Saturday, October 28, 2006

Voting Pro-Survival Issues

We in the U.S. are soon to once again take measure of our collective will. Our majority voice, as segmented by various political boundaries, will commit the nation to its course over at least the next couple of years in a number of strategic areas.

For individual voters, issues of greatest importance must be personally prioritized as we mull over options for how we wish to be represented in the most fair government the world has ever seen.

Interestingly, today the "collective will" of the people most often means a slim majority opinion of a few percentage points. Often, a margin of 5% or more is seen as a mandate on an issue. Debateable topics that define who we are increasingly show us to be a country of polemic viewpoints that often pull predictably left or right on the political spectrum.

Some voters remain solidly in one position on that spectrum through the years, maintaining a principled take on their world that goes beyond hot-button issues of the day. Others see it as their duty to continuously assess their representatives' performance in government and to make their Election Day choices accordingly. And of course, many combine the approaches, while being flexible in their political stances.

These approaches are perfectly valid and reasonable. As long as the responsibility to vote with a serious conscience is embraced, we can know that we are maintaining our duty to uphold the past, present, and future of these United States of America.

Pro Survival Issues

Readers of this blog likely are tracking on their Election Day radars the following topics. They may or not be candidate-deciding issues, but certainly, we want to be aware of how our choices may impact our ability to prepare for (or perhaps even prevent) crises that threaten our way of life.
  • The War on Terror
  • Tensions in the Middle East
  • Our Right to Bear Arms in Self Defense
  • Illegal Immigration
  • Governmental Fiscal Responsibility
  • Economic Globalization
  • Alternative Energy Development
  • Victim vs. Criminal Rights
  • Rights to Information and Self Expression
There are more issues that a case could be made for to be included on this list, such as Corporate Greed and Corruption, but we get increasingly distant from the obvious connection to crisis preparedness.

I ask that you keep these issues forefront in your mind as you vote your conscience on November 7. We owe it our forefathers, our grandchildren, and to each other.

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Safecastle Shelters - Limited Time 5% Discount!

Here's a very unique opportunity ...

I've been able to convince my expert Safecastle shelter builder to extend a private, "need to know" discount of 5% off the list price of any custom, steel-plate fallout shelter, storm shelter, or saferoom ordered by January 31, 2007.

Neither he nor I have ever before offered a sale price on these units and so this is truly a special opportunity. We are talking about a typical discount of $1000 to $2000, depending on the type and size of shelter needed. (The discount does NOT apply to shipping or installation fees.)

The offer is good to anyone who contacts me and arranges for a shelter to be built and places the 50% down payment before February 1, 2007.

For those who may not be familiar with our shelters, they are the best shelters available in the USA, dollar for dollar. They are engineered and built to exceed FEMA standards, and above or below ground, they will withstand winds in excess of 330 mph. Our builder has installed over 400 shelters all over the US over the last 13 years, for corporations, government groups, homeowners, and communities. A few shelters have been real-world tested by storms such as KATRINA and have come through with flying colors, saving lives in the process.

Also worth noting--we can at the moment have your shelter built, delivered, and installed within two months! (Subject to change as the backlog grows.)

You want peace of mind? ... believe me, there is no better way of getting it at a reasonable price.

If interested, please start by looking at our website. After looking through the site, go to the "Request a Quote" page and submit your no-obligation query. It is simply an initial correspondence that will allow us to start a dialog with you about what kind of shelter you really need.

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Are You Ready for a Biological Terror Attack?

Here is our last excerpt from the Rand Corporation book, "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks." This piece is on being ready for a biological attack.

See earlier posts in this blog for excerpts on chemical, radiological, and nuclear attack preparedness.

Note that I now have a few copies of the Quick Guide booklet version (26 pages) available for sale at $23, shipping included. It comes with a handy reference card for emergency info on how to react to critical scenarios. Please email me at if you are interested.

Excerpt - Biological Attack

"Biological attacks can involve two basic types of biological agents: contagious and noncontagious. Contagious agents spread from person to person and include such agents as smallpox, plague, ebola, and dengue fever. Noncontagious agents do not spread from person to person; the primary threat is posed from the initial release of the agent. Such agents include anthrax and tularemia as well as biological toxins. Some agents have the potential to survive in the environment for extended periods of time and cause further risk of exposure if the agent is resuspended into the air. Left untreated, some of the diseases caused by either type of agent have the potential to kill a sizable fraction of those exposed to them. Because biological attacks may not be noticed for several days or weeks, there is no real difference for the individual whether the attack occurs indoors or outdoors."

"Anthrax. Based on data from the 1979 anthrax release at Sverdlovsk, the mean time between infection with inhalational anthrax and the onset of symptoms is 10 days, with the earliest and latest appearance of symptoms being 3 days and about 40 days after the release. The large variation is thought to result from the ability of anthrax spores to remain in the body for long durations before germinating to produce the toxic vegetative form of the anthrax bacteria. In a large attack, initial symptoms will likely begin to appear in the first week. If the release is undetected, it may take another two days or more before anthrax is suspected and another day before it has been confirmed. After the attack, anthrax spores can remain on the ground and other surfaces indefinitely and, if of high weapon quality, could potentially be resuspended and inhaled, posing further risk of infections. The risk of infection from resuspended spores is highly uncertain but thought to be much less than the risk from exposure of the initial release.

"Smallpox. The incubation period for smallpox averages 12–14 days. After incubation, those infected with smallpox will begin to exhibit the initial flu-like symptoms (e.g., high fever). Roughly two days later, a characteristic rash begins to emerge on the extremities of the body. Smallpox will likely be confirmed a few days later, at which point the outbreak will be announced to the public. This announcement is expected to occur about 16 days after the attack. It could take public health efforts many weeks to stop the spread of smallpox.

"Detection. A biological attack may be perpetrated in a number of ways. If an attack is detected while a biological agent is still being released, measures can be taken to prevent exposure and infection (e.g., moving away from the release and early prophylaxis). At this point, however, government officials are likely to detect an attack only after those who are initially infected report to health care facilities and are diagnosed with the disease.

"Support from Officials/Governments. Because of the gradual nature of biological
weapons effects, the government will play a central role in helping the individual. The medical and public health systems will be instrumental in diagnosing any illness caused by biological weapons, as well as in estimating the time and location of attack. They will investigate whether cases of illness may result from a bioterrorism attack; coordinate the medical response; provide vaccinations and/or antibiotics; and inform the public about when and where to get medical treatment, how to minimize exposure, and whether to relocate. This includes informing the public about whether the biological agent used is contagious or noncontagious.

"Individual’s Primary Needs. Fundamentally, an individual needs access to an environment free of infection-producing agents. If potentially exposed, individuals will also need access to medical evaluation and treatment. Individuals can expect guidance about where to go and what to do. Note that guidance in this area is expected to evolve with time as officials learn more about bioterrorist threats, effective treatments, and public responses."

Recommended Actions

"1. If symptomatic, immediately go to medical provider specified by public health officials for medical treatment.
Getting medical treatment if symptoms arise is an important action for improving one’s chances of recovery. An individual can expect guidance from officials about the likely symptoms for the specific kind of biological attack that has occurred. Because anthrax is caused by a bacterium, antibiotics are required for treatment and anthrax can be countered with aggressive antibiotic treatment. While it is important to begin antibiotic treatment in these cases as soon as possible, we do not recommend that individuals self-medicate with home supplies of antibiotics for reasons discussed later in this chapter. Although no cure for smallpox exists, chances of survival improve with medical care. In the event of a bioterrorist attack, special treatment facilities may be established, and individuals should follow the guidance of public health officials about where to seek medical treatment.

"2. If informed by public health officials of being potentially exposed, follow their guidance.
• For contagious diseases, expect to receive medical evaluation, surveillance, or quarantine.
⎯ If "in contact" with persons symptomatic with smallpox, obtain vaccination immediately.
• For noncontagious diseases, expect to receive medical evaluation.
⎯ For anthrax, obtain appropriate antibiotics quickly.

"Those individuals potentially exposed in a biological attack are those not showing symptoms but who were either present in the area of the attack or, in the case of a contagious agent, exposed to those who were. The primary concern for these individuals is the heightened probability that they may have been infected but are not yet showing symptoms. These individuals will be identified by public health officials. How precisely this group can be defined will depend on the ability of public health officials to pinpoint the time and place of the attack.

"Contagious Diseases. For contagious diseases, individuals should expect and closely follow guidance from public health officials about the possible need for medical evaluations, medical surveillance, or quarantine. Doing so helps ensure that if they become symptomatic they are treated quickly for their own safety and that they do not infect others.

"Individuals potentially exposed to smallpox include two groups: those 'in contact' with persons infected with smallpox and those present in the release area at the time of the attack or over the next two days. Because smallpox is thought to be contagious from the time a patient develops a rash until scabs have formed—a period of approximately 12 days that begins 12–16 days after infection—individuals "in contact" with those persons will be offered a smallpox vaccination and should get vaccinated as quickly as possible. A "contact" is an individual who has come into close contact with an infected person while that person is contagious, as well as household members of those contacts. Because there is some uncertainty about exactly when a smallpox patient is contagious, public health officials may specify a different period during which contacts are vulnerable.

"Contact vaccination is effective because smallpox is the only known potential biological weapon for which postexposure vaccination has proven value. Postexposure vaccination can be an effective response because production of protective antibodies in response to the vaccine have been detected as early as 10 days after vaccination, which is shorter than the incubation period. Thus, if given within three to four days after exposure, vaccination could offer complete or partial protection against smallpox. Vaccination four to seven days after exposure likely offers some protection from disease or may modify the severity of disease.

"In the case where a smallpox attack is identified more than seven days after the exposure, vaccination is unlikely for the second group of individuals (those in the area at the time of attack) because their exposure will have occurred too long ago for vaccination to be effective.

"The CDC, in conjunction with state and local governments, has developed procedures for vaccine distribution and administration designed to vaccinate large populations anywhere in the United States on the order of days.

"Noncontagious Diseases. For noncontagious diseases, individuals should expect and closely follow guidance from public health officials about the possible need for medical evaluations. This helps ensure that if they become symptomatic, they are treated quickly.

"Individuals potentially exposed to anthrax include those present in the release area at any time since the attack. This group should begin antibiotic therapy as soon as possible because antibiotics are useful for prevention of anthrax in those who have been infected with anthrax spores. As a postexposure step to prevent the development of inhalational anthrax, the CDC recommends that individuals take a 60-day course of preventive antibiotics because the incubation period for inhalational anthrax among humans may range up to 60 days. Those who have been partially or fully vaccinated should receive at least a 30-day course of antibiotics and continue with the vaccination regimen.

"Through the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPS), the federal government has developed a plan for delivering needed supplies (including antibiotics) into a region when an incident requires a response larger or more sustained than the local community can handle. The NPS consists of an initial stockpile that can be distributed immediately, as well as a vendor-managed inventory component that is to be shipped to arrive at 24 and 36 hours after activation.

"Anthrax vaccine exists, but it is available only for preexposure protection to those at high risk and is not licensed for postexposure use in preventing anthrax. Distributing anthrax vaccine is therefore currently not part of the government’s terrorism response plan. However, because of a potential preventive benefit of combined antimicrobial and vaccine postexposure treatment and the availability of a limited supply of anthrax vaccine for civilian use, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has endorsed making anthrax vaccine available in combination with antibiotics under an Investigational New Drug application for persons at risk for inhalational anthrax. What action the government may actually take in another anthrax attack is therefore unclear. In addition to helping prevent the contraction of anthrax, use of the vaccine may reduce the need for long-term antimicrobial therapy, with its associated problems of nonadherence and possible adverse events.

"3. For all others, monitor for symptoms and, for contagious diseases, minimize contact with others.
Given the uncertainties surrounding who may have been infected in a biological attack, even individuals who are not symptomatic and who have no reason to believe they have been exposed to a biological agent should monitor themselves and their family members for signs of infection and be prepared to seek treatment. A common symptom of almost all potential biological agents is the presence of a fever. Thus, if officials announce that a biological attack has occurred in a particular area, it would be prudent for individuals in this group to monitor their temperature daily or as instructed by officials.

"The CDC’s current Smallpox Response Plan consists of isolating confirmed and suspected smallpox cases and vaccinating primary contacts of cases and family members of contacts, but it does not include postexposure vaccination of the general public. While some studies indicate that mass vaccination during an outbreak may be effective, the net benefit of such a policy is still under debate.

"In the case of such contagious agents as smallpox, these individuals should also minimize contact with potentially infected persons by 'shielding' with their families at home. Shielding entails minimizing unessential trips and possibly using a particulate mask when outings (e.g., going to and from work, shopping for food, or seeking medical treatment) are necessary.

"4. Leave anthrax-affected area once on antibiotics if advised to do so by public health officials.
Considerable uncertainty exists about the extent to which anthrax spores released in the air can become resuspended again after they have settled on the ground, thereby presenting a continuing health hazard. If long-term environmental dangers are possible, officials may call for individuals in the affected area to relocate to housing in other areas. If they do call for relocation, it would not have to be done immediately; individuals would have time to secure their homes, but, to prevent spreading spores, they would probably not be allowed to take their belongings with them. For those moving in or out of the affected area, N95 particulate filter masks could be useful if officials believe the risk of infection from resuspension of the spores is significant."

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ready for Terror Attacks? - Nuclear

Resuming the series of excerpts from the very practical Rand Corporation book, "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks," we move to nuclear readiness.

See earlier posts in this blog for excerpts on chemical and radiological attack preparedness.To see the entire monograph in pdf form, go to:

Excerpt - Nuclear Attack

"A nuclear detonation has several immediate effects: a powerful blast that knocks over buildings, high-energy prompt radiation from the nuclear reaction, a strong flash of light and heat, and an electromagnetic pulse that may interfere with electronic equipment. The distance those effects are felt from the detonation depends on the size of the weapon and how high above the ground the detonation occurs. In the Cold War, attacks were expected to have involved many strikes with very large weapons (hundreds of kilotons). While it is not possible to predict the characteristics of future terrorist attacks, they are probably more likely to use a single smaller weapon that ranges from less than a kiloton to 10 kilotons and are likely to detonate the nuclear device on the ground, not in the air. A ground burst will have reduced blast effects but will produce a larger footprint on the ground of the highly radioactive fallout cloud, extending possibly tens of miles. This fallout could be lethal to those in its path who are not well protected. Nuclear attacks will also significantly damage infrastructure, not only to buildings but also to utilities, electronics, and other services.

"Timelines. The prompt effects of nuclear weapons are essentially instantaneous—they last for a minute or less. The fires caused by the heat from the detonation start soon after but are not likely to become a broad fire for 20 minutes or more. Radioactive particles from the fallout cloud begin to fall to the ground 10–15 minutes after the detonation near the spot of the detonation. Farther away, the radioactive fallout begins to land soon after the cloud passes overhead. After about 24 hours, all the fallout is deposited. The radioactivity in the fallout is extremely high early on. However, after two days, it will have decreased in intensity significantly (by a factor of 100 compared to one hour after the blast).

"Detection. A nuclear detonation will be unmistakable from the moment it occurs. The bright flash, the widespread physical destruction, the searing heat, and the mushroom cloud are unique. During the Cold War, the attack would have been detected as satellites tracked missiles on their 30-minute journey to the United States from Russia, which would have given individuals a chance to get to a fallout shelter. Terrorists are much more likely to deliver the weapon surreptitiously, perhaps by a truck or ship, rather than by missile. Hence, there would be little chance for early detection and warning.

Support from Officials/Governments. Government officials would be unlikely to provide support until well after the detonation. Initial activities would include providing medical care to survivors, rescuing people from areas that are safe enough to enter briefly, and informing individuals when the fallout radiation was low enough that individuals could leave their shelters and the contaminated fallout area."

Response Strategy

"In a surprise attack, an individual cannot avoid the initial effects of a nuclear detonation—blast, heat, and prompt radiation. However, the dangers from exposure to the radioactive fallout from the cloud that will form shortly thereafter can be reduced significantly. This will require that an individual locate the area of this radioactive cloud and act quickly. The individual’s overarching goal would be to avoid fallout by either quickly evacuating the fallout zone or seeking the best available shelter.

Recommended Actions

"1. Move out of the path of the radioactive fallout cloud as quickly as possible (less than 10 minutes when in immediate blast zone) and then find medical care immediately.
"Individuals can best protect themselves by evacuating the area where the radioactive fallout is likely to land. This is the case because evacuation provides protection that is full and indefinite and is appropriate for wherever the attack occurs and for different variations in an attack. It makes possible access to medical care, which will be critical to individuals in the blast zone who may have absorbed a high dose of prompt radiation from the detonation or sustained injuries from the blast and heat. It is also low in cost and requires little preparation. The fallout zone is defined as that area in which the fallout will generate 100 rad over 24 hours.

"Evacuation affords such protection because the onset of the radioactive fallout is not immediate but is expected to begin 10–15 minutes after the detonation in the vicinity of the blast and extend for hours as the radioactive cloud moves downwind.Thus, a shortcoming of evacuation in attacks involving chemical or radiological weapons—that it cannot be done quickly enough to provide adequate protection—does not hold in this case.

"Evacuation also protects against the hazard of large fires that may emerge in the blast zone within 20 minutes or so after the detonation and could endanger individuals in shelters.

"The distances an individual must travel to evacuate the fallout zone are not large. Even for a 10-kiloton weapon, a person located anywhere in the region between the blast site and up to about 10 kilometers (6 miles) downwind of the blast site would need to travel less than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to evacuate the most dangerous fallout area. Even where the radioactive cloud is at its widest, some 20 to 50 kilometers (10 to 30 miles) downwind, an individual would only need to travel at most about 5 kilometers (3 miles). In this latter case, more than 10 minutes would be available for evacuation because it would take some time for the cloud to reach that distance. Because roads are likely to be impassable for automobiles in many areas because of damage, debris, or traffic, individuals should evacuate on foot.

"The primary considerations for this action are knowing whether one is in an area that may become contaminated by radioactive fallout and, if so, knowing which direction to take. Fallout is likely to cover a portion of the blast zone. Thus, anyone in the blast zone, which will be characterized by severe damage and broken windows even at its outer periphery, is in danger of contamination from radioactive fallout. The fallout zone will extend some 20– 80 kilometers (10–50 miles) downwind, depending on the weapon’s size and the local winds. The downwind fallout zone will be less clearly delineated than the blast zone, but its approximate location can be determined by observing the mushroom cloud and the direction in which the wind seems to be blowing.

"To evacuate from the blast zone, individuals should move directly away from the blast center until they are clear. The location of the center will be apparent from the initial bright flash and subsequent vertical rise of a mushroom cloud. If the location of the detonation cannot be determined quickly, individuals should walk in the direction of less damage, where more buildings are standing and where there are fewer broken windows.

"Individuals outside the blast zone who are in the radioactive cloud path (including those who evacuated in a downwind direction from the blast zone) should move in a cross-wind direction until out from underneath the path of the developing radioactive cloud. To determine the wind direction, individuals should look for the direction that the mushroom cloud or smoke from fires is going and go perpendicular to it. If they can feel the wind, they should walk with the wind in their ears.

"Although individuals may not feel any symptoms, those in the blast zone may have absorbed a high dose of prompt radiation from the detonation. Thus, we highly recommend that such individuals receive immediate medical care once outside the fallout area because such care could be essential for survival.

"2. If it is not possible to move out of the path of the radioactive fallout cloud, take shelter as far underground as possible or if underground shelter is not available, seek shelter in upper floors of a multistory building.
If evacuation is impossible, shelter is essential for anyone remaining in the path of the radioactive fallout cloud. Radiation from local fallout can be intense, delivering a lethal dose to an unprotected person in an area up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) downwind of the detonation within an hour, depending on the size of the weapon. To protect against this radiation, individuals should get as much solid material (dirt, concrete, or masonry) and space as possible between themselves and the fallout, which collects on the ground and roofs of buildings. The best shelter is well below ground level, in the sub-basement of a building, a subway tunnel, or the lowest level of an underground garage. These shelters can reduce exposure levels by factors of 1,000 or higher.

"If an individual cannot get to an underground shelter within the timelines of the arrival of the radioactive fallout, the next best shelter would be in the upper floors of a multistory building (greater than 10 stories) but at least three stories below the roof to avoid the fallout deposited there. Protection is best as far as possible from the outside walls. Such a shelter can provide protection factors of 100 or higher, but it could be significantly less if the windows or structures have been damaged.

"Ordinary house basements provide inadequate protection in areas of intense radioactive fallout because they provide protection factors of only 10–20. However, at distances greater than about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the detonation, where the levels of radiation will be much less, they could be sufficient. Nevertheless, because it could be difficult to know where you are in relation to the detonation and because the yield of the weapon is not known, the more shelter the better. In all cases, once inside the shelter, shut off all air circulation systems and close off doorways and windows. The room should not be sealed completely, because enough air will be needed to breathe for at least 48 hours. Individuals should remain in the shelter and await guidance from officials about when it is safe to leave, which could take 24 to 48 hours. Individuals should attempt to gain access to their emergency supply kit for use while in the shelter, but it is better to reach a good shelter in time without the kit. The ideal shelter would be prestocked with supplies to support occupants for two to three days.

"3. Find ways to cover skin, nose, and mouth, if it does not impede either evacuating the fallout zone or taking shelter.
Although radioactive fallout will not begin to land in the blast zone and surrounding areas for at least 10 minutes, some radioactive particles and dust are likely to be present from the detonation. Therefore, individuals should take the precautionary step of protecting themselves from this radiation. Respiratory protection can be achieved by using particulate filter masks or other expedient measures, such as covering the nose and mouth with clothing or towels. (See the discussion in radiological attack section.) It is important to note that, in contrast to a radiological bomb, the primary hazard from radioactive fallout is radiation absorbed from outside the body. Respiratory protection steps, therefore, will provide only limited protection. As a result, we recommend that respiratory protection be retrieved and donned but only if this causes no more than a few moments delay in evacuating the fallout zone or finding shelter.

"The radiation in nuclear fallout consists primarily of gamma emitters but also includes beta radiation. Protective clothing provides no protection from gamma radiation, although it can provide significant protection from beta radiation.

"We therefore recommend covering exposed skin but again only if it does not impede evacuating or taking shelter. In this context, any clothing that covers exposed skin and the head is considered protective clothing. Thus, most fully dressed individuals would only need a hat or hood. Protective clothing has the additional advantage of facilitating decontamination by providing a layer that can be quickly removed to dispose of any fallout material that may have accumulated on a person during evacuation or prior to sheltering.

"4. Decontaminate as soon as possible once protected from the fallout. Decontamination can provide protection for anyone who has spent time in the area of the nuclear blast or the radioactive fallout zone by eliminating exposure from radioactive particulates (dust) that have adhered to the body. Decontamination should initially focus on removing outer clothing, including shoes, and securing it in a bag or other container. Individuals should minimize contact of radioactive material with skin and eyes by rinsing exposed skin, removing contact lenses, and showering as soon as possible. Contaminated clothing should be treated or disposed of in accordance with official guidance. Decontamination should be undertaken as quickly as possible but only after an individual is protected from exposure to fallout by evacuation or sheltering.

"5. If outside the radioactive fallout area, still take shelter to avoid any residual radiation. Because uncertainty exists about exactly where the radioactive cloud will travel and where the fallout will land, it is important for individuals outside the apparent
fallout zone to take shelter. House or building basements should provide sufficient protection."


The final excerpt from this book will be "Biological Attacks."

One note on RAND's recommendation to evacuate if at all possible, rather than sheltering ...

If you have a well-built, well-prepared fallout shelter within easy reach, I believe reaching that protection is preferable to evacuation. Why? Because of the uncertainty of what awaits in areas where you might flee to. In my view, it's far better to take the certain safety of your shelter over the uncertain circumstances that await evacuees over the horizon.

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another Look into the Future - Technology in the War on Terror

Interesting look at technological trends that are undeniable and pretty much irreversible ...


The Terrorists' Technological Edge

by Arnaud de Borchgrave

excerpt ...

U.S. national security is at risk, Mr. Negroponte argues, "unless we take steps to deal with it right away." The 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act created a director of science and technology in the DNI's office. It also established the director of a National Science and Technology Committee, including all the chief science officers from the entire intelligence community.

There are still critical mission gaps. Mr. Negroponte listed three:

  1. Locating terrorists.
  2. Identifying and locating WMD activities by nation-states and nonstate actors.
  3. Protecting the homeland against WMD and cyber attacks.

The DNI also listed "credibility gaps" that the intelligence community is endeavoring to close:

  1. U.S. collection capabilities are not pervasive and persistent enough. Human-intelligence-enabling technology is far from where it needs to be.
  2. Intelligence analysis suffers from a lack of collaborative infrastructure and tools to help minimize analyst information overload.
  3. U.S. ability to foster prudent information sharing remains inhibited by rigid, segregated networks that are too vulnerable to compromise.


The good news in a bleak picture is that ...

Among recent breakthroughs, Mr. Negroponte said, is computer modeling that is "helping us uncover foreign activities that have been hidden underground to defeat U.S. satellite imagery"; "pattern analysis helping us find the insurgents who are building IEDs in Iraq"; "computer-assisted linking of data on foreign terrorists helping us disrupt plans for attacks in this country."

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Look Ahead--the War on Terror in 2011

I'll interrupt my series of excerpts from the Rand Corporation's book on surviving terror attacks to refer you to an article entitled, "Uncertainty The Only Certainty In Future Course Of Global War On Terror." Interestingly, it is by another Rand researcher and author, Brian Michael Jenkins.

Jenkins leaps ahead to September 11, 2011, and postulates what the war on terror may look like at that point. It's worth a look, but I suspect the actual state of affairs may be vastly different depending on how radically our political realities shift in the next couple of elections.


Get Ready, Seriously ...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Prepared For Terror Attacks? - Radiological

Here is the next excerpt from the excellent Rand Corporation book, "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks." See my previous post for more on this and for the excerpt on chemical attack preparedness.

To see the entire monograph in pdf form, go to:

Excerpt - Radiological Attack

"A dirty bomb uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material across a wide area, although slower and less dramatic methods are possible and may escape detection. The area affected by a radiological attack could be fairly small—a few blocks—or could cover hundreds of square kilometers with low-level radiation, depending primarily on the type and amount of radioactive material used. The hazards to individuals from the radiation are likely to be quite low and will manifest themselves only after many years, if they do so at all. For those close to the explosion, the hazards from the blast are much higher. While indoor attacks are also possible, outdoor attacks have the potential to affect more people, cause more social anxiety, and contaminate a larger area than indoor attacks.

"The hazard from a radiological bomb results from two categories of exposure. The primary short-term exposure hazard is inhalation of radioactive material suspended with the dust and smoke from the explosion. Inhaled radioactive material can be deposited in the lungs and will continue to expose the individual to radiation for as long as the material remains in the lungs, which can be many years. A second, long-term external exposure hazard exists for individuals who remain in the contaminated areas over a period of years. Although there is considerable debate in the scientific community about the effects of low levels of radiation on individuals (e.g., Jones, 2000), it is likely that authorities will take steps to address this risk, either by limiting access or decontaminating the area (Levi and Kelly, 2002)."
"Support from Officials/Governments. Since detectors are required to signal the presence of radiological materials, the government will likely play a central role in the response to any such attack. However, because it could take an hour or more to detect the radiation, individuals within the cloud will not know that radiation is present immediately following the event, the period when the risk from inhalation is greatest.

"Individual’s Primary Needs. Fundamentally, an individual needs to avoid exposure to radiation, particularly through inhaling radioactive dust from the cloud. If exposed, an individual should also seek medical care as soon as it is safe."

Recommended Actions

"1. If an explosion occurs outdoors or you are informed of an outside release of radiation and you are outside, cover nose and mouth and seek indoor shelter. If you are inside an undamaged building, stay there. Close windows and doors and shut down ventilation systems. Exit shelter when told it is safe.

"2. If an explosion occurs inside your building or you are informed of a release of radiation, cover nose and mouth and go outside immediately. The primary safety and health hazard in a radiological attack is inhalation of radioactive particulate matter generated from an explosion or other type of release (e.g., aerosol). A simple and effective way to prevent this is to take shelter in a structure that blocks the infiltration of particulates. This action is attractive because it is simple, quick, and effective. The onset of the exposure hazard in a radiological attack initiated with a bomb is expected to be immediate, and the exposure is greatest in the first few hours, while the particulate matter is still airborne. For individuals outside when such an attack occurs, sheltering in a nearby building will provide good protection and should be attempted immediately. The closest shelter not damaged or endangered by the explosion should be sought because the goal is to minimize exposure to suspended particulate matter.

Individuals already indoors should remain there as long as their building has not been damaged and is not threatened by fires or other consequences of the attack.

"The primary complication with this action is that it is unlikely to be apparent that any radioactive material has been released for some time. However, this action is generally advisable in response to any explosion event because many types of nonradioactive dust present health hazards and should be avoided as well. In addition, sheltering will help counter the tendency for people to gather at an explosion site, thus decreasing the impact of any secondary device that may target those who gather at the scene. As a result, finding shelter should be the goal in any explosion. Once emergency responders begin to understand the type and extent of radioactive contamination, they can provide guidance about when and how to vacate shelters. Respiratory protection should be used to prevent inhalation of radioactive particulate matter. As with sheltering, a complication of this action is that the release of radioactive material is unlikely to be apparent for some time. However, for the same reasons as with sheltering, this action is beneficial in the response to any explosion event, whether radioactive material is present or not. There are two primary variations of respiratory protection: expedient and particulate filter equipped facemasks. Expedient respiratory protection refers to using available materials, such as clothing or towels, as filter material.

"For individuals outside when such an attack occurs, expedient respiratory protection will be necessary, because the onset of the hazard is expected to be so rapid that effective use of a filter mask will be either impractical (i.e., it will have to be carried at all times) or too slow (because an individual would need to travel to a car or other storage space to retrieve it). Evaluation of expedient respiratory protection shows that a wide variety of common materials have similar filtration efficiencies, with the efficiency increasing with the number of layers used (Guyton et al., 1959; Sorensen and Vogt, 2001b). According to those sources, wetting the material makes it no more effective and also increases breathing resistance and so should not be done. Given that most likely expedient filtration materials have similar protective capacities, the primary concern is obtaining a good seal around the nose and mouth. Thus, while understanding that options may be very limited, one should strive to use soft cloth and fold, cut, or tear it so that it can be handled in such a way as to hold it tightly over the nose and mouth. If tape is available, the material should be taped to the face to improve the seal. A substantial shortcoming of expedient respiratory protection is that it requires at least one hand to hold it in place, thereby decreasing agility and mobility. In addition to improving the seal, taping the mask to the face can eliminate this problem. In any case, one should keep in mind that the respiratory hazard increases with the cumulative inhalation exposure, so even if expedient respiratory protection must be temporarily removed, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Individuals indoors should evacuate the premises if the attack occurs indoors or damages or threatens their building enough to undermine its sheltering capacity.

"In this situation, a particulate filter mask may be appropriate. Regular building occupants could store a filter mask in their work space for rapid retrieval and donning in the event of a radiological attack or other explosion. These masks are much more effective than expedient measures, are inexpensive, are widely available, are compact, have long shelf lives, have minimal maintenance requirements, and are simple to use. We therefore recommend their use for anyone indoors in a potential indoor radiological attack.

"3. Decontaminate by removing clothing and showering. Radioactive particulate matter trapped on a person’s clothing, hair, or skin can pose an exposure hazard that remains even after direct contact from suspended particulate matter has been eliminated. Therefore, anyone who has been exposed to radioactive material should undergo decontamination once safely sheltered from the source of radioactive material. Decontamination should initially focus on removing any respirable dust, which would entail removing outer clothing and securing it in a bag or other container. While the hazard is primarily respiratory, contact of radioactive material with skin and eyes should be minimized by rinsing exposed skin, removing contact lenses, and showering as soon as possible. The danger posed by contaminated clothing may persist for long durations, so contaminated clothing should be treated or disposed of in accordance with official guidance.

"4. Relocate outside the contaminated zone, only if instructed to do so by public officials.
Although contamination levels from a radiological weapon are likely to be quite low, long-term exposure may be high enough in some areas that authorities will ask individuals to leave their homes or businesses for some period of time. Relocation does not need to be done quickly because it is the exposure over many years that is the concern; the relocation could happen over weeks or months. Individuals may be allowed to return within a few months if the area is to be decontaminated, but it may also be many years before individuals will be allowed to return. Individuals will have to rely on authorities for information about whether relocation is called for and how long it is likely to last."

More Excerpts to Come

I will be posting more excerpts regarding nuclear and biological terrorist attacks soon.

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Are YOU Prepared for Terror Attacks? - Chemical

One of my favorite authoritative resources for terror-attack preparedness is a Rand Corporation book entitled "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks." The author/researchers are Lynn Davis, Tom LaTourrette, David E. Mosher, Lois M. Davis, and David R. Howell.

It's an unusually well-researched, to-the-point monograph focused on the steps individual citizens can take to improve their ability to survive a catastrophic terrorist attack. A scenario-driven approach identifies preparedness and response actions that enhance survivability in chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological attacks.

I have several copies of the book on order for resale that I will be making available for $23, shipping included. In the meantime, the book is available in pdf format online at .

Excerpt - Chemical Attack

"Chemical attacks entail the dispersal of chemical vapors, aerosols, liquids, or solids that have hazardous effects on people, animals, or plants. Chemical agents can be released by a variety of methods, including by bombs or by spraying from vehicles. They affect individuals through inhalation or exposure to eyes and skin. Their impact may be immediate (a few seconds) or delayed (several hours to several days), and some chemical agents are odorless and tasteless (FEMA, 2002).

"Numerous chemical agents could be used in a terrorist attack, including both industrial chemicals and chemical warfare agents. A large number of industrial chemicals might be used, including various acids, ammonia, chlorine, hydrogen cyanide, pesticides, or phosgene. The main chemical warfare agents include nerve agents (e.g., sarin, tabun, soman, VX) and blister agents (e.g., lewisite, mustard) (CDC, 2000). Chemical attacks can occur outdoors or indoors, with this distinction having significant ramifications for the best response actions. The area affected by a chemical attack is likely to be fairly small, on the order of a square kilometer (0.4 square mile).

"Support from Officials/Governments. Because of the localized nature of chemical weapons and the lack of detectors, the government is not likely to play a role until after the dangers have largely subsided. At that point, it will provide emergency services to casualties and tell individuals when it is safe to go outside (if the attack was outdoors) or inside (if the attack was in a building)."

"Individual’s Primary Needs. Fundamentally, in a chemical attack, an individual needs access to clean air within a few minutes or less. If exposed, individuals will also need access to medical care and may need to decontaminate themselves. Because official guidance will not be available until after the attack, individuals must act by themselves to minimize exposure."

Recommended Actions

"If the attack is outdoors and you are outdoors, take shelter quickly in the closest building, close all windows/doors, and shut off the flow of air. If inside, stay inside. Then, to the extent possible, move upstairs, find an interior room, and seal the room. Remain inside until told it is safe to leave and then ventilate and vacate the shelter immediately.

"If the chemical attack is outdoors, finding shelter inside is the most critical action an individual should take. Individuals already inside should stay inside. Individuals outside should get inside the closest building as quickly as possible.

"Such sheltering provides protection by blocking the chemical agent out of a space that contains uncontaminated air. It is an attractive action for a number of reasons. First, it can be implemented very quickly. In an urban environment, an individual can probably move indoors in less than one minute.

"Second, it requires very little information. There is no need to determine the location of the source or direction or speed of the chemical cloud. Third, and most important, it provides very good protection. Technical evaluations indicate that such basic sheltering can reduce chemical exposure by 75 percent or more compared to the exposure outside the shelter. These results are consistent with the outcomes of the aerosolized sarin attack by the Aum Shinrikyo group in a residential area in Matsumoto, Japan, in June 1994. In that incident, all seven people who died had their windows open. All of those individuals who had closed their windows—including many people closer to the source, those in units adjacent to buildings in which fatalities occurred, and those on the lower floors of these buildings—survived the attack (Yanagisawa, 1995).

"Because of the variability and uncertainties in the barrier capacity of shelters, individuals should always attempt additional expedient measures. These include moving upstairs, into an interior room, and sealing windows, doors, vents, and other openings with duct tape and plastic sheeting or any other available materials. These steps reduce the infiltration rate of the outside agent into a shelter. Because most chemical agents are heavier than air, they will sink, and the highest concentrations will form at the lowest points. Thus, moving upstairs will take a person into an area where the outside concentration is lower, thereby reducing the infiltration rate into the shelter. Moving to an interior room puts more doors and walls between a person and the outside, which also reduces the infiltration rate. Finally, taping and sealing a room, as detailed in Rogers et al. (1990) and Sorensen and Vogt (2001a), will improve the barrier capacity of the shelter and reduce infiltration.

"Because shelters do not provide perfect protection, the chemical agent will leak into the shelter. After some time, the chemical agent outside the shelter will dissipate and the concentration will drop to a level below that inside the shelter."

More Excerpts to Come

There is a wealth of practical preparedness and response strategy in this book. I will be posting more insightful excerpts regarding radiological, nuclear, and biological terrorist attacks soon.

Get Ready, Seriously ...