Terrorism Awareness 101: Training Firefighters to Identify Terrorism and Respond Effectively

Training Firefighters to Identify Terrorism

Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga FD Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.) is an expert on numerous subjects impacting the fire service including Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) and terrorism awareness. A few months ago, Lichtman provided a comprehensive interview on TECC and is back now to answer more questions on terrorism awareness.



Why is it important for firefighters to go through terrorism awareness training? What is the goal of the training program?
It is important for firefighters to go through terrorism awareness training because our profession in the last 15 years has changed dramatically. To be truly an all-risk fire department we must be prepared to handle all situations, and in this case adequately prepare our personnel to recognize terrorism activity and be a part of the solution, not the problem. Firefighters are in a unique position in our community where we already maintain a high degree of situational awareness. This allows us to identify things that appear suspicious in a geographical area we already know best. In this day and age it is negligent for professional firefighters to not be able to recognize and respond to terror activities in their communities. If we are an all-risk fire department, then we better be when that time comes.

The goal is to educate and train firefighter personnel to identify indicators of terrorism and respond and mitigate terrorism acts in our communities. We have a Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) program which takes a fire department’s sworn employee, who serves as a conduit for information between firefighters, local law enforcement and to the federal government. The TLO’s will report tips and leads from the floor personnel to the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC) and will communicate back to the department and keep our staff and fire fighters aware of current threats facing our community or region.

How often do firefighters go through the terrorism awareness program? What are the different aspects of the program?
We train our personnel on an annual basis. We update them on all different trends that can affect our local region. Each of our personnel is trained initially once they are hired and then annually thereafter. The annual training is to update personnel on current trends going on in the area and region. Curriculum consists of domestic terrorism, international terrorism and single issue terrorist groups. We also focus on activity shown through home grown terrorism as well as lone wolf activity. Different aspects of the program consist of prevention level and the response/mitigation model. The firefighters are put through educational as well as active, hands-on training. The hands-on training happens multiple times a year in order to prepare for any type of terrorist act. It is important to understand that our terrorism training and education is based on suspicious activity. It is not based on a certain group of people, culture or religion, but solely on activity that is suspicious.

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Is this training required for all fire and EMS officials?
Yes, this training is mandatory for all firefighter personnel including refresher training. We are even employing basic awareness training for all city employees to learn about suspicious terrorism activity, what to do if you find yourself in a terrorist attack and how to treat yourself or co-worker from a preventable death injury involving hemorrhage control.

What are some of the most important aspects of the terrorism awareness program?
The most important aspect is to remember that as a professional fire department we must always remain vigilant and have a very high level of situational awareness. America is at war with different ideologies of people who want to hurt us and don’t agree with our way of life. The only way to increase our chance to prevent another 9/11 is to be vigilant and aware. When a small community has a disaster on a global scale it doesn’t seem as catastrophic, but if a small community loses a dozen people in a terrorist attack, that is very impactful for that community. It could happen anywhere, not just big cities. There is not just one specific profile of a terrorist. It could be anyone that has that ideology and will want to hurt us.

Do you lecture on this topic? If so, when will your next lecture be?
Yes, I do. I was at the next C-TECC meeting in San Marcos, Texas hosted by the ALERRT Conference on Nov. 1, 2015. I was also at the 2016 EMS Today Conference in Baltimore on Feb. 25, where I discussed the rescue task force model as well as ICS for the rescue task force.

About the Author:
Ofer Lichtman started out as a first responder in Israel and is currently the Terrorism Liaison Officer Coordinator for Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.). Lichtman was instrumental in developing its Terrorism and Tactical Response Program. Lichtman is a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and is on the advisory board of the C-TECC.

About the Department:
The Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.) has had a TLO program since 2009. They have fully adopted the TLO curriculum and all the Joint Regional Intelligence Center’s recommendations for a TLO program. The department has a liaison to the FBI’s joint terrorism task force in the area and is a point of contact for multiple agencies in their county regarding terrorism activity reporting.

– Bio and photo of Ofer Lichtman are courtesy of Firehouse.com


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