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Terrorism Awareness

Terrorism is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.  Weapons of Mass Destruction are frequently employed by terrorists and can be categorized into five groups using the acronym CBRNE,  Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive.

Chemical Agents

Chemical agents are poisonous gases, liquids or solids that have toxic effects on people, animals, or plants. Severity of injuries depends on the type and amount of the chemical agent used, and the duration of the exposure.

Biological Agents

Biological agents are bacteria, viruses, or toxins that have illness-producing effects on people, livestock, and crops.

Radiological Agents

Radiological agents are radiological material dispersed by an explosion or other dispersal method.

Nuclear Agents
Nuclear agents involve the detonation or threatened detonation of a fission type nuclear weapon.

Explosive Agents

Explosive devices are the most commonly used category of weapons of mass destruction agents. They can deliver a wide range of incendiary and explosive effects, including providing for the dispersal of the other categories of weapons of mass destruction.

Immediate Action

Prepare to deal with a terrorist incident by adapting many of the same techniques used to prepare for other crises, such as being alert to your surroundings, including any conspicuous or unusual behavior, having a Family Disaster Plan such as the one listed by the American Red Cross, and being familiar with the evacuation plan for your building. In the event of a terrorist attack, follow the directions of authorities and the procedures drawn up in the preparedness plans.

Mask: Put on breathing protection such as a gas or escape mask, or cover mouth and nose with a cloth.

Move: If indoors, to the highest and most interior room of a house or building. If outdoors, move laterally and upwind, away from any smoke or aerosol cloud.

Shelter: Seek shelter in a building or covered structure. If in a vehicle, pull over and turn off the engine, air conditioner, heater and vents, and roll up the windows.

  • Turn off all electrical appliances, fans, air conditioners, furnaces, etc.
  • Close and lock all windows, vents, doors and other openings.
  • Seal room windows and doors with duct or masking tape.
  • Seal door thresholds with wet towels.
  • Sit adjacent to an inner wall and away from outer walls and windows. Do not smoke, light candles, or use any sources of open flame.

Evacuation: Be prepared to evacuate your home or workplace if circumstances require it. Follow the steps in your Family Disaster Plan to be sure you have the necessary items with you.

Subsequent Procedures

Listen: Keep calm and listen to the radio/TV (battery-operated, if appropriate) for official news updates. Stay indoors until notified by the public information officers that the area is safe.


  • Minimize contact with all outside surfaces.
  • Remove contaminated clothing and jewelry as soon as possible and place in separate, sealed plastic bags.
  • Wash exposed skin with soap and water and shampoo hair.

Seek Care: If exposure is known or suspected, report to the nearest medical facility as directed by public health officials for evaluation and treatment. Inform the staff you may be contaminated.

Assist Others: As circumstances and your training permits, assist others in your building or neighborhood. Depending on the magnitude of the incident, assistance from emergency services personnel may be significantly delayed. Preparing beforehand by seeking training through the American Red Cross, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), or other organization can provide a valuable community service.

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