The term terrorism has commonly been used in the international society to describe acts of violence that are usually aimed at perpetuating fear. Acts of terror are usually intended to accomplish certain religious or political objectives and they deliberately aim at certain target without any reasonable consideration for the wellbeing of non-combatants. The term terrorism can as well be used to define the act of engaging in unlawful violence through the use of unlawful tactics that are usually employed by various criminal organizations (Jackson, 2002). The concept of terrorism is usually described within a politically and emotionally charged aspect, which attributes to a significant complexity when attempting to offer a precise definition. This is especially because a terrorist group can be termed as a freedom fighters movement by its proponents, while on the other hand being termed as a terrorist group by its opponents (David, 2012).
The term is however used by state authorities to delegitimize unlawful use of violence for religious, political or ideological reasons so as to potentially legitimize the state’s efforts to use armed force to oppose illegal organizations. States may as well be perceived as perpetuating acts of terrorism particularly when members of the state may be accused of unlawfully using armed force to accomplish political or ideological objectives without taking in consideration the wellbeing of non-combatants. Historical evidence for example shows that Nelson Mandela had at one point been termed as a terrorist when his government made tireless effort to dismantle the apartheid regime (Brian, 2005).
Terrorism has been carried out within a broad context of political institutions with a central aim of furthering their objectives. As explained by Roberts (2008) terrorism has been rampant in United States as well as other parts of the world. A common characteristic associated with the concept has been the indiscriminate violent impact that it renders to non-combatants in the attempt to gain publicity for an organization, a group of specific individuals. The main aim for this paper it to identify the various issues that are usually faced by first responders when dealing with terrorism (Davis, 2006). The paper will also seek to establish why the government has been having difficulties when addressing the issues of terrorism as well as the major challenges limiting its ability to establish a reliable security system.
First responders to terrorism
The first line of defense in any act of terrorism is mainly the “first responder” society, which mainly includes local police officers, fire brigades and emergency medical practitioners. When well equipped with relevant skills and resources, first responders usually have a significant potential in saving lives and reduce the overall number of casualties that might result from a terrorist attack. As explained by Jackson (2002) professional expectations demand that first responders should take initiative to perform their duties irrespective of the magnitude of the event to which they have to respond. First responders are however susceptible to various issues that are usually associated with their efforts to respond to terrorist attacks.
Insufficient capacity to respond to violent attacks is a common issue that first responders face in their attempt to deal with terrorism. Although capacities to deal with terrorism vary from one area to another, most areas particularly in the United States do not have sufficient capacity to deal with terrorist attacks especially in situations where destructive weapons are employed. A study carried out by David (2012) for example showed that more than 750,000 emergency response personnel are volunteers that do not have sufficient capacity to respond to extreme magnitude of terror attacks. Although terrorism is something that can strike anywhere at any given time, first responders that mainly operate outside major metropolitan areas usually face severe challenges when dealing with issues of terrorism in large geographic areas. This is especially because most them operate outside major metropolitan areas where they only protect smaller communities that only rely on volunteer response departments (Davis, 2006).
Being a potential target for further terror attack is another issue that first responders face in their attempt to deal with terrorism. As explained by Brian (2005), first responders, whether including local police officers, emergency response personnel and fire brigades are usually the first people to arrive at the scene of crime. Conversely, a terrorist’s strategy of attack may require a moment of delay so as to be most effective. First responders may thus become potential targets as terrorists try to interfere with any efforts to rescue victims or suppress subsequent attacks. First responders may as well be attacked in their attempt to deal with terrorism so as to instill fear across the nation as well as increase media coverage on the incident (Jenkins, 2011).
Lack of interoperable communication is another important issue that first responders face as they try to deal with terrorism. According to Jackson (2002), lack of effective communication gargets inhibits first responders to communicate effectively with one another during emergency. The issue of interoperability has been in existence among first responders way before the 9/11 terror attacks. Research indicates that the US government has for over fifteen years been struggling to implement an interoperable system of communication that can help first responders to effectively coordinate their actions during emergencies. Although first responders may come from different agencies, lack of reliable radio systems inhibits them from communicating with one another, which delays rescue operations (Roberts, 2008).
