Quick Reference

National Security Emergencies

In addition to the natural and technological hazards described in this publication, Americans face threats posed by hostile governments or extremist groups. These threats to national security include acts of terrorism and acts of war. The following is general information about national security emergencies.


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 intimidation, coercion or ransom. Terrorists often use threats to create fear among the public, to try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism, and to get immediate publicity for their causes.

Acts of terrorism range from threats of terrorism, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, bomb scares and bombings, cyber attacks (computer-based), to the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. High-risk targets include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities, and corporate centers. Further, they are capable of spreading fear by sending explosives or chemical and biological agents through the mail. In the immediate area of a terrorist event, you would need to rely on police, fire and other officials for instructions. However, you can prepare in much the same way you would prepare for other crisis events.

Preparing for terrorism

  1. Wherever you are, be aware of your surroundings. The very nature of terrorism suggests there may be little or no warning.
  2. Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended. Unusual behavior, suspicious packages and strange devices should be promptly reported to the police or security personnel.
  3. Do not be afraid to move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
  4. Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Notice where exits are when you enter unfamiliar buildings. Plan how to get
  5. out of a building, subway or congested public area or traffic. Note where staircases are located. Notice heavy or breakable objects that could move, fall or break in an explosion.
  6. Assemble a disaster supply kit at home and learn first aid. Separate the supplies you would take if you had to evacuate quickly, and put them in a backpack
  7. or container, ready to go.
  8. Be familiar with different types of fire extinguishers and how to locate them. Know the location and availability of hard hats in buildings in which you spend a lot of time.

Protection against cyber attacks

Cyber attacks target computer or telecommunication networks of critical infrastructures such as power systems, traffic control systems, or financial systems. Cyber attacks target information technologies (IT) in three different ways. First, is a direct attack against an information system “through the wires alone (hacking). Second, the attack can be a physical assault against a critical IT element. Third, the attack can be from the inside as a result of compromising a trusted party with access to the system.

Be prepared to do without services you normally depend on that could be disrupted electricity, telephone, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATM machines, and internet transactions.

Be prepared to respond to official instructions if a cyber attack triggers other hazards, for example, general evacuation, evacuation to shelter, or shelter-in-place, because of hazardous materials releases, nuclear power plant incident, dam or flood control system failures.

Preparing for a building explosion

Explosions can collapse buildings and cause fires. People who live or work in a multi-level building can do the following:

1. Review emergency evacuation procedures. Know where emergency exits are located.

2. Keep fire extinguishers in working order. Know where they are located, and learn how to use them.

3. Learn first aid. Contact the local chapter of the American Red Cross for information and training.

4. Building owners should keep the following items in a designated place on each floor of the building.

* Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries

* Several flashlights and extra batteries

* First aid kit and manual

* Several hard hats

* Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas

Bomb Threats

If you receive a bomb threat, get as much information from the caller as possible. Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said. Then notify the police and the building management.

If you are notified of a bomb threat, do not touch any suspicious packages. Clear the area around suspicious packages and notify the police immediately. In evacuating a building, don’t stand in front of windows, glass doors or other potentially hazardous areas. Do not block sidewalk or streets to be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.

Suspicious parcels and letters

Be wary of suspicious packages and letters. They can contain explosives, chemical or biological agents. Be particularly cautious at your place of employment.

Some typical characteristics postal inspectors have detected over the years, which ought to trigger suspicion, include parcels that

  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
  • Have no return address, or have one that can’t be verified as legitimate.
  • Are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as Personal, Confidential orDo 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 any 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 title without a name.
  • Are not addressed to a specific person.
  • Have handwritten or poorly typed addresses.

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, trash can, etc.) and do not remove the cover.
  • Leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent other 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 should notify police and other authorities without delay.
  • 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 both the 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.

What to do if there is an explosion

Leave the building as quickly as possible. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls. If things are falling around you, get under a sturdy table or desk until they stop falling. Then leave quickly, watching for weakened floors and stairs and falling debris as you exit.

