Chemical Agent Attack
Chemical agent attacks are the dispersion of a harmful chemical into the atmosphere. They may be due to terrorist attack or enemy nations as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). More commonly they are the result of industrial accidents due to toxic chemical spills or leaks. As the effects are nearly the same both will be treated as one in this article.
Understanding Chemical Agent Attacks
Targeted chemical agent attacks are most likely to occur in urban areas with few exceptions. Accidental chemical spills also occur mostly in urban or industrialized areas, the exception being highway and railroad accidents which result in leaks. Terrorists and nations using WMD's want the largest body count meaning urban areas and civilians are far less prepared for chemical attack than military units. Finally, chemical agents disperse quickly in the atmosphere, becoming ineffective so they do not work well as denial of movement weapons against trained armies. Due to these factors chemical agent attacks can be very survivable due to their short-lived nature. One needs only to concern oneself with two things when you believe a chemical agent attack has been performed; first protect your lungs from the agent and second, protect your skin and eyes from the agent.
Protecting Your Lungs
Chemical agent attacks are difficult to prepare for since there will be no warning and the ideal equipment is somewhat difficult to carry. The primary thing you need to carry to prepare for a chemical agent attack is some sort of breathing filter.
Types of Breathing Filters
- Handkerchief - When wet a handkerchief can serve briefly as a makeshift breathing filter
- Face Mask - A simple dust mask is of some aid as a breathing filter, make sure to seal it fully
- Commercial Respirator - A commercial respirator is designed to protect you from chemical agents though it lacks eye protection
- Military Gas Mask - Surplus gas masks typically only have filters that offer protection from chemical irritants such as OC, CS or CN
- NBC Mask - A proper NBC mask will protect your full face from more than just chemical agents but also fallout and biological agents
There are important steps you should take in addition to using a breathing filter to protect your lungs.
- Signs of a chemical agent attack or spill:
- Dead or dying animals, particularly birds
- People coughing or wheezing
- Smoke, steam or vapor escaping from any storage tank where the contents is unknown or suspected to be toxic
- If outdoors don breathing filter and move inside quickly
- If in a vehicle
- Turn off outside air vents
- Turn on heat
- Don breathing filter
- Carefully drive outside of contaminated zone if possible, if not shelter in vehicle
- If inside shelter in place
- Shut all doors, windows and vents
- Move to high ground/upper stories as most chemicals are heavier than air
- Flush eyes and exposed skin with clean water, drink lots of water unless instructed otherwise
- Monitor TV/Radio for information
Protecting Your Eyes and Skin
Some chemicals can cause blindness and other can be absorbed through the skin or can cause caustic burns to exposed flesh.
- Military type Goggles - If you do not have a full face gas mask or NBC Mask on this will at least protect your eyes.
- Painting Overalls - This is a stopgap method of protection for your body. They are cheap and disposable but offer limited protection.
- MOPP Suit - A military NBC suit that is designed to work with a military NBC/gas mask. Most use activated charcoal and are very hot and bulky to wear.
- NBC Suit - Though expensive and bulky these offer full protection from multiple threats but require a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) to use limiting exposure to 30 minutes or less due to air tank capacity.
Chemical Agent Attack Aftermath
During and for some time after a chemical agent attack most everyone in the area will likely panic, this may cause injury and make escape more difficult. Upon escape from the contaminated areas victims may be required to go through decontamination. Decontamination protocols by fire department Hazmat teams requires all victims to publicly strip naked, be sprayed (showered) with water and then given a simple garment to wear while monitored for negative health effects. All exposed personal property and clothing are destroyed as hazardous materials, even all jewelry in some cases including body piercings. Contaminated buildings must be stripped of anything which absorbed the chemical agents and decontaminated or in extreme cases, condemned for destruction. Vehicles are likely to be ordered destroyed.