Ethical Security Solutions
Showing posts with label Psychology of survival and security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychology of survival and security. Show all posts

Sunday 14 March 2021

Mental Benefits of Marksmanship Shooting

Mental benefits of marksmanship shooting a cognitive behavioral therapy perspective

25 meter therapy shooting Gamo replay 10x magnum IGT 22 cal.
Therapy shooting with Gamo replay 10x magnum IGT 22 cal. 

    Many security professionals carry the burden of some form of physical illness or injuries they may have gotten in the course of their security work, such as a twisted ankle after chasing a perp or getting injured in the process of making an arrest. These injuries may have an unpleasant effect on the day-to-day function of job effectiveness and off-the-job daily tasks. While many security professionals allow for physical injuries and try to live with physical pain until they heal, they rarely allow themselves the same flexibility to manage the effects of psychologically related issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, or PTSD.


Thursday 21 May 2020

Performance and Sports Psychology in Security Practice

What can the security industry learn from Sports Psychology

War, combat, sports, and security is as old as history itself, and in some cases, they overlap. This overlap for example of work and play can be seen when countries play "war games". Both the USA and Europe through, NATO perform "war games" to test each member state's military personnel readiness for combat or all-out war. Even the term "war games" has the element of the word "games" in it. The goal is to exhibit the skill, strategy, and mental fortitude to defeat the "enemy".

What can security managers learn from the psychology of sports? Or in this case, the psychological need to play, have a game, compete in sports or start and stick with and exercise? (And I do not mean physical exercise here but ongoing security expertise to develop a security culture). Can security managers motivate employees to exhibit proper security practices in their organizations to secure the property, people, information, or data? 

How can security managers utilize sports psychology as a means of encouraging an ongoing security culture in the workplace? What is sports psychology you may ask?  Below are the two definitions of sports and exercise psychology. For the sake of time and space, I am using them interchangeably in the context of mental and psychological benefits towards building a security culture in an organization.

American Psychological Associations definitions of sports psychology and exercise psychology
"Sport psychology is a proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address the optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental, and social aspects of sports participation and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations" (American Psychological Association, 2008).

What Is Exercise Psychology and Sport Psychology?
Exercise psychology and sports psychology involve the scientific study of the psychological factors that are associated with participation and performance in sport, exercise, and other types of physical activity. Sport psychologists are interested in two main areas: (a) helping athletes use psychological principles to achieve optimal mental health and to improve performance (performance enhancement) and (b) understanding how participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity affects an individual's psychological development, health, and well-being throughout the lifespan (American Psychological Association, 2011).

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Wednesday 9 January 2019

Survival Hikes

Shamuel Kohen
7 reasons why you should plan and go on a survival hike

The title “survival hikes” to some readers may imply hikes that involve surviving, possibly bushcraft, possible food deprivation, or some form of military/survivalist type of activity. This, of course, is true in some cases, but not in this case. When I teach self-defense, I tell the students that self-defense starts internally in a person’s psychological or emotional state of being. 

I would ask the students, “what good is self-defense in the context of external threats such as defending against thugs, or how to defend against a punch when the real self-defense starts with your own mental health?” And in this context, we can define self-defense as defending yourself against yourself. The root of any successful self-defense is your psychological state. The chances of a person killing themselves as a result of depression followed by suicide are higher than the chances of a person becoming a victim of a crime, whereby they would have to use self-defense karate style techniques.

In addition to depression, chronic stress is associated with one of the six leading causes of a person’s death. According to the American psychological association chronic stress-related deaths come in forms such as suicide, heart disease, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, lung ailments, and accidents. And so, self-defense here is article is defined as “defending yourself against yourself.”

I hear it said many times “that a person's worst enemy is themselves.” If this is truly the case, it must also be logical that we must recognize the threats that we bring on ourselves.
Too many people hikes train the body to be tough, or in some cases, hikes and trekking events train others in bushcraft skills to learn how to survive outdoors.

Survival hikes in this context will be hiking for mental survival against threats such as depression, loneliness, anxiety, and so on. The benefit of survival hikes will be to develop a mentally healthy lifestyle that impacts other aspects of your life such as home, family, community, and friends, and lastly work and education.

