And officers being suspicious-"doing
what cops do"-are well positioned to
interrupt attack plans before they
Follow good criminal patrol procedures on
traffic stops, for instance, by asking
probing questions and being alert for
irrationalities, unduly nervous behavior and
other indicators of deceit and guilty
behavior. Be aware of what you can see
inside vehicles or on subjects that may
merit closer investigation.
Watch for signs of static or mobile
surveillance of potential targets.
Terrorists "always conduct a recon," which
may involve photographing or videotaping a
prospective site, Grossman said. Don't limit
your suspicions just to persons who fit the
stereotypical terrorist profile. "There are
terrorists who are blond and blue eyed."
Inform schools to report any calls from
people inquiring about security. Someone
claiming to be a concerned parent wanting to
know if any armed officers are on the
premises may in fact be an operative gauging
the vulnerability of the location. The
staffer taking the call should jot down the
caller ID number and note the precise time
and the phone line the call came in on to
facilitate further checking. "Any time
terrorists bounce off a hard target is a
chance to catch them."
If terrorists do strike, "one man or woman
with effective fire from behind cover inside
the school can hold off a group of attackers
for 5 minutes," saving lives by buying time
until police responders "can get in the
door," Grossman claimed.
Meantime, at the first hint of trouble,
teachers and children should kick in to a
preplanned and frequently rehearsed
three-step "lock-down model," he
recommended. "Sheltering" children in place,
as has been attempted in various school
shootings, is more likely to be dangerous
than protective. Instead, Grossman advises
potential victims to:
* Move away from violence, which otherwise
tends to be "mesmerizing and paralyzing"
* Move to a pre-selected secure location,
someplace "secure enough to keep the bad
guys out until the cops come in"
* Move again if you have reason to feel
threatened at that spot. "Lock-down does not
mean hunker down and die," Grossman said.
"As a last resort," there may be times when
a teacher would need the courage to "go
toward an attacker." Grossman
cited a case in which an active shooter
broke a window in a classroom door and
reached through to release the locked knob.
Teacher and students cowered inside and just
waited, whereas a teacher might have
"grabbed a chair and attacked his hand" and
possibly have delayed or deterred a fatal
Plans on paper "mean nothing," Grossman
reminded. "You have to get the schools to
rehearse" anti-terrorist scenarios.
"Principals have been fired for not doing
fire drills," and yet the terrorist threat
these days is so much greater. Where are our
As a responding officer, you have to be
fully prepared, mentally and physically, to
use deadly force to stop the threat. "It is
your job to put a chunk of steel in your
fist and kill the sons-of-bitches who are
coming to kill your kids," Grossman declared
in an emotional crescendo in his
"Fight from the very beginning. Don't wait,
thinking you'll fight later." Referring to
the terrorist massacre at the school in
Beslan, Russia, which we described in Part 1
of this series, Grossman said: "Every minute
the Russians waited, the target got harder."
If you hesitate in responding, "you'll die
with a bullet in the back of your head in
front of children."
To Prepare Yourself For Terrorist Attacks On
By Chuck Remsberg
Senior PoliceOne Contributor
previous installments, we
documented the plans of Islamic terrorists
to murder hundreds of U.S. school children,
as reported at a recent anti-terrorism
conference sponsored by the International
Assn. of Law Enforcement Firearms
Instructors (IALEFI), and we summarized
counter measures proposed by Lt. Col. Dave
In this final report, we explore
recommendations of another conference
speaker, Todd Rassa, a trainer with the
SigArms Academy and a member of the advisory
The Police Marksman
magazine. We conclude with Grossman's
suggestions of what LE agencies can do to
defend our schools despite current budget
Trainer Todd Rassa considers active-shooter
training, which is now being embraced by
more and more departments, as "a good
start," but he warned that much more is
needed to adequately protect our children
from terrorist attacks on schools.
Here are some of the items he enumerated for
a conscientious "to do" list:
every patrol officer in bomb
awareness, crowd management, riot control,
ballistic shield tactics, team firing drills
and other response skills likely to be
needed for a mass school takedown.
Responsibility for an immediate effective
response will most probably fall heavily on
street cops, given the activation time for
most SWAT teams.
Proper equipment needs to be readied.
"Patrol rifles are needed now-as many as
possible with as much ammunition as
possible," Rassa stressed. Also ballistic
shields, helmets and other protective
every officer. Have a plan in
place to get large amounts of additional
ammo to the scene ASAP.
Soft body armor may prove inadequate, but
extras should be available anyway in a
effort to protect fleeing hostages by
draping vests and ballistic blankets over
them. Armored transport vehicles may prove
crucial. Less-lethal rounds may be useful
for crowd control, but will be futile to
attempt against terrorists.
Work with school officials to anticipate
problems and realistically rewrite their
emergency plans. "They are not going to fix
themselves," Rassa predicted. Cross-train
with school personnel and consider involving
community leaders with training on
crowd-control tactics and intel collection.
Manpower and tactics will be needed to
handle "outraged, violent parents" if a
SROs, who likely will be targeted by
terrorists as first casualties, need
training on "surveillance awareness,
including real-life testing of school
security" by would-be invaders.
