Bioterrorism is the intentional release of any bacteria or viruses used to cause injury or illness to plants, animals, or people. These biological agents can be spread through water, air, or the food supply. The CDC has prepared a list of biological agents and their associated risks. For information about bioterrorism, see Bioterrorism Overview.
Chemical emergencies occur when there is a release of chemicals into the atmosphere that could have harmful effects on people's health. A release of chemicals into the environment could be intentional, in the case of a terrorist attack, or unintentional, in the case of a train derailment. Since you may not immediately be aware of what type of chemical has been released, it is important to get to a safe place and follow the guidance of local officials. You may be advised by local officials to shelter-in-place or evacuate. The CDC has prepared a list of types and categories of hazardous chemicals. For more information about chemical emergencies, see Chemical Emergencies Overview.
Radiation emergencies can occur from an incident at a fixed nuclear site, a radiological dispersion device, or a nuclear bomb. While these incidents are highly unlikely, it is important to be prepared prior to potential radiation exposure. In South Carolina we have several fixed nuclear sites which undergo preparedness planning, and regular exercises to prepare for such an event. A radiological dispersion device is also known as a "dirty bomb." The main danger from these devices is the actual explosion, as there is usually not enough radiation dispersed to cause harm. The CDC has prepared a guide to help inform you about radiation, types of exposure, and how to prepare for such an event. For more information regarding radiation see, Frequently Asked Questions about Radiation.
Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are chemical, biological, or radiological agents capable of causing death or serious injury to a great number of people. Chemical agents require a hazardous materials response with specialized equipment and pharmaceuticals. Biological agents require a response by the medical community similar to an epidemiologic response. Radiological agents emit radiation, which is an invisible hazard that requires special detection instruments.
In the event of a chemical or biological weapon attack, your local authorities will instruct you on the best course of action. It may be to evacuate immediately, seek shelter at a designated location, or take shelter where you are and attempt to seal the premises.
The CDC and the American Red Cross have teamed up to answer questions and provide advice on steps you can take to prepare yourself and your loved ones in the event of an attack or accidental emergency. For preparedness information and guidelines, please see Emergency Preparedness and You.
The Department of Homeland Security has established a website to provide information to the public about emergencies and emergency preparedness. For information on what to do in the event and emergency, please see Ready.gov.