Ready Raleigh Hazmat Emergency

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Attacks

Emergency Preparedness - Ready Raleigh Guide

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Chemical Emergency Biological Threat Radiological Threat Blast and Fallout Shelters After a radiological threat Nuclear Threat Nuclear Explosion Hazards from Nuclear Explosions Public Shelters

This section covers threats from people or groups using weapons or agents designed to cause harm to people, animals, plants and/or property. These threats could arise with little to no warning.

Chemical agents

  • Examples include poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids and solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants.
  • Signs of a chemical release include difficulty breathing, eye irritation, loss of coordination, nausea, or burning in the nose, throat and lungs.
  • Presence of many dead insects or birds may indicate a chemical agent release.

Biological agents

  • Organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops.
  • Biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. 
  • Three basic groups of biological agents that could likely be used as weapons: bacteria, viruses and toxins. 
  • Can be dispersed by spraying into the air, person-toperson contact, or infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water. 

Radiological attacks

  • Use radiological dispersion devices (RDD), which combine a conventional explosive device with radioactive material.
  • Designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal amounts of radioactive material over a general area.
  • Area affected could be placed off-limits to the public for several months during cleanup efforts.

Nuclear explosions

  • Can cause significant damage and casualties from blast, heat and radiation, but you can keep your family safe by knowing what to do and being prepared if it occurs.Nuclear explosion may occur with or without a few minutes warning.
  • Fallout is most dangerous in the first few hours after an explosion when it is giving off the highest levels of radiation.

Before a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack

  • Keep your Emergency kit and household emergency plan up-to-date
  • Familiarize yourself with local shelter facilities.

Chemical Emergency

During a chemical emergency

  • Quickly try to define the impacted area or 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.
  • If you can’t get out of the building or find clean air without passing through the affected area, move as far away as possible and shelter-in-place.
  • Follow instructions from authorities on whether to seek shelter or remain in place.

After a chemical emergency

  • Do not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities announce it is safe to do so. A person affected by a chemical agent requires immediate medical attention from a professional. If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself and assist in decontaminating others.
  • Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents.
  • Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body.
  • Cut off clothing normally removed over the head to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Put contaminated clothing and items into a plastic bag and seal it.
  • Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate them and then rinse and dry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water.
  • Flush eyes with water.
  • Gently wash face and hair with soap and water before thoroughly rinsing with water.
  • Proceed to a medical facility for screening and professional treatment.

Biological Threat

Before a biological threat

A biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. In most cases local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. The public would be alerted through an emergency radio or TV broadcast, or some other signal used in your community, such as a telephone call or a home visit from an emergency response worker.

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a biological threat:

  • Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date for yourself and your family members.
  • Consider installing a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct, which will filter out most biological agents that may enter your house.

During a biological threat

In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated and who is in danger.

  • Watch TV, listen to the radio or check reliable Internet sites for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where you should seek medical attention if you become ill.
  • If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance, quickly get away.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a t-shirt, handkerchief or towel.
  • Depending on the situation, wear a face mask to reduce inhaling or spreading germs.
  • If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.
  • Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.
  • Contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined.
  • If your symptoms match those described and you are in the group considered at risk, immediately seek emergency medical attention.
  • Follow instructions of doctors and other public health officials.
  • Expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment, for both contagious and non-contagious diseases.
  • In a declared biological emergency or developing epidemic avoid crowds
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
  • Do not share food or utensils.

After a biological threat

Pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may be handled differently to respond to increased demand. The basic public health procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease. It is important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television, and emergency alert systems.

Radiological Threat

Before a radiological threat

  • Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. If none have been designated, make your own list of potential shelters near your home, workplace and school, such as basements, subways, tunnels or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-rise buildings.
  • If you live in an apartment building or high rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for sheltering and about providing for building occupants until it is safe to go out.

During a radiological threat 

While the explosive blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be known until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. If the explosion or radiological release occurs inside, get out immediately and seek safe shelter. Otherwise, if you are:


  • Seek shelter indoors immediately in the nearest undamaged building.
  • If appropriate shelter is not available, cover your nose and mouth and move as rapidly as is safe upwind, away from the location of the explosive blast. Then, seek appropriate shelter as soon as possible.
  • Listen for official instructions and follow directions.


  • If you have time, turn off ventilation and heating systems, close windows, vents, fireplace dampers, exhaust fans, and clothes dryer vents.
  • Retrieve your disaster supply kit and a battery-powered radio and take them to your shelter room.
  • Seek shelter immediately, preferably underground or in an interior room of a building, placing as much distance and dense shielding as possible between you and the outdoors where the radioactive material may be.
  • Seal windows and external doors that do not fit snugly with duct tape to reduce infiltration of radioactive particles. Plastic sheeting will not provide shielding from radioactivity nor from blast effects of a nearby explosion.
  • Listen for official instructions and follow directions.

