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

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 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.

Stay safe, j & B


Never Forget (photos of 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


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 and fallout,
  • 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

 

    RADTriage – postage stamp sized card (cost: about $20 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.

Shielding materials – All fallout shelters must provide good protection from radioactive particles. FEMA suggests having a minimum of several inches of concrete or 1 to 2 feet of earth as shielding around your shelter, if possible, and the more the better. Per FEMA, the following shows examples of shielding materials that equal the protection of 4 inches (10 cm) of concrete …

  • 5 – 6 inches (12 – 15 cm) of bricks
  • 6 inches (15 cm) of sand or gravel
  • 7 inches (18 cm) of earth
  • 8 inches (20 cm) of hollow concrete block
  • 10 inches (25 cm) of water
  • 14 inches (35 cm) of books or magazines
  • 18 inches (46 cm) of wood

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.fedhealth.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


Sarin gas … what is THAT?

December 6, 2012

In late-2012 news reports claimed Syria began mixing the chemical components of sarin gas, and loaded the deadly nerve agent into bombs on or near airfields. Since then there have been some reports of the use of chemical agents there by either the Assad regime and/or rebel militants. Officials continue to investigate what actually happened … however, since most people are not familiar with this topic, we wanted to share some data from our IT’S A DISASTER! book about chemical agents in general and sarin.

About Chemical Agents

chemical agent symbolChemical agents are toxic vapors (gas), sprays (aerosols), liquids or solids that can poison people, animals and the environment. Some compounds or agents do have industrial uses, but many are man-made substances designed, developed and stockpiled as military weapons around the world.

A known terrorist tactic combines bombs and chemical trucks to spread deadly fumes. Most chemical agents are difficult to produce and very hard to deliver in large quantities since they scatter so quickly. Most are liquids and some may be odorless and tasteless. They could be inhaled, absorbed into the skin, or swallowed from a contaminated food or water source. Chemical agents can take effect immediately or over several hours or days – and can be deadly if exposed to enough of the agent. If exposed, the best thing to do is distance yourself from the agent and area and get fresh air.

What chemical agents could be used in an attack?

According to the CDC, there are several categories of chemical agents that could potentially be used in a terrorist attack – some common ones include:

  • Blister Agents / Vesicants (Sulfur Mustard / Mustard Gas or Lewisite) – primarily cause blisters but can also damage eyes, airways, and digestive system
  • Blood Agents (Arsine or Cyanide) – gets in blood stream and prevents cells from absorbing oxygen so cells die
  • Choking / Lung / Pulmonary Agents (Ammonia or Chlorine) – cause breathing problems and lack of oxygen damages organs
  • Incapacitating Agents (BZ or LSD) – disrupts central nervous system, causes confusion, and slows breathing (makes you woozy or knocks you out)
  • Nerve Agents (Sarin, Soman, Tabun or VX) – the most toxic agents — basically turns “off” the body’s ability to stop muscles and glands from twitching (body goes into convulsions). Most agents were originally developed as pesticides / insecticides.

How could chemical agents be used in an attack?

There are several ways chemical agents could be spread:

  • Vapors / Gas / Aerosols – spread into air by a bomb or from aircraft, boats or vehicles — could spread for miles
  • Liquids – could be released into the air, water or soil or touched by people or animals
  • Solids – could be absorbed into water, soil or touched

Some chemical agents can remain in the environment and cause problems long after they are released. In the event of a public health emergency, officials will tell people what actions need to be taken. But learn as much as you can before a crisis to help alleviate some stress, fear and problems.

So … what is sarin?

Sarin is a clear, colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid that could evaporate into a vapor (gas) and contaminate the environment. It is man-made and originally developed to kill insects. Nerve agents basically turn “off” the body’s ability to stop muscles and glands from twitching.

How it spreads: Sarin could be released into the air, water, or soil as a weapon. People can be exposed by breathing vapors, by drinking or eating something contaminated, or by touching water, soil or clothing exposed to sarin. A person’s clothing can release sarin for about 30 minutes after being exposed to vapor. Because sarin vapor is heavier than air, it settles in low-lying areas creating a greater exposure hazard.

Signs & Symptoms: Depends on how much, what form, and how people are exposed to sarin. No matter how exposed (breathing, absorbed through skin, or eating / drinking it), the following may show up within seconds (vapor or gas) or within minutes to 18 hours (liquid)…

  • Head – runny nose, drooling or excess spittle, headache
  • Eyes – watery, small pupils, blurred vision, eye pain
  • Lungs – cough, tight feeling in chest, fast/rapid breathing
  • Nervous system – confusion, drowsiness, weakness
  • Heart/blood – slow/fast pulse, rise/drop in blood pressure
  • Stomach/gastrointestinal – abdominal pain, puking, sick to stomach, diarrhea, pee lot more than normal

… plus …

  • If exposed to small amount – just a drop of sarin on skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching
  • If large amount – can cause convulsions (body can’t stop the muscles and glands from twitching), paralysis (can’t move), pass out, stops breathing leading to death

Treatment: Sarin poisoning is treated with antidotes and supportive medical care. Mainly want to avoid area where released, get decontaminated (strip & wash), and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

  • First – leave area as quickly as possible
    • … if outdoors – move to higher ground and stay upwind
    • … if in building – get outside to highest ground possible
  • If inhaled – get fresh air as quickly and calmly as possible
  • If on clothing or skin – remove contaminated clothes and shoes but don’t pull anything over head – cut it off body. Seal all in plastic bag, then seal that bag in a bag and ask how to dispose of. Immediately wash body with clean water and soap.
  • If in eyes – remove contacts if any. If eyes burning or vision blurred, rinse eyes with water for 10 -15 minutes.
  • If swallowed – if someone drinks or eats something exposed to sarin, do NOT make them puke or drink fluids – call 9-1-1.

