FAQ's Print

These are the frequently asked questions about terrorism and terrorism activities.


Q: What is terrorism?

A: Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of fear, intimidation, coercion or ransom.

  • Terrorism involves criminal activity or actions. It is not simply a belief.
  • Terrorism has political or social objectives.
  • Terrorists bypass established institutions (such as courts), using violence against citizens/civilians to attempt to force changes in society and attempt to force governments to alter policies in ways that further their cause. Terrorists also may issue threats to create fear among the public in an attempt to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism, to disrupt normal life and the economy and to gain immediate publicity for their causes.


Q: What do terrorists look like?

A: Terrorists do not have a specific appearance. It is nearsighted to associate terrorism with a particular ethnic or age group or sex. Any organization can use terrorist means to achieve its political or social agendas. The most important factor that separates a terrorist organization from a legitimate organization is criminal actions.


Q: Is there more than one type of terrorism?

A: Terrorism is divided into two main categories domestic and international.

Domestic Terrorism:

Domestic groups are based and operate entirely within the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Such groups operate without direction from a foreign entity or government and target their acts at the U.S. government and/or its citizens.

A well-known example of a domestic terrorist act is the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995.


International Terrorism:


International terrorism is foreign-based and is directed against the U.S. by countries or groups outside the U.S.

The September 11, 2001, bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., are examples of international terrorism. The bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 are other examples of international terrorism.


Q: What weapons do terrorists use?

A: Terrorists may use any type of weapon, including weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons include toxic or poisonous chemicals; disease organisms; radiation from radioactivity; explosive, incendiary or poison gas bombs; grenades, rockets or missiles or mines or similar devices.


Terrorists may also use traditional weapons in armed attacks on targets, such as automatic guns or grenades.

Terrorists may issue threats to create fear among the public in an attempt to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism, to disrupt normal life and the economy and to gain immediate publicity for their causes. This could include threatening to use weapons of mass destruction or more traditional kidnappings and airplane hijackings, where hostages are held in exchange for money or other demands.


Q: Who has weapons of mass destruction?

A: The Department of Defense estimates that about two dozen nations may possess chemical agents and/or weapons. Additional nations also are seeking to develop them. The Central Intelligence Agency reports that at least 10 countries are believed to have, or to be conducting, research on biological agent weaponry.


Q: How can I prepare at home for a disaster?

A: Make a disaster supplies kit. 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 members of your household (e.g., infant formula, diapers, syringes, glucose meters, eyeglasses); first-aid supplies (including prescription medications); a change of clothing and a sleeping bag or bedroll for each household member; a battery-powered radio (and weather radio) or television and extra batteries; food; bottled water; soap; toilet paper and basic tools. Your kit also should include some cash and copies of important family documents (e.g., birth certificates, passports, insurance certificates, licenses, etc.) and a list of family contact numbers. For more information, go to Disaster and Preparedness Kit page.


Establish a meeting place.


Have a predetermined meeting place away from your home where family members can meet during an emergency. You may wish to prearrange to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include all pets in these plans, keeping in mind that emergency shelters and some hotels prohibit pets.


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. The contact you select should live far enough away that the same event is unlikely to affect him or her directly. Be sure to tell this person that he or she is the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has telephone numbers (home, work, pager and cell) and home, business and e-mail addresses and for that contact and for each other. Leave these contact numbers at your workplace and if you have children, at your children's schools. Your family members should know that if telephones fail to connect, they should be patient and try again later, or they should try to send and receive e-mail. People tend to overload telephone lines during emergencies, but e-mail sometimes gets through.



Q: What does it mean to evacuate? What should I do if I'm told to evacuate?

A: In an emergency, "to evacuate" means to leave, withdraw or depart from a place or area as a protective measure. If local, state or federal authorities decide to evacuate your area, they will issue an evacuation order. This order will tell you when you need to leave your home or area.

  • Listen to your local Emergency Alert System, radio or television station for detailed information and instructions when disaster threatens.
  • It is important to listen carefully to all instructions.
  • Make sure the evacuation order applies to you.
  • Listen to whether you need to evacuate immediately or if you have time to pack some essentials.
  • Local government officials will designate evacuation assembly centers or other facilities offering the greatest level of public safety. They will instruct the population on where to go and what routes to take to leave the area. Find out where you need to go and what route to take.
  • Listen for updated information and instructions on your Emergency Alert System station while driving to a shelter.


Q: What should I do if I'm told to leave my home or office immediately? What should I take with me?

