Should I stay or should I go? (Evacuation and sheltering tips when away from home)

January 22, 2015

evacuation-911-nycEvacuations are quite common and happen for a number of reasons — fires, floods, mudflows, hurricanes, or chemical spills on the roads or railways. Most preparedness data for the general public focuses on things to do around your home before, during and after an evacuation.

But what if you are at work or school or traveling? Things can happen near your workplace that can force evacuations or sheltering-in-place as seen recently in Paris when terrorists were holed up at a business … or during active shooter incidents at workplaces or schools. And sometimes accidents happen when riding public transit like Washington DC and New York City experienced recently with fires at their train stations.

Whenever these types of emergencies or incidents happen hopefully people take a moment to reflect on some things like… Continue reading our Jan 2015 enews in PDF


How to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or bombing incident

February 6, 2014

Madrid Spain bombing Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons for many, many decades. There are many “how-to” manuals available online and in books so unfortunately it’s very easy for bad people to make bombs and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in various shapes and sizes for use at events where many people are gathering like the Olympics, mass protests, elections, etc.

Explosive devices are very portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport, and they can be easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers.

Oftentimes terrorists pack bombs with ball bearings, screws, nails, nuts or other metal pieces to try to inflict as much carnage and chaos as possible.

Besides being vigilant  and having good situational awareness, there are some things people can do to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or incident.

BEFORE ANY TYPE OF EXPLOSION OR INCIDENT:

Be aware & watch – Sounds simple and it is. Stay current on news, alerts and threats – but don’t obsess over them – then start making a habit of being aware of your surroundings. You don’t have to be paranoid or obvious – just make a mental note of the EXITS when you go to places and watch for things that look strange or out of place especially if you walk or drive the same route day after day.

Make a kit – Make disaster supplies kits for your home, office, locker and car. Pack things like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, medicines (if needed), a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, some toiletries, tools, etc.

Have a plan – Check emergency plans for schools, day care and nursing home to find out where everyone goes if evacuated.

Report strange things – Again, be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, abandoned briefcases or backpacks and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Stay current on threats – The Department of Homeland Securitywww.dhs.gov and Public Safety Canada www.publicsafety.gc.ca post alerts and news about national security online. And of course read or watch local news to find out what’s going on in your area.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave – DO it!

Learn first aid – Take a basic first aid and CPR class … or join a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

DURING AN EXPLOSION:

Don’t panic… – Stay calm and don’t stop to retrieve personal items or make phone calls – get to a safe place.

Things to watch out for:
•  falling objects – if things are falling off bookshelves or from the ceiling get under a sturdy table or desk
•  flying debris – many blast injuries are caused by flying glass, metal, ball bearings and other materials
•  fires – stay below the smoke (crawl or walk like a duck)
– only use the stairs (don’t use elevators)
– check doors with back of hand before opening  (If HOT, do NOT open .. find another exit!)
•  weak structures – be careful since floors, stairs, roofs or walls might be weakened by the blast

If indoors – Stay put if building is not damaged but leave if warned of any radiation or chemical inside. Cover nose and mouth and find shelter in a building not damaged by blast and prepare to “shelter-in-place”, if necessary.

If outdoors – Cover mouth and nose with a cloth or handkerchief and take shelter in a safe building as quickly as possible!

If in a vehicle – Keep windows up, close vents, use “recirculating” air in case of airborne threats, and keep listening to radio for updates. If possible, drive away from site.

AFTER AN EXPLOSION:

If you are trapped in an area:
•  light – use a flashlight – never use matches or lighters in case there are gas leaks
•  be still – try to stay still so you won’t kick up dust
•  breathing – cover your mouth with a piece of clothing
•  make noise – tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear you (shouting may cause you to inhale a lot of dust)

Rescuing others – Untrained persons should not try to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building… wait for emergency personnel to arrive – then, if they need you, they will ask.

Avoid crowds – Be aware large crowds may be targeted for another attack.

Limited services – Cellular service and towers may get overwhelmed after an incident so realize you may have limited access. And officials may cut off mobile service around an attack site to prevent further remote detonations of explosive devices.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave due to another threat, attack or explosion – do it!

