What You Should Know
What Are the Potential Threats of Terrorism?
- Bombings/weapons of mass destruction.
- Biological/chemical agents.
- Disruptions in the community's infrastructure.
- Terrorists look for visible targets where they can avoid detection before or after an attack, such as international airports, large cities, major International events, resorts, and high-profile landmarks.
What Can You Do to Assist Your Community?
Prepare to deal with a terrorist incident by adapting many of the same techniques used to prepare for other crises.
- Be alert and aware of the surrounding area. The very nature of terrorism suggests that there may be little or no warning.
- Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended.Learn where emergency exits are located. Think ahead about how to evacuate a building, subway, or congested public area in a hurry. Learn where staircases are located.
- Notice your immediate surroundings. Be aware of heavy or breakable objects that could move, fall or break in an explosion.
- Be vigilant to suspicious activities and report suspected criminal behavior to your local police.
- Be cautious of suspicious packages and mail.
- No return address, inappropriate or unusual labeling.
- Excessive postage.
- Handwritten or poorly typed addresses.
- Misspellings of common words.
- Incorrect titles or title without a name.
- Not addressed to a specific person.
- Marked with restrictions, such as "Personal," "Confidential," or "Do Not X-ray."
- Marked with threatening language.
- Postmarked from a city or state that does not match the return address.
- Soiled or stained packages.
- Strong odors emitting from packages or letters.
- Powdery substance felt through or appearing on the package or envelope.
- Lopsided or uneven envelope.
- Excessive packaging material, such as masking tape, string, etc.
- Excessive weight.
- Ticking sound.
- Protruding wires or aluminum foil.
If a package or envelope appears suspicious, DO NOT OPEN IT, CALL 311.
What Should People Do Who Get a Letter or Package with White Powder?
- Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious package or envelope.
- Do not carry the package or envelope, show it to others, or allow others to examine it.
- Put the package or envelope down on a stable surface; do not sniff, touch, taste, or look closely at it or at any contents which may have spilled.
- Alert others in the area about the suspicious package or envelope. Leave the area, close any doors, and take actions to prevent others from entering the area. If possible, shut off the ventilation system.
- WASH hands with soap and water to prevent spreading potentially infectious material to face or skin. Seek additional instructions for exposed or potentially exposed persons.
- If at work, notify a supervisor, a security officer, or a law enforcement official. If at home, contact the local law enforcement agency.
- If possible, create a list of persons who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized and a list of persons who also may have handled this package or letter. Give this list to both the local public health authorities and law enforcement agencies.
- Gloves and other personal protective clothing and equipment can be discarded in regular trash once they are removed or if they are visibly torn, unless a suspicious piece of mail is recognized and handled.
Preparing for a Building Explosion
The use of explosives by terrorists can result in collapsed buildings and fires. People who live or work in a multi-level building can do the following:
- Review emergency evacuation procedures. Know where fire exits are located.
- Keep fire extinguishers in working order. Know where they are located, and how to use them.
- Learn first aid. Contact the local chapter of the American Red Cross for additional information.
- Keep the following items in a designated place on each floor of the building.
- Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries.
- Several flashlights and extra batteries.
- First aid kit and manual.
- Several hard hats.
- Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas.
- If you receive a bomb threat, get as much information from the caller as possible. Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said. Notify the police and the building management.
- After you have been notified of a bomb threat, do not touch any suspicious packages. Clear the area around the suspicious package and notify the police immediately. In evacuating a building, avoid standing in front of windows or other potentially hazardous areas. Do not restrict sidewalk or streets to be used by emergency officials.
In a building explosion, get out of the building as quickly and calmly as possible. If items are falling off of bookshelves or from the ceiling, get under a sturdy table or desk. If there is a fire:
- Stay low to the floor and exit the building as quickly as possible.
- Cover nose and mouth with a wet cloth.
- When approaching a closed door, use the palm of your hand and forearm to feel the lower, middle and upper parts of the door. If it is not hot, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly. If it is hot to the touch, do not open the door - seek an alternative escape route.
- Heavy smoke and poisonous gasses collect first along the ceiling. Stay below the smoke at all times.
Chemical agents are poisonous gasses, liquids, or solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. Most chemical agents cause serious injuries or death.
Severity of injuries depends on the type and amount of the chemical agent being used, and the duration of exposure.
Were a chemical attack to occur, authorities would instruct citizens to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises or evacuate immediately. Exposure to chemical agents can be fatal. Leaving the shelter to rescue or assist victims can be a deadly decision. There is no assistance that the untrained can offer that would likely be of any value to the victims of chemical agents.
Biological agents are organisms or toxins that have illness-producing effects on people, livestock, and crops.
Because biological agents cannot necessarily be detected and may take time to grow and cause a disease, it is almost impossible to know that a biological attack has occurred. If governmental officials become aware of a biological attack through an informant or warning by terrorists, they would most likely instruct citizens to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises or evacuate immediately.
A person affected by a biological agent requires the immediate attention of professional medical personnel. Some agents are contagious, and victims may need to be quarantined. Also, some medical facilities may not receive victims for fear of contaminating the hospital population.
Q: What should I do to protect my family and myself if a dangerous chemical agent were released in my community?
A: Emergency management teams would lead efforts in the event of a chemical attack and would let you know if you need to evacuate the area or seek some type of shelter.
Q: Should I purchase a gas mask as protection from any chemical agent release such as anthrax?
A: No, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend purchasing gas masks. The likelihood that you would be involved in a chemical attack is low, and your protection is the responsibility of state and Federal law enforcement officials. They are on high alert to ensure that such an event does not happen. In addition, the CDC believes that purchasing a gas mask causes a false sense of security and can do more harm than good. Masks that aren't used property or that does not fit well will not give you adequate protection.
Only specially trained personnel can distinguish between a real bio terrorism attack and a false one. If you suspect that a package, letter, or anything else contains a harmful biological agent, call 311 to activate the local emergency response system.