How To Survive A
Table Of Contents
The idea of using toxic chemicals and contagious diseases as weapons of war is not a new one. In fact, it's almost as old as war itself.
Throughout history we have seen countless examples of the horror that chemical and biological warfare can inflict upon its victims. However, until recent times, use of these weapons was confined mainly to the battlefield.
That situation has changed.
Today, the new battlefields are the towns and cities we live in.
We know that there is a global network of terrorists that are capable of producing poisonous weapons quickly, easily and, above all, cheaply. Indeed, chemical and biological weapons are often called 'the poor man's atom bomb' simply because they cost so little to produce.
We know that hostile nations like Saddam Hussein's Iraq have developed significant chemical weapons arsenals (and with the UN Arms Inspectors no longer there to monitor the situation, the Iraqi arsenal of poisons is likely to grow).
We also know that those who attacked the World Trade Center (or their associates) had attempted to rent chemical-spreading crop dusters and tried to get licenses to transport toxic chemicals. This is troubling news which suggests that the use of poisons is now high on the terrorist agenda.
These facts all point to one thing: the threat of chemical or biological attacks from terrorist groups and hostile nations is to be taken very seriously indeed.
Many would say that such attacks are inevitable - it's not a question of if it happens it's a question of when it happens.
So what is the government doing to protect us from such attacks?
Unfortunately, there's only so much the government can do. Terrorists are persistent and determined and so will always find a way to carry out their attacks regardless of security measures.
Are the emergency services capable of coping with an attack if it happens?
Only partially. In many situations the emergency services will be able to cope well with the medium to long term effects of an attack, but will be able to do little to save those who are in the 'front line' of an attack. It depends on the scale of the crisis and the type of poisons released.
So are we completely powerless to protect ourselves?
Fortunately, we're not powerless at all. We can protect ourselves by understanding the facts and by being ready, on a personal basis, to cope with the attack and its consequences when it happens.
Unfortunately, however, there's currently a lot of confusing and misleading information about chemical and biological weapons in the media and on the Internet. Advice on how to react in the event of an attack often puts you in a worse position than you were before.
The result of this constant barrage of inaccuracies and contradictions is that it's very difficult to decide which information you should trust and which of it should be confined to the trash can. This confusion is putting you and your family's life in danger.
In this book I've set the record straight about chemical and biological attacks. I've dumped all the popular myths and I've weeded out all the misleading information.
This book deals only in facts.
The facts about chemical and biological weapons, the facts about our national preparedness, the facts on how best to prepare yourself and your family and the facts on how to react when an attack happens.
By understanding the issues, by being fully prepared in advance and by knowing how to react during an attack, you can be confident that you and your family are in the best position possible to survive.
The world has taken a turn. The new century has brought with it new challenges. The time to rise to those challenges is now. We need to adapt to the new situation we now find ourselves in.
So, rather than sit around in worry and confusion, grab yourself a cup of coffee and start reading.
What are chemical weapons?
A chemical weapon is a man-made agent (in gas or liquid form) which attack the bodys nerves, blood, skin or lungs causing symptoms such as vomiting, blistering, loss of bodily control and, in some cases, death.
Chemical agents as a weapon can be spread using, for example, a bomb (or an explosion), a crop-dusting plane or an aerosol device.
A chemical attack can affect the contaminated area for several minutes or several days (depending on factors like the concentration of the agent, whether the attack is indoors or outdoors and the weather).
Although relatively cheap to produce, chemical weapons are still more expensive and complicated to use than biological weapons.
1. Vesicant agents
Also known as 'blistering agents' or 'mustard agents', vesicants
(delivered in either gas or liquid form) produce burns and blisters on the skin, eyes,
throat and even internal organs.
Mustard gas attacks the whole body and is a carcinogenic (it induces cancer). In the event of exposure, the effects of mustard gas may take up to 24 hours before they start to become apparent.
Mortality rates from mustard gas are relatively low. Those who die usually do so between about two days and about two weeks after exposure.
Lewisite is also a vesicant.
Choking agents are relatively simple substances, most of which are either common industrial chemicals (like chlorine, and phosgene) or their derivatives.
Choking agents are delivered in gas form and are more volatile than
vesicants (which means they will disperse in the air more quickly).
Blood agents like cyanhydric acid and hydrogen cyanide, are cyanide-based poisons that enter the blood stream disrupting cellular functions in the respiratory system producing suffocation as the victim 'drowns' in his/her own blood supply.
Hydrogen cyanide (in gas or liquid form) is poisonous to inhale and can also be absorbed by the skin.
