Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Are Your Business Ideas Profitable?

I recently received a request to write about testing business ideas. While we can prepare for and plan our businesses around concepts and data, there is no real way to test if we're going to be successful or not.
There are some ways to double check if you are or are not on the right path when it comes to business. Here are my top three tips to see if you are on the right path to projected success;

#1. Focus on goals, don't just have them.

I know many people who write goals down. They have a goal for every part of their life. What they're missing is a plan. You need to have a goal followed by a plan and work at it daily.

#2. Be reasonable with your time frames. Don't plan to be a millionaire at the end of two years. If only life were this easy. Make sure you have a realistic timeline to compliment your goals and your plans.

#3. Make profit your number one goal. Don't think about expansion, second offices, etc. until you actually have a solid profit coming in. You can't just think big, you have to grow a profit to get big.

I will back with a new blog series this upcoming Monday, January 5th. Until then......

Happy New Year!

Twyla Garrett

Monday, December 29, 2014

How to Survive A Plane Crash

It’s not a nice subject…. how to survive a plane crash. I wanted to write something relevant on tonight’s blog and, unfortunately, plane crashes have been not only a big story in 2014 – but a recent one too. Since I am in the business of helping to keep people safe, I feel that it is important for me to cover this subject- as uncomfortable as it is.

Here are 3 easy-to –remember tips to help you survive a plane crash. I’m hopeful you will never have to use them.

1. Location, location, location. When you book a flight, try to book one where you can select your own seats. If you can do this, make sure to get seats as close as possible to an exit. Aisle seats are generally preferable as they are easier to get out of. In addition, try to sit in the back of the plane. Passengers in the tail of the aircraft have 40% higher survival rates than those in the first few rows.

2. Stay calm and prepare. I know this is easier said than done but most plane crashes afford passengers several minutes to prepare for the crash. During this time try to determine what surface the plane will land on so you can adjust. If you’re going to be landing in water, for example, you’ll want to put your life vest on—don’t inflate it until you’re out of the plane—and if you’re going to be landing in cold weather, you should try to get a blanket or jacket to keep you warm once outside. Make sure to put your ID and cell phone in your underwear to prevent it from falling out upon impact.

3. That oxygen mask is extremely important! If the cabin is compromised by a fire or air damage, you have only about 15 seconds (often less if you’re a smoker) to start breathing through your oxygen mask before you are rendered unconscious. You need to be alert (most of the time) to survive.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, December 26, 2014

Are You Hosting A New Year’s Eve Party This Year? If so, you need to consider keeping your guests safe while they are drinking- and in general. Many parties can go wrong with heated emotions and liquor involved. While I work in Homeland Security, I wanted to provide everyone and anyone who reads my blog with some free tips to staying safe (and keeping your guests safe) during a New Year’s Eve celebration.

If you are hosting a New Year's Eve party, following my simple steps for keep everyone happy, healthy and safe;

First, plan ahead by naming a "designated driver." As the host of the party, you should be checking in groups who arrive together. Ask who the DD is and confiscate the car keys until the same group is ready to go home. This way, you can check to ensure the DD is sober and prepared to drive the group home. If your DD falls off “the wagon” or you have singles without a DD, make sure you have someone else you can trust available to drive people home or be prepared to front taxi fares and worry about being paid back later.

Another great way to keep people safe (and avoid conflict) at a party this New Year’s eve is to limit the amount of alcohol that you serve. You should offer many mocktails and limit the amount of beer and wine you have on hand. This will help control over the urge to over indulge by many guests.

If you are going to serve liquor, stop serving it at least 90 minutes before people will be headed home. Simply shut down the bar and offer coffee or flavored waters (to push urination) along with some greasy foods to help people sober up.

Finally, don’t invite two sets of families / friends, etc. that you know have active drama going on between them. Unfortunately, a lot of gun violence (well, violence period) happens between two people who know each other. The holidays can bring out the worse in people and public gatherings can make people want to air grievances. If you know two groups don’t get along, don’t invite either group.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Illegal Immigration Is Up.....

A report recently ran citing that illegal immigration is up in this country while the number of deportations are down. This is a DHS issue, of course, because it involves undocumented people entering into the country without any real record of who they are and what their possible intentions are. For the most part, people entering the country illegally are looking for work but we still have to take this report seriously. With New Year’s even almost upon us, security in this country tightens because there will be many parities hosted with large gatherings.

Jeh Johnson of the DHS recently spoke to reporters about the increase in illegal immigration. An administration official said the drop in deportations was at least partially due to the surge of illegal immigrants from Central America, who require detention, flights and travel documents, which makes them more expensive to deport versus the cost to deport illegal Mexicans, who can usually be quickly sent back across the land border.

The official also said part of the problem is that so-called “sanctuary city” localities are increasingly refusing to turn immigrants over to federal authorities for deportation. Homeland Security said localities refused 10,182 different requests from federal agents to hold illegal immigrants the agents wanted to pick up for deportation. (Washington Times)
Regardless if the numbers are slightly up or slightly down, the problem remains and will be carried into 2015 as an issue this country has yet to resolve. In fact, I don’t believe there is a “one size fits all” solution right now to address this problem. I’ve said several times on this blog that there has to be a series of protocols implemented but the ability for the DHS to look at illegal immigrants on a case-by-case basis before deciding if they should be deported or provided with an option to apply for citizenship. Either way, this is certainly an issue I will continue to address in the New Year.

2015 will be interesting for us as a country and from a homeland security perspective. I look forward to covering these topics (and more) for all of you in the future. This said, I will be taking a break from the blog to celebrate the holidays- returning with a post on Friday, January 26th.

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, December 22, 2014

Social Media & Disaster Planning

Social media has become relevant in the last few years when it comes to helping disaster planning agencies and emergency responders deal with the unexpected. In fact, agencies have used everything from e-newsletters and blogs to Twitter and YouTube to post information on how to contact carriers, provide storm updates, notate emergency shelters locations, provide road closing information, showcase office hours, pass along FEMA info, provide “how tos” on preparing a disaster supply kit, deliver storm surge maps, give “thank you’s” to emergency responders, and so much more.

Social media really has provided first responders and federal agencies with a unique tool to prevent disaster communication protocols as well as to engage with civilians to correspond critical information when the unexpected does happen. With the ability for social media to break news in real-time, many agencies and officials are able to steady stream of information that is accessible from anywhere.

I am writing about these benefits today because in 2015 I will start a social media series on the benefits of civilian interactions (using social media) with federal agencies. I will talk about how tips, information, tracking and more can be collaborated using the inexpensive tools that come with today’s social media landscape!

Want to join the conversation? Please follow me on Twitter!
Twyla Garrett of

Friday, December 19, 2014

IME Wins Bid for CATS of Montgomery County, Maryland.

IME has been awarded, along with its partnering co-chairs, a Consulting and Technical Services (CATS) contract with the Department of Technology Services within Montgomery County, Maryland.

For Immediate Release

IME ( has been the partial recipient of a contract award with Montgomery County, Maryland. The company will service the Department of Technology Services for the county as part of its CATS program. The bid award announcement came in early December with a 2015 service date.

“My team is thrilled to be a part of this bid win. We are going to co-chair it with some of our peers which is always fun and a tremendous collaborative experience for the client,” said IME’s President Twyla Garrett. “IME is invested in providing solutions to our clients with challenges and I’m pleased to help drive this project forward with cost-effective results in mind.”

IME is an innovative leader within the technology services industry- among others. The company has spent the greater part of a decade dedicated to solving complex problems in support of its clients. IME was also recently featured on America Now, Politically Incorrect, and in Business Journals DC Edition. IME also provides government agencies, private sector organizations, and commercial business with IT support services and IT solutions to maximize resources and efficiencies.

“My team and I are proactive. We like to fully engage our clients with options and ideas, as well as explanations as to why some strategies work or will be setting a scenario up for failure. It is our goal to provide a full picture of risk versus results and then implement unique solutions that really solve problems and provides a great service and or product,” finished Garrett.

IME recently launched its new multi-media capable website with amplified service and capability options. Members of the media are invited to speak with Twyla Garrett about this opportunity and IME’s other capabilities.

Media Contact for IME:
Helene Vece
702-749-5925, Ext. 210

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Interview... Con't

Should I write about what a waste of resources and money "The Interview" movie is costing the Department of Homeland Security. Nevermind the fact that since 8am this morning CNN has done nothing but cover the story. I understand the threat that was made. I'm not downplaying its seriousness at all. I just can't believe that a movie has now turned into an international incident.

