Terrorism Risk Perceptions

Introduction

The international community has not formulated a universally agreed, legally binding definition of terrorism, since it has proved controversial and also the fact that the debate on terrorism is politically and emotionally charged. The concept of terrorism is itself controversial, with an oft-use to delegitimize political or other opponents, and potentially states use of armed combat against opponents (Cornish, 2007). However, acts of violence intended to create fear, and perpetrated for religious, political or ideological goals can be used to describe terrorism. The acts are perpetrated mainly to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. According to Cornish, P (2007), ‘terrorism has always been either a means to some strategic end-a form of violent negotiation…. – or an expression of violent ideological opposition.’(p. 4). Terrorism has radically altered the international security landscape, due to an uncertain climate it has created the world over. This has forced governments around the world to respond, mostly focusing on identifying and mitigating the challenges to stability and security in their states or countries. The purpose of this report is to examine the risk perception of general public and emergency service responders within the West Midlands area towards terrorism in order to explore the impacts it may have in disaster management context.

The West Midlands is a metropolitan county in western central England consisting of seven metropolitan boroughs or districts. It is landlocked and one of the most heavily urbanized counties in the UK. West Midlands is a busy area and well-known in the middle of England. It has an international airport and convention centers which may be a target for terrorist attack. A terrorist attack in this area would therefore affect both responders and administrators residing in this area. The region has also for long being an important center of commerce and industry, and although it’s County Council was abolished, some local services are still county-wide based. Amongst these include The West Midlands police who are overseen by a joint police authority, and The West Midlands Fire Service administered by a joint “Fire and Rescue Authority”. The report covers the topic of terrorism globally, in United Kingdom especially in the West Midlands. It also explains the chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism, as well as the meaning of risk perception and its effect on disaster management. Lastly it covers the current research related to this topic. Emphasis has been put on addressing the main objective of the study which is about how prepared is the West Midlands emergency response teams in the event of terrorism activity in the area.

Global Terrorism  

Terrorism has evolved continually, and terrorists have continued daily to enhance their intimidations on the global audience. Despite its ancient lineage, however, its modern stature was only initiated in the 1960s, shockingly being refined in the decades that followed with threateningly murderous efficiency (Sloan, S 2008). Historically, it evolved from attempts to achieve certain political objectives by a weak actor, to the today’s more indiscriminate maiming and killing of innocent civilians, partly due to the changing international politics. Pursuance of objectives that revolved around national liberation of countries was historically its main objective. However, with most of these objectives already achieved with decolonization, what has emerged is what we are facing today, the stronger terrorism groups with global networks, and adherents who are ready to lose their lives in the fulfillment of the group’s mission. Their emergence could be due to several reasons. This include; furthering political objectives, especially when they believe in no other means of effecting their desired change. For instance, they may attack national symbols, as an attempt to shake the foundations of a country or society or to show power by instilling fear on the general populace of a country or on the government. They ensure their target must be a place or a society which will make their message clear, and at times they admit responsibility for the attacks.  Failure to achieve this change is for them a worse outcome than the deaths of innocent civilians (Sloan, 2008). The airports, convention or conference centers, bus or railway stations are also easy targets, especially areas with high populations and where the effect can be much disastrous, or much felt.

Terrorist attacks aim at maximizing the severity and length of the psychological impact. Therefore, the perpetrators devise the best tactics so as to impact on large audiences. Different countries in the world have had no defined counter-terrorism measures in the past. The risk mitigation and disaster management strategies were also very poor or did not exist at all. However, the latest terrorist attacks in strategic cities globally have sounded a wake-up call to different governments in launching new and stricter measures to deal with the menace. The September 11th 2001 targeting the Western States was one of Al Qaida’s successful attacks, and which indicated how loopholes in security had gone too far, or else how daring the terrorists could resort to.  The countries worldwide are designing ways in which they can counter the risks of terrorism by exchanging information that is pertinent.  There is the establishment of intelligence policing, and other strategies like training of staff in organizations on disaster preparedness and management. The boundaries that existed from the local, national, and global levels are being abolished to be able to open channels of communication at all levels.

