A recent New York Times and CBS News poll shows that Americans fear that a terrorist attack is eminent more so now than at any time since September 11, 2001. In a poll taken December 4-8, 2015, a staggering 79% of respondents said they fear that a terrorist attack will occur in the next few months.
It’s hard not to be fearful when you turn on the TV and see recent terrorist attacks such as those in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. Change the channel and you’ll find experts saying the threat level is high and recommending citizens be vigilant in everyday outings.
How can the average American be vigilant without being fearful?
I had a friend recently tell me that she was sitting in the food court with her children when the thought occurred to her that a terrorist attack could happen. She immediately started looking for possible escape routes, just in case. She became so overwhelmed with fear that she rushed the kids out. There wasn’t a terrorist threat there; it was all in her head. The fear of terrorism has become crippling for some people and is disrupting their routines.
As I sit here sipping on my coffee and writing, I am reminded of a recent bomb threat on Camp Lejeune. The caller said there was a bomb at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. That threat was later determined to be unsubstantiated, but if I were the fearful type, I might question my safety here now. I don’t, though. I feel safe in my environment.
I consider myself someone who is vigilant. It isn’t something on the forefront of my mind that makes me worry or panic. I simply notice exits when entering a building, I park in well lit areas, walk out with people, have my keys ready before I head to my car, keep my head up and aware of my surroundings, turn lights on at home at night and set the alarm. These aren’t things I do in fear of a terrorist attack; they were just everyday precautions my father instilled in me when I was younger.
The No. 1 thing to do is to be aware of your surroundings. Put your phone down and pay attention to what’s going on around you. A key phrase that is widely being said of late is “if you see something, say something.” A neighbor of those responsible for the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., said she questioned if she should call the authorities earlier in the year because of their suspicious behavior, but feared that she would be labeled a racist. If that neighbor had spoken up earlier, maybe the events of that tragic day could have been altered. We’ll never know though.
Fear is widely spreading throughout the United States. You can’t let it dictate your life though. Take some time out of your busy schedule and just think about what you would do in a terrorist attack. Having a plan of action ahead of time, just in case, could turn an awful situation into possibly a survivable one. Read about how to survive a terrorist attack and think about how you would handle the situation. Would you run, hide or attack? Those are the three options most experts will say you have when it comes to these situations.
If at all possible, run as fast as you can to get as far away from the situation as you can. If there is an active shooter, run in a zigzag motion. It is much harder to hit a moving target, especially when the direction of movement changes rapidly.
If you can’t run, hide. Try to hide behind something bullet-proof or something thick. If you’re in a small room, turn off the light, lock the door, if possible and push something heavy in front of the door. Sit quietly and silence your phone. Terrorists try to inflict as much damage as possible in a short amount of time. They look for easy targets and are more likely to move on than struggle to get the door open.
Your last resort in a terrorist attack may be to fight. If you’re in an open area with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide, you might be left with the option to fight or die. Try to arm yourself, if possible. Anything can be a weapon. One teacher in Alabama recently sent home letters recommending children bring a canned good to school to throw at an attacker. It sounds ridiculous, but it shows that anything can be a weapon.
Remember, the goal of a terrorist attack is to spread fear and disrupt daily life through panic and instability. Be vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, but live your life.