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A lot has been written about using a personal firearm to deal with criminals, crazies and terrorists. Especially terrorists. Not because a terrorist attack is the most likely scenario anyone’s likely to encounter, but because it’s the most terrifying. In truth, at its core, it’s not a complicated situation. See terrorist…run and/or shoot terrorist. (Same for spree killers.)

Sure, there’s a lot you need to know to do that effectively. But it’s not even close to being the worst, most challenging violence you might face during a terrorist attack.

Generally speaking, terrorists use bombs. Whether they arrive in the shape of a pressure cooker IED or a jet liner flown into a building, there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself. Except, that is, if you can shoot the bomber before he or she or they trigger the device or devices.

That’s hardly likely, but not completely improbable either.

Always keep in mind that improbability is out there, somewhere. By that I mean that you can’t depend on future terrorist attacks following the current, most prevalent pattern (single terrorist with a gun, pre-set or remotely detonated bomb).

The French truck slaughter is a good/bad example. Could a civilian with a gun have helped in that situation? Absolutely. A passerby boarded the truck in Nice as the killer began his rampage. The good samaritan tried to physically stop the terrorist — and failed. Shooting the bad guy would have been an excellent option.

The other thing to remember: it’s only a matter of time before Americans face a coordinated terrorist attack involving multiple murderers. Lest we forget, there were two San Bernadino shooters, who killed 14 people and seriously injured 22 more. Are you ready for that…or worse?

For example, terrorists are known to open fire or detonate a single explosive device that herds people into a “kill zone.” The attackers then either bomb innocents again or open fire with guns. (The Boston Marathon bombers’ planned on detonating two devices.)

If a bomb goes off or you hear gunfire nearby, be extremely aware that you may be running out of the frying pan into the last fire of your life. Following a crowd to “safety” could be deadly.

In fact, who knows what kind of lethal threat you might face from terrorists or other spree killers?

As reports:

On Sunday, somebody went to the remote substation located between Kanab and Page, Arizona, and fired at least three rounds with a high-powered rifle into the main transformer, knocking out power to an estimated 13,000 customers in Kanab, Big Water, Orderville, Glendale, Hatch and surrounding towns in Garfield County.

“Just from the looks of it, it looked more criminal than vandalism because they knew exactly where to shoot it and they shot it multiple times in the same spot,” Brown said. “For somebody to know exactly where that substation is and how to hit it exactly like he did, (it) seems like he’d have to have knowledge of that.”

What if you were hanging out down the road leading to the substation? What if you happened to be standing next to some other high value target like, say, a school or a dam, and terrorists attacked? Do you even consider what might be a high value target when you’re out and about ? You should — and ratchet up your situational awareness whenever you’re near one.

Note: I’m not saying that you should be permanently paranoid, or that a gun will solve every potential terrorist-related problem. In many if not most cases, alerting the authorities to a threat and leaving the area is the best, maybe even only thing you can do. But if you have a gun, it may be needed. How it’s needed is unknown.

Bottom line: don’t be that surprised if all hell breaks loose out of a clear blue sky. Breathe. Observe first, orient second, decide next, then act. Keep doing that until you know for an absolute fact that you and yours are out of danger. And watch out for multiple threats. That is all.

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  1. Most of us simply will not be equipped in our day to day wanderings to effectively deal with a large scale group attack.

    Fortunately we don’t have to be. We have better odds of hitting the lottery than of facing a hans gruber level event.

    Have as decent a quality handgun as you can afford and keep your head on a swivel. Being alert will prevent most of the trouble.

  2. Interesting that this happened to yet another substation.

    A couple years ago this happened in Cali. The power company guys thought the whole thing was off because of how the substation was targeted. They made some calls and got some Navy operators out there to take a look at it.

    Their read of the situation, due to the placement or rock cairns and other sign was that the whole thing was pre-planned and pre-staged for a group of people to do what they did. That is to say, the guys who did this were not just drunk rednecks they were pros who knew how to reconnoiter the area in advance to find the best places to shoot specific parts of the substation to bring it down.

    • strych9 is correct.

      Even more interesting, strych 9 did not mention (maybe he/she did not know) that the people who destroyed the transformers at the substation in California allegedly also severed fiber-optic cables and disabled pretty much all communications (including telemetry via Internet) in the area immediately before destroying the transformers.

