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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 or to try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism, or to 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/or 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. Terrorists are also capable of inducing panic 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 in much the same way you would prepare for other crisis events.
General Safety 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.
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.
A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment.
Possible signs of chemical threat include many people suffering from watery eyes, twitching, choking, and having trouble breathing or losing coordination. Many sick or dead birds, fish or small animals are also cause for suspicion.
A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. Many agents must be inhaled, or 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.
A radiation threat, commonly referred to as a "dirty bomb" or "radiological dispersion device (RDD)" is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area. It is not a nuclear blast. The force of the explosion and radioactive contamination will be more localized.
While the blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be clearly defined until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. As with any radiation, you want to try to limit exposure. It is important to avoid breathing radiological dust that may be released in the air.
A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water and ground surfaces for miles around. During a nuclear incident, it is important to avoid radioactive material, if possible. While experts may predict at this time that a nuclear attack is less likely than other types, terrorism by its nature is unpredictable.
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 devises. The information is readily available in books and on the Internet. The materials needed for an explosive device can be found in many places including department, 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.
Cybersecurity involves protecting that infrastructure by preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber incidents. Unlike physical threats that prompt immediate action–like stop, drop, and roll in the event of a fire–cyber threats are often difficult to identify and comprehend. Among these dangers are viruses erasing entire systems, intruders breaking into systems and altering files, intruders using your computer or device to attack others, or intruders stealing confidential information. The spectrum of cyber risks is limitless; threats, some more serious and sophisticated than others, can have wide-ranging effects on the individual, community, organizational, and national level.
For additional information on terrorism, click here to visit the FEMA Website.