Terrorist Hazards

TERRORIST HAZARDS

Throughout human history, there have been many threats to the security of nations. These threats have brought about large-scale losses of life, the destruction of property, widespread illness and injury, the displacement of large numbers of people and devastating economic loss.

Recent technological advances and ongoing political unrest are components of the increased risk to national security.

Learn what actions to include in your family disaster plan to prepare for and respond to terrorist threats.

BIOLOGICAL THREATS

Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick.

The three basic groups of biological agents that would likely be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses and toxins. Most biological agents are difficult to grow and maintain. Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors, while others, such as anthrax spores, are very long lived. Biological agents can be dispersed by spraying them into the air, by infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water. Delivery methods include:

AEROSOLS

Biological agents are dispersed into the air, forming a fine mist that may drift for miles. Inhaling the agent may cause disease in people or animals.

ANIMALS

Some diseases are spread by insects and animals, such as fleas, mice, flies, mosquitoes and livestock.

FOOD AND WATER CONTAMINATION

Some pathogenic organisms and toxins may persist in food and water supplies. Most microbes can be killed, and toxins deactivated, by cooking food and boiling water. Most microbes are killed by boiling water for one minute, but some require longer. Follow official instructions.

PERSON-TO-PERSON

Spread of a few infectious agents is also possible. Humans have been the source of infection for smallpox, plague, and the Lassa viruses.

Specific information on biological agents is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CHEMICAL THREATS

Chemical agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids and solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. They can be released by bombs or sprayed from aircraft, boats and vehicles. They can be used as a liquid to create a hazard to people and the environment. Some chemical agents may be odorless and tasteless. They can have an immediate effect (a few seconds to a few minutes) or a delayed effect (2 to 48 hours). While potentially lethal, chemical agents are difficult to deliver in lethal concentrations. Outdoors, the agents often dissipate rapidly. Chemical agents also are difficult to produce.

A chemical attack could come without warning. Signs of a chemical release include people having difficulty breathing; experiencing eye irritation; losing coordination; becoming nauseated; or having a burning sensation in the nose, throat and lungs. Also, the presence of many dead insects or birds may indicate a chemical agent release.

Specific information on chemical emergencies is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

EXPLOSIONS

Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons.

Read more about Explosions.

NUCLEAR BLAST

Prepare yourself, your family and your property for the hazards of nuclear devices.

Read more about Nuclear Blasts.

RADIOLOGICAL DISPERSION DEVICE

(“DIRTY NUKE” OR “DIRTY BOMB” )

Terrorist use of an RDD — often called “dirty nuke” or “dirty bomb” — is considered far more likely than use of a nuclear explosive device.

Read more about Radiological Dispersion Devices.