In case you've been hiding in a cave, "The Interview" was scheduled to open Christmas Day, but Sony canceled its debut following a threat from a group that claims it hacked the studio. Despite speculation the comedy might be released digitally after this whole series of nonsense and threats of been put into motion, studio Sony Pictures said in a statement that it "has no further release plans for the film."
Variety calls "The Interview" an "alleged satire that's about as funny as a communist food shortage, and just as protracted." Yet this "comedy" about two TV guys tasked with assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has sparked a cyberterror campaign that amounts to extortion.

So where do we go from here? Well, I'm not sure. The DHS and the FBI have to handle things on there end. The DHS did state there was a credible threat and so they are moving in accordance to policy to seek out who made the cyber attacks, etc. I do agree that this country shouldn't put anyone in danger over a silly James Franco / Seth Rogan movie but what kind of message are we sending to the world by pulling the movie? We teach our kids to stand up to bullies and the minute the big bully pushed us as a country, we fell. Sure, the movie is silly and probably not that funny- but I think we are missing the principle. We shouldn't back down from bullies- period. Our country exists on the premise of freedom of speech. We just showed how much we, as a country, are willing to retract that freedom because of a threat. I think that is a real shame.

Share your thoughts with me on Twitter of Facebook.

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stop. Think. Connect. Are You Aware of This Campaign?

Today I want to cover the Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign being run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Not many people are aware of the campaign, which is counterproductive to why it was initiated in the first place. As a leader on Twitter for being a Homeland Security resource, I thought it would be a good idea to update everyone on what exactly this campaign is.
According to the National Retail Federation, 141 million people spent $57.4 billion dollars during Thanksgiving weekend last year, and consumers spent nearly $600 billion during the 2013 holiday season. The biggest shopping season of the year comes with great deals and benefits to shoppers, but it also comes with certain risks.
Stop. Think. Connect. Is an online security campaign, which ties into how much money people are spending online. The DHS launched the campaign to help consumers shop safely and keep their personal information and financial accounts private. The campaign offers tips on how to do this, some of which I have noted below;
1. Use and maintain anti-virus software and a firewall. Protect yourself against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify the data on your computer and leave you vulnerable.
2. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Use caution when opening email attachments and don’t follow web links included in unsolicited email messages. Watch out for extremely low prices on hard-to-get holiday items. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Keep a record of your order. Retain all documentation of your online orders in the event that your purchase does not ship or there are unauthorized charges on your credit or debit card. Also, be sure to review your credit card statement each month for irregularities.
4. Get savvy about Wi‐Fi hotspots. Limit the type of business you conduct when using public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid shopping online when using public Wi-Fi as your information can easily be accessed by hackers on a public network.
5. Shop on reliable websites. Take a look at the website’s trademark or logo to make sure it’s valid. Also, pay attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate website, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
Since our social media culture is so 24/7, we often forget that (like the real world) bad people exist. Don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable during this holiday shopping season- or anytime. Follow the tips noted above and connect with the DHS directly for more information on the Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign.
Until tomorrow,
Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Really James Franco?

I can't believe that I have to address the issue of James Franco and Seth Rogan's latest movie scandal- but I do. Homeland Security also had to release a statement about the pair's latest movie project, The Interview, today. Why? Well, the plot of the movie is about killing the leader of North Korea. The Department of Homeland Security said today that it is unaware of any active plot against movie theaters in connection with the hacking of Sony Pictures in spite of many stories circulating the Internet.

That's right, the DHS had to address a James Franco movie because of terrorist plots / rumors online that are making people nervous about heading to the movies on Christmas Day- which is one of the biggest movie days of the year! “We are still analyzing the credibility of these statements, but at this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States,” the DHS official said in a statement. “As always, DHS will continue to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people.” The unsigned note, assumed to be from the hackers who breached the computer system of Sony Pictures last month, is the first threat of physical violence in the on-going drama. (Forbes)

If you're concerned about safety during a movie, please follow the steps below and always report suspicious activity You can always connect with me on Twitter too. Let's continue the conversation.

Steps for Movie Safety;

1. Sit in the back row, preferably on one side or the other. This not only gives you a clear view of everything — and everyone — in the theater, but it also gives you easy access to the door.

2. See movies early in the day. There’s no telling when a psychotic person might open fire in a crowded area, but safe to say it’s more likely to happen at a midnight screening than an afternoon matinee.

3. Keep your cell phone handy. It’s polite to stay off your cell phone during a movie. No one likes seeing that flash of blue screen in a dark theater. But keep your phone on and handy, in case you need to make an emergency call.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, December 4, 2014

3 “MUST” Networking Tips for Women Business Owners

I was recently asked if I had ever felt funny networking at a mixed gender event. Well, first of all, life is a mixed gender event. Second, I never have felt “funny” but I’ve always been a straight forward person who has worked among more men than women. That’s when it occurred to me that new business owners, who happen to be female, may need some tips on networking.
So, I went back and checked-in with the woman who asked me this question. I wanted to know what her experience was that she would ask me such a question. It turns out, she felt that men may have mistaken her business advances as an excuse to flirt. She was concerned about lines being perceived wrong at mixed gender events.

As a result of her question, I’ve put together 3 tips to help females new to business ownership proudly boast their companies, and build professional relationships, without feeling “funny.”
1. Practice your elevator pitch in the car and into a recording device. There are many apps that can record your thoughts while driving. Download one on your smart phone. Practice several elevator pitches in the car on the way into work. 8 hours (or more) later when driving home, listen to them. You will know what sounds great, what makes you cringe, and what to polish.
2. Be a giver. Don’t go into any event seeking a business deal or referral source. Instead, offer to do something for everyone you meet. This way, no single person feels you’re offering an “extra special” incentive because you’re interested in him or her. For example, if you own a bakery- have special business cards printed up with an offer for a free brownie every time the person visits your shop in-person.
3. Don’t drink more than one glass of wine and no hard liquor. This goes for any event at any point during your career as a business owner. No one likes a sloppy drunk and no one will take someone who can’t be responsible with their liquor intake at a corporate event seriously- especially when it comes to signing a contract or referring business to that same person.
Have more questions? Let’s connect on Twitter.

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Two terrorists set free into U.S. by Homeland Security Dept.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged Tuesday that his department had to release two men who admitted they were part of a terrorist group from Turkey, after a judge ordered them to be let out — a decision he said he disagreed with. So, why even spend the money to catch them? Where is the balance and common sense?

As I discuss in my book, there is a lot of red tape and rules that don't seem to interact well with one another in this country. Plus, we have rights that still have to be protected and we have programs without the proper funding resources. There isn't a single issue that I can point my finger at tonight and say, "Yes, this is where we failed" when it comes to this specific situation. So, where are these men today? We don't know. We lost track of them once they were released. All we know is they entered Canada seeking asylum. That's it.

Mr. Johnson had to be transparent with this matter and I'm sure he is very frustrated with the Judge's decision. I think many people are. Now, to be fair, the men in question are considered terrorists by the USA because of their group affiliation. Both men were members of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been battling for Kurdish rights within Turkey for decades. Our country put the PKK (and its members) on the list of Terrorists groups even though they technically don't fall into the same category as other terrorist groups who truly want to hurt America. So, it is a grey area and while we need to use more common sense in this country (who is to say the PKK claim wasn't a cover), we also can't have across-the-board rules that confine people seeking asylum or let those who want to harm our country slip through our hands because of a loop hole.

There is no "right" answer here. Only frustrating facts and valid arguments on all sides of this issue. I'm hopeful, going forward, that we can address scenarios like these in a more microscopic manner. Now, because the men are in Canada, it will be hard to watch them and see if we made the right decision as a country. Instead, we have to hope, wait and see.

Twyla Garrett of IME.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cyber Monday and Holiday Shopping Online

There is no doubt my company, IME, specializes in consulting on homeland security issues and mass gathering security concerns. This said, today is Cyber Monday. Many of you are shopping right now while reading this from a split screen. We are spending money online and handing out our personal information as if it were candy. So, how do you know if your credit and personal information is truly safe today- or any day you partake in online shopping?

Well, in honor of Cyber Monday and the holiday season in general- I’m listing my top 3 ways to keep your personal info. secure online.

