Biological, Chemical, Radiologic Event, and Pandemic
Biological and chemical threats require important and informed decisions that can affect the lives and safety of building staff, tenants, and visitors. The number of causalities from actual threats will depend on several factors, the most important being the potency or size of the weapon and the efficiency of the delivery system. While an incident involving a chemical agent would probably be quickly noticed, a biological or radiological attack may not be noticed for several days. Evidence of such threats can vary. The agent may appear as a solid, liquid, or gas. A biological or radiological agent release is nearly impossible to identify at the time of release.
In case of an emergency situation, including one related to a terrorist attack, the local and federal police and health systems would immediately take action. The building will follow the guidance of the police and health officials. Each situation warrants a different response. As the building receives information it will be immediately relayed to the tenants.
The building will rely on local emergency personnel to administer any necessary medications in response to an emergency situation, including a dirty bomb, biological, chemical or other attack. These personnel have the medical expertise necessary to diagnose and provide the appropriate treatment in such situations.
Since chemical agents are typically acutely toxic, their effects are typically abrupt and obvious. Determination as to whether an attack has occurred may be made by observation of the victims. The physiological impact on building occupants and visitors may lead to the immediate inference that they may have been exposed to a chemical agent. It is important to recognize key signs and symptoms of chemical exposure in order to react rapidly. More than any other type of attack, a chemical agent requires quick reaction because a rapid response will have a direct impact on the number of lives saved.
General rules for response to a chemical agent are:
- Recognition of a potential chemical agent incident.
- You observe two or more people suddenly in physical distress with no obvious cause. For example:
- Breathing difficulty or uncontrollable coughing
- Complaints of nausea
- Blurred vision
- Complaints of an unusual odor
Actions to be taken in response to a biological or chemical agent event:
- Notify 911
- Stop all personnel from entering the contaminated area.
- Evacuate people away (opposite direction) from the contaminated area/chemical cloud/area of release.
- Notify the Building Management Office at (916) 498-6215 of the release in your area.
- Ensure that people who need assistance receive help from emergency personnel.
The difficulty of responding to a nuclear or radiological incident is compounded by the nature of the radiation in an explosion. The fact that radioactive material was involved may or may not be obvious, depending upon the nature of the explosive device used. Other than an explosive device to disperse radiological material, a “carrier” could spread particles of radiological waste throughout the area. The effects of this type of event would not become evident for several days or weeks. Unless announced by public emergency officials or confirmed by radiological detection equipment, the presence of a radiation hazard is difficult to ascertain.
Response to a radiological event:
If the results of an investigation indicate that a radiological act of terrorism is a realistic possibility, the responsive actions will depend on the evidence discovered.
If a suspected material or a dispersal device is found and a threat is deemed credible, the general steps outlined for responding to a bomb should be taken.
Pandemic and Flu
A pandemic of influenza, or flu, occurs when a new flu virus rapidly spreads from human-to-human and country-to-country around the world. A new virus can spread rapidly because most people are not immune to it. Pandemics are not just particularly bad flu seasons. In fact, they can happen any time of the year.
What is troubling is, whenever a flu strain