BE PREPARED: What to do in a chemical attack

| 3/19/2003

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

Land Line will share the information with readers in the following weeks. Today's installment: Understanding the nature of a chemical attack.

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

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 areaor 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 escapefrom 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

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 immediatelyand wash.
  • Look for a hose, fountain, or any source of water, and wash with soapif possible, being sure not to scrub the chemical into your skin.
  • Seek emergency medical attention.