Explosive devices are the most common terrorist weapons because their materials and technology are more readily available than those of biological, chemical, nuclear, or radiological weapons. Of course, explosions also may be involved with or used to disperse these and other threat agents.
Terrorists can use either manufactured or improvised explosive devices in public places and against a wide variety of vessels, buildings, and institutions. Such devices can be hidden, delivered by humans, transported in vehicles, and even mailed or shipped. They may be detonated directly or remotely by timing, tampering, or impact.
How to Prepare and Protect Yourself
- As for all emergencies, the fundamental preparatory steps are to be informed, make a written family emergency plan, and build an emergency kit with enough supplies for each family member for a minimum of three days. If you become aware of heightened threat, increase your supplies to last for up to two weeks.
- Be sure to include a flashlight and something that can be used for breathing filters in your kit. Beyond that, you should stay informed and know how to spot and react to certain signs of danger.
- Watch out, particularly at work, for unexpected, suspicious letters and packages that could contain explosives, as well as biological, chemical, or radiological agents. Physically, they could be large or oddly shaped and have excessive packaging material, protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors, or stains. More likely, postage and markings will be suspicious:
- The return address is missing, unfamiliar, unverifiable, or different from the postmark.
- Postage is excessive or foreign.
- The address is vague, incorrect, to no specific person, or to someone never or no longer there.
- Markings are misspelled, crude, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate.
- If you detect such a parcel, leave immediately, keep others away, and alert security and authorities. If you handle a suspicious parcel, don’t sniff or smell it, and wash with soap before touching anything, drinking, or eating.
- If you receive a telephoned bomb threat:
- Try to keep the caller on the line and note everything said.
- Get as much information as possible about the bomb and the caller—When will the bomb explode? Where is it right now? What does it look like? What will cause it to explode? What kind is it? Did you place it? Why? What is your name? What is your address?
- Notify the police and building management.
What to Do
If you are indoors when there is an explosion:
- Get under a sturdy table or desk until things stop falling around you.
- Leave the building as soon as possible. Do not slow down to make phone calls or retrieve anything other than an emergency supply kit.
- Don’t use elevators.
- Watch for weakened floors and stairways, falling debris, fire, and other hazards.
If there is a fire:
- If there is smoke, crawl low.
- If possible, use a wet cloth to cover your nose and mouth.
- Use the back of your hand to feel up and down closed doors. If the door is hot, do not open it—look for another way out. If the door is not hot, brace yourself against it and open slowly.
- If you catch fire, do not run. Stop, drop, and roll to put out the fire.
If you are trapped in debris:
- To keep dust down, avoid unnecessary movement.
- Cover your nose and mouth with anything that will filter the air.
- Signal your location to help rescuers find you—use a flashlight and whistle, if available. Tap on a pipe, wall, or any hard surface.
- Shout only as a last resort—it may increase inhalation of dangerous dust.
Once you are out:
- Move away from windows, glass doors, or other potential hazards.
- Make sure the fire department has been alerted.
- Move off of sidewalks and streets to make way for emergency responders or others still exiting.
- Never go back into a burning building.
- Follow your family emergency plan for assembly and communication—account for your family members, and carefully supervise small children.
Where to Find Additional Information
- Department of Homeland Security (Ready.gov) & FEMA—www.ready.gov/explosions