Early symptoms of cyanide poisoning include restlessness, headache, palpitations and difficulties breathing, followed by vomiting, convulsions, respiratory failure and unconsciousness.
Cyanhydric acid was used by the Nazis in the gas chambers. And although no documented evidence exists, Iraq is believed to have used hydrogen cyanide against the Kurds in the 1980s.
Hydrogen cyanide is volatile which means that it disperses quickly so it's difficult to build up a high concentration outdoors. However, in a confined space, it quickly reaches lethal levels of concentration. In this scenario, there may not be time to display early symptoms with victims just suddenly falling dead.
Like choking agents, these are common industrial chemicals that are relatively easy to find and produce.
Nerve agents (neurotoxins) like sarin, tabun (developed by Nazi Germany during the 1930s), soman or VX produce their deadly effect by blocking an enzyme that is necessary for the central nervous system to function. This leads to a disruption of muscle function followed by a seizure and, eventually, death.
Nerve agents (in either gas or liquid form) enter the body through inhalation, through skin absorption or through being consumed (for example, in a contaminated water supply). Generally the symptoms are produced faster when inhaled (2 to 3 minutes) than when they are absorbed or consumed (20 to 30 minutes).
A thimble-sized portion of one of these nerve toxins can kill a person in minutes. A few particles can produce death in 24 hours.
Nerve agents pose a real threat because theyre relatively easy and cheap to manufacture (they're made from ingredients used in the manufacture of insecticides, fertilizers and certain coloring agents).
What Are Biological Weapons?
Biological weapons are designed to cause numerous deaths or serious wounds using living or dead bodies or the toxic products those bodies produce.
Biological weapons are very cheap and easy to manufacture - anyone with a degree in biology could easily produce a deadly disease.
Biological attacks are much easier to execute than chemical attacks and their consequences are more difficult to predict.
An attack using biological agents can be triggered by, for example, placing the agent in a water supply, releasing the agent at crucial points in the food chain (like a meat processing plant), releasing contaminated rodents or releasing the agent in the air to be inhaled by the general population.
There are two types of biological weapons agents: viral and bacterial.
Viral agents require a living cell to function and cause diseases like smallpox and yellow fever. While we can be vaccinated against viral diseases, once infected, there is no antibiotic treatment possible.
Bacterial agents are single-cell organisms that are capable of growing and reproducing themselves. They cause such epidemics as anthrax, cholera, plague and tularemia. Bacterial diseases can be treated with antibiotics provided they are detected early enough.
Some of the most commonly discussed biological agents are smallpox, plague and anthrax. Smallpox and plague are the more dangerous because they spread easily from one person to another. Anthrax doesn't spread from person to person meaning that its consequences would be confined to the immediate vicinity of an attack.
Which is more dangerous: biological or chemical?
A biological attack can potentially have a more devastating impact than a chemical attack, since people infected with a biological agent can spread the disease for a considerable length of time and over a broad geographical region before we are aware than an attack has taken place.
Anthrax is the only 'high-profile' biological agent where this is not the case. Anthrax is not contagious. It is not transmitted person to person. This means that an anthrax attack, would, like a chemical attack, only affect those in the vicinity of the attack. Once the anthrax has settled on the ground, it poses no further threat because it is only fatal when inhaled in quite large quantities.
A chemical agent will only affect people who are near the place of its release. Unless released in a confined area, most chemical agents disperse relatively quickly (depending on wind speed, humidity, and so on), and will be carried by the wind along a narrow corridor.
With regard to the symptoms produced by chemical or biological weapons, then it largely depends on which agent is being used.
One milligram of the chemical agent VX on your skin will kill you. Likewise, infection with a virus like smallpox can also be deadly.
In that sense both chemical and biological agents are equally dangerous.
What Is Our Defense Against
This potential danger of chemical weapons is all the more terrible because our defense against them, despite some progress, is far from perfect.
There are basically four parts to our overall defense:
The methods of detection available to us are not optimal because the chemical will most likely have done a lot of damage by the time the detector raises the alarm and emergency personnel can be mobilized.
Detection of biological agents is even more troublesome. In this case, it may be several days or even weeks before evidence of the attack shows up. This will only happen when more and more people start displaying symptoms of the disease. By then, it may have spread far and wide.
Most doctors have not been trained in how to recognize early symptoms of the main biological weapons agents. The early symptoms of anthrax, for example, can appear as a simple flu.
Some advances are being made in the field of detectors for both chemical and biological agents. For an article that outlines some of the progress being made, see the Additional Resources page.
When a chemical attack takes place, protection is initially down to the individual. No matter how quickly emergency personnel are mobilized, they will most likely be too late to assist you during the attack.