1. Get out and breathe. Many people spend the majority of their day indoors. In Finland for example, it was reported in research posted by the news that many Finns spend most of their days sitting (YLE news, 2018). As I smiled at myself reading the story, I could not help myself from asking, why are they sitting on their butts inside? And not outside breathing fresh air. I would bet that they spent most of their days inside breathing in air that is full of indoor pollution from other coworkers, dust, chemicals, and other localized pollutants. I can't’ help but think of how this polluted indoor air affects health in a negative way.

Many people don't realize that breathing in this indoor polluted air makes some people feel claustrophobic due to lack of fresh air getting to their lungs, blood, and brain cells. Some may even feel that they have difficulty breathing, thereby affecting their work productivity. Not getting fresh air into the body does terrible harm to the brain. The body was made to breathe in fresh air for maximum health and performance.

In the past what seems like a lifetime ago, I spent many hours working indoors teaching seminars on security-related topics, in addition, I would compile my indoors life with indoor activities such as self-defense classes, sports such as judo, jiu-jitsu, boxing, and kickboxing. If there were moments of outdoors, they were spent in shooting ranges sitting and breathing in gun powder and beating away mosquitoes and black flies or having to go outdoors to get to my car (indoor) to drive to the store (more indoor).

Survival hikes contribute to your survival and “self-defense”. We all need air to survive, so a major benefit of survival hikes is putting fresh air into your body and brain for maximum health benefits.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Motivation, satisfaction and lifelong learning

Copyright ESIS 2018

Shamuel Kohen


 The drive to motivate others and the need to be motivated by one’s own desire is a human being’s constant challenge. From being motivated to find a lifelong partner to give and receive love and companionship, all stem from long-term goals, and thus the person is motivated to seek out a partner in the hope of a desired and fulfilling future.

Without hope, we can see the human spirit crumble in his inability to envision a future filled with happiness and success and so they may not be motivated to push on. Lack of hope is the primary killer of any motivating “psychological techniques” one tries to employ upon himself.

Knowing that motivation is driven by a degree of hope, an organizational body of people or even an individual can be driven to take upon themselves the motivating process for lifelong learning and change. The hope of a positive and enjoyable outcome in the lifelong learning process and the journey is a great foreseeable intrinsic or even extrinsic reward.

Motivation can also be based on the ego, for example, to gain a sense of self-respect, self-confidence, as well as public recognition to boost self-esteem or ego. In turn, motivation has many factors that contribute to our gaining our needs and wants in the context of becoming a whole person.

Motivation can be viewed as an internal self-preservation mechanism that keeps the individual happy and fulfilled. Without this mechanism of self-determination (motivation) a human being can die away from the lack of hope, which destroys an individual’s motivating factor to act and follow through. This would be like giving up and dying because going on would be pointless and futile. In a work environment, motivation can be described as the individual forces that create the direction, level, and continuation of one’s effort used at work (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn, 2002).

In the study of motivation and motivating factors in context to learning or lifelong learning, a person can take up the following subject and theories, for example, Maslow’s Theory of Need Hierarchy, Motivation and Hygiene Two Factor Theory, The Theory X and Theory Y, ERG Theory, Vroom’s Theory of Motivation (Performance Satisfaction) and Porter — Lawler Theory. These theories should and can be used as a foundation for a person to continue on this subject and therefore gain a broader understanding of the motivating factors in the context of motivation and learning.

I will use these theories and explain them more in this essay in relation to motivation in either work or lifelong learning environment. Through them, I will attempt to express and illustrate the concepts as well as ideas of motivation, and motivating factors in an organization when it comes to lifelong learning.


Motivating factors to learning in the context of a person’s work depend on cultural background, geographic background, and gender. And in some cases financial reasons the aspect of motivation we will not discuss in this writing.

According to Jackson, Gardner, and Sullivan (1992), there is continually more evidence that there is a major difference in how women and men make judgments on what is valuable to them. Even though some women who are starting their careers have better credentials for their first jobs, such as better verbal skills or higher GPAs. On average, men think that they bring better inputs to their jobs even if their credentials aren’t as good as the women’s.  Even in female-dominated fields, men have higher performance expectations than women. Women do value pay and promotions just as much as men do, but at the same time, they give more value to non-financial outcomes, such as interpersonal relationships.  There is no surprise then that since women think they can bring less value into the company and count more outputs as compensations of a job, women think that lower pay is more acceptable than what their male counterparts think (Jackson, Gardner & Sullivan, 1992).

