Terrorism


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 international political unrest are components of the increased risk to national security.


General Information About Terrorism


Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of intimidation, coercion, or ransom.


Terrorists often use threats to:


   * Create fear among the public.

   * Try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism.

   * Get immediate publicity for their causes.


Acts of terrorism include threats of terrorism; assassinations; kidnappings; hijackings; bomb scares and bombings; cyber attacks (computer-based); and the use of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons.


High-risk targets for acts of terrorism include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities, and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities, and corporate centers. Further, terrorists are capable of spreading fear by sending explosives or chemical and biological agents through the mail.


Within the immediate area of a terrorist event, you would need to rely on police, fire, and other officials for instructions. However, you can prepare in much the same way you would prepare for other crisis events.


General Safety Guidelines:


   * Be aware of your surroundings.


   * Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.


   * Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended. You should promptly report unusual behavior, suspicious or unattended packages, and strange devices to the police or security personnel.


   * Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Plan how to get out in the event of an emergency.


Explosions


Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons. Terrorists do not have to look far to find out how to make explosive devices; the information is readily available in books and other information sources. The materials needed for an explosive device can be found in many places including variety, hardware, and auto supply stores. Explosive devices are highly portable using vehicles and humans as a means of transport. They are easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers.


Conventional bombs have been used to damage and destroy financial, political, social, and religious institutions. Attacks have occurred in public places and on city streets with thousands of people around the world injured and killed.


If you receive a telephoned bomb threat, you should do the following:


   * Get as much information from the caller as possible. Try to ask the following questions:


        1. When is the bomb going to explode?

        2. Where is it right now?

        3. What does it look like?

        4. What kind of bomb is it?

        5. What will cause it to explode?

        6. Did you place the bomb?

        7. Why?

        8. What is your address?

        9. What is your name?


   * Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said.


   * Notify the police and building management.


During an Explosion


If there is an explosion, you should:


   * Get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you. When they stop falling, leave quickly, watching for obviously weakened floors and stairways. As you exit from the building, be especially watchful of falling debris.


   * Leave the building as quickly as possible. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls.


   * Do not use elevators.


Once you are out:


   * Do not stand in front of windows, glass doors, or other potentially hazardous areas.


   * Move away from sidewalks or streets to be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.


If you are trapped in debris:


   * If possible, use a flashlight to signal your location to rescuers.


   * Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t kick up dust.


   * Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand. (Dense-weave cotton material can act as a good filter. Try to breathe through the material.)


   * Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are.


   * If possible, use a whistle to signal rescuers.


   * Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.


Biological Threats


Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock, and crops. 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.


Before a Biological Attack


What you should do to prepare:


Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to biological agents.


Consider installing a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct. These filters remove particles in the 0.3 to 10 micron range and will filter out most biological agents that may enter your house. If you do not have a central heating or cooling system, a stand-alone portable HEPA filter can be used.


Filtration in buildings


Building owners and managers should determine the type and level of filtration in their structures and the level of protection it provides against biological agents. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides technical guidance on this topic in their publication Guidance for Filtration and Air-Cleaning Systems to Protect Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks. To obtain a copy, call 1 (800) 35NIOSH or visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Web site and request or download NIOSH Publication 2003-136.


During a Biological Attack


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 what the illness is, how it should be treated, and who is in danger. Watch television, listen to radio, or check the Internet for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed, and where you should seek medical attention if you become ill.


The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. Be suspicious of any symptoms you notice, but do not assume that any illness is a result of the attack. Use common sense and practice good hygiene.


If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance nearby:


   * Move away quickly.


   * Wash with soap and water.


   * Contact authorities.


   * Listen to the media for official instructions.


   * Seek medical attention if you become sick.


If you are exposed to a biological agent:


   * Remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.


   * Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.


   * Seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined.


Using HEPA Filters


HEPA filters are useful in biological attacks. If you have a central heating and cooling system in your home with a HEPA filter, leave it on if it is running or turn the fan on if it is not running. Moving the air in the house through the filter will help remove the agents from the air. If you have a portable HEPA filter, take it with you to the internal room where you are seeking shelter and turn it on.


