Denial. It’s a common psychological response people have to changes in per- ceived conditions of safety. Most of us are ill-equipped to deal with unexpected threats, and we have become accustomed to relying on others to maintain our safety. We live in a 9-1-1 society, and we assume that help is always a phone call away.
In reality, societal resiliency is a communal responsibility. As the population grows, so do the number of threats to safety, so it’s wise to increase your self-reliance should an emergency occur. The challenges of maintaining law and order and protecting society are not the sole responsibility of governments: We must become active participants in our own security. Following are some thoughts to help you do that.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), improvised incendiary devices (IIDs), remote control improvised explosive devices (RCIEDs), vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) and human-delivered improvised explosive devices (HDIEDs) are all weapons of choice for domestic and international terrorists. Terrorists used backpacks and satchels to conceal IEDs in the 2004 attacks on the Madrid mass transit system, the 2005 attacks on the London subway, the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, and the 2009 attacks on hotels in Jakarta. These devices have killed and maimed thousands of people worldwide, mostly civilians (non-combatants).
IEDs and IIDs have also been used by active shooters (Columbine High School, etc.) and by other fringe extremists. IEDs have become very effective weapons for those who advance their cause through terror and violence. These weapons are favored by terrorists for their force, traumatic impact, low cost of production and difficulty to detect when concealed in items used everywhere. Information on how to manufacture most of these devices is available online and the ingredients are readily available.
Excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, 7,747 civilians were wounded by IEDs in 2010. This translates to an average of three IED incidents each day. Data compiled by the Global Campaign Against IEDs document incidents at 291 and 308 per month in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Internet radicalization is of particular concern. The English language magazine Inspired, was developed by propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki (a recruiter and operational planner for al-Qa’ida), who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. The publication continues to motivate self-appointed radicals to commit atrocities, and most recently the Tsarnaev brothers reportedly used bomb-making instructions outlined in the summer 2010 edition of the magazine to build the pressure-cooker IEDs used in the Boston Marathon bombing.
The spread of extremist ideology and the persistent threat of homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) indicate that the use of these devices is proliferating. Even improved security and greater police presence cannot completely prevent such attacks on public places. An essential element of every successful security program is the involvement of the people it’s intended to protect. There are not enough “eyes and ears” to identify and notify others in a timely matter when terrorism strikes. Each and every one of us is our first line of civil defense.