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Bomb Threat Information

Definition: Bomb threats are a violation of the law, and charges will be filed against persons making such threats. A bomb threat is legally defined as the communication through the use of mail, e-mail, telephone, telegram, or other instrument of commerce; the willful making of any threat; or the malicious conveyance of false information knowing the same to be false which concerns an attempt being made, or to be made; to kill, injure, intimidate any individual; or unlawfully to damage or destroy any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property by means of an explosive.

General: There are only three reasonable explanations for receiving a bomb threat.

  • First, the caller has definite knowledge or believes that an explosive or incendiary device has been or will be placed in an area and wants to minimize personal injury or property damage. The caller may be the person who placed the device or someone else who has become aware of such information.
  • Second, the caller wants to create an atmosphere of anxiety and panic, which will possibly result in a disruption of the normal activities at the target area. When a threat has been received, there will be a reaction to it. If the call is directed to a target area where a vacuum in leadership exists or where there has been no organized advance planning to handle such a threat, the call may well result in panic.
  • Third, the caller wants to bring about or amplify a lack of confidence in existing leadership or programs. By injecting panic into a normal operational situation through fear of the known or unknown, the caller may achieve his or her ultimate goals; i.e., an increased potential for personal injury, property damage, or evacuation or shutdown of essential facilities which result in unacceptable economic loss.

Past experience has revealed that targets for terrorists' bombings or threats have not been selected at random. The target is generally selected because of political, real or imagined personal gain to the terrorist. Today, more of these threats are materializing. The university's first consideration must be for the safety of its people. It is necessary to determine immediately whether a bomb threat is real. Plans devised to cope with these threats are formulated with these thoughts in mind.

Preparation: It is absolutely essential that issues of communication and planning be made in advance to safely handle bomb threats; therefore, clear-cut levels of authority have been established. It is important that each person handle his or her assignment without delay and without any manifestation of fear.

Only by having an established organization and procedures can these problems be handled with the least risk to all concerned and instill confidence so that there will be no panic.

The Threat

There is little probability of receiving a warning call where an explosive or incendiary has actually been placed; however, the university cannot ignore the fact that there have been instances where a threatening call was not a hoax. In a few instances, the person making a warning call has given the recipient enough information to aid in determining the caller's identity. In addition, there have been cases where the caller has described the device, given its location, and stated the time that the device was to be detonated or ignited.

It is for these reasons that personnel normally responsible for answering the telephone in any campus office should be instructed in advance to do the following:

  • When the caller has communicated the threat, stay calm; do not show fear. Make a note as to the date and time of day.
  • Keep the caller talking; the more he/she says, the more can be learned.
  • Record every word the caller says if possible.
  • If the caller does not indicate the location of the bomb or the time of detonation, ask the caller what time it is to go off and where it is located. If the caller has answered any of the above questions and is still on the line, ask for his/her name and try to determine the call's origin. Although the caller may not respond, it's important to ask these questions.
  • It may be advisable to inform the caller that the building is occupied and the detonation of a bomb could result in death or serious injury to many innocent people.
  • Listen closely to the voice of the caller and note the following:
  • Sex of Caller
  • Age of Caller
  • Race of Caller
  • Accent (Is the voice native to the area?)
  • Speech Impediments or Peculiar Voice Characteristics
  • Attitude of Caller
  • Pay particular attention to any strange or peculiar background noises, such as street noises, motors running, music, television or radio programs, dishes rattling, babies crying and other background noise that might give even a remote clue as to the origin of the call.
  • Notify only the department head and the Campus Police Department. Do not discuss the call with anyone unless authorized to do so. Do not leave your post or assignment unless instructed to do so by the person in charge.

Since the Campus Police Department will be interested in talking firsthand with the person receiving the call, this person should remain available until officers arrive on the scene.


