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The last 13 years have brought to the attentions of all Americans the devastating effects that natural disasters and terrorism can have on the society. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the devastating hurricane Katrina in 2006 demonstrated the adverse effects of disasters.
In both instances, the emergency services responded promptly and they were able to mitigate the damages and save many lives. Even so, Cetron and DeMicco (2006) suggest that these responses were not optimal since the responders were not well prepared for such catastrophes.
In light of increased concern of terrorist-related incidents and the ongoing risk of major domestic incidents in the country, making preparations is a prudent approach. This paper will set out to highlight the benefits of preparing for emergencies and terrorism for emergency workers, government authorities, and the general population.
Prevalence of Terrorism and Natural Disasters
While terrorism is not a new phenomenon, terrorists today pose significantly greater danger than they ever have in the past. These terrorists are better financed, organized, and they demonstrate greater eagerness to engage in higher levels of carnage; factors that significantly increase the risk that they pose to the public.
Hoffman (2006) notes that in the last decade, terrorism has emerged as the most perilous global problem that threatens to disrupt society life. Taking preemptive actions to prepare for an imminent terrorist attack is therefore in the best interest of the society.
The impacts of natural disasters on society have increased dramatically over the past few decades (Schaefer-Jones, 2007). The reason for this is that human population has increased and many settlements have been established in areas that are prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
The concentration of populations in urban areas also increases the severity of damage when natural disasters strike at a particular location. For this reasons, being prepared for natural disasters is crucial to reducing the hazards posed by such events.
Benefits of Preparations to Emergency Workers
Preparations will familiarize emergency workers with unconventional weapons that may be used by terrorists. Alexander and Klein (2006) suggest that it is plausible that these terrorists will pursue chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) methods in the near future. While most emergency workers are proficient in dealing with conventional terrorist attacks, they may lack the expertise to deal with CBRN.
Preparation will familiarize the emergency personnel with impacts of such attacks and inform them on how to respond. Alexander and Klein (2006) reveal that training will help emergency workers to address the heightened physical risk of children and adolescents to CBRN effects. Emergency personnel will also be trained on how to identify the various agents used by the terrorists and the effective countermeasure against them.
Preparation will entail determination of priority and authority for incident safety management. In most disasters, significant amount of time and resources are wasted due to lack of a command structure and priority. Emergency workers therefore end up dealing with matters in a haphazard manner and lack of central command leads to poor coordination. Preparation will help establish a priority order that will be used when dealing with disaster. Authority will also be given and a command structure established to help in joint emergency activities.
Reissman and Howard (2008) reveal that proper preparations include delineation of roles to ensure cross-agency consistency and effective communication during a disaster. During training, mock drills are carried out and emergency personnel including, but not limited to, medical teams, fire fighters, and police are given roles and responsibilities that they will carry out in the event of a real emergency. Training ensures that emergency personnel familiarize themselves with protocols to be used in emergencies.
Anticipating likely hazards within the planning scenarios will help identify the kind of equipment and technical expertise that will be needed in the real disaster. This will assist response organizations to acquire the needed equipment and expert staff. If this is not possible, the organization will have an inventory of where this equipment and expert staff can be obtained from on short notice.
This early identification will aid in the quick acquisition of necessary technical staff and monitoring equipment when responding to a disaster. Reissman and Howard (2008) reiterate that having an inventory of such assets will facilitate quick decision-making.
The emergency response team needs to be medically, emotionally, and cognitively ready to face disaster. If these workforce is not ready in these important dimensions, their efficiency will be lowered and this will hamper the entire disaster response operations. The planning phase will include pre-deployment medical reviews to ensure that the emergency response personnel are fit for duty. Individuals who have risk factors that might compromise the mission success will be removed from active participation (Reissman & Howard, 2008).
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The psychological flexibility and stress tolerance of the workforce will also be reviewed since most disaster environments are chaotic and extremely traumatic. Emergency workers who are not emotionally ready might end up breaking down in the course of emergency response and this will adversely affect the emergency operations. Preparation will therefore ensure that personnel who are incapable of handling the disaster response are identified and removed from active participation.
Benefits to the Authorities
Preparations enable the authorities to gain knowledge on the level of risk that particular disasters pose to the population. In terrorism preparedness exercises, decision makers at all levels of the government are engaged and their awareness of the threats that terrorist attacks pose is heightened.
By simulating disasters, new knowledge about societal life and how it is threatened by terrorist attacks or natural disasters can be acquired. Collier (2008) argues that the information gleaned from preparation can be used to rationalize legislation or determine fund allocations. The capacity of the nation to respond to physical and man made threats is therefore increased because of the preparation.