A: If you are told to evacuate immediately:

  • Check on neighbors or coworkers to make sure they have been notified, and offer help to those with disabilities or other special needs. If you need a ride, ask a neighbor or coworker. If no one is available to help you, listen to your local Emergency Alert System, radio or television station for further instructions.
  • Locate and keep your disaster supplies kit with you. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy shoes, hats, gloves and eyeglasses.
  • Continue to listen to your local Emergency Alert System, radio or television station for information and instruction from local emergency officials. They will have the most accurate information specific to an event in your area.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities. Don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  • Provide for your pets. The Humane Society will work with the Red Cross to provide corresponding shelter facilities to accommodate pets. You can do the following only if you are sure you have extra time:
  • Call your family contact to tell him or her where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
  • Gather a change of clothing for each family member, personal items such as toothbrushes, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures and items for your baby, such as diapers, formula and baby food.
  • Shut off water and electricity before leaving. Leave natural gas service ON unless local officials advise otherwise. Lock your doors and windows.


Q: Should I take any special precautions while I'm driving to the shelter?

A: Take the following precautions:

Don't take shortcuts because a shortcut may put you in the path of danger. For your safety, follow the exact route you are told to take.

  • Take only one car to the evacuation site.
  • If possible, continue to listen to your Emergency Alert System station or radio station for updated information and instruction.


Q: If a terrorist attack occurs during the day, my children most likely will be in school. How will I be able to take care of them?

A: In an emergency, your children may be sheltered in place or evacuated from school. Do not go to the school. School personnel are trained to handle emergencies.

  • Do not call your child's school. You could tie up a phone line that is needed for emergency communications. For further information, listen to local Emergency Alert Systems, radio and television stations to learn when and where you can pick up your children. You can check with your children's schools prior to an emergency to see what protective plans they have in place.

For more information, please go to the U.S. Department of Education Web site.


Q: What could it be like following a terrorist attack?

A: Depending on the severity and type of the attack, many things could happen in your community:

  • Many casualties could occur.
  • Buildings and the infrastructure could suffer significant damage.
  • Health and mental health resources in the affected communities could be strained to the limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
  • There could be heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels due to the event's criminal nature.
  • It may be necessary to evacuate an area.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and domestic and international travel may be restricted.
  • Cleanup may take months.
  • Public fear could continue for a prolonged period.


Q: How can I tell if I have received a suspicious parcel or letter, and what might be in them?

A: Suspicious packages and letters can contain explosives, chemical or biological agents or radioactive agents. Be particularly cautious at your place of employment. Some typical characteristics postal inspectors have detected over the years that ought to trigger suspicion include parcels that:

Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.

Are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal," "Confidential" or "Do not X-ray."

Have protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors or stains.

Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn't match the return address.

Are of unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped.

Are marked with threatening language.

Have inappropriate or unusual labeling.

Have excessive postage or excessive packaging material, such as masking tape and string.

Have misspellings of common words.

Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated.

Have incorrect titles or a title without a name.

Are not addressed to a specific person.

Have handwritten or poorly typed addresses.

See FBI illustration


Q: What should I do if I have received a suspicious parcel or letter?

A: With suspicious envelopes and packages other than those that might contain explosives, take these additional steps against possible biological and chemical agents:

  • Refrain from eating or drinking in a designated mail-handling area.
  • Place suspicious envelopes or packages in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents. Never sniff or smell suspect mail.
  • If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything available (e.g., clothing, paper, trashcan, etc.), and do not remove the cover.
  • Leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
  • If you are at work, report the incident to your building security official or an available supervisor, who in turn should notify police and other authorities immediately.
  • List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give a copy of this list to local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.
  • If you are at home, report the incident to local police.


Q: What should I do if I receive a bomb threat?

A: If you receive a bomb threat, get as much information from the caller as possible.

  • Keep the caller on the line, and try to record in writing everything that is said.
  • Notify police and building management.
  • After you have been notified of a bomb threat, do not touch any suspicious packages.
  • Clear the area around the suspicious package, and notify police immediately.
  • In evacuating a building, avoid standing in front of windows or other potentially hazardous areas.
  • Do not restrict sidewalks or streets to be used by emergency officials.


Q: What should I do if there is a building explosion?

A: Get out of the building as quickly and calmly as possible. If items are falling off bookshelves or from the ceiling, get under a sturdy table or desk.

If there is a fire:

  • Stay low to the floor, and exit the building as quickly as possible.
  • Cover nose and mouth with a wet cloth.
  • When approaching a closed door, use the palm of your hand and forearm to feel the lower, middle and upper parts of the door. If it is not hot, brace yourself against the door, and open it slowly. If it is hot to the touch, do not open the door; and seek an alternate escape route.
  • Heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling. Stay below the smoke at all times.
  • If you are trapped in debris:
  • Use a flashlight.
  • Stay in your area to avoid kicking up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort; shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
  • Assist other victims if you can.
  • Untrained persons should not attempt to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building. Wait for emergency personnel to arrive.