Here we see some motivational factors in men’s versus women’s career income and job performance satisfaction as well as what motivates them. We can see that women and men have different outlooks when it comes to career needs and wants, we also see that the statement shows that women enter the workforce with a bit higher education than their male counterpart in their first jobs.

With all that said, we will keep the topic of the differences between men and women to this limit. I wanted to point this difference out to high light this issue if this question comes to the reader’s mind. 

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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis (part 6 of 6)

Copyright ESIS 2018. Survival

Shamuel Kohen

Go to part 1  2  3  4  5

Part 6 of 6 

Final thesis chapter includes:

  • Maslow’s safety and security needs
  • The psychology of negativity in a crisis
  • The need to die, a final act
  • Results
  • conclusion

Maslow’s safety and security needs
            The next level up from survival needs was security needs, as reported in Maslow’s needs pyramid (Maslow, 1943). With shelter, water, foods needs now met, a new set of needs became sought, which were safety and security.
            Everything that drove us in the physiological needs in the way of motivation and behavior, now also applied to the safety and security needs, although currently not as desperately or vigorously as Maslow pointed out (1943). We indeed found Maslow’s concept to be accurate within our security seeking drive as well. Here in the safety and security needs level, we had more time to ponder our current situation as well as how we plan to move on in the future, but not only that, we also tried to imagine how the future will be. Will we have a home? Will we have a future? Will we have some form of normality after this crisis?
            These questions floated in our minds and dominated some of the conversations throughout the night. Due to the fact that this was now the priority in our lives at the moment and for the unforeseen future. Maslow’s theory of human motivation regarding priorities once again came true. Maslow claimed that a person in this safety state is living for security and his safety (1943) as I have observed and analyzed the conversations, security seems to be the only thing on people’s minds.
            The group now had the luxury to ponder, this pondering was a double-edged sword, it gave us time to plan, but at the same time, it gave us the idle time to think negative thoughts due to not having anything to do but seek food and water. Once we secured water and food, there was nothing to do all day but wait and ponder and philosophize, and in this safety and security mode crept in the feelings of anxiety and depression. Prelude to anxiety and depression, idle time was the killer.      
            Thoughts of the future once again activated the amygdala sending surges of emotions of sadness and fear. It was apparent and imperative that the group understands and recognizes what was happening in the brain and hormones to help reduce these effects on behavior, motivation, and emotions. Moreover, as time went by and when everyone had the cognitive abilities to comprehend what I was explaining to them, I attempted to tell what was going on in our brain that affected our psychology.

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Wednesday 11 April 2018

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis (part 5 of 6)

Copyright ESIS 2018. Arctic Survival
Shamuel Kohen

Go to part 1  2  3  4  

Part 5 of 6 

Priorities: Shelter. hydration, food

Priority 1, the need for shelter

           Shelter helps to reset the mind by resting the body. The rest for the whole person comes in the form of sleep, relaxing the brain from the anxiety of freezing, or overheating by keeping elements such as heat, cold, rain and snow away from the body. The shelter gives the group time to reflect and plan. At the same time as days passed without external threats, sitting in a shelter with little or nothing to do also was a contributor to boredom. This boredom fostered negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and worry due to being indoors and away from the immediate danger and allowing us to ponder on future events and reflect on current and past situations.
            Shelter came in many forms, from a tarp overhang to a fabricated roof made out of branches and leaves to escape the elements. The need for shelter, for the most part, came before food and water. Moreover, the fact that shelter was easier to acquire made it an easy and logical choice when it came to survival. Realistically, a shelter was easier to get than food or water was.     
            There are three basic types of no shelter or homeless situation, Long-term, mid-term and short-term. Long-term homelessness/shelterless as some experience in inner cities may be due to a variety of reasons both social and economic. Mid-term homelessness/shelterless may be due to socioeconomic reasons or natural or human-made devastation, or short-term homelessness/ shelterless, due to socio-economic reasons, natural disasters or human-made disasters.        
            Short-term shelterless can also be due to things like a hiking trip that turned disastrous or merely a car breaking down in a remote place, and now the person must seek shelter and other necessities to survive until assistance arrives.
            The shelterless situation that we found ourselves in was more short-term. Whether it is long-term, mid-term or short-term, the commonality in all three homeless cases was to survive the day and secure the next until the better situation can arise for a more permanent long-term shelter.
            Searching for long-term shelter and having to survive in a remote area without civilization was not an immediate need of ours; however, a short-term shelter was more essential. We were motivated for the short-term shelter, one to two nights at most and relocate to a better location for a more extended stay with more resources.
            Having a short-term shelter that we took with us in the form of a tarp or makeshift tent, gave us a sense of temporary security and a good feeling of knowing that at least tonight we will not freeze. This good fortune affected our motivation, behavior, and emotions positively; and it offered us a time to let out our emotions such as crying, anxiety, depression, and fear.
            The short moment of expressing our emotions helped some, but it also gave rise to anxiety and fear due to ruminating. With some group members, it gave time for pause and planning. All of this was short-lived of course as time went by and thirst and hunger started to eat away at us. Having a shelter gave the emotions a time to calm down and think. The process that we went through was similar to what someone goes through in a time of happiness, and it was imperative for the group members to understand the effects of dopamine and what mood caused its release.
            By understanding how dopamine works, we can recall positive memories in negative emotional times and this knowledge will aid in positive motivational mood and behavior later. Why was the group feeling joy for this short time in the midst of this tragic event? It was due to the parasympathetic system, which counters the sympathetic nervous system, and it was starting to balance itself out temporarily, and it was putting a halt on the negative emotions (Brannon et al., 2014).
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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis (part 4 of 6)
Shamuel Kohen

