Terrorism – Vulnerability Assessment

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, April 20, 1995[1]

From small terrorist attacks such as bomb threats, to major incidents like the September 11 attack on America, everyone needs to be made aware of the concerns associated with these events and how to recognize these aspects for future response. In order to be vigilant for terrorism, one should:

  • Understand the history of terrorism, its definitions and categories, methods and reasons.
  • Recognize circumstances and on-scene key indicators which may signify a suspicious incident.
  • Recognize types of harm, agents and delivery methods utilized by terrorists.
  • Define and describe defensive considerations associated with biological, nuclear, incendiary, chemical, and explosives (B-NICE) incidents.
  • Implement appropriate self-protective measures.

Probable Targets of Terrorism

Terrorists seek to weaken a hated political authority that is responsible — in their eyes — for illegitimate policies and/or rule. They rely on the use and threat of violence. Like crime, but unlike war, their actions are totally illegal. Some probable targets for terrorists strikes are:[2]


  • All religious and political leaders
  • Government, international & NGO Civil Servants and international aid workers
  • Military, police, security & intelligence personnel
  • Counter-terrorism personnel engaged in operations against the enemy
  • Commercial enterprise executives
  • Media representative

High Probability Targets

  • Places with historical or symbolic significance, landmarks, bridges, dams or tunnels
  • Nuclear facilities, electric, water and natural gas sources and infrastructures
  • Public assembly areas, sports arenas, parks, etc.; i.e. Olympic games
  • Public buildings; i.e. Oklahoma City bombing - Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
  • Mass transit systems; i.e. Tokyo subway gas attack
  • Places with high economic impact; i.e. World Trade Center Bombing
  • Telecommunications facilities
  • 120 prominent U.S. cities

Other Targets

  • Civilian or military government installations
  • Business headquarters, personnel, and factories
  • Financial institutions, banks and the security and electronic transmission of currency
  • Industries that manufacture "sensitive" material
  • Infrastructure components
  • Explosive magazine storage facilities
  • Schools, hospitals, shopping centers
  • Venues for special events

Other factors in selecting targets include:

  • The high degree of surprise in the attack, causing panic and paralysis.
  • The drama of the attack, causing awe and fixation.
  • The availability of media to publicize the attack, causing lingering effects.
  • The magnitude of the attack, causing the inflation of the terrorists' power.
  • The ability to repeat the attacks, causing endemic insecurity.



  1. Image Source: http://www.ready.gov/explosions [Accessed July 14, 2013]
  2. ReadyOhio – Are you Ready for Terrorism: http://publicsafety.ohio.gov/npm/ReadyForTerrorism.stm