Learn about the nature of terrorism:

  • Terrorists look for visible targets where they can avoid detection before or after an attack such as international airports, large cities, major international events, resorts, and high-profile landmarks.
  • Learn about the different types of terrorist weapons including explosives, kidnappings, hijackings, arson, and shootings.
  • Prepare to deal with a terrorist incident by adapting many of the same techniques used to prepare for other crises.
  • Be alert and aware of the surrounding area. The very nature of terrorism suggests that there may be little or no warning.
  • Take precautions when traveling.
  • Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior.
  • Do not accept packages from strangers.
  • Do not leave luggage unattended.
  • Learn where emergency exits are located.
  • Think ahead about how to evacuate a building, subway or congested public area in a hurry.
  • Learn where staircases are located.
  • Notice your immediate surroundings.
  • Be aware of heavy or breakable objects that could move, fall or break in an explosion.

Preparing for a Building Explosion

  • The use of explosives by terrorists can result in collapsed buildings and fires.
  • People who live or work in a multi-level building can do the following:
    • Review emergency evacuation procedures.
    • Know where fire exits are located.
    • Keep fire extinguishers in working order.
    • Know where they are located, and how to use them.
    • Learn first aid.
    • Contact the local chapter of the American Red Cross for additional information.
  • Keep the following items in a designated place on each floor of the building:
    • Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
    • Several flashlights and extra batteries
    • First aid kit and manual
    • Several hard hats
    • Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas

Bomb Threats

  • If you receive a bomb threat, 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.
  • After you've been notified of a bomb threat, do not touch any suspicious packages.
  • Clear the area around the suspicious package and notify the police immediately.
  • In evacuating a building, avoid standing in front of windows or other potentially hazardous areas.
  • Do not restrict sidewalk or streets to be used by emergency officials.


  • In a building explosion, get out of the building as quickly and calmly as possible.
  • If items are falling off of bookshelves or from the ceiling, get under a sturdy table or desk.
  • If there is a fire:
    • Stay low to the floor and exit the building as quickly as possible.
    • Cover nose and mouth with a wet cloth.
    • When approaching a closed door, use the palm of your hand and forearm to feel the lower, middle and upper parts of the door.
    • If it is not hot, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly.
    • If it is hot to the touch, do not open the door--seek an alternate escape route.
    • Heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
    • Stay below the smoke at all times.

If you are trapped in debris:

  • Use a flashlight.
  • Stay in your area so that you don't kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can hear where you are.
  • Use a whistle if one is available.
  • Shout only as a last resort--shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

Assisting Victims:

  • Untrained persons should not attempt to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building.
  • Wait for emergency personnel to arrive.

Chemical Agents:

  • Chemical agents are poisonous gases, liquids or solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants.
  • Most chemical agents cause serious injuries or death.
  • Severity of injuries depends on the type and amount of the chemical agent used, and the duration of exposure.
  • Were a chemical agent attack to occur, authorities would instruct citizens to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises or evacuate immediately.
  • Exposure to chemical agents can be fatal.
  • Leaving the shelter to rescue or assist victims can be a deadly decision.
  • There is no assistance that the untrained can offer that would likely be of any value to the victims of chemical agents.

Biological Agents:

  • Biological agents are organisms or toxins that have illness-producing effects on people, livestock and crops.
  • Because biological agents cannot necessarily be detected and may take time to grow and cause a disease, it is almost impossible to know that a biological attack has occurred.
  • If government officials become aware of a biological attack through an informant or warning by terrorists, they would most likely instruct citizens to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises or evacuate immediately.
  • A person affected by a biological agent requires the immediate attention of professional medical personnel.
  • Some agents are contagious, and victims may need to be quarantined.
  • Also, some medical facilities may not receive victims for fear of contaminating the hospital population.
  • More information on Bioterrorism preparedness and response is available online from the Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control.