Stay away – Avoid the scene(s) as much as possible. There will be a heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels following a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature. Also realize that health and mental health and Fire/EMS resources in the affected communities may be strained or overwhelmed.

Stay current on news – Listen to updates but again, don’t obsess over an event. Extensive media coverage can be overwhelming so try to go about your daily routines and always be aware of your surroundings.

Above extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book 

Also review some tips on what to do if you receive a bomb threat or suspicious package.

Stay safe, j & B


Never Forget (photos and video tribute to 9/11 Ground Zero Responders)

September 8, 2013

ground zero 9-11 patchAs we approach the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on our country, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the 2,977 lives lost…

  • 2,753 victims at the World Trade Center (including 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, and 8 private EMTs);
  • 184 who died at the Pentagon;
  • and 40 at Shanksville, PA.

There have also been about 1,000+ responders who have since passed due to 9/11 related illnesses from working at Ground Zero.

People often forget terrorist attacks against our nation began long before the 2001 attack and, with all the unrest around the world, we will continue to deal with threats going forward. But we need to remain calm about the threat of terrorist attacks since they are a low risk possibility, and we should all be vigilant.

Our company works very closely with first responders across the nation so we ask you to please remember the sacrifices many responders and volunteers gave so willingly on that day – and everyday – to keep us safe. Never forget…

ground zero 9-11 robert pears

Credit: Robert Pears Photography

ground zero via seal of honor

Photo via Seal of Honor FB page

ground zero fema-2

Credit: FEMA

ground zero fema-1

Credit: Andrea Booher/FEMA

ground zero sar fema

Credit: FEMA

ground zero FL USAR fema

Credit: Michael Rieger/FEMA

ground zero flag 2

Credit: NY Daily News

And if you have an hour to spare, watch 9/11: Ground Zero’s Responders (2001) – A film by Lou Angeli — Narrated by Kathleen Turner. Angeli’s description on Youtube… “Within minutes of the World Trade Center collapse on 9/11/01, emergency personnel and volunteers from around the nation responded to New York’s call for help in what is considered by many as the greatest rescue mission ever. When everything could have totally fallen apart, these remarkable people revealed to the world the true meaning of the American Spirit.”


Would you know what to do if you or your office received a Bomb threat or suspicious package?

April 17, 2013

The other day we posted What would YOU do if a bomb or explosive device goes off..? (Safety tips on dealing with an explosion) and wanted to provide some information about both bomb threats and suspicious packages from our IT’S A DISASTER! book.

What if you or your office receives a “bomb threat”?

Bomb threats are usually received by a telephone call or in the mail.

In the event you or someone in your office receives a bomb threat, do the following…

  • If you ever receive a bomb threat over the phone, get as much information from the caller as possible (e.g. what kind of bomb, what does it look like, where is it, when will it go off, etc.)
  • Try to keep caller on the phone as long as you can and write down everything that is said! (Since you’ll most likely be nervous or scared, good notes will be extremely helpful to officials later.)
  • Notify the police and building management.
  • Calmly evacuate the building, keep the sidewalks clear and stay away from windows.

What if you or someone in your office receives a “suspicious package”?

According to the United States Postal Service, the likelihood of you ever receiving a bomb in the mail is remote. But there have been a small number of explosive devices and biological agents that have surfaced in the mail over the years.

Some possible motives for an individual or group sending a “suspicious package” include revenge, extortion, love triangles, terrorism, and business (or potentially political) disputes.

The following are some unique signs or characteristics from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service that may help identify a “suspect” piece of mail…

  • Package may have restricted markings like “Personal” or “Private” to one who doesn’t receive personal mail at office or to someone no longer working there.
  • Package is sealed with excessive amounts of tape or has way too much postage on it.
  • Postmark city different than Return Address city.
  • Misspelled words, written badly or done with letters cut from newspaper or magazine and pasted on.
  • Package has wires or aluminum foil sticking out, oil stains, smells weird or sounds funny (sloshing noise).
  • Package may feel strange or look uneven or lopsided.

