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Local Operational Planning for Potential Terrorist Threats Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 31st, 2020


This research paper presents operational planning at the local level for potential terrorist threats. The plan is intended to offer guidance to aid local authorities before, during, and after a terrorist event. It clearly shows lead personnel and related plans of action. The document recognizes the roles of first responders in operation and, therefore, it does not strive to replace their roles. Instead, it serves as a plan to guide local agencies to deal with threats and attacks.

The local agencies of interest include law enforcement, fire departments, and emergency medical or health services, among others. It concludes that operational planning requires coordination and collaboration among all levels of government, agencies, private organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. Further, local agencies must continuously improve their levels of operational preparedness to thwart new forms of threats and attacks.


The federal, state, and local governments have all developed crisis and outcome management plans to act for any type of emergency scenario. While operational planning cuts across all levels of governments, state and local governments have persistently improved upon their current response plans to tackle any cases of terrorism. All operational processes should be clear and ready to ensure that all levels of the government and agencies are integrated to respond effectively in the event of a terrorist attack. That is, all persons and jurisdictions involved in the planning and mitigation processes should collaborate and coordinate their efforts fully.

The operational planning must identify and outline specific steps necessary to protect the public by revamping capabilities at the local levels (Walsh et al., 2012). The operational planning offers specific steps that all the relevant agencies can take to protect public safety and limit the extent of adverse outcomes. By preparing a plan with the scope and mandates of every agency at the local levels, local authorities strive to work well and improve their overall readiness for terrorist threats. This research paper presents operational planning at the local level for potential terrorist threats.


The purpose of operational planning is to protect the public and property from terrorist threats and events and to offer guidance to main responders and support organizations.


Local agencies must define terrorism and its related aspects. Terrorism is an art of imparting unnecessary fear in people using different methods, both conventional and unconventional. Terrorists, which may comprise of a small group or individuals with a certain purpose, intend to change human activities and actions.

Terrorist events or threats may involve chemical, nuclear, biological, incendiary, or explosive materials, which are classified as hazardous incidents with further complicating issues. These threats or attacks are classified as domestic or international based on perpetrators association with others.

Terrorists aim for both soft targets (individuals, groups, or organizations) and hard targets (installations and buildings). Terror groups or individuals may have immediate goals and long term-goals (McCauley & Moskalenko, 2017). Therefore, local agencies must understand their profile in terms of location, critical infrastructures, critical areas of concern, the population, including seasonal populations, such as tourists and visitors (CTED, 2017).

Terror Activities

Local agencies prepare for terror activities, such as armed assaults, assignation, arson, biological agent attacks, chemical releases, bombing, bombing hoaxes, cyber terrorism, civil disturbances, hostage-taking, environmental destruction, hijacking or skyjacking, nuclear releases, sabotage, product tampering, seizure, destruction of property and other installations, robbery, and raids.

Based on these activities, any local government must understand its soft and hard targets and potential impacts on the public and property in case of an attack.


Local agencies understand that they have both soft and hard targets in their jurisdiction, and terror elements exist, which require sufficient preparedness. They can carry any form of attack, and responders, including crisis management and consequence management, will work at the same time. Thus, these agencies must appreciate their capacity to respond effectively to threats and attacks. Individuals are encouraged to observe optimum care and ensure their safety. An act of terror may have far-reaching consequences beyond the capacity of a single agency, agencies, local authorities, and a state. Hence, more help from the federal government and other states is always required. More importantly, procedures should be in place for responses to threats and impacts of attacks.

Risk Analysis

Local agencies must identify all possible terrorist targets within the jurisdiction. These must include bridges, naval air stations, training facilities, public and private institutions, telecommunication and radio stations, government installations, public places, public hospitals, financial institutions, tourism facilities, transportation systems, marinas, and correctional facilities.

Additionally, local authorities must also conduct a risk assessment for water supply systems, power grids, mass migration, airports, and plants (Khakzad & Reniers, 2015).

Operation Planning

Any individuals aware of terror threats or events are encouraged to call the emergency number – 911. The 911 center always notifies the responsible or the most suitable law enforcement agencies and any other relevant bodies.

Police and fire units are the first respondents at the scene. They create an exclusion area, secure the scene, and re-route traffic. The plan also accounts for police and military protocols during the operations. In case of a federal crime, the state and local authorities would allow the federal agencies to be the lead agencies. Local and state authorities would offer assistance.

Local and state agencies have to collaborate and coordinate their efforts during any emergency incidents.