In case of a chemical or biological weapon attack near you, authorities 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 yourself is to take emergency preparedness measures ahead of time, and to get medical attention as soon as possible, if needed.


Q: What is a chemical weapon?

A: Chemical warfare agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids or solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. They 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. They 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 also are difficult to produce.


Four types of agents exist:

  • Lung-damaging (pulmonary) agents, such as phosgene, cyanide and vesicants/blister agents.
  • Nerve agents, such as GA (tabun), GB (sarin), GD (soman), GF (cyclosarin) and VX (Oethyl S-[2-diisopropylaminoethyl] methylphosphonothioate).
  • Incapacitating agents, such as BZ (3-quinuclidinyle benzilate).
  • Riot-control agents (sometimes referred to as tear gas).


Q: What is a biological weapon?

A: Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. The three basic groups of biological agents most likely to be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses and toxins.


  1. 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 antibiotics.
  2. 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 sometimes effective.
  3. 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, live a long time. These agents can be dispersed in various ways.

Aerosols Biological agents are dispersed into the air, forming a fine mist that may drift for miles. Inhaling the agent may cause disease in people or animals. 


Animals Some diseases are spread by insects and animals, such as fleas, mice, flies and mosquitoes. Deliberately spreading diseases through livestock also is referred to as agroterrorism.


Food and water contamination. Some pathogenic organisms and toxins may persist in food and water supplies. Cooking food and boiling water can kill most microbes and deactivate most toxins.


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 the opening of letters dispersed the spores as aerosols. Several deaths resulted. The effect among the public was to disrupt mail service and to cause widespread fear of handling delivered mail.


Person-to-person spread of a few infectious agents also is possible. Humans have been the source of infection for smallpox, plague and Lassa fever, a potentially deadly viral infection.


Q: What should I do to prepare for a chemical or biological attack?

A: Assemble a disaster supplies kit (see the WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF section for more information).

Be sure to include:


  • Battery-powered commercial radio and weather radio with extra batteries.
  • Non-perishable food and drinking water.
  • Roll of duct tape and scissors.
  • Plastic for doors, windows and vents for the room in which you will shelter in place. Choose an interior room that enables you to block out air that may contain hazardous chemical or biological agents. To save critical time during an emergency, pre-measure and cut sheeting for each opening.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Plastic bags.
  • Sanitation supplies, including soap, water and bleach.


Q: What should I do during a chemical or biological attack?

A: Listen to your radio or watch television for instructions from authorities, such as whether to remain inside or to evacuate.


  1. If you are instructed during a chemical or biological attack to remain indoors where you are, whether it is your home, some other building or some shelter:
    • Turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners, vents and fans. Seek shelter in an interior room, preferably one without windows. Seal the room with duct tape and plastic sheeting. Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for up to five hours.
    • Remain in protected areas where toxic vapors are reduced or eliminated, and be sure to take your battery-operated radio with you.

  2. 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 to your radio for official instructions.


Q: What should I do after a chemical attack?

A: 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 from professional medical personnel. If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself as described below, 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 authorities announce it is safe to do so). Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents. Touching a contaminated person or objects will contaminate you.


Steps to take when decontaminating yourself and others:

  • Remove all clothing and other items.
  • Clothing normally removed over the head should be cut off to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Put contaminated items into a plastic bag, if possible.
  • Decontaminate hands using soap and water.
  • Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses.
  • Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate.
  • Flush eyes with lots of water.
  • Take a shower with soap.
  • Change into uncontaminated clothes. Clothing stored in drawers or closets is likely to be uncontaminated.
  • If possible, proceed to a medical facility for screening.


Q: What should I do after a biological attack?

A: In many biological attacks, people might not know they have been exposed to an agent. In such situations, the first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of disease caused by exposure to an agent. In this event, seek immediate medical attention for treatment. In some situations, such as the anthrax-infected letters sent in 2001, people may be alerted to a potential exposure. If this is the case, pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may require special handling to respond to increased demand. Again, it will be important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television and emergency alert systems.


If your skin or clothing comes in contact with a visible, potentially infectious substance, you should remove and double-bag your clothes and personal items and immediately wash yourself with warm, soapy water. Put on clean clothes, and seek medical assistance. For more information, visit the Web sites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the CNMI Department of Public Health.


Q: I've heard that terrorists can poison my drinking water. Can they?

