Rich Cooper

May 19, 2010

You know it’s going to be rough day when you go to get in your car and discover a flat tire. You know your day has the potential to get even worse when you’re listening to the morning news, and they tell you that the Nation’s Capital or New York City are going to be attacked by terrorists in the next five to six months. So say the forecasters of Stratfor.

Great. All I really wanted to hear were the scores of the NHL playoff games and the traffic and weather report. Now this.

Stratfor’s forecast is one of those instances where an organization really puts itself out there. As a result of making that bold prediction, WTOP and other media outlets are giving them lots of attention today. As anyone who makes predictions knows, whenever you make a very public call – be it in sports, the weather, or in this case, acts of terrorism – you have every chance of looking like Nostradamus or a complete fool who doesn’t have a clue.

As bold as their prediction might be, it is in concert with what a lot of what people in the security and intelligence communities have been warning about for some time, both publicly and privately. As attention grabbing and media attractive as Stratfor’s warning may be, it also serves as a wake up call to citizens, businesses, public safety officials and others to prepare themselves for what could truly be a “bad day.”

That means following through on the “See Something, Say Something” adage that saved hundreds of lives from the failed efforts of Faisal Shahzad in Times Square. It means having an emergency communications plan for you and your family should something occur and you can’t leave downtown as fast as you like.

It also means taking a good look at places to shelter and other business continuity practices to make sure everyone knows their role should something horrible occur. There are lots of things that a forecast like Stratfor’s should spur us to do. Even if nothing occurs, the fact that people act on information to prepare themselves is a step every one of us should be taking today.  

There are critics that will see Stratfor’s comments, and those of government and private sector experts, on a prospective terror strike to DC and NYC as fear-mongering.

The accepted challenge in saying something about these conditions is that it is fair warning to one and all of what might occur. In this type of environment, you are truly damned if you do and damned if you don’t but the truth is hard and cold for NYC and DC. They are the number one and two targets in the United States and everything else in this country is also fair game for international and domestic terrorists.

Such is the reality and risk of living and working in DC or the Big Apple. If you live in either place, you accept that risk if you want to go about living your life in those areas. If you don’t, you either decide to move away or live a life that many people would not find as outgoing or enjoyable.  

But let’s face facts, the “bad day” forecasts have been around for a while now, and I don’t expect anything is going to happen to radically change those conditions.

We all need to do our part to make ourselves ready and resilient to endure whatever event occurs, whenever it happens – even on those mornings when your day begins with a flat tire.

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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