Basically, it's a question of doing the best you can in whatever circumstance you find yourself in (at home, in the car, at work, etc.).
A little later we'll look at the steps you should take to protect yourself and your family in the event of an attack.
When a biological attack happens, it will most likely go by unnoticed until victims of the attack begin to display symptoms. For this reason there is little you can do to protect yourself from the attack and its consequences until you become aware that it has happened.
A little later we'll look at the steps to protecting yourself and your family once you know that a biological attack has taken place.
Decontamination is the reduction or the removal of chemical or biological agents that you've come into contact with.
See the page How to decontaminate yourself after exposure for further information about this.
In the event of a biological attack the question of medication is a complex one.
Vaccinations currently exist for anthrax, botulism toxin, tularemia, plague, Q fever, and smallpox. Immune protection against ricin and staphylococcal toxins may be feasible in the near future.
However, having yourself vaccinated against any of these diseases remains difficult.
The US Department of Defense has started vaccinating some members of the military against anthrax, but because of the fact that some of those receiving the vaccine have had adverse effects, no such vaccination program is currently planned for the general population.
Nobody has been vaccinated against smallpox since 1980. Even those vaccinated before then may no longer be safe as the vaccination may have lost most of its effectiveness by now.
The Center for Disease Control has enough stockpiles of smallpox vaccines for less than 8 million people with an additional 40 million on order (not due for delivery until 2004). There is a fear that the vaccine currently in stock may not be effective because it's about 40 years old and has possibly degraded over time.
A vaccine against the bubonic plague exists, but it needs to be administered between four and seven months before exposure. This makes a vaccination program virtually impossible.
For many other potential biological agents, there is no vaccination available to the general population.
There is also the danger that terrorists could develop new strains of the biological agent. In this scenario, the time required to develop and establish a new vaccine is estimated to be up to 3 years.
After you've been exposed to a biological agent, vaccination is no longer useful. Then it becomes a question of cure.
There are antibiotics available that can be effective against some biological agents. For example, doctors can prescribe antibiotics against anthrax that are effective if taken quickly (before symptoms start to show up or at the very beginning of the first symptoms). If left untreated, the disease is fatal in 90% of cases.
So far, there is no known anti-viral substances that have proven effective against smallpox after exposure although some recent tests are producing promising results. The disease is estimated to be fatal in about 30% of cases.
While you may be tempted to stock up on antibiotics to be prepared in case of an attack, this is not advisable.
To have personal stockpiles of all those antibiotics for yourself and everyone in your family (and carry them around all the time) would be impractical and potentially dangerous.
Furthermore, if we all start stocking up on the limited medication that is available, then there will be nothing left to treat those that actually fall victim to an attack.
The National Pharmaceutical Stockpile has large numbers of antibiotics against a range of biological diseases in supply. These medicines can be deployed quickly in the event of an emergency.
When it comes to a medical reaction to biological agents, it's best left up to the professionals to take care of the situation.
In most cases, the medical community will be able to act quickly to prevent death, limit infection and halt the spread of the disease.
With regards to chemical agents, the situation is not any better.
The effects of most chemical gases are swift. If the gas is deadly, then there is slim hope of receiving appropriate medical treatment in time. If the gas is non-deadly, then the resulting symptoms can be medically treated.
There is no effective antidote against any of the existing chemical agents (although an antidote exists, that soldiers can inject in case of attack, that allows them to bear high doses of neurotoxins without harmful long-term effects).
Certain medicines, taken preventively, can decrease the effect of some chemicals.
With the increased threat of an attack from terrorist organizations we can hope to see increased efforts on the part of government agencies to put more effective measures in place to protect the general population.
However, even if this happens, it will be only partially effective.
The fact remains that there are no effective treatments that exist against some of these poisons, and even if treatments are developed, there is every chance that new strains of biological agents will be developed to remain one step ahead of scientists.
The same can be said of detection systems. While these can help in some situations, and are vital to the rapid deployment of emergency personnel and medication, they still fall short of providing any defense for those who are immediately affected by the attack.
This leads to one simple conclusion: there is no guaranteed way of surviving a chemical or biological attack. All you can do is try to minimize the risk to yourself and your family by being prepared.
Why haven't we developed more
antidotes and vaccines?
The answer to this question, unfortunately, comes down to money.
The market for vaccines, antidotes and antibiotics to treat chemical and biological weapons is very unpredictable. One day they're in demand and the next day they're not.
A year ago, hardly anyone considered the threat of chemical or biological terror. Now everyone is thinking about it. Hopefully, in a few years time it will have become unimportant again.