A: The nation's drinking water supply is considered relatively safe because:

It would take very large quantities of most contaminants to contaminate a large public water system. Many public water systems, particularly those serving large towns and cities, have treatment processes already in place that can deactivate many contaminants.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works in partnership with state and local governments to protect the nation's drinking water supply from terrorist attack. Drinking water utilities across the nation increased security and augmented surveillance and protection measures following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.


Q: What can terrorists do to affect the water I drink?

A: The primary terrorist threat to the nation's drinking water supplies is contamination by chemical, biological or radiological agents. Additional threats to the water supply are damage, destruction or sabotage of a water system's physical infrastructure and disruption to its computer system. Safeguards are in place to protect against these actions.


Q: What types of terrorist events might involve radiation?

A: Possible terrorist events could involve introducing radioactive material into the food or water supply, using explosives (like dynamite) to scatter radioactive materials (called a dirty bomb or radiation dispersal device), an incident at a nuclear generating plant or exploding a nuclear weapon.


Although introducing radioactive material into the food or water supply most likely would cause great concern or fear, it probably would not cause much contamination or increase the danger of adverse health effects.


Although a dirty bomb could cause serious injuries from the explosion, it most likely would not have enough radioactive material in a form that would cause serious radiation sickness among large numbers of people. However, people who were exposed to radiation scattered by the bomb could have a greater risk of developing cancer later in life, depending on their exposure to the radiation.


An incident at a nuclear facility could cause a release of radioactive material in which people in the surrounding area could be exposed to radiation or contaminated with radioactive material. Clearly, an exploded nuclear weapon could result in considerable property damage. People would be killed or injured from the blast and might be contaminated by radioactive material. Many people could have symptoms of acute radiation syndrome. After a nuclear explosion, radioactive fallout would extend over a large region far from the point of impact, potentially increasing people's risk of developing cancer over time.


Q: What is a dirty bomb?

A: A dirty bomb combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. In most instances, the conventional explosive itself would be more lethal than the radioactive material. At the levels created by most probable sources, not enough radiation would be present in a dirty bomb to kill people or cause severe illness. About 100,000 patients a day are released from hospital treatments with this material in their bodies. However, certain other radioactive materials, dispersed in the air, could contaminate up to several city blocks, creating fear and possibly panic and requiring potentially costly cleanup.


A dirty bomb is in no way similar to a nuclear weapon. The atomic explosions that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were conventional nuclear weapons involving a fission reaction. A dirty bomb is designed to spread radioactive material and contaminate a small area. It does not include the fission products necessary to create a large blast like those seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The presumed purpose of its use would be more for disruption than destruction.


Q: What should people do following a dirty bomb explosion?

A: Leave the immediate area on foot. Do not panic. Do not take public or private transportation such as buses or cars before they have been checked for contamination by competent authorities.


Go inside the nearest building. Staying inside will reduce exposure to any radioactive material that may be present. Turn to local radio or TV channels for advisories from emergency response and health authorities. If radioactive material was released, local news broadcasts will advise people where to report for radiation monitoring and other tests to determine whether they were in fact exposed and what steps to take to protect their health.


When appropriate facilities are available, remove clothes as soon as possible, place them in a plastic bag, and seal it. Removing clothing will eliminate most of the external radiation exposure from any radioactive materials deposited on them. Saving clothing will facilitate testing for exposure without invasive sampling.


Take a shower or wash with soap and water. Flushing affected areas with water will reduce the amount of radioactive contamination on the body and effectively reduce overall exposure. Be on the lookout for information about the blast. Once emergency personnel monitor the scene and assess the damage, they will be able to tell people whether radioactive materials were involved.


Seek medical advice if you were near (within a few hundred meters) the blast.


Q: What is a nuclear blast and what are the effects of such a blast?

A: A nuclear blast, produced by explosion of a nuclear weapon (sometimes called a nuclear detonation), involves the joining or splitting of atoms (called fusion and fission) to produce an intense pulse or wave of heat, light, air pressure and radiation. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of World War II produced nuclear blasts. People may experience two types of exposure from radioactive materials from a nuclear blast:

External and internal exposure. External exposure would occur when people are exposed to radiation outside of their bodies from the blast or its fallout.


Internal exposure would occur when people eat food or breathe air contaminated with radioactive fallout.

Both internal and external exposure from fallout could occur miles away from the blast site. Exposure to very large doses of


external radiation may cause death within a few days or months. External exposure to lower doses of radiation and internal exposure from breathing or eating food contaminated with radioactive fallout may lead to an increased risk of developing cancer and other health effects.


Q: What should I do if I am near the blast when it occurs?

A: Turn away and immediately close and cover your eyes to prevent damage to your sight.