Go to part 1  2  3

Part 4 of 6
Cognitive functions
            When it comes to cognition and the mental processes it takes to get the tasks of ensuring survival and security done, as well as learn from mistakes, the main areas that were affected during stress were the memory, attention, reasoning, thinking, and awareness. These affected cognition functions were not only evident to ourselves, but to others around us.
Effects on memory
            Memory seemed to be the first affected when it came to acting under pressure. Short-term memories such as locating a tool became a dance of checks and rechecks of our area so nothing would remain behind when we moved to safer locations. Remembering to drink, to eat, remembering good times of the past and remembering basic tasks all seemed to be a mental challenge that kept the group always on edge. Moreover, if something would remain behind by a group member such as a bottle of water due to forgetfulness, this forgetfulness became a source of fighting and aggression that affected the group’s motivation.    
            Not only does the activation of the amygdala due to stress affect perception, but it also has an impact on retrieving and forming memories. When the amygdala is stimulated and becomes triggered, it has a significant effect on working memory, and so things that were easy to recall under no stress situations became an effort to remember under fear and anxiety (Gonzales, 2003).
            When cortisol is in the system, it floods the hippocampus and has an adverse effect on its output. The amygdala has a vast network connection to the sensory cortices, rhinal cortex, and anterior cingulate as well as the ventral prefrontal cortex, the dominant area of the memory areas (Gonzales, 2003). Both the input of information for memory and the output information to draw from memory are now influenced (Gonzales, 2003).
            Due to the memory problems with little things that many of the group members had such as, retrieval of essential memories on how to do the simplest of tasks were forgotten, and of course how the members perceived situations were negatively affected and hindered motivation for more complex tasks.

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Thursday 1 March 2018

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis (part 3 of 5)

Shamuel Kohen

Go to part 1 or 2

Part 3 of 6

The crisis
            After the surviving group members found themselves in a crisis having to fend for themselves, they realized that there is no way of getting assistance nor getting into a shelter. Some members tried to seek shelter of some form by sleeping under temporary shelters such as self-made wind protection such as tarps or woods, or even an old car if possible. The shelter became the primary goal in the minds of those affected by the wind and cold, or in some cases heat. The panic and distress of feeling exposed affected group members to various degrees. Everyone felt the effects of the crisis, but not everyone felt it to the same degree.

The emotion felt knowing in helplessness
            The emotion of panic developed in many group members each in their own way that expressed itself in unclear and hurried thinking. It was evident that the brain was in a fight or flight response mode, and this being the case affected memory, emotions, behavior, and motivation. From my observation and exploration of the situation, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was being played out in real-time. Questions like, what will we eat and drink? Where will we stay? How will we keep warm? These issues and more were the discussion points within the group.
            The individuals that have now found themselves living out a crisis due to devastating events in their lives were unaware that they were living out Maslow’s needs theories of what motivates creatures. However, many did not understand their own emotions, and in some cases this caused them to live in hardship and struggle to succeed in survive and gain security. The group’s struggles were not only due to lack of food, water or shelter but from the inner working of their brain and psychology that led some to fail and others to seek death as a means of escape.
            What the group members did not know seemed to make the problems more prominent than they already were, and what they did not know is why they are behaving as they were. Whether it was called worrying, anxiety, fear or panic, they all had this in common, they all affected emotions, motivation and behavior for the positive or the negative. In addition, they also have a commonality in brain function and hormonal functions that are bad for short-term and long-term health.
            Group members used words such as worry, anxiety, fear, and panic all used interchangeably during the crisis as well as feeling similar effects by individual members. Some group members felt these feelings to somewhat of a greater and some to a lesser degree.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis (part 2 of 6)