The US government has since the 9/11 terrorist attacks tried to invest an enormous amount of resources in the attempt to implement suitable systems that can help address issues affecting first responders when dealing with terrorism. Although much of the government’s efforts to address these issues has been perpetuated by the dire need to enhance overall emergency preparedness, certain challenges have proven to limit its capacity to effectively address these issues. Lack of reliable equipments to identify, screen and analyze information about terror attacks is a major factor that has posed significant challenges to the government in its attempt to address issues affecting first responders as they try to deal with terrorism. As explained by Levy (2003) attainment of information about the plans, objectives and vulnerabilities to terrorism has continued to become a major challenge to the US government, which limits its capacity to enable first responders prevent, preempt or even respond to potential further attacks. The US government has particularly establishment significant obstacles pertaining to the timely collection and disbursement of important information relating to terrorism, which reduces the first responders’ ability to effectively deal with the consequences to terror attacks. Information on terrorism may sometimes be collected at a great risk to field agents and police officers. The need to prevent leakage of such information may thus prevent the government from obtaining important information that might help the first responders to effectively deal with terrorism (Jim, 2005).
Security planning complexity is another important challenge that the US government has continued to face in its attempt to address issues faced by first responders as they try to deal with terrorism. According to Brian (2005), the US government has since 1980s been unable to develop an aggressive strategy to curb terrorist attacks. The government has for example failed to establish a reliable system through which terrorists can be captured and brought to justice, which causes them to always get away with their actions. Among the major factors that have inhibited the government’s capacity to establish a strong strategy has been overreliance on the presence of a written document outlining security strategy rather than relying on the practical implementation of the process. This explains the fact that the US security planning process has been more theoretical rather than being practical, which has ultimately challenged varying efforts directed towards addressing issues that first responders face when dealing with terrorism. There is lack of awareness among elected government officials on any information relating to proper security planning to address technological and natural catastrophes. This has inhibited government officials from renovating their respective structures relating to emergency response, which inhibits the overall capacity by the government to address issues affecting first responders when dealing with terrorism. The US government has as well adopted a traditional strategy to security planning where traditional agencies that have throughout history addressed issues of law enforcement, intelligence and immigration have been integrated to address security issues that include terrorism. The government has equally included politically appointed personnel particularly those from the law enforcement society to serve in the security planning process. While these have proven to have little or no experience on emergence catastrophes, they have put limited attention to issues of emergency response, which limits the government’s capacity to address issues affecting first responders when dealing with terrorism (Levy, 2003).
Lack of sufficient resources to fund training exercises of emergency response has as well presented severe challenges to the government in its attempt to address issues affecting first responders when dealing with terrorism. As explained by David (2012), effective public relations usually help to effectively present a story rather than suggesting to the public on how to react on it. Although training exercises are important, lack of enough resources to fund them limits the capacity to integrate skilled personnel with government officials to effectively share information of terrorist incidents. This puts the wellbeing of first responders in jeopardy, which makes it difficult for the government to address issues affecting them.
Preemption of American foreign policy that has previously been employed during the cold war has however proven to be the major flaw in America’s response system when dealing with terrorism. According to Jenkins (2011), United States had previously founded its foreign policy on major agreements made between alliances. The agreements stated that the use of nuclear weapons by one party against the other would perpetuate protective strikes by the affected party against its ally. The involved parties thus agreed that this agreement, which was commonly referred to as Mutual Assured Destruction, would help different parties to constrain from using nuclear weapons so as to avoid perpetuating preemptive strikes from their allies. The downfall of the Soviet Union as well as the end of the associated threat of the tendency to use nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union brought the era of Mutual Assured Destruction to an end. The 9/11 terrorist incidents however set up a new path for United States’ response system as issues of terrorism would be addressed in a completely new foreign policy that would be integrated with a new domestic policy. The new approach was thus founded on the concept of intolerance for any actions that perpetuated fear and anxiety on the American people. Integration of these changes in the American response system have however proven to perpetuate a major flaw as they cannot help to effectively address the ongoing America’s fight against the radical Islamic terror attacks. Although there has been a range of reasons for the US to preemptively strike against Iraq for exhibiting significant capacity to create nuclear weapons, it has not been able to employ the newly formulated approach to perpetuate issues of foreign preemption. This means that United States may not be able to employ equal force in its response system to curb the use of nuclear weapons by foreign terrorist groups (Jim, 2005).