      • I had actually forgotten about the other sabotage that took place but now that you’ve reminded me, IIRC, that particular little party was at something like half a mile from the substation itself and that while it was thought to be linked it was not thought to be a cutting of communications to further the attack on the substation but rather just to see how much damage they could actually do to such a target that happened to be on the way to the main target.

        I seem to remember reading that the people who looked at the fiber optics portion of it considered it to be a hack job in comparison to the pin point attack on the substation. Yes, it accomplished what it was meant to accomplish but it didn’t appear that whoever did it knew as much about disrupting that system as they did about attacking the transformers.

      • Maybe not a bunch of drunk rednecks, but my first guess would lean towards pissed off former employee before calling terrorist.

        • In this case, perhaps.

          In the other cases such as Cali and Missouri are we looking for a pissed off former employee with actual operator status and the ability to be in multiple firing positions at once? I would rather doubt that.

      • I worked as an installation vendor for a major telco provider, I installed the systems that feed DSL to customers all over California during that period. I’ve spent many days in central offices up and down the state.

        The rumor among the actual telco employees and other vendors was that the optical fiber cables that were cut (the incident I remember happened on in the SF peninsula, the power substation was near San Jose) by employees, specifically the field techs and outside plant guys. This was during a union contract negotiation and the telco was being stingy and there was some disgruntlement.

        It was a topic of conversation for a while.

        I never made a connection been that and the power station, though.

  3. Many young male Middle eastern types that we’re not supposed to profile have been studying civil and electrical engineering at our universities for a several years now. They work for power companies here, too. They are very knowlegable…just saying.

    • As someone currently going to college with several “young male middle eastern types”, your fear that you’re trying to drum up is unfounded. These guys aren’t hardcore Jihadi or even just conservative types. Most male Muslims on campuses are playboys with rich parents back home and enjoy Haram (forbidden) alcohol to excess with the rest of us.

      • That’s all good and fine, but when it comes down to it, their allegiance is to “Allah” and we know what they’re capable of. The 9-11 hijackers boozed it up right before going to their “reward” as well.

      • You’d also be idiotic to assume they’re all playboys Komrad. You know nothing of Islamic militarism. I bet you think most jihadis are uneducated rednecks of the Middle East? You’d be very wrong. Jihadist organizations like Daesh actually have very high recruit rates of highly educated Arabs, and infact, a majority of their “foreign fighters” have had schooling in some of Europe’s best schools. Fruther, there’s an exact code in the Quran for how to blend in and behave like the enemy to gain their acceptance, with it totally ok under their warped “faith.”

        • ^ This!

          And to put another spin on the point, ever heard of young people who grew up in the faith and then fell victim to “backsliding” in college … only to screw their heads back on straight and live a pious life after college? Any ideas what those pious people are capable of doing at that point? Remember, the San Bernardino attackers were so committed that they were even willing to leave a baby behind.

      • Some are – some aren’t.

        My first semester of college I lived with three Muslim guys from Israel (Palestine as they called it). 1 was completely secularized, smoked weed, dated a non-muslim, and drank heavily (like most college freshmen).

        The other two brothers, however, were more devout. The prayed daily, had short fuses, pointedly looked down on non-muslims, and openly resented western culture. They were always angry, always carrying barely-concealed hostility.

        Those two would have taken very little encouragement, if any, to start sawing off heads. Mostly just opportunity would have done it I think.

  4. Someone really oughtta put a concrete wall around that x-former. A coordinated attack on them will kill far more than a bomb would…

    • Now there is a fairly simple and somewhat inexpensive solution … put a concrete wall around transformers.

      Can we patent the idea? I’ll split the royalties 50/50 with Geoff PR.

      By the way I was stunned to read that the local electrical utility had a portable transformer in operation within 8 hours.

      • “Now there is a fairly simple and somewhat inexpensive solution … put a concrete wall around transformers.

        Can we patent the idea?”

        A little more effort on the sarcasm, please, uncommon.

        It’s that damn simple to correct (naked x-formers), and around these parts, they aren’t doing it.

        Care to speculate *why* that isn’t happening???

