New Jersey Institute of Technology Survey on Homeland Security Finds Metro Residents Concerned About Bioterrorism

NEWARK, August 21- Nearly two out of three adults in the New York Metropolitan Area think it is likely that another act of terrorism will occur within the Metro area within the next year. Their greatest worry is that such an attack will involve chemical or biological weapons. Close to half (48 percent) of adults think it is at least somewhat likely that terrorists will attack in the New York metro area within the next year using biological weapons, and 76 percent are seriously concerned that a bioterrorist attack will affect them, personally.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology survey on Homeland Security found that over half of New York metro area residents say they are not very prepared or not prepared at all to cope with a terrorist attack that used nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. But residents want more information from their state governments about how to be better prepared. More than four out of five (84 percent) think it would be an excellent or good idea for the state government to provide training and information to all residents about what to do in the event of a biological or chemical attack.

Amidst reports of communications breakdowns in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, Metro area residents are mixed as to whether state government will be able to communicate information to the public and with other agencies about what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Fully one in three (33 percent) say they have little or no confidence in their state government's ability to communicate information to the public, and 35 percent say they have little or no confidence in the ability of different Metro area agencies to share information and communicate with each other.

Donald H. Sebastian, Ph.D., the spokesman for the Homeland Security Technology Center at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and vice president for research and development at NJIT, says that these problems can be addressed through the coordinated application of advanced information technology. "Computer simulation tools, powerful database systems and new software interoperability should be used to coordinate response and communicate to the public in the first moments after a terrorist attack," Sebastian says. NJIT is working with state agencies and private sector partners to bring these advanced technologies to bear on preparation, training and execution of emergency response functions.

The survey also finds that Metro area residents are concerned that not enough is being done to detect security threats coming through area ports of entry. Fully nine out of ten (89 percent) New York metro area adults think it is a good idea to increase security at our ports, inspecting or accounting for all cargo containers, to protect against their being used by terrorists to smuggle weapons.

Sebastian says the university is also working with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services to develop bio-terrorism identification and reporting tools, to detect and respond to biological and chemical agents.

Other findings:

  • Less than half (45 percent) of adults in the New York metropolitan area have heard of the Homeland Security Advisory System, the color-coded scale used by government officials to communicate the nature and degree of terrorist threats by assigning a color to the level of that threat. Just one in six (17 percent) could correctly identify the color and level - Yellow=Elevated - at which the system is currently set.
  • A majority (52 percent) of New York area residents think it is an excellent idea to tighten the process of getting official government identification., such as driver's licenses. More than four out of five (82 percent) think this is an excellent or good idea.
  • Three out of four adults in the New York metro area support the free distribution of iodide pills, to counteract exposure to radiation and reduce their chances of developing certain cancers in the event of a nuclear incident.
  • Though just 54 percent of Metro residents have serious concerns that they could be affected by smallpox, three out of four (74 percent) support the immunization of all Metro area residents against the disease.
  • Nearly four out of five (79 percent) adults supports increasing funding for research and development of security technology, and just as many say that research money should be put in the hands of scientists and technology experts.

    The poll was conducted among 400 adults in the New York Metropolitan Area selected randomly from a list of residential phone numbers. The interviews were conducted by telephone from August 11-14, 2002. Quotas were established by region based on census population figures in the parts of the Metropolitan area in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The margin of error for this survey is 4.9% on the overall sample. The margin of error on subsamples is greater.


    NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cites NJIT as a "perennially most wired" university.

    Contact Information:   Robert Florida
    Public Relations
    (973) 596-5203 



      Sheryl Weinstein
    Public Relations
    (973) 596-3436