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The suddenness of the attack: from immediate and unanticipated e. The scope of the attack: highly localized e. Whether the attack is local e. The level of knowledge about the agent of attack: known, suspected, unknown, unknowable. The degree to which a target is symbolically neutral e. The degree to which an attack appears to be grossly inhumane e. Because of this variability, the principles involved have to be advanced with a sense of contingency, not certainty, and in an other-things-being-equal spirit.

That caution ventured, the following principles, based on best-available behavioral and social science knowledge, can be enunciated:.

Terrorism Within Comparative International Context: The Counter-Terrorism Response and Preparedness

It is most likely to occur under special conditions when escape routes are clogged or believed to be closing, and if people learn or it is rumored or imagined that there is only limited time to escape Quarantelli, Some scenarios for panic would be attempting to escape entrapment in a building, trying to evacuate a metropolitan area under crisis conditions, and fleeing from an assault on a mass gathering in a stadium or arena.

Psychological panic fear, hysteria, terror is more likely, and its intensity will vary according to the level of uncertainty about the scope of the attack, its duration, the degree to which it is to believed to be general, and the agent of attack. The more multiple or random the attacks, the greater the level of public terror.

The more certain the knowledge about the agent of attack, the more likely it is that outrage and a call for retaliation will stand out from other behavioral and emotional reactions. The more the attack is seen as inhumane, the more likely it is that the public will feel sadness, depression, and rage. The greater the clarity of information communicated about the nature of the attack—along all of the dimensions above—the weaker will be any fear and terror reactions. The better the fit between that information and the previously established preparedness procedures and routines, the less likely there will be extreme emotional responses and disorganized behavior and the more orderly the withdrawal, help-seeking, rescue, and other coping behaviors.

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The greater the degree to which the target is symbolically laden e. All these principles apply to the social-psychological perceptions of an attack that result from the adequacy or inadequacy of knowledge about the situation. These perceptions derive from interpersonal communication of information, the spread of rumors, and above all the immediate reporting and interpretations of the event by the mass media. The media play an important role in defining the nature, scope, and level of threat in critical situations, in disseminating both reliable and unreliable information, and in calming the population or generating extreme reactions such as anxiety and terror.

This truth has become even more evident as technology now permits instant worldwide dissemination of news and opinion. A special responsibility for reporting and dissemination seems to attach to events that are immediate, threatening, and easily generalizable. The role of the media is double-edged. On the one hand they can displace informal and uncontrolled flows of information with accurate, timely, and authoritative reporting. Indeed, the media can inadvertently change the basic dimensions of an attack. The widespread reporting of the anthrax contamination in the weeks after September 11 served to expand those events from several localized incidents into a potential generalized threat.

All this underscores the crucial roles of both the mass media and authoritative sources such as the police and political leaders in giving definition psychological reality to an attack. It also underscores the great need for responsibility and prudence on the part of these entities in moments of crisis. Such efforts are not without precedent.

Terrorism, Emergency Preparedness & Disaster Plans in Las Vegas

For example, most newspapers and other media exercise great care in protecting the privacy of child crime victims. The media usually refrain from identifying the victim or giving away personal particulars. A similar code could be developed for terrorism-related incidents that while only slightly restricting the amount of information being reported, would not compromise the investigation of the incident or oversensationalize it.

For the media to address these issues voluntarily would keep them from government control and recognize the special responsibilities that they bear.

Coping with Fear of and Exposure to Terrorism among Expatriates

While the media have an obligation to the public and to the government to try to disseminate information as efficiently and accurately as possible, the government has the responsibility to provide such information to the media and the public as efficiently and accurately as possible. In the same ways that federal agencies are preparing technological responses to possible attacks e. Who will be able to speak with authority when a terrorist attack occurs, i. The answer of course depends on what sort of attack takes place and the type of information to be communicated.

For example, in a radiological event a dirty bomb , the Surgeon General might be the right person to speak on how to minimize radiation exposure, 2 while in a biological attack, someone from the Centers for Disease Control or perhaps the Surgeon General might be the right person to describe steps people can take for self-protection e. In all cases, identification and training of these potential spokespeople should occur before an attack takes place, so the government can respond not only by providing emergency services but also by providing important, accurate, and trustworthy information clearly, quickly, and authoritatively.

The need for a trusted spokesperson is especially important for events relating to nuclear and radioactive materials; see discussion in Chapter 2. One factor that must be considered is the perception of political motivation: Will the spokesperson be distrusted because he is perceived as having political authority rather than technical expertise?

The actions of these multiple agencies must be integrated and coordinated if they are not to be fragmented and ineffective. Nowhere is this truer than in the initial responses to attack, when quick decisions and direct actions are required. The accumulated body of research on natural disasters reveals all too many instances of scarce information, deficient communication, poor coordination, and jurisdictional conflict among nominally coordinating organizations Kreps and Bosworth, ; Tierney, Lindell, and Perry, Coordination is complicated because it involves agencies at different levels, from federal to local, and different types of government and private agencies.

It is also complicated because once a disaster occurs, informal new groups come into being—often under conditions of extreme confusion—and must be taken into account by those officially designated as responders Drabek, In his first press conference after assuming federal responsibility for homeland security, Governor Tom Ridge properly called attention to the seriousness of the issues of overlap and coordination among government agencies.

The committee knows of no more important and pressing concern with respect to effectiveness of response.


