Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks

Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks: A Quick Guide

Lynn E. Davis
Tom LaTourrette
David E. Mosher
Lois M. Davis
David R. Howell
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 32
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  • Book Info
    Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks
    Book Description:

    Individuals may have to rely on themselves to protect their own health and safety--perhaps even their own lives--in the event of a terrorist attack. Even those who know how to take care of themselves in the event of a fire, tornado, or earthquake might not know what to do in case of a chemical, radiological, nuclear, or biological attack. This quick guide attempts to fill in some of these gaps by offering specific actions to take during each of these situations, as well as preparations that can be taken. These actions are appropriate regardless of the likelihood of an attack, its scale, or the current government alert level; are designed to be sensitive to potential variations; and have been defined in terms of simple rules that should be easy to follow. A reference card included at the back of the guide encapsulates the key points and can be removed for display in a prominent place.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-3607-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    There is much the nation must do—and is doing—to guard against and prepare for terrorist attacks. In some possible situations, individuals may have to rely on themselves to protect their own health and safety—perhaps even their own lives. Thus, individual preparedness is an important element of our nation’s strategy for homeland security.

    Many people know how to respond in such disasters as fires and earthquakes, but few would know what to do if someone were to use a chemical, radiological, nuclear, or biological weapon in their vicinity. Although the characteristics of such attacks may vary widely and...

  6. Recommended Response Strategy: Chemical Attack
    (pp. 3-5)

    Chemical attacks entail the dispersal of chemical vapors, aerosols, liquids, or solids, and individuals are affected by inhaling these or being exposed through their eyes and skin. Terrorists could use any of numerous chemical agents in an attack, including both industrial chemicals and chemical warfare agents. Chemical weapons act very quickly, often within a few seconds. As a result, government officials are unlikely to be able to give warning or guidance. Individuals must act almost instantly and on their own to minimize exposure.

    It is critical to know whether the attack has occurred outdoors or inside a building and to...

  7. Recommended Response Strategy: Radiological Attack
    (pp. 7-9)

    A radiological attack is likely to entail use of what is often called a “dirty bomb,” in which conventional explosives are used to disperse radioactive material quickly across a wide area. Beyond the risk of immediate injury from the explosion itself, the primary initial danger is inhaling the radioactive material that is suspended within the dust and smoke from the explosion. A secondary hazard is the danger that residual radiation presents for those who remain in the contaminated area for a very long time. In either case, the levels of radiation will be quite low, so the main concern is...

  8. Recommended Response Strategy: Nuclear Attack
    (pp. 11-13)

    A nuclear detonation will be unmistakable the moment it occurs: It will be marked by blast effects strong enough to knock over buildings, a brilliant flash of light, high-energy radiation, and extreme heat. The explosion will produce a characteristic mushroom cloud, from which radioactive material will begin to fall after about 10 to 15 minutes. The area affected by this fallout will be long (extending tens of miles downwind) and narrow (spreading only a few miles). Given the potential destruction and disruption caused by such an attack, it may take several days for officials to be able to offer guidance...

  9. Recommended Response Strategy: Biological Attack
    (pp. 15-19)

    Biological attacks can involve either contagious or noncontagious agents. Some agents (possibly anthrax) can survive in the environment for a very long time and cause further risk of exposure if they become resuspended in the air.

    Unlike the other scenarios we have discussed, it may take days for a biological attack to be recognized and for the specific agent to be identified. The diseases biological agents cause each have their own timelines; identification usually comes after the incubation period for the disease, which, in some cases, may be two weeks or more.⁵

    This means the government will play a central...

  10. Recommended Response Strategy: Personal Priorities
    (pp. 21-21)

    In the midst of an unfamiliar and dangerous situation, whether a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, it is tempting to act according to certain human instincts. It seems perfectly natural to stop to help others or to try to contact family and friends. But, especially in the situations we are discussing here, taking the time to do so could well put your own survival at risk and might hinder that of others. Having a clear set of overall priorities is essential so that you can and will take the recommended actions quickly.

    Your first priority is to survive. Then,...

  11. What You Can Do to Prepare Yourself
    (pp. 23-24)

    Preparing yourself in advance will help you accomplish what you need to do in all these types of attacks. The most important preparation is gaining an understanding of what you must do and why. Beyond this, you can make specific plans for yourself and your family. These plans should include making a communication plan and providing for long-term shelter. It will also be useful to learn about what kinds of medical treatment will be appropriate and to discover building evacuation plans and potential shelters.

    It is also important to have a personal emergency kit for terrorist attacks. This kit should...

  12. What Government and Business Can Do
    (pp. 25-26)

    Governments and businesses can also take important steps to help individuals learn and carry out appropriate responses to terrorist attacks. The actions these groups take will be important to everyone’s ability to understand and carry out an appropriate response strategy.

    The more that individuals know about government plans for emergency and other kinds of medical treatment (vaccinations and antibiotics), decontamination steps, possible relocation plans, and how such information will be conveyed, the better prepared they will be to respond appropriately and the more likely they will be to comply with what officials suggest. Beyond simply providing basic information, governments and...

  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 27-27)