If you are in an apartment or office building that has a modern, central heating and cooling system, the system’s filtration should provide a relatively safe level of protection from outside biological contaminants.


HEPA filters will not filter chemical agents.


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.


Before a Chemical Attack


What you should do to prepare for a chemical threat:


   * Check your disaster supplies kit to make sure it includes:


       o A roll of duct tape and scissors.


       o Plastic for doors, windows, and vents for the room in which you will shelter in place. To save critical time during an emergency, pre-measure and cut the plastic sheeting for each opening.


   * Choose an internal room to shelter, preferably one without windows and on the highest level.


During a Chemical Attack


What you should do in a chemical attack:


If you are instructed to remain in your home or office building, you should:


   * Close doors and windows and turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners, vents, and fans.


   * Seek shelter in an internal room and take your disaster supplies kit.


   * Seal the room with duct tape and plastic sheeting.


   * Listen to your radio for instructions from authorities.


If you are caught in or near a contaminated area, you should:


   * Move away immediately in a direction upwind of the source.


   * Find shelter as quickly as possible.


After a Chemical Attack

Decontamination is needed within minutes of exposure to minimize health consequences. Do not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities announce it is safe to do so.


A person affected by a chemical agent requires immediate medical attention from a professional. If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself and assist in decontaminating others.


Decontamination guidelines are as follows:


   * Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents.


   * Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body. Contaminated clothing normally removed over the head should be cut off to avoid contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth. Put contaminated clothing and items into a plastic bag and seal it. Decontaminate hands using soap and water. Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate them, and then rinse and dry.


   * Flush eyes with water.


   * Gently wash face and hair with soap and water before thoroughly rinsing with water.


   * Decontaminate other body areas likely to have been contaminated. Blot (do not swab or scrape) with a cloth soaked in soapy water and rinse with clear water.


   * Change into uncontaminated clothes. Clothing stored in drawers or closets is likely to be uncontaminated.


   * Proceed to a medical facility for screening and professional treatment.


Nuclear Blast


A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave, and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water, and ground surfaces for miles around. A nuclear device can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile launched by a hostile nation or terrorist organization, to a small portable nuclear devise transported by an individual. All nuclear devices cause deadly effects when exploded, including blinding light, intense heat (thermal radiation), initial nuclear radiation, blast, fires started by the heat pulse, and secondary fires caused by the destruction.


Hazards of Nuclear Devices


The extent, nature, and arrival time of these hazards are difficult to predict. The geographical dispersion of hazard effects will be defined by the following:


   * Size of the device. A more powerful bomb will produce more distant effects.


   * Height above the ground the device was detonated. This will determine the extent of blast effects.


   * Nature of the surface beneath the explosion. Some materials are more likely to become radioactive and airborne than others. Flat areas are more susceptible to blast effects.


   * Existing meteorological conditions. Wind speed and direction will affect arrival time of fallout; precipitation may wash fallout from the atmosphere.


Radioactive Fallout


Even if individuals are not close enough to the nuclear blast to be affected by the direct impacts, they may be affected by radioactive fallout. Any nuclear blast results in some fallout. Blasts that occur near the earth’s surface create much greater amounts of fallout than blasts that occur at higher altitudes. This is because the tremendous heat produced from a nuclear blast causes an up-draft of air that forms the familiar mushroom cloud. When a blast occurs near the earth’s surface, millions of vaporized dirt particles also are drawn into the cloud. As the heat diminishes, radioactive materials that have vaporized condense on the particles and fall back to Earth. The phenomenon is called radioactive fallout. This fallout material decays over a long period of time, and is the main source of residual nuclear radiation.


Fallout from a nuclear explosion may be carried by wind currents for hundreds of miles if the right conditions exist. Effects from even a small portable device exploded at ground level can be potentially deadly.


Nuclear radiation cannot be seen, smelled, or otherwise detected by normal senses. Radiation can only be detected by radiation monitoring devices. This makes radiological emergencies different from other types of emergencies, such as floods or hurricanes. Monitoring can project the fallout arrival times, which will be announced through official warning channels. However, any increase in surface build-up of gritty dust and dirt should be a warning for taking protective measures.