1. Keep your firewall security and anti-virus software up-to-date. The biggest mistake I see people make is to assume that just because they have downloaded anti-virus software, that it is good for the life of the computer. No, it’s not! You need up update all your software- including your anti-virus software- on a continued basis otherwise it is ineffective.
2. Be wary of add-ons. Many games and plug-ins are written by third party companies and not the social network. Look before you leap.
3. Make sure the store you are shopping from has an https:// header before checking out. If it doesn’t have the “s” then the website isn’t secure and your personal information and payment information can easily be breached.

Until tomorrow,
Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Business and Thanksgiving

Well, this is my last blog for November! I will be back with you on December 1st. I’m taking the next four days off as a way to be Thankful for all my hard work and that of my amazing staff! Plus, we are moving to a new office location in Washington, D.C. on Monday and it is a very exciting time for IME!

This said, on holidays it can be very hard to unplug from the PR business. We live in a 24/7 social media culture and non-stopping news media community. Unplugging, however, can actually boost productivity and no one expects you to work 24/7. So, if you are an entrepreneur- take tomorrow truly off!

In case you need help doing this, I have developed 3 ways to help you unplug this Thanksgiving holiday:

1. Leave your phone at home. What? I know, right! If you are going out shopping with your family, someone is bound to have their cell phone in case of a true emergency. Announce that you are leaving your phone at home and truly do this. I promise you that your business and clients will not fall off the face of the Earth as a result. And you will be surprised what a real conversation feels like without the distraction of all your cell phone and social media alerts.
2. Don’t sleep with your phone in the same room. This way emails and social media events are not the last thing you see when you go to sleep or the first thing you see when you wake up. Instead, you can just sit in silence and clear your head or engage in some mindful meditation.
3. Don’t watch the news. It may be tempting with all the events going on right now – especially surrounding the Mike Brown case. Instead, focus on holiday movies or the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. This will allow your brain a much needed rest from the news cycle most publicists work in the midst of.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! I’ll be back with a new blog on the 1st of December,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson - Too Little, Too Late?

What can I say about the events last night in Ferguson, Missouri? I've watched the news this morning and from a Homeland Security perspective- it was a disaster. With all the time and preparation going into giving people the right to protest and to protect the community- all I am left with is a big question mark as to what happened?!

So far, we have 61 people arrested and several cars and businesses burnt to the ground. Is this how we protest in the country? Is this how we navigate and implement security measures? Is this violence how we promote a message of peace and further movements to justice? No! It isn't what one says that matters in these types of situations. Instead, it is how one says it! If the police stood calm and had a great plan in place- like being stationed across the city and in front of different businesses- I truly believe less structures would be burned this morning. The same goes for the protestors. If they stood together in silence- like here in Washington, D.C.- more would have been spoken through the silence and stillness.

We have a lot to learn about communication within individual and security platforms. I'm sad today on so many levels and hope- going forward- we can learn from last night's events.

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, November 24, 2014

Homeland Security and Feguson.....

Pictures of Homeland Security officers are causing a stir and raising questions whether the Feds will be on the ground in Ferguson after the Grand Jury decision is announced. According to, Federal Protective Services has been spending money with them, providing proof of recent transactions for police gear by officers in town from Washington DC. As I write this blog, there has been an announcement that the verdict is in as to if a manslaughter charge is going up (or not) against the copy who fatally shot Michael Brown and the media is feeding the feeling of impeding chaos in the air. But is Homeland Security's presence really needed?

In my opinion, the answer is 'yes'! Anytime you have a group of people that have reason to be heated or outraged, the public's safety becomes an automated priority. I'm not saying that I agree or disagree with any decisions or actions on either side of the fence. My concern is for the city and the safety of both law enforcement and the citizens. This said, Homeland Security has to help provide a plan to local law enforcement because they can become a target regardless of the verdict! And the same goes for ordinary people who live, shop and work in the surrounding neighborhoods!

There is no doubt in my mind that today is going to continue to be an emotional day for many. There are several apparent and underlining issues feeding the heartbreak of the Ferguson community. The Department of Homeland Security may or may not be directly involved with boots on the ground service, but the do have an obligation to offer securities training and resources - if requested. For those of you who read my prior blog about the Vet who was fired for snapping a picture of the DHS's cars in a local hotel- you know that I am of the belief that we need to let these men and women do their jobs and keep us safe.

So, as we head into the evening seeking an answer as to what the decision is, I remain hopeful that the right thing will be done and that the peace will be kept.

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Friday, November 21, 2014

Homeland Security and Immigration

I've been asked several times to comment on my thoughts via President Obama's recent media blitz regarding immigration. Listen, I have no answers other then this is not a black and white issue. Like anything, there are several layers and a "one size fits all" solution will only create, in my opinion, further issues down the road.

This said, from a Homeland Security standpoint- something has to be done that will ensure we are protecting our country from allowing terrorists (who fly into Mexico or Canada) from entering our country with great ease. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent an open letter to the President on the issue. In it, Johnson says "I support and recommended to the President each of the reforms to the immigration system that he will announce today. These recommendations were in turn the result of candid and extended consultations between me and the leadership of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as outside stakeholders. Along the way, I listened to members of the workforce who implement and enforce the law to hear their views. In my own view, any significant change in policy requires the insight of those who administer the system. I believe we have done that here. The executive actions the President will announce will reform and improve the system in a number of respects. These executive actions are well within our legal authority to direct and implement."

I don't think that the immigration orders will open us up to any more terrorism. It could, but I doubt it. Why? We have problems in other areas. I believe a lack of funding and program sustainability will cause further issues- which in turn will be blamed on any executive order that the President implements. I agree with Jeh Johnson but I know what will look like a lack of ability from the DHS will result not because of immigration and border issues (although that is always a concern) but because we are not handling money issues and program issues properly now! Immigration amnesty or not, the DHS is running out of resources as this country is running out of money. Something has to change- but like I said, not all issues are black and white or cut and dry.

"So, Twyla... what is your point?"

As we head into the weekend, take time to consider your own business. Think about the issues you have at hand and growth vs. income. Can you blame all of your problems on one source? Or is it easy to blame challenges on one area because addressing the few roots that lay underneath may be harder because their are no obvious solutions?

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Homeland Security and Holiday Travel

Next week the Thanksgiving holiday falls upon us and many of you will be traveling. In honor of the busy travel week, I have decided to put together a few basic tips to stay safe and secure.
First, if you are flying- show up early and expect delays. If you plan your flight to close to a deadline for a party or check-in, you will be stressed out. If you allow yourself plenty of time to arrive to your destination, without the pressure of a deadline, you will be more focused and travel safer. This is a proven fact.

Second, have a backup plan should something happen- and extra cash to! I tell everyone to travel with their emergency fund divided into cash and a debit account. In the event that a terrorist attack or security issue should occur, banks could be down or frozen. People don’t like to travel with a lot of cash, but you should have at least a thousand dollars (if not two) on you in the event of an emergency. Keep the same amount in the bank as an ER fund too.

As far as that backup plan, know what you would do if you couldn’t reach your destination and were to get diverted or stuck somewhere. Explain the plan to your fellow travelers and those you are going to visit. Your friends and family should know where you are going to be at all times- even if an emergency were to happen.

The holiday season is a stressful and wonderful time wrapped up into a matter of weeks. Keep an eye out for potential issues and report them if you do catch wind of anything suspect and keep cash on hand along with a viable plan. If you follow these steps, you will have a better and more secure holiday travel season.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Vet-Gate & My Thoughts

Here's some Homeland Security news for you- Mark Paffrath- a Navy Vet- said he lost his job at Drury Hotel Plaza in Chesterfield, Mo., and was called a terrorist after uploading images of dozens of Homeland Security vehicles in the hotel garage. When did it become illegal to take photos of cars and trucks in a garage? Well, that is the question when you ask the media about his arrest.

Now, let me give you some background on Mr. Paffrath. He works at the Drury Hotel Plaza. During his duties, he spotted over a dozen of Homeland Security vehicles in the parking garage and was alarmed, claiming he had never spotted the vehicles there before- at least during his employment with the company. Given today's social media culture, he took photos of the vehicles and posted them to Facebook. Then the vet wrote his caption, which was "I wonder if it has anything to do with Ferguson? #Ferguson, #No justice, no peace." Paffrath took down the photos and video the next day after Drury General Manager Jeff Baker asked him to.