If you are unsure about a letter or package and are not able to verify the Sender or contents with the person it is addressed to then…

  • DO NOT open it, shake it, bump it or sniff it!
  • Cover it with a shirt, trash can or whatever is handy.
  • Evacuate the area quickly and calmly.
  • Wash your hands with lots of soap and water.
  • Call building security, 911 and your postal inspector.
  • List all the people who were near the package or letter in case they are needed for further questioning.

USPS poster about suspicious mail or packages

Click here to download above poster from USPS in PDF. Stay safe, j & B


What would YOU do if a bomb or explosive device goes off…? (Safety tips on dealing with an explosion)

April 15, 2013

Today’s Monday Musing is a somber one. This afternoon two small bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon about 4 hours into the race. According to news reports at least 2 other devices were discovered and dismantled by local bomb squads.

Boston marathon bomb

Eyewitness Roupen Bastajian, a 35-year-old state trooper from R.I. who had just finished running the marathon, said “…a lot of people were amputated. … At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing.” As of this writing there have been 3 deaths and over 130 injuries.

As we’ve seen for many decades, terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons. Thankfully Americans haven’t had to deal with too many mass casualty bombing situations, but many countries see these types of incidents on a weekly or monthly basis.

victim at Boston Marathon bombingUnfortunately there are many “how-to” manuals available online and in books so it’s very easy for bad people and nutjob pukes to make bombs and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in various shapes and sizes.

Explosive devices are very portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport, and they can be easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers. Oftentimes terrorists pack bombs with ball bearings, screws, nails, nuts or other metal pieces to try to inflict as much carnage and chaos as possible.

Besides being vigilant  and having good situational awareness, there are some things people can do to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or incident.

BEFORE ANY TYPE OF EXPLOSION OR INCIDENT:

Be aware & watch – Sounds simple and it is. Stay current on news, alerts and threats – but don’t obsess over them – then start making a habit of being aware of your surroundings. You don’t have to be paranoid or obvious – just make a mental note of the EXITS when you go to places and watch for things that look strange or out of place especially if you walk or drive the same route day after day.

Make a kit – Make disaster supplies kits for your home, office, locker and car. Pack things like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, medicines (if needed), a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, some toiletries, tools, etc.

Have a plan – Check emergency plans for schools, day care and nursing home to find out where everyone goes if evacuated.

Report strange things – Again, be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, abandoned briefcases or backpacks and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Stay current on threats – The Department of Homeland Security www.dhs.gov and Public Safety Canada www.publicsafety.gc.ca post alerts and news about national security online. And of course read or watch local news to find out what’s going on in your area.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave – DO it!

Learn first aid – Take a basic first aid and CPR class … or join a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

DURING AN EXPLOSION:

Don’t panic… – Stay calm and don’t stop to retrieve personal items or make phone calls – get to a safe place.

Things to watch out for:
•  falling objects – if things are falling off bookshelves or from the ceiling get under a sturdy table or desk
 flying debris – many blast injuries are caused by flying glass, metal, ball bearings and other materials
•  fires – stay below the smoke (crawl or walk like a duck)
– only use the stairs (don’t use elevators)
– check doors with back of hand before opening  (If HOT, do NOT open .. find another exit!)
•  weak structures – be careful since floors, stairs, roofs or walls might be weakened by the blast

If indoors – Stay put if building is not damaged but leave if warned of any radiation or chemical inside. Cover nose and mouth and find shelter in a building not damaged by blast and prepare to “shelter-in-place”, if necessary.

If outdoors – Cover mouth and nose with a cloth or handkerchief and take shelter in a safe building as quickly as possible!

If in a vehicle – Keep windows up, close vents, use “recirculating” air in case of airborne threats, and keep listening to radio for updates. If possible, drive away from site.

AFTER AN EXPLOSION:

If you are trapped in an area:
•  light – use a flashlight – never use matches or lighters in case there are gas leaks
•  be still – try to stay still so you won’t kick up dust
•  breathing – cover your mouth with a piece of clothing
•  make noise – tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear you (shouting may cause you to inhale a lot of dust)

Rescuing others – Untrained persons should not try to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building… wait for emergency personnel to arrive – then, if they need you, they will ask.

