Smart Americans “buckle up” when they get into an automobile. They do so not because they are scared or obsessed by the thought of being killed or mutilated in an auto wreck. Americans buckle up because they have been properly educated, trained, and conditioned over time to do so (and because the insurance companies-also well educated and legally counseled -  figured out that premiums and payoffs could become dependent upon “buckling-up”).

To a very large extent, it was the National Safety Council’s decades-long public awareness campaign, characterized by slogans like “Buckle Up for Safety," "Seat Belts Save Lives," and "You Can Learn a Lot From a Dummy" that convinced our nation’s drivers that employing a seatbelt was the intelligent and vigilant thing to do. People buckle seat belts because they are vigilant, not because they are paranoid.

There has not been a child killed in a school fire in the United States in more than 50 years. State-of-the-art technologies that include fire suppression and alarm systems, combined with mandatory fire drills, keep the possibility of injury or death by school fire extremely remote. With respect to preventing school fires, Americans are now vigilant, not paranoid.

Thousands of neighborhoods establish and maintain the now famous “Neighborhood Watch” programs. They do so not because they are paranoid about break-ins and thefts. Neighborhoods institute these programs because they desire to prevent local crime rates from rising. Neighborhood watch programs are designed to discourage the bad guys from perpetrating crimes because the residents there are trained to be vigilant with “everyone” on the lookout. Hundreds of pairs of alert citizens’ eyes and ears are far superior to just a few cops on patrol. So it is with the War against Islamism. Millions of pairs of eyes and ears are far more likely to identify and thwart a serious terrorist incident than just the comparatively few belonging to members of law enforcement and our other valiant first responders.

American vigilance in the war against foreign or domestic terror demands five indispensable requisites:

• Education: Citizens must be trained to know what to look and listen for day-to-day.

• Observation: Citizens must actually look and listen. They need to maintain a comfortable yet effective operational awareness of what is going on around them.

• Action: Citizens must be ready and willing to act in the common defense when the situation demands.

• Empowerment: Citizens must be empowered by federal and local government and law enforcement to act when necessary to save lives in a counter-terror role until first responders arrive on the scene and take charge.

• Legal Protection: Citizens must be able to react quickly in a counter-terror situation. They cannot and should not be mentally burdened by thoughts of criminal and/or civil legal ramifications that could cause them to hesitate, or not act at all, in a moment of crisis. Similar to Good Samaritan laws, civilians acting in good faith in a counter-terror role must be free from civil and criminal prosecution if innocents are unintentionally injured or killed.

When faced with a situation and the choice of acting or not acting, we should ask ourselves: if not me, then who? If I fail to act, who will? What is the worst that can happen if I act? What is the worst that may befall others if I do not? Sometimes these questions must be asked and answered in split seconds.

Action can include calling the authorities, reporting the questionable actions of a school mate or office coworker, evacuating a room full of people, or demanding that persons in positions of authority do their jobs. Action can be showing up at the local school board monthly meeting and asking what the schools are doing about lock-down drills and terror prevention. Action might include mobilizing some moms and dads to keep watch around the perimeter of a church picnic or kid’s sporting event.

Action does not require one to be a hero. It simply requires one to care enough to take the extra step that others – for whatever reasons – might not.

NEVER be afraid to act. If millions of Americans are willing to OBSERVE and ACT, hostile actors will experience a much greater degree of difficulty in planning and carrying out their attacks..

The protection of America is all about American vigilance. It is all about public servants doing their jobs to the utmost of their abilities. It is about common people not being afraid to blow the whistle if they suspect that the worst is about to happen.

We can do this. It is time for us to shine. Hundreds of millions of Americans doing their parts is critical to everyone's safety.

Complacency is not an option, and denial is deadly. So assume the responsibility. Adopt the creed:

If not me, then who? If not now, then when?