You can see why this type of business isn't very attractive to the pharmaceutical industry.
Another problem lies in dealing with the constraints of working with these type of chemicals. Because of security factors, there is a lot of red tape to deal with, a lot of special procedures to follow and a lot of special precautions to take. All of this is important from a security point of view, but it's also a big deterrent to the major pharmaceutical companies.
At the moment, with everyone talking about the threat of chemical or biological attack, we might be inclined to think that the situation will quickly change regarding the production of appropriate treatments.
However, unless we see some government intervention, this isn't necessarily the case.
For most pharmaceutical companies, treatments for chemical and biological agents account for a tiny fraction of their income and, unlike the defense industry, they have received very little encouragement from the government to invest more heavily in this area.
The government can't, of course, create a reliable market for these antidotes and vaccines.
The alternative then is to offer some kind of incentive to the drugs companies to develop them. We can hope, and probably expect, to see some developments on this front in the short to medium term.
Which weapon are terrorists more likely to use?
It's impossible to predict what approach a terrorist group might use to launch a chemical or biological attack.
This is what makes it such a frightening threat. It can be anywhere, anytime and in any number of forms.
However, there are some clues available to us which can help us understand a little more about the most likely approach.
Nerve agents and vesicant agents (blistering agents) are relatively difficult to produce. The Chemical Weapons Convention makes it hard to buy these agents and the ingredients needed to produce them. This probably rules these two categories out.
On the other hand, a chemical such as phosgene (a choking agent), is easy to find and produce. However, choking agents are volatile and therefore disperse quickly. This means that the terrorists would have to deliver it in a high concentration to have the effect of maximum impact they'd be aiming for. A possible scenario in this case would be to blow up a tanker full of the gas (or a chemicals plant) in a busy area.
Again, however, this introduces complications for the terrorists. The terrorists would need to smuggle a large bomb into a chemical plant or drive a tanker full of toxic chemicals into a densely populated area and blow it up. With the nation on high alert, one would expect that such attacks would be very difficult to execute.
It's possible that terrorists would use anthrax in an attack. If so, a possible approach would be the use of a crop-duster. Why? Because anthrax isn't contagious (it doesn't spread easily from person to person) like most other biological agents. This means that they would need to directly spread the bacteria onto as many people as possible.
However, while the thought of anthrax being poured down onto a city from a passing airplane is chilling, it is unlikely to happen. Such an attack would be detected immediately and those infected could seek immediate medical attention.
Furthermore, it would take a lot of time to release significant amounts of anthrax with this approach, and the US Air Force would have eliminated the threat long before large casualty levels could be reached.
It's worth remembering that you would need to inhale large amounts of anthrax before it becomes fatal. To put things in perspective, wool sorters inhale up to 700 anthrax spores every hour without any consequences -- in order for anthrax to reach lethal levels, you'd need to inhale up to 10,000 spores with every breath.
If the terrorists were to use anthrax, they would most likely release it inside a building where a dense concentration of the agent can be more easily achieved. While this approach would create considerable fear and panic, the casualties would be minimized because those affected could get immediate medical treatment. Again, such an attack would be quite difficult to trigger off.
Another, perhaps more likely, scenario is that the terrorists would initiate the spread of a contagious disease. This would most likely happen unnoticed. Only when more and more people start exhibiting the same symptoms would the alarm be raised. By then the disease may have spread very considerably.
If there's no treatment available for the disease, or if it were a new, more resistant strain of an existing disease, then the fear, panic and death objectives of the terrorist would be achieved.
Smallpox would appear to be a prime candidate in this category. However, there are only two living samples of smallpox available in the world. One in a secure laboratory the US and one in Russia. Even though there are some concerns over security at the Russian laboratory, it's still unlikely that the terrorists will attempt to steal the sample and launch a smallpox attack.
It's more likely that the terrorists would take the easier route and spread a contagious disease like bubonic plague. Such an attack would be cheap and easy to launch and would create considerable panic among the general population.
While the effects of such an attack would be very traumatic, the emergency services should be able to move quite quickly to get the situation under control.
Experience tells us that, whatever approach the terrorists use, two things are sure: they will aim to create maximum fear and intimidation and they will aim for a target where they can cause maximum symbolic and material destruction.
That is, after all, the nature of terrorism.
Can I minimize my chances of
falling victim to an attack?
The world is a dangerous place to live in and we all do our best to get through life without too much incident or accident.
We do this by living day to day. We avoid situations that we deem to be dangerous and we react to situations as they arise.
