Bomb prevention program for hardware stores

FBI, security agency, emergency group talk bomb prevention awareness at Iowa Do it Best.
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Madison County Iowa and its security partners launch Operation Flashpoint to help business owners be aware of potential bomb-making. They conducted their meeting at a local Do it Best location.

Leaders with the Madison County, Iowa, Emergency Management & Homeland Security office partnered with representatives from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the FBI for the local kickoff of Operation Flashpoint, an initiative designed to  increase awareness on how businesses and the public can prevent bombings in their communities.

The event took place at the Earlham Building Center, a retail hardware store and lumberyard – and Do it Best dealer – in Earlham, Iowa, a few miles west of Des Moines.

“Just last year, CISA’s Office for bombing prevention and the U.S. Bomb Data Center (USBDC) counted a total of 1,876 bomb threats, 4,935 suspicious or unattended packages and 381 bombing-related incidents reported across the U.S.,” said Phil Kirk, regional director of CISA.

The state of Iowa has experienced significant threats from potential bombing situations this year, said Madison County.

In June 2022, law enforcement apprehended a bomb suspect who had planted incendiary devices in multiple locations at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Madison County has participated in CISA’s bomb-making materials awareness community liaison program since February 2022.

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This bomb prevention officer points out combinations of materials at the kickoff event.

“By using the collective power of the quarter-million businesses in the U.S. that sell or distribute the everyday materials that can be used for deadly purposes, we can save lives and stop criminals before they have a chance to act,” said Kirk.

Launched nationwide in 2021 by CISA and the FBI, Operation Flashpoint educates business owners, managers, and employees on how to spot suspicious purchases that could potentially be used to build an improvised explosive device (IED), such as large amounts of chemicals or certain combinations of chemicals and bomb-making materials.

“Operation Flashpoint needs the public’s assistance as a force multiplier in the reporting of suspicious behaviors,” said Curtis Heide, supervisory special agent for the FBI. “The public sector is the third crucial piece necessary to partner with law enforcement and businesses in protecting Americans and keeping communities safe through increasing awareness.”

Operation Flashpoint demonstrates the whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach to protecting people and critical infrastructure; it takes everyone to keep America safe, said Madison County.

“Business owners, our residents and visitors, are the eyes and ears in our community,” said Madison County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Diogenes Ayala. “By learning how to spot suspicious behavior or a stockpile of these kinds of chemicals, they can potentially help law enforcement stop an attack before it happens.”

If business owners or employees observe suspicious activity, they should confidentially report the information to 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or contact local law enforcement. For emergencies, always call 911.