Preparing for a terrorist attack now, provides you your
best chance of survival, in the event of an actual attack.
Devastating acts, such as the terrorist attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, have left many concerned about the
possibility of future incidents in the United States and their potential impact.
They have raised uncertainty about what might happen next, increasing stress
levels. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected
and reduce the stress that you may feel now and later should another emergency
arise. Taking preparatory action can reassure you and your children that you can
exert a measure of control even in the face of such events.
What You Can Do to Prepare
Finding out what can happen is the first
step. Once you have determined the events possible and their potential in your
community, it is important that you discuss them with your family or household.
Develop a disaster plan together.
1.Create an emergency communications plan.
Choose an out-of-town contact
your family or household will call or e-mail to check on each other should a
disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they
would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should
know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that
contact’s, and each other’s, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers (home, work,
pager and cell). Leave these contact numbers at your children’s schools, if you
have children, and at your workplace. Your family should know that if telephones
are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try e-mail. Many
people flood the telephone lines when emergencies happen but e-mail can
sometimes get through when calls don’t.
2. Establish a meeting place.
Having a predetermined meeting place away
from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be
affected or the area evacuated. You may even want to make arrangements to stay
with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include any
pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels
will not accept them.
3. Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
If you need to evacuate your home
or are asked to “shelter in place,” having some essential supplies on hand will
make you and your family more comfortable. Prepare a disaster supplies kit in an
easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or small plastic trash can. Include
“special needs” items for any member of your household (infant formula or items
for people with disabilities or older people), first aid supplies (including
prescription medications), a change of clothing for each household member, a
sleeping bag or bedroll for each, a battery powered radio or television and
extra batteries, food, bottled water and tools. It is also a good idea to
include some cash and copies of important family documents (birth certificates,
passports and licenses) in your kit. Copies of essential documents-like powers
of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance
beneficiary designations and a copy of your will-should also be kept in a safe
location outside your home. A safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family
member who lives out of town is a good choice. For more complete instructions,
ask your local Red Cross chapter for the brochure titled Your Family Disaster
4. Check on the school emergency plan of any school-age children you may
You need to know if they will they keep children at school until a
parent or designated adult can pick them up or send them home on their own. Be
sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and
responsible caregivers to arrange for pickup. And, ask what type of
authorization the school may require to release a child to someone you
designate, if you are not able to pick up your child. During times of emergency
the school telephones may be overwhelmed with calls. For more information on
putting together a disaster plan, request a copy of the brochure titled Your
Family Disaster Plan from your local American Red Cross chapter. You may also
want to request a copy of Before Disaster Strikes . . . How to Make Sure You’re
Financially Prepared for specific information on what you can do now to protect
If Disaster Strikes
- Remain calm and be patient.
- Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
- Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.
- If the disaster occurs near you, check for injuries. Give first aid and
get help for seriously injured people.
- If the disaster occurs near your home while you are there, check for
damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on
electrical switches. Check for fires, fire hazards and other household
hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas
or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone
- Shut off any other damaged utilities.
- Confine or secure your pets.
- Call your family contact—do not use the telephone again unless it is a
- Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.
A Word on What Could Happen
As we learned from the events of September
11, 2001, the following things can happen after a terrorist attack:
- There can be significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings
and the infrastructure. So employers need up-to-date information about any
medical needs you may have and on how to contact your designated
- Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels
follows a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature.
- Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be
strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
- Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international
implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
- Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on
domestic and international travel.
- You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding
roads blocked for your safety.
- Clean-up may take many months.
If local authorities ask you to leave your home, they have a
good reason to make this request, and you should heed the advice immediately.
Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of local
emergency officials and keep these simple tips in mind.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be
protected as much as possible.
- Take your disaster supplies kit.
- Take your pets with you; do not leave them behind. Because pets are not
permitted in public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative’s or
friend’s home, or find a “pet-friendly” hotel.
- Lock your home.
- >Use travel routes specified by local authorities—don’t use shortcuts
because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Listen to local authorities.Your local authorities will provide you with
the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. Staying tuned
to local radio and television, and following their instructions is your safest
If you’re sure you have time:
- Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you
expect to arrive.
- Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so.
Leave natural gas service ON unless local officials advise you otherwise. You
may need gas for heating and cooking, and only a professional can restore gas
service in your home once it’s been turned off. In a disaster situation it
could take weeks for a professional to respond.
Devastating acts, such
as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, have left
many concerned about the possibility of future incidents in the United States
and their potential impact. They have raised uncertainty about what might happen
next, increasing stress levels. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to
prepare for the unexpected and reduce the stress that you may feel now and later
should another emergency arise. Taking preparatory action can reassure you and
your children that you can exert a measure of control even in the face of such
events. If you are advised by local officials to “shelter in place,” what they
mean is for you to remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there.
Close and lock all windows and exterior doors. Turn off all fans, heating and
air conditioning systems. Close the fireplace damper. Get your disaster supplies
kit, and make sure the radio is working. Go to an interior room without windows
that’s above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground
location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep
into basements even if the windows are closed. Using duct tape, seal all cracks
around the door and any vents into the room. Keep listening to your radio or
television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local
officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your
Additional Positive Steps You Can Take
Raw, unedited footage of
terrorism events and people’s reaction to those events can be very upsetting,
especially to children. We do not recommend that children watch television news
reports about such events, especially if the news reports show images over and
over again about the same incident. Young children do not realize that it is
repeated video footage, and think the event is happening again and again. Adults
may also need to give themselves a break from watching disturbing footage.
However, listening to local radio and television reports will provide you with
the most accurate information from responsible governmental authorities on
what’s happening and what actions you will need to take. So you may want to make
some arrangements to take turns listening to the news with other adult members
of your household. Another useful preparation includes learning some basic first
aid. To enroll in a first aid and AED/CPR course, contact your local American
Red Cross chapter. In an emergency situation, you need to tend to your own
well-being first and then consider first aid for others immediately around you,
including possibly assisting injured people to evacuate a building if necessary.
People who may have come into contact with a biological or chemical agent may
need to go through a decontamination procedure and receive medical attention.
Listen to the advice of local officials on the radio or television to determine
what steps you will need to take to protect yourself and your family. As
emergency services will likely be overwhelmed, only call 9-1-1 about