The various challenges prevailing within United States’ response system have indicated that the country is still vulnerable to future terror attacks. As explained by Roberts (2008), United States has continually relied on intelligence from satellites, which intensifies its vulnerability to potential terror attacks. Research has shown that potential enemies have actively been imitating American procedures while trying to identify weaknesses that can be exploited to challenge the nation at large.
Evidence has however indicated that establishment of a perfect security and response system is a rapidly growing challenge that continues to expose United States to great vulnerability to a wide range of attacks. Lack of reliable information security is among the major reasons why establishing a perfect security and response system has remained a challenge. According to Levy (2003), keeping an information system secure in any given organization safe has remained a major challenge particularly in today’s interconnected technology environment. Research has shown that most organizations have increasingly realized that there is no single solution for securing information systems and data, which explains the main reason why a multi-layered security system is required. The fact that new technology is being discovered at the dawn of each day explains why establishing a stable security and emergency response system may continue become a challenge (Sloan, 2006).
Poor information sharing and communication is another significant challenge that limits the overall capacity to build a perfect security and response system. As explained by Latourrette (2003), communication issues have continued to prevail, thereby inhibiting the public and private sectors to collaboratively share crucial cyber information. This in return offers limited assurance that sufficient data could be made available to key stakeholders in ensuring that potential cyber incidents can be detected and prevented. Poor communication among security stakeholders limits their ability to coordinate security control system between the public and private stakeholders. This is particularly because different stakeholders from the public and private sectors cannot effectively share responsibilities to create an effective security system.
Aspect of data ownership is another significant factor that limits the ability to create a perfect security and response system. As explained by Brian (2005), data owners do not usually appreciate sharing crucial information with other people or organizations since they do not understand why it could be significant to them. While this indicates lack of a broad picture among security stakeholders, it limits critical contributions that include detection and prevention on insecurity incidents.
There is however sufficient evidence that United States is increasingly prioritizing its security needs as the US government’s first priority has revolved around keeping the American people safe. As explained by Sloan (2006), the US president is for example committed to ensuring that true values and ideas that can help to enhance security are adopted so as to protect the American people. He is equally committed to secure the American homeland from any potential threats. This has particularly been achieved through tireless efforts to prevent terror attacks, threats against the American nation, promote planning for emergencies and enhance recovery capabilities. The US government has as well sworn to work hand in hand with federal, state and local authorities as well as the private sector to enhance detection, prevention and response to issues of insecurity.
Terrorism has increasingly become an important issue that has continued to attract the attention of most individuals around the world. The first players in addressing terrorism incidents include first responders, and these play an important role in promoting safety and the wellbeing of non-combatants. Various issues that include insufficient capacity, lack of interoperable communication as well as being targets of subsequent terror attacks usually affect first responders as they try to deal with terrorism. Although the US government has made tireless efforts to address these issues, various challenges that include lack sufficient information, equipments, resources and planning complexities have inhibited its overall capacity to address these issues. Preemption of the American foreign policy has equally proven to be a major flaw that limits attainability to perfect security, which exposes this country to greater vulnerability to terror attacks.
Brian, B. (2005). Federalizing the First Responders to Acts of Terrorism via the Militia Clauses, Duke Law Journal, 54(4): 21-42.
David, A. (2012). Flawed Diplomacy: The United Nations & the War on Terrorism, Military Review, 92(1): 22-54.
Davis, L. (2006). Combating Terrorism: How Prepared are State and Local Response Organizations, Santa Monica, CA, Rand.
Jackson, B. (2002). Protecting Emergency Responders: Lessons Learned from Terrorists Attacks, Santa Monica, CA, Rand.
Jenkins, B. (2011). The Long Shadow of 9/11: America’s Response to Terrorism, Santa Monica, CA, Rand.
Jim, B. (2005). Chemical/ Nuclear Terrorism: A Guide for First Responders, Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96(5): 65-78.
Latourrette, T. (2003). Protecting Emergency Responders/ Community Views of Safety and Health, Santa Monica, CA, Rand.
Levy, B. (2003). Terrorism and Public Health: A Balanced Approach to Strengthening Systems and Protecting People, Oxford University Press, New York.
Roberts, F (2008). Rethinking Organizational Vulnerability to the Threat of Terrorism, Journal of Global Business Issues, 2(2): 89-102.
Sloan, S. (2006). Terrorism: The Present Threat in Context, New York, Berg.