Terrorism and Public Health: A Balanced Approach to Strengthening Systems and Protecting People

By Barry S. Levy; Victor W. Sidel | Go to book overview

7
Educating, informing,
and mobilizing the public

MONICA SCHOCH-SPANA

Public reactions to the events of September 11 have changed erroneous preconceptions about the general public on which previous planning and “table-top” (simulated) exercises for terrorism response were often based. The idea that the public has a tendency toward hysteria, panic, and social disorder in such situations was countered by real-life demonstrations of collective resolve and organizational capacity to respond to these emergencies and aid suffering people. During the highly disruptive, though less lethal, dissemination of anthrax, the general public generally displayed a temperate reaction and a practical interest in how to deal with the threat.

Both the earlier expectations of the public's possible responses to terrorism and the actual reactions to the terrorist attacks of 2001 indicate the importance of planning more diligently and thoughtfully for the role of the general population. This chapter is organized around a series of precepts that are meant to stimulate the thinking of public health and other professionals charged with protecting the well-being of people during terrorist attacks. Leaders, policy-makers, and health and safety professionals who are firstresponders need to give more attention to communicating with and mobilizing the public.

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