This report defines a strategy that individuals could adopt to prepare for, and respond to, terrorist attacks involving chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological weapons. Although the characteristics of such attacks may vary widely, they can all inflict severe damage and, as a result, create circumstances in which individuals would need to be concerned with protecting their safety and health and perhaps even their own lives.
The likelihood of such terrorist attacks is highly uncertain. Focusing on terrorist attacks involving chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological weapons does not imply anything about their probability. Indeed, numerous recent terrorist attacks in the United States, including those in Oklahoma City and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, involved conventional weapons with catastrophic effects. Nonetheless, providing individual guidance for such attacks is important for several reasons. First, such attacks create conditions that can be extremely dangerous, so it is essential for individuals to know what protective actions to take to avoid injury or death. Second, the effects of such weapons are unfamiliar to most people and so individuals may find themselves in situations in which their instincts and conventional wisdom may be wrong. Finally, the recent heightened concern over terrorism has spurred demands for individual guidance for attacks involving chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological weapons.
The Department of Homeland Security has taken an important step in launching the Ready campaign. A description of the various activities in this campaign can be found on its web page: www.ready.gov (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2003a). We view our recommendations as further developing these and other recent terrorism preparedness guidelines.