When it comes to terrorism we, along with our governments, tend to focus on bombings, knifings, and shootings. Unfortunately, there’s a whole different type of terrorism that goes unmentioned that’s just as (if not more) threatening: bioterrorism. Bioterrorism involves the use of harmful germs or other biological agents to create mass illness- from epidemic to pandemic- and instill terror in civilians and their governing bodies. A number of biological weapons can be used in one of these attacks; three of the most notable weapons are smallpox, ricin, and anthrax.
Some of these agents, such as smallpox, will be spread by people who have become infected. Others, like anthrax, only pose a threat to those who come in direct contact with them. This can occur through ingestion, touch, or- very commonly- inhalation.
As difficult as preparation for this kind of attack is, here are two essential tips:
- If any warnings are issued (via television, radio, social media, etc.) concerning an ongoing or potential bioterrorist attack, ensure every member of your family has a gas mask. Unlike a shooting or an explosion, the attack isn’t limited to the area where the attackers are. A release of toxic gas can spread for miles, and barricading your front door won’t save you.
- Handle any envelopes or packages from unknown senders with extreme caution. This is a common means of delivering biological weapons (like anthrax). A list of red flags can be found on the DHS website. Some of these warnings signs include:
- Excessive or no postage
- Foreign postage or writing
- Incorrect or generic titles
- Leaks, stains, powders, or protruding materials
- Ticking, vibration, or other sound
Unlike in the movies where the protagonist rushes to get the weapon away from the people, the best course of action is really to leave it right where it is (with as little movement or contact as possible) and get the people away from the weapon. And if you’re one of the people who sees something strange and thinks “It’s probably nothing” or “Someone else will call it in”, you should seriously reevaluate your mindset. This is your home, your family, your life we’re talking about; is it really worth the risk?