        • “Can we patent the idea?”

          The idea has already been done, but not for the XFMR’s protection, it’s for Haz Mat control.

          If a Substation XFMR has a silicone based oil instead of Bio Mineral oil, then it’s required (depending upon location) to have concrete wall around it to contain the oil in the event of leakage or a large spill.

          If it’s a mineral based oil, it is not required because it’s no worse to the environment than pouring vegatable oil on the grounds.

    • As one who spent time baby sitting a substation during the unrest for the first gulf war I can tell you that walls, gates, fences etc. don’t do squat for stopping a threat if the obstacles are unmanned.

      • And I doubt that will happen in the smaller substations.

        It costs about 100 thousand a year (total) to staff someone on-site. About the best they can hope for is a sensor package.

  5. Well, the truth of the matter is that a person would truly need a rifle to stop attackers in some situations. However, many states consider you a criminal if you have a loaded rifle in your car even if you have a concealed handgun carry license and the state does not consider you a criminal for carrying a loaded handgun in your car.

    What baffles me: how come no one has gone to court to challenge the laws which ban loaded rifles in cars?

    • Probably because loaded vs unloaded rifles in cars isn’t a big issue.

      If I have a rifle in my trunk then generally speaking the rate limiting step is getting to the rifle and getting it into my hands, not loading it. That could be different with a lever gun (or a shotgun) but I don’t really see my .30-30 as a “go to” trunk gun against assholes with AK’s/other semi-auto rifles and S-Vests.

      • ^^^This. If I have to get out of the car to get it, slapping in a magazine won’t change the outcome.

        However, deploying a rifle-caliber weapon from inside a vehicle is where AR Pistols shine. In the vast majority of states they are covered by a CCW permit just like your Glock.

        A 9IN Barrel 300BLK AR Pistol with LAW folding adapter and a 20rnd mag easily fits in a bookbag in front of the center console… hypothetically of course. 😉

    • I carry a 300blk Pistol in my car for that reason. I am legal in 40+ states that accept my carry license.

      • I finally sprung for the LAW folding adapter, and though expensive, it radically changed the handling and transportation of my 300BLK pistol.

        I highly recommend it.

        I used to carry it in a tennis case that got a lot of attention from my coworkers. Now it fits easily in a standard book bag, with two 30rnd mags in the front pocket.

  6. Look, none of this stuff is “unexpected” unless you’ve graduated college with a humanities or liberal arts degree.

    For those of us who are engineers, this is completely and wholly expected.

    There’s a reason why terrorist groups recruit from engineering and science majors: Engineering people intuitively know how to pick targets that matter. Poetry majors? They’re great at writing manifestos, but not so bright at getting the job done.

    We EE’s have been telling power utilities and policy makers for years how vulnerable the power grid is to these sorts of attacks.

    As a result of my employer advising the Bush administration of infrastructure vulnerabilities after 9/11, I found myself on the phone with a high level administrator in the Bush administration in a phone meeting on this very topic. Instead of actual threats that have high likelihood, he wanted to try to impress us engineers with his pseudo-knowledge about hilariously low likelihood attacks like cyberwarfare blowing up nuclear power plants (blowing up, not just melting down – I exceeded my native level of patience, because I reckoned he was too stupid to listen to the nuclear physics why this isn’t possible) and high-altitude EMP attacks by people who haven’t shown us that they know how to build a single-stage nuke yet, never mind a two-stage weapon.

    I tried to bring the conversation literally back down to earth, and I specifically mentioned what could be done to a power substation with nothing more than a ’06 bolt rifle and some surplus AP ammo, how expensive it would be to repair, how few of those high-$$$ transformers are in stock anywhere in the US and what a further mess could result by shooting out some insulators and transmission lines coming into a substation. I laid out that there are transmission paths, esp. in the western US, with low redundancy and high uptime requirements, that if hit properly could darken some major urban areas in the southwest.

    Then I laid out what could be done to the Internet with a backhoe to tear up some fiber in selected locations.

    Remember, this was 2002, and the efficacy of box cutters to take down a skyscraper was supposedly still fresh in people’s minds. Despite this, this high-level bureaucrat (you’d know his name if I mentioned it), was yammering about threats that, while they would be devastating if realized, were so wildly remote that they fall to the very bottom of the vulnerability list, right down at the bottom with “Smurfs and Unicorns get nuclear weapons, arms race results.”

