A former Calgary police chief says society has been fighting terrorism the wrong way.

Rick Hanson advised about 150 business leaders on how to protect themselves against a terrorist attack, but rather than designing disaster plans or heightening security he says the best protection is to address the root causes.

Hanson says the risk of a terrorist attack in Calgary is real because the city is not immune to the factors that can push a young person toward an ideology that breeds terrorism such as poverty, a lack of family supports, or mental illness.

"The magic will be, as articulated by experts all over the world, identifying those high-risk young people and doing something at the right time," Hanson told a chamber of commerce audience Thursday.

Calgary chamber of commerce meeting Thursday

The Calgary business community hears a message on the need for supports for young people to keep them out of trouble. (CBC)

That's why he's urging businesses to support community organizations including Calgary police who work with at-risk kids to put them on the right track.

He says businesses not only have a responsibility to give back but it's in their best interests to help prevent future attacks.

A small business owner agrees.

James Boettcher, right, chats with Rick Hanson

Business owner James Boettcher, right, chats with former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson about the root causes of terrorism. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

James Boettcher, the owner of Fiasco Gelato, provides breakfasts for low-income kids and volunteers with the United Way.

"And when you are really being inclusive with those people and give them a place to belong and part of a community and not an outcast or a problem, that's where you see some results," Boettcher said.

"And continually we see that with the work that we do."