Chemical and Biological Weapons
In case of a chemical or biological weapon attack on campus, the administration
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 you is to
identify and practice emergency preparedness measures ahead of time and to get
medical attention to you 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. Chemicals 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.
Chemical agents 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
There are five categories of chemical weapons:
- Choking agents - such as
chlorine or phosgene which cause the lungs to fill with fluids
- Blood agents - such as Cyanide
which is absorbed into the bloodstream
- Blister agents - such as
mustard which require contact with the skin, inhalation or ingestion
- Nerve agents - such as Sarin
which affect the central nervous system
- Riot-control agents - such as
CS “tear gas” and capsicum “pepper spray” which are designed to incapacitate
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
- 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
- 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 which carry the disease to humans as well
as through food and water contamination.
- Aerosols - Biological agents
are dispersed into the air, forming a fine mist that may drift to files.
Inhaling the agent may cause disease in people or animals.
- Animals - Some diseases area
spread by insects and animals, such as fleas, mice, flies, and mosquitoes.
Deliberately spreading diseases through livestock is also referred to as
- 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 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 contamination
- Spread of a few infectious agents is also possible with person-to-person
contact. Humans have been the source of infection for smallpox, plague, and
- Maintain disaster
- Rehearse emergency
- Keep a complete,
spare set of clothing in your room/office in a tightly sealed container
What to do during a chemical attack
- Listen for
instructions from the administration such as whether to shelter-in-place
(remain inside) or to evacuate.
- If you are
instructed to shelter-in-place (remain indoors):
- Turn off
heating and air conditioning unit and any fans in the room/office
- Cover all
ventilation vents to prevent air flow.
- Seal the
room/office with duct tape. Ten square feet of floor space per person
will provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for up to
- Keep students
calm and quiet. Try to get people to sleep, as you remain awake.
- Remain in
room/office until you receive additional instructions
- 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 for
instructions from the administration
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 a college official announces that it
- Use extreme caution
when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents
- Remove all
clothing and other items in contact with the body
clothing normally removed over the head should be cut off to avoid
contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth.
DO NOT PULL ANY CLOTHING OFF OVER THE
- Put all removed
clothing into a plastic bag
hands using soap and water, if available
eyeglasses or contact lenses
eyeglasses in a pan of household bleach
- 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
- If possible,
proceed to a medical facility for screening