    What did I get for my efforts? Complete silence on the other end of the phone. No recognition of the threats whatsoever.

    After that, I reckoned that we’re going to be hit again – because the policymakers are just so stupid, it is inevitable.

    Call me when there’s some people working for government who haven’t been educated beyond their actual intelligence and we’ll talk.

      • *Far* less common in the private sector (ignoring family businesses) because when it’s money on the line, tolerance for incompetence is something the owners don’t put up with…

        • When you look at the finance sector, you see epic stupidity and incompetence clear up to the very tippy-top of the organization.

          Look at MF Global, Countrywide, Deutsche Bank now, whereever. They’re epic morons, with no actual appreciation for risk. They just crank out their VaR models and say “Yup, we’re still within safe limits.”

          They should be castrated to prevent their level of stupidity from propagating.

        • It depends very largely on the industry, and the company culture.

          Business that have large margins and a non-competitive market tend to run a little more like a public agency – dumb, fat, and happy.

          Whereas business with narrow margins or in competitive fields do not have the capacity to carry dead weight or incompetence.

          On the whole though, the private field is VASTLY better than the public field.
          Using the word “Accountability” in a public agency earns you a chuckle, not the nervous sideways glances you’d get in any private institution.

    • I attended a Financial Executives meeting here in Dallas, the two North Texas Homeland Security guys – Harvey PT Perriott and Bryan Gray – guys that lucked into their ‘job’ blathered about how they were ‘free’ and were willing to consult w Dallas companies. After 90 minutes we got to questions – I asked them ‘We are 15 years after 9/11 and you guys have been in your jobs for about 10 years – Can you tell me if the Texas Power Grid is now secure from EMP or Carrington Effects? Are the substations properly grounded, etc?’ He didn’t know, so he stammered around and told us ‘they were meeting with the Texas DPS’ to talk about it….

      I have called into the Texas DPS – they have a few folks ‘working on’ Homeland Security, so asked one of them if the Texas Grid was secure? was 50% secure? or were they just ‘working about action plans’ on it….

      Have not heard back from anyone yet, will plan on taking it up with our local State Senator in a few weeks.

      • Be ruthless. Nothing haunts a bureaucrat more than the knowledge that someone is going to keep coming back and keep escalating the issue until they get what they want.

        Be persistent, be firm, and add more people to the conversation until you get traction.

        Cheesy though it sounds – this is an important service to your Country.

    • Utility engineer here. I moved to Nuclear 9 years ago (the T&D side was boring) where the action is.

      My last project was for installing a 2nd 500 MVA transformer at a transmission substation to feed the ‘expected’ residential & commercial growth…this was in 2006. The lead-time for the transformer, fabricated in South Korea, was 2 years. We had a 500 or larger (forgot) MVA transformer have a failure that was catastrophic to the internal windings. We (T&D utility) had a spare onsite within a week, but that was the only spare. ABB makes some amazing power tech, but none is cheap or quickly replaced.

      TLDR: making a power transformer is not cheap, quick, or easy.

      • “TLDR: making a power transformer is not cheap, quick, or easy.”

        You can bet that those who want to *really* hurt us know that and we still leave that infrastructure exposed…

  7. I think just like in H2H, it’s important to be able to size up the opposition quickly. If the shooter is some crazy kid, or loony-toon, it might be worth taking them on. At least about half the time, they are untrained and/or plan to take themselves out at the first sign of resistance. However, the track record of armed defenders against trained terrorists has not been great unfortunately, for instance the Kenyan Mall, Charlie Hebdo, etc. In those situations, the people who have saved the most lives have been people who show leadership in getting potential victims to good escape routes and/or shelter. It’s not as “heroic” as a successful shoot-out, but potentially more effective.

    Also, I went to a seminar on active shooters a couple of months ago where the cop who spoke said departments are changing their strategies. They are preaching going in right away, whether or not in uniform, whether on duty or not, and considering anyone with a gun a hostile. So as a non-LEO defenders, it would seem we need to either end it quick or get out fast. Otherwise, we might get shot by the cops.