Paffrath was soon after fired by the director of security for Drury Hotels Company, LLC, because his posts almost cost the company a $150,000 contract with Homeland Security. Now, relook at the post he posted and the caption. He never did say where the photo was taken. He never gave a location. Yet, he was fired..... Paffrath, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after three years of service, took to Facebook to protest his firing and then went to the media- now alerting to where the photos were taken.

Here's the thing- Mr. Paffrath probably didn't mean any harm when he posted the photos and the caption. But he could have very well compromised a Homeland Security strategy to keep the city of Ferguson safe and - being that he IS a vet- the should have known better. So, what is the lesson to be learned here? If you see the DHS in your neighborhood- let them do their job. They are there for a reason. Sure, if could be nothing- maybe just a planning meeting- but they are working regardless.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reporting Facebook Posts to the FBI- Why You Should!

Heather Coffman of Virginia was pushing ISIS propaganda via multiple Facebook accounts. The FBI obtained a warrant to search her account after reports of pro-ISIS comments on the social media platform. This information led the FBI to numerous falsified Facebook accounts supporting her ISIS views- which included marketing the terrorist group to her sister.

After meeting with FBI agents and an informant, Coffman was arrested earlier this week and is scheduled to appear in court this up and coming Monday. CNN’s reporter offers the play-by-play of the Coffman case (thus far) online. You can read it here:

So, why am I covering this? Well, people like Coffman are the reason I wrote my Homeland Security book. It is hard enough for this country to fight and deal with international terrorism, but now- we are seeing men and women use social media to become domestic terrorists. After reading the CNN article, I’m not so sure that Ms. Coffman was directly related to ISIS or simply wanted to promote the group for shock value- maybe a little of both. Either way, her actions are deplorable!

This brings me to my next point – report controversial statements to Facebook or the FBI if you see them. The “see something, say something” rule banks on tips to help get people like Coffman- regardless of motive- away from inciting terrorist activity! We all spend so much time online sharing our opinions that we may fail to realize when someone is serious with their potentially harmful comments and posts. It is better to report something and be wrong then to not report it and be right.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, November 17, 2014

Governor Jay Nixon Has No Choice....

Here's some breaking news, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri has declared a state of emergency. An hour ago he told the press, "People need to feel safe and to achieve those goals, we need to be prepared." But is this the real reason behind his actions?

From a Homeland Security perspective, Mr. Nixon has no choice but to do this and the people's safety is just ONE of the many reasons why. You see, if Mr. Nixon doesn't act quick enough when it comes to preparation for the highly publicized verdict (should the grand jury decide not to criminally charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown), then he can be criticized for NOT handling things smoothly and with safety as a priority. The state can be civilly liable too.

ABC News reported that an FBI bulletin sent to police forces across the United States warned that the grand jury's decision "will likely" lead to some violence. An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the report. Schools are also on alert. The state of emergency status is to free up resources and funds to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. While I am sitting here writing this, the news commentators are stating that violence is going to happen either way, which is almost feeding on the energy of what is happening in Missouri right now. Some people are even stating the added resources via Nixon's decision to call a state of emergency are wasteful.

Again, from a Homeland Security perspective- the Governor has no choice but to be prepared and to help protect everyone within the city. People's emotions can get heated and that blocks their decision making. I know that regardless of what the verdict is, people are going to be upset and given the incidents over the summer- violence is a very real possibility. So no, I don't agree with people stating this is over-zealous or a waste of resources. I believe it is better to be over prepared and not have to take action vs. not being prepared and having civilians take a bad situation and make it worse- causing the loss of life.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, November 14, 2014

Leadership and Twitter....

Tonight's blog is a bit off of the Homeland Security topic. I want to talk about the recent Twitter disaster and Dr. Oz. Now, I know what you're thinking -"Twyla, have you lost it?" No, I haven't. We all stand to learn something from Dr. Oz's Twitter disaster, which is knowing how to time your message. In fact, knowing how to time your message is everything when it comes to issues of Homeland Security and public affairs.

First, so you know, Dr. Oz opened up his Twitter account and encouraged people to use the public hashtag #DrOzsInbox. Yes, so everyone could see the questions being submitted to the doctor. Here's what happened;

As I said, we all have something to learn from Dr. Oz. First, don't open yourself to answer questions you don't want to deal with during a scandal. Second, if you have something to communicate - make sure you know how to do it and why you are doing it. Third, a big brand doesn't mean its a flawless brand. Big empires fall hard.

To tie-in yesterday's blog, the big retailers need to take a lesson from Dr. Oz's Twitter account as we head into the holiday shopping season. Security plans should be enforced and a crisis communication for ill-prepared and/or accident incidents at stores also needs to be planned and in place, otherwise- your store may be the next Dr. Oz on Twitter.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'Masque Attack' Becomes A Homeland Security Issue

The U.S. government’s computer security team is warning iPhone and iPad owners to be extra careful when updating their apps thanks to a vulnerability in iOS 7 and iOS 8 that allows hackers to send updates that impersonate the apps on their phones. Sounds scary right? It is! But it isn't that the DHS is concerned about your individual phone and identify theft- not to minimize it. The reason this is a DHS issue is because of the capabilities associated with what is being dubbed as the 'Masque Attack'.

Apple has known about the vulnerability since July 26. Apple has not responded to previous requests for comment except to reiterate that users should only download and install apps from trusted sources. The DHS is also concerned about that because not saying something means the virus could have spread and fallen into more sinister hands. This said, US-CERT, which acts as the operational arm of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division, said Apple users can protect themselves by only installing apps directly from Apple’s official store or from their own organizations.

Here's my point - we now live in a world where cyber security seems to be a huge issue for both individuals and our country's security on a daily basis. It also seems that major companies, like Apple, truly don't understand how a small case of identity theft (again, not that it can every be considered "small") can also lead to big problems on a national level if the wrong app or big technology hacks are used for bad things. Our banking systems can go down, airport traffic control could go down, systems can show beheadings on children television stations- a lot can go wrong. So, this is far more of a concern because of the bigger concerns associated with the 'Masque Attack'. Oh, did I mention the President uses an iPhone?

I'm not trying to scare anyone today, but I am offering a warning. Be awareof what you download online and report anything suspicious to US-CERT.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holiday Shopping and Security

It happens every year. People line up for Black Friday deals days, if not a week, in advance. The doors open and people flood inside, running for the deals. At least once a year, as a result of the deals, someone gets killed or injured because of the sale madness. Every year retailers have giant payouts as a result of being ill-prepared when it comes to holiday havoc sales and security issues. And yet every year retailers don't change policies. They fail to protect themselves from lawsuits and bad press by avoiding the cost of hiring a company, like mine, that can offer pre-event training and comprehensive plans to keep store employees and customers safe.

I don't get it. Prevention is key. If we are having a major social function, security is increased. Policies in and out of the venue where the event is being held change for a reason. We meet the demands of the added people, time crunch, and potential security issues for that event. And yet, every year someone dies because retailers fail to pay for prevention security training. The loss of life and money is preventable with some aggressive planning, which should have started back in August. This said, if you are a company with a holiday sale happening this Black Friday- take notice. Below are some preventative tips that may help you avoid serious security issues and breaches.

1. Have a "first-in" lottery. Allow people to make a donation, say a dollar, to a local homeless shelter in exchange for a raffle ticket for the Black Friday events. Pull 50 names that can enter the store an hour before the sale and pick out up to $1,000 dollars worth of deals. After the limit, they can re-enter the store like everyone else.

2. Station security outside and assign numbers. Make sure security is disallowing backpacks and screening people with metal dectecting wands - one by one- before anyone can enter the store.

3. Have enough security allocated to implement step two.

These simple and obvious steps can prevent people from dying or becoming injured during any Black Friday event.

Still have questions? Contact me at IME directly. We still have time to help put together a plan for your retail needs.

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, November 10, 2014

Loretta Lynch.... The Bombshell!

On Friday, I posted a blog stating who I thought the President would pick for Attorney General. Three hours after my post the President announced his choice, which is Loretta Lynch. I, like many other experts, was completely off the mark with my prediction.

Here's why myself and other are concerned about Loretta Lynch. First, qualifications. From a Homeland Security perspective, Ms. Lynch has some nice wins under her belt. She has no partial ties to Obama or those who dislike his initiatives. She seems to be clean and less aloof then Eric Holder. But this doesn't mean anything. Her Harvard degree, while impressive to some, doesn't come with the endorsements that other candidates had from police unions and first responder organizations.