In order to reduce the potential placement of an explosive or incendiary device, the university can tighten physical security in some areas. Not only will this reduce the chances of having a bomb brought on to the campus, but search efforts can be maximized by doing the following:

  • During the inspection of the building, particular attention should be given to such areas as elevator shafts, ceiling areas, rest rooms, access doors, crawl spaces and other areas which are used as a means of immediate access; plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, utility and closet areas, areas under stairwells, boiler (furnace) rooms, flammable storage areas, electrical switches, gas or fuel valves, indoor trash receptacles, record storage areas, mail rooms, ceiling lights with easily removable panels, and fire hose racks. While this list is not complete, it is sufficient to give an idea of those areas where a time-delay explosive or an incendiary device might be concealed.
  • Establish procedures for the control and inspection of packages and materials going into critical areas.
  • Develop a positive means of identifying and controlling personnel who have authorized access to critical areas and denying access to unauthorized personnel.
  • Instruct all personnel to be alert for suspicious individuals. All personnel should be alert to the presence of foreign or suspicious objects or parcels which do not appear to belong in the area where they are observed.
  • Instruct all personnel throughout the building to be especially aware of all rest rooms, stairwells, and areas under stairwells to ensure that unauthorized personnel are not in hiding or concealment.
  • Ensure that doors and/or access ways to such areas as boiler rooms, mail rooms, computer areas, switchboards, elevator machine rooms and utility closets are securely locked when not in use.
  • Check fire exits to make sure they are not obstructed.
  • Assure adequate protection for classified documents, proprietary information and other records essential to the daily operation of the university. (A well-planted device could, upon detonation, destroy records that are vital for day-to-day operations.)
  • Check all exterior and protective lighting for proper operation and adequate illumination.
  • Conduct daily checks for good housekeeping and proper disposal of combustible material.
  • In the event electric power is shut off, have flashlights or battery powered lanterns available.

While all of the above measures might not apply to all university departments, some of them will, and the implementation of any of these measures will offer some protection.

Bomb Threat Procedures

Employee Responsibilities

Employees receiving a threat over the telephone should note the exact time of the call and the exact words said by the caller.

The employee should listen carefully to the details of the threat and try to keep the caller talking in an effort to obtain the answers to the following questions:

  • When will the bomb explode?
  • Where is it located?
  • What does it look like?
  • What kind of bomb is it?
  • What will cause it to explode?
  • Did you place the bomb?
  • Why?
  • From where are you calling?
  • What is your address?
  • What is your name?

The employee should write down whether the caller is male or female, what age he or she sounds like, any voice characteristics the caller may have (lisp, stuttering, accents, disguised, etc.), and any background noise heard.

If a display telephone is used, the employee should write down what appears on the digital display.

When the caller hangs up, the employee should call the Campus Police Department at 4444448-4444 and tell the dispatcher that a bomb threat has just been received. The employee should provide all the information received from the caller and the employee's observations. The employee should also give the dispatcher his or her name, office location, and telephone extension number. The employee should stay on the phone with the dispatcher until released from the call by the Campus Police Department.

After the employee has contacted dispatch, the employee should inform the supervisor about the call and that the police have been called and are en route to the location threatened by the bomb. If in the area threatened, employees should remain calm and stay where they are until police arrive at the scene.

If requested to leave the area or building, employees should look around their work areas as they leave. They should look for any suspicious packages or bags. If they see something that does not belong, THEY MUST NOT TOUCH IT. They should follow the department evacuation procedure and inform police officers outside the building about any suspicious article seen and the exact location.

Employees should follow all instructions given by police or fire personnel. They should not re-enter the building or area until told that they may.

Department Head, Manager and Supervisor Responsibilities

When informed that their department or building has received a bomb threat, department heads, managers, and supervisors should do the following:

  • Make sure that the Campus Police Department has been notified. If not, call 44448-4444and provide the following information:
  • The person who received the bomb threat. (Officers will want to talk with the person who received the original call.)
  • The exact time the threat came in.
  • The department or area threatened.
  • Have all personnel in their area look around to determine whether they see anything unusual or different such as a box or bag that does not belong in their work area. THEY SHOULD NOT TOUCH ANY ITEM THAT IS NOT IDENTIFIABLE TO THEIR WORK AREA. If they find anything, they should call 44448-4444immediately and provide the following information:
  • Name and phone extension
  • Location
  • Location of the suspicious item
  • Description of the item (shape, size, color, etc.) They should secure the area around the item by asking all persons to leave the area or room. No one should be allowed to re-enter until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Evacuate only if directed by the Chancellor, Chief of Staff, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, UTHSC Police, UTHSC Safety Officer, or the Fire Department. Departmental evacuation procedures should be followed.
  • If directed to evacuate, assist police or fire personnel to secure facilities to ensure the safety of all staff and students.
  • Do not pull the fire alarm. Emergency personnel may activate the fire alarm system to assist in evacuation, but only after they evaluate the circumstances and location of the threat.
  • Provide calm leadership for colleagues. Speak slowly and distinctly when giving instructions. The main consideration is a safe and orderly evacuation of the area or building until it is found to be safe to re-enter.