    • The good guys with guns will be either done shooting bad guys, or dead, long before cops show up.

      • It does, but I got the impression off duty cops have a means of ID’ing themselves and also a lot of off duty cops may be known to arriving officers. I believe they are supposed to call in before they go into “hot” area and the fact that there is a plain clothes officer on the scene is broadcast to other LEOs showing up. If a non-LEO would call in, they would tell that person to get out of the area.

        What scares me more is the idea that an armed defender might shoot an off duty cop. That almost happened in the Kenyan Mall incident.

  8. I don’t know if you guys have done one over this, but you should do a guns for beginners: a DGU is probably going to be hell on your hearing.

  9. Well, hey, I knew CA and NY were good for something! They will both be uninhabited before the looney tunes come to TX.

  10. So, you know what it truely terrifying? Getting struck by lighting. Lightning can contain millions of volts and the heat of a bolt can be as hot as the surface of our sun.

    Unfortunately, according to US government numbers, American citizens chances of getting struck by lightning are far greater than being involved or killed in any terrorist attack. But luckily the author of this article came up with the perfect summary for preparing for lightning strikes. So with the typical pandering to the US government boogeyman thesis aside, here are thoughts to keep you safe form lighting strike threats, which again are much more likely to happen.

    “Bottom line: don’t be that surprised if all hell breaks loose out of a clear blue sky. Breathe. Observe first, orient second, decide next, then act. Keep doing that until you know for an absolute fact that you and yours are out of danger. And watch out for multiple threats. That is all.”

    • “So, you know what it truely terrifying? Getting struck by lighting.”

      Not for long. (rimshot)

      True horror will be when someone ‘tweaks’ the DNA of a benign organism into something more ‘interesting’…

    • Simple fact is they DO happen, and some very basic steps can minimize their impact.

      ..just like lightning strikes. Hence the reason we train our kids not to go swimming during a thunderstorm, despite the very small chance of a nearby strike.

      If you’re tired of a cliche, feel free to not browse the internet.

  11. Given that most terrorist attacks are lone-wolf situations, I think most concealed carriers are well-suited to the task.

  12. “The Boston Marathon bombers’ (sic) planned on detonating two devices.”

    They didn’t just plan on it, they did detonate two devices, 12 seconds and 210 yards apart.

  13. Power companies are (finally) becoming more aware of their vunerabilities, especially when it comes to substation transformers. As Turd Ferguson very correctly already pointed out, high dollar and long lead times.

    A unnamed engineering consulting firm I know of has been working with certain unnamed utilities and vendors analyzing specific (yes, unnamed) scenarios and developing unnamed solutions to those scenarios.

    I’ve been made aware of these endeavors and, just speaking theoretically of course, might have quickly glanced at some of the work being done. After I suggested to the unnamed individual a far more efficient way to use the unnamed software to achieve the same results he/she was getting. Theoretically speaking.

    So, bottom line, they’re working on it, albeit slowly. No solution is perfect, and these are really new issues they’re dealing with. Concrete walls really aren’t the best solution, though it might seem that way at first blush, when all sorts of factors inside the substation are taken into account.

    Theoretically speaking, of course.

  14. It wouldn’t take much to bring any grid or system down, just a working knowledge of the system and access to it.

  15. I don’t get the time delay between this and the San Jose attack. Each feels like a trial run for a terrorist group, but the long delay and only another rehearsal seems odd.

    Both areas have lots of mostly Mexican gang activity and probably actual cartel presence, any chance these were to cover our to allow other activity in the service area that needed a power outageto pull off?

    Am I being silly?

  16. I live about ten miles from the Metcalfe Facility. Our local Sheriff and her Minions totally screwed up the response and I suspect the ‘Terorism’ narrative is more of a way of absolving responsibility of the failures of our local Sheriff to do ANYTHING right. That bitch is up to her ears in scandal and seemingly incompetant.
    I also hang out at Calguns(California Gun Rights forums) and a member who is an electrician stated that someone with specific knowledge of the facilities had to have been involved or provided information to those who committed the act. He also pointed out the timing coincided with a major Electrical Workers Union contract negotiatioan. Terrorism? Probably, but maybe not the terrorists the media and DHS are painting a picture of.

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