Some terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda have shown themselves to be durable and agile. According to Sloggett (2010) this is due to factors like: dispersion of core group members, their ability to use the internet, and willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of fulfilling their missions.  Terrorism has expanded to fill the security policy vacuum, earlier occupied by the cold war, because it is largely unrivalled and unchallenged as a strategic threat. It remains the most daunting task for countries, regardless of their levels of development, since the previous attacks have been indiscriminately done. For instance, their targets have raged from African countries like Kenya and Tanzania, to the Western world and including several attacks in India.

Terrorism within the United Kingdom (UK)

In earlier years, the UK had not had any significant terrorist attacks on its homeland, until 7th July 2005 attacks on the transport system in London. There before, of significance was the bombing of pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988. After the US and UK had completed their investigation of the Lockerbie and forthwith indicted two Libyan agents, the British counterterrorism efforts were concentrated on the IRA’s bombing campaign, and lately in 1990s on dealing with the opponents of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement who continued to use terrorism. Other serious and intricate measures were not a major priority for the United Kingdom. London was increasingly becoming a base of individuals involved in promoting, funding and planning terrorism in mid-1990s, to the anger of other foreign governments, especially the United States, a key ally of the UK. The United Kingdom’s intelligence agencies and the police, well aware of this did not view these individuals as a threat. This was until the September 11 attacks on the United States, a result of intelligence failure of the entire Western alliance. This exposed the whole society and showed their vulnerability, from the government bodies and agencies to all other players in state security.

Vulnerability

The United Kingdom faces serious and sustained threat from international terrorism. For instance, the Al-Qaeda threat could not be fully appreciated by the British authorities, according to a report by the UK’s Economic & Social Research Council (E. S. R. C. 2005). The report describes Al-Qaeda as a “network of networks”, and the UK being at particular risk; being the closest ally of the United States, participated in toppling the Afghanistan’s Taliban regime and in Iraq, and its ‘leading role in international intelligence, police and judicial cooperation against Al-Qaeda and its efforts to suppress its finances.’(p. 2). The nature of threat faced by the UK was represented by the 2005 attack on its transport system and includes a well-known fact of recruited and deployed extremists within its borders notoriously known for suicide attacks. ‘Furthermore, it is known that the Al-Qaida network has been actively seeking the materials and expertise to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weaponry’ (E. S. R. C, 2005 p. 2)

The UK also faces the dangers of terrorism from hard line opponents of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, and other extremist indigenous groups.  (E. S. R. C, 2005). Another major threat to the UK is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction posing a great danger to its security. There are a lot of dangerous weapons in the wrong hands, and being exchanged through the black market. The Al-Qaida’s major boost in propaganda, recruitment and fundraising came with the situation over Iraq, where the UK felt sidelined in counter-terrorism policy implementation by the US, as a result of which a major split was realized in the coalition. However, the UK, realizing the threat it faced, notwithstanding the July 7 2005 attacks, has responded with an emphasis on intelligence-led action aimed at disrupting potential terrorist networks.

Challenges

The main challenge of the UK has been the scarcity of trained surveillance personnel, and especially within the police and intelligence services. In addition, there is the task of identifying where the boundary should be between players in the private and public sectors, considering that the scale of the challenge is huge. For instance, it has been a challenge to establish enough surveillance and enhanced security on stocks of ammonium nitrate, widely used in agriculture, but also used for making explosives. How to track down any ingenuity in users can be a big challenge. There have also been a lot of threats to domestic security. With the passing of the Security Service Act 1996, the role of the UK security Service has expanded to include providing support to law enforcement agencies in fighting serious crime. In addition, it has also taken into offering online security advice on the security service website. This is considering cyber-security as a phenomenon that has become prominent in resent past, as an important part of contemporary life.

Resilience

The threat posed by international terrorism has seen the Government on the road to planning for security and resilience through the Home Office Terrorism and Protection Unit (TPU). The Home Secretary is responsible for UK’s domestic security and also coordinates the other players in national security. The aim is to improve information gathering systems for better methods of disaster management and mitigation. According to Cornish (2007), the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy program is known as ‘CONTEST’, which is divided into four areas of activity, known as ‘4 Ps’:

  • Prevent terrorism by tackling the underlying causes in UK and abroad
  • Pursue terrorists and their sponsors by using intelligence to disrupt their activity, and by working with allies and partners internationally
  • Protect the public and UK interests
  • Prepare for the consequences of a terrorist attack