Avoid crowds – Be aware large crowds may be targeted for another attack.

Limited services – Cellular service and towers may get overwhelmed after an incident so realize you may have limited access. And officials may cut off mobile service around an attack site to prevent further remote detonations of explosive devices.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave due to another threat, attack or explosion – do it!

Stay away – Avoid the scene(s) as much as possible. There will be a heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels following a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature. Also realize that health and mental health and Fire/EMS resources in the affected communities may be strained or overwhelmed.

Stay current on news – Listen to updates but again, don’t obsess over an event. Extensive media coverage can be overwhelming so try to go about your daily routines and always be aware of your surroundings.

Above extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book 

Also review some tips on what to do if you receive a bomb threat or suspicious package. j & B


How to protect yourself from nuclear fallout (tips about radiation, building an expedient shelter, etc)

April 13, 2013

nuclear bombNo one wants to think about a nuclear crisis – and hopefully it will never happen – but we all must accept the fact nuclear tensions are rising globally with North Korea (plus Iran, Al-Qaeda and others are seeking nukes) so we should prepare ourselves and our loved ones in the event the unthinkable strikes our soil.

For decades, movies and some in the media have portrayed a nuclear attack as a “doomsday” event implying most people would be killed on impact … and survivors would want to die once they come out of their shelters.

In reality, unless you are actually at ground zero or within a several mile radius of the blast zone (depending on the size of the nuke, of course), there is a very high probability you’ll survive as long as you…

  • limit your exposure to radiation,
  • take shelter with proper shielding, and
  • wait for the most dangerous radioactive materials to decay.

In other words, you CAN survive a nuke attack … but you MUST make an effort to learn what to do! By learning about potential threats, we are all better prepared to know how to react if something happens.

Please realize this is being written with small nuke devices in mind (like a 1-kiloton to 1-megaton device). A larger device, ICBM or a nuclear war would cause more wide-spread damage but some of this data could still be helpful. These are some very basic tips on sheltering for any type of nuclear (or radiological) incident.

(Note: This topic is covered more in-depth in our IT’S A DISASTER! book, but these are some important steps that can help you and your loved ones survive a nuclear or radiological incident.)

What happens when a nuke explodes?

A nuclear blast produces a blinding light, intense heat (called thermal radiation), initial nuclear radiation, 2 explosive shock waves (blasts), mass fires, and radioactive fallout (residual nuclear radiation).

The below graphic shows the destruction of a test home by an atomic blast on March 17, 1953 at the Nevada Proving Ground. The structure was located 3,500 feet from ground zero, and the time from the first to last picture was 2.3 seconds.  It shows the force of the blast wave then the radiating energy set it on fire. (See more nuke test photos in our Fire in the Sky post.)

Also, if a nuke is launched over our continent and explodes miles above the earth, it could create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). An EMP is a split-second silent energy burst (like a stroke of lightning) that can fry electronics connected to wires or antennas like cell phones, cars, computers, TVs, etc. Unless electronics are grounded or hardened, an area or nation could experience anything from minor interference to crippled power, transportation, banking and communications systems.

An EMP from a high-altitude nuke (where a nation or group succeeds in detonating a nuclear device carried miles into the atmosphere) could affect electronics within 1,000 miles or more as shown below. (Evidence suggests some countries and groups are working on enhanced and non-nuclear EMP weapons or e-bombs.)

high altitude emp or electromagnetic pulse threat

What is the most dangerous part of a nuclear attack?

Both the initial nuclear radiation and residual nuclear radiation (also called radioactive fallout) are extremely dangerous.

Initial nuclear radiation is penetrating invisible rays that can be lethal in high levels.

Radioactive fallout (residual nuclear radiation) is created when the fireball vaporizes everything inside it (including dirt and water). Vaporized materials mix with radioactive materials in the updraft of air forming a mushroom cloud.

