Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Terrorist World of Picnic Knives

All knives are dangerous -- sharp or blunt, large or small. Every type of knife represents a uniquely compact, efficient potential for serious injury. While the large, menacing knives brandished by movie characters are scary to behold, it's the simple plastic picnic knife which was used to perpetrate a series of recent helecopter hijackings over international waters off the coast of France.

Criminals have begun to employ kitchen and disposable utensils, which they call "Skeet Bloons," as a means of side-stepping heightened security.

These unassuming plastic implements, along with sharp-tipped toothpicks are concealed inside to-go food boxes, and smuggled onto the aircraft, but the only hunger being satisfied is the hunger violence. Even certain paper products, like rigid cardboard napkin rings, can be repurposed as weapons. A paper cut may not look serious, but to a victim with diabetes, it is a death sentence.

There have also been more audacious attacks.

Burdette Tortuga's famous assault on Richard Branson was carried out with nothing more than an electric turkey knife, a discreet nylon cape fashioned to match the color and pattern of the aircraft carpeting, and slippers made from a combination of wax and human hair.

Mr. Branson might be dead today if that knife had not pulled loose from the electrical outlet during his struggle.

What Can I Do?

In an age when security personel are stretched thin, and must process large numbers of travelers every day, we can no longer rely on others to look out for us. We must take control of our own safety.

  1. If you see something, say something. Be on the lookout for passengers who might be trying to sneak food or beverages onto the aircraft. These items may conceal plastic blades, sharp implements, dangerous kitchen tools, or rudimentary bombs fashioned from soda bottles and coffee cups.
  2. Remain alert. Do not doze, read magazines, or watch a movie during your flight. Possible perpetrators around you can use your "down time" to set their plans into motion. It only takes one sleeping person to miss the vital warning that could have otherwise saved hundreds of lives.
  3. Don't just watch -- also listen. Are passengers around you speaking a foreign language? Non-English speakers often use these secret languages to communicate the details of an attack.
  4. Don't use the bathroom. There is a possibility that you will be the only vigilant passenger on board the aircraft. If an attacker senses this, they may blockade the door from the outside.

Airports increasingly rely on vigilant passengers who are not afraid to get physical with potential attackers. When the time comes, will you be ready?

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