Am I disappointment? No. She has experience in prosecuting cyber crime and financial crime. She could look at the current IRS scandal with a fresh set of eyes. I do feel there were other and better qualified candidates that should have obtained the position, but this doesn't mean all hope is lost for the country. Lynch brings a different kind of leadership to the table and maybe this is exactly what we need when it comes to sustaining certain programs and prosecuting terrorists. I guess we will have to wait and see.... In the meantime, here is the official announcement and welcome Ms. Lynch!

Video of Lorretta Lynch.

Anyway, as we head into Tuesday, November 11th- note I will not be posting a blog as it is a Federal Holiday.

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, November 7, 2014

Alejandro Mayorkas May Replace Eric Holder

Here's a dose of Friday buzz for you.... Alejandro Mayorkas may be replacing Eric Holder as the Attorney General. So, what's the big deal? Well, for one, the country’s largest law enforcement officers’ organization, the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), personally is championing Mayorkas to President Obama. National president Chuck Canterbury penned an Oct. 31 letter on behalf of Moyorkas and sent it to President Obama at the White House - which is a huge deal. In fact, Mayorkas has the experience and qualification for the job- but as you know- this doesn't mean he will get it.

Why you should care: Mr. Mayorkas can offer insight and actually get things done as the Attorney General. He was the director of US citizenship and Immigration Services — the biggest immigration system in the world with a $3 billion budget and 18,000 workers. He knows a lot of about the different issues and he is working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now. You should care because someone, like Mayorkas, has to have a lot of knowledge about grey areas when it comes to protecting human rights and civil liberties while also keeping the country safe and playing politics at the same time.

Here is some more info on Alejandro Mayorkas directly from the DHS:

We don't have any say if Mayorkas gets to fill Eric Holder's position or not. But I can use this blog to urge the President to highly consider someone capable of sustaining programs for the long-term, and who can consider implementing- if not developing- new technologies, to better how the DHS operates and handles sensitive matters. Why do I think Mayorkas fits this role? Well, he had to look at the DHS - his own department- from the inside out earlier this year.

For example, an immigrant detention facility that opened earlier this year in Artesia, New Mexico, has been very controversial. Mothers being held there complained about cold temperatures, undercooked food their children wouldn't eat, and difficulties in presenting their case for why they should remain in the country rather than being deported. After visiting the facility, attorneys claimed that women were forced to speak about their experiences -- often including abuse and sexual assault -- in front of their children. This is a great example where policies should meet with commonsense.

Instead of passing the buck, Mayorkas responded quickly to concerns about Artesia, saying "If, in fact, we fall short, and quite frankly, the advocacy community has identified instances where we have not provided as we should for the care and needs of those families, then we will respond aggressively to address that and to solve that problem." And, the DHS is working to improve its approach in screening women in the detention facility and addressing issues on a case-by-case basis.

As we finish out a very political week, try to remember that not all DHS issues are black and white. We, as people and policy makers, have to be able to pivot from time-to-time.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Budget Issues & Homeland Security

Homeland Security has budget issues attached to the Department. I know, it's shocking. The truth is, when the Department of Homeland Security was formed- finances and long-term plans were truly an afterthought. And, unlike America’s past wars, the battle against terrorism will not allow demobilization. It is going to be an ongoing thing for the rest of this country's existence.

The terrorist threats the nation faces today are the new normal and homeland security will be an enduring task, so every effort from here on out has to be sustainable. The government could simply impose across-the-board percentage cuts, but how does this happen without significantly increasing risk? This is the challenge we are up against daily as citizens of this great nation.

I don't have the answers. I have recommendations, but no single person can solve the issue of DHS budget requirements and needs in the blink of an eye. What I do know, and what I think every person in Congress may actually agree upon, is that we have to update and retool our efforts. Things have changed since 2001. Our process and our budgets haven't- at least for the better.

I'm hopeful today's topic can create an exchange of ideas on Twitter of Facebook to discuss what the public perception of the DHS budget is and how we should move forward, especially since the election was just two days ago!

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The 2014 Elections and Homeland Security

So, last night was interesting to say the least! After Mr. Obama's recent press conference to address "no what", my Twitter account was flooded with the same questions- but directed at Homeland Security. Yes, the elections are going to impact how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will move forward. Different leadership and different people at the table will always lead to different perspectives and objectives when it comes to Homeland Security. And, to make things more shaky, there was a security breach by a DHS contractor announced today- which means incoming officials may be looking to clean house.

Here's what happened; a contractor running background checks for the US Department of Homeland Security has suffered a potentially embarrassing security breach. The security snafu at USIS reportedly led to the theft of some DHS employees’ personal information. The extent of the breach — discovered and self-reported by USIS itself — is still being assessed. DHS encrypts the data it sends USIS but how it is stored and handled within the contractor, the largest provider of background investigations for the federal government, is unclear.

Our country has to pivot right now because of new people coming into office, and because of examples such as the above. We need to tighten policies, figure out how to sustain several programs with needed improvements to social and multi-media tools, and -most of all- we need to learn to work together. Regardless if we are traveling through an airport and annoyed with the TSA screening process or we are a newly elected official lost in the overwhelming process of taking over a political office- collaboration has to be a priority from here on out.

There isn't going to be an overnight change within any area of our political or security systems. But, together, we can work for a safer and more forward-thinking future!

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Visa Rules Are Being Tightened

I'm not sure that you can say a rule is being "tightened", but this is the phrase being tossed all over Washington D.C. right now. What really is happening, in my opinion, is the rules are actually going to be fully enforced. This leads me , and many other Americans, to a question of impact. Why are we not fully enforcing Visa rules on a continued basis?

Homeland Security officials said Monday that they will immediately begin demanding more information from visitors from countries with visa-free entry, bowing to growing fears that jihadists from Iraq or Syria could use a loophole to bring their battle to the U.S. mainland. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson did not suspend the Visa Waiver Program despite pressure from some key lawmakers on Capitol Hill, but he said the government will order travelers from visa-waiver countries to report more information such as parents’ names, city of birth and aliases. This is a concern for me!

We should always be demanding more information from travelers into our country. Period. In my book, Homeland Security; A Comprehensive Guide for All , I discuss why some of the reigns may be tightened or loosened due to financial restrictions. We don't plan on money running out to sustain ongoing issues, which is a problem. But now, we have to spend more money that we don't have to sustain what we should have been doing all along. Does anyone else notice the irony here?

So, where is the fine line? There isn't one. Nothing with Homeland Security matters is cut and dry nor black or white. We need to tighten the rules around the clock. We need to put more money into sustaining our current efforts and look at what it may cost to utilize new media tools in the future. We need to prepare better in order to stay safer.

Until next time,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Monday, November 3, 2014

Publicity and Homeland Security

This past October Joseph Clancy took charge of the U.S. Secret Service on an interim basis following a series of security lapses that led to the resignation of Julia Pierson as director of the government agency. Clancy's efforts will try to right the wrongs while a search for a permanent successor is conducted, but are the breaches in security already impacting the Secret Services and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a negative manner when it comes to publicity and public image?

One article on PR Newser states, "The agency has been hammered by the media since 2009 because of the string of embarrassing security breaches that have put the agency’s credibility in jeopardy. The latest episode happened September 19, when an armed intruder jumped over the White House fence and ran into the residence. That was preceded by the service allowing an armed felon to ride on an elevator with President Obama. The most notorious incident was in 2012, when several Secret Service agents conducting advance work in Columbia for a summit meeting there were recalled after being accused of hiring prostitutes and bringing them back to their hotel."

The list of blunders, unfortunately, can go on and on.... So, yes- the DHS and the Secret Service have lost respect in both the eyes of the media and public. A loss of respect in this specific example equates directly to the loss of feeling secure among the American people. We can plead with people to "see something, say something" all we want, but if the government isn't leading by example- why should the public take anything its says seriously?

Rebuilding trust isn't as easy as fixing communication errors or weak spots in security plans and procedures. It is a long-term fix that has to built up over time. The DHS and the Secret Service both have a long road ahead regardless of whomever fills Julia Pierson's intermediate spot. There is no quick fix to the damage done, which is unfortunate in a time where feeling secure is all that matters right now within this country and its road back to economic greatness.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Protecting Your Identity During the Holidays

As Halloween arrives tomorrow, the holidays are going to arrive fast and furious this year. Are you prepared to protect your identity during the shopping season? Most are not. People get involved with shopping lists, family politics, work parties, and school events and concerts for the kids. Identity protection seems to be the last item of concern on a long holiday 'to do' list. So, as we head into November this weekend, please remember to turn your clocks back an hour on Saturday and take the following identity protection tips into consideration.

