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Responding to School Sieges

September 01, 2006  |  by John Giduck

Take It With You

The following are some guidelines on essential tools law enforcement should have at the ready during a terrorist hostage siege.

Ammo: Bring as much ammunition as possible. Once the battle is on, you cannot afford to withdraw, or worse, get killed, for lack of an ability to shoot back.

U.S. law enforcement must change its attitude and policies regarding numbers of rounds carried by officers if they are to have a chance in a real terrorist battle. Most SWAT snipers will arrive at a tactical situation with 60, 80, maybe even 100 rounds of ammunition. In a situation like Beslan, a sniper with 120 rounds would be good for no more than four minutes of actual battle. That is 30 rounds per minute to take out targets and provide covering fire for the assault teams and escaping hostages. The battle at Beslan went on for 11 hours, with no less than eight hours of intense fighting.

Body Armor: It goes without saying that all of your officers will have vests. If possible, body armor must be carried for hostages as well. And the armor may not be enough to protect them. If you are forced to move the hostages through fields of fire, you may have to be as brave as the men of Alpha and Vympel (Russian special forces) at Beslan, covering the running forms of the hostages with your own bodies, taking the bullets meant for the innocents.

Flashbangs: Notwithstanding the Russian perspective on their use, noise distraction devices can be very valuable. In America, where narcotic gas is unlikely to be available, flashbang grenades may be the next best thing.

Communications: Communications must be compatible with all responding agencies. Before a building is stormed, this must be checked and re-checked. Do not allow your jurisdiction to suffer from a communications deficiency. Even if it means doing nothing more than going to Radio Shack to purchase cheap multiple unit systems that can be shared in a crisis, do it now.

Restraints: You may take prisoners. If that happens, you'll need flex cuffs. Make sure they are pre-threaded, with the tongues inserted through the locking eyes. Trying to lace these through in the heat of battle when adrenaline is raging through your system is next to impossible.

Night Vision Equipment: Every operator should have a night optical device at all times. Just because it is 5 a.m. when you launch your assault does not mean you won't need night vision. And make sure that your night vision equipment is ready and with you at all times. If electricity has been shut off inside, you may find yourself in the dark recesses of a building, in rooms with no windows or a school basement. You can bet the terrorists will have night vision capability. So should you.

Gloves: If explosives are detonated, there will be large pieces of the building, splintered furniture, and twisted metal and rebar that will have to be negotiated, bent, or moved. Some items may be burning hot to the touch. You may also have to punch through a window, bend fencing, or tear out an obstructing metal window frame.

First-Aid Kits: Everyone should have them as part of their tactical gear, secured to their tactical vests or harnesses. Super Glue can quickly close any wound that requires stitches. Tampons are the single best item for stemming blood flow from deep wounds. Small needle nose pliers are not only useful as a mechanical tool in an emergency, but can serve as clamps for uncontrollable bleeding to major arteries when hemostats are unavailable or already in use. In such circumstances, don't worry about germs. If the person lives the doctors can deal with the infection later.

Footwear: Everyone should have on good tactical or combat boots, with the laces tucked in.

At Beslan, when I first entered the school, I could barely negotiate it. The school was a warren of twisted wreckage, boulders of building material, and blown out floors. Moving through it was like leaping from one unsteady, slippery rock in the middle of a rushing stream to the next.

In the U.S., I have worked with enough SWAT teams to recognize that most have not been conditioned to completely secure their laces. In Beslan, you could not have moved 15 feet in any direction without snagging exposed laces on something and falling flat on your face, maybe onto a booby trap. Double knot your boot laces, twist and tuck them in tight, then wind electrical tape around to secure them Water-Combat is exhausting. You will need water and lots of it. Remember, once inside you will not be coming out for a rest. It could be 10 hours or more. You must have water to allow you to remain an effective fighting tool. And even if you don't need it, the hostages you save will.

The Non-Lethal Option

When Muslim terrorists seized nearly a thousand hostages at the Nord-Ost Theater in Moscow, Russian special forces tried to end the siege by pumping knockout gas into the theater.

In many ways, this audacious plan worked. All 42 terrorists were killed in the subsequent assault by Russian tactical teams and many hostages were rescued. Unfortunately, the plan was not thought through as well as it should have been. Medical personnel was not on hand to tend to the hostages, and 129 of them were killed by the effects of the gas. One died from gunshot wounds received during the assault.

Though a generally revolting notion to Americans culturally, we may have reached the point where the federal government and law enforcement weapons manufacturers must start working on developing gas that can be used effectively in hostage situations.

After 9/11 a proposal was made that all commercial aircraft be outfitted with sleep-inducing gas capability through the air conditioning systems. In the event of an attempted hijacking, the use of gas would put everyone outside of the cockpit to sleep. This met with strong-even outraged-opposition. Obviously, the death toll and infrastructure damage we suffered on Sept. 11, 2001, were insufficient to budge the sensibilities of Americans in confronting certain tactics, no matter how effective.

The Russians have accurately pointed out a number of reasons why the use of gas cannot hurt a situation, merely help it or be of no consequence. Perhaps it is time we gave it due consideration.

At the Nord-Ost Theater the Russians employed what is believed to be a fentanyl-based agent some have referred to as M-99. While fentanyl or other currently existing agents may be too powerful and potentially lethal, milder sleeping substances can certainly be developed for tactical use.

