Terrorism and Homeland Security

General Safety Guidelines

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
  • Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended.
  • Promptly report unusual behavior, suspicious or unattended packages and strange devices to the police or security personnel.
  • Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Plan how to get out in the event of an emergency.
  • Be prepared to do without services you normally depend on: electricity, telephone, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATMs and the Internet.

Terrorist Hazards

Biological Threats

Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. The three basic groups of biological agents that would likely be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses and toxins. Specific information on biological agents is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chemical Threats

Chemical agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids and solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. They can have an immediate effect (a few seconds to a few minutes) or a delayed effect (two to 48 hours). Signs of a chemical release include people having difficulty breathing; experiencing eye irritation; losing coordination; becoming nauseated; or having a burning sensation in the nose, throat and lungs.

Cyber Attack

Cybersecurity involves protecting that infrastructure by preventing, detecting and responding to cyber incidents. Unlike physical threats that prompt immediate action, cyber threats are often difficult to identify and comprehend. Among these dangers are viruses erasing entire systems, intruders breaking into systems and altering files, intruders using your computer or device to attack others or intruders stealing confidential information. Threats, some more serious and sophisticated than others, can have wide-ranging effects on the individual, community, organizational and national level.

Explosive devices can be highly portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport. They are easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers. Conventional bombs have been used to damage and destroy financial, political, social, and religious institutions. Attacks have occurred in public places and on city streets with thousands of people around the world injured and killed.

Nuclear Blast

A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water and ground surfaces for miles around. A nuclear device can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile launched by a hostile nation or terrorist organization, to a small portable nuclear devise transported by an individual. All nuclear devices cause deadly effects when exploded, including blinding light, intense heat (thermal radiation), initial nuclear radiation, blast, fires started by the heat pulse and secondary fires caused by the destruction.

Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD)
An RDD combines a conventional explosive device—such as a bomb—with radioactive material. It is designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal amounts of radioactive material over a general area. The size of the affected area and the level of destruction caused by an RDD would depend on the sophistication and size of the conventional bomb, the type of radioactive material used, the quality and quantity of the radioactive material and the local meteorological conditions—primarily wind and precipitation.

For more information, visit www.ready.gov/terrorist-hazards.