Authors: Robyn Pangi
August 1, 2002
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government
This paper draws from the experience of Japanese officials, emergency response personnel, and physicians during and after the attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 with the nerve agent sarin. After the sarin attack, various Japanese organizations sought to record and study the short- and long-term psychological impact of terrorism on the victim population, so this WMD terrorist attack provides helpful evidence as America begins to think about fear management as an integral part of disaster response. The first section of the paper briefly discusses the 1995 attacks on the Tokyo subway system and reviews the data on the mental health consequences of the subway attack on victims and first responders. It also discusses the factors that influence individuals' and communities' responses to a disaster, and explores the facets of response that are most relevant to a WMD terrorism attack. The paper highlights several issues relevant to the potential reactions of first responders, the rescue and recovery workers who spend the most time at the site of the attack. Lastly, the paper identifies implications for emergency responders in the United States and makes concluding recommendations.