You have a growing arsenal of non-lethal weapons, including impact rounds, Tasers, OC gases, and many more now in development. Even the Defense Department has gotten involved in non-lethal weapon development, engaging in research into laser and microwave weapons whose heat delivery can neutralize an enemy due to the excruciating pain that is created, even from ranges of hundreds of meters. Such weapons may prove to be our best options for ending sieges by hardcore terrorists. Consequently, the development of these weapons is critical and should be funded now.

In the meantime, your goal in your assault is to save as many hostages as possible. If you can do that by killing the terrorists, do it. If you can do it by capturing the terrorists, then do it. The only thing that really matters is saving the innocent.

This article was excerpted from "Terror at Beslan" by John Giduck. Long a student of Russian culture and language, Giduck is president of Archangel, a Colorado-based consultancy that trains U.S. law enforcement and military in anti-terrorism tactics.

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Tags: Counter-Terrorism Initiatives, Building Raids, Hostage Situations, SWAT Tactics, Tactical Gear, Campus Safety, Books for Cops

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Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

Tom @ 1/19/2012 11:30 AM

John Giduck is a fraud and a liar. He is not a Green Beret and he is not a US Army Ranger. He's a poser and a liar.

Editor @ 1/22/2012 7:10 PM

Police Magazine has never reported that John Giduck is anything other than a student of Russian martial arts, author of "Terror at Beslan," and President of the consultancy firm Archangel. Any other claims that Mr. Giduck has made or hasn't made about his background are between him and the Special Forces community. I have immense respect for the Special Forces community, but since Police Magazine has never been part of this discussion, I would ask that you leave us out of it. For the record, I have not during any interview or presentation by Mr. Giduck, heard him claim that he had any affiliation with any U.S. military unit. If he has misrepresented himself as such, he has not done so in Police. Thank you for your service. David

Agent Orange @ 2/2/2012 7:23 PM

It may be of particular interest to the Law Enforcement community that John Giduck vacationed with Donna Yaklich, the killer of a Pueblo narcotics detective (her husband), while she was being investigated for the murder, and was his client.

GirlCop @ 2/10/2012 6:12 AM

As an officer, I'm wondering why Police magazine has to resort to authors with no apparent real-world experience. Even in 2006, there were PLENTY of people around with actual time on the ground, both in LE and the military, with actual experience--why resort to hosting articles by someone without any?

Editor @ 2/12/2012 7:50 AM

Girlcop: I first saw John Giduck's book "Terror at Beslan" in the hands of a high-ranking DHS official. It was widely read and widely praised by DHS officers, federal agents, and others on the front lines of the anti-terror war of the last decade. He was also the nation's leading consultant on school terrorism at the time, speaking to agencies at the federal, state, and local level. No one in the U.S. law enforcement or the U.S. military (to my knowledge) has "time on the ground" experience with an incident like Beslan. Giduck, regardless of whatever else he may or may not have done, is a compelling writer and speaker on the subject of school terrorism. I see nothing to change the basic truth of his message that an America school may well be the target of another Beslan-type massacre conducted by Islamist terrorists. Other leading terrorism writers and consultants agree with him that America is ill-equipped for a Beslan type attack, very vulnerable to one, and that Islamist terrorists love to target children. Note: The most devastating recent terror attack on Israel was a wire-guided missile attack on a school bus. The children on that bus were deliberately targeted. Fortunately, the driver had just stopped and let off some kids so only a few were killed. But the truth remains that our enemy loves to kill children and Giduck's concerns in this area and his analysis of Beslan and possible future school attacks is sound, regardless of what he may or may not have done since.

Crackie @ 2/25/2012 3:23 PM

Is there some reason that you erased the comments about the counterintelligence concerns of cleared Homeland Security officials sharing information with Mr. Giduck (given that he openly boasts of his high level Russian Intelligence contacts)?

Or that there is well founded concerns in the police about Mr. Giduck's tactical analysis of both Beslan and Virgina Tech ( Google David S. Cariens "More Shooter Down" article)

or is it that I questioned PoliceMag.com's complete softball approach to accepting what is essentially PR materials from Mr. Giduck without any sort of critical thinking thereby putting police officers at risk on the street?

R. Chapurina @ 4/22/2012 1:04 PM

Look at all the factual errors that John Giduck made in only one of his chapters of Terror at Beslan:

http://thetruthaboutsocnetlies.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/russian-experts-claim-terror-in-beslan-inaccuracies-part-1/

Why is this researcher of school attacks making so many errors?!?

Not to mention that he is now listed at the POW Network as a poser.

J. D. @ 8/5/2012 11:07 AM

Some highlights of John Giducks tactical recommendations to Law Enforcement:

Shoot downed suspects in the head. Twice. Because murdering suspects is OK, as long as they're suspected of being terrorists.

Exempt LEOs from the Constitution in the event of a terrorist attack. Because committing terrorist acts calls for more terrorist acts.

Use fire hoses to counter-attack fortified positions, IEDs, and belt-fed machine guns. Because water causes terrorists and their tools to melt, you know.

Equip every school with a three-man tactical team composed of former SOF personnel, armed with automatic weapons and full battle-rattle. Do the math.

Install poison gas systems in every school in order to render everyone unconscious in the event of a terrorist attack. This will only kill some of the children.

Shoot through hostage children in order to save them. It's for their own good.

Yea, this is the guy I want teaching tactics to my officers. What I'd like to know is how this guy Giduck got away with this sham for so long.

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