Bomb Threat and Search

Search basics

All authorities are in agreement that the most effective and fastest search of a building can be made by the normal occupants of that building. No community can supply the number of police officers or firemen it would take to make a fast thorough search of a facility of any size such as the academic and public assembly facilities on campus. Even if such manpower was available, they would still not be the best qualified to conduct the search.

Since the terrorist does not label the device with the word "bomb,” what should you look for? What does a bomb look like? No one knows. It can be packaged in as many different ways as the maker's imagination will allow. Some devices may be the size of a cigarette package, while others may be as large as a 2-ton truck.

Since the object of the search can vary in size and shape, it is a fundamental rule that the search must be made by persons who are familiar with the area in order to notice a strange or foreign object. However, the use of personnel who occupy the premises to conduct the search may present problems with the hysteria that can result from the threat unless there has been careful planning beforehand.

In devising a search plan, the building or premises to be searched should be divided into areas and each person assigned a room or area. Personnel so assigned should make a survey of the area and note what objects normally occupy the area. Grill covers over heating and air-conditioning ducts should be inspected so that a subsequent inspection would reveal any entry or tampering.

In some instances the detonation or ignition of any explosive or incendiary might depend on a change in environment, e.g. temperature variations or the presence of an electric current. Therefore, the personnel assigned to conduct the search should be cautioned not to cause, or at least minimize any change in the environment. Do not go into a dark room and turn on the lights or change the setting of the room thermostats.

Other search techniques that can be employed are:

  • A staff member or supervisor should be designated as floor or area warden for each floor of the building, or perhaps several area wardens for single-story buildings. Wardens should be responsible for directing the search of their areas, receiving information from search personnel, and relaying it to the command post.
  • If dictated, the Campus Police Department will notify fire and EMS personnel to respond to standby or assist with the search.
  • An effective search technique is as follows:
  • Maintenance and custodial personnel search such areas as hallways, rest rooms, stairwells, elevator shafts, utility closets, and areas outside the building.
  • Office personnel search their immediate areas.
  • As the search of each area is completed and no suspicious objects found, a report is given to the incident commander.

Communications During Search

A rapid two-way communication system is of utmost importance. Normally, communication among administrators, officers, search teams and the command post can be accomplished through the existing telephone system. DO NOT USE walkie-talkie radios while searching an area. The radio beam could cause premature detonation of an electric initiator (blasting cap).

Suspicious Object Located

NOTE: It is imperative that personnel involved in the search be instructed that their mission is only to search for and report suspicious objects, NOT to move, jar or touch the objects or anything attached thereto. The removal/disarming of a bomb must be left to professional bomb technicians.

  • The location and a description of the object as can best be should be reported to the command post. This information is relayed immediately to the incident commander.
  • To minimize damage sandbags or mattresses, but not metal plates or objects, may be placed around the object. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COVER THE OBJECT.
  • The danger area should be identified and blocked off with a clear zone of at least 300 feet, including areas below and above the object.
  • Check to see that all doors and windows are open to minimize primary damage from blast and secondary damage from fragmentation.
  • Evacuate the building.
  • Do not permit re-entry into the building until the device has been removed/disarmed and the building declared safe for re-entry.

Possible concealment areas

Buildings and Structures
• Elevator wells and shafts.
• Nooks
• Closets
• Storage rooms
• False panels
• Walk areas
• Counterweights
• Motors
• Cables
• Trash in shafts
• All ceiling areas
• Rest rooms
• Access doors
• Crawl space in rest rooms and areas used as access to plumbing fixtures
• Electric fixtures
• Utility and other closet areas
• Space under stairwell
• Boiler(furnace) rooms
• Flammable storage areas
• Main switches and valves
• Indoor trash receptacles
• Storage areas, including record-storage areas
• Mail rooms
• Ceiling lights with easily removable panels
• Fire hose racks
• Basements
• Around windows hidden by drapes or shades
• Inside desks
• Inside storage cabinets and containers
• Under tables
Auditoriums and Theaters
Searches must be conducted under each seat, into cut seat cushions, as well as the following:
• Stage areas
• Microphones
• Speaker platform
• Crawl ways
• Tunnels
• Trapdoors
• Dressing rooms
• Restrooms
• Storage areas
• Ceilings
• Props
• Hanging decorations
• Lighting fixtures
• Sound system
• Air-conditioning system
• Roof
• Heating system
• Projection booths
• Offices
Academic Buildings

Bombings in academic buildings are usually directed against non-student areas.