Drop to the ground face down and place your hands under your body.

Remain flat until the heat and two shock waves have passed.


Q: What if I am outside when the blast occurs?

A: Find something to cover your mouth and nose, such as a scarf, handkerchief or other cloth.

  • Remove, in a ventilated area, any dust from your clothes by brushing, shaking and wiping. However, cover your mouth and nose while you do this.
  • Move to a shelter, basement or other underground area.
  • Remove clothing, since it may be contaminated. If possible, take a shower, wash your hair and change clothes before you enter the shelter.


Q: What if I already am in a shelter or basement?

A: Cover your mouth and nose with a face mask or other material (such as a scarf or handkerchief) until authorities have notified you that the fallout cloud has passed.

  • Shut off ventilation systems and seal doors or windows until the fallout cloud has passed. However, after the fallout cloud has passed, unseal the doors and windows to allow some air circulation.
  • Stay inside until authorities say it is safe to come out.
  • Listen to the local radio or television for information and advice. Authorities may direct you to stay in your shelter or evacuate to a safer place away from the area.
  • If you must go out, cover your mouth and nose with a towel dampened with stored/uncontaminated water.
  • Use stored food and drinking water. Do not eat local fresh food or drink water from open water supplies.
  • Clean and cover any open wounds on your body.


Q: What should I do if I am advised to evacuate?

A: Listen to the radio or television for information about evacuation routes, temporary shelters and procedures to follow.

  • Before you leave, close and lock windows, doors and vents and turn off air conditioning, fans and furnaces. Close fireplace dampers.
  • Take disaster supplies with you (such as a flashlight and extra batteries, batteryoperated radio, first-aid kit and manual, emergency food and water, non-electric can opener, essential medicines, cash and credit cards and sturdy shoes).
  • Remember, your neighbors may require special assistance, especially infants, elderly people and people with disabilities.


See: What does it mean to evacuate?


Under the oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, each state and county government that houses a nuclear generating plant is required to have radiological emergency plans that coordinate with the plans of the nuclear plants. Drills and exercises are conducted on an annual basis to test the emergency plans.


The main purpose of these plans is to ensure that personnel, facilities and equipment are in place in the event of an emergency at a nuclear generating plant.


Each power plant maintains facilities that during an emergency are dedicated to response, technical support and communication. These facilities are in communication with Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) at the state and county levels. Each facility coordinates actions to protect the public.


Q: What is an Emergency Planning Zone?

A: Most of the radiation during an emergency at a nuclear power plant probably will come in the form of a plume of radioactivity. The path the plume takes is dependent on wind direction, wind speed and other meteorological conditions. Plants are equipped with radiation monitors, and field teams are deployed to predict and track the path of a radioactive plume. Emergency Planning Zones (EPZs) are defined areas around nuclear power plants so that Protective Action


Recommendations (PARs) can be made in the areas affected by the radioactive plume. The Emergency Planning Zone is a 10-mile radius around the plant divided into sub areas. PARs, such as sheltering and evacuation, will be made for the sub areas either affected or predicted to be affected by the plume. If the wind changes or other meteorological conditions occur, other sub areas could be included in the Protective Action Recommendation.


Q: What should I do following a nuclear generating plant incident?

A: If the public needs to take shelter or evacuate, warning sirens will sound (weather alert radios also will turn on). Listen for a steady siren tone lasting for three minutes. In areas not served by sirens, slow-moving law enforcement vehicles or National Guard helicopters will warn citizens using sires and loudspeakers.


When you hear a siren or loudspeaker warning, tune to a local radio or television station for sheltering or evacuating instructions. Please do not call law enforcement authorities. If a siren is activated for an accident at the nuclear power plant, an Emergency Alert System (EAS) message will be broadcast immediately by local stations that are operating at that time of day.


Q: What exactly should I do if asked to evacuate?

A: Once you hear the evacuation order over the radio, follow the authorities instructions.

  • Close all doors and windows. Pack a few personal items, and prepare your home as if you were leaving on vacation.
  • Write NOTIFIED on a piece of paper and position it so it is easily seen in the front window or door so authorities will know you have evacuated.
  • Follow radio instructions to evacuate to the emergency reception center. See: What does it mean to evacuate?


The risk of a terrorist threat is always there. Each threat condition assigns a level of alert appropriate to the increasing risk of terrorist attacks. Each threat condition carries some suggested protective measures that the government and the public can take, recognizing that the heads of federal departments and agencies are responsible for developing and implementing appropriate agency-specific protective measures:


See threat advisory page for the explanation of each threat condition.




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Source: http://www.hsem.state.mn.us