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National Safety Council

General Info about Terrorism
(Selected information from Are You Ready?, FEMA)

Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of intimidation, coercion, or ransom. Terrorists often use threats to:

  • Create fear among the public.
  • Try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism.
  • Get immediate publicity for their causes.

Acts of terrorism include threats of terrorism; assassinations; kidnappings; hijackings; bomb scares and bombings; cyber attacks (computer-based); and the use of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons.

High-risk targets for acts of terrorism include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities, and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities, and corporate centers. Further, terrorists are capable of spreading fear by sending explosives or chemical and biological agents through the mail.

Within the immediate area of a terrorist event, you would need to rely on police, fire, and other officials for instructions. However, you can prepare for terrorism in much the same way you would prepare for other crisis events.

The following are general 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. You should 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 Internet transactions.
  • Work with building owners to ensure the following items are located on each floor of the building:
    • Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries.
    • Several flashlights and extra batteries.
    • First aid kit and manual.
    • Hard hats and dust masks.
    • Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas.

Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons. Terrorists do not have to look far to find out how to make explosive devices; the information is readily available in books and other information sources. The materials needed for an explosive device can be found in many places including variety, hardware, and auto supply stores. Explosive devices are 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.

Parcels that should make you suspicious:

  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
  • Have no return address, or have one that can’t be verified as legitimate.
  • Are marked with restrictive endorsements such as “Personal,” “Confidential,” or “Do not X-ray.”
  • Have protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors, or stains.
  • Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address.
  • Are of unusual weight given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped.
  • Are marked with threatening language.
  • Have inappropriate or unusual labeling.
  • Have excessive postage or packaging material, such as masking tape and string.
  • Have misspellings of common words.
  • Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated.
  • Have incorrect titles or titles without a name.
  • Are not addressed to a specific person.
  • Have hand-written or poorly typed addresses.
    Terrorism

Take Protective Measures

If you receive a telephoned bomb threat, you should do the following:

  • Get as much information from the caller as possible.
  • Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said.
  • Notify the police and the building management.

During an Explosion

If there is an explosion, you should:

  • Get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you. When they stop falling, leave quickly, watching for obviously weakened floors and stairways. As you exit from the building, be especially watchful of falling debris.
  • Leave the building as quickly as possible. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls.
  • Do not use elevators.

Once you are out:

  • Do not stand in front of windows, glass doors, or other potentially hazardous areas.
  • Move away from sidewalks or streets to be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.

If you are trapped in debris:

  • If possible, use a flashlight to signal your location to rescuers.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t kick up dust.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand. (Dense-weave cotton material can act as a good filter. Try to breathe through the material.)
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are.
  • If possible, use a whistle to signal rescuers.
  • Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.


For More Information
If you require more information about any of these topics, the following resource may be helpful.

American Red Cross
Terrorism, Preparing for the Unexpected. Document providing preparation guidelines for a terrorist attack or similar emergency. Available online at http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_589_,00.html


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