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

And stay tuned since our next post will cover what to do in the event of a chemical attack.

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Safety tips and resources for Americans traveling out of the country

September 13, 2012

The 2012 attacks at our nation’s Embassies in Egypt, Libya and Yemen and the demonstrations across the Middle East may make many Americans reconsider traveling abroad during these violent times.

But if you do plan to travel out of the country for business or pleasure, consider visiting the US State Department’s Travel site for information about travel alerts, international travel resources and tips, passport and visa information and more.

For example, the State Department issued a travel warning as of 13-Sep-2012 to Algeria due to “a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings.”

And obviously as of 12-Sep-2012, the Department of State warns U.S. Citizens against all travel to Libya. Also on 9/12 the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Libya, following the attack on the U.S. Diplomatic mission in Benghazi. The political violence has increased in both Benghazi and Tripoli. The airports in Benghazi and Tripoli are open and U.S. citizens are encouraged to depart by commercial air.

U.S. citizens traveling to, or remaining in, Libya should use extreme caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, enroll their presence in Libya through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), and provide their current contact information and next-of-kin or emergency contact information.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)The Bureau of Consular Affairs’ STEP (formerly known as “Travel Registration” or “Registration with Embassies”) allows you to receive the latest travel updates and information, plus authorities will be able to assist you better in the case of an emergency. Over the years, consular officers in embassies and consulates around the world have assisted thousands of U.S. citizens overseas who have lost passports, had their passports stolen, experienced health problems, been detained, dealt with natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, and other emergencies.

Consider using the following tips from the State Department to make your travel easier and safer:

  • If you register your travel plans through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  it will help the Department contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.
  • Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.
  • Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  • Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
  • While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. The State Department web has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit. Learn more
  • To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.
  • Contact the State Department in an emergency. Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov. Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747, if calling from the U.S. or Canada, or 202-501-4444, if calling from overseas.

Learn more at http://travel.state.gov or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/travelgov or Twitter at https://twitter.com/TravelGov .

Another good site to review prior to traveling abroad is the Center for Disease Control travel site at www.cdc.gov/travel to obtain health information and alerts, resources and travel notices.

Also download some free tips and information about earthquakes, hurricanes and other topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book here and stay safe!


Are you vigilant?

May 9, 2011

vig•i•lant /ˈvijələnt/ – Adjective: Keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.

Ground zero 2001Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 we have repeatedly heard officials say “be vigilant” or “stay vigilant”. And now, due to recent incidents, those warnings are being repeated – for good reason since there are radical extremists out there who want to destroy the Western way of life.

But how many of us really know what “being vigilant” means?

The above definition comes from Dictionary.com … and my dictionary defines it as “watchful, alert, observant, guarded, attentive, awake, cautious, careful, wary, on the alert, on the lookout” … among other things.

So now the question is … how many of us actually are vigilant in our day to day lives?

Here’s a test for you. Next time you’re walking around out in public take a few minutes and pay attention to what you do.

Are you one of those people who go around with a phone (or bone) against your head chatting away constantly … or do you stuff buds in your ears to drown out traffic and people noise with tunes? Or maybe you daydream a lot … or worry about upcoming business meetings or how you’re going to juggle all the errands and get your kids to ball practice on time.

All of these are typical, normal thoughts and it’s true – a majority of people don’t pay attention to their surroundings. And that’s a strong testament to how great our country is since we don’t live in fear.

Plus Americans are very fortunate since we have a strong, talented network of First Responders who rapidly respond to threats and incidents.

But keep in mind the U.S. has approximately 800,000 active Law Enforcement Officials (includes Police & Sheriff), 1.1 million Firefighters (over 70% are volunteers) and 210,000 EMT / paramedics.

That means there are about 2.1 million First Responders supporting over 310 million people..!

And there are millions of active military personnel, Federal agents and observant citizens you could add to the mix … but the numbers of eyes and ears could increase exponentially if more people would pay attention.

So … what can you do to become more vigilant..?

  • Stay calm – Terrorist attacks are a very low risk possibility so there is no need to worry or panic. Let’s put a few risks in perspective … the chances of having high blood pressure is 1 in 4 … the odds of dying from cancer is 1 in 500 … and the odds of dying from anthrax is 1 in 56 million.
  • 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.
  • If you see something, say something – Many people snicker about this phrase and program, but it’s a good suggestion. I’m not implying everyone become a snitch and spy on your neighbors, but as you go about your day, watch for suspicious activities (like someone wearing a heavy coat on a hot day or unattended bags, briefcases or backpacks in odd places) … and report anything that seems out of the ordinary. It may be completely harmless … but it might not. Many crimes and plots have been thwarted by citizens who saw something weird and reported it to officials.
  • Know the targets – Terrorists prefer areas that are easy to access by the public like airports, train or bus stations, military and government buildings, major events, schools, malls, etc. Some other high risk targets include water and food supplies, nuclear power plants, and high-profile landmarks. When you are at these types of facilities, try to pay more attention to activities going on around you.
  • Get involved – Talk to your local Fire, Police, Health, Sheriff and Emergency Management offices and ask if they have volunteer programs available for citizens and businesses. Some agencies even have safety classes and programs for children too.

Again, people need to remain calm about the threat of terrorist attacks since they are a low risk possibility. Officials are working hard to protect communities, but there are only so many of them on the streets. If the general population would become more vigilant, it could increase the number of eyes and ears on the lookout and make our neighborhoods and country stronger.


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