Know the Signs of Terrorism

If you see something, say something.

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IMPORTANT: Call 911 immediately to report suspicious activity in progress.

If you have witnessed suspicious activity that did not pose an immediate threat:

Stay Informed: Sign up for Code Red emergency notifications

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, law enforcement urged the public to be more vigilant. But what should you be looking for? The Rhode Island Fusion Center put together these eight signs of terrorism that, if detected, could help prevent a tragedy.

This may include:


Someone recording or monitoring activities.

istock generic surveillance

  • The use of cameras (either still or video)
  • Note taking
  • Drawing diagrams
  • Annotating on maps
  • Using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices


People or organizations attempting to gain information about military operations, capabilities, or people.

  • Elicitation attempts may be made by mail, fax, telephone, or in person.

Tests of Security

Any attempts to measure reaction times to security breaches or to penetrate physical security barriers or procedures in order to assess strengths and weaknesses.

Acquiring Supplies

Purchasing or stealing items such as:

istock generic explosives

  • Explosives
  • Weapons
  • Ammunition

Also includes acquiring:

  • Military uniforms
  • Decals
  • Flight manuals
  • Passes or badges (or the equipment to manufacture such items)
  • Any other controlled items.

Suspicious Persons Out of Place

People who don’t seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or anywhere else.

  • Includes suspicious border crossings and stowaways aboard ship or people jumping ship into port.

Dry Run/Trial Run

Putting people into position and moving them according to their plan without actually committing the terrorist act. This is especially true when planning a kidnapping, but it can also pertain to bombings.

  • An element of this activity could also include mapping out routes and determining the timing of traffic lights and flow.

Deploying Assets

People and supplies getting into position to commit the act.

  • This is a person’s last chance to alert authorities before the terrorist act occurs.

FundingIsolated 100 US$ Bills Stack

Suspicious transactions involving large payments, deposits or withdrawals are common signs of terrorist funding.

  • Collections for donations, the solicitation for money and criminal activity are also warning signs.

The below video from the RI Fusion Center further details the eight warning signs of terror

If You See Something, Say Something

istock abandoned bagIf you are witnessing activity that may require police, fire, or medical response, please call 9-1-1 immediately.

  • NEVER attempt to make contact with, pursue or in any other way interfere with an individual or group of individuals whom you think are acting suspiciously.

If you have witnessed suspicious activity that did not pose an immediate threat:

Description of Suspicious Activity

Once you decide you should contact law enforcement, be sure to provide as much information as possible, which will help authorities with their investigation.

Note if the activity involves a single individual, or a group of people. If there’s a group, count how many individuals. Vehicle and location are also vital details.

Hoodie ganster in subwayRegarding Suspicious Individuals:

  • Hair color
  • Hair length
  • Absence or presence of facial hair, and if present, facial hair color
  • Eye color
  • Approximate age
  • Approximate height
  • Approximate weight
  • Distinguishing characteristics, such as visible scars, tattoos, piercings or deformities
  • Clothing, including pants/shorts/skirt/dress, shirt sleeve length, presence of coat/jacket, wearing/not wearing hat or glasses, color of all articles of clothing

Regarding Suspicious Vehicles:

suspicious car

  • License plate number and state
  • Vehicle make/model
  • Approximate year of vehicle
  • Vehicle color
  • Number of doors on vehicle
  • Any visible bumper stickers or window stickers, including their size, color, placement and content
  • Any visible damage to vehicle, such as paint damage, body damage, broken/missing glass, damaged or non-working head or tail lights

Regarding Suspicious Activities:

  • Occupied vehicle sitting idle or parked
  • Individuals taking photos of a potential target facility (landmarks, public buildings, power plants, water treatment facilities, etc.) from inside a vehicle
  • Individuals taking “panoramic” or multiple-shot/multi-angle photos of a potential target facility
  • Individuals taking detailed or extensive notes outside a potential target facility
  • Individuals videotaping a potential target facility from inside a vehicle
  • Individuals shooting long, continuous video of a potential target facility, or videotaping a potential target facility from multiple angles

Details matter. The more you observe, the more helpful your information will be. However, all information is important. Even if you do not have complete details, please make the call.

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