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For all stages of the attack circumstance—preparedness, warning, attack, and recovery—agencies responsible for aspects of any of them should coordinate their assignments as closely as possible. This means knowing how to act when different kinds of attacks occur, how to cooperate, and how to communicate. It also means planning for rigorously monitoring and correcting the coordination process in midcourse, as required by the specifics of the crisis.

The need for such coordination and backup is especially critical in attacks when some response agencies are themselves disabled. Research should also focus on the origins and consequences of organizational failure, miscommunication, lack of coordination, and jurisdictional conflict and on the impact on public confidence when organizations fail to act. A number of fields—including political science, sociology, and organizational management—have important contributions to make to research in this area.

The nation has never experienced catastrophes of such severe proportions, so knowledge of the human effects is correspondingly weak. Three general points, however, can be noted:. Certainly we can expect magnified reactions of shock, despair, helplessness, and paralysis. The greater the destruction, the greater the likelihood of socially disorganized behavior and the less the likelihood of effective mobilization of people and social agencies.

The greater the magnitude of the attack, the more likely that governmental agencies and law-and-order agencies military, police, fire control are themselves rendered ineffective or altogether destroyed. Some terrorist attacks—for example, assassinations and the bombing of strategic government buildings—would attempt specifically to confuse and disrupt governmental processes.

Others would specifically target response agencies. Extraordinarily catastrophic attacks could wipe out whole systems for response to disaster and disrupt government functioning. Needless to say, without these capacities and without effective backup systems, the seriousness of the attack is multiplied. Research on natural disasters reveals that many of them result in an ensuing period of social solidarity to be described in several of its aspects below characterized by mutual help, certain kinds of self-denial, and some reduction in looting and other antisocial behavior Barton, ; Lindell and Perry, The generalizability of such findings is uncertain, however, and under extreme conditions they may not hold; serious breakdowns of law and order must at least be anticipated.

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The main reasons for this would be the potentially high degree of resulting social disorganization, together with the disruption of law-and-order agencies. Some research has shown that when local police authorities vacillate or are absent from the scene, urban riots and related behavior such as looting are. Other historical research indicates that one ingredient of successful revolutionary overthrow is the inactivity, complicity, or defection—i. Widespread breakdowns of social order also heighten the probability that mutually hostile class, ethnic, and racial groups the fault lines mentioned earlier will come into open conflict, especially if different groups perceive that they have been treated unfairly in relation to others.

Recovery-related processes can be discussed under the headings of shorter-term and longer-term recovery to terrorist attack, without attempting to say how many weeks or months either would last. Short-term recovery processes can be expected to resemble known developments in other kinds of disaster situations:. There will be a period of mourning, longer and more difficult if casualties are great, the attack inhumane, or the target a sacred one. This mourning process will become less intense if attacks are repeated and become a way of life.

A period of collective solidarity—a pulling together of the community affected and, to a lesser degree, of other communities and the nation—will occur. As with mourning, these responses will be weaker if attacks are multiple and repeated. There will be a more or less immediate mobilization to clean up the rubble, restore impaired functions as quickly as possible, and generate the requisite economic resources. These activities will become less effective as the number and scope of attacks increase and as greater pressure is put on the resources available.

People will keep away from areas of vulnerability made evident by an attack. The avoidance of airline travel in the wake of September 11 is an obvious example. If a given function or activity is impaired or avoided, people will turn to alternatives—note, for example, the increase of business after September 11 in all forms of ground transportation. A widespread curtailment of electric power will occasion a run on lanterns, flashlights, batteries, and generators.

An impairment. Every attack—whether successful or thwarted—can be expected to enhance efforts to prevent further attacks of the same kind. A simple but telling example is the instituting of random shoe inspections of airline passengers after the aborted shoe-bomber incident in December If the attack is believed to have been avoidable, and the agents responsible for its avoidability are identified or suspected, a season of scapegoating, public investigations of culpability, and calls for punishment will ensue.

If agencies of public order police, National Guard, military and rescue agencies firefighters, Red Cross, volunteer workers are perceived to have been ineffective or improperly coordinated, scapegoating will be directed toward these agencies as well. Contrariwise, there will be an identification and adoration of heroes in crises.


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This effect will also decrease if attacks become repetitive. Most disasters are both sudden and ephemeral, and immediate responses quickly give way to a wide variety of long-term recovery and rebuilding activities. Both types of sources are subject to selectivity and distortion. Teams of behavioral and social science researchers collecting data on the spot and analyzing it in the context of established knowledge about disaster situations would supplement and likely improve on existing ways of generating information about disaster response.

Some universities have a tradition of such fire-brigade research, but efforts should be made to expand and systematize it. Analysis of preparedness, warning, and response tends to rest on the assumption of an undifferentiated community or public. Research on disasters, however, has revealed that individuals and groups differ both in readiness and response according to previous disaster experience, ethnic and minority status, knowledge of the local language, level of education, level of economic resources, and gender Tierney, Lindell, and Perry, Research on these and other differences should be extended and deepened, and it should be taken into account when designing systems of preparedness, warning, and response to terrorist attacks and other disaster situations.

Longer-term recovery periods will more explicitly involve political, economic, and cultural considerations. A postattack period of political solidarity parallels the burst of social solidarity noted above. Citizens express increased trust and support of political leaders, and this condition may endure for a long time if a sense of crisis continues and it is perceived that leaders are dealing with it well.

The most dramatic evidence of this effect came from the polling of African-American citizens in late December Results revealed 75 percent support for President George W.