Copyright ESIS 2017. Brain crisis
Shamuel Kohen

The biology of a brain in crisis

The brain in crisis

   The limbic system has a significant part to play when it comes to the stress as well as emotional responses. The parts of the limbic system that most interest me in the exploratory research to a person in crisis, as it relates to Maslow’s needs of survival and security and its effects on motivational and emotional behaviors are the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and the thalamus (Kalat, 2009). 

   In addition to the limbic system, the interest also extends to the autonomic nervous systems effects, in the context of motivation and behavior as well as the sympathetic nervous system with the parasympathetic nervous system. The interests in these specific areas are important because they are the primary parts of the brain that affect stress and anxiety when it comes to motivational behavior and emotions (Kalat, 2009). 

   also, analysis of the leading hormones that affect emotion, behaviors, and motivation are the primary interest of the exploratory research. Hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine aka noradrenaline and epinephrine are explored within this context and importance. For the positive hormones, I will examine endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, GABA gamma-aminobutyric as it relates to aiding or hurting an individual’s survival and security behaviors.

   Amygdala in stress. The amygdala, located at the inner tip area of the temporal lobe, gets its information input from the eyes and ears as well as other sensors and takes in potential threat stimulus from the outside world. The sensor then sends the information to the amygdala for emotional processing. The amygdala interprets the situation and stimulus by observing that there is danger present, it sends the alarm to the hypothalamus (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011).

   In addition, the stimulation of the amygdala is not only activated by actual threats but also by memories of past dangerous and emotional events (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011). The activation of the amygdala will even have an impact on motivation, behavior, and emotions that lead to survival and security.

   Within the amygdala, there are specialized neurons called the fear neurons that respond to an emotional situation that presents fear. Also, the amygdala is the place where the processing of emotions such as fear connected to memories thereby becoming stimulated when the memory of a fearful event is recalled (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2011)

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Tuesday 16 January 2018

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis (part 1 of 6)

Copyright ESIS 2017. Arctic Survival
Shamuel Kohen

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis
Part 1 of 6

The purpose of this study is to explore the behavior and motivation of people in a survival situation put there by a crisis such as natural or Human-made disasters, and now having to temporarily or longer fend for themselves. The study seeks to explore and analyze people in such environments and to understand what is going on within their psychological, emotional, behavioral, and analytical functions that keep them going or has them give up. The research will explore human behavior and motivation in a crisis as it relates to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, specifically survival and security needs, and the brain and psychological effects that positively or negatively affect a person’s chances of survival not only physically but mentally as well.