If we were to live our lives in fear of something that might happen and base our lives on protecting ourselves against this theoretical danger, then we risk making our lives miserable for no good reason.
In a nutshell, what I'm saying is, 'yes' take measures to be prepared for an attack if it happens, but 'no' don't go changing your life in an attempt to avoid that danger.
If you really do want to take measures to avoid the chances of being in an attack, then these are some points worth considering:
As I say, these are points that you can consider if you really want to make an effort to avoid a potential attack.
But you shouldn't give up going to football matches, give up your job or move home out of fear of attack. This would be giving in to the terrorist aim of intimidating and frightening you.
We live in a world filled with uncertainty. Learn to adapt without changing your ways. Stay diligent and alert, but continue living your life.
How will I
know when an attack is happening?
Recognizing a chemical attack
These are some of the indications that a chemical attack may be taking place:
Depending on the nature of the attack, there's every chance that you will not notice anything unusual.
If the attack is with anthrax (which doesn't transmit from person to person), then you may notice unusual activity like those described in point 5 above.
However, if the attack involves spreading a contagious disease, then the terrorists will probably use a subtle approach (like putting it in a water supply or simply releasing it quietly among the general population). In this scenario, it will probably be days or weeks later - when more and more people start to suffer the initial symptoms of the attack - before you realize that it happened.
At this point it will be difficult to determine if you've been affected.
If you've any reason to suspect that you've been subject to a biological attack, follow the basic procedures described later in this book and seek immediate medical attention.
Call your doctor or local hospital before visiting. This will prevent you spreading the disease to others - especially important medical staff. Follow whatever advice they give you on how to proceed.
Note: If you know that an attack has happened in your region, be on the look-out for flu-like symptoms. If you suffer these symptoms, call your doctor or local hospital immediately.
likely to happen in the event of an attack?
A chemical attack
Chemical attacks are relatively easy to detect and can be spotted quickly. A number of systems are in place (or are being put in place) to alert us to the presence of toxic chemicals.
Having said that, with such a huge amount of potential targets to choose from, there's every chance that a chemical attack will have done most of its damage by the time any detection system kicks in.
Chemical agents would probably be delivered in gas form (with a crop duster or aerosols) or in liquid form (with a crop duster, aerosols or contamination of water supplies).
Another feasible scenario is that a common chemical agent like phosgene would be released in the air by blowing up a tanker or chemical plant. If you live close to a chemical plant, you should already be aware of procedures in case of an emergency.
The situation is different when it comes to biological attack. There are few detection systems that can pick up a biological attack (although some advances are being made on this front). It is most likely that it will take several days (depending on the incubation period and the concentration of the agent) before we recognize that we've been attacked.
The most likely scenario is that we would become aware of a biological attack when doctors begin to notice an increase in patients exhibiting the same symptoms. It is hoped that our doctors will be better trained in the ways of biological agents so that they can be on the lookout for suspicious symptoms.
The exception to this is anthrax which is not contagious. In the event of an anthrax attack, the scenario would probably be closer to the description of a chemical attack (above).
If an attack occurs outdoors - whether it be chemical or biological - the agents will travel with the wind. It will not take very long for the agents to be dispersed in the air and diluted to the point where they present no further danger. The amount of time it takes depends on a number of factors like wind-speed, humidity, the concentration of the agent, temperature, and so on.
If an attack occurs indoors (in a large building or on the subway), then the agent will be carried through the ventilation systems.
In the case of a chemical attack, once the gas has dispersed the situation is over. However, in the case of a biological attack it may be just the beginning.
In most cases the biological attack itself will pass by unnoticed and will only show up, as I've said, when people start displaying symptoms. By then, depending on the incubation period, the disease may be considerably spread - even to cities and regions well away from the initial attack.
Attacks using the biological agent anthrax or most of the chemical agents is more likely to take place indoors where sufficiently dangerous concentrations of the poison can be more easily reached.
The Basic Rules To Surviving An
1. If you're in a building and the attack occurs inside the building then head for the nearest exit.
The points above apply mainly to the event of a gas attack or an attack involving the rapid spread of a non-contagious biological agent like anthrax.
In most circumstances, as we've already seen, the consequences of a biological attack will only begin to show up days or weeks after the attack itself.
In the event that you become aware of a biological attack having taken place, then you should follow these steps:
At this point, it depends largely on the nature and extent of the problem. In a worst case scenario, you may find yourself 'trapped' in your home for a considerable period of time.
Try your best to be prepared for this possibility. We will be looking at how you can prepare yourself for this scenario in the next section of this book.
How to decontaminate yourself after exposure
Decontamination is the reduction or the removal of chemical or biological agents that you've come into contact with.
