How to prepare for a chemical attack

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Courtesy of Fast-ACT

It is a shocking and sad reality that chemical attacks are happening in the world today. The threats continue to rise as global tensions become greater. It can only be a good thing to be prepared if one was to occur in your area. The first step in preparation is to understand more about what chemical attacks are.

What are chemical attacks?

Chemical attacks involve using toxic chemicals as a weapon. They can even be considered weapons of mass destruction. Although the outcomes can be deadly, chemical attacks are something that can be overcome with the proper knowledge, protective gear, and preparations.

Chemical attacks are infrequent, but when they do happen, they can cause a lot of devastation. They usually occur in large, busy areas to create as much havoc as possible. Chemicals used for warfare are prohibited according to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), where the majority of countries chose to adopt the law. Unfortunately, there are still several countries that are active in enabling terrorism that have not endorsed this legislation.

Many types of chemicals can be used in a chemical attack – from tear gas often found used during riots to control crowds, to Vx, the nerve agent that causes a horrible death. Chemicals used for warfare fall into any one of the following categories:

  1. Riot Agents – These are commonly seen during crowd control situations by police. Riot agents are usually not lethal. Everyday pepper spray and CS gas are the most popular types.
  2. Blister Agents – When exposed to skin, this type of gas will cause large blisters filled with puss. It can be lethal just by this skin exposure and by inhalation. Mustard gas is a well-known type of blister agent.
  3. Blood Agents – These types of agents are very hard to detect as they have no color or odor to them. They creep into the blood system and stop the cells getting the oxygen they need. Hydrogen cyanide is the most well-known type, but these agents are uncommon on the whole.
  4. Choking Agents – Chlorine and Phosgene are examples of this type of agent. They work by “drowning” the victim by preventing the lungs from getting oxygen. Chlorine spills can be frequent, but they’re treated as HAZMAT situations due to their often random nature.
  5. Nerve Agents – This type of chemical agent has devastating effects in only small doses. Even a pin drop can cause death. Exposure to nerve agents results in seizures and convulsions until death. The nerve agent sarin is thought to have been used in the recent attacks in Syria. The same nerve agent was also used in an attack in Tokyo and Vx was used in the murder of Kim Jong-un’s brother.

Even a small can of pepper spray has its effects, so imagine what it is like when it is delivered with SCUD missiles. What happens to those exposed to them is varied. The amount of attacks is decreasing, as is the actual number of chemical weapons available. However, there is still a threat that should be acknowledged.

How severe can a chemical attack be?

The answer depends on many factors. The type of chemical agent used will make a difference. Tear gas is nothing compared to sarin. How a chemical attack is delivered also matters, as well as the area it is delivered to. Tear gas over a few rioters in town will cause a lot fewer problems than nerve agents dropped in bombs over a busy city. Some chemical attacks are done indirectly, targeting food and water sources. This will still have an incredibly horrific effect on the areas this would happen in.

Could chemical attacks end the world as we know it?

It is scarily true that chemical attacks can kill millions. At one point, there was so much nerve agent in the world that every living person could easily have been killed. Thankfully, sanctions and agreements have been made by most of the countries in the world to destroy known agents. So, could the end of the world still be caused by chemical warfare? It is now doubtful and unfeasible. There would need to be an extreme amount of the right chemicals to do so, as chemical agents do not spread the same way biological weapons do or cause as much destruction as nuclear weapons. The same methods of delivery for chemical weapons can be used for biological and nuclear weapons. This scenario would be even more devastating.

What is the current probability of a chemical attack?

The probability of a chemical attack occurring is extremely low, measuring at a one on the TrueRisk index. This risk is slightly higher for those in urban areas or near military bases. The weapons of choice have gone beyond chemicals and into nuclear because the effects tend to take place immediately. They can also be targeted better. Terrorism rarely occurs with chemical weapons due to the costs involved. Nuclear is preferred because of its benefits mentioned; biological armaments also typically cost less. This doesn’t mean that chemical attacks will stop. They can be seen as a cost-effective approach if being used as an assassination attempt like on Kim Jong-un’s brother or as a surprise attack. They are also seen as a cheaper option when old munition supplies are available to use.

The risk of chemical attacks happening indirectly through food and water sources is also unlikely. Biological weapons tend to be more effective than chemicals in these situations.

How to prepare for a chemical attack

Chemical warfare is something we can be very prepared for, aiding the damage to be very minimal. Preparation for such an event is straightforward, but it needs to be done right to be effective. Even things like a air-purifying respirator mask and full-coverage clothing can make all the difference, as is having a dedicated shelter to go to in the event of an emergency. When exposed to the air, most chemicals do not tend to last very long, but it is good to have the basics on hand since you never know exactly how long you will be in the middle of a chemically-exposed area.

What to include in an emergency kit

An excellent kit to help you for the duration of a chemical attack that can be kept in your shelter will be inexpensive and easy to put together. They should include protective gear and items to help decontaminate the area.

For protective gear, you should have gas masks and appropriate clothing. FAST-ACT’s VapourKlenz Face Mask is ideal in these situations. Using FAST-ACT patented technology, metal oxides to interact with pathways to break down toxic and noxious compounds. This neutralizes odors and makes things safer. FAST-ACT masks are lightweight, inexpensive, and come with a metal strip over the nose that can easily be bent to create the perfect seal around the top of the nose. Like any mask, you should try this on before an emergency should occur to ensure a good fit. Other protective gear you should get includes gloves, goggles, and full-coverage clothing. A plastic one-piece suit would be even better. It should gather around the ankles and wrists to prevent exposure. You should always change out of clothes that have been exposed to chemicals as they can stick to the fibers of the clothing, so keep a spare set as part of your kit.

Your emergency kit should also contain items to help with decontamination. FAST-ACT can help with the right tools to keep your area safe, like the FAST-ACT Powder Bottle and FAST-ACT Decon Mitt. Just flip open the bottle and spray it towards the contaminated area to help neutralize liquid and vapor hazards. This will make clean-up a breeze. Use it alongside the Decon Mitt to handle contaminated items.

Your emergency pack should also contain enough food and water. Canned food is best as it can last a long time and doesn’t need to be heated. Disinfectant wipes, soap, and body wipes are also handy to have.

Suggested plan of action

It is best to stay put during an attack and seek shelter immediately. Have a shelter plan in place for both home and work. Make sure the surrounding area is decontaminated (FAST-ACT products can help here). Change out of any exposed clothing by cutting it off, so it doesn’t touch your hands or face. Use protective clothing when venturing out or neutralizing any surrounding chemicals. Stay put until the all-clear is given.

What to do during a chemical attack

The first thing to do is to stay calm. This will help you keep a level head and have a positive effect on those around you too. It is suggested to stay where you are. However, if you are not close to where the chemical attack has deployed, then you may have enough time to leave the area, but only if it is safe to do so. Take traffic or any other time-consuming factors into consideration that may stop you from getting away in time. Get to higher ground if possible. Chemical agents tend to be denser than air, so they will always sink.

In your shelter, turn off all HVAC and fans. Tape up doorways. Use plastic sheeting if it is available to make the room as airtight as possible.

What to do after a chemical attack

Chemicals do not linger and should dissipate after 72-hours. Liquid chemicals may last longer. You should wait until an official all-clear before venturing out if it can be helped.

Decontaminate all the exposed protective gear. FAST-ACT Decon Mitts are great for this, as are the FAST-ACT Powder Bottles for bigger messes. They will make clean-up quick and easy.

Don’t wait for a chemical attack to happen. Be prepared with a solid plan in place, complete with FAST-ACT products to help decontaminate hazardous areas. Have a look at our products or contact us with any concerns you have in preparing your emergency kit.

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