Employee Vigilance - Power of Hello

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Industries face a variety of threats, both internal and external, from hostile governments, terrorist groups, disgruntled employees and malicious introducers. Alert employees can spot suspicious activity and report it. The power is in the employee, citizen, patron, or any person who can observe and report.

Used effectively, the right words can be a powerful tool. Simply saying “Hello” can prompt a casual conversation with unknown individuals and help you determine why they are there. The OHNO approach – Observe, Initiate a Hello, Navigate the Risk, and Obtain Help – helps employees observe and evaluate suspicious behaviors, and empowers them to mitigate potential risk, and obtain help when necessary.

The OHNO approach describes activities and behaviors that may be suspicious or indicative of criminal activity. These activities may be constitutionally protected and should be reported only when there are articulable facts to support a rational conclusion that the behavior is suspicious. Do not report based solely on protected activities, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or a combination of only such factors.

The CISA Power of Hello Slick-sheet and CISA Power of Hello Placemat provides stakeholders with information to assist in identifying and effectively responding to suspicious behavior. The CISA Power of Hello Placemat is also available in several translations.

The Power of Hello Houses of Worship: This guide promotes employee vigilance for our houses of worship stakeholders. Alert personnel can spot suspicious activity and report it. Keeping houses of worship facilities secure while sustaining the open and welcoming environment necessary for peaceful congregation requires a holistic approach to security. A Spanish Translation version is available for this guide.

This DHS Violence Prevention Resource Guide assists in helping stakeholders understand what violence prevention resources are available from DHS.  In addition, it assists in differentiating the roles that each DHS Component plays in violence prevention efforts.

Observe Observe

Stay vigilant of your surroundings. Alert employees can identify suspicious behavior, such as:

  • Putting down a bag or item and then walking away from it.
  • A prolonged interested in or taking pictures/videos of personnel, facilities, security features, or infrastructure in an unusual or covert manner.
  • Unauthorized people trying to enter a restricted area by impersonating authorized personnel.
  • Loitering at a location without a reasonable explanation.
  • Suspicious Activity Indicators:
    • Expressed or implied threats to commit an act of violence or destruction.
    • Using abusive language that a reasonable person might find threatening.
    • Any statements or behaviors indicative of suicidal or homicidal ideations.
    • Contextually inappropriate statements about harming others.
    • Exaggerated or violent gestures e.g. clenching fists or jaws could be interpreted as threatening or intimidating.

Hello Initiate a Hello

Acknowledging a risk can significantly deter a threat. Use the Power of Hello to engage with individuals you observe in your space. (Tip: Active listening is key)

  • Smile, make eye contact, and introduce yourself.
  • “Hello, how are you?”
  • “How can I assist you?”
  • “Welcome, is this your first time here?”
  • “Are you looking for something or someone in particular?”
  • “Let me take you to the person or place you are looking for.”
  • “I will be here in case you need help.”

Navigate Navigate the Risk

Navigate the risk by asking yourself if the behavior you have observed is suspicious. Consider these questions in reference to the person if you notice exhibiting threatening or suspicious behavior. Does the person appear to be:

  • Legitimately patronizing the business or service?
  • Wearing clothing consistent with the weather or gathering of the day?
  • Acting in a way that suggests they have a legitimate reason to be there or in a manner that would arouse suspicion of terrorism or other criminality in a reasonable person?
  • Avoiding security?
  • Taking pictures of security cameras or exit areas?
  • Showing irritated or detached behavior when acknowledged that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person?
  • Asking questions about the business functions or employee information? (Who is closing? What is their schedule like? How many people work here? Etc.)
  • Causing you to feel threatened? (If you feel threatened, calmly walk away and call 9-1-1)

Help Obtain Help

After navigating the risk, obtain help from management or authorities. Use the OHNO approach to provide the best information to first responders and security personnel.

  • Call 911 for emergencies or if you feel in danger.
  • To organize your thoughts to management or the police ask yourself 5Ws:      
    • What is happening?
    • Who is doing it?
    • Where is it taking place?
    • When did you observe it?
    • Why are they here?
  • You can submit suspicious activity reports to your local law enforcement or call the non-emergency number.
  • Work to develop a relationship with local police/fire authorities.
  • Have law enforcement and fire department phone numbers listed for all employees to see.


The Department of Homeland Security provides the Power of Hello tools and resources with no endorsement of any specific company, entity, or content. The tools and resources identified are a starting point for an organization’s employee vigilance campaign and do not encompass all resources.

  • The CISA Homeland Security Starts with Hometown Security fact sheet targets employees and businesses to proactively think about the role they play in the safety and security of their businesses and communities. 
  • CISA’s Cyber Essentials is a guide for leaders of small businesses as well as leaders of small and local government agencies to develop an actionable understanding of where to start implementing organizational cybersecurity best practices.  
  • The Department of Homeland Security developed their See Something, Say Something campaign in order to support public safety and security by targeting individual citizens and teaching them how to report. 
  • The Department of Homeland Security produced Tools and Resources to Help Businesses Plan, Prepare, and Protect from an Attack, a fact sheet to advise hometowns and businesses to plan for a potential attack. This fact sheet contains resources from DHS and a 4 Step plan for businesses to follow. 
  • The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI) is a joint collaborative effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners. This initiative provides law enforcement with another tool to help prevent terrorism and other related criminal activity by establishing a national capacity for gathering, documenting, processing, analyzing, and sharing SAR information.
  • The Nationwide SAR Initiative developed the Suspicious Activity Reporting Indicators and Behavior visual chart to be used to report indicators and behavior of a possible threat.
  •  The See Something Say Something FDA Campaign is an educational visual to see signs, and stop a threat. 
  • The U.S. Department of Labor created workplace violence website which provides information on the extent of violence in the workplace, assessing the hazards in different settings and developing workplace violence prevention plans for individual worksites. 
  • Developed by the San Diego Police Department, Tips for Reporting Suspicious Persons, Activities, Vehicles, etc To Prevent Terrorism is a report targeted to individuals, community groups, and businesses, as well as with schools, hospitals, religious groups, private organizations, and other government agencies to fight crime and improve the quality of life for the people of San Diego. 
  • America’s Neighborhood Watch Program was developed by the National Sherriff’s Association to target individual citizens to help them support local law enforcement and their local community to stop crime. 
  • The National Crime Prevention Council’s (NCPC) mission is to be the nation’s leader in helping people keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe from crime. To achieve this, NCPC produces tools that communities can use to learn crime prevention strategies, engage community members, and coordinate with local agencies. 
  • Santa Clara County created Workplace Violence Prevention: A Guide for Employees to mitigate workplace violence against different persons of risk, such as strangers, or family members. It contains measures and procedural practices that ought to take place to maximize employee security. 
  • Running a Staff Vigilance Campaign was created by Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure to guide employers how to engage their staff in threat reporting and protection against risk. 
  • Hostile Reconnaissance: Understanding and Countering the Threat is a guide by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure on understanding threat produced for security managers.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Human Services leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation and to improve the lives of individuals living with mental and substance use disorders, and their families. To learn more, click here: SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


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