• Lockers
• Mechanical rooms
• Utility closets
• Offices
• Chemistry labs
• Auditoriums
• Cafeterias, lounges, or break areas

Outside Areas

• Street drainage systems
• Manholes in street and sidewalk
• Trash receptacles
• Garbage cans
• Dumpsters
• Mailboxes
• Parked cars, trucks and carts

Cyber Attack

Cyber attacks target computer or telecommunication networks of critical infrastructures such as power systems, traffic control systems, or financial systems. Cyber attacks target information technologies (IT) in three different ways.
First, is a direct attack against an information system "through the wires" alone (hacking). Second, the attack can be a physical assault against a critical IT element. Third, the attack can be from the inside as a result of compromising a trusted party with access to the system.

  • Be prepared to do without services you normally depend on that could be disrupted—electricity, telephone, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATM machines, and Internet transactions.
  • Be prepared to respond to official instructions if a cyber attack triggers other hazards. For example, general evacuation, evacuation to shelter, or shelter-in-place, because of hazardous materials releases, nuclear power plant incident, dam or flood control system failures.
  • If you suspect a cyber attack, e-mail or call 881-7900.

Suspicious Parcels and Letters

Be wary of suspicious packages and letters. They can contain explosives, chemical or biological agents. Be particularly cautious at your place of employment. Some typical characteristics postal inspectors have detected over the years, which ought to trigger suspicion, include parcels that:

  • 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 any threatening language.
  • Have inappropriate or unusual labeling.
  • Have excessive postage or excessive 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 title without a name.
  • Are not addressed to a specific person.
  • Have handwritten or poorly typed addresses.

With suspicious envelopes and packages other than those that might contain explosives, take these additional steps against possible biological and chemical agents.

  • Refrain from eating or drinking in a designated mail handling area.
  • Place suspicious envelopes or packages in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents. Never sniff or smell suspect mail.
  • If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything available (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove the cover.
  • Leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering. Be careful to limit your contact with others to prevent the spread of any possible contamination.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
  • If you are at work, report the incident to your building security official or an available supervisor, who should notify police and other authorities without delay.
  • List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give a copy of this list to both the local public-health authorities and law-enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.
  • If you are at home, report the incident to local police.

In the immediate area of a terrorist event, leave quickly and orderly. Listen to police, fire and other officials for instructions. Leave the building as quickly as possible. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls. If things are falling around you, get under a sturdy table or desk until they stop falling. Then leave quickly, watching for weakened floors and stairs and falling debris as you exit.

Chemical and Biological Weapons

In case of a chemical or biological weapon attack near you, authorities will instruct you on the best course of action. This may be to evacuate the area immediately, to seek shelter at a designated location, or to take immediate shelter where you are and seal the premises. The best way to protect yourself is to take emergency preparedness measures ahead of time and to get medical attention as soon as possible, if needed.


Chemical warfare agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids or solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. They can be released by bombs, sprayed from aircraft, boats, or vehicles, or used as a liquid to create a hazard to people and the environment. Some chemical agents may be odorless and tasteless. They can have an immediate effect (a few seconds to a few minutes) or a delayed effect (several hours to several days). While potentially lethal, chemical agents are difficult to deliver in lethal concentrations. Outdoors, the agents often dissipate rapidly. Chemical agents are also difficult to produce.
There are six types of agents:

  • Lung-damaging (pulmonary) agents such as phosgene,
  • Cyanide,
  • Vesicants or blister agents such as mustard,
  • Nerve agents such as GA (tabun), GB (sarin), GD (soman), GF, and VX,
  • Incapacitating agents such as BZ, and
  • Riot-control agents (similar to MACE).


Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. The three basic groups of biological agents that would likely be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses and toxins.

