Americans bracing for terrorist attacks
Since Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans have been askingthe same question: When will the terrorists strike again?
The National Society of Professional Engineers recently conducted a poll and found that virtually 100 percent of the population believes another strike is imminent.
Sixty-five percent of the respondents believe the next attack will be against the infrastructure of the United States - a strike against valuable systems like communications, water supplies, electric utilities and natural gas suppliers. Oil refineries could also be added to the list.
Unlike during World War II right after Pearl Harbor, it is difficult for citizens to feel connected to the battle against terrorism, even though the initial attack was directly on mainland America and the target was primarily civilians.
After the Japanese hit Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, people from Honolulu to Denver, Colo., feared an island and West Coast invasion by the country of the rising sun. Formidable measures were enacted within the U.S. civilian population in case the scenario should take place.
As unprepared as civilians were for war in 1941, individual Americans seem even more unprepared in 2002.
For many U.S. citizens, the battle seems more of a bureaucratic war. There is no draft; there is no rationing; there is no overnight conversion of major consumer industries in order to make tanks and guns. And despite the military action taking place in Afganistan and other parts of the world, there are no long lines at recruiting offices or train loads of men being sent to basic training or off to war.
The battle against is a different conflict in a different time. But nonetheless, it is a war that citizens need to be a part of.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has been helping many areas across the nation develop citizen led community emergency response teams.
The majority of the CERT teams are forming in major metropolitan locations in the U.S.
Salt Lake County is forming similar teams and the University of Utah is heading up education efforts in the area.
But for the most part, Americans have left the security of local communities to official agencies. However, U.S. citizens are showing mounting concerns about local areas falling victim to terrorist attacks.
The NSPE survey of more than 1,000 citizens indicates that most Americans consider that an attack affecting them personally is likely.
Thirteen percent of the respondents believe the strike will come during a major sporting event, 16 percent on a famous landmark and 7 percent are unsure of where the next attack will come.
Unlike natural disasters, there is generally no warning about terrorist acts. The alerts the public gets from the federal government are usually based on unspecific sites and sources.
In some ways, terrorism is like an earthquake: there is a general idea that it could happen, but no specific time or place where the damage may occur.
In addition to keeping collective eyes open, the best thing citizens can do to minimize potential attacks is to plan for possible scenarios.
A family disaster plan is a good place to start, according to state and federal public safety experts.
First is to remain alert, which may prove difficult to condition Americans to do since most U.S, citizens have become accustomed to enjoying an open, relatively safe existence.
Other response procedures should include emergency contacts, the identification of rally points and a disaster supply kit.
In general, Americans need to be aware of the immediate surroundings. Citizens should watch for conspicuous or unusual behaviors and, when traveling, people should never leave luggage unattended or accept packages from strangers.
In the majority of attacks, terrorists tend to use explosive devices to cause the destruction. That could be anything from a conventional bomb to a gasoline tank truck crashing into a building to a nuclear device.
In the event of an explosion, Castle Valley residents should leave the impacted area quickly and calmly as possible.
If exiting the site is impossible, people should crawl under a sturdy table, desk or counter to keep falling items from causing injury.
If a fire starts, people should stay low to the floor, below the smoke, and try to exit the building.
When an attack occurs, many people make bad decisions about what they should do, point out the state and federal experts.
Citizens inside buildings that have been attacked should cover their mouths and noses with a wet cloth if possible.
Signaling rescue workers is best accomplished by tapping on pipes rather than shouting. Screaming and yelling could result in individuals inhaling large amounts of dangerous dust.
Helping other attack victims is important, but attempting foolhardy rescues from downed buildings may result in additional casualties.
In effect, survivors of an attack should wait for emergency teams to arrive at the scene.
In the event a terrorist attack should occur, public safety experts point out that it is difficult for people to know what to do if planning beforehand has not been done.
A family emergency plan should address the following issues for all types of disasters, including terrorism:
Have family members discuss escape routes not only from the home, but also from their work places or school buildings.
Pick a point to meet in case of a disaster (called a rally point).
Make sure that there is a specific out-of-state friend or family member that can act as a go between in case of emergency.
In addition, residents should try to have two ways to contact the contact person - telephone number, e-mail address, etc.
Make plans as to how to handle and what to do with pets should there be a disaster.
Family members should keep emergency numbers in their possession at all times.
The emergency numbers should include the out-of-town contact, the school's children attend, parents and teenagers work places, neighbors numbers as well as any pertinent county emergency management numbers.
As for disaster supply kits, households are encouraged to put together kits that meet their specific circumstances in a variety of crisis.
Kits should include the following.
At least one gallon of water for each person the kit is created for will last up to a week.
Enough food basics for a week for each person that falls under the kits plan.
Clothing, blankets and pillows.
A first aid kit and medical supplies that might be needed for individual family members in the event of emergencies.
For instance, extra prescription medicines for those that rely on them for health.
Lighting sources, which includes plenty of extra batteries.
Battery operated or otherwise powered radio.
Some cash because in a national or local emergency banks and other financial institutions operations may be disrupted.
Pet care items for animals that may be affected.
A rudimentary tool kit and duct tape (it can be used for a large number of things).
The points answer some of the rudimentary questions about family preparedness. But when it comes to community preparation, CERT teams are at least part of the answer.