Apart from the Security Service, there is also the inter-departmental centre for the protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), which advises the Government, non-governmental agencies, and also sections of commerce and industry whose services and products from the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). It provides security advice in both virtual and physical domain. The CPNI was formed from the amalgamation of two bodies: the National Security Advice Centre (NSAC) and the National Infrastructure Security Coordination Centre (NISCC). The effect of the amalgamation was bringing cyber-terrorism into mainstream counter-terrorism policy. However there is still a lot of concern on the adequacy tackling of cyber-terrorism. (Cornish 2007)

The chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism

There has been a growing concern over the potential threats posed by chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons in the hands of terrorists, especially questions on the ease of obtaining such weapons or to deliver or even disperse them. A wide range of chemical and biological (CB) deadly agents such as insecticides and potent toxins are relatively easy to produce or acquire. Some pathogens can even be grown or harvested from nature with relatively unsophisticated equipment and limited expertise (CSIS 1999). These deadly pathogens can be sent through the mail, and therefore mainly target individual assassinations. Nevertheless, assuming optimal meteorological conditions and the most effective dispersal means it could still be fatal to masses. The biological agents especially can result into staggering number of fatalities.

However, unlike the chemical and biological agents which are considered cheaper and easier to produce, the nuclear weapons are expensive and not easily available. Nevertheless, nuclear materials have in recent years been seized on the black market in Europe, implying threats of a possible nuclear terrorism. A more likely threat of nuclear terrorism however would be radiological. This means contamination of air or water, or rendering unusable a particular area or facility by dispersing radioactive substances (CSIS 1999). According to Slogget (2010), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported of 1300 incidences of smuggling in since 1990 in Europe alone. This is one of the trends showing the relative ease with which nuclear materials can be obtained.

Use of CBRN Materials by Terrorists in the past

Though limited, there has been past cases of use of Chemical and Biological (CB) agents by terrorists, including deliberate contamination of food products causing losses economically and human casualties. Other cases include the conspiracy of right-wing extremists in North America to poison city water supplies, and attempts against government forces using CB agents by insurgent groups have been reported in various parts of the world. Another example of use of CBRN agents was the ‘typhoid poisoning of 750 people by the Rajneesh sect in Oregon in 1984.’(CSIS 1999)

Limited attacks and threats have also been reported on nuclear power facilities. Chechen rebels also placed a cesium capsule, a radiological material in a Moscow park. However, through the internet, information on capabilities of CBRN attacks spreads very fast, with the difficulty of determining whether it’s real or a mere hoax. Therefore, the appropriate responses about such threats, remains difficult and extremely disruptive to the society.  Yet the information can be passed so fast through the internet reaching a large audience within a short period of time.

Current Trends

The likelihood of CBRN weapons use by terrorists has remained real, considering the recent indiscriminate terrorist attacks, the availability of materials and expertise and the technology, and the increase in religion-inspired violence shown by emerging cults and extremist groups. Also, since the Tokyo subway attack, terrorist interest in the use of CB weapons has grown substantially.

Risk Perception

Perception is a main part of human intelligence key to understanding human behavior and the mechanism with which a person evaluates inputs from the external environment (Cooper, 2003). How people view risks is open to negotiation and can be discovered through interactions. Some of the factors which influence risk perception include the source characteristics of the risk, worldviews, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic background, and others such as profession, occupation, which are variables (Bang, 2008 cited in Dake 1991). Attitudes can be complex, textured and less concrete and mostly cannot be uncovered quantitatively. Qualitative approaches such as “sensitivity analysis” can be used to scrutinize findings of public opinion polls. ‘Recent insights into perceptions of risk suggest that attitudes toward specific threats cannot be divorced from the social and economic context within which they are situated.’ (Allouche & Lind 2010, p.9). Terrorism is considered as the most strategic global uncertainty. Opinion polls in the UK show that higher percentages of respondents believe that Britain is under greater threat of violent attack than at any other time, and that the greatest threats are terrorism and serious organized crime.

Understanding how recent terrorist attacks are shaping the public outlook is very important and determines the response to the threats. The question that lingers in our minds in relation to risk perception is the connection between people’s attitudes to terrorism and government responses to the perceived threat. After the July 2005 terrorist attacks on the London transport system, a MORI survey on the effects on the Londoners found that 51 per cent considered it very likely for another attack in the near future (Alluoche & Lind, 2010). Mixed attitudes were expressed as to what were the appropriate responses to the threat of terrorism, with about seventy-nine percent thinking it acceptable to deport non-UK citizens who encourage terrorism. A minority supported a “shoot to kill” policy by the police for suspected terrorists, with 51per cent not supporting it. Other surveys showed that about 83 per cent supported carrying of identity cards which was a government proposal in March 2004 as a response to terrorism threat. About three quarters of them were unconcerned about any negative impact that introduction of cards would have on their civil liberties.