If you've been contaminated with hazardous materials, you'll greatly
improve their chances
In most cases, taking off your clothes will remove 80-90% of the potential contamination. Then wash yourself with water (or soap and water if possible).
Here are the three primary skin decontamination methods.
PDF document detailing various decontamination
How to recognize and handle suspicious mail
There have been an increasing amount of cases of Anthrax being sent to high-profile figures through the post.
The chances of this happening to you are next to zero, but, just to be sure, here is some information on how to recognize suspicious looking envelopes and what to do if you get one.
Recognizing suspicious mail
Any of these traits can occur in innocent circumstances, but if a number of these criteria are met, you may have reason to be suspicious.
What to do if you get suspicious mail
What is the worst case scenario?
Usually, a crisis is considered an 'emergency situation' when it lasts for up to two weeks.
In most cases, the situation normalizes itself in less than 72 hours, and by then emergency units are operational, assisting people with shelter, water, food, clothing, and so on.
Crises that are longer than two weeks are considered 'survival situations'.
Depending on its scale, a biological attack has the capacity to go beyond 'normal' emergency situations and turn into a survival situation.
Firstly, as we've already seen, there's every chance that the biological attack will pass by unnoticed for several days or even weeks, giving itself plenty of time to cover a wide geographical region before action begins to be taken. This already makes containment of the disease more difficult.
Then it depends on the disease itself. Is it a common strand of a disease that can be treated with antibiotics? If so, the situation can be normalized in a relatively short period of time.
However, if it's a new, more resistant strain of a disease (or a new disease altogether) then treatment may be more difficult or even impossible.
In any case, it will take at least 48 hours to determine the qualities of the disease and our ability to treat it.
Even if it's determined to be a common strain of the disease, some vaccinations have been in storage for a long time, and it's not sure that they will still be effective. If not, it can take months or, possibly, years to develop new vaccines.
It is this type of scenario that can lead to a sustained crisis and a survival situation.
It is worth noting, that the chances of a crisis escalating to the point where you'll need to spend several months in a survival situation are very slim. However, a crisis that continues for several days or even weeks is possible.
For that reason, it is worth making some preparations in advance. It will put your mind at ease and, if a worst case scenario were ever to develop, you'll greatly increase you and your family's chances of surviving.
How to prepare for the worst
The worst case scenario could be a situation where there is extensive spread of a contagious disease (that medical authorities aren't able to effectively treat) and where the continued spread of the disease is difficult to halt.
In this case, you may find yourself confined to a secure shelter (either at home or elsewhere), avoiding all outside human contact until the 'all clear' is given.
Depending on the nature of the situation, this could be a question of days, weeks or - in an extreme, but unlikely, case - even months.
To prepare yourself and your family for this type of situation, there are a number of steps you can take.
By taking these steps now, you can ensure that yourself and your family can survive an extended crisis - even in the event of scarce access to water, food, communications, electricity, medical help, and so on.
There are a number of things you will need to consider when preparing for a worst case scenario:
Over the next few pages we'll look at each of these points in greater detail.
Preparing a 'safe room' at home
In order to be fully prepared for an emergency situation, you should designate a 'safe room' or shelter in your home. This is the room that you can 'seal' yourself and your family into in the event of an emergency.
This room will be useful in the event of a sustained crisis, but should also be prepared for any kind of attack (short or long).
The room you select for this purpose should meet these criteria as closely as possible:
You should keep this room in a constant state of semi-preparedness by keeping essential emergency items stored there. At the very least, you should keep an emergency survival kit (see next section) there at all times.
Here are some of the items that you'll need to store in your safe room or bring with you when you enter it:
It's important that everyone in your family is fully aware of the safe room and its function in an emergency. Everyone should be given pre-designated duties to perform in the event of an emergency (one person is responsible for food, one for seating, etc.). Write out a detailed list of everything you need, so that in the event of an emergency, nothing will be forgotten.
You should start preparing the items for your safe room sooner rather than later and you should conduct emergency drills with your family every three to six months.
Preparing emergency survival
In order to be able to react quickly, and get through the crucial early hours of a crisis, you should prepare a 'family survival emergency kit'.
This kit should contain a first-aid kit and first-aid instructions, emergency food, water, water-purifying chemicals and a water filter, some source of light and the other items that you may want or need in order to survive (like duct tape to seal off the room, a radio, medicines, hygiene necessities, baby needs, candles, matches, tin opener, clothing).
You can buy ready-made survival kits or you can also take care of preparing them yourself.
Ideally, you should have enough identical kits, so that each member of the family can easily access one: at home, at work or school and in the car. At a minimum, you should have at least one kit in your 'safe room'.