Fallout can be carried by winds for hundreds of miles and begin falling to the ground within minutes of the blast or take hours, days, weeks or even months to fall. The heaviest fallout would hit ground zero and areas downwind of that, and 80% of fallout would occur within 24 hours. Most fallout looks like grey sand or gritty ash and the radiation given off cannot be seen, smelled, tasted or felt which is why it is so dangerous. But as the materials decay or spread out radiation levels will drop.

More about radiation

Types of radiation – Nuclear radiation has 3 main types of radiation…

  • alpha – can be shielded by a sheet of paper or by human skin. If alpha particles are inhaled, ingested, or enter body through a cut, they can cause damage to tissues and cells.
  • beta – can be stopped by skin or a thicker shield (like wood). Beta particles can cause serious damage to internal organs if ingested or inhaled, and could cause eye damage or possible skin burns.
  • gamma – most dangerous since gamma rays can penetrate the entire body and cause cell damage throughout your organs, blood and bones. Since radiation does not stimulate nerve cells you may not feel anything while your body absorbs it. Exposure to high levels of gamma rays can lead to radiation sickness or death, which is why it is critical to seek shelter from fallout in a facility with thick shielding!

Radiation detection devices – You cannot see, smell, taste or feel radiation, but special instruments can detect even the smallest levels of radiation. Since it may take days or weeks before First Responders could get to you, consider having these devices handy during a crisis or attack since they could save your life.

survey meter radiation detection device

 

   survey meter – measures rate of exposure or intensity of radiation at that specific location if you stayed there for an hour … like a speedometer in a car (cost: $300-$1,000+)

dosimeter radiation detection devicedosimeter – a pen-like device you can wear that measures total dose or accumulated exposure to radiation as you move around (needs a charger too). Dosimeters cost about $45-$65+ each and some dealers offer 3 dosimeters + a charger for about $240 or so.

Kearny Fallout Meter or KFM kit

 

  KFM kit – (Kearny Fallout Meter) measures radiation more accurately than most instruments since it’s charged electrostatically. Find plans online or available as a low-cost kit ($40-$75). And it’s a great science project for kids.

NukAlert radiation detection device

NukAlert – a patented personal radiation meter, monitor and alarm small enough to fit on a key chain. The unit warns you with chirping sounds if it detects radiation. (cost: $145 – $160)

RADsticker measures radiation levels

 

    RADsticker – postage stamp sized card (cost: $2-$5 ea)

Measuring radiation – Radiation was measured in units called roentgens (pronounced “rent-gens” and abbreviated as “R”) … or “rads” or “rem”. An EPA document called “Planning Guidance for Response to A Nuclear Detonation 2nd Edition June 2010” explains … 1 R (exposure in air) ≅ 1 rad (absorbed dose) ≅ 1 rem (whole-body dose). Although many measuring devices and older documentation use R and rem, officials and the media now use sievert (Sv) which is the System International or SI unit of measurement of radiation. The formula to convert sieverts to rems is quite simple … 1 Sv = 100 R (rem).

How many rads are bad? – High doses of radiation in a short span of time can cause radiation sickness or even death, but if that high dose is spread out over a long period of time, it’s not as bad.

According to FEMA, an adult could tolerate and recover from an exposure to 150R (1.5 Sv) over a week or 300R (3 Sv) over a 4-month period. But 300R (3 Sv) over a week could cause sickness or possibly death. Exposure to 30R (0.3 Sv) to 70R (0.7 Sv) over a week may cause minor sickness, but a full recovery would be expected. But radioactive fallout decays rapidly so staying in a shelter with proper shielding is critical!

The “seven-ten” rule – For every sevenfold increase in time after the initial blast, there is a tenfold decrease in the radiation rate. For example, a 500 rad level can drop to 50R in just 7 hours and down to 5R after 2 days (49 hours). In other words, if you have shelter with good shielding and stay put for even just 7 hours … you’ve really increased your chances of survival. Your detection devices, emergency radio or cell phone [if the last 2 are working, that is] can assist you in knowing when it’s safe to come out.

So how do I protect myself and my family?

