Female suicide bombers set off two deadly blasts in the Moscow subway system, killing dozens of people and injuring more than 100. The blasts, spaced 40 minutes apart, went off during during rush hour, snarling traffic in Moscow’s extensive subway system which serves nearly 10 million commuters per day. The bombing has stoked fears of a resurgence in terrorist attacks from Islamic extremists in southern Russia. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Subways are very difficult to secure. Having armed guards at every station is impractical and costly and even if it guards were present, the volume of people passing through the stations makes any real attempts at security like on the level that we see in airports impossible. That, plus the fact that striking at a service that people use every day creates a high degree of fear and chaos, make subways a very attractive target for terrorists.
In New York City and other metropolises, these issues are compounded by the structure of the subway stations. Many stations have platforms that are several stories underground with long flights of stairs and escalators and gates that only allow 3-4 people to exit at a time. In an emergency situation, it would be very difficult to escape without people being trampled in the surging crowds.
Unfortunately there is not much that can be done about these issues. The best that we can do as individuals is to be participants in our own security. Keep your eyes open and report crime, suspicious behavior and abandoned packages in the subway system to the authorities as soon as you see it. Keep a small flashlight in your purse or briefcase in case the lights go out and a scarf or handkerchief that you can wet and hold in front of your mouth and nose to protect your lungs from toxic dust. And, if you commute by subway, be aware of the locations of all the exits in the stations along your usual route.