Though this article isn't specifically about animals, we
bring it to you to help allay any fears of current threats of terrorism.
It is, of course, good advice for our companion animals as well.
The "Real" Deal about Nuclear, Bio, and Chem Attacks
by SFC Red Thomas (Ret)
Since the media has decided to scare everyone with
predictions of chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare on our turf I
decided to write a paper and keep things in their proper perspective. I
am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training expert.
Lesson number one: In the mid 1990s there were a series
of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect
conditions for an attack less than 10% of the people there were injured
(the injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the
injured died. 60 Minutes once had a fellow telling us that one drop of
nerve gas could kill a thousand people, well he didn't tell you the
thousand dead people per drop was theoretical. Drill Sergeants
exaggerate how terrible this stuff was to keep the recruits awake in
class (I know this because I was a Drill Sergeant too).
Forget everything you've ever seen on TV, in the movies,
or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (read this
sentence again out loud)!
These weapons are about terror, if you remain calm, you
will probably not die. This is far less scary than the media and their
"Experts," make it sound.
Chemical weapons are categorized as Nerve, Blood,
Blister, and Incapacitating Agents. Contrary to the hype of reporters
and politicians they are not weapons of mass destruction they are "Area
denial," and terror weapons that don't destroy anything. When you leave
the area you almost always leave the risk. That's the difference; you
can leave the area and the risk; soldiers may have to stay put and sit
through it and that's why they need all that spiffy gear.
These are not gasses, they are vapors and/or air borne
particles. The agent must be delivered in sufficient quantity to
kill/injure, and that defines when/how it's used. Every day we have a
morning and evening inversion where "stuff," suspended in the air gets
pushed down. This inversion is why allergies (pollen) and air pollution
are worst at these times of the day.
So, a chemical attack will have it's best effect an hour
of so either side of sunrise/sunset. Also, being vapors and airborne
particles they are heavier than air so they will seek low places like
ditches, basements and underground garages. This stuff won't work when
it's freezing, it doesn't last when it's hot, and wind spreads it too
thin too fast. They've got to get this stuff on you, or, get you to
inhale it for it to work. They also have to get the concentration of
chemicals high enough to kill or wound you. Too little and it's nothing,
too much and it's wasted.
What I hope you've gathered by this point is that a
chemical weapons attack that kills a lot of people is incredibly hard to
do with military grade agents and equipment so you can imagine how hard
it will be for terrorists.
The more you know about this stuff the more you realize
how hard it is to use.
We'll start by talking about nerve agents. You have
these in your house, plain old bug killer (like Raid) is nerve agent.
All nerve agents work the same way; they are cholinesterase inhibitors
that mess up the signals your nervous system uses to make your body
function. It can harm you if you get it on your skin but it works best
if they can get you to inhale it. If you don't die in the first minute
and you can leave the area you're probably gonna live. The military's
antidote for all nerve agents is atropine and pralidoxime chloride.
Neither one of these does anything to cure the
nerve agent, they send your body into overdrive to keep you alive for
five minutes, after that the agent is used up. Your best protection is
fresh air and staying calm. Listed below are the symptoms for nerve
Sudden headache, Dimness of vision (someone you're
looking at will have pinpointed pupils), Runny nose, Excessive saliva or
drooling, Difficulty breathing, Tightness in chest, Nausea, Stomach
cramps, Twitching of exposed skin where a liquid just got on you.
If you are in public and you start experiencing these
symptoms, first ask yourself, did anything out of the ordinary just
happen, a loud pop, did someone spray something on the crowd? Are other
people getting sick too? Is there an odor of new mown hay, green corn,
something fruity, or camphor where it shouldn't be?
If the answer is yes, then calmly (if you panic you
breathe faster and inhale more air/poison) leave the area and head up
wind, or, outside. Fresh air is the best "right now antidote." If you
have a blob of liquid that looks like molasses or Kayro syrup on you;
blot it or scrape it off and away from yourself with anything
disposable. This stuff works based on your body weight, what a crop
duster uses to kill bugs won't hurt you unless you stand there and
breathe it in real deep, then lick the residue off the ground for while.
Remember they have to do all the work, they have to get the
concentration up and keep it up for several minutes while all you have
to do is quit getting it on you/quit breathing it by putting space
between you and the attack.
Blood agents are cyanide or arsine which effect your
blood's ability to provide oxygen to your tissue. The scenario for
attack would be the same as nerve agent. Look for a pop or someone
splashing/spraying something and folks around there getting
woozy/falling down. The telltale smells are bitter almonds or garlic
where it shouldn't be. The symptoms are blue lips, blue under the
fingernails, rapid breathing. The military's antidote is amyl nitride
and just like nerve agent antidote it just keeps your body working for
five minutes till the toxins are used up. Fresh air is the your best
individual chance. Blister agents (distilled mustard) are so nasty that
nobody wants to even handle it let alone use it. It's almost impossible
to handle safely and may have delayed effect of up to 12 hours. The
attack scenario is also limited to the things you'd see from other
chemicals. If you do get large, painful blisters for no apparent reason,
don't pop them, if you must, don't let the liquid from the blister get
on any other area, the stuff just keeps on spreading. It's just as
likely to harm the user as the target. Soap, water, sunshine, and fresh
air are this stuff's enemy.
