A Focus on Preparedness

A Focus on Preparedness

Communicating in Crisis

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

March 30 to April 1, 2003

At two minutes after six o'clock on the evening of October 2, 2002, a 55-year-old federal government employee named James D. Martin was killed by a single rifle shot as he walked across a supermarket parking lot in Wheaton, Maryland. The next day, five more people were killed in the same mystifying and terrifying way -- by rifle fire from an unseen sniper who apparently chose his victims in completely random fashion. Of the six shootings, all but one happened in daylight. All six took place within a few miles of each other, in a busy, densely populated suburban area on the northern edge of Washington, D.C.

Over the next nineteen days, the shooters struck seven more times over a wider area, reaching as far as Ashland, Virginia, 91 miles south of Washington on Interstate 95. Of the seven people shot, four died, and three survived. On October 22, the day of the last shooting, investigators finally identified two suspects and the make and license tag number of the car they were driving. Less than 48 hours later, John Muhammad and Lee Malvo were found sleeping in their car and arrested at a rest stop on Interstate 70 in Maryland.

The Critical Incident Analysis Group of the University of Virginia chose the sniper affair as the case study for its 2003 conference, "Communicating in Crisis."

Terrorism, Intelligence and Democracy

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

April 7 to April 9, 2002

This conference focused on the issue of public preparedness, and the information that is needed to insure public preparedness and the practice of democracy. The community shielding concept was developed as a result of this conference, and is referenced elsewhere on this website.

Truly a collaborative effort, the products of this conference include the following:

Public Responsibility and Mass Destruction:
Facing the Threat of Bioterrorism

University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA
April 2 to April 3, 2001

This conference, held just five months before September 11 and its subsequent anthrax attacks, involved a collaborative effort to capture the breadth and depth of the bioterrorism challenge in America. In recent years, an unintended consequence of media coverage has been the unwitting “marketing” of terrorism exports: fear and ideology. This has been referred to as “violence as communication.” Now in this new century, with biologic weapons infecting postal workers as they are mailed to legislators, tabloid editors and news anchors, “violence as communication” has now devolved into “ communication as violence.”

 

This 2001 annual conference of the CIAG focused on bioterrorism’s potential impact on America. Using case studies of the West Nile Virus and the Tokyo Subway attack, the conference focused on the challenges of leadership as well as issues of recovery.