Terrorism Could Strike Where?

A new study funded in large part by the Department of Homeland Security ranks 132 American cities according to vulnerability to terrorist attacks. If you can answer this Top 10 question, you might be a genius.

Name the western U.S. city most vulnerable to a terrorist attack. If you answered Los Angeles or San Francisco, or maybe even Seattle, you’re wrong. It’s Boise, Idaho. No, I’m not kidding. Boise with all its … potatoes.

Boise, population 200,000, where one of the biggest events of the year is the Professional Bull Riders Invitational. Yes, Boise.

Four years of research and a series of mathematical formulas developed by Walkter W. Piegorsch, University of Arizona; Susan Cutter, University of South Carolina; and Frank Hardisty, Pennsylvania State University, went into the study. The study was published in Risk Analysis, a well-regarded journal in the industry.

Socioeconomics, infrastructure and geophysical hazards were used to measure not so much whether a city would make an attractive target to a terrorist, but how well it could withstand an attack.

Piegrosch said it’s not the targetability as an issue, but the vulnerability if a city were targeted. Boise does well in the category of socioeconomics and infrastructure, but has a high geophysical risk factor. The high risk is based on property damage in the 1990s from wildfires and floods in the area. Boise is just west of Lucky Peak Reservoir, which holds nearly 10 billion gallons of water.

So why not Los Angeles and San Francisco? Both are frequented by wildfires and earthquakes. Researches discounted that fact due to the fact that city officials have grown adept at handling disasters. San Francisco ranks 66 out of 132 urban areas; Los Angeles was ranked 41; Seattle, 87.

No surprise who topped the list -- New Orleans, New York and Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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