Basic shelter requirements – Whether you build a shelter in advance or throw together an expedient last-minute shelter during a crisis, the area should protect you from radiation and support you for at least 2 weeks. Some basic requirements for a fallout shelter include …

  • shielding
  • ventilation
  • water and food
  • sanitation and first aid products
  • radiation monitoring devices, KI (potassium iodide), radio, weapons, tools, etc

Reduce exposure – Protect yourself from radioactive fallout with …

  • distance – the more distance between you and fallout particles, the better
  • shielding – heavy, dense materials (like thick walls, earth, concrete, bricks, water and books) between you and fallout is best. Stay indoors or below ground. (Taking shelter in a basement or a facility below ground reduces exposure by 90%. Less than 4 inches of soil or earth can reduce the penetration of dangerous gamma rays by half.)
  • time – most fallout loses its strength quickly. The more time that passes after the attack, the lower the danger.

Indoor shelter locations – If you don’t have a fallout shelter, these options could provide protection from dangerous radiation by using proper shielding materials.

  • basement – find the corner that is most below ground level (the further underground the better)
  • 1-story home / condo / apartment – if no underground facility, find a spot in center of home away from windows
  • trailer home – find sturdier shelter if possible (like a basement or brick or concrete building)
  • multi-story building or high-rise – go to center of the middle section of building (above 9th floor if possible). Note: if rooftop of a building next to you is on that same floor, move one floor up or down since radioactive fallout would accumulate on rooftops. Avoid first floor (if possible) since fallout will pile up on ground outside.

Make an expedient shelter – Some very basic ways to build an expedient last-minute shelter in your home, apartment or workplace to help protect you from dangerous radiation include…

  • Set up a large, sturdy workbench or table in location you’ve chosen. If no table, make one by putting doors on top of boxes, appliances or furniture.
  • Put as much shielding (e.g. furniture, file cabinets, appliances, boxes or pillowcases filled with dirt or sand, boxes of food, water or books, concrete blocks, bricks, etc.) all around sides and on top of table, but don’t put too much weight on tabletop or it could collapse. Add reinforcing supports, if needed.
  • Leave a crawl space so everyone can get inside and block opening with shielding materials.
  • Leave 2 small air spaces for ventilation (about 4-6″ each) – one low at one end and one high at other end. (This allows for better airflow since warm air rises.)
  • Have water, radiation detection devices, KI, battery operated radio, food and sanitation supplies in case you have to shelter in place for days or weeks.

build an expedient shelter for protection from radioactive fallout

In summary, those within the blast zone of Ground Zero (depending on the size of the nuke) won’t make it .. BUT .. if you are a few miles outside the zone your chances of surviving it are high but you MUST have detection devices to monitor levels of radiation and a plan to stay sheltered for at least 48 hours or up to a few weeks. First Responders will have to wait for the deadly fallout to decay before they enter a hot zone so the more you prepare, the better your odds of surviving a terrorist nuke.

As mentioned earlier, our 266-page IT’S A DISASTER! book explains more about nuclear incidents and many other disasters, emergencies and basic first aid … and we discount our $14.99 paperback down to $4.50 US each (on 10 or more copies) or PDF ebook is only $3 US. Plus we customize our products for free.

Learn more at www.itsadisaster.net or call Fedhealth at 520.907.2153 (7a-4p Pacific M–F) for more information.

Stay safe, j & B

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If sarin (or a chemical agent) is released… what are YOU gonna do about it?

December 9, 2012

chemical agent safety tipsAs mentioned in our Sarin gas … what is THAT? post the other day, since chemical agents are once again in the news, we wanted to share some safety information from our IT’S A DISASTER! book about what to do in the event of a chemical threat or attack.

Remember, many chemical weapons – or chemical warfare – have been around since World War I … it’s unfortunate we have to even discuss it … but try not to let this topic frighten you. And many of these safety tips apply to a biological agent incident as well, but for now we’re just focusing on chemical agents. Also realize some chemicals used in industry (e.g. chlorine, ammonia, etc) are transported on our highway and rail systems which could also create a hazardous incident in the event of an accident.

Educate yourselves about the types and where to find more information so you are prepared to react in the event of a chemical threat, incident or attack.

