Preparing for Terrorism: A Guide For Emergency Readiness


Ever since the 9/11 attacks, terrorism has been at the forefront of the minds of people everywhere. With tragedy and acts of terrorism occurring so frequently, it is no wonder that fear and uncertainty about the future have clouded the minds of many. One of the best things to do to combat this uncertainty is to learn more about terrorism, prepare for terrorism, and have plan for action in the event that you are affected by terrorist actions.


The best time to prepare for an event is before it happens: There may not be time to develop a plan when disaster is imminent. Find out what could happen in your area, and then get started on making an action plan with your family.

Make an Emergency Communication Plan

Choose a friend or family member who lives in a different location to be your chosen contact in case of an emergency, and let them know they are your chosen contact in advance. Make sure this person lives far enough from you that they are unlikely to be affected by a disaster that affects you. Ensure that each member of your household has contact information for the emergency contact you have chosen.

In addition to an out-of-town contact, see to it that each member of your family has each other's cell phone numbers and contact information.

Choose a Meeting Place

Since you and the members of your household might not always be in the same location when disaster strikes, it's important to determine in advance where you will meet in case of an emergency. Try to pick a location that is central to the places that you frequent, such as home, work, and school.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

In the event that you must evacuate, it's important to have a "go bag" ready. Many people choose to fill their bags with food, water, toiletries, copies of important documents, an extra set of keys, blankets, extra clothing, cash, a first aid kit, and a small wind-up or battery-powered radio. Make sure to consider the special needs of your household and include a supply of medications or other items that may be required. Don't forget to include the four-legged members of your family when assembling your kit.

In addition to keeping copies of important documents in your emergency kit, it is also a good idea to keep additional copies somewhere else where they are unlikely to be affected by a disaster, such as with your out-of-town emergency contact.

Learn About Your Children's School Emergency Plans

Since an emergency can cause the school's phone lines to be tied up, it's important to ask the important questions before an emergency occurs. Find out whether the kids will be sent home on their own if an emergency should occur or if they will be kept at the school until a guardian can pick them up. Also, ensure that the school has up-to-date contact information for anyone who may be picking up the child.

Other Steps You Can Take

Learning basic first aid and CPR can come in handy in a variety of situations, not just disasters. You can sign up for a first aid class with the help of Red Cross. Start the process by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or emailing


In the event of a terrorist attack:

  • Do your best to remain calm and patient.
  • Check for injuries to yourself and those around you and provide first aid if necessary. Make sure to tend to yourself and whatever injuries you may have before helping others. Call for an ambulance for serious injuries.
  • Check on your pets and confine or secure them.
  • Listen to the radio or watch the news for important updates and instructions, and follow them without delay.
  • Touch base with your emergency contact. Texting is the preferred form of communication in most disasters, as it will not tie up the phone lines.
  • If the event happens near your home while you're there, check for any damage with a flashlight. Refrain from touching electrical switches or lighting matches. Check for fire hazards and other possible dangers. If you think you smell a gas leakturn off the main gas valve and evacuate everyone in the house.

Evacuation During a Terror Attack

If your area is under a mandatory evacuation order, do so without delay. Make sure to follow any special instructions or specified travel routes that may be recommended.

  • Take your emergency preparedness kit with you, adding any last-minute items as quickly as possible.
  • If the local authorities instruct you to do so, shut off the water and electricity before you leave. Since natural gas affects household activities such as heating and cooking and will require a professional to turn it back on, leave it on unless instructed otherwise.
  • Take your pets with you and find a pet-friendly location to take them to, as most public shelters do not allow pets. Certain pet-friendly hotels or the home of a friend or relative may be your best bet. However, if you must stay at a shelter, you may be able to call ahead and find other accommodations for your pets.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toed footwear to protect yourself as much as possible.
  • Lock your home when you leave.
  • Avoid downed power lines.

If Asked to Shelter in Place

Sheltering in place means staying where you are (in a home, office, or school) and keeping yourself safe there. Make sure that all doors and windows are closed and locked and that all fans, heaters, and air conditioners are turned off. If at all possible, shelter in a room above ground level with no windows. If that is not possible, make sure to cover all seals and vents with duct tape to avoid possible contaminants seeping in.

Most importantly, keep listening to the radio or TV and do not leave your location until you are either told that it is safe or ordered to evacuate.

Additional Steps You Can Take

Watching the news during a disaster can be frightening and distressing, as the news will often repeat footage of the event. Even listening to the radio can be distressing as details about the event continue to be spoken of and rehashed over and over. However, avoiding the news and the radio is unwise and even detrimental if you are personally affected by the event. If possible, try taking shifts watching the news or listening to the radio with other adult members of your group.

Young children should be sheltered from the news. The images can be even more frightening to young minds because young children often do not understand that the footage is recorded, so they think that the even is happening over and over. If their exposure to the news cannot be avoided or if a child has questions about the news, be prepared to talk with them about what they are seeing and hearing.


Based on information from previous events, the following are potential results of terrorist attacks:

  • Significant loss can occur, including the loss of life, personal property, and homes.
  • Significant damage or total destruction to buildings may occur, which can cause school and workplace activities to be suspended, and it may take months for the debris to be cleaned up.
  • You and your family may need to evacuate and stay at a shelter or the home of a family member or friend.
  • Travel may be restricted, and certain forms of travel may even be suspended for a time.
  • Health and mental health resources may be overwhelmed, making it difficult to get help after an attack.
  • Media coverage will likely occur immediately during and after the attack, but the coverage and implications of the attack may be talked about and shown on the news long after the event is over.

Additional Terrorism Safety Resources

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.