A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. Many agents must be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin or be eaten to make you sick. Some biological agents, such as anthrax, do not cause contagious diseases. Others, like the smallpox virus, can result in diseases you can catch from other people. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides the following information on what you should do in case of a biological threat.
Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. While it is possible that you will see signs of a biological attack, as was sometimes the case with the anthrax mailings, it is perhaps more likely that local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. You will probably learn of the danger through an emergency radio or TV broadcast, or some other signal used in your community. You might get a telephone call or emergency response workers may come to your door.
In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated, and who is in danger. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news including the following:
Are you in an area that authorities consider dangerous? What are the signs and symptoms of the disease? Are medications or vaccines being distributed? Where? Who should get them? Where should you seek emergency medical care if you become sick?
If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious release of an unknown substance nearby, it doesn't hurt to protect yourself. Quickly get away. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a t-shirt, handkerchief or towel. Otherwise, several layers of tissue or paper towels may help. Wash with soap and water and contact authorities.
Symptoms & Hygiene
At the time of a declared biological emergency, if a family member becomes sick, it is important to be suspicious. Do not automatically assume, however, that you should go to a hospital emergency room or that any illness is the result of the biological attack. Symptoms of many common illnesses may overlap. Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs, and seek medical advice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided a list of potential biological agents used as weapons of bioterrorism.
A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment. Learn about the possible signs and what you should do if there is a chemical threat
What is a chemical attack?
A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment.
What are some possible signs of a chemical threat?
Many people suffer from watery eyes, twitching, choking, have trouble breathing or lose coordination. Another cause for suspicion may be the presence of many sick or dead birds, fish or small animals.
What should I do if I see signs of a chemical attack?
Quickly try to define the impacted area or where the chemical is coming from, if possible. Take immediate action to get away. If the chemical is inside a building where you are, get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area, if possible. Otherwise, it may be better to move as far away from where you suspect the chemical release is and "shelter-in-place." If you are outside, quickly determine the fastest escape route from the chemical threat. Determine if you need to evacuate the area due to imminent danger or if it safer to "shelter-in-place" until authorities arrive.
What should I do if I believe I have been exposed to a chemical?
If your eyes are watering, your skin is stinging, and you are having trouble breathing, you may have been exposed to a chemical.
If you think you have been exposed to a chemical:
Remove your clothing and shower immediately. Look for a hose, fountain, or any source of water, and wash with soap if possible, being sure not to scrub the chemical into your skin. Seek emergency medical attention.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has provided a list of potential chemical agents used as weapons of bioterrorism.
What is a Radiation threat or “Dirty Bomb” -- What you should do
A radiation threat or "Dirty Bomb" is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area.
While the blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be clearly defined until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. As with any radiation, you want to try to limit exposure.
To limit the amount of radiation you are exposed to, think about shielding, distance and time:
Shielding: If you have a thick shield between yourself and the radioactive materials more of the radiation will be absorbed, and you will be exposed to less.
Distance: The farther away you are away from the blast and the fallout, the lower your exposure.
Time: Minimizing time spent exposed will also reduce your risk.
As with any emergency, local authorities may not be able to immediately provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet often for official news and information as it becomes available.
To help people be prepared for a radiation emergency, CDC has the following information.
Natural disasters and severe weather, such as floods, tornados, extreme heat and extreme cold can also cause illness due to consequences associated with the disaster. It is just as important to plan for these types of emergencies as it is for biological, chemical or radiological emergencies.
To help people be prepared for a natural disaster or severe weather event, the CDC has the following information. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/
Emerging and Re-emerging infectious diseases can also cause widespread illness among the population. Of particular concern are those diseases where little to know immunity remains within the population. Some of the more recent emerging and re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks have been the SARS outbreak of 2005 and the 2009-2010 H1N1 Influenza outbreak. While widespread pandemics occur, about once every 40-75 years, it is important to remain diligent in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.