The Dynamics of Public Response to a Terrorist Strike: Recommendations for Data Collection, Analysis, and Modeling

Principal Investigator: William Burns


The central objectives of this study are to describe and model the dynamic complexity that underlies a community’s response to a terrorist strike and to estimate how behavioral responses affect economic impacts.  Emergency response systems, information and communication channels, and social support organizations are likely to interact with the particular characteristics of a terrorist event in a nonlinear fashion to produce a wide range of physical, social, and economic impacts. Building on the theoretical framework of the social amplification of risk, and guided by systems thinking, this study addresses the following questions: 1) What are the requisite factors to adequately forecast the impacts of a disaster and most particularly a terrorist strike? 2) How can risk perception be incorporated into an economic model that predicts regional or national impacts? 3) How does resilience (the ability of a community to maintain function when shocked) affect predicted responses to catastrophic events?  4) How do these factors change and interact over time reflecting the dynamic nature of community response? 5) What are the important structural mechanisms that drive such change, especially system feedbacks and delays? 6) How do different responses to risk across gender, age, ethnicity, and income affect these mechanisms? 7) What perspectives and assumptions does a community bring to such a crisis that helps or hinders its ability to prepare, respond and recover? 8) What policies can be implemented that may mitigate the long-term impacts of such an event?