Everyone in your family should know where to find the kit, what it contains and how to use it.
Family emergency drills are an excellent way to familiarize everyone with use of the survival kits (they can also be fun and a great psychological help if a real crisis ever occurs). You should run a drill every three to six months.
There are three things a body needs to stay alive:
Let us firstly assume that the air is not contaminated and that you can breath safely (later we will look at surviving if this is not the case).
This leaves us with water and food. Water is considerably more important than food for our ability to survive a reasonable length of time.
This means that having a supply of safe water is essential to surviving a sustained crisis situation.
When it comes to water storage, you have basically two options: 1) buy bottles of water to store or 2) store tap water.
The first option is the most convenient. But, if you are to store enough water to ensure your entire families survival over a sustained period, then this will be expensive.
If it's stored properly, tap water is every bit as good as bottled water and, of course, it costs a lot less.
Choosing the proper containers to store your water is essential. These are the main options available to you:
No matter how much water you store, in a sustained crisis, you risk running out. For this reason, it's important that you have the means to purify more water.
There are some water-purification chemicals available and even simply boiling it can be effective. However, the easiest and most reliable way to make water safe to drink is by using a water filter.
The recommended quantity of water to store is one Gallon (4.5 liters) per person per day, and ideally another gallon for cooking and washing. Use your judgement when deciding how big a stock of water you can reasonably keep.
Probably the best approach is to stock enough water to keep your family going for a week or two and have a water filter ready in case this isn't enough.
If you feel that you can reasonably stock enough water to keep your family going for a longer period, then go ahead and do so. The more the better.
Preparing emergency food
The food currently stored in your refrigerator and in your pantry has a relatively short shelf-life. This type of food will not keep you going very long in the event of a sustained crisis.
To be properly prepared, you need to store food specially formulated for survival situations.
As a minimum you should aim to store enough food to meet the needs of your entire family for a week. Again, as with water, if you can reasonably build up a supply to keep you going over a longer period, then do so.
The cost of preparing a large stock of food is inevitably quite high. Consider buying a little each week and building it up over time.
Finding enough storage space can be a problem especially when you want to stock enough supplies for several people.
Examine each room of your house. Chances are you'll find empty spaces that you had never considered useful but that will be perfect for storing your survival stocks (for example under beds).
Preparing emergency energy,
light and communication
The loss of electricity and communications is something we more readily associate with a nuclear attack than a chemical or biological attack.
However, in the event of a long-term, sustained crisis, then anything can happen. If the disease was on the rampage and medical treatment wasn't available, then we could (in theory at least) find ourselves in the situation where there are simply no people available to operate essential services.
Please note, however, that this scenario is unlikely. The biological agents in existence today, would not cause enough widespread devastation to stop essential services for a long period.
However, we don't know what new terror tomorrow may bring, so it's best to be fully prepared.
In order not to find yourself in the dark, the very minimum you need is:
If a crisis situation occurs, you need to know what is happening around you to help you plan. The minimum you need is a radio receiver. A radio capable of receiving short-wave bands is recommended.
Of course, a mobile phone can be indispensable in this kind of situation. A CB radio can also be useful in a long-term survival situation. A police scanner can be useful to stay abreast of the developing situation.
Gas masks and protective clothing
When we think of chemical or biological attacks, the first things that usually spring to mind are gas masks.
Some people run to the local Army-Navy surplus store and buy a mask secure in the knowledge that they will be safe in the event of an attack.
This is a mistake.
Looking at the movies you get the impression that there's nothing more to gas masks than pulling it over your face and you're safe.
The reality, however, is altogether different.
Gas masks are complex pieces of equipment. To use them inappropriately is potentially more dangerous that the chemical they're supposed to protect you from.
On this page, I'll attempt to lay aside the myth of the gas mask and put you in a position to make a reasoned decision on whether you should use them or not.
This is the six million dollar question.
Most experts would advise that stocking up on gas masks for the whole family is not worth it.
An appropriate gas mask will protect you from breathing in most chemical or biological agents, BUT there are some things to bear in mind before you run out to buy one:
In conclusion, I would suggest that a gas mask, used properly, would be useful in the event of an attack (provided you know how to use it and you're aware of the attack in time to put it on). However, I would not feel compelled - despite current threats - to rush out and invest large amounts of money in them.
There are a number of important points to bear in mind when buying a gas mask:
See the page Where to buy supplies for a survival situation for details of gas mask suppliers on the Internet (this will enable you to study what's available online before you go out in person to buy).
