For most Americans, terrorism dramatically became a public issue on September 11, 2001. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the airliner that crashed in Western Pennsylvania were serious enough, but they were not the first terrorist attacks against the United States.
For Emergency Management and law enforcement, terrorism became a major issue in the 1990s. The World Trade Center was attacked by Islamic terrorists in 1993 and the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was destroyed in 1995 by a truck bomb planted by Timothy McVey and several co-conspirators.
Terrorism is the use of violence or the threat of violence to advance some political goal or promote a political message. Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, want to generate fear among the public, persuade people that their government is unable to protect them and generate publicity for their cause.
New Hampshire is not a likely terrorist target, but in fact, at least two terrorist attacks have occurred here in recent years. The Colebrook shootings that left five people dead in August 1997 were motivated by long simmering disputes over land use. The individual allegedly responsible for the Concord Public Library bombing in October 1998 left notes with complaints about state government.
Most terrorist attacks to date have been carried out with conventional weapons, that is, bombs or firearms. But terrorism could involve chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or even cyber attacks aimed at damaging computers.
First responders in New Hampshire have been trained and equipped to respond to a wide variety of terrorist weapons. They are also much better prepared to handle accidents involving hazardous materials. But public safety personnel can’t protect everyone all the time and the general public needs to take protective action as well.
Here are some recommendations for protecting yourself and your family from a terrorist attack, provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
- Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended. You should promptly report unusual behavior, suspicious or unattended packages, and strange devices to the police or security personnel.
- Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Plan how to get out in the event of an emergency.
- Be prepared to do without services you normally depend on-electricity, telephone, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATMs, and Internet transactions.
For more information, visit Emergency Planning for Individuals and Families and FEMA.