BEFORE A CHEMICAL INCIDENT / ATTACK:

Watch & listen for signs – Many chemical agents can cause watery eyes, choking, trouble breathing, coughing or twitching. If you see or hear a lot of people doing this or see a bunch of birds, fish or critters sick or dead, it should raise a red flag. Learn about some common potentially hazardous chemical agents and stay current by listening to radio and TV to hear what local authorities tell people to do — and DO it!

Report strange things – Be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, luggage or backpacks … or spray trucks or crop dusters in weird places at strange times … and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit. Some key items include a battery-powered radio (with extra batteries), food and drinking water, duct tape, plastic and scissors, first aid kit, and sanitation items (soap, extra water and bleach). A sample Plan and tips for Kits are included in our free PDF ebook.

Pick a room – It could take authorities time to determine what (if any) agent was used so pick a room in advance your family could use if told to “shelter-in-place” for several hours. It’s best to pick an internal room where you could block out air IF told to do so. To save time consider measuring and cutting plastic sheets in advance for openings (vents, windows, and doors). Remember, toilets / drains may be vented meaning outside air comes in constantly or when flushed / open (depends on design) – in case you’re using a bathroom as a safe room.

Calculate air for room – Keep in mind people can stay in a sealed off room for only so long (or you’ll run out of air.) FEMA suggests 10 square feet of floor space per person (like 5ft x 2ft / 1.5m x 0.6m ) will provide enough air to prevent carbon dioxide buildup for up to 5 hours.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

DURING A CHEMICAL ATTACK:

During any type of chemical attack, local authorities will instruct the public on where to go and exactly what to do if exposed to an agent (which may require immediate attention with professional medical staff).

Watch for signs – If you see or hear a lot of people choking, coughing or twitching or see a bunch of sick or dead critters – leave area quickly!

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of some agents
  • Find out if and where antidotes are being distributed.

IF INDOORS – Stay inside and prepare to “shelter-in-place”…

  • Close your windows, vents and fireplace damper and turn off A/C and fans to reduce air drawn in from outside.
  • Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels, plastic (if available) and duct tape.
  • If you picked a safe room in advance, grab your Disaster Supplies Kit and seal off that room – remember, you can only stay there for so many hours or you’ll run out of air.
  • Some vapors and gases may sink so avoid basements (unless instructed otherwise).

IF OUTDOORS – Stay upwind from the disaster area since many agents can be carried by wind. Try to find a shelter as quickly as possible.

IF IN A VEHICLE – Close your windows and shut off vents to reduce risk and drive away and upwind from the attack site, if possible.

Cover up – Cover mouth and nose to filter air but still let you breathe (like a T-shirt or towel or several layers of paper towel, napkins or tissues).

Feel sick…? – Some agents can cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so watch family members for signs of illness.

Evacuate…? – If you are told to evacuate… DO it! If officials say you have time, close windows, shut vents and turn off attic fans.

Things to avoid:

  • chemicals – any spilled liquid materials, vapors or gas
  • contaminated food or water – don’t eat or drink any food or water that may have been exposed to materials

Stay away – Get away from the attack site to avoid contamination.

AFTER A CHEMICAL ATTACK:

Feel sick…? – In some cases, people won’t be aware they have been exposed to an agent — most cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so continue watching for signs of illness.

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of specific chemical agent(s).
  • Find out if antidotes are being distributed by authorities and, if so, where you can get them.

Don’t go there – Don’t return home until local authorities say it is safe.

Air out – Open windows, vents and turn on fans to air things out.

Clean up – A person, critter or item that has been exposed could spread it…

  • decontamination – follow instructions from authorities since it depends on chemical. May need to shower with or without soap or may be told to avoid water – check first
  • strange symptoms – if unusual symptoms show up, get to a hospital or medical expert right away
  • store clothes & shoes – put exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers or bags and ask local authorities how to get rid of them
  • tell people you’ve been exposed – tell everyone who comes in contact with you that you may have been exposed to a chemical agent
  • land and property – ask local authorities how to clean up

Strange vapors or danger – Report these to local authorities immediately.

For more information about chemical (or biological) agents, visit the CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response site .. or .. call CDC Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or 1-888-232-6348 (TTY).

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? – Learn more about the book or ebook


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