Psychology of Survival and Security: A Behavioral Analysis
             Lundin states that about 90 percent of a person’s survival is psychology (2003). At times people might find themselves in life and death situations where they have to fend for their survival. Be it a person having to deal with being homeless through economically related issues, natural or human-made catastrophes, or just only lost in nature. What do all these things have in common? The answer is survival and the mindset that it takes to make it out alive both mentally and physically.
            As the economy went crashing, businesses closed and some people lost their life-savings. I also was a victim of this global economic plague and lost almost everything. Not long after the financial crash, my partners and I lost both our business as well as our life savings, and soon after, I became homeless.
            With the onset of depression and anxiety, I barely managed to hold on for dear life in a foreign land surrounded by a few friends who supported me as best as they could, considering their misfortune. One homeless day to the next, I found myself surrounded by people in similar situations trying to make it day-by-day. Of course, my predicament was not as unfortunate as most in this homeless crisis, given the fact I had education, training, and other skills to later get a few bucks into my pockets and food into my belly.  
            Coming from a background as an avid outdoorsman and had extensive survivalist training, and thinking I was well prepared to handle the situation. All my training did not prepare me for the psychological impact on self-esteem and anxiety that went along with being out on the streets as a so-called “dreg of society.” Nothing could have prepared me for the shame, depression and the mental fatigue that went along with living like a rat trying to get by on a few meals a day without going mentally insane and killing myself.
            Before I can even commit to getting out of this hell, daily needs had to be met, for the short-term as well as the possible long-term. This meant that attaining daily survival needs of eatable foods and drinkable water as well as maintaining a secure availability of these resources was paramount. Not only were the food and shelter needs challenging to attain, but nothing was as hard as the psychological impact it had not only on myself but also on the others in our group. This situation was by definition a full-blown crisis now, and I have to get out of it with my sanity and physical health intact.
            The purpose of this exploratory research is to explore what people go through psychologically and emotionally and to analyze how it affects people’s motivation and attitude to survive the crisis. This exploratory study will examine the behaviors and motivations of people in survival situations as well as the challenges they face when needs are hard to meet. The external needs such as food, water, and shelter are evident needs, but what is not apparent is that prolonged survival situations bring on anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts as well as long-term stress-related illnesses in some cases.
            The importance of the exploratory research is to analyze the psychology of survival using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a foundation, specifically survival and security, to explore what people are going to go through psychologically and mentally when faced with uncertainties. The exploratory analysis will research how the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system influences a person in a crisis and the effects it has on behavior, motivation, the emotional state that will either help them or hurt them in light of Maslow’s needs in the context of motivation and behavior assessment.
            This topic is important because it is vital to know what affects a person’s behavior in a crisis as it relates to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as people move from survival to security. The research also explores what neurological and hormonal processes that affect the mental state and how the neurological functions impact positively or negatively on behavior and motivation.
Also, an analysis of internal stressors plays a part in a person’s physiological states that cause a person to choose death as a relief and how to recognize and avoid it.
            The results of the analysis may be used by trauma counselors, survival instructors and even the individuals themselves to have a sense of self-awareness as to what will happen to them and what paths to take in better aiding a positive outcome in the context of Maslow’s needs as a base. To take control of anxiety and panic, we must understand how we function mentally. Many people know more about the mechanics and technical workings of a car or a computer when they break down, but find that they cannot understand their mental breakdown and how to correct it. In my analysis of the psychology of survival and security from literature as well as my personal experiences, I will analyze what psychological issues motivated people to act in their best interest or frustrated their efforts.
            Understanding the brain and its effect on psychology is vital to understanding what influences behavior, motivation, and emotions needed for survival and security.

Sunday 23 July 2017

ESIS on the road

ESIS sponsored European road trips, both off-road trailing and road trips led the group on a 4 day and 200-kilometer adventure for the gang :-)

With roadside, camping made the adventure a bit more challenging with a "bugout" outlook.

Chow time with junk food! Our association is on a budget :-)

Saturday 22 July 2017

US Airport security and Measurable improvements since 9.11.2001

Measurable improvements since 9.11.2001

   Measurable improvements in airport security and their effectiveness
   Has the current airport security measures have any measurable improvement since September 11, 2001? Yes and NO.  It is hard to come up with a definitive answer of measurability given the fact that it is hard to actually measure the results that are reported to security personnel, law enforcement by a researcher as well as the fact that these reports are not made public to the media. Given the fact that not all security-related events are being reported to the public, we do not have all the facts. Thus, we cannot get a full picture of how deep any security breaches or successes security actions were. 
    In addition, we cannot know if any security measures that have been implemented prior event or post-event had any deterring effects on actual terrorists and criminals, given that no self-reporting or another survey of terrorists or criminals have been conducted.  And so, with this reality, we can only assume the measurability, and not have a full complete definitive answer.
   Airport security regulations are different from state to state, and for the most part, much of the TSA airport security is “security threat”. In many airports, one can witness police holding submachine rifles, police riding around in droves on electric-powered scooters, drug, and bomb-sniffing dog units all over the place makes one feel that they are secure, when in fact it is an act of theatrics giving the perception of effective security (Levenson, 2014).
  How does one scientifically study airport security effectiveness, and if any current security measures implemented have had any impact on safety and security? What do we compare it too? Pre 9-11? Has this heightened security mode prevented another 9-11 style aircraft take over? One can only assume? However, we don’t truly know if it did prevent another 9-11, and how? If terrorists did, in fact, chose not to do another 9-11 terrorist act, we cannot know. Did terrorists themselves changed tactics and targets choosing instead not to make a copycat airliner take over, we simply cannot know this with certainty.
   All airports security directors and TSA agents can do are react to a the terrorist event, and what terrorists try to do next. An example of this reactionary method is when the 9-11 terrorist hijacked aircraft using blades of some sort and as a reactionary measure, security made everyone dump their nail cutters as well as other items that have sharp edges. Another example is the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who tried to light a bomb within his shoe, and this reactionary mode thinking made TSA take everyone’s shoe off for inspection. 

