Situations You May Encounter
Weather emergencies like hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes may be some of the more common disaster situations you encounter. Remember, though there are some areas of the country where certain disasters are more likely to strike (for example, tornadoes in the states that encompass “Tornado Alley”), most states and territories in every region of the country have a moderate to high risk.
No matter where you live or what you may need to be prepared for, it's essential to plan and prepare to weather any storm and to know what to do if told to evacuate. In addition to weather disasters, there are a variety of other emergency situations you may be faced with, including chemical, biological, or terrorist attacks.
A biological attack is the release of germs or other organic substances in a deliberate attempt to make people sick. In case of a biological attack, you will need to rely on public-health officials to provide information on how to act.
As always, use common sense, good hygiene and cleanliness measures, and seek medical advice.
During a time of biological attack, if you become sick be concerned, but don't assume you need emergency-room treatment or that you are ill due to the biological attack. Your illness may just be a garden-variety sickness that happens to crop up at the same time as the attack.
Modes of entry with biological agents may vary; some must be inhaled, enter through the skin, or be ingested in order to make you sick. Some biological agents are contagious, like the smallpox virus, and some are not, such as anthrax. A biological attack may or may not be an obvious event like an explosion or a fire, but there may be subtle signs like a group of employees reporting similar illnesses and all seeking emergency care during the same time frame.
You are apt to learn of imminent threat from a TV broadcast, an emergency radio, or other signal. Any time you are alerted to a suspicious release of an unknown substance nearby, attempt to get away as quickly as possible. Cover your mouth and nose with as many layers of cloth as you can that will still allow you to breathe, such as layers of a T-shirt, towel, paper towel, or handkerchief, Wash immediately with soap and water, and contact your local authorities.
A chemical attack is the release of a toxic gas, liquid, or solid in a deliberate attempt to poison people and the environment. Signs of a chemical attack are watery eyes, twitching, choking, breathing difficulties, and loss of coordination in all the people around you, along with signs of a poisoned atmosphere such as seeing many sick or dead small animals, birds, or fish.
When you see these signs of a chemical attack, try to identify where the chemical is coming from and the area affected, and immediately leave the area. If you are in a contaminated building, attempt to leave while avoiding the contaminated area, or stay inside the building, move as far away from the chemical release as possible, and seal the room. If you are outside, use the fastest way to get away from the chemical threat, or consider whether it would be safer to go inside a building and secure a shelter-in-place.
If you are having symptoms, immediately strip and wash with a hose, fountain, shower, or any other available source of water. Use soap if available, but don't scrub the chemical into your skin. Seek emergency medical attention as quickly as possible.
A nuclear blast is an explosion of widespread radioactive material involving intense light and heat, and an intense destructive pressure wave that contaminates the ground, air, and water for miles. In the case of an enormous fireball and intense flash, immediately take cover below ground if you can, or use any shield or shelter to help protect you from the pressure wave and immediate effects of the blast. A thick shield between your body, the blast, and the wave will help to absorb more of the radiation. Distance from the explosion and the amount of time you are exposed also decrease your degree of radiation exposure.
A radiation threat known as a dirty bomb is the use of ordinary explosives in order to spread radioactive materials over a planned area of attack. It is not a nuclear explosion; the force of the blast and the radioactive contamination are more localized. In a dirty-bomb explosion, the blast is obvious, but the presence of radiation cannot be detected without the use of trained personnel and specialized equipment. Because there is radiation present, you need to take the same steps to limit your exposure: shielding, distance, and time.
The nature of terrorism implies that there may be little or no warning, so you need to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings when you travel, as well as in daily life including:
Always be concerned and aware of any unusual or noticeably alarming behavior.
Don't ever accept packages from strangers or leave luggage unattended.
When you are staying in hotels or when you frequent certain buildings, learn where emergency exits are located.
Notice and be cautious of objects that are heavy or breakable that could move, fall, or shatter in an explosion.
Create a plan in response to a terrorist attack for specific features of your life and work, including such concerns as living and working in high-rise buildings.
You can deal with a terrorist incident using many of the same techniques used to prepare for other emergencies and crises. Because your family may not be together when disaster strikes, it is important to create a comprehensive advanced plan together for any scenario you might encounter, so that you all remain safe.