To prepare for possible new terrorist attacks on New York, Washington or other US cities, the US government has developed numerous emergency scenarios, and urges businesses and families to be on alert and ready to react.
In a 50-page report, a homeland security council, which brings together experts and officials from all concerned departments, summarized in July 2004-5 "preparatory scenarios" of the worst nightmares that could occur on US soil.
Whether the catastrophes are natural such as earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics of avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease; or man-made, such as a nuclear explosion, anthrax attack or an onslaught on computer networks, authorities avoid publicising the likely number of dead and injured as well as consequences for the economy and environment.
But a year after the report was issued, Hurricane Katrina—which was dramatically close to scenario number 10—made it clear that even knowing what to expect isn't enough to meet such a massive challenge.
And a year after Katrina struck, a report by the Homeland Security Department again sounded the alarm: despite all assurances, only seven per cent of 75 major US cities have prepared satisfactory population evacuation plans.
According to a poll released this month by a private news channel, 70 per cent of Americans think their local police officers are not prepared to face a major catastrophe.