  1. If there is a fire:
    • Stay low to the floor and exit the building as quickly as possible.
    • Cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth.
    • When approaching a closed door, use the back of your hand to feel the lower, middle and upper parts of the door. Never use the palm of your hand or fingers to test for heat: burning those areas could impair your ability to escape a fire (i.e., ladders and crawling).
      • If the door is NOT hot, open slowly and ensure fire and/or smoke is not blocking your escape route. If your escape route is blocked, shut the door immediately and use an alternate escape route, such as a window. If clear, leave immediately through the door. Be prepared to crawl. Smoke and heat rise. The air is clearer and cooler near the floor.
      • If the door is hot, do not open it. Escape through a window. If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-colored sheet outside the window, alerting fire fighters to your presence.
    • Heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling. Stay below the smoke at all times.
  2. If you are trapped in debris:
    • Do not light a match.
    • Do not move about or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchiefor clothing.
    • Rhythmically tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can hear where you are. Usea whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort when you hear sounds and think someone will hear you—shouting can causea person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

Chemical and Biological Weapons

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.


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 are also difficult to produce.

There are six types of agents:

  • Lung-damaging (pulmonary) agents such as phosgene,
  • Cyanide,
  • Vesicants or blister agents such as mustard,
  • Nerve agents such as GA (tabun), GB (sarin), GD (soman), GF, and VX,
  • Incapacitating agents such as BZ, and
  • Riot-control agents (similar to MACE).


Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock

and crops. The three basic groups of biological agents which would likely

be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses, and toxins.

  1. Bacteria.  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.


  • Viruses.  Viruses are organisms which require living cells in which to reproduce


and are intimately dependent upon the body they infect. Viruses produce

diseases which generally do not respond to antibiotics. However, antiviral

drugs are sometimes effective.


  • Toxins.  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 are very long lived. They can be dispersed by spraying

them in the air, or infecting animals which carry the disease to humans

as well through food and water contamination.

  • Aerosols—Biological agents are dispersed into the air, forming a fine mist that may driftfor 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 isalso referred to as agroterrorism.
  • Food and water contamination—Some pathogenic organisms and toxins may persistin food and water supplies. Most microbes can be killed, and toxinsdeactivated, by cooking food and boiling water.

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 was to disrupt mail service and to cause a widespread fear

of handling delivered mail among the public.

Person-to-person spread of a few infectious agents is also possible. Humans have been the

source of infection for smallpox, plague, and the Lassa viruses.

What to do to prepare for a chemical or biological attack

  • Assemble a disaster supply kit (see the “Emergency Planning and Disaster Supplies”chapter for more information) and be sure to include:
  • Battery-powered commercial 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 shelterin place—this should be an internal room where you can block out airthat may contain hazardous chemical or biological agents. To save criticaltime during an emergency, sheeting should be pre-measured and cut for

    each opening.

  • First aid kit.
  • Sanitation supplies including soap, water and bleach.

What to do during a chemical or biological attack

  1. Listen to your radio for instructions from authorities such as whether to remaininside or to evacuate.
  2. If you are instructed to remain in your home, the building where you are, orother shelter during a chemical or biological attack: 
  • Turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners, ventsand fans.
  • Seek shelter in an internal room, preferably one without windows. Sealthe room with duct tape and plastic sheeting. Ten square feet offloor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent carbondioxide build-up for up to five hours. (See “Shelter” chapter.)
  • Remain in protected areas where toxic vapors are reduced or eliminated,and be sure to take your battery-operated radio with you.

  • 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.


What to do after a chemical attack

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 by professional medical

personnel. If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate

yourself 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.)

  1. Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents:
    • Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body. Contaminatedclothing normally removed over the head should be cut off to avoidcontact with the eyes, nose, and mouth. Put into a plastic bag ifpossible. Decontaminate hands using soap and water. Remove eyeglasses

      or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate.

