What does it mean to be prepared against terrorist attacks? Does preparedness require a cultural shift in the U.S.? How can the preparedness model --survey, analyze, plan, mitigate – be effected? Do you feel prepared? Do you feel protected? In what ways are our current preparedness efforts lacking?
I would suggest that a large part of being prepared is acknowledging that the worst can happen. Before Pearl Harbor and before 9-11, Americans believed terror attacks wouldn't happen on American soil. They were wrong. In order to be prepared, we have to acknowledge our own weaknesses and try to sure up our defenses. This doesn't mean that we should live in fear (as some media would suggest). It simply means that we realize we are not invisible and try to work towards a goal of safety and security. Of course, we still have to live our lives. We cannot take preparation to such an extent that we are blocking our daily lives.
I wonder if it is ever possible to be fully prepared for a terrorist attack. I suppose there are obvious things we could do to make ourselves more prepared, but I do doubt whether being fully prepared is a possibility or not. At the end of the day, there is always going to be the threat of a terrorist attack springing up from an unknown source.
I feel very protected. There is no feasible way to assure that we would never suffer another terror attack, but our intelligence agencies are certainly more aware and differently trained than they might have been prior to 9/11. There are thousands of people whose sole job it is to investigate tidbits of information that suggest possible threats. That helps me feel as safe as I can hope to be.
Preparation is important. I think that we can never be 100% prepared, but we have come a long way. We can be certain that the idea of terrorism is in everyone's mind at least to some degree. In this sense, we are more prepared than ever. Even the slogan - "see something, say something" is now part of our worldview. The authorities have done a good job, but there is more to do. The real challenge is to maintain our freedom and still have the government do their job. This will be a challenge.
I think there has been a cultural shift in the last decade, since the 9/11 attacks. For a while there we had those color coded risk levels constantly reported to us, which frankly reminded me too much of a dystopian novel. As number 5 points out, we have not really been attacked from the outside. Still, we continue to be attacked by our own. There was another school shooting last week.
I agree that total preparation -- that is, preparation that would prevent an attack -- is just not possible. I am surprised, however, by how relatively safe we have been since 2001. This is not what I would have expected. Since even I can think of lots of things the terrorists could have done that would cause enormous damage to our economy, I am shocked that none of these things has happened yet.
A great deal of diligence and imagination is needed to be prepared for terrorist attacks, because one never knows how or where terrorists will strike. The best thing to do, as post 3 indicates, is to guard crucial infrastructure and be prepared for the disruption of things such as power, road service, and so on. At the same time, I think we have to focus much our attention on worst case scenarios- "dirty bombs," sabotage of nuclear facilities, attacks on water or food supply, etc. In this way, we can limit loss of life by limiting the options that terrorists have.
I would look to a sub-question here as to how well prepared people are for a significant disruption of infrastructure - roads, utilities, etc. I think that the general level of preparation for disaster is probably lower than it should be and that communities and individuals ought to prepare for attack in the same way they would prepare for a natural disaster.
The only way to be prepared is to take as many precautions as possible and feasible. We can never truly be prepared for a terrorist attack because there are too many ways in which it could happen and too many places for it to occur. Therefore, we can only take reasonable precautions to prevent attacks and we can and should prepare the people who would have to respond in the aftermath of the attack.