1. If someone bumps into you, don't assume it was an accident. Clutch your purse close to your side or in front of you, and keep your wallet hidden at the bottom, or for men, in an inside coat pocket.

2. Don't let your credit card out of your sight. Unscrupulous clerks or waiters can skim the information from your card into a second machine and later make a new credit card for themselves. Worse yet, they can sell your information to an organized crime ring.

3. Lighten your wallet. Remove anything from your wallet that you don't absolutely need to have with you. That way, if someone is successful in stealing it, they won't get as much. And 'no', you don't need your social security card in your wallet!

4. Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Such services alert you via email anytime there is an inquiry or other activity to your credit report.

5. Be safe when shopping online. Criminals can make dummy websites look like the real thing. Make sure that the website you are shopping on is the company's real website. If you have any doubt, conduct a new browser search and contact the company to verify. Also make sure that any website you make purchases on is secure. Secure websites will have "https" instead of "http" in the website URL.

I'm going to skip a blog tomorrow and celebrate Halloween with my dedicated office staff!

I'll be back with everyone on Monday. Until then, have a safe and happy Halloween holiday.

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Airports & Ebola - Are You Prepared

Do you know what to expect at the airport the next time you travel internationally? Well, I decided to present the top 3 things you need to know about airports and Ebola. Right now, the Department of Homeland Security is sending mixed messages because each State is handling the Ebola "crisis" differently. The DHS has a responsibility to help out with national health concerns on a threatening level, but each State also has to make decisions based on their specific needs and population concerns.

Either way, below are the top 3 across-the-board things to know about Ebola at airports.

1. Starting 11/01/13, all International airports will start screening for Ebola. There are no nonstop flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea, the three countries hardest-hit by Ebola. Nearly 95% of the roughly 150 people traveling daily from or through those West African countries to the U.S. land first at one of the five airports selected for extra screening.

2. Homeland Security employees at airports will use no-touch thermometers to take the temperatures of passengers who have come from or through West Africa.

3. If you present a fever at an International airport, know the DHS isn't playing games. Case-by-case, health workers and the DHS will direct the passenger either to the local medical system or public health system for possible treatment or routine follow-ups, including daily temperature readings for the 21-day Ebola incubation period. There are quarantine areas at each of the five International airports that can be used, if necessary.

Please pass this information on to anyone you know who will be traveling after Saturday. :)

Until next time,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Homeland Security Orders Increased Security for Government Buildings!

"The precise actions we are taking and the precise locations at which we will enhance security is law-enforcement sensitive, will vary and shift from location to location, and will be continually re-evaluated," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said today.

Yes, the Government has issued a security watch increase upon itself today. Why? Well, there are several reasons. First, you should know that the The Federal Protective Service is responsible for the protection of more than 9,500 federal facilities owned or leased by the General Services Administration, through which 1.4 million visitors and occupants pass daily. Now, the reasons cited by Mr. Johnson are due to the recent lone wolf attacks that are slightly related to ISIS, but can be contributed to mental health issues to. The exact affiliations seem to be more claims than official links at this point.

So, are you more at risk if you work in a Government building? Yes and no. Government employees are always more at risk for something tragic happening in the workplace because of where they work and who they work for. However, if a threat is detected, the employees are more protected because of the Department of Homeland Security taking notice of lone wolfs and actual terrorist-related threats.

My advice is to stay calm and ask questions. Know what the emergency evacuation plans are for your specific building and ask your HR Manager if you need to do anything, or be on the look out for anything, in relation to any obvious step-ups in security efforts at your workplace.

The move today is purely precautionary, but we should take notice.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wi-Fi Hot Spot Linked to Terrorism

A passenger aboard a plane at Los Angeles International Airport picked up a Wi-Fi hot spot named after a terrorist group. Authorities held travelers for hours as they investigated and then said no crime was committed. So, no harm-no foul, right? Wrong!

According to The Los Angeles Times, "The passenger on the American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to London alerted crew members about the network Sunday night, and the plane returned to the gate.
KABC-TV reported Monday that the hot spot was called “Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork” and that passengers were kept onboard for several hours amid the investigation. Los Angeles airport police said Monday that “no crime was committed and no further action will be taken.” Federal authorities who took over the investigation had nothing add Monday morning. An American Airlines spokesman says the flight was rescheduled for 1 p.m. Monday."

Why is this news? Well, there are a couple of important reasons. First, mixing a flight with a Wi-FI Hot spot named after a terrorist group is cause for a concern. But he fact that the entire passenger list was held during an investigation without a crime being committed begs the question of is the DHS being too strict and violating the very same freedoms they are supposed to be protecting? Additionally, why the entire passenger list? Couldn't the passenger who logged onto the HotSpot been left as the one being investigated? What if he didn't know the phrase was a link to a terrorist group? Was it even linked to a real terrorist group or someone being "funny" in a distasteful manner?

My point for all of this is that the DHS has to mix policy and procedure with common sense. We should protect people while respecting their rights. What are your thoughts on this latest Homeland Security news? Let's talk on Twitter. I hope you can join me for an open and honest conversation.

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, October 24, 2014

9 Million People to Receive 'Green' Cards.

Here's some Homeland Security news for you, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is bracing for a couple of busy weeks- to say the least. The DHS is going to be reviewing work applications from an estimated 9 million immigrant workers thanks to an Executive Order that President Barak Obama is expected to implement later this year. So, what? Well, that is the million dollar question.

This information is relevant because US Citizenship and Immigration Services has published a draft contract proposal to buy the card stock needed to make work permits and Permanent Resident Cards, more commonly known as green cards. The proposal also calls for providing material for at least 5 million cards a year, with as many as 9 million “during the initial period … to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements.” The contract calls for as many as 34 million cards over five years.

Basically, non-violent illegal immigrants will be protected and granted legal work status if they have children here in the USA. While many people may not like this concept- or may think it put the country at a disadvantage- there are more benefits to this action than not. These now legal workers have to pay into the tax system, which is a big plus. They will contribute to our medical system and they are trackable. Plus, they can't be taken advantage of in so many ways. It seems to be a win-win for both parties.

The DHS is going to spearhead this effort because it the president can authorize protection from deportation for immigrants on a case-by-case basis, such as with the DACA program, and issue work permits. If someone doesn't look like they working intent, but something more sinister in mind when it comes to being within the USA, we can get a heads up on the scenario (and handle it) through the DHS. This issue is something to think about for sure this weekend before forming an opinion if this effort is good for the country or not.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Worst Actions to Take During a Crisis

What's the worst thing you can do during a crisis? I was recently asked this by a follower on Twitter. Well, I think the answer is subjective depending on the crisis. However, if we are talking in general terms, then I have to say that waiting to see what happens and not taking action takes the cake.

We are all built with the flight or fight mechanisms. This said, some people remain stuck or unwilling to accept what is going on and they don't follow the directions of first responders or the emergency plans. This is when people get into trouble. You have to realize during a crisis that you are in a crisis. Even if you take flight, you're taking some action. Staying in a burning building because the fire fighters will show up soon isn't the best idea. But some people do this and don't come out the other side alive or as their normal selves.

I'm addressing this question because I think it is important. Not having enough water, having too much water- these types of scenarios- well, they are all trivial. Yes, water will eventually show up via the government. Too much water, that's not a problem. Not doing anything- like seeking out water when you don't have it- that is what gets people into trouble.

So, remember - every emergency is different. Handling things calmly and with some type of action plan is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Online Security and You!

I received a question about my cyber security services and personal online security. While these are two very different things, they have a common bond in that a breach can devastate someone's personal credit or business brand! For the purposes to the question I received, tonight's blog tips will deal with personal security online and how to maintain your privacy.