  2. Remove all items in contact with the body.
  3. Flush eyes with lots of water.
  4. Gently wash face and hair with soap and water; then thoroughly rinse with water.
  5. Decontaminate other body areas likely to have been contaminated. Blot (do not swabor scrape) with a cloth soaked in soapy water and rinse with clear water.
  6. Change into uncontaminated clothes. Clothing stored in drawers or closets islikely to be uncontaminated.
  7. If possible, proceed to a medical facility for screening.

What to do after a biological attack

In many biological attacks, people will 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 the disease caused by an agent exposure, and you should seek immediate

medical attention for treatment. In some situations, like the anthrax 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 be handled differently 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 bag your clothes and personal items and wash yourself with

warm soapy water immediately. Put on clean clothes and seek medical assistance.

For more information, visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control

and Prevention, www.bt.cdc.gov.

Nuclear and Radiological Attack

Nuclear explosions can cause deadly effects—blinding light, intense heat (thermal radiation),

initial nuclear radiation, blast, fires started by the heat pulse, and

secondary fires caused by the destruction. They also produce radioactive

particles called fallout that can be carried by wind for hundreds of miles.

Terrorist use of a radiological dispersion device (RDD)—often called ”dirty nuke”

or “dirty bomb”—is considered far more likely than use of a nuclear device.

These radiological weapons are a combination of conventional explosives

and radioactive material designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal

amounts of radioactive material over a general area. Such radiological

weapons appeal to terrorists because they require very little technical

knowledge to build and deploy compared to that of a nuclear device. Also,

these radioactive materials, used widely in medicine, agriculture, industry

and research, are much more readily available and easy to obtain compared

to weapons grade uranium or plutonium.

Terrorist use of a nuclear device would probably be limited to a single smaller

“suitcase” weapon. The strength of such a weapon would be in the range

of the bombs used during World War II. The nature of the effects would

be the same as a weapon delivered by an inter-continental missile, but

the area and severity of the effects would be significantly more limited.

There is no way of knowing how much warning time there would be before an attack

by a terrorist using a nuclear or radiological weapon. A surprise attack

remains a possibility.

The danger of a massive strategic nuclear attack on the United States involving many

weapons receded with the end of the Cold War. However, some terrorists

have been supported by nations that have nuclear weapons programs.

If there were threat of an attack from a hostile nation, people living near potential

targets could be advised to evacuate or they could decide on their own

to evacuate to an area not considered a likely target. Protection from

radioactive fallout would require taking shelter in an underground area,

or in the middle of a large building.

In general, potential targets include:

  • Strategic missile sites and military bases.
  • Centers of government such as Washington, D.C., and state capitals.
  • Important transportation and communication centers.
  • Manufacturing, industrial, technology and financial centers.
  • Petroleum refineries, electrical power plants and chemical plants.
  • Major ports and airfields.

Taking shelter during a nuclear attack is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of

shelters—blast and fallout.

Blast shelters offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat

and fire, but even a blast shelter could not withstand a direct hit from

a nuclear detonation.

Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for that purpose. They can be

any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense

enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles. The three

protective factors of a fallout shelter are shielding, distance, and time.

  • Shielding. The more heavy, dense materials—thick walls, concrete, bricks, booksand earth—between you and the fallout particles, the better.
  • Distance. The more distance between you and the fallout particles, the better.An underground area, such as a home or office building basement, offersmore protection than the first floor of a building. A floor near themiddle of a high-rise may be better, depending on what is nearby at

    that level on which significant fallout particles would collect. Flat

    roofs collect fallout particles so the top floor is not a good choice,

    nor is a floor adjacent to a neighboring flat roof.

  • Time. Fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you willbe able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses thegreatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which timeit has declined to about 1% of its initial radiation level.

Remember that any protection, however temporary, is better than none at all, and

the more shielding, distance and time you can take advantage of, the better.

Electromagnetic pulse

In addition to other effects, a nuclear weapon detonated in or above the earth’s atmosphere

can create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-density electrical field.

EMP acts like a stroke of lightning but is stronger, faster and briefer.

EMP can seriously damage electronic devices connected to power sources

or antennas. This include communication systems, computers, electrical

appliances, and automobile or aircraft ignition systems. The damage could

range from a minor interruption to actual burnout of components. Most

electronic equipment within 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation

could be affected. Battery powered radios with short antennas generally

would not be affected.

Although EMP is unlikely to harm most people, it could harm those with pacemakers

or other implanted electronic devices.

What to do before a nuclear or radiological attack

  1. Learn the warning signals and all sources of warning used in your community.Make sure you know what the signals are, what they mean, how they willbe used, and what you should do if you hear them.
  2. Assemble and maintain a disaster supply kit with food, water, medications, fueland personal items adequate for up to 2 weeks—the more the better. (Seethe “Emergency Planning and Disaster Supplies” chapter for more information).
  3. Find out what public buildings in your community may have been designated asfallout shelters. It may have been years ago, but start there, and learnwhich buildings are still in use and could be designated as sheltersagain.
  • Call your local emergency management office.
  • Look for yellow and black fallout shelter signs on public buildings.Note: With the end of the Cold War, many of the signs have beenremoved from the buildings previously designated.
  • If no noticeable or official designations have been made, make yourown list of potential shelters near your home, workplace and school:basements, or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-risebuildings, as well as subways and tunnels.
  • Give your household clear instructions about where fallout shelters arelocated and what actions to take in case of attack.
  • If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager aboutthe safest place in the building for sheltering, and about providingfor building occupants until it is safe to go out.
  • There are few public shelters in many suburban and rural areas. If you areconsidering building a fallout shelter at home, keep the following inmind. 
    • A basement, or any underground area, is the best place to shelterfrom fallout. Often, few major changes are needed, especially ifthe structure has two or more stories and its basement—or one cornerof it—is below ground.
    • Fallout shelters can be used for storage during non-emergency periods, butonly store things there that can be very quickly removed. (Whenthey are removed, dense, heavy items may be used to add to the shielding.)
    • See the “Tornadoes” section in the “Thunderstorms” chapter for informationon the “Wind Safe Room,” which could be used as shelter in the eventof a nuclear detonation or for fallout protection, especially ina home without a basement.
    • All the items you will need for your stay need not be stocked insidethe shelter itself but can be stored elsewhere, as long as you canmove them quickly to the shelter.
  • Learn about your community’s evacuation plans. Such plans may include evacuationroutes, relocation sites, how the public will be notified and transportationoptions for people who do not own cars and those who have special needs.See the “Evacuation” chapter for more information.
  • Acquire other emergency preparedness booklets that you may need. See the “ForMore Information” chapter at the end of this guide.

What to do during a nuclear or radiological attack

  1. Do not look at the flash or fireball—it can blind you.

If you hear an attack warning:

    • Take cover as quickly as you can, BELOW GROUND IF POSSIBLE, and staythere unless instructed to do otherwise.
    • If you are caught outside, unable to get inside immediately, take coverbehind anything that might offer protection. Lie flat on the groundand cover your head.
    • If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds ormore for the blast wave to hit.
  1. Protect yourself from radioactive fallout. If you are close enough to see thebrilliant flash of a nuclear explosion, the fallout will arrive in about20 minutes. Take shelter, even if you are many miles from ground zero—radioactivefallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles. Remember

    the three protective factors: shielding, distance and time.

  2. Keep a battery-powered radio with you, and listen for official information.Follow the instructions given. Local instructions should always takeprecedence: officials on the ground know the local situation best.

What to do after a nuclear or radiological attack

In a public or home shelter:

  1. Do not leave the shelter until officials say it is safe. Follow their instructionswhen leaving.
  2. If in a fallout shelter, stay in your shelter until local authorities tellyou it is permissible or advisable to leave. The length of your staycan range from a day or two to four weeks. 
    • Contamination from a radiological dispersion device could affect a wide area,depending on the amount of conventional explosives used, the quantityof radioactive material and atmospheric conditions.
    • A “suitcase” terrorist nuclear device detonated at or near groundlevel would produce heavy fallout from the dirt and debris suckedup into the mushroom cloud.
    • A missile-delivered nuclear weapon from a hostile nation would probablycause an explosion many times more powerful than a suitcase bomb,and provide a greater cloud of radioactive fallout.
    • The decay rate of the radioactive fallout would be the same, makingit necessary for those in the areas with highest radiation levelsto remain in shelter for up to a month.
    • The heaviest fallout would be limited to the area at or downwind fromthe explosion, and 80% of the fallout would occur during the first24 hours.
    • Because of these facts and the very limited number of weapons terroristscould detonate, most of the country would not be affected by fallout.
    • People in most of the areas that would be affected could be allowed tocome out of shelter and, if necessary, evacuate to unaffected areaswithin a few days.
  3. Although it may be difficult, make every effort to maintain sanitary conditionsin your shelter space.
  4. Water and food may be scarce. Use them prudently but do not impose severerationing, especially for children, the ill or elderly.
  5. Cooperate with shelter managers. Living with many people in confined space canbe difficult and unpleasant.

Returning to your home

  1. Keep listening to the radio for news about what to do, where to go, and places to avoid.
  2. If your home was within the range of a bomb’s shock wave, or you live in a high-riseor other apartment building that experienced a non-nuclear explosion,check first for any sign of collapse or damage, such as: 
    • toppling chimneys, falling bricks, collapsing walls, plaster falling fromceilings.
    • fallen light fixtures, pictures and mirrors.
    • broken glass from windows.
    • overturned bookcases, wall units or other fixtures.
    • fires from broken chimneys.
    • ruptured gas and electric lines.
  3. Immediately clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids, and other potentiallyhazardous materials.
  4. Listen to your battery-powered radio for instructions and information aboutcommunity services.
  5. Monitor the radio and your television for information on assistance that maybe provided. Local, state and federal governments and other organizationswill help meet emergency needs and help you recover from damage andlosses.
  6. The danger may be aggravated by broken water mains and fallen power lines.
  7. If you turned gas, water and electricity off at the main valves and switchbefore you went to shelter: 
    • Do not turn the gas back on. The gas company will turn it back on foryou or you will receive other instructions.
    • Turn the water back on at the main valve only after you know the watersystem is working and water is not contaminated.
    • Turn electricity back on at the main switch only after you know the wiringis undamaged in your home and the community electrical system isfunctioning.
    • Check to see that sewage lines are intact before using sanitary facilities.
  8. Stay away from damaged areas.
  9. Stay away from areas marked “radiation hazard” or “HAZMAT.”

Homeland Security Advisory System

The Homeland Security Advisory System was designed to provide a comprehensive means

to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to federal,

state, and local authorities and to the American people. This system provides

warnings in the form of a set of graduated “Threat Conditions” that increase

as the risk of the threat increases. At each threat condition, federal

departments and agencies would implement a corresponding set of “Protective

Measures” to further reduce vulnerability or increase response capability

during a period of heightened alert.

Although the Homeland Security Advisory System is binding on the executive branch,

it is voluntary to other levels of government and the private sector.

There are five threat conditions, each identified by a description and

corresponding color.

The greater the risk of a terrorist attack, the higher the threat condition. Risk

includes both the probability of an attack occurring and its potential


Threat conditions are assigned by the Attorney General in consultation with the Assistant

to the President for Homeland Security. Threat conditions may be assigned

for the entire nation, or they may be set for a particular geographic

area or industrial sector. Assigned threat conditions will be reviewed

at regular intervals to determine whether adjustments are warranted.

Threat Conditions and Associated Protective Measures

There is always a risk of a terrorist threat. Each threat condition assigns a level

of alert appropriate to the increasing risk of terrorist attacks. Beneath

each threat condition are 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:

Low Condition (Green). This condition is declared when there is a low risk of terrorist

attacks. Federal departments and agencies will consider the following

protective measures.