The local authorities and agencies understand that terrorist attacks require a working group consisting of the federal, state, and local officers, emergency staff, and governor’s personnel, and any other supporting organizations. The working group is responsible for coordinating evacuation, security, and other necessary interventions.

Temporary shelters and other basic facilities are established for the victims of the incident.

Incident Command System

Leaders and managers of the system are expected to conduct primary tasks of planning, coordinating, directing, communicating, organizing, delegating, and evaluating outcomes. The ICS handles developing emergencies under the overall supervision of the incident manager. The management system is responsible for organizing staff, equipment, facilities, communication, and any other resources needed to respond effectively to threats and incidents. They also aid post-event recovery for victims.

The ICS offers a way for providing unified command in which many agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions cooperatively work together to deliver the needed responses and recovery efforts as dictated by a threat or an attack. As such, all involved organizations, agencies, and jurisdictions provide their resources to advance the objectives of the incident, deployment strategies, and better use of all available resources.

Roles and Responsibilities

The local agencies and authorities must have the emergency management office with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The office must have the main responsibility of averting, responding, and recovering activities. The director must run this office and ensure liaison with all other participating agencies and organizations, as well as support the state and federal agencies.

The emergency management office must also work with other agencies and boards, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), law enforcement agencies, fire services, rescue, and emergency medical services, healthcare facilities, healthcare providers, government continuity, regional aid, and administration and logistic among others (Lee, Cleare, & Russell, 2010). Other non-governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross, also play critical roles in emergencies and recovery efforts.

Mitigation and Prevention

Mitigation involves activities that lessen or eradicate possibilities of occurrence of a terror attack, or any interventions that curtail the consequences of inevitable adverse events, or reduce the degree of long-term risks to the public and property.

Risk Reduction

At the local levels, local authorities should focus on reducing risks by identifying specific warnings that show possible terrorist acts. On this note, local agencies must point out to the police, public works, fire departments, and the public the possible indicators and systems for reporting any unusual activities.

Local agencies and the public must acknowledge possible threats and implement intervention security programs corresponding with the extent of the threat and the importance of infrastructures for protection. Terrorists prefer to stay anonymous before hitting their targets, and they may claim responsibility after an attack.

Mitigation actions aim to avert the possible terror threats and lessen the probability of attacks. Agencies, facilities, communities, and the public may reduce the risk of being possible targets through comprehending the potential attacks, conducting risk analysis, and adopting core security measures.

Operations Security

Local agencies must conduct threat assessments to identify security loopholes and communicate their findings to relevant bodies. More importantly, terror groups abuse laws and regulations and completely exploit any weaknesses. Operations security should deny them information and intelligence, allow them to understand terror practices, and to adopt flexible approaches to terror.

Personal Security

Personal protection interventions aim to prevent attacks on individuals. Local agencies strive to offer effective education to the public to minimize their risk and exposure, recognize threats, and know actions to take.

Physical Security

Physical barriers are meant to reduce the possibility of a terror attack through making it hard for terrorists to strike any targets. Local agencies have introduced physical measures, such as restricted access to facilities, materials, information, and equipment. These measures also aim to reduce sabotage, theft, and vandalism.

Creating Awareness, Education, and Training

One major anti-terrorism strategy is to educate the masses and create awareness about possible terror attacks.

For mitigation measures, local agencies must define what individuals should do, the role of facility managers, office accessibility, personnel procedures, physical controls, and public area awareness. They also define the roles and responsibilities of the law enforcement agencies with regard to group monitoring, interdiction, profiling, resources, and facility vulnerability.

Policies, Crisis and Impact Management

The federal government has created federal responsibilities, a response framework, and collaboration among agencies in case of a terrorist incident. The federal response accounts for crisis management to manage hostile conditions, conduct investigations, and prepare criminal charges according to federal laws.

Federal responses also focus on impact management, which extend to interventions to ensure public safety and health, restore vital public services, and offer emergency assistance to communities, local governments, businesses, and individuals. Based on the request of the local government, the federal government extends assistance to alleviate hardship, limit damages, loss, and suffering. FEMA is responsible for coordinating federal aid to local and state governments to management impacts of a terrorist incident.

Local and State Agencies

Although federal agencies, such as FEMA and FBI are responsible for some aspects of incident management, it is imperative to acknowledge that local authorities are usually the first response units in case of an attack. Local agencies focus on containing the attack and isolating the affected area, securing evidence, survivors, and witnesses.

Local agencies also have response units that are responsible for containing, isolating, protecting, and aiding the affected persons. These agencies must be prepared for immediate interventions to save lives, limit damages, and avert further attacks. Response units must also understand that terrorists apply diversionary approaches and, therefore, additional assistance should be readily available.