Protective SuitsAppropriate protective clothing can prevent exposure through the skin.
Protective suits usually come with built-in boots and hood. They can protect against liquid and vapor chemical warfare agents, as well as against biological warfare agents.
Several sizes exist, including those for children.
Protective boots are usually designed especially to accommodate the extra bulk of a protective suit, and remain relatively easy to put on even if you're wearing protective gloves. Protective boots are usually knee high and have a high chemical resistance.
Protective gloves are extremely solid, they can be as thick as 25mm and have a particularly long chemical resistance, resisting most toxic/hazardous chemicals.
Like gas masks, I would need to question the practicality of buying protective suits. Obviously, you wouldn't be able to carry one around with you everywhere you go (you're kids would definitely draw the line on that one!), and the cost of keeping a suit everywhere is prohibitive.
And, like gas masks, you would need to know about the attack in time to get the suit on. And again, you may be putting yourself in danger as you struggle to put on the suit when you could, instead, be making sensible efforts to escape the gas cloud.
See the page Where to buy supplies for a survival situation for details of protective suit suppliers.
Some products that may save your life
On this page you'll find some information on medicines that are currently available and that could be beneficial to your health and well-being in an emergency situation.
These products might be a good addition to your survival kits and should certainly be considered for your safe room.
Antibiotic Treatment for Biological Warfare
This webpage features descriptions of treatments available for various diseases as well as the manner in which those treatments should be dispensed.
Anthrax Protection Medication
Aromatherapy - essential oils
to prepare for a survival situation
Some miscellaneous supplies that you shouldnt forget.
The first thing you'll need to be able to cope with in the event of an attack is fear.
Fear can diminish your ability to react in the appropriate way.
The best way to make sure that fear wont compromise your familys safety is to prepare yourself, so that youll be fully ready to react when the time comes.
Preparing yourself first means overcoming your own fear of the unknown.
Proper mental preparation will greatly increase your chances of survival because you will be able to take immediate protective measures in a rational and confident manner.
A widespread infectious disease would be a hugely traumatic event, which can be very difficult to cope with on any level.
You need to discuss with your family the impacts such a situation would have on your lives, and on the world around you. Talking about such a theoretical event may be difficult, but if a tragedy were ever to occur, those discussions would be of huge benefit to you all - especially your children. Kids need to be given the opportunity to express their fears and ask questions.
The possible impacts of a biological attack are numerous.
Here is a list of subjects that can be raised in a family discussion to help everyone to be prepared:
The practical issues
A few words to conclude
I hope that you find this book useful as you prepare yourself and your family for the turbulent times that lay ahead.
Remember, if you're properly prepared, remain conscious of your surroundings and remain constantly alert, then your chances of surviving an attack are very high.
And, one final thing, the chances that you'll be affected directly by a chemical or biological attack are estimated at the moment to be about 1 in 290,000.
That means you've got more chances of being struck by lightening or appearing as a special guest on Jay Leno's Tonight Show!
And with that in mind, I'll leave you to get on with your preparations.
Over the next few pages you will find a brief history of chemical and biological warfare as well as a lot of useful resources to help you as you prepare your emergency plan.
A brief history of chemical and
The use of chemicals and diseases as weapons of war is by no means a new phenomenon. Evidence of their use dates all the way back to ancient times.
Here is a brief overview of some of the landmark events in the turbulent history of chemical and biological warfare.
The Middle Ages and Renaissance periods
During the 19th century there was a shift away from the use of chemical weapons which, at this time, were not considered honorable.
World War I (1914-1918)
The total loss of life caused by poisonous gases - especially mustard gas - during the first world war was 1,300,000 people. Of those, only 100,000 were on the battlefield. Were it not for the introduction and refinement of gas masks, the death toll would have been significantly greater.
While this amount of casualties is difficult to comprehend, it is worth noting that other 'conventional' weapons were responsible for a total 26,700,000 deaths during the same war. Of those, just 6,800,000 died on the battlefield.
1918 - 1939
World War II (1939 - 1945)
With the exception of the Far East, almost no chemical weapons were used by the warring parties during the second world war.
There are two main reasons for this:
The post-war years
Accidents and incidents
Important points at a glance
Here is a very brief overview of the main points to remember and where to find them in the book.
Chemical attack or Anthrax attack
How to recognize a chemical attack
How to recognize a biological attack
The things that everyone should do as a first line of defense
All the items featured here can be purchased over the Internet.
NOTE: Kits are available, that provide most of the medical supplies you should store. Some complete kits also combine medical supplies with water and food rations, light, shelter, heat, and personal hygiene supplies.
Other survival equipment
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