Expand your active-shooter training to
include "large, complicated, multi-adversary
scenarios and exercises," Rassa urged.
Practice against a booby-trapped
environment, simultaneous attacks from
multiple levels, ambushes from the rear.
Rehearse tactics for CQB with both pistol
Also practice counter-assaults on school
buses. "What if terrorists hijacked a couple
of buses and drove them into a school? What
if they hijacked several and spread them out
across your town?"
Incorporate suicide-bomber shooting drills
into your firearms training for every
officer. That should include "practicing
head shots from a distance with a pistol
after running." Build the ability to shoot
while moving into your qualifications. Also
integrate self-defense DT into firearms
training-"blending two important worlds that
usually never meet." Even consider training
with AK-47s and other "exotic" weapons that
may be in your property room, on the chance
you may have to use the weapons of
neutralized terrorists if yours run empty.
Thoroughly familiarize yourself with your
schools. Videotape them inside and out and
collect and review floor plans, making sure
they are kept up to date as remodeling
projects take place. Work with schools to
get classroom numbers put on street signs
and mounted on the exterior. Also check to
see if computers in your squad cars can be
made compatible with CCTV cameras inside the
building, so you can tie in to what's going
inside in event of trouble.
As a parent, you may want to falsify your
occupation on school records so your child
will not be easily identified as a desirable
And, of course, stage frequent
incident-command training and exercises, so
multiple jurisdictions and multiple
disciplines (fire, police, EMS, city
services, etc.) learn the importance of
putting political egos and turf wars aside
in the interest of saving children's lives.
Agency actions that don't take $$$
Dave Grossman, the well-known author of
On Killing and
On Combat , concluded
IALEFI's excellent conference with
suggestions of how LE agencies can improve
their protection of schools without further
straining already tight budgets.
1. Encourage officers always to carry
No one can predict where a given officer
might be when terrorists strike. What if you
were off-duty on a visit to your child's
school; would you have the primary
life-saving tool of your profession with
you? Remember, Grossman said, "One person
behind cover with effective fire can hold
down a whole company of invaders for 5
minutes" while help arrives.
"If we stop them dead in one school and kill
them before they kill kids, that will
convince the country that we
can fight back. If they fail in
one school, that will undermine their plan.
"If you walk out off-duty without your gun,
every time you pass a fire exit or see a
fire extinguisher, say to yourself,
'Firefighters have made more preparations
than I have.' Plant the seed with other
officers. Once you tell them, they can't not
think about it."
2. Exploit opportunities to expand your
* Many cash-strapped agencies now encourage
officers to buy and carry their own rifles
on duty. If certain standards and training
are maintained, that's a quick way to
strengthen your counter-force.
* Officers should also be encouraged to
prepare and ride with "go bags" that can be
slung over their shoulder as they head into
a crisis. Loaded with backup boxes of pistol
and rifle ammo, these can be comforting
safeguards against running dry in a
firefight, where "three magazines can easily
be burned up in less than a minute."
* Get the name and phone number of every
private owner of a helicopter in your area
and coordinate with them ahead of time a
plan for pressing their chopper into service
in an emergency. Even news agencies might be
willing to cooperate if promised "great
footage" in exchange for transporting
officers to a siege site.
"There will be gridlock chaos on the ground
within moments wherever an attack comes,"
Grossman said. "Helicopters can be great for
getting firepower in and wounded out."
Practice hovering over schools and landing
personnel on the flat roofs that most have.
* Envision fire hoses as "crew-served
weapons." At a terrorist scene, hoses can be
used not only "to put out fires that may be
caused by booby traps" but can also "knock a
combatant out of a window 50 yards away-an
incredibly effective weapon."
A firefighter directing the hose can be
protected behind two officers holding
ballistic shields and two officers behind
the shields with rifles, Grossman suggested.
Obviously, this tactic requires practice
before it's needed.
3. Build the right mind-set in your troops.
As a police officer, "you have to have your
heart and mind ready," Grossman said. "In
our nation, the military is not coming to
save your kids. You are the Delta Force.
It's your job to go in like thunder when
they come to kill your kids and destroy your
way of life.
"Get training-all you can. Advance steadily
along the warrior path. Live life in
Condition Yellow, vigilant readiness.
Cultivate hobbies that reinforce your
He conjured a bumper sticker that says,
Piss on golf. Real Americans go to the
range. "We don't have time for
childish pursuits," he declared.
"Most people in our society are sheep.
Wolves will feed on them without hesitation.
Anyone who thinks there are no wolves is in
"You are the sheepdog, the protector. When
bad stuff comes, the sheepdog is prepared,
even eager. If you are not ready, who is?"
About Charles Remsberg
Chuck co-founded the original Street
Survival Seminar and the Street Survival
Newsline, authored three of the best-selling
law enforcement training textbooks, and
helped produce numerous award-winning
training videos. His nearly three decades of
work earned him the prestigious O.W. Wilson
Award for outstanding contributions to law
enforcement and the American Police Hall of
Fame Honor Award for distinguished
achievement in public service.