Radioactive Fallout


In addition to other effects, a nuclear weapon detonated in or above the earth’s atmosphere can create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-density electrical field. An EMP acts like a stroke of lightning but is stronger, faster, and shorter. An EMP can seriously damage electronic devices connected to power sources or antennas. This includes communication systems, computers, electrical appliances, and automobile or aircraft ignition systems. The damage could range from a minor interruption to actual burnout of components. Most electronic equipment within 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation could be affected. Battery-powered radios with short antennas generally would not be affected. Although an EMP is unlikely to harm most people, it could harm those with pacemakers or other implanted electronic devices.


How can I protect myself from a nuclear blast?


Protection from a Nuclear Blast


The danger of a massive strategic nuclear attack on the United States is predicted by experts to be less likely today. However, terrorism, by nature, is unpredictable.


If there were threat of an attack, people living near potential targets could be advised to evacuate or they could decide on their own to evacuate to an area not considered a likely target. Protection from radioactive fallout would require taking shelter in an underground area or in the middle of a large building.


In general, potential targets include:


   * Strategic missile sites and military bases.


   * Centers of government such as Washington, DC, and state capitals.


   * Important transportation and communication centers.


   * Manufacturing, industrial, technology, and financial centers.


   * Petroleum refineries, electrical power plants, and chemical plants.


   * Major ports and airfields.


The three factors for protecting oneself from radiation and fallout are distance, shielding, and time.


   * Distance - the more distance between you and the fallout particles, the better. An underground area such as a home or office building basement offers more protection than the first floor of a building. A floor near the middle of a high-rise may be better, depending on what is nearby at that level on which significant fallout particles would collect. Flat roofs collect fallout particles so the top floor is not a good choice, nor is a floor adjacent to a neighboring flat roof.


   * Shielding - the heavier and denser the materials - thick walls, concrete, bricks, books and earth - between you and the fallout particles, the better.


   * Time - fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1 percent of its initial radiation level.


Remember that any protection, however temporary, is better than none at all, and the more shielding, distance, and time you can take advantage of, the better.


Before a Nuclear Blast


To prepare for a nuclear blast, you should do the following:


   * Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. If none have been designated, make your own list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school. These places would include basements or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-rise buildings, as well as subways and tunnels.


   * If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for sheltering and about providing for building occupants until it is safe to go out.


   * During periods of increased threat increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks.


Taking shelter during a nuclear blast is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of shelters - blast and fallout. The following describes the two kinds of shelters:


   * Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat, and fire. But even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.


   * Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.


During a Nuclear Blast


The following are guidelines for what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.


If an attack warning is issued:


   * Take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.


   * Listen for official information and follow instructions.


If you are caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:


   * Do not look at the flash or fireball - it can blind you.


   * Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.


   * Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.


   * Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred - radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles. Remember the three protective factors: Distance, shielding, and time.


Radiological Dispersion Device


Terrorist use of an RDD—often called “dirty nuke” or “dirty bomb”—is considered far more likely than use of a nuclear explosive device. An RDD combines a conventional explosive device—such as a bomb—with radioactive material. It is designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal amounts of radioactive material over a general area. Such RDDs appeal to terrorists because they require limited technical knowledge to build and deploy compared to a nuclear device. Also, the radioactive materials in RDDs are widely used in medicine, agriculture, industry, and research, and are easier to obtain than weapons grade uranium or plutonium.


The primary purpose of terrorist use of an RDD is to cause psychological fear and economic disruption. Some devices could cause fatalities from exposure to radioactive materials. Depending on the speed at which the area of the RDD detonation was evacuated or how successful people were at sheltering-in-place, the number of deaths and injuries from an RDD might not be substantially greater than from a conventional bomb explosion.


The size of the affected area and the level of destruction caused by an RDD would depend on the sophistication and size of the conventional bomb, the type of radioactive material used, the quality and quantity of the radioactive material, and the local meteorological conditions—primarily wind and precipitation. The area affected could be placed off-limits to the public for several months during cleanup efforts.


Before a Radiological Dispersion Device Event

There is no way of knowing how much warning time there will be before an attack by terrorists using a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD), so being prepared in advance and knowing what to do and when is important.


To prepare for an RDD event, you should do the following:


   * Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. If none have been designated, make your own list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school. These places would include basements or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-rise buildings, as well as subways and tunnels.


