RENO, Nev. — The one message Bret E. Brooks wanted attendees of his seminar that examined global terrorism to understand is that it wasn’t a matter of if a terror attack would strike a school, it was a matter of when, and the possibility was closer than ever.
The threat is real, Brooks reported in his session, “Terrorism Awareness Training,” during a Saturday session of the 2016 STN EXPO and Green Bus Summit.
“It’s not that we’re training the wrong people,” Brooks said. “It’s that we’re not training the right people.”
Brooks was referring to preparing school administration and staff, especially bus drivers, for a potential terrorist attack. Schools, Brooks stressed, can’t be caught off guard in the U.S. since “no one can afford to have their head in the sand.”
Schools are easy targets, or “soft targets,” as they are not well-defended and the shock of dead children is hard to ignore. Brooks added that the economic and social impact would be devastating.
The study of modern terrorism is, as Brooks put it, his “bread and butter.” As a terrorism expert for Gray Ram Tactical LLC, Brooks has dedicated his life to investigating the subject, including the variety of tactics terrorists employ and the results attacks have across the planet.
While politicians and governments around the world have no standard of what constitutes terrorism, Brooks defined it as the use of violence and intimidation for a political objective.
“Terrorists aren’t dumb people,” he said. “Schools are being targeted overseas. Eventually, I do think it’ll come here to the United States.”
While he wasn’t precise in determining what the U.S. will face in the years ahead, Brooks did point out that the current situation is not a positive one.
He explained that the most recent terror attacks both home and abroad — San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida; Nice, France — along with attacks in the past, like the school attack that left hundreds dead in Beslan, Russia, all show that “children (in the U.S.) will be dead in the future.”
The only recourse for school districts and transportation departments, Brooks emphasized, is “training, training, training.”
Students must be taught how to behave during a crisis, whether that’s a terrorist attack or an active shooter situation, in the same manner as a fire drill.
Schools also need to assess the risk, involve the community and rely on instinct. If something doesn’t seem right or if someone’s behavior seems off, report it. “See something, say something,” Brooks said.