Last night, Erick Erickson joined the ranks of conservative writers that have become the target of a particularly dangerous hoax: SWATting. Someone spoofed his phone number and called the police, claiming that Erick’s wife had been shot in order to provoke an armed confrontation. Fortunately, Erick had already taken some precautions:
Tonight, my family was sitting around the kitchen table eating dinner when sheriffs deputies pulled up in the driveway.
Someone called 911 from my address claiming there had been an accidental shooting.
It wasn’t nearly the trauma that Patterico suffered, but I guess the Erickson household is on somebody’s radar.
Luckily it was two sheriffs deputies who knew me and I had already, last week, advised the Sheriff’s Department to be on the look out for something like this.
The Boss Emeritus has a terrific response today, a “blogburst to-do list” that everyone should read. I’m going to add a few practical thoughts for bloggers concerned that this tactic might be someday aimed at them, for whatever purpose. I’ll put them in no particular order:
- Get in contact with your local police department and explain the situation to them. I spent 20 years in a previous career working with police and fire agencies, and they’re not likely to be shocked to hear this. In fact, my local police department reminded me that perpetrators occasionally do this to divert police response to another location while they conduct large-scale robberies. Most will add notes to their system where possible to alert responding units to calls at your house of the background, and that will help keep temperatures cool if the situation does arise.
- Get to know your police department anyway. Chances are you’ll find them to be friendly and professional, and opening a relationship proactively with them will help.
- Speaking of which, while getting SWATted has to be a very frightening experience, remember that most police officers responding to these kinds of calls are trained to remain calm and professional through it. If you can keep from doing anything foolish, the fright should be the worst that happens.
- Review the security at your home to see if you need to address any potential vulnerabilities.
- If possible, de-list yourself from openly-accessible directories. Certainly get your address out of the public domain.
After finding out about a threat against me in 2010, I’ve already taken several of these steps, but I’ll repeat them on occasion as necessary. I’d add that while it’s natural to focus on potential threats to the point of obsession — I certainly did for a few months — in the end, it’s counterproductive. The point of terror tactics like hit lists and SWATting is to distract you from whatever it is your antagonist(s) want to stop you from doing. In the end, I found it more practical to rely on my faith and my sensible precautions and not think about it too much otherwise. Now that we know about this tactic, thanks to Patterico and Erick, it will be easier to plan for it.