January 21, 2016
Since TRAPWIRE’s inception, our purpose has been to enable our customers to detect pre-attack events and patterns and get the information into the right hands in order to prevent the incident. The tools and methods we have built over the last 12 years have proven very successful at doing just that. However, it’s an obvious statement that not every attack or criminal act can be prevented, and it’s prudent to move into response and mitigation mode when prevention fails.
The attack on military facilities in Chattanooga on the morning of July 16, 2015 provides a recent and particularly apropos example. The attacker, Mohammed Abdulazeez, pulled his vehicle up to an Armed Forces recruiting center around 10:50 AM and opened fire. Personnel inside the center were able to take cover and shelter, though one recruiter in the facility was wounded. While police made their way to the scene of the attack, Abdulazeez had already departed the recruiting center and was en-route to the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center seven miles away.
It was at this reserve center, approximately seven or eight minutes later, that Abdulazeez inflicted the worst damage, tragically shooting and killing five service members after slamming his car through the front gate.
It is this tragedy that got us thinking, what tools can we build that would have significantly reduced the effects of the attack at the second location? After several brainstorming sessions, it was clear that the answer was to provide the capability to notify personnel at site B (the reserve center) about what had just happened at site A (the recruiting center) — and do it in real-time — in advance of the attacker’s arrival.
But who would send the notifications? The police would be busy responding to the first attack. What about the military commands that personnel from the recruiting center report to? Could they use a centralized mass warning and notification system to get the word out? Perhaps, but the commands are not likely to receive and digest the information in real time, and, even if they did, how quickly would they have been able to identify, locate and alert the appropriate personnel at the reserve center? How would they decide which military facilities in the area to alert first?
We decided that, in order to get the alert out within the seven minutes it took Abdulazeez to drive from point A to point B, the alert would had to have been initiated by personnel in the immediate area of the first attack. So we set out to build a tool that would enable personnel to issue urgent alerts very quickly, and for recipients to receive the alerts immediately. Since everyone has a modern smartphone on them virtually all the time, the tool would take the form of an app for smartphones and other mobile devices. The app would be used to both send and receive urgent alerts.
In order for this app to be usable during chaotic situations such as an active shooter attack, we agreed on the following requirements:
- Users must be able to issue alerts within a few seconds of launching the app.
- Proper and secure authentication must be in place without the expectation that users will enter, or even remember, a complex password.
- Recipients of the alert must be selected automatically based on location of the attack, without the need for the issuer to remember contact info or phone trees.
- Appropriate Commands and Watch Centers must receive the alert automatically.
- Commands and Watch Centers must be able to obtain real-time status of the alert issuer and recipients.
- Two-way communications via chat must be made available, linking Commands with affected personnel.
We are very proud to say that we accomplished our goal of building a tool that would mitigate further damage in a future event such as Chattanooga. In addition to incident reporting and threat detection designed to prevent an attack, the TRAPWIRE Mobile app now includes an alerting capability that meets the requirements laid out above. It is secure, easy to use, and simple to deploy. It takes advantage of modern smartphone technology such as location services, metadata capture, hi-def cameras, and speech-to-text. And it is perfectly synchronized with TRAPWIRE core, allowing alerts to be issued by frontline personnel via mobile app or by Commands and Watch Centers via TRAPWIRE web console. Contact us if you are interested in learning more.