The purpose of this circular is to provide a standardized source of instruction in responding to, and addressing incidents involving terrorist attacks, hazardous materials incidents, and biohazardous contaminations. This circular is designed for use by Department personnel and the general public; it serves to foster an understanding of the effects terrorist acts have on a civilian population. This circular will provide guidance on how to respond, if such events occur.
Recently, the United States of America has been attacked through the use of terrorist tactics. Unfortunately, we cannot change the events of the past or their causes. However, we have every resource at our disposal to address and prepare for such incidents in the future. In the past, the vast majority of all terrorist attacks have been overt attacks, usually bombings. In the future, terrorist attacks may be overt bombings or covert attacks involving the use of biological agents. The latter is especially difficult to combat due to the delay in detection between the exposure and the first signs of symptoms. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to create a personal emergency plan to effectively deal with any biohazard incident. Terrorist acts can occur in several fashions. These include bombings, hijackings, biological, and chemical attacks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation describes terrorism as, “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Because acts of terrorism are likely to be unusual occurrences, education and pre-planning are the keys to preparedness. Intervention prior to any terrorist activity is the optimum way in which to prevent such activities. However, it is extremely difficult to prepare for and prevent random acts of terrorism due to the covert nature of the activities. Therefore, it is imperative that all persons be aware of potential targets and any unusual activities that may be indicative of possible terrorism. Such activities may include the following:
If you observe any of the above-described activities, you should immediately notify your local law enforcement agency by dialing 911or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, by calling their tip hot line at 866-483-5137.
In the event of a terrorist attack, the following should be considered:
DO NOT touch, cover, or move any type of device!
If you are in a building or structure, particularly a high-rise building, that is a target of terrorist activity, consider the following:
Managers of businesses located in high-rise buildings should develop an evacuation plan and ensure that all employees are familiar with its procedures. They should also consider implementing a floor warden system, where each floor has an individual responsible for overseeing evacuation and emergency procedures.
It is important to remember that as a result of a terrorist attack, you may be incapacitated or trapped inside a location for hours or even days. Therefore, it is important to consider preparing an emergency survival kit that you can keep in a handy location. The kit should include some basic survival items.
It is also important to remember that at the scene of a terrorist attack, flammable liquids, toxic, and hazardous materials may be spilled or released in the area. Therefore, contact with any fluid or potentially explosive materials should be avoided. Individuals in the area of the attack should not smoke, eat, drink, and should remain upwind and uphill if possible.
Frequently, traditional acts of overt terrorism are carried out through the use of bombs. Whether it’s a car bomb, mail bomb, or suspicious package or device. The following guidelines should be used in dealing with any suspicious item believed to be an explosive.
Biological and Chemical Terrorism
Potentially, the most lethal form of a terrorist act could be the use of biological and chemical agents. Only very small amounts of an agent are needed to affect a large portion of the population. The use of biological weapons usually takes place in a covert manner and one does not realize that they have been targeted, until after the fact, when the symptoms of illness appear. Therefore, protection against this form of a terrorist attack is extremely difficult because it requires knowledge that biological agents have been released.
There are two basic forms of biological agents. They are bacteria/viruses, and toxins. These agents are comprised of living organisms. Examples of bacteria are Anthrax and Pneumonic Plague. Examples of viruses are Smallpox and Ebola. Toxins are poisonous substances produced by plants or animals, and include examples such as Botulism and Ricin. Toxins and bacteria, such as Anthrax, are not contagious. However, viruses such as Smallpox are contagious and may be spread from person to person.
Characteristics of biological agents include the following:
If you notice these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Chemical agents are a means by which terrorist groups may conduct attacks against urban populations. Any contact with all chemical agents requires the wearing of specially designed protective gear and clothing, such as gas masks and protective suits. Some examples of chemical agents include:
Chemical agents have been used during warfare with extremely effective results. During a chemical terrorist attack, the best place to be is on high ground far from the dissemination location. This is because most chemical agents are heavier than air and tend to stay near the surface of the ground.
Tips for Suspected Letters with Biological or Chemical Agents
Biological and chemical agents may be disseminated in a variety of fashions. One manner of dissemination may be through the use of mailing letters or packages containing these agents. If you receive a letter or package that you suspect is contaminated, do not handle it.
Here is what you should do if you receive a package or letter that you believe may be suspicious or may possibly contain biological or chemical agents.
If the letter or package exhibits any of the above-described indicators, coupled with a credible threat or suspicious material, isolate it, and call 911. (If there is no credible threat, no suspicious material, or none of the above-mentioned indicators exist; it is recommended that the recipients dispose of the letter or package themselves or return it to the sender via the U.S. Postal Service).
Ensure that all persons who have handled the letter or package wash their hands with soap and water.
Important tips to remember in dealing with the possibility of exposure to biological or chemical agents are:
If a letter or package is opened and it is determined after opening that it possibly contains biological or chemical agents, conduct the following:
Acts of terrorism go against the principle of every civilized nation and seek to impose fear and intimidation upon those to whom they are directed. They are barbarous tactics, which do not discriminate, and target all people in the area directed. However, through a heightened sense of awareness and increased security measures, we can successfully overcome these dangers.
The information included in this circular was compiled from material obtained from the following: