Protecting Your Family from a Dirty Bomb
(CBN News) – WASHINGTON – In a post 9-11 world, we need to be ready for manmade disasters much the same way we prepare for natural disasters.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says al-Qaeda would like nothing better than to use weapons of mass destruction on American soil.
So how can you protect your family, home or business from such an occurrence?
When Radioactive Materials Fall in the Wrong Hands
Preventing radioactive materials from falling into the wrong hands is the main mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
But a recent undercover operation by congressional investigators resulted in a failing grade for the NRC.
The team created a fictional company and applied for a license with the agency. Not only did they get the license, they used it to buy materials for a radiological dirty bomb.
“It was much too easy … to get the licenses that would have allowed individuals setting up a dummy corporation to obtain enough materials to create a dirty bomb,” Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said.
Convicted al-Qaeda operative Dhiren Barot planned to detonate a dirty bomb on American soil as did enemy combatant Jose Padilla.
Some experts call these bombs “Weapons of Mass Disruption.”
They don’t create a large explosion, and aren’t likely to cause many casualties — at least, at first.
What makes dirty bombs dangerous is the radiation released into the atmosphere. Radiation poisoning could lead to cancer and other diseases.
The more radiation in the bomb, the larger the area it would affect. And the contamination could linger for months, if not years.
Radioactive materials are reported missing each year from places like hospitals, nuclear plants, and even construction sites. Federal officials worry some of these materials could be used by terrorists to build a dirty bomb.
So what are average Americans doing to prepare?
Ranger Surplus is a popular Army/Navy store near Washington, DC. It saw a surge of interest in emergency items right after 9-11, but since then business has slowed.
“It’s kind of tapered off. We still get a few people who come in. They’re preparing their little kits and stuff like that. But it’s not as in demand as it was,” Ranger Surplus employee Rhonda Leib said.
Kristin Gossel heads the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign. They’ve named September “National Preparedness Month.”
“Not all Americans have taken steps to prepare,” Gossel said. “Our most recent polling data, which was from about a year ago, said about 50 Americans say they’ve taken some step to make their families prepared for an emergency.”
Gossel says all Americans should take three steps to prepare for any emergency, whether it’s a terrorist dirty bomb or a natural disaster.
How to Prepare
First, have an emergency kit. It should include water, non-perishable food, a battery-operated radio, and a flashlight. Have enough of these materials to last at least three days without power.
You also want to consider your family and your unique needs. If you have an infant, you want to make sure you have diapers and formula. For example, perhaps someone in your family needs daily prescription medication – you need to make sure you have that. If you have a pet, you need to make sure you have food for them.
Second, have an emergency plan for your family or business. And don’t rely on cell phones. They might not work after a WMD attack.
Gossel said, “We encourage people to have meeting places for their family. Think about — obviously, if it’s during the day, kids are at school, parents are at work — you’re going to try to get home. But if you couldn’t get home, where else could you meet?”
Last, stay informed. A battery-operated radio or television will help you do that.
Listen to local authorities. They’re going to know … which areas to stay away from, where to go, where not to go.
So how can you protect yourself and your family if dangerous chemicals are released into the atmosphere?
The Department of Homeland Security recommends a basic dust mask–they say they’re light and easy to use.
But some security experts CBN News spoke to said you’d be a lot better off with a gas mask. The kind the Israelis used during the first Gulf War are reasonably priced, and can be found at a local Army/Navy store.
One thing all sides agree on is that you should stock up on food. And for that, there’s nothing better than Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs.
If a dirty bomb is detonated near your home or business, you’ll want to stay indoors until further notice.
“If there was a terrorist attack that might involve chemicals or biological weapons, your local authorities might ask you to shelter in place, and that would involve sealing off the air,” Gossel said.
That means turning off air conditioning or heating systems. Have a secure room picked out inside your home or business –preferably underground — where you can stay during an attack. Seal the room with duct tape or plastic sheeting.
Anyone exposed to radiation after a dirty bomb should immediately change their clothes and shoes. Put them in a sealed plastic bag so authorities can dispose of them. Shower thoroughly and seek medical assistance.
Security experts told CBN News it’s not hard to build a crude dirty bomb, especially with so many loose radioactive materials floating around.
A small scale dirty bomb attack — like in the subway tunnels of a major city — is the most likely possibility. With al-Qaeda actively seeking to deliver on this threat, all Americans need to be prepared and stay informed.
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