On Wednesday at the Revell Ace Hardware in Clinton, federal agencies announed a pilot program that will impact the entire country.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI announced the initiative today to build awareness in communities across the U.S. about how to prevent bomb attacks. It’s called “Operation Flashpoint.”
“Operation Flashpoint is a major milestone in implementing U.S. policy to thwart bomb threats,” said Dr. David Mussington, Executive Assistant Director for CISA’s Infrastructure Security Division. “It shows the strong unity in the federal government, between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, to safeguard citizens and critical infrastructure.”
At the event in the back area of the hardware store, CISA and FBI officials highlighted the threat posed by domestic violent extremists and others who can build bombs from common household items that can be bought at hardware stores almost anywhere. Approximately 250,000 businesses in the U.S. sell, use or distribute materials that can be used to build bombs.
In 2020 alone, there were 2,061 total bomb threats, suspicious packages and device-related incidents across the nation, according to CISA’s Office for Bombing Prevention TRIPwire report.
Operation Flashpoint encourages businesses and the public to voluntarily report suspicious activities, such as purchasing suspicious amounts or combinations of chemicals and materials that can be used to build bombs. It’s that kind of involvement that often keeps a bomb scare from becoming a bomb.
“Sometimes it’s hard to make a straight link between what we do and averted risks,” said Mussington. “That’s the point. We’re not in this for credit, we’re in this to take care of risks so the public doesn’t have to care about them.”
As such, employees at hardware stores and other businesses are trained to look for things that could help stop bomb makers in progress.
“We all need to be aware of what’s going on,” said Revell Ace Hardware owner Dunaway Rooks. “This isn’t just an FBI, Homeland Security, miitary right. Going forward we’re going to have to watch what goes on around us in all walks of live. Everywhere.”
The pilot seeks to both reduce the threat of IED attacks by helping businesses to detect the illegitimate acquisition, theft, or diversion of dangerous chemicals, and by encouraging retailers to report suspicious activity.
“I believe with their help, we do have some bulletpoints to follow, that we do have the information to help find out what’s going on and alert that early on if there’s something suspicious,” said Guy Eaton, general manager for Revell Ace Hardware.
US Representative Benny Thompson is the Chairman of the Homeland Secutiy Commmittee and was represented at the event by staffer Kyeisha Dennis.
“He is so extatic about the progress they’re making through Operation Flashpoint, he’s very committed to the safety of his constituents,” she said.
If you see something, say something. You can call 1-855-TELL-FBI (1-855-835-5324).