   * If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for sheltering and about providing for building occupants until it is safe to go out.


   * During periods of increased threat increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks.


Taking shelter during an RDD event is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of shelters - blast and fallout. The following describes the two kinds of shelters:


   * Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat, and fire. But even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.


   * Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.


During a Radiological Dispersion Device Event


While the explosive blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be known until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, home or at work, be extra cautious. It would be safer to assume radiological contamination has occurred—particularly in an urban setting or near other likely terrorist targets—and take the proper precautions. As with any radiation, you want to avoid or limit exposure. This is particularly true of inhaling radioactive dust that results from the explosion. As you seek shelter from any location (indoors or outdoors) and there is visual dust or other contaminants in the air, breathe though the cloth of your shirt or coat to limit your exposure. If you manage to avoid breathing radioactive dust, your proximity to the radioactive particles may still result in some radiation exposure.


If the explosion or radiological release occurs inside, get out immediately and seek safe shelter. Otherwise, if you are:


Outdoors

Seek shelter indoors immediately in the nearest undamaged building.


If appropriate shelter is not available, move as rapidly as is safe upwind and away from the location of the explosive blast. Then, seek appropriate shelter as soon as possible.


Listen for official instructions and follow directions.


Indoors

If you have time, turn off ventilation and heating systems, close windows, vents, fireplace dampers, exhaust fans, and clothes dryer vents. Retrieve your disaster supplies kit and a battery-powered radio and take them to your shelter room.


Seek shelter immediately, preferably underground or in an interior room of a building, placing as much distance and dense shielding as possible between you and the outdoors where the radioactive material may be.


Seal windows and external doors that do not fit snugly with duct tape to reduce infiltration of radioactive particles. Plastic sheeting will not provide shielding from radioactivity nor from blast effects of a nearby explosion.


Listen for official instructions and follow directions.



Homeland Security Advisory System

Homeland Security Advisory System


The U.S. threat level is High, or Orange, for all domestic and international flights. Only small amounts of liquids, aerosols and gels are allowed in carry-on baggage. See the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for up-to-date information on items permitted and prohibited on airlines.


While there continues to be no credible information at this time warning of an imminent threat to the homeland, the department's strategic threat perspective is that we are in a period of increased risk. The National Intelligence Estimate cited heightened activity overseas and we're mindful of the recent arrests in Europe. There has also been an upward trend in propaganda tapes and messages coming from Al Qaeda and affiliated networks over the past year.

Recommended Activities


   * All Americans should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicious items or activities to local authorities immediately.

   * 

Everyone should establish an emergency preparedness kit and emergency plan for themselves and their family, and stay informed about what to do during an emergency.


Learn More About Preparedness


   * Visit www.ready.gov


About the Homeland Security Advisory System


The Homeland Security Advisory System is designed to guide our protective measures when specific information to a particular sector or geographic region is received. It combines threat information with vulnerability assessments and provides communications to public safety officials and the public. 


   * Homeland Security Threat Advisories contain actionable information about an incident involving, or a threat targeting, critical national networks or infrastructures or key assets. They could, for example, relay newly developed procedures that, when implemented, would significantly improve security or protection. They could also suggest a change in readiness posture, protective actions, or response. This category includes products formerly named alerts, advisories, and sector notifications. Advisories are targeted to Federal, state, and local governments, private sector organizations, and international partners. 

   * Homeland Security Information Bulletins communicate information of interest to the nation’s critical infrastructures that do not meet the timeliness, specificity, or significance thresholds of warning messages. Such information may include statistical reports, periodic summaries, incident response or reporting guidelines, common vulnerabilities and patches, and configuration standards or tools. It also may include preliminary requests for information. Bulletins are targeted to Federal, state, and local governments, private sector organizations, and international partners.

   * Color-coded Threat Level System is used to communicate with public safety officials and the public at-large through a threat-based, color-coded system so that protective measures can be implemented to reduce the likelihood or impact of an attack. Raising the threat condition has economic, physical, and psychological effects on the nation; so, the Homeland Security Advisory System can place specific geographic regions or industry sectors on a higher alert status than other regions or industries, based on specific threat information.