The September 11 attacks and the anthrax incidents that occurred in autumn 2001 clearly demonstrated to Americans that the possibility of becoming a victim of terrorism is very real. This new awareness has generated considerable interest and concern about how Americans should best prepare for, and respond to, terrorist attacks in the future.
Central to such preparation and response planning are the roles of federal, state, and local government agencies, which include activities ranging from global intelligence gathering to local emergency response. Beginning in the mid–1990s and accelerating rapidly since September 2001, all levels of government have focused on improving their capabilities to foresee, intercept, prepare for, and respond to terrorism in the United States.
The role of the individual citizen is a potentially valuable additional component of our nation's effort to prepare for terrorism. Addressing the role individuals can play in preparing for and responding to terrorist attacks has benefits on two levels. On one level, an act of terrorism will result in an emergency situation and, as with any sort of emergency event, there are a number of preparatory and response activities that individuals can engage in to help protect their safety and health. On another level, because ordinary citizens are a primary target of terrorism, being informed, prepared, and ready to respond is likely to provide an individual with a sense of empowerment and confidence to combat the feelings of violation and despair that are the aims of terrorism. Moreover, if terrorists believe that they are less likely to be successful because of individual preparedness, then that preparedness could also serve to deflect terrorists from attacks against Americans.
Although considerable progress is being made in preparing government agencies to deal with terrorism, comparatively little attention had been paid to preparing the average citizen when this study began in fall 2002. This was