The bombings and attacks of this past weekend are telling us a lot, but there is one simple message we need to heed: “Soft Targets Beware – Be Ready.”

While we have appropriately reinforced the longtime (and usual) targets such as government buildings, military facilities, airports and other critical infrastructures, the softer targets – the train stations, shopping malls, alley ways, theaters, and even dumpsters are easy targets of opportunity.

For as many cameras, law enforcement officers, x-ray machines, bomb sniffing dogs and other resources we deploy, it will never ever be 100% perfect in stopping such attacks. The greatest resource in this kind of environment is the everyday public who takes the adage of “See Something, Say Something” seriously. Whether it is part of our DNA or human instinct, we all have a sense of when something is out of place. I would encourage people to follow that intuition in aiding law enforcement and security personnel in doing their jobs. While that observation and saying something to security personnel may mean some type of interruption as people go about their business until the situation is investigated, we’ve got more than enough cases where that intuition has saved lives and made a tremendous difference.

This is also the time for office building personnel to remind employees about evacuation and preparedness procedures. That includes what to do in an “Active Shooter” situation, as well as fire drills and emergency evacuations. Some critics will say such actions only stoke public fears, but if you know what to do in these situations, you can confront fear with the knowledge of what to do and respond accordingly. The greatest fear is not knowing what to do and allowing panic to set in and take command when such a situation occurs. No one wants or needs that.

We live in a dangerous world with lots of different risks – known, unknown and always emerging. But preparedness in all of its forms is a value that pays enormous short- and long-term dividends to individuals, families, businesses, communities, organizations, cities and countries.

DHS, FEMA and State, Local, Tribal governments as well as private sector members and NGOs have made available tremendous amounts of information available to help people to be READY. The events of the past few days are reminders of the responsibilities we all have to safeguard ourselves and others from those who believe violence and harm are the right tools to convey their beliefs. We do not need to change who we are as a people as we look out for one another. That is why being aware of your surroundings has never been more important than it is today.

So be ready.

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More