On government’s proposal to extend pre-charge detention period of terror suspects from 28 to 42 days conducted by YouGov in March 2008, only 13 per cent supported. The majority rather suggested the police to be allowed to question suspects further after being charged for fresh evidence on related offences if suspected. Five years after the London July 7th attacks, an assessment of public attitudes to terrorism in Britain by YouGov/Sun showed that majority (53 per cent) thought there was no change, while 25 per cent thought the threat had increased with 17 per cent thinking it had decreased.

Other surveys conducted included public opinion of British Muslims in light of the July 7th attacks and the British Muslims responses to the bombings. A majority reported no change of their opinions of British Muslims. Majority of Muslims very strongly identified with being both British and Muslim. Regarding Muslim views on civil liberties, majority (67 per cent) thought it was unacceptable to detain terror suspects without trial and 71 per cent agreed as unacceptable permitting evidence obtained abroad by use of torture to be used in British courts. A split opinion emerged on placing terror suspects on house arrest. The opinion of London Muslims was found to be similar to those of non-Muslim Londoners on a variety of pertinent issues. (Allouche & Lind 2010)

Unsurprisingly the interviewees before the terrorist attacks of July 7th agreed that people exaggerated the threat, whereas after the bombings majority agreed there was no exaggeration, implying that the reality of threats changed their perception.

Risk Perception Effect on Disaster Management

In recognition of the role played by human systems and people’s behavior and decision making in vulnerability, the debate has shifted majorly towards a social causation for disasters. Therefore, according to Bang (2008 p. 4); ‘social scientists consider risk based on its perceptions as an invaluable concept in understanding and analyzing people’s behavior when confronted with hazards and disasters.’ He goes on to relate people’s response to natural hazards as influence of their risk perception. Although it would be naïve to assume that everyone can prevent the terrorist from achieving their objective, risk management techniques would make their task much more difficult. The threat presented from international terrorism remains very real and serious, including even the new non conventional threats such as bio-terrorism. From experience, it has been proved much easier to plan for any likely effects of such events in advance, than react in the aftermath. Disaster management involves planning and actions to prevent and be prepared for disasters and effectiveness in dealing with them. Therefore the key stages of disaster management are: prevention, preparedness, reaction, and recovery. (Matthews, Smith, 7 Knwles) Some of the measures necessary to reduce the potential threat of terrorist activities could include the following:

An effective and detailed business continuity plan- This should embrace not only business recovery, but also emergency procedures, which is important in incident management. For instance, plans for ensuring full recovery of data from back-up and other media, for the Information systems, including detailed procedures, which should be reviewed regularly. Also, retaining copies of CCTV tapes for sometime where applicable, training the staff on emergency procedures and ensuring good basic housekeeping in all the environs of your building should be insisted. Routine searches are a necessary measure for good housekeeping.

In addition, the firefighting equipment should always be in working order, readily available and regularly checked. Products which can help to reduce the possibility of injury or damage in case of an explosion should be available. These include anti-blast curtains, security window film and laminated glass. Additionally, the threats of suspect mail should be handled seriously by ensuring up-to-date communication on contingency plans and control measures.

General precautions on security matters is necessary, including intruder alarm system for the sensitive areas, employment of a security personnel, closed circuit television (CCTV) systems and security lightning. The doors should be flush with the building line, avoiding recesses. Also, there should be fire doors and emergency exits. In addition, there is need for vigilance and alertness on any suspicious objects or persons behaving in an abnormal manner or strangely. The police should be notified immediately about anything that causes concern. ( Risk M, 2011). Any community benefit when a comprehensive risk management program is available. This includes professional assistance on providing best safety practices through preventive and proactive programs. Effective communications throughout any organization and passing of information without any distortion is also important for risk mitigation. (Stewart 2008).