Blast and Fallout Shelters

Taking shelter during a radiological event is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of shelters - blast and fallout. The following describes the two kinds of shelters:

  • Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat and fire. But even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.
  • Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.

After a radiological threat

After finding safe shelter, those who may have been exposed to radioactive material should decontaminate themselves. To do this, remove and bag your clothing (and isolate the bag away from you and others) and shower thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical attention after officials indicate it is safe to leave shelter. Contamination from an RDD event could affect a wide area, depending on the amount of conventional explosives used, the quantity and type of radioactive material released, and meteorological conditions. Follow these additional guidelines after an RDD event: 

  • Continue listening to your radio or watch the television for instructions from local officials, whether you have evacuated or sheltered-in-place.
  • Do not return to or visit an RDD incident location for any reason.

Nuclear Threat

Before a nuclear threat

  • Identify shelter locations. Identify the best shelter location near where you spend a lot of time, such as home, work or school. The best locations are underground and in the middle of larger buildings.
  • While commuting, identify appropriate shelters to seek in the event of a detonation.
  • Outdoor areas, vehicles and mobile homes do NOT provide adequate shelter. Look for basements or the center of large multistory buildings.

Nuclear Explosion

Get Inside

  • Get inside the nearest building to avoid radiation. Brick or concrete are best.
  • Remove contaminated clothing and wipe off or wash unprotected skin if you were outside after the fallout arrived.
  • Go to the basement or middle of the building. Stay away from the outer walls and roof.

Stay Inside

  • Stay inside for 24 hours unless local authorities provide other instructions.
  • Family should stay where they are inside. Reunite later to avoid exposure to dangerous radiation.
  • Keep your pets inside.

Stay Tuned

  • Tune into any media available for official information such as when it is safe to exit and where you should go.
  • Battery-operated and hand-crank radios will function after a nuclear detonation.
  • Cell phone, text messaging, television and Internet services may be disrupted or unavailable.

During a nuclear attack

  • If warned of an imminent attack, immediately get inside the nearest building and move away from windows. This will help provide protection from the blast, heat and radiation of the detonation.
  • If you are outdoors when a detonation occurs take cover from the blast behind anything that might offer protection. Lie face down to protect exposed skin from the heat and flying debris. If you are in a vehicle, stop safely and duck down within the vehicle.
  • After the shock wave passes, get inside the nearest, best shelter location for protection from potential fallout. You will have 10 minutes or more to find an adequate shelter.
  • Be inside before the fallout arrives. The highest outdoor radiation levels from fallout occur immediately after the fallout arrives and then decrease with time.
  • Stay tuned for updated instructions from emergency response officials. If advised to evacuate, listen for information about routes, shelters and procedures.
  • If you have evacuated, do not return until you are told it is safe to do so by local officials.

After a nuclear attack

  • Immediately after you are inside shelter, remove your outer layer of contaminated clothing to remove fallout and radiation from your body.
  • Take a shower or wash with soap and water to remove fallout from skin or hair that was not covered. If you cannot wash or shower, use a wipe or clean wet cloth to wipe any skin or hair that was not covered.
  • Clean any pets that were outside after the fallout arrived. Gently brush your pet’s coat to remove any fallout particles and wash your pet with soap and water, if available.
  • It is safe to eat or drink packaged food items or items that were inside a building. Do not consume food or liquids that were outdoors uncovered and may be contaminated by fallout. 
  • If you are sick or injured, listen for instructions on how and where to get medical attention when authorities tell you it is safe to exit.

Hazards from Nuclear Explosions

Get Inside

  • Get inside the nearest building to avoid radiation. Brick or concrete are best.
  • Remove contaminated clothing and wipe off or wash unprotected skin if you were outside after the fallout arrived.
  • Go to the basement or middle of the building. Stay away from the outer walls and roof.

Stay Inside

  • Stay inside for 24 hours unless local authorities provide other instructions.
  • Family should stay where they are inside. Reunite later to avoid exposure to dangerous radiation.
  • Keep your pets inside.

Stay Tuned

  • Bright FLASH can cause temporary blindness for less than a minute.
  • BLAST WAVE can cause death, injury and damage to structures several miles out from the blast.
  • RADIATION can damage cells of the body. Large exposures can cause radiation sickness.
  • FIRE AND HEAT can cause death, burn injuries and damage to structures several miles out.
  • ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE (EMP) can damage electrical power equipment and electronics several miles out from the detonation and cause temporary disruptions further out.
  • FALLOUT is radioactive, visible dirt and debris raining down from several miles up that can cause sickness to those who are outside.

Public Shelters

Public shelters are locally managed and operated in response to events. If you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home, go to a designated public shelter. To find the nearest open shelter in your area, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA), example: shelter 12345.

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