First, let's start with where we are today with "complex" passwords... the concept is a lie! When you hear of hackers, it usually is on a massive level. Your password, no matter how complex, can be guessed using technology that monitors your keystrokes. Yep, you can be in Los Angeles and have your keystrokes determined (to hack your password) from Japan. Below is a great example of this;

The world of cyber-security underwent a game-change last summer, when not one but two top tech writers were spectacularly hacked. Mat Honan, a writer for Wired, was cyber-attacked by a 19-year-old who wanted his highly coveted three-letter Twitter handle @Mat. To get it, the kid (who goes by “Phobia”) and a friend wiped out Honan’s entire digital life — in about an hour. It started with a call to the Apple Help Desk, and Phobia was able to give just enough data to convince the agent that he was Honan. That one password gave him the keys to the castle.

As Honan described in Wired, “First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.” Honan also thought he had lost every picture he had of his one-year-old daughter, since he hadn’t been backing up his hard drive. Ultimately he was able to recover some of his passwords (from his cloud backup,Dropbox, on his wife’s laptop) and then his data. But it was an expensive lesson: He wound up spending $1,690 for the entire recovery.

So, what's my point? Even technology brainiacs get hacked. While there are steps you can take to prevent it from happening, good coders and hackers don't need much to get into your account(s) and then change your passwords to their passwords, often assuming your identity. I tell everyone to forget the password focus and look at what you have online. If the answers to your security questions can be easily guessed by the information you put on LinkedIN- or any other type of social media- then yous shouldn't even bother with having a password. Limit your personal life's details from Google and social media searchers. For now, for the average person and tech geek, this is the best way to avoid getting hacked.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Preparing for Any Disaster

I received a request to deal with home and family issues when it comes to a disaster, not just employment or major issues of national security. I love getting these requests and spent some time this morning putting together the best tips possible to help prepare your family, and your home, for a disaster of any type.

First, know that you need to have 5 master plans. You need a plan for yourself and the adults in the home, a plan for seniors in the home, a plan for children in the home, a plan for pets in the home, and a plan for anyone with disabilities within the home. No, a blanket "one-size fits all" strategy will not work. You do need individual plans.

Each plan needs to have four core elements. These elements include an emergency medical kit. The kit is going to be very different for pets vs. seniors vs. someone with Multiple Sclerosis, etc. Make sure back up medications, general triage items, and written down phone numbers of doctors and allergies are included in each kit.

The next element is being CPR trained. Yes, you and everyone in your home should know how to provide CPR to humans and pets. Your third element is community resources. Do you know what they are in case of a disaster? If not, call your local Red cross and sign up for an emergency maintenance class. The fourth, and final element, is practicing. Don't tell your children or spouse when you are going to practice a disaster alarm. Instead, surprise him or her (or them) really early in the morning when people's defenses are down and they are groggy. This will give you a great indication of what has to be worked on.

I hope this information provides the basics, but please feel free to ask me more questions on Twitter!

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, October 20, 2014

OMG! 'Black Power' Politics & Ebola

For this blog, and my job, I monitor the Google term "Homeland Security" on a daily basis, sometimes even hourly depending on what is happening within the country. Today, however, I am disappointed. I read an article discussing the shortfalls of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in relation to the Ebola "crisis" here in America. What was even more shocking was the context this article took from addressing a serious healthcare issue and the DHS to finger pointing and blatant ethic slander. What am I referring to? Well, this article:

Now, first I had to process the writer's disgusting phrasing, such as "In short, Johnson is an advocate of ‘black power’ politics. Unfortunately he’s not the only one. Michelle Obama based her 1985 Princeton thesis on Carmichael and Hamilton’s book which preached the rejection of assimilation, white middle-class values, nonviolence, and coalition building." Writers often create drama online to get web hits. I wanted to read beyond this and vet the article for its true purpose. As I read on, I became more disappointment. The article ends with, "While Americans scratch their heads in disbelief over this administration’s seeming ineptitude over Ebola, the long-dead communist Carmichael’s dream of sticking it to ‘whitey’ via the White House and its apparatchiks is coming true." WOW!

First, I wasn't aware anyone in this country is still using the phrase "whitey"... Second, the writer's accusations of reverse discrimination are led with what else? Racism! I can't believe at the end of 2014, that this type of thinking still exists- but it does. And thanks to our freedoms, the writer can publish this filth as his opinion. I grew up in a segregated part of Ohio. While time has changed much, I still remember what it is like to be unfairly judged. And, I think this writer is not only unfairly judging the motives of Michelle Obama (and so many others), but he is unfairly treating those who have contracted Ebola and those who may be at risk of contracting it in Africa. This doesn't have to be a race issue. It isn't a race issue. It is a medical issue that has become a concern for the DHS because it involves the overall public welfare of those who live in this country regardless of color, creed or sexual preference. I remember a time when many people believed only "the gays" could get HIV. How wrong, insensitive, and inbred was our thinking back then?!

My point is this.... the longer we use one another's differences to play the blame game, the longer we fail to spearhead the issue at hand. There is always a time and place for politics. There is never a time or place for discrimination. I'm so disappointed that the writer of the mentioned article decided to use his own insecurities and fears to skew the truth and take attention away from a very serious issue.

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, October 17, 2014

Could You Handle A Bomb Scare?

Would you know how to handle a bomb scare at work? Many people don't know what to do or how to react. The topic is so uncomfortable that many don't even want to think about it. Well, let me give you the basics. The best defense is an offense, which means thinking about the uncomfortable and knowing how to handle it.

1. First, if you take the call / threat - call 9-1-1- and then notify your boss.
2. Stay away from any specific area or packages. If a caller notes a certain part of a building on the phone, evacuate that area first.
3. Don't bother the first responders. They will provide information on an "as needed" basis. Make sure you give them all the details of the call or received threat and then take care of yourself and your employees. Don't ask questions or pull people away from their jobs.
4. Don't panic. This is easier said than done, but it is important to remain as calm as possible.

I know it is Friday. I know this topic isn't the easiest and by no means are these four steps (above) meant to cover every aspect of a bomb threat. But, if you can remember these basics, you are a lot better off than the people who don't even want to think about this possibility.

Here's a free checklist in the meantime:

Until Monday,

Twyla Garrett

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola, What You DON'T Know!

I was listening to women inline this morning discuss Ebola. Wow! There is a lot of bad information with social circles. Since I covered this topic, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) yesterday, I want to expand a bit on what most people don't know , but assume, when it comes to Ebola.

First, a person infected with the deadly virus must be showing symptoms to transmit the infection to others. Someone mentioned kissing today as how it is transmitted, this isn't true!

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it's possible the disease could be spread this way, but WHO said it's "not aware of any studies that actually document this mode of transmission." Also, coughing and sneezing aren't common Ebola symptoms.

Right now, you're more likely to die from the flu vs. Ebola. Yes, you read that right! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1997 to 2007, flu deaths ranged from a low of about 3,500 to a high of 49,000 deaths a year. The flu reached epidemic levels in last year's season. This said, The World Health Organization says West Africa could see 10,000 new Ebola cases a week by December.

We do have to be careful, as a country, about an Ebola outbreak. It is possible but it isn't likely. The DHS is considering a travel ban right now. We have trained professionals working at airports to screen all travelers right now. We're aware and discussing the issue, which is good. The problem is the not knowing and the gossip that I hear on a daily basis. You will always fear what you are not aware or informed about. If you want to learn more about Ebola, please click here:

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Goodbye W. Africa... For Now

The headline out of Detroit today reads as follows; "Congresswoman Candice Miller: Temporarily suspend visas to west African countries impacted by Ebola." Is this move too little, too late? Should this order come from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? Well, yes on both!

I fudged the truth with Congresswoman Miller's statement. You see, she has formally noted a filing with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Secretary of State John Kerry to make a temporary suspension come to life. Right now, there are 13,500 visas out there from the three impacted countries plagued with Ebola right now. So, yes- with Ebola now in the USA- it is a little too late and the DHS should have jumped on this sooner rather than assuming we had everything under control.

Either way, do you know what the symptoms of Ebola are? I've listed them below. Keep coming back, however, as I cover this subject more on the day-to-day blog. I'm sure once Congresswoman Miller obtains the suspension, we will have a lot to discuss!

Nausea and vomiting.
Diarrhea (may be bloody)
Red eyes.
Raised rash.
Chest pain and cough.
Stomach pain.
Severe weight loss.
Bleeding, usually from the eyes, and bruising (people near death may bleed from other orifices, such as ears, nose and rectum)

Ebola is usually transmitted from animal meat to the host. From there, infected people typically don't become contagious until they develop symptoms. Family members are often infected as they care for sick relatives or prepare the dead for burial.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What to do during a national crisis.