Current Research

As part of the current research on this topic, the EU-funded Evacuation Responsiveness by Government Organizations (ERGO) project is an ongoing effort to gather information on various ways of disaster responsiveness and management. This is done through visiting various disaster-prone areas of past and gathering information on the best ways of dealing with disasters. This and other information gathered is assisting in an ongoing campaign in the United Kingdom to enable those charged with security to analyze and determine appropriate countermeasures, and possibly make adjustments for a comprehensive diagnosis and response to the threat.

Some of the measures undertaken include establishment of the National Terrorist Crime Prevention Unit, which sensitizes on the implementation of several security measures to deter or prevent terrorism. Its approach has been to distribute material at the height of threats or incidents to sensitize audience, with an aim is of protecting lives and reducing disruption. This works to help the society to continue with their activities with little or no fear, or in mitigation of the risk.

For instance, the government research findings on perceptions of safety on public transport found that public transport users feel unsafe especially when waiting for train services, and improved security would result in increased number of trips by public transport. Respondents rating of the most effective safety measures included good lighting, presence of staff and CCTV to provide surveillance. The recommendations included a highly visible CCTV to deter potential criminals and reassure passengers and publicity to inform everyone that the CCTV is monitored and is linked to a source to provide help. Also staff uniform was recommended to reassure public of their presence, and up-to-date information in stations (Jenkins & Gersten, 2001).

Fire service officers involved in fire fighting are expected to be well trained to not only deal with any emerging physical issues, but also the emotional ones that might affect the other personnel’s performance. Efforts to mitigate the level of loss are a risk management principle. There is also an introduction of in-house training programs in basics of fire fighting safety. A trained and informed population is an equipped population, and itv makes it an easier task to deal with the disasters in case they may arise.

Summary

The intension of terrorism is to cause serious harm or death to civilians and non-combatants. Today, it has crossed geographical, religious or regional boundaries holding countries to ransom. More than other disasters, terrorism threaten world peace and economic development with its long-lasting and negative effect on society. The infrastructure is destroyed within minutes, multitudes rendered homeless, jobless and others are mentally devastated. Therefore disaster management is a most-sought-for requirement currently. A multi-disciplinary and proactive approach is necessary with the government involving as many citizens in strategic approach towards disaster management. The government is also required to allocate proper resources for the upkeep of disaster management teams who are charged with regular monitoring to avert or cope with disasters. This also incorporates proper working police forces or intelligence teams and its support agencies. Rapid Action Teams with skills in fire-fighting, first-aid, and rescue skills should always be on standby. There are also the rehabilitation teams to assist victims in restarting their lives afresh, as well as psychological counseling teams.

It is also clear that the public perception on risks is of great importance on disaster management. It has a direct relationship on the factors that need to be addressed. The government should therefore carry out research regularly on risk perception of general public and emergency service responders. This gives a clear guideline on disaster management and mitigation factors necessary. However, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed in order to conceptualize the topic more clearly. This includes the effect of risk perception on disaster management, and the decision making in the condition that risk perceptions between different Emergency Responder Units and its members may differ.

Methodology

Scale of the Study

The West Midlands area was the target of the research in consideration of time and resources limitation. It is also best suited for study since it enhances the probability to prove the theory, bearing in mind that the administrators’ perceptions are more diversified than the responders’.  It is also an urbane populated area, with an international airport, and a number of convention centers and social places which have a higher risk of terrorist attacks than other regions.

Interview Questions

An interpretative approach is more appropriate to be used in social context to understand risk perception. But to enhance achievement of the research question a combination of both quantitative approach and qualitative approach are selected. An interpretative approach emphasize on an influence on what is observed and the subjective nature of reality more generally. The researcher helps to create the reality and that this reality would not have existed without the observations made (Damon, Paul, & McEvoy). The questions asked to the administrators slightly differ from those asked to the responders due to their nature of work, but all are designed to meet the objectives of the study; to investigate how methods and impacts of both international terrorist activities within the Britain have changed over time, to identify influence factors that may have on risk perception toward terrorism from any given individual, to determine the level of readiness or preparedness of the West Midlands Emergency Response Units to CBRN terrorist attacks, to explore differences in risk perception between different Emergency Responder Units and also perception conflict within the organization, to investigate risk perception impact that may have in risk communication and decision making in the condition that risk perceptions between different Emergency Responder Units and its members may differ. Also emphasized is the main objective which is about the preparedness of the West Midlands response teams in the event of terrorism activity, directed to both administrators and responders. Open-ended interview questions are preferred in order to collect as much information as possible. This kind of question allows the interviewees to answer without being led to desired answer.