   Airlines security is a reactionary system built off a law enforcement model of after the fact investigation versus true security, which should be a prevention philosophy. This prevention thinking is done through risk management and developing a system to counter the attack. And so, we have today what is dubbed “Security Theater” something that looks like security but is not (Levenson, 2014).  This “security theater” mode just shows that the prevention method is yet to be mastered.

    However; with all that said, we can assume that security has gotten better given what has been done so far, and we can only speculate the impact of terrorism has nothing been done.    On the flip side, if we take things from a terrorist’s point of view, we can also say that terrorism works. Terrorism works due to the fact that now more money and resources must be put into the air travel industry. In addition, freedoms have been lost by American citizens and an airline screening turned into a prison model of security. From this point of view, terrorism has in fact worked! 

   How did terrorism work? Simply by making travelers and governments fearful, thereby governments are now putting valuable resources into security, chasing ghosts, and investigating rumors. Security may have improved but at a cost of civil liberties and profit.

   Medias report on airport screeners and security
    With all the money and resources were thrown into improving security at airports, one can read from diverse sources that TSA screeners continually fail tests in detecting explosives and weapons, as well as many other failures when it comes to screening for contraband (Bradner, 2015).
    The investment into security screeners runs into the millions per year, yet they fail time and time again, thereby squandering taxpayer money when it comes to the return on investment.     In one popular case, it has been reported that the homeland security will be reassigning an administrator due to the fact that after testing the airport security with 70 tests, 67 screening processes failed. This means that banned items got through 95 percent time as was reported by internal investigators (Fishel, 2015). This is obviously a major failure of the system, with a high and unacceptable 95 percent failure rate.
     In addition to major failures in the security screening system, the TSA is basically a stage for what is dubbed as “Security Theater”. Security Theater is defined as security measures that are intended to provide a feeling or the illusion of improved security while doing little to nothing to actually improve security (Yourdictionary, 2014).
     In addition to TSA security staff posing to give a “feeling” of security, police officers are staged as armed characters with submachine guns pacing around the airport theater as heightened security, once again posturing as effective vigilant security. For this police unit to actually run into a terrorist doing an active shooting event by such theatrically placed police, is statistically small to none. But this theater gives the public the illusion of effective security (Bradner, 2015).
     A few other examples of security theater that does little to actually improve security but give an image of security, are the ever so invasive security pat-downs of infants, elderly and sickly as though these three categories would somehow be suicide bombers or armed felons. What is the logic of patting down an infant? These invasive pat-downs are a TSA security theater, and this is its main purpose, to give an image of security.
    It is also reported by TSA agents, that body scans are not effective due to the fact they can be manipulated. By the manipulation of these scanning machines, they will sound false positives or no reading at all. Therefore the screening machines are not a reliable tool to fight against weapons hidden as concluded by TSA security scanner instructors. It is reported by TSA sources once again in 2015, that the purpose of all these actions of heightened security measures, is to give the perception of security at nearly all airports, thereby giving a false sense of security.
     In addition, coming to light in past reports, was the instances where an undercover investigation was conducted and found that 67 out of 70 test with a red team failed. This translates to a 95 percent failure rate by the investigating team (Fishel, 2015). This is a gross neglect and violation of good security and ethics of trust. How can such failure rates go unpunished? In some cases, there have been punishments handed out, not only to staff but also to administrators. With such a high failure rate, what justifies all the security staff budgets and expenses?
     What justifies the purchasing of high technology scanning machines? What justifies the long lines? How is this justified to the public? These are just a few of the questions asked by Congress and the public.
    Statistics and the overall picture about airport screeners
    According to reports by the Homeland Security department, a third of the security employees employed by TSA, resign within their first 12 months of employment. According to Homeland security Chief Johnson, low employee morale, as well as a high number of employees leaving their jobs, has caused many difficulties for travelers. Chief Johnson also testified before congress, that the TSA had a problem with retaining security screeners; it has been reported that TSA has 5000 fewer security screeners today, as compared years past (Abdullah, 2016).
     It was also reported that about 117 security screeners leave the job every week. This is about 35 percent per year, which translates to over 6000 security staff per year. With so many security staff leaving the job, it was testified before Congress that TSA is having a 10 percent attrition rate and that TSA sees no solution to this and other such challenges (Abdullah, 2016).
     The turnover reported before congress is not only security officers walking off the job because of job dissatisfaction in general, but also, but also to officers being fired for crimes such as theft and other crimes.
     Customers claiming missing luggage and missing valuables, after leaving the luggage screening machines between 2010 and 2014, with a whopping number of 30,621 prompted an investigation. The total property loss claims came to roughly 2.5 million US dollars. In 2002 for example, the TSA fired 513 security staff for theft, contributing to the high rate of turnover (Zamost, 2015).
    Since the undercover investigation of 2015 that exposed a 95 percent failure rate, the TSA has started to standardize its security staff training, with this training program development, the TSA is hoping for an improvement in how security screeners do their job. To address these deficiencies, they started the TSA training academy to utilize classroom and field training for security agents to learn their new standardized skills. The academy also will help to improve morale and turnover by improving and implementing a sense of professionalism, pride, as well as better pay to the agents working for TSA (CBS News, 2016).

