Soft targets and crowded places are increasingly appealing to terrorists and other extremist actors because of their relative accessibility and the large number of potential targets. This challenge is complicated by the prevalent use of simple tactics and less sophisticated attacks.
In order to support these venues in mitigating potential risks associated with the dynamic threat environment, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have developed a number of resources focused on improving security and implementing protective measures. Through training, resources, and direct subject matter expertise, the Department collaborates with public and private sector organizations to enhance risk mitigation capabilities.
Terrorists and other extremist actors, who have demonstrated the intent and capability to attack soft targets–crowded places, continue to pose a risk domestically and abroad. These adversaries have the ability to access and surveil potential targets with relative ease, and use various tactics to carry out attacks, including:
- Small Arms — Require minimal preparation and experience.
- Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) — Complexity and effectiveness of the devices used in explosive attacks are highly variable, and depended on the expertise of the attacker and their access to explosive components.
- Edged Weapons — Require minimal preoperational planning due to their accessibility and ease of use. Edged weapons have primarily been used as a secondary attack method.
- Vehicle Ramming — Require minimal preparation and experience, and past attacks have occurred with little to no warning.
There are simple steps that any organization can take to strengthen their overall security and preparedness. The Hometown Security Initiative leverages an easy to understand concept to encourage small and medium size businesses to enhance security practices through four principles: Connect, Plan, Train, and Report. For additional information, visit cisa.gov/hometown-security.
The Department also maintains a multitude of programs and resources that assist organizations in mitigating the risks of an attack.
Understand the Basics
These resources provide an introduction to facility security, and can serve as a good first step for businesses. Resources include fact sheets, guidance, and online training and instructional courses that cover a wide range of topics.
- Tools and Resources to Help Businesses Plan, Prepare, and Protect from an Attack
- Business Continuity Planning Suite
- Security and Resilience Training
Identify Suspicious Behavior
These resources help understand what suspicious behaviors may pose a threat and what steps to take to report the behavior to appropriate authorities.
- Nationwide Suspicious Behavior Activity Reporting Private Sector Security Training
- No Reservations: Suspicious Behavior in Hotels
- “If You See Something, Say Something™”
- Suspicious Behavior Advisory Posters
- Pathway to Violence Fact Sheet
- Pathway to Violence Video
- What’s in Store: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Events
- Insider Threat Video
- Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program
Protect Against Drone Attacks
Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems, can be used to benefit a community by transporting supplies or assisting search and rescue operations; however, they can also be used for malicious purposes. These resources provide an overview of this evolving threat and steps that can be taken to enhance risk mitigation.
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Addressing Critical Infrastructure Security Challenges
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems –Critical Infrastructure Video
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems Critical Infrastructure Drone Pocket Card
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Considerations for Law Enforcement Considerations for Law Enforcement
- UAS Frequently Asked Questions
Prepare and Respond to an Active Shooter
These resources help prepare for and respond to active shooter incidents, including in-person and online training, videos and fact sheets, emergency action plan development templates, and guidance on the actions to take during an incident.
- Private Citizen
- Human Resources or Security Professional
- Active Shooter Workshop Participant
- Translated Active Shooter Resources
- First Responder
Protect, Screen, and Allow Access to Facilities
Many large facilities want to screen patrons before allowing them to enter facilities; while others may want to employ a credentialing process. These resources provide suggestions and guidance on how to put these types of security measures in place.
- At-A-Glance Guide For Protecting Faith-Based Venues
- Sports Venue Bag Search Procedures Guide
- Check it! – Bag Check Video
- Sports Venue Credentialing Guide
- Sports Venue Bag Search Procedures
- Protective Measures Guides
- Patron Screening Best Practices Guide
- Evacuation Planning Guide for Stadiums
- Vehicle-Borne IED Identification and Vehicle Inspection Guidance
Prevent and Respond to Bombings
These resources are designed to increase the capabilities of everyone—the public, business owners and staff, government employees, and law enforcement—to prevent, protect against, and respond to bombing incidents.
- Bomb Threat Website
- Technical Resource for Incident Prevention (TRIPwire) Website
- Sports and Entertainment Venues Bombing Prevention Solutions Portfolio
- Multi-Jurisdictional IED Security Planning
- Counter-IED and Risk Mitigation Training
Connect with the Infrastructure Security Division
The below resources identifies additional resources available through the Department of Homeland Security. These contacts can help you identify resources and trainings that are right for your facility and its risks.
