Biological Hazards and Threats
Biological hazards and threats, also known as biohazards, refer to biological substances that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that of humans. This includes medical waste or samples of a microorganism, virus or toxin (from a biological source) that can impact human health, as well as substances harmful to animals.
The term is generally used as a warning, so that those potentially exposed to the substances will know to take precautions.
Biological agents are when germs or toxins are dispersed into the air with the intention of making people sick, incapacitating livestock and hindering crops from growing. Many of these agents are difficult to cultivate, but some can be very long-lived, like anthrax spores.
They may be spread through aerosols, animals, and food and water contamination, as well as from person-to-person.
If you become aware of unusual and suspicious substances nearby:
- Move away quickly.
- Wash with soap and water.
- Contact authorities.
- Listen to the media for official instructions.
- Seek medical attention if you become sick.
When toxic gases, liquids or solids are released into the environment, either intentionally or unintentionally, it is considered a chemical release. These have the potential to poison people and the environment.
Preparing for a Chemical Emergency:
- Identify the impact area, if possible.
- Take immediate action to get away.
- If inside of a building, get out without going through the restricted area, if possible.
- If you are not able to get out of the building, it may be better to shelter-in-place.
- If outside, determine the fastest way to find clean air. Consider evacuation of the area or sheltering-in-place.
Either caused intentionally or unintentionally, explosions can include incidents such as industrial accidents, infrastructure failures and terrorist attacks.
It is important to be prepared in case you are caught in or near an explosion.
If there is an explosion indoors:
- Take shelter under a sturdy desk or table if items are falling around you.
- Leave as soon as the exits are clear and items stop falling.
- Watch out for weakened floors, stairways or debris as you exit the building.
Once you are out:
- Watch out for hazardous areas, especially places like windows or glass doors. Do not stand near areas with glass.
- Stay away from sidewalks or streets. These may be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.
Nuclear power plants supply 15 percent of the electricity used in the United States today. Most likely, a radiation or nuclear emergency would be the result of an accident, but it could also be an act of terrorism or international aggression.
In the event of a radiation or nuclear emergency:
- If outside when an explosion occurs or authorities warn of a radiation release nearby, quickly cover your nose and mouth and go into a nearby building that has not been damaged.
- If inside, check to see if your building has been damaged. If it is stable, stay where you are and shelter-in-place.
- Close windows and doors, and turn off air conditioners, heaters or other ventilation systems.
- Watch television broadcasts, listen to the radio, or check online for official news as it becomes available.
- Time: By minimizing the time you were exposed, you reduce the chance of becoming ill.
- Distance: The further away from the source, the less you will be exposed to radiation.
- Shielding: By putting as much thick material between yourself and radiation source, your exposure will be reduced.
Terrorism is defined as the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce an individual or group. These types of attacks can be biological, radiological, explosive or chemical in nature.
Every part of the United States is susceptible to terrorist attacks.
Preparing for a Terrorist Attack:
- Develop a disaster plan.
- Ensure your Emergency Supply Kit is on hand.
- Review school and business/work disaster plans for the locations you and your family visit daily.
- Follow all directions from officials.
- Stay informed and alert by watching or listening to Internet, radio or television news broadcasts.