by Karen MacNutt

When President Bush asked Americans to watch for terrorists, many people said, “OK but how?” Terrorism is not new to the United States. Early in the 20th century there was a rash of violence by anarchists, the Klu Klux Klan and other fringe groups. Terrorists have a political agenda but they lack faith that their arguments will be accepted in an open forum of ideas.

As long as they embrace violence, they will lose.

Terrorism is not a random act of violence. It is planned. Because it is planned, it can be discovered and defeated. Terrorists depend upon our having predictable patterns of behavior. They depend upon being able to move about unchallenged. They use our carelessness about security against us. They are looking for publicity. They want to be martyrs. They must show the world that they are right and their enemies are evil. They do not see themselves as doing evil, rather, like all great atrocities, they commit their acts in supposed furtherance of a just cause.

Terrorists plan their attacks months and sometimes years in advance. It is not unusual for them to both research and rehearse an attack before it takes place, sometime this occurs in the plain view of the public.

What can you do about terrorism?

Take security seriously. We have all seen buildings with security doors propped open for some employee’s convince. Keep those doors closed and locked. Do not bypass, disable or frustrate security systems. Do not discuss with others security systems you are knowledgeable about. A security system divulged is a security system compromised. Report all breaches of security. Report all attempts to gain information about security systems or to by pass security systems to those responsible for the system.

Do not let people into your building if you do not know them or if they do not have proper identification or authorization. Do not give other people your pass word or security code. Do not leave your ID card with other people. Report immediately lost or stolen identity cards. Smart terrorists will appear to be nice people to get you to help them.

Do not give people information about where you work or about government buildings or public safety employees or any thing that might be a target for terrorists if the person asking does not have a reasonable need to know the information. Do not give out personal information on the telephone or Internet. The Internet and cell phones and cordless phones are easily intercepted. Do not discuss things on these devices that might compromise security. Do not do these things yourself and do not let your friends or co-workers do these things.

Do not park vehicles in fire lanes or against buildings if the same is not allowed. If you see a strange car parked next to a building in an area it does not belong in, call whoever is in charge and have the car towed.

Security is everyone’s business. Be alert to what is going on around you. If you see someone hanging about where they do not belong, question them or call security. Even if they appear to be workmen but something does not seem right to you, check it out. Ask to see their identification. Call their company to make sure they are who they say they are. If you can not locate the person who called for the workmen, do not assume they are OK. Even people who work on public streets must be listed with the city or town. If they give you a lame excuse about why they are there, call security. Be nosey. We know our co-workers. We know the types of people who are our customers. We know the deliverymen who work our areas. We know what is normal for the people we deal with. When you see someone who is doing something that is not normal, question it. It may be innocent. It may not be. Terrorists are looking for a place where no one will question what is going on until it is too late. Many of us have been part of crime watches. It is the same idea.

Question packages or brief cases or suit cases that are abandoned or appear to be left unattended. Do not be afraid to yell out, “Who left this here?” If no one knows, report it. Such things could contain explosives or someone’s lunch. Do not open or move such things yourself. They could be rigged to explode. On the other side of the coin, do not leave such things around to give others cause for alarm.

A lot of people fear chemical or biological weapons. Such weapons are much more difficult to use by terrorists than conventional weapons. Arson and explosives are the traditional weapons of terrorists. The threat of biological weapons has cause a fear well beyond its likely effectiveness. Stockpiling antibiotics is not an answer. The improper use of antibiotics can lead to a lessening of their effectiveness.

Do not accept or hold packages for people you do not know. If you work in a mail room, you know what the mail that comes to your business looks like. Letters or packages without a return address or that are unsolicited or do not look like normal junk mail or that have unusual bulk or feel to them, especially if not addressed in a normal commercial manner, could contain a letter bomb or biological agent. Be alert to things that do not look or feel right. Do not engage in pranks and report others who do. Pranks use up resources and are as effective as real terrorist attacks when it comes to spreading fear or costing the government money. Do not spread rumors. Keep in mind that terrorists want to spread terror. If you spread a false rumor that causes fear, you just helped the terrorists.

Watch out for your neighbor. If you are a public official or a public safety worker who might be personally targeted because of your job, there are things you can do to increase your own safety. Check your car before you get in. Check under your car as well as the outside for wires or objects that do not belong. Do not be consistent in your habits. Leave from or for work at different times. Take different routes. Vary the times and places you go out for exercise or recreation. Be unpredictable.

There is a lot we can all do to make our community and our place of employment safer. They are common sense things. Where terrorists have been successful, they have had the support of a significant part of the public. That is not so in the U.S. This is why they cannot succeed in the long run unless we allow them to panic us. This is a fight in which we can all help by sticking together, not panicking, and keeping our eyes open.

This article was reprinted from Women&Guns, Copyright © Karen MacNutt