Where Do We Go From Here? The Evacuation of City Centres and the Communication of Public Health Risk From Extreme Threats
Several elements of terrorist attacks fall within the remit of public health medicine, including mass casualties requiring treatment, information regarding hazard exposure, maintenance of medical supplies to deal with damaging agents, and the raising of awareness in the event of attack. The use of chemical and biological agents, and radiological/dirty weapons has obvious implications for public health. Even more conventional forms of explosive have considerable public health implications, especially when combined with suicide terrorism, and in some countries they are already seen as a significant public health issue. Whilst debate remains about the nature and scale of the terrorist threat, there has been increased interest in the relationships between these threats and the public health response. Interest also exists around risk communication and the potential for public health practitioners to draw on their health promotion experiences in developing policy. This chapter explores these issues, examining the relationship between the nature of the city as the ‘space’ within which threats occur and the population at risk lives and works, and considering types of terrorist threat and how they are shaped by the city space. It emphasizes the structural elements of the city, showing that as a city's structure and pattern of interactions contributes to the threat of disease and the manner in which disease spreads amongst the population at risk, so too the interaction between the city and those who occupy it will shape the terrorist threat and determine how the threat unfolds. The city also shapes the potential for public health interventions around terrorism as it does around disease.
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