  • Bacteria. Bacteria are small, free-living organisms that reproduce by simple division and are easy to grow. The diseases they produce often respond to treatment with antibiotics.
  • Viruses. Viruses are organisms that require living cells in which to reproduce and are intimately dependent upon the body they infect. Viruses produce diseases that generally do not respond to antibiotics. However, antiviral drugs are sometimes effective.
  • Toxins. Toxins are poisonous substances found in, and extracted from, living plants, animals, or microorganisms; some toxins can be produced or altered by chemical means. Some toxins can be treated with specific antitoxins and selected drugs. Most biological agents are difficult to grow and maintain. Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors, while others such as anthrax spores are very long lived. They can be dispersed by spraying them in the air or infecting animals that carry the disease to humans, as well through food and water contamination.
  • Aerosols—Biological agents are dispersed into the air, forming a fine mist that may drift for miles. Inhaling the agent may cause disease in people or animals.
  • Animals—Some diseases are spread by insects and animals, such as fleas, mice, flies and mosquitoes. Deliberately spreading diseases through livestock is also referred to as agroterrorism.
  • Food and water contamination—Some pathogenic organisms and toxins may persist in food and water supplies. Most microbes can be killed, and toxins deactivated, by cooking food and boiling water. Anthrax spores formulated as a white powder were mailed to individuals in the government and media in the fall of 2001. Postal sorting machines and the opening of letters dispersed the spores as aerosols. Several deaths resulted. The effect was to disrupt mail service and to cause a widespread fear of handling delivered mail among the public. Person-to-person spread of a few infectious agents is also possible. Humans have been the source of infection for smallpox, plague and the Lassa viruses. Be aware of your surroundings. The very nature of terrorism suggests that there may be little or no warning.

What To Do To Prepare For A Chemical Or Biological Attack

Assemble a disaster supply kit and be sure to include:

  • Battery-powered commercial radio with extra batteries.
  • Non-perishable food and drinking water.
  • Roll of duct tape and scissors.
  • Plastic for doors, windows and vents for the room in which you will shelter in place—this should be an internal room where you can block out air that may contain hazardous chemical or biological agents. To save critical time during an emergency, sheeting should be pre-measured and cut for each opening.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Sanitation supplies including soap, water and bleach.

What To Do During A Chemical Or Biological Attack

  • Listen to your radio for instructions from authorities such as whether to remain inside or to evacuate.
  • If you are instructed to remain in your home, the building where you are, or other shelter during a chemical or biological attack.
  • Turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners, vents and fans.
  • Seek shelter in an internal room, preferably one without windows. Seal the room with duct tape and plastic sheeting. Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for up to five hours.
  • Remain in protected areas where toxic vapors are reduced or eliminated, and be sure to take your battery-operated radio with you.
  • If you are caught in an unprotected area, you should:
  • Attempt to get up-wind of the contaminated area.
  • Attempt to find shelter as quickly as possible.
  • Listen to your radio for official instructions.

What To Do After A Chemical Attack

Immediate symptoms of exposure to chemical agents may include blurred vision, eye irritation, difficulty breathing and nausea. A person affected by a chemical or biological agent requires immediate attention by professional medical personnel.

If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself and assist in decontaminating others. Decontamination is needed within minutes of exposure to minimize health consequences. (However, you should not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities announce it is safe to do so.) The best protection against a chemical or biological attack would come from being prepared and getting quick medical attention.

  • Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents:
  • Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body. Contaminated clothing normally removed over the head should be cut off to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth. Put into a plastic bag if possible. Decontaminate hands using soap and water. Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate.
  • Remove all items in contact with the body.
  • Flush eyes with lots of water.
  • Gently wash face and hair with soap and water; then, thoroughly rinse with water.
  • Decontaminate other body areas likely to have been contaminated. Blot (do not swab or scrape) with a cloth soaked in soapy water and rinse with clear water.
  • Change into uncontaminated clothes. Clothing stored in drawers or closets is likely to be uncontaminated.
  • If possible, proceed to a medical facility for screening.

