Risk Communication: Mitigating the Aftershock of a Mass Casualty Attack

On December 9, 2015, during a U.S. Senate Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Oversight Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey agreed with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham when he said, “There are more terrorist organizations with men, equipment and safe havens, along with desire to attack the American homeland, anytime since 9/11.”1 Whether due to the existence of an international terrorist organization that planned and executed the attacks of September 11, 2001, or the continued threat of a lone wolf gunmen who indiscriminately opens fire in theaters, schools, or churches, people in the United States—and around the world—now fear for their safety like never before.

Law enforcement officials and the intelligence community have poured tremendous resources into identifying and preventing terrorist attacks; however, it is impossible for the government to guarantee the personal safety of every single citizen. Most people in the United States accept this fact, and they continue their daily lives with a prudent level of caution. However, when that caution grows into fear, public safety is further compromised, and the perpetrators are handed an additional victory.