  • Refine and exercise prearranged protective measures;
  • Ensure personnel receive proper training on the Homeland Security AdvisorySystem and specific prearranged department or agency protective measures;and
  • Institute a process to assure that all facilities and regulated sectors are regularlyassessed for vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks, and all reasonablemeasures are taken to mitigate these vulnerabilities.

Members of the public can:

  • Develop a household disaster plan and assemble a disaster supply kit. (see “EmergencyPlanning and Disaster Supplies” chapter).

Guarded Condition (Blue). This condition is declared when there is a general risk of terrorist

attacks. In addition to the measures taken in the previous threat condition,

federal departments and agencies will consider the following protective


  • Check communications with designated emergency response or command locations;
  • Review and update emergency response procedures; and
  • Provide the public with any information that would strengthen its ability toact appropriately.

Members of the public, in addition to the actions taken for the previous threat condition,


  • Update their disaster supply kit;
  • Review their household disaster plan;
  • Hold a household meeting to discuss what members would do and how they wouldcommunicate in the event of an incident;
  • Develop a more detailed household communication plan;
  • Apartment residents should discuss with building managers steps to be taken duringan emergency; and
  • People with special needs should discuss their emergency plans with friends,family or employers.

Elevated Condition (Yellow). An Elevated Condition is declared when there is a

significant risk of terrorist attacks. In addition to the measures taken

in the previous threat conditions, federal departments and agencies will

consider the following protective measures:

  • Increase surveillance of critical locations;
  • Coordinate emergency plans with nearby jurisdictions as appropriate;
  • Assess whether the precise characteristics of the threat require the furtherrefinement of prearranged protective measures; and
  • Implement, as appropriate, contingency and emergency response plans.

Members of the public, in addition to the actions taken for the previous threat condition,


  • Be observant of any suspicious activity and report it to authorities;
  • Contact neighbors to discuss their plans and needs;
  • Check with school officials to determine their plans for an emergency andprocedures to reunite children with parents and caregivers; and
  • Update the household communication plan.

High Condition (Orange). A High Condition is declared when there is a high risk of terrorist

attacks. In addition to the measures taken in the previous threat conditions,

federal departments and agencies will consider the following protective


  • Coordinate necessary security efforts with federal, state, and local law enforcementagencies, National Guard or other security and armed forces;
  • Take additional precautions at public events, possibly considering alternative venuesor even cancellation;
  • Prepare to execute contingency procedures, such as moving to an alternate siteor dispersing the workforce; and
  • Restrict access to a threatened facility to essential personnel only.

Members of the public, in addition to the actions taken for the previous threat conditions,


  • Review preparedness measures (including evacuation and sheltering) for potentialterrorist actions including chemical, biological, and radiological attacks;
  • Avoid high profile or symbolic locations; and
  • Exercise caution when traveling.

Severe Condition (Red). A Severe Condition reflects a severe risk of terrorist attacks.

Under most circumstances, the protective measures for a Severe Condition

are not intended to be sustained for substantial periods of time. In addition

to the protective measures in the previous threat conditions, federal

departments and agencies also will consider the following general measures:

  • Increase or redirect personnel to address critical emergency needs;
  • Assign emergency response personnel and pre-position and mobilize speciallytrained teams or resources;
  • Monitor, redirect, or constrain transportation systems; and
  • Close public and government facilities not critical for continuity of essentialoperations, especially public safety.

Members of the public, in addition to the actions taken for the previous threat conditions,


  • Avoid public gathering places such as sports arenas, holiday gatherings, orother high risk locations;
  • Follow official instructions about restrictions to normal activities;
  • Contact employer to determine status of work;
  • Listen to the radio and TV for possible advisories or warnings; and
  • Prepare to take protective actions such as sheltering-in-place or evacuationif instructed to do so by public officials.