Federal job description: Sometimes deadly

Tuesday - 9/17/2013, 2:00am EDT

Working for the federal government can be hazardous to your health. Sometimes very dangerous. Sometimes fatal.

According to the Labor Department, people who work in construction, farming, truckers, loggers and roofers have the most dangerous jobs. Along with police and firefighters. But that is because of what they do.

For federal workers, the danger is also in who they are: Government workers!

People who work for the IRS, Social Security or the VA and the Defense Department are also in high-risk jobs. The risk comes from some of the people they deal with, i.e. irate customers, people who have a problem with the concept of paying taxes or those who believe (right or wrong) that the government did them wrong. Or isn't giving them what they deserve.

Sometimes, the attacks on feds are targeted. An individual goes after a specific employee or unit. Other times the attack, by gun, bomb or airplane, is generalized. As long as they take out a lot of feds, it is mission accomplished.

The attackers can be motivated by politics, religion, ideology or have a grievance against the government, an agency or law. They can also just be nuts (can I say that?)

Washington and New York City have long been favorite targets of terrorists (foreign and domestic) because of who we are and what we represent.

But federal workers in Oklahoma City can tell you a thing or two about terrorism. So can IRS workers in Austin, Texas, who a few years back were the victims of a fatal suicide attack — by airplane — by a "disgruntled" taxpayer.

People in other places are also on terrorism watch lists. Places like Houston, LA-Long Beach for their ports and oil refineries, and the Atlanta and Chicago airports are high on security watch lists . So are the Mississippi River bridges that link the country. And nuclear power plants. And high-security operations of the Federal Reserve Board.

Many of the incidents, maybe most, are work-related. Or domestics: estranged husband attacks wife, things like that.

But sometimes, whether it is an act of terrorism or a violent protest, any federal office will do.

Washington has seen armed attacks — guns, bombs and airplanes — at the White House, the Blair House, the Pentagon and other places. Yesterday it was the Navy Yard in the SouthEast section of the city, near the Nationals Ball Park. The Navy Yard is home of the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Initial reports said it was a lone gunman, dressed in black, who started on the 4th floor of Building 197. NSSC has about 3,000 workers at the location. That attack took place shortly after 8 a.m. It was first reported that the lone gunman had a shotgun. Then an assault rifle. (The media often calls anything that carries more than one bullet an "assault" weapon.) Then it was reported that he was armed with a number of weapons. The area was on lockdown.

It was reported that a key card is required to get into the building.

Later reports said their might have been three shooters, and that at least three people had been killed and at least seven others wounded. That was updated throughout the day. Shortly after 4 p.m., the number was revised to 13 dead, with as many as another dozen wounded.

It may be days, weeks or months before we find out the who and what reasons behind the attack. It may be longer — maybe never — before we really find out why it was done.

The bottom line: Working in a federal office can be dangerous. Take care of yourself.


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