I've been discussing emergency management for citizens on this blog over the past two weeks. Today, however, I want to talk about national crisis and terrorist activity. Do you know how to handle yourself and what information to rely upon?

There are 7 key services you need to be in contact with to know exactly what you can and can't do while the country is processing a crisis or disaster. Does this mean you call each one up? No, but you should follow these resources on social media and have your local office numbers written down (not just in your phone) in case of a true emergency. Typically, these agencies will reach out to citizens on the news, but if you don't know something or have to report an incident- you can call them during a disaster.

The mayor is responsible at the administrative level for the smooth running of the response effort.

Fire service
The fire service is the linchpin in disaster response. The fire chief is charged with the operational management of the response effort. Everything that occurs in the disaster area falls under his/her authority.

Regional accident and disaster medical teams
Anyone injured in a disaster will require medical assistance as soon as possible.

The police will ensure that the fire and ambulance services can do their job. They will cordon off the disaster area, manage the traffic, and sometimes set up a safety zone around the disaster area.

The Ministry of Defence can deploy military personnel to respond to a disaster.

Municipal services
Behind the scenes, several municipal services play an important role in disaster response, especially when it comes to the after-effects.

Other services
Which services take part in the response effort will depend on the type of disaster. In the case of flooding caused by burst dykes or heavy rainfall, the water authorities will play a role. If a disaster occurs off the coast, the Coastguard will be involved. But other services will also often take part. The Red Cross cares for the injured in disasters.

Until tomorrow,
Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, October 10, 2014

Homeland Security and Day-to-Day Cyber Security

Today, Dairy Queen announced it is coming off a three month security breach that impacted the financial data of its consumers. Yikes, it seems paying cash is the best option today when you look at many retailers' track record. But what about your track record? While we are busy shaming retail outlets for breaching our data, is it possible we are just as guilty? Many people are and don't even know it!
All this said, I figured I would note a few ways to keep your own email account "hacker-free".

1. Don't use anything personal or that can be guessed about you as your password. This includes your pet's name! Use a weird combination of numbers and letters. Keep the password written down and somewhere in your home, not in a breachable app.

2. Never use a "Remember me" option on any of your devices when it comes to your passwords, especially email. Remember, hackers don't have to hack your email to get into your computer. They can hack your computer, send a "reset my password" request to your online banking and then, once into your email because you have a "remember me" option set up, get into your bank account (or other accounts).

These two steps may seem relatively elementary, but you will be surprised how many people still use "password" as their password and a "remember me" option on their mobile and home devices.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, October 9, 2014

SWamFest October 2014

I'm so grateful to have been invited to speak at SWamFest this year! SWaMfest10 features engaging workshops and networking opportunities, enabling SWaM businesses to interact with representatives from VASCUPP institutions, prime contractors, corporations and other SWaM businesses. VASCUPP is committed to helping Virginia’s SWaM businesses remain strong, vibrant and successful while connecting them to our Purchasing Power!

You can register here to either attend or sponsor:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Traveling - Homeland Security & Ebola

Should I say that is seemed obvious our DHS (Department of Homeland Security) should have been on top of the Ebola "US outbreak" all along? Well, I wish it was all so simple. I've spent the morning reading critical article after critical article and I don't think the reporters understand that the DHS doesn't have a magic wand. It can't snap its fingers and have trained and designated employees on the front line. Does this mean mistakes weren't already made? No, but I think the DHS does need to be cut some slack.... Here's why;

1. The one incident in the USA so far was because of a lie and the home country didn't catch it. This wasn't completely our fault. In fact, it was a Houston hospital who released the patient first, which was a security risk on its own.

2. The Homeland Security Department ordered agents at airports (and other ports of entry) as of TODAY so its staff can observe everyone coming into the United States for potential signs of Ebola infection. We had to coordinate people, training, procedures, etc. to ensure the DHS was meeting both the obligations of our security and its budget. Sending untrained staff to a location doesn't do anyone any good, in fact- this could have put more people in harm's way, so it did take some time to respond.

3. The Obama Administration has to make the final call. The DHS can't write unlimited checks, it needs approval and it needs a signature to perform certain actions. While it is easy to blame the DHS, it isn't as easy for the Department to get initiatives passed.

Going forward, I believe the DHS will do a great job of protecting our citizens from exposure to Ebola through airport and other entry point channels.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Keep Your Family Safe During A Terrorist Attack

I want to talk today about three easy ways to keep your family safe during a terrorist attack. During an attack, people will panic. Providing a long list of "to dos" sometimes can be counterproductive because we, naturally, panic. So, I broke down three easy-to-remember things to help keep your family safe during an attack.

1. Be aware of your emergency exists. If you start this today, it will be second nature to you. Every single time you walk into a business, amusement park, etc. with your family (and yourself), point out the emergency exits to your family members and then note the ER meeting place. It seems simple, but this is the best thing you can do to save a life during an attack.

2. Know how to handle minor and major medical issues. How? Take a CPR course and a first-aide course. Refresh the course knowledge every year. The information learned will be on automatized recall during a true emergency.

3. Find a police man or EMT and ask where you should go. Don't just head to the ER meeting spot and stay there. Once you collect your family members, ask what the plan is next. Find the closest first-responder and ask where the safest place to move to is.

I hope this information helps you make smart decisions when it comes to keeping your family safe during a terrorist attack, hopefully-however- you will not have to use it!

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, October 6, 2014

Secret Service Reform?

Photo: Julia Pierson

A proposal came to the table this week seeking to remove Secret Service from the realm of Homeland Security(DHS). This action was proposed after a terrible week for the Secret Service, which included Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigning amid multiple reports of breaches in White House security. So, what are my thoughts on this proposition?

Well, the Secret Service has 6,500 employees to it- all of which have suffered since it was synced up with the DHS back in 2001. Right now, under the DHS umbrella, these 6,500 employees work as a team to combat counterfeiting and to protect current and former presidents, vice presidents and visiting heads of state. My issue isn't so much with the mission statement or the team work, but the being spread too thin part. For example, why isn't the treasury department handling counterfeiting? Well, because their staff isn't trained to spot certain terrorist patterns, where the DHS is and the secret service can be helpful within this type of associated task. Basically, without one- the other can't work as efficiently.

I do think the secret service should only be focused on protecting the president, but still should remain under the umbrella of the DHS because threats to the terrorist could involve terrorists. They should work hand-in-hand on these types of concerns, but independent ff one another when applicable. To put it in everyday terms, think about a clerk at an office. His or her job is to enter data into a computer system.The data is payroll. So, she enters it in and that is all she is responsible for, right? But what if she spots an error? Should she still enter it in? Or, should she call the supervising manager who turned in the data and point out the error? The two have to work together to solve the problem. If the clerk were to only stick to her job and enter in the error, the billing would be off and someone would be over or under paid. The supervising manager obviously made a mistake. For the benefit of the company- and basically all involved- working together , but in different capacities, was beneficial in the example.

I don't understand why we have to make things so complicated when it comes to common sense security issues. I also don't understand how forcing someone to resign rectifies any errors. Now, a new person can come in and the learning curve to start the security process can be that much more behind... right? Working together without overstepping one another only makes sense.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Spot A Suspicious Package

Would you know how to spot a suspicious package or bag versus someone just forgetting a bag or package on the sidewalk? What about reporting it... do you call 9-1-1 or the Office of Homeland Security? To clarify, I've noted some pointers below.

Suspicious packages might bear restricted endorsements such as "personal" or "private." If you work in an office building and you see these markings on a package, you should pay extra attention.

Ask yourself if the name and/ title is inaccurate on the mailing label. If you're looking at a bag, does it have any international tags on it or odd markings?

Suspicious packages or articles might reflect distorted handwriting or the name and address might be prepared with homemade labels or cut-and-paste lettering.

If you determine the package or bag is suspicious, do not move, alter, open, examine or disturb the article.

Do not put it in water or a confined space- such as a desk drawer or filing cabinet.

If possible, open windows in the immediate area to assist in venting potentially explosive gasses.

Isolate the suspicious package or article and clear the immediate area until the police arrives. Yes, you call 9-1-1 and let them direct what agency shows up. In the meantime, clear the area and wait for help to arrive.

It is better to be safe than sorry when you spot a questionable package or bag. Always report it, never chance it. Emergency responders would rather show up for nothing than not show up for something!

Twyla N. Garrett