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Be prepared
For truckers, understanding the nature of a chemical attack or biological threat is essential

To inform citizens in case of terrorist activity, Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge has issued a series of information bulletins through a new Web site located at http://www.ready.gov. Here’s Homeland Security’s directive to Americans.

What to do in a chemical attack
A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment.

If you spot terrorist activity, here’s the number to call

In the interest of maintaining comprehensive awareness of the transportation system, federal agencies, including the Transportation Safety Administration, request that citizens notify federal authorities in case of potential threats or significant security incidents involving maritime and surface transportation.

Examples of potential threats include, but are not limited to, bomb threats, suspicious activities and suspected sabotage. Examples of significant security incidents include, but are not limited to, sabotage, violent attacks on or destruction of property and people, and hijackings.

The FBI encourages the public to report any suspected violations of U.S. federal law. You can do so by calling your local FBI office.

Or you may call the National Infrastructure Protection Center’s toll-free number, 1-888-585-9078. NIPC has a general tips hotline that connects directly to the FBI at (202) 323-3104.

Possible signs of a chemical threat

  • Many people suffering from watery eyes, twitching, choking, having trouble breathing or losing coordination.
  • Many sick or dead birds, fish or small animals are also cause for suspicion.

If you see signs of chemical attack:

  • Quickly try to define the impacted area or where the chemical is coming from, if possible.
  • Take immediate action to get away.
  • If the chemical is inside a building where you are, get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area, if possible.
  • Otherwise, it may be better to move as far away from where you suspect the chemical release is and “shelter-in-place.” Read more at the “Staying Put” section of the government Web site.
  • If you are outside, quickly decide what is the fastest escape from the chemical threat. Consider if you can get out of the area, or if you should follow plans to “shelter-in-place.”

If you think you have been exposed to a chemical attack:
If your eyes are watering, your skin is stinging, and you are having trouble breathing, you may have been exposed to a chemical.

  • If you think you may have been exposed to a chemical, strip immediately and wash.
  • Look for a hose, fountain or any source of water, and wash with soap if possible, being sure not to scrub the chemical into your skin.
  • Seek emergency medical attention.

Dealing with a biological attack
A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. Many agents must be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin or be eaten to make you sick. Some biological agents, such as anthrax, do not cause contagious diseases. Others, like the smallpox virus, can result in diseases you can catch from other people.

Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. While it is possible you will see signs of a biological attack, as was sometimes the case with the anthrax mailings, it is perhaps more likely that local health-care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness, or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention.

You will probably learn of the danger through an emergency radio or television broadcast, or some other signal used in your community. You might get a telephone call, or emergency response workers may come to your door.

In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated and who is in danger. However, you should check for official news, including the following:

  • Are you in the group or area authorities consider in danger?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
  • Are medications or vaccines being distributed?
  • Where?
  • Who should get them?
  • Where should you seek emergency medical care if you become sick?

If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious release of an unknown substance nearby, it doesn’t hurt to protect yourself. Quickly get away. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a T-shirt, handkerchief or towel. Otherwise, several layers of tissue or paper towels may help. Wash with soap and water and contact authorities.

At the time of a declared biological emergency, if a family member becomes sick, it is important to be suspicious. Do not automatically assume, however, that you should go to a hospital emergency room or that any illness is the result of the biological attack. Symptoms of many common illnesses may overlap. Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs, and seek medical advice.

July Digital Edition