always wanted to know about being afraid of terror, asked.
you do if you've been exposed to a dirty bomb?
First, it's important
to understand that a dirty bomb is not a weapon of mass destruction
-- if you survive the explosion itself, you'll more than likely be
fine. At first, you probably won't know whether what's just exploded
is a dirty bomb -- essentially a conventional bomb surrounded by radioactive
material. So it's important not to leave the scene, even if you're
not injured; authorities in moon suits will come to you. A common
misconception is that you should strip naked immediately. While you
definitely want to destroy your clothes, waiting until you get to
the hospital is perfectly okay. At the hospital, the first order of
business is a body scan to confirm radiation. If it's present, doctors
would wash your hair and body (and collect the suds to prevent contaminating
the sewers), and fluids would be given to help flush the radioactive
material out of your system.
stock up on potassium-iodide pills? And what do they do, anyway?
isotopes are dangerous because the thyroid has a spongelike ability
to store them. Potassium-iodide pills saturate the thyroid with clean
iodine, thereby blocking the intake of the bad stuff. Dirty bombs
would probably be constructed with radioactive materials like cesium
137 and strontium 90 -- which are used in machines for everything
from treating cancer to irradiating food -- not radioactive iodine
of the kind that would likely be released during a nuclear explosion
or a meltdown at a reactor. Although Westchester County has distributed
free iodide pills to residents in case of an attack on the Indian
Point nuclear plant, many experts stress the dangers of preventive
doses of iodine. "You could have an adverse side effect to the pills,"
says Roger Hagengruber, a senior VP of national security and arms
control at Sandia Labs. If you do keep them on hand, you should take
them as soon as you're reasonably certain you'll be exposed.
you do in case of a chemical attack?
If you're outside,
find shelter as soon as possible -- the first unlocked door. Close
all windows and doors. Turn off all heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning
systems that draw air from outside. Seal all windows, doors, and ventilators
with duct tape. Don't go to the basement, however; most of the likely
chemical agents -- like GA (Tabun), GB (Sarin), and VX (methylphosphonothioic
acid) -- are heavier than air; they tend to seep downward and collect
a biological attack?
Go inside. Follow
the same procedure for sealing your home that you would for a chemical
attack. Wash hands and other exposed skin with soap and water. And
don't panic. Since biological agents like anthrax or smallpox can
take from three to fourteen days to act, there is time to notice the
exposure and seek treatment. Anthrax can be effectively treated with
antibiotics -- remember Cipro -- and isn't contagious. Smallpox vaccine
is effective even after exposure -- the vaccine works faster than
vaccine available? And when should you take it?
Not to the public, except in an emergency. The vaccine is owned
by the government, and the only people to receive vaccinations are
a few hundred scientists and medical professionals who deal directly
with smallpox-type viruses. There's a stockpile of 15.4 million
doses, and the government expects to have a total of 286 million
doses by the end of the year. Precautionary vaccination is recommended
only for bioterrorism and for public-health officials as well as
the health-care workers who would be responding to smallpox cases.
you tell your children about terrorism?
Children don't worry about terrorism as terrorism; they worry about
things that might affect them. Their greatest fears are that someone
will be injured or killed, that they will be separated from the
family, or that they will be left alone. FEMA suggests discussing
the disaster in terms of the possible effects that children can
comprehend, like loss of electricity, and reassuring them that there
are many people -- firemen, police officers, teachers, neighbors
-- who will be able to help. In addition, even very young children
should be taught when and how to call for emergency assistance.
It's also advisable to have children memorize the number of a contact
in another city; after a disaster, long-distance lines often remain
in service when local ones are down. After a terrorist attack, the
most important thing, studies suggest, is to maintain a routine
with which the child is familiar, to allow him to be more dependent
on you for a time, to accept his feelings and reactions, and to
shield him from television news coverage, discussing the incident
with him yourself. Seeking professional help is necessary only when
behavior becomes extreme, as when children begin having serious
behavioral or academic problems, withdrawing from usual social activities,
exhibiting depression, or focusing on the event to an extraordinary
stations should you tune in to in the event of an attack?
station in times of emergency is 1340 AM. But the FCC's voluntary
Emergency Alert System, which is used primarily to warn about severe
weather and hazardous chemical spills, is locally managed and runs
on digital technology that allows messages to be sent out through
all participating radio and broadcast and cable-TV stations, even
if those stations have to be evacuated.