The attention of the authorities is drawn to areas in the infrastructure that need improvements in order to streamline emergency activities in the event of a disaster. Collier (2008) reveals that rehearsals will assist in the identification of barriers that could impede on the efficiency of rescue operations within the existing infrastructure. For example, there might be bottlenecks in the transportation system that can increase the response time of emergency workers. Rehearsals will lead to such barriers being identified and appropriate action can be taken to ensure that
Preparation will also help the authorities to make the best use of the media. In the wake of a major emergency or terrorism attack, effective communication with the public is of great importance (Schaefer-Jones, 2007).
Preparations will ensure that the relevant personnel are well trained on how to harness the media resources and make use of media representatives at the strategic planning stage. By doing this, prompt and wide dissemination of accurate information will be possible and this will lead to a reduction of fear, anxiety and panic.
Preparation will assist in the designation of facilities that can be used in disaster events and equipment of these facilities to deal with emergencies.
Cetron and DeMicco (2006) reveal that facilities such as convention centers were used as staging grounds for disaster recovery during the two biggest disasters in recent US history which are; the World Trade Towers attack and Hurricane Katrina. In both cases, the facilities were not designed for this function and due to lack of planning, the convention center were overwhelmed by the needs of the people.
Planning would assist such venues, which can be used in case of large disasters, to be better equipped to deal with emergencies. Following the devastating Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans City Assisted Evacuation Plan has come up with a plan to equip a number of facilities with emergency resources such as portable toilets, battery operated radios, and adequate supply of diesel fuel for emergency generators (Cetron & DeMicco, 2006).
Benefits to the General Population
Preparations help the general population, which will be affected by the catastrophe, to prepare itself by simulating the crisis in the present moment. Through large-scale simulations of crisis, the participants are taught about the roles they will play during the imagined future event. The rehearsal therefore shapes how future incidents are understood and managed (Armstrong, 2012).
This understanding will increase the likelihood that the population will cope effectively with a real disaster. Armstrong (2012) argues that planning practice that simulate natural disasters or terrorist attacks force the citizens to contemplate their own demise in order to emotionally manage the population and help transform terror into fear and a resolve by the population to work towards ensuring its survival.
The effect of preparations in alleviating the high-stress and trauma that characterize a disaster is significant. Preparation helps the public to adopt a healthy psychosocial outlook. This is important since terrorism is psychological warfare.
The US Department of Defense underscores the psychological component of terrorism by noting that terrorism is aimed at coercing or intimidating governments or societies to achieve some objective (Hoffman, 2006). By preparing for the disaster, the general population is able to view disasters as incidents whose outcomes can be controlled (Schaefer-Jones, 2007). This reduces the panic and anxiety that a disaster might cause if no preparations are made.
This paper set out to discuss the benefits of preparing for emergencies and terrorism. It began by highlighting the increased concern of terrorist related disasters as well as natural disasters in our country. The paper has illustrated the various forms of preparations measures that can be carried out including; rehearsals and emergency worker training.
Such preparation will ensure that emergency personnel are well versed in the possible terrorist attacks and how to deal with them. Preparations will ensure that the relevant authorities are able to provide effective care in an emergency and therefore reduce the negative impacts of a disaster.
The paper has demonstrated that preparations ensure that the community is psychologically prepared to respond to disasters and people know what role they should play in cause of natural or terrorist attacks. While preparations are broad based and expensive to finance, they are a necessity if the country is to enhance its preparedness in the event of natural or manmade disasters.
Alexander, D. & Klein, S. (2006). The challenge of preparation for a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear terrorist attack. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, 52(2), 126-131.
Armstrong, M. (2012). Rehearsing for the Plague: Citizens, Security, and Simulation. Canadian Review of American Studies, 42 (1), 106-120.
Cetron, M. & DeMicco, F. (2006). Convention Centers as Staging Grounds for Disaster Recovery: Lessons Learned from 911 and Katrina. Journal of Convention & Event Tourism, 8(4), 129-140.
Collier, S. J. (2008). Enacting Catastrophe: Preparedness, Insurance, Budgetary Rationalization. Economy and Society, 37(2), 224–250
Hoffman, B. (2006). Inside Terrorism. Colombia: Colombia University Press.
Reissman, D.B., & Howard, J. (2008). Responder Safety and Health: Preparing for Future Disasters. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 75(1), 135-141.
Schaefer-Jones, J. (2007). Preparing for the Worst: A Comprehensive Guide to Protecting Your Family from Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Other Catastrophes. NY: Greenwood Publishing Group.