Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks

By Lynn E. Davis; Tom Latourrette et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter Four
CONCLUSIONS

OUR RECOMMENDED INDIVIDUAL'S STRATEGY

Our recommended strategy involves actions that individuals can take that can save lives, even in catastrophic terrorist attacks. This can be demonstrated by tracing the recommended actions back to the terrorist attack scenarios and seeing how they respond effectively to an individual's needs for safety and health. Protection can be achieved against chemical agents, dirty bombs, and nuclear fallout. Once a biological attack has been identified, medical treatment can help prevent smallpox and anthrax infections. Even in the most challenging situations of nuclear and indoor chemical attacks, individuals can avoid the dangers, if they act quickly.

Terrorist attacks and the accompanying uncertainties can be expected to evoke intense emotional and behavioral responses on the part of individuals. Knowing that individuals can act to save lives and knowing what to do has the additional advantage of making it easier and potentially more likely that individuals will be able to cope in such catastrophic situations.1

The individual's strategy is sensitive to potential variations in how terrorist attacks might unfold. This is by design because the response actions are derived from scenarios representative of each of the types of attacks and were chosen because of their effectiveness, even when the underlying assumptions in the scenarios change (e.g., warning time). At the same time, we recognize that the response actions may not be ideal for every possibility and every kind of potential attack. Many uncertainties surround what terrorists will be able

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1
The guidelines on coping from the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/afterdis/), American Psychological Association (http://www.helping.apa.org/daily/terrorism.html), and the National Center on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (http://www.ncptsd.org/facts/disasters/) suggest the importance of individuals understanding the nature of the events and gaining a sense of control in coping with trauma. A recent workshop reached a consensus that physical safety and security are essential components of effective interventions for mental health consequences of traumatic events. See National Institute of Mental Health (2002).

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