Risk Intel Report

The real first responders: citizens?

Conventional wisdom dictates that First Responders will be the first individuals on the scene of an emergency who are capable of bringing order to anticipated chaos or disorder. This wisdom overlooks the fact that ?ordinary? citizens, who are also the target of the attack, will be the first people capable of reacting and, therefore, of saving lives. As an example, emergency responders were not on the scene of the Madrid bombings for 10-20 minutes. In the case of London , emergency responders took, in some cases, upward of 30 minutes to reach victims of the attack. During these valuable gaps of time, the burden of responsibility falls on the ?ordinary? Good Samaritan citizen. Consequently, it makes sense that ?ordinary? citizens should be viewed as a resource as these valuable gaps of time may represent the difference between life and death for those injured in an attack. Basic first aid training may be a valuable tool, as citizens struggle to aid one another in the first minutes after an attack. The example of London again illustrates this point. Paul Mitchell, a victim of the attack, sustained serious injuries to one of his legs and was in danger of losing large quantities of blood had it not been for his fellow citizens who alertly applied pressure to his wound to slow the bleeding. Moreover, simple steps, like first aid training, may also reduce the impulse to panic. Should an attack take place, those citizens with basic training may be less likely to panic than those without training. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), preparation tends to reduce panic. Therefore, a broad-based effort to educate citizens on the expected consequences of an attack and how to best prepare for them is a logical course of action. It must also be understood that terrorism is designed to influence ?ordinary? citizens through violence or the threat of violence. It, therefore, makes sense that ?ordinary? citizens should be prepared to deal with this type of violence. Not only will “ordinary” citizens likely be the first individuals at the scene of an attack and therefore capable of saving lives, but “ordinary” citizens can be educated and trained to respond to an attack in a way that may dampen the psychological weight, and its associated coercive effect, of an attack. Increasing the efficiency of response and recovery operations, as well as reducing the amount of fear associated with an attack, may make the use of violence a less appealing option for terrorists.

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