Personal Security Considerations
The CISA Personal Security Considerations fact sheet encourages critical infrastructure owners and their personnel to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior that individuals may exhibit in order to thwart an attack. It also contains several easily implementable security measures that can mitigate threats to personal safety.
Public Demonstrations and Public Eating Venues Resources
The Protecting Infrastructure During Public Demonstrations document offers security recommendations for businesses that may be the target of unlawful acts during public demonstrations. The document provides options for consideration to mitigate risk and access to CISA resources to assist with decision-making.
The Protecting Patrons in Outdoor Eating Venues document identifies security measures for restaurants that choose to conduct business outside. Restrictions in operations from COVID-19 have forced restaurants to set up tables outside, creating a potential vulnerability of an attack. This product identifies various potential threats such as vehicle ramming, including security measures restaurants and the municipality can enforce to help mitigate the threat, and actions to take if an attack occurs.
Active Assailant Security Resources
The following active assailant action guides provide the critical infrastructure community with information regarding attack vectors used by terrorists and other extremist actors as well as corresponding suggested protective measures. The “Mass Gatherings: Take Charge of Your Personal Safety” action guide increases the general public’s understanding of the immediate actions that can be taken during an incident to mitigate its impact. This action guide can also serve as a poster for the critical infrastructure community to use during events.
- Mass Gatherings – Take Charge of your Personal Safety
- Mass Gatherings - Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places
- Vehicle Ramming - Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places
- Chemical Attacks - Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places
- Active Shooter Attacks - Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places
- Fire as a Weapon - Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places
Security of Soft Targets and Crowded Places - Resource Guide
Segments of our society are inherently open to the general public, and by nature of their purpose do not incorporate strict security measures. Given the increased emphasis by terrorists and other extremist actors to leverage less sophisticated methods to inflict harm in public areas, it is vital that the public and private sectors collaborate to enhance security of locations such as transportation centers, parks, restaurants, shopping centers, special event venues, and similar facilities.
The resource guide is a catalog of CISA soft target resources, many of which were created in collaboration with our partners to ensure they are useful and reflective of the dynamic environment we live in.
- Soft Targets and Crowded Places Resource Guide
- Soft Targets and Crowded Places Security Plan Overview
Additional DHS Resources
Federal Emergency Management Agency/ Grants
Preparedness and other grant programs support our citizens and first responders to ensure that we work together as a nation to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. These grants support our grantees develop and sustain capabilities at the state and local, tribal, and territorial levels and in our nation’s highest-risk transit systems, ports, and along our borders to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate terrorism and other high-consequence disasters and emergencies. For additional information, visit fema.gov/grants.
The SAFETY Act (Liability Protection)
The SAFETY Act provides incentives for the development and deployment of anti-terrorism technologies by creating systems of risk and litigation management. The purpose of the Act is to ensure that the threat of liability does not deter potential manufacturers or sellers of effective anti-terrorism technologies from developing and commercializing technologies that could save lives. For additional information, visit dhs.gov/science-and-technology/safety-act. For a brief overview of the SAFETY Act, its purpose, and the types of protections available, view the SAFETY Act Postcard.
Transportation Security Administration
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides several resources for industry stakeholders to help prepare for and mitigate against potential threats to the transportation networks. These resources include trainings and programs for the airline industry, as well as for intermodal connections. A key document available to stakeholders is the Public Area Security National Framework. For additional information, visit tsa.gov/for-industry.
Critical Infrastructure Security
Whether it’s a planned event like the Super Bowl, or a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, DHS and CISA are ready to work with businesses, communities, and local governments across the United States to enhance the security and resilience of the nation's critical infrastructure and to prepare for and recover from various threats. For additional information, visit cisa.gov/cisa/infrastructure-security
CISA Central is CISA’s hub for staying on top of threats and emerging risks to our nation’s critical infrastructure, whether they’re of cyber, communications or physical origin. CISA Central is the simplest, most centralized way for critical infrastructure partners and stakeholders to engage with CISA, and is the easiest way for all critical infrastructure stakeholders to request assistance and get the information you need to understand the constantly evolving risk landscape.
United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center
The National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) conducts research on threat assessment and various types of targeted violence; provides training on threat assessment and targeted violence; facilitates information-sharing among agencies with protective and/or public safety responsibilities; provides case consultation on individual threat assessment investigations and for agencies building threat assessment units; and, develops programs to promote the standardization of federal, state, and local threat assessment processes and investigations. For additional information, visit secretservice.gov/protection/ntac/.
For more information on how CISA can assist in Soft Targets and Crowded Places security, please contact SoftTargetSecurity@hq.dhs.gov.