September 29, 2022
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 on September 28 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 was held at Earlham Building Center, a Do it Best member in Earlham, Iowa.
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.
“Just last year, CISA’s Office for Bombing Prevention and the United States 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, CISA regional director. “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.”
“Operation Flashpoint needs the public’s assistance as a force multiplier in the reporting of suspicious behaviors,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Curtis Heide. “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.”
The state of Iowa has experienced significant threats from potential bombing situations this year. 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.
“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.”
“Our number one priority is the safety of American citizens and the security of America’s infrastructure,” said Kirk. “And it is through partnerships like this one that help us do just that. Not only are we closely working with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies to help prevent threats from explosives, but we are also educating and empowering our community members to act when they witness suspicious activity.”
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. 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.