ARE YOU READY?
Terrorists are working to obtain biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons, and the threat of an attack is very real. At the Department of Homeland Security, throughout the federal government, and at organizations across America we are working hard to strengthen our Nation’s security. Whenever possible, we want to stop terrorist attacks before they happen. All Americans should begin a process of learning about potential threats so we are better prepared to react during an attack. While there is no way to predict what will happen, or what your personal circumstances will be, there are simple things you can do now to prepare yourself and your loved ones.
Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling a supply kit and developing a family communication plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency. However, there are important differences among potential terrorist threats that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. With a little planning and common sense, you can be better prepared for the unexpected.
Make a Kit of Emergency Supplies
Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer. While there are many things that might make you more comfortable, think first about fresh water, food and clean air. Consider putting together two kits. In one, put everything needed to stay where you are and make it on your own. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you have to get away.
You’ll need a gallon of water per person per day. Include in the kits canned and dried foods that are easy to store and prepare. If you live in a cold weather climate, include warm clothes and a sleeping bag for each member of the family.
Start now by gathering basic emergency supplies – a flashlight, a battery-operated radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, toilet articles, prescription medicines and other special things your family may need. Many potential terrorist attacks could send tiny microscopic “junk” into the air. Many of these materials can only hurt you if they get into your body, so think about creating a barrier between yourself and any contamination. It’s smart to have something for each member of the family that covers their mouth and nose.
Plan to use two to three layers of a cotton t-shirt, handkerchief or towel. Or, consider filter masks, readily available in hardware stores, which are rated based on how small a particle they filter. It is very important that the mask or other material fit your face snugly so that most of the air you breathe comes through the mask, not around it. Do whatever you can to make the best fit possible for children.
Also, include duct tape and heavyweight garbage bags or plastic sheeting that can be used to seal windows and doors if you need to create a barrier between yourself and any potential contamination outside
Make a Plan for What You Will Do in an Emergency
Be prepared to assess the situation, use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the attack, the first important decision is deciding whether to stay or go. You should understand and plan for both possibilities.
Develop a Family Communications Plan: Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. Consider a plan where each family member calls, or e-mails, the same friend or relative in the event of an emergency. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-state contact may be in a better position to communicate among family members. You may have trouble getting through, or the phone system may be down altogether, but be patient.
Staying Put: There are circumstances when staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as “shelter-in-place”, can be a matter of survival. Choose an interior room or one with as few windows and doors as possible. Consider precutting plastic sheeting to seal windows, doors and air vents. Each piece should be several inches larger than the space you want to cover so that you can duct tape it flat against the wall. Label each piece with the location of where it fits.
If you see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated, you may want to “shelter-in-place. Quickly bring your family and pets inside, lock doors, and close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers. Immediately turn off conditioning, forced air heating systems, exhaust fans and clothes dryers. Take your emergency supplies and go into the room you have designated. Seal all windows, doors and vents. Watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet for instructions.
Getting Away: Plan in advance how you will assemble your family and anticipate where you will go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency. If you have a car, keep at least a half tank of gas in it at all times. Become familiar with alternate routes as well as other means of transportation out of your area. If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Take your emergency supply kit and lock the door behind you. If you believe the air may be contaminated, drive with your windows and vents closed and keep the air conditioning and heater turned off. Listen to the radio for instructions.
At Work and School: Think about the places where your family spends time: school, work and other places you frequent. Talk to your children’s schools and your employer about emergency plans. Find out how they will communicate with families during an emergency. If you are an employer, be sure you have an emergency preparedness plan. Review and practice it with your employees. A community working together during an emergency also makes sense. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together.
Be Informed About What Might Happen
Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling a supply kit and developing a family communications plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency. However there are important differences among potential terrorist threats that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take.
Specific Terrorist Threats
A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other substances that can make you sick. Many agents must be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin or eaten to make you sick.
A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment.
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 radiation threat or “Dirty Bomb” is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area.
Be prepared to adapt this information to your personal circumstances and make every effort to follow instructions received from authorities on the scene. Above all, stay calm, be patient and think before you act. With these simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected.
- Home page for Mid-Rio Grande Chapter (Albuquerque) of the American Red Cross, www.nmredcross.org.
- Information on citizen preparedness, www.ready.gov.
- Emergency Management Institute classes offered at the federal, state, and Independent Study (IS) levels (Click “Education and Training”), www.fema.gov.