Column: America Needs to Better Educate Citizens on Basic Counterterrorism

Erroll G. Southers is the Associate Director of the DHS National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) and adjunct professor of homeland security and public policy at the University of Southern California. He is also the Managing Director of Counter-Terrorism and Infrastructure Protection for the San Jose-based international security consulting firm TAL Global Corporation.

By Erroll Southers
Guest Contributor for Security DeBrief

QUIZ: Two crowded restaurants, each one in a different country; two unattended bags, each near the door of one of the restaurants. In one restaurant, patrons ignore the bag. In the other restaurant, a patron reports the bag to an employee. Name the location of each restaurant.

One such location could be the United States. In America, very little counter-terrorism education occurs and terrorism awareness is low.

The public is informed in a reactive, viral delivery, the result of the latest video terror threat or subsequent to the next thwarted plot (if we remain lucky). The current government’s messaging either scares people or tells them nothing. They need neither.

The other location could be the United Kingdom. There, the government, homeland security professionals, educators, and municipal leaders engage in a constant, intelligent awareness and action dialogue with their constituents. Citizens at all levels become better informed with the key element of societal resilience – meaningful information.

The point America has been missing is the engagement of its biggest and best resource: the public.

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