Cities-at-risk list has some surprises

A new academic statistical study includes several small municipalities on the list of U.S. cities most vulnerable to terrorist attack while omitting major ports on the West Coast.

The study performs a complex statistical analysis on 132 cities using existing vulnerability indices related to all adverse events and linked with data on terrorist incidents and human casualties. The authors of the study determined the level of risk by evaluating a wide range of factors from ports and railroads to population and natural environment.

Of the top 18 cities at risk, most are major urban areas, but the list also includes Boise, Idaho, and a number of smaller urban areas in the southeast.

The major urban areas included on the list are Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington. Also included are smaller cities such as Baton Rouge, La.; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; New Orleans; Norfolk, Va.; and Richmond, Va.

Boise is the only Western city among the top 18. Neither Los Angeles nor San Francisco made the cut.

The study, which was published in the academic journal Risk Analysis, was conducted by Walter Piegorsch of the University of Arizona; Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina; and Frank Hardisty of Pennsylvania State University.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress has allocated more than $2 billion a year to states and urban areas for counterterrorism equipment, training and planning. A substantial portion of that money is distributed through the use of risk and vulnerability analysis, with cities at greater risk receiving more funding.

State and community agencies frequently rely on contractors to provide the specialized equipment, training and planning, especially in the areas of emergency management, disaster response, emergency communications, mass medical care, law enforcement surveillance and response and information sharing.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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