Local authorities must have a plan that captures interventions and responsibilities of various agencies that are readily called upon to respond to and facilitate the recovery from a terror attack. For effective response, the agencies responsible for emergency responses must offer support to all other units or departments. They operation should be streamlined to help other units to comprehend the incident command structure and roles of different other organizations, including private ones.

Training is also a critical part of preparedness. Local agencies have the responsibility to offer all the required training to personnel. The department or agency responsible for emergencies normally provides training materials and information and coordinates with other agencies responsible for public safety. Training should be scheduled and aligned to diverse needs of personnel. Therefore, local agencies must offer opportunities for every agency to determine training needs for their staff.

Local agencies must also conduct a resource analysis that involves equipment and personnel needed to respond to an attack or a threat and aid recovery. Specifically, the analysis should focus on specialized equipment, human resources, and supplies.

The local government must have alert and notification system that provides information about a threat, initial interventions, notification of relevant agencies, and personnel dispatch. Alerts should be categorized based on low to severe risks for effective response.


Response looks at the event to determine the cause – man-made or natural. The first responder should determine this information. Local agencies must identify the location, installations, and occupations.

The first responders often rush to the scene with limited information, but their personal safety is paramount. If an attack occurs, local agencies must establish sufficient controls to eliminate further possible casualties, victims, and damages. They must create a command post, establish a base for resource distribution, and provide on-scene warnings. Moreover, they must prepare for secondary devices with personnel and resources.

Triage is conducted to identify victims for specific treatment needs and transportation. Injuries and medical status are the most important consideration. Triage determines the condition, care urgency, and assignment of medical resources. Local agencies encourage treatment at specific facilities or at the site to limit chances of contamination. It is always important to decontaminate affected individuals and areas using standard procedures. If local facilities are overwhelmed, then treatment may be sought from other jurisdictions.

The fire department and other rescue units must prepare for isolation of victims and personnel exposed and others trapped in the debris. Procedure manuals should be readily available for users. Victims should be transported to healthcare facilities using emergency medical services and rescue guidelines. Further, deceased should be carefully handled and decontaminated in case of a chemical attack or biological agents.

The law enforcement agencies are responsible for crime scene preservation to protect evidence, but health and safety of the victims always come first. At the same time, local agencies must collect all evidence fragments from various sources.

In terms of facility requirements, local authorities should provide emergency operations center, command post, and news center among others.


A terrorist threat may fail to occur. In that case, a standard procedure should be followed to disengage all responding agencies. Conversely, if an attack takes place with severe consequences, then FEMA and other agencies should disengage from the incident at the most suitable time based on their procedures, usually after 90 days. Once the federal government has disengaged, local authorities must continue with the long-term risk assessment, environmental protection, and cleaning up of the site. Other private organizations may also continue with their supports for months or years depending on the needs of the victims.


Local agencies understand that recovery activities often go beyond the response and emergency periods. These activities aim to restore normalcy and help victims to recovery and rebuild their lives. Recovery activities are either short-term or long-term. Short-term activities aim for the recovery of critical systems, and they include search and rescue and sheltering. Long-term activities are meant to stabilize all aspects of the affected communities. The type of attack may determine the recovery period, for instance, chemical, nuclear, or biological agents may require considerably longer periods. Notably, private organizations may continue with recovery efforts to address mental, substance abuse, and physical health issues long after the government has disengaged.


Terror threat and attack operational planning is critical for adequate incident, emergency, and recovery management. Operational planning even at the local levels needs coordination and collaboration among all levels of government, agencies, private organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. It requires continuous approaches involving planning, training, organizing, equipping, implementing, assessing, and taking corrective measures to ensure safety and security of the public and property. Therefore, local governments are encouraged to engage in continuous improvement for effective outcomes in case of threats or attacks.


CTED. (2017). Protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks. Web.

Khakzad, N., & Reniers, G. (2015). Protecting chemical plants against terrorist attacks: A review. Journal of Socialomics, 5(1), 142. Web.

Lee, J., Cleare, T. W., & Russell, M. (2010). Establishing a healthcare emergency response coalition. Plymouth, UK: Government Institutes.

McCauley, C., & Moskalenko, S. (2017). Understanding political radicalization: The two-pyramids model. American Psychologist, 72(3), 205–216. Web.

Walsh, D. W., Christen Jr., H. T., Lord, G. C., Miller, G. T., Maniscalco, P. M., & Callsen Jr, C. E. (2012). National incident management system: Principles and practice (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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