Terrorism definition

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Terrorism is defined as war crimes perpetrated against citizens in a specific country in order to achieve a political, social, or religious goal (Newman & Clarke, 2008). Terror attacks can take many forms, including hostage taking, car bombings, assassinations, and malicious use of electronic information technology. Terrorists' primary goal in all of these incidents is to terrify the government or the civilian population. Significantly, when terrorist acts occur, there are numerous potential consequences. On these premises, this essay will investigate the associated risks of terrorism for emergency responders, as well as the potential results. Criminals and terrorists display similar behavior except that the latter has political motive (Newman & Clarke, 2008). Therefore, in defining terrorism, it is imperative to understand its various forms used in furthering the malicious intentions. The different forms of terrorist acts include airline hijacking, chemical attacks, drive-by shooting, missile attacks, assassinations, and improvised explosive devices. In the United States of America, terrorists use various forms in their attacks. For instance, on 17th of September 2016, the bombing occurred on the streets of Manhattan injuring 29 people (Corrado et al., 2017). Additionally, the shooting occurred at a night club in Orlando, Florida on the 12th June 2016. Other forms of terror attacks that have been used include hostage taking at Amish Schoolhouse, Beltway sniper attack in Maryland and anthrax-laced letters in Washington DC in 2001 (Morakabati & Beavis, 2017). An understanding of the various forms of terrorism will guide the precautionary steps that will be taken by emergency responders in the event of a terror attack.

When an act of terrorism occurs, it provokes multiple responses from different agencies such as law enforcement, journalists, health experts, and civilian volunteers (Newman & Clarke, 2008). In the process, they are exposed to risks that can lead to greater harm. Therefore, emergency responders should be aware of the likely hazards they will encounter in the event of terror attack. For example, when policemen are responding to shoot out, they can become the targets and may end up losing their lives (Corrado et al., 2017). On the other hand, when there are biological attacks such as anthrax, medical experts are highly exposed to the infection and yet they may not detect the virus immediately, thus, resulting in adverse impacts after some period.

Moreover, responders are also exposed to hazardous chemicals in responding to terrorist acts involving both persistent and non-persistent agents (Interin Planning Guide, 2002). The persistent chemical agents remain in the affected area for a longer period while non-persistent agents lose their impacts after a short while. Meanwhile, immediate response by civilians can result into evidence interference which may make the responders prime suspects. Therefore, knowledge of the appropriate response for all parties that are involved is vital in ensuring that the extent of exposure to risks is greatly reduced. For instance, responders need personal protective equipment before moving into an area under terror attack (Interim Planning Guide, 2002). Notably, there is a need for early preparation among the responders so as to ensure an adequate and timely response in the event of terror.

Potential Outcomes of Terrorist Incidents

Terrorist incidents lead to physical, psychological, and environmental hazards. However, the results vary depending on the form of terrorism adopted and the available mitigation measures put in place. Meanwhile, the results of a terrorist incident are partly determined by the level of preparedness towards emergency response (Newman & Clarke, 2008). Therefore, an insight into the likely outcomes will inform a wider coverage of aspects to be considered in responding to terror attacks.

Incidents of terrorism result in physical impacts to both the infrastructure of a country and the civilian population (Morakabati & Beavis, 2017). Terrorists target critical infrastructure such as telecommunication, electric power, transportation, and other vital government services as part of their strategy. As a result of the attacks, a country's physical resources are substantially damaged. On the other hand, physical injuries also occur to the civilian population under attack by terrorists. The use of weapons of mass destruction such as chemicals, biological agents, and other forms of terrorism leaves several people with physical injuries. Notably, those who suffer severe injuries may end up losing their lives, and in some cases, they remain incapacitated. Physical damages as an outcome of the terrorist incident also cause congestion on the available resources (Newman & Clarke, 2008). For instance, the hospital capacities will be stretched to accommodate victims while the resources that would be used for purposeful developments will be diverted to reconstruct the infrastructure.

Additionally, terrorist incidents have devastating psychological outcomes (Morakabati & Beavis, 2017). First, terrorist aims at destroying as many lives of their target population as possible. When people lose their lives, friends and relatives are subjected to psychological torture. It is the reason why counseling is an important aspect of emergency response in case of a terrorist attack. Besides, the news of a planned terror attack or an occurrence of attack results in fear among the civilian population and even the government. It implies that the normal daily operations will be interrupted due to the presence of heavy security and heightened vigilance which causes further psychological impacts. The environment is also affected due to terrorist incident especially when the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction is involved (WMP) (Interim Planning Guide, 2002). In such cases, the water sources, animals and plants are exposed to hazard. Therefore, it is important that the affected aspects of the environment are considered in the response plans.


Terrorism as a war strategy against civilians takes various forms such as bombing, shooting or use of weapons of mass destruction and is aimed at achieving a political or religious end. It requires appropriate and timely response by law enforcement agents, experts in various fields and volunteers. However, the emergency responders are exposed to risks such as physical injuries, biological infections or even death. Notably, terrorist incidents results into physical, psychological as well as environmental impacts. Therefore, responding to an act of terror should be guided by the form of attack and the outcomes so as to minimize its effects.


Corrado, R. R., Cohen, I. M., & Davies, G. (2017). 11 Terrorism crime prevention policies in liberal democracies: Challenges, dilemmas, and options. In Crime Prevention: International Perspectives, Issues, and Trends (pp. 283-316). CRC Press.

Interim Planning Guide, (2002). Managing emergency consequences of terrorist incidences. New York, Government Press.

Morakabati, Y., & Beavis, J. (2017). Do terrorist attacks leave an identifiable 'fingerprint'on international tourist arrival data? International Journal of Tourism Research.

Newman R., & Clarke V. (2008). Policing terrorism: An executive's guide. New York, Government Press.

May 17, 2023

Terrorism Management

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