A terrorist attack is intended first of all to cause panic and fear in the minds and behavior of its victims. If the victims are incapacitated by fear, the terrorists have accomplished their aim. Terror can be caused by the initial physical attack which may result in deaths and injuries. It may continue with grief for the losses of friends and loved ones. It may disrupt the social organization of the targeted area. It may cause great economic hardship in replacing lost or damaged buildings and possessions. Destruction of the physical and financial infrastructure can be one of the most long term results of a terror attack.
Preparation for a terrorist attack must be done both at the personal and societal levels. Personal preparation in the event of an attack by terrorists must proceed to make the best possible plan for dealing with all the aspects of the attack. While it is unlikely that individual planning can cope with all the repercussions of an attack, just the act of pre planning will do much to allay the fear of the unknown which is so disruptive.
Attacks can be expected to provide maximum negative effect on the following levels: emotional, food, water, health, financial, infrastructure, leadership and the very function of society. Because it is impossible to know in advance which of these areas will be impacted most heavily in the event of a terrorist event, the best course of action is to make individual preparation in the areas where you are able to do so. For example, a supply of food that is easily stored means you aren't dependent upon stores that may or may not be available at the local supermarket.
The same thing is true of a water supply. Supplies of bottled water could be crucial in the event of contamination of the regular water supply. At a minimum, purification tablets could be stocked. Medical supplies are a somewhat different matter. Where possible, prescription drugs that must be taken on a regular basis should be stockpiled, although in most instances, this is difficult or impossible.
A terrorist attack is likely to disrupt the flow of electrical power and other utilities. Planning for such an event might result in installing some level of alternative energy sources such as solar power or wind power for your critical needs. Some individuals purchase a gasoline or diesel power generator to be used in an emergency. In this instance, a supply of fuel will be necessary, as well.
Transportation systems in large urban areas may become non operational in the event of a terror attack. Planning ahead will result in thinking about how to survive two to three weeks without the capability of operating your automobile or taking the subway or other commuter transportation. The simplest solution is to plan how to survive without relying on any outside help or services for several days.
Keep in mind that even if you have funds in your bank account, you may not be able to access them if computer systems are not working. Retail outlets may or may not be able to open. Urban water and power systems could be down. Fuel pumps run on electrical power. While hospitals and medical facilities typically have alternative power sources available, such as generators, the staff and facilities may be overburdened with sick or injured people so that medical help is operating with severe limitations.
In simplest terms, planning for a terrorist attack on a personal level would be most effective if the following minimum efforts were made.
Take a course in first aid or CPR
Have at least 2 weeks supply of food and water stored
Keep some cash on hand in a secure place
Install an alternative energy source in your shelter
Practice safety drills regularly with your family
Know evacuation routes from your city if available.
Know and understand the emergency plans at children's day care centers or schools
The effort of making plans for responding to an event that hopefully will never happen can do a great deal to remove the fear associated with a terrorist action. The statement that knowledge is power is true in this instance. While the thought of an attack is frightening, and experiencing it is even more so, preparation can help to prevent mindless hysteria.