Improvements, measures to implemented to reduce costs and effective solutions

   Offered or possible solutions
    One area of security-related improvement in the TSA comes is in the way of manpower, technology, equipment, and an actual TSA academy to train the workers. However, the fact it took over a decade to start such TSA academy, witnesses to the chaos within this homeland security TSA scheme. Yes, there have been failures, but it takes time to fix failure as one learns, grows, and develops.

   It is without a doubt that the airline security screeners have been a failure since its inception, but with the development of a TSA academy, there is still hope. The TSA was a knee jerk reaction to the events of 9-11, and thus it was a political answer to a more complicated security-related problem.
   It is hoped that if a security culture mindset becomes the forefront of TSA security, it has a good chance of developing into something good. And by “if”, I mean politics, profit, and industrial complex such as the war industrial complex stays out of it. If one puts money and profits as well as corporate interests before security, true security is doomed to fail and will continue to be security theater as we have today.
   When it comes to cost-saving measures in the context of long term planning, I would invest in people, and the start of the TSA academy is a positive step towards that direction. This I believe is a very positive step towards reaching this goal of real security versus Security Theater. By retaining a professional and well-trained staff, will lead to a much happier staff that can take pride in the fact that what they are doing will benefit their society when it comes to flight transportation security and safety.

   Training and administrative costs to replace and train new screeners to replace those that have quit will be immense, given the fact that replacement always costs more than retention.
    Since manpower generates the greatest costs, one should invest to stop the leaks, and find a way to retain the manpower investment, and this investment of course is going to be tested in time, TSA is a work in progress.

     It is obvious to the observer and researcher that TSA security screenings are a hassle, and it seems that more problems have resulted versus stopped by TSA. High turnover, wasted resources, bad training, long lines, and low job satisfaction have all contributed to a mess within the TSA security system. However, like all things brought about due to a changing world, there will always be a problem when new programs are implemented. But over time, these problems will be smoothed out, and we can witness this by the start of the TSA academy and the standardization of the security infrastructure.
   Politics, bad administration, and wasted resources are more to blame for current and past failed progress within the TSA. Over time the kinks in the system with its administration will be worked out, or they will simply be replaced by a private security force as was the case prior to 9-11. I believe there is hope for this security infrastructure, and throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not the solution. Like the Israelis, a security culture must be adopted within society to assist in their own security at airports.

By Shamuel Kohen

Levenson, E.  (2014, January 11). The TSA is in the the business of “Security Theater,” not security.
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YourDictionary (December, 2016). Security-theater. Retrieved from
Fishel, J. (2015, June 1). Exclusive: Undercover DHS tests find security failures at US airports.     Retrieved from    widespread-security-failures/story?id=31434881
Abdullah, H. (2016, May 13). TSA to frustrated travelers: Please pardon our progress this     summer. Retrieved from    security-line-waits-n573796
Zamost, S. (2015, September 15) Hidden cameras reveal airport workers stealing from luggage.     Retrieved from
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