Data Collection

A research sample of 50 participants are involved and are distributed to fire service, polices, and ambulance services across the West Midlands area. The small sample is justifiable for the research due to its interpretative nature. The samples are distributed to responders and administrators in order to make direct comparison so as to answer the research question. The administrators are fewer as compared to the responders, and therefore more responders are involved in the qualitative interview, with the time allocated for the interviews being approximately 30-45 minutes and this covers the convenience of the participants due to the information they would like to share, and clarification of any issues they are uncertain of. The Research instrument developed in observational methodology are own skills at observing participants, collecting data and interpreting.

Analysis

Qualitative analysis method of decoding the data collected emphasizes and builds on the perspectives of participants in the research setting (MacArthur, Graham & Fitzgerald). Content analysis, defined by Webber (1990) as the use of reasoning to interpret information, will create categories and identify key areas of interest that information will be assessed upon based on interviews. Allowances for new categories are given for further studies.

Critical Analysis

International Counter-terrorism in Britain

National security priorities in Britain have in recent years changed dramatically. Counter-terrorism and national security have taken center stage among the core national strategies. Also noteworthy lately is the fact that the boundary between internal and external security is getting dissolved, implying a connection between local and global aspects of security. For instance, the local governments’ NYPD has police officers posted abroad, a part of a wider strategic counter-terrorism measure. Information sharing, inter-agency cooperation, and other functions are aimed at improving global governance of security. All regions and cities are also in regular sharing of information with each other and the central government. Also “integrated counter-terrorism institutions” have been formed the world over, which share information and coordinate counter-terrorism and national security. These bring together experts from intelligence, policing, security, and emergency planners. In the UK we have the United Kingdom’s Counter-Terrorism Units (CTUs) and Counter-Terrorism Intelligence Units (CTIUs).

The intelligence-led policing have emerged as very strategic in security measures. Security governance must shift to planning for every contingency, since the risk of a terrorist attack would be incalculable (Boyle & Haggerty 2009). However, apart from the positive effect of making societies more secure, imprudent cooperation may also end up to negative effects on privacy and civil liberties. This is due to the exposure of the core departments touching on the sensitive national security matters, since in most countries the intelligence services are also in charge of the state security, and which may require sharing with other countries when faced with security threats.

Influence Factors on Risk Perception toward Terrorism

Risk is forward looking and linked to the future, and therefore current concerns are an attempt to control it in the future. Issues of institutional trust, societal and personal values all play a strong role in the computation of a risk response in the public domain (W.H.G 2009). The categorization of risk “actor”, or a sub-set of the larger public group, which can be an individual, media, politician, and so on, can add complexity to the public risk debate. Each of the actors can have an influence on the other, and mostly the media have the strongest sway. Different interests therefore exist as far as each group is concerned, a condition that requires a dynamic environment with active involvement to be addressed. The adaptation of all these versions of interests in the practical world is not an easy task. It requires systems of classification that are resilient to complexity. For instance, an individual expressing personal opinion, a lobbying MP, local media correspondence, or a group of like-minded individuals coalescing around ‘attractors’ and can engage in protests, or even an organization, goal oriented especially promoting a national agenda regardless of local need, like NGOs, charity organizations, and so on. These illustrations indicate the complexity of public’s participation as risk actors.

However to address this complex issues arose different drivers, including; rise of ‘techno science’ and technological interventions, the ‘stakeholder society’, and growth of public participation,  transformation in media technology and increasing media accessibility, slow revolution in the relationship between knowledge and power, enhancing scrutiny and transparency and politicization of risk-messages due to their power to motivate public responses. The trends listed above are some of the few associated with the public risk actor illustrating growth in awareness of risk, increased influence and potential impact in both formal and informal ways, rising sharpness and focus on issues. In same measure, the challenges posed by these conditions in policy making toward resilience are also stiff (W.H.G 2009)

The Level of Preparedness of the West Midlands Emergency Response Units to CBRN Attacks

The recent global events indicate great risks of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) terrorism-threat attacks. Key landmarks, transport hubs and convention areas are key targets. In the UK, The Royal Society established an independent, expert working group to work on detecting and decontaminating people and buildings subjected to attack by such agents. A Rapid and effective detection and decontamination minimizes negative health impacts and also reduce disruption to the society. Coupled with relevant science, and engineering and technology, the group is capable of dealing with any malevolent attack or accidental releases. The formation of the CBRN team in the Home Office has improved coordination and awareness, but still requires more organization and resources. There is also the combined phenomenon of the securitization of policing and the integration of different security actors have a number of clear effects, including the fact that security is governed by a plurality of actors and also there is no clear distinction between local, national, and global boundaries and security concerns.