Bottom line on chemical weapons (it's the same if they
use industrial chemical spills); they are intended to make you panic, to
terrorize you, to herd you like sheep to the wolves. If there is an
attack, leave the area and go upwind, or to the sides of the wind
stream. They have to get the stuff to you, and on you. You're more
likely to be hurt by a drunk driver on any given day than be hurt by one
of these attacks. Your odds get better if you leave the area. Soap,
water, time, and fresh air really deal this stuff a knock-out-punch.
Don't let fear of an isolated attack rule your life. The odds are really
on your side.
Nuclear bombs. These are the only weapons of mass
destruction on earth. The effects of a nuclear bomb are heat, blast, EMP,
and radiation. If you see a bright flash of light like the sun, where
the sun isn't, fall to the ground!
The heat will be over a second. Then there will be two
blast waves, one out going, and one on it's way back. Don't stand up to
see what happened after the first wave; anything that's going to happen
will have happened in two full minutes.
These will be low yield devices and will not level whole
cities. If you live through the heat, blast, and initial burst of
radiation, you'll probably live for a very, very long time. Radiation
will not create fifty foot tall women, or giant ants and grasshoppers
the size of tanks. These will be at the most 1 kiloton bombs; that's the
equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.
Here's the real deal, flying debris and radiation will
kill a lot of exposed (not all!) people within a half mile of the blast.
Under perfect conditions this is about a half mile circle of death and
destruction, but, when it's done it's done. EMP stands for Electro
Magnetic Pulse and it will fry every electronic device for a good
distance, it's impossible to say what and how far but probably not over
a couple of miles from ground zero is a good guess. Cars, cell phones,
computers, ATMs, you name it, all will be out of order.
There are lots of kinds of radiation, you only need to
worry about three, the others you have lived with for years. You need to
worry about "Ionizing radiation," these are little subatomic particles
that go whizzing along at the speed of light. They hit individual cells
in your body, kill the nucleus and keep on going. That's how you get
radiation poisoning, you have so many dead cells in your body that the
decaying cells poison you. It's the same as people getting radiation
treatments for cancer, only a bigger area gets radiated. The good news
is you don't have to just sit there and take it, and there's lots you
can do rather than panic. First; your skin will stop alpha particles, a
page of a news paper or your clothing will stop beta particles, you just
gotta try and avoid inhaling dust that's contaminated with atoms that
are emitting these things and you'll be generally safe from them.
Gamma rays are particles that travel like rays (Quantum
physics makes my brain hurt) and they create the same damage as alpha
and beta particles only they keep going and kill lots of cells as they
go all the way through your body. It takes a lot to stop these things,
lots of dense material, on the other hand it takes a lot of this to kill
Your defense is as always to not panic. Basic hygiene
and normal preparation are your friends. All canned or frozen food is
safe to eat. The radiation poisoning will not effect plants so fruits
and vegetables are OK if there's no dust on them (rinse them off if
there is). If you don't have running water and you need to collect rain
water or use water from wherever, just let it sit for thirty minutes and
skim off the water gently from the top. The dust with the bad stuff in
it will settle and the remaining water can be used for the toilet which
will still work if you have a bucket of water to pour in the tank.
Finally there's biological warfare. There's not much to
cover here. Basic personal hygiene and sanitation will take you further
than a million doctors. Wash your hands often, don't share drinks, food,
sloppy kisses, etc., with strangers. Keep your garbage can with a tight
lid on it, don't have standing water (like old buckets, ditches, or
kiddie pools) laying around to allow mosquitoes breeding room. This
stuff is carried by vectors, that is bugs, rodents, and contaminated
material. If biological warfare is so easy as the TV makes it sound, why
has Saddam Hussein spent twenty years, millions, and millions of dollars
trying to get it right? If you're clean of person and home you eat well
and are active, you're gonna live.
Overall preparation for any terrorist attack is the same
as you'd take for a big storm. If you want a gas mask, fine, go get one.
I know this stuff and I'm not getting one and I told my Mom not to
bother with one either (how's that for confidence). We have a week's
worth of cash, several days worth of canned goods and plenty of soap and
water. We don't leave stuff out to attract bugs or rodents so we don't
These people can't conceive a nation this big with this
much resources. These weapons are made to cause panic, terror, and to
demoralize. If we don't run around like sheep they won't use this stuff
after they find out it's no fun. The government is going nuts over this
stuff because they have to protect every inch of America. You've only
gotta protect yourself, and by doing that, you help the country.
Finally, there are millions of caveats to everything I
wrote here and you can think up specific scenarios where my advice isn't
the best. This letter is supposed to help the greatest number of people
under the greatest number of situations. If you don't like my work,
don't nit pick, just sit down and explain chemical, nuclear, and
biological warfare in a document around three pages long yourself. This
is how we the people of the United States can rob these people of their
most desired goal, your terror.
SFC Red Thomas (Ret)
Armor Master Gunner
Go on to Vegetarians
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