While various agencies are working to protect against "dirty" bombs, biological or chemical assaults and cyber attacks -- some of the national security dangers brought into focus since Sept. 11, 2001 -- the federal government has recently issued a guide to tell individual citizens how to prepare for disaster.
The safety guide by the Federal Emergency Management Agency explains how to prepare for and deal with terrorist acts as well as other man-made disasters -- such as hazardous waste accidents -- and natural catastrophes. The 102-page handbook, "Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness," presents strategies for dealing with everything from tornadoes and heat waves to toxic spills and suspicious packages. The guide also gives information on crisis counseling, disaster plans and even what to do about animals in a disaster.
"Everything you need is right here," said FEMA Deputy Director Michael D. Brown.
People should know how to respond to severe weather and potential disasters, and should be ready to live self-sufficiently for at least three days, according to the guide.
FEMA previously offered brochures on various disaster-related issues, Brown said, but nothing as comprehensive as the new guide. It devotes 14 pages to terrorism and terror-related disasters and focuses on how individuals can prepare themselves and their communities.
One of the handbook's main suggestions, Brown said, is for people to create disaster supply kits for the home, workplace and vehicle. The kits should includes supplies of water, food, first-aid equipment, clothes, bedding, emergency materials, kitchen and sanitation items, household documents and contact numbers. The guide also explains how to build a temporary fallout shelter that could house you for a few days to as long as a month in the event of a radiological attack.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Brown said, people have shown a strong desire for emergency preparedness information. "After 9/11 there was a huge spike of interest," Brown said, "and what we're really trying to do is capitalize on that spike of interest."
"Are You Ready?" is available on the FEMA Web site, www.fema.gov. Officials still are deciding how to distribute the first 100,000 copies across the nation, Brown said. An additional 100,000 copies are scheduled for distribution in about a month, and Spanish-language versions should be ready by mid-March, according to the agency.