In the future, it is recommended that; point detectors for first responders be developed, relevant data be collected, analysis of medical intelligence to enhance resilience. In addition, on decontamination, there should be an improvement on assessment of the efficacy of procedures and technologies, detailed review of the various options for decontamination and techniques of avoiding secondary contamination in hospitals or ambulances. However dealing effectively with the threat of these agents, requires actions from all angles; the political goodwill, economically cost effective, organizational and technological innovation

The UK government is also keeping the UK households informed by releasing booklets. This is for informing them of the importance of them too to be prepared, as the government does all it can to be set in the event of an emergency. There has also been advice on security matters by several British official websites, especially through the Home Office, UK resilience and the Security Service. (Woolven, R 2004)

Risk Perception Differences between responder Units and within the Organization

The Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) requires assessment of risks to society and, where necessary, contingency arrangements put in place (C. L. G 2008). The category 1 responders include the police and ambulance services, the Fire and Rescue Service, and others like the Health Authority and Environment Agency. The category 1 responders have a ‘language’ of their own in planning for their responses. Whilst a good number of terms are common to each of the responders, some other terms will have different definitions, only specific to the responder concerned. Therefore, there is sometimes a risk of potential misunderstanding of the use and context of this terminology, to both responders and the public. Co-operation can be improved by an appreciation of the different terminology and operating procedures of the likely co-responders. This would also minimize the risk to society and to the co-responders.

However, in response to this challenge the key requirements would include:

  • Relevant category 1 responder to be contacted to establish their risk terminology, specific common terms used and signals for basic operation practice.
  • Create a Risk Dictionary to capture various issues like data phrases, data definitions, organization and context
  • Come up with common terminology where beneficial and reasonably practical

In addition, to build on existing arrangements, a clear set of roles and responsibilities for local responders should be established and  a sound basis for performance management at local level be established. Realistic training or actual emergencies will make organizations to become aware of potential and areas of conflict, for if else left unchecked would be a potential area for injury or loss of life for both emergency responders and community members (CLG 2008)

Risk Perception Impact in Risk Communication

Public attitudes to terrorism are also addressed in the context of risk communication.Individuals’ perception of risk lies on different individual groupings also, which we can refer to as the actors. This can be the family and peers, influential people in the society like teachers or doctors, the media or other bodies like the parliament, and the big organizations or pressure groups like the NGO’s participating mostly at the national level.

The media is felt to have had an important impact on the public and at times is considered the most important of all other groups. Its effect can be either positive or negative; sometimes it can exaggerate risks leading to a public outcry, while at other times it provides a forum for the public voice to reach the politicians. The tendency of the media to suggest ‘panic’ in response to attacks, and going ahead to review the public’s reaction, can influence public risk perceptions. Sometimes it is the public that is not keen, for instance reading just the headlines and believing them. But the fact of the matter is that the media and the public will obviously affect each other.

The pressure groups, the civil society can be seen as the good ones and often trusted, yet at times they do exaggerate risks. They can cause confusion at times to the public.

The professionals known and trusted by the public can also have a significant influence on risk perceptions. These include doctors and teachers. Also the religious group will influence the perceptions a lot.

In conclusion, I propose that the perception of risk in the public domain is strongly linked with change. This implies a reactive paradigm or a response to change or the expectation of change. And this means that the manner in which change is recognized, understood and embraced by public depends on the risk actor perception.

The Recommendation is that the UK government to establish a body to improve the UK’s resilience and mitigate impacts of any incident. This could involve:

  • Assess and disseminate protocols and procedures for detection and decontamination
  • Establish agreed industrial standards
  • Ensure information is shared effectively by various departments and agencies, the public, academicians, industry and other interested parties.
  • Work with research institutions, governments’ funding to come up with the best efforts on risk management.

Provide a reliable expert advice regarding chemical or biological incidents for local emergency planners, first responders, Government Department and agencies.

Also recommended is dialogue between Scientists, psychologists, politicians, and the public to improve communication and understanding of hazard and risk issues. (CLG 2008)

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