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Head in the sand won't defeat terrorists


As most Europeans were busy trying to enjoy their summer vacation, the terrorist threat reared its ugly head again with some force in the month of August.

Air travel to and from the United Kingdom was effectively paralyzed as airport security was stepped-up in response to a

major terrorist threat. Security forces detained more than 20 people in the U.K. as they uncovered an alleged plot to bring down aircraft bound for the

United States.

The authorities reacted with a raft of new security measures that made air travel for both business travelers and holidaymakers

extremely difficult for several days. A number of the airlines, and seemingly most individuals, were not happy with what they saw as the excessive reaction of the authorities.

Low cost airline, Ryanair, in a statement, described the U.K. government's "revised" security measures as "nonsensical and ineffective." Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive officer called on the government to "prove to extremists everywhere that Britain's airports and airlines will not be disrupted or grounded by their futile attempts to undermine normal life". Ryanair reacted to seeing its low-cost model threatened by new operating conditions by threatening to sue for lost revenues.

Mr. O'Leary

appeared to have garnered significant support among frustrated business travelers and holidaymakers who seemed more concerned about not being able

to take their own drinks on board or use their laptops while in the air, than with the threat to their security.

This seemed to represent a huge

mismatch between the public and corporate risk perception and measures adopted by the authorities.

This was undoubtedly fuelled in part by a

recent "counter-terrorist" swoop by the U.K.'s security forces that failed to uncover any evidence of wrongdoing. The result was a worrying

fall in public trust in their elected representatives.

The main reason why the risk perception mismatch appears to have emerged, however, is because

the terrorist plot appeared to have been foiled and no aircraft were blown up.

What was hopefully-and probably-a successful risk prevention exercise

was somehow transformed into some dark, political conspiracy theory.

For U.K. and other European citizens, however, a more sober attitude surely has

emerged since with the discovery of two bombs on German train stations and the horrendous multiple bombing atrocities in Turkey.

It is a fact that

one of the biggest enemies of effective risk prevention and management is short memories and the natural human tendency towards wishful


But both individuals and corporations have a duty to respond to the increased terrorist risk by being prepared to amend the way they carry

out their daily activities.

The risk perception gap over terrorism in Europe must be bridged because ignoring the terrorists will not make them

give up and go home.