What To Do After A Biological Attack

In many biological attacks, people will not know they have been exposed to an agent. In such situations, the first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by an agent exposure, and you should seek immediate medical attention for treatment.
In some situations, like the anthrax letters sent in 2001, people may be alerted to a potential exposure. If this is the case, 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. Again, it will be important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television and emergency alert systems. If your skin or clothing comes in contact with a visible, potentially infectious substance, you should remove and bag your clothes and personal items and wash yourself with warm soapy water immediately. Put on clean clothes and seek medical assistance.
For more information, visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

Nuclear and Radiological Attack

Nuclear explosions can cause deadly effects—blinding light, intense heat (thermal radiation), initial nuclear radiation, blast, fires started by the heat pulse, and secondary fires caused by the destruction. They also produce radioactive particles called fallout that can be carried by wind for hundreds of miles. 

Terrorist use of a radiological dispersion device (RDD)—often called "dirty nuke" or "dirty bomb"—is considered far more likely than use of a nuclear device. These radiological weapons are a combination of conventional explosives and radioactive material designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal amounts of radioactive material over a general area. Such radiological weapons appeal to terrorists because they require very little technical knowledge to build and deploy compared to that of a nuclear device.

Also, these radioactive materials, used widely in medicine, agriculture, industry and research, are much more readily available and easy to obtain compared to weapons grade uranium or plutonium. Terrorist use of a nuclear device would probably be limited to a single smaller "suitcase" weapon. The strength of such a weapon would be in the range of the bombs used during World War II. The nature of the effects would be the same as a weapon delivered by an intercontinental missile, but the area and severity of the effects would be significantly more limited. There is no way of knowing how much warning time there would be before an attack by a terrorist using a nuclear or radiological weapon.

A surprise attack remains a possibility. The danger of a massive strategic nuclear attack on the United States involving many weapons receded with the end of the Cold War. However, some terrorists have been supported by nations that have nuclear weapons programs. If there were threat of an attack from a hostile nation, people living near potential targets could be advised to evacuate or they could decide on their own to evacuate to an area not considered a likely target. Protection from radioactive fallout would require taking shelter in an underground area, or in the middle of a large building.
In general, potential targets include:

  • Strategic missile sites and military bases.
  • Centers of government such as Washington, D.C., and state capitals.
  • Important transportation and communication centers.
  • Manufacturing, industrial, technology and financial centers.
  • Petroleum refineries, electrical power plants and chemical plants.
  • Major ports and airfields.

Taking shelter during a nuclear attack is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of shelters—blast and fallout. Blast shelters offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat and fire, but even a blast shelter could not withstand a direct hit from a nuclear detonation. Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for that purpose. 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. The three protective factors of a fallout shelter are shielding, distance and time.

  • Shielding. The more heavy, dense materials—thick walls, concrete, bricks, books and earth—between you and the fallout particles, the better.
  • Distance. The more distance between you and the fallout particles, the better. An underground area, such as a home or office building basement, offers more protection than the first floor of a building. A floor near the middle of a high-rise may be better, depending on what is nearby at that level on which significant fallout particles would collect. Flat roofs collect fallout particles so the top floor is not a good choice, nor is a floor adjacent to a neighboring flat roof.
  • Time. Fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1% of its initial radiation level.

Remember that any protection, however temporary, is better than none at all, and the more shielding, distance and time you can take advantage of, the better. Most electronic equipment within 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation could be damaged by EMP.

Electromagnetic Pulse

In addition to other effects, a nuclear weapon detonated in or above the earth's atmosphere can create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-density electrical field. EMP acts like a stroke of lightning but is stronger, faster and briefer. EMP can seriously damage electronic devices connected to power sources or antennas. This includes communication systems, computers, electrical appliances, and automobile or aircraft ignition systems. The damage could range from a minor interruption to actual burnout of components. Most electronic equipment within 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation could be affected. Battery powered radios with short antennas generally would not be affected. Although EMP is unlikely to harm most people, it could harm those with pacemakers or other implanted electronic devices.

Threat Conditions

There is always a risk of a terrorist threat. Each threat condition assigns a level of alert appropriate to the increasing risk of terrorist attacks:

  • Low Condition (Green). This condition is declared when there is a low risk of terrorist attacks.
  • Guarded Condition (Blue). This condition is declared when there is a general risk of terrorist
  • High Condition (Orange). A High Condition is declared when there is a high risk of terrorist attacks.
  • Severe Condition (Red). A Severe Condition reflects a severe risk of terrorist attacks. Under most circumstances, the protective measures for a Severe Condition are not intended to be sustained for substantial periods of time.
May 26, 2022