Terrorism has been defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as "The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government; the civilian population; or any segment of it, in furtherance of political or social objectives." The devastation which occurred at the World Trade Center in New York and the Alfred Murray building in Oklahoma City points to the need to plan for potential threats within our own communities.
Comprehending terrorism is difficult: Why would someone want to create such panic and pain?
Terrorists want publicity for their causes. They want to create chaos and undermine the public's confidence in their government. They use random violence because they lack the money, force and weapons of the stronger powers they are attacking.
Each year Cape May County Sheriffs office and police departments receives numerous of bomb threats and calls about suspicious packages in the county.
These events, as well as events in other parts of the country and world, give a glimpse as to what could potentially happen here. Non-local events include bombings at the World Trade Center in New York, the Alfred Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Olympic Park in Atlanta and the hostage situation in Lima Peru. The greatest number of injuries and casualties would result from the use of a weapon of mass destruction. These include biological and chemical weapons that can affect people living throughout a larger geographic area. The widespread nature of such weapons makes response difficult.
Cape May County is vulnerable due to its geography and seasonal population changes. This area is easily accessible and perhaps more importantly, it allows easy exit after a terrorist attack. Cape May County’s proximity to waterways and interstate highways increase its vulnerability.
Potential vulnerable sites in Cape May County include: government institutions, dams, water supply sources, power distribution systems, communications terminals, and financial centers. Corporate headquarters of high profile businesses are also vulnerable to terrorist attacks; Cape May County's proximity to Atlantic City's high profile casinos are also vulnerable to attacks. Random acts of violence such as the detonation of an explosive device in a public area are also within the scope of terrorism.
Potential occurrences could be the result of actions from domestic or international groups. The terrorist actions could be expected to come about as a result of grievances, real or alleged, toward activities of some government entity, or as retaliation for some governmental act.
Terrorist "groups" at play today include international and domestic political or religious groups, organized crime, drug cartels, militias, gangs and people acting according to their individual beliefs; and new groups are constantly emerging. Traditionally, small arms and improvised explosive devices have been the weapons of choice for terrorist entities as they are easy to acquire and use. They will probably remain the primary option for the immediate future. Chances are low but growing that weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons, could be used by some groups as such agents are cheap to produce and easy to conceal as well as being relatively lethal.
Due to the variable nature of terrorist attacks, it is difficult to discuss all the possible effects. The effects of an attack at a dam and the resulting flooding would be drastically different from the effects of a bombing similar to that in Oklahoma City. Generally speaking, terrorist attacks can result in mass casualties as well as property damage to buildings or infrastructure.
All such terrorist potentialities remain difficult to predict and difficult to defend against. Cape May County uses an all hazards planning approach for emergency management. This type of planning provides one basic plan for all types of hazards. This is very helpful for disasters such as terrorist attacks which can potentially take many forms. It’s important to remember that the emergency management, fire, and medical services focus of terrorist acts is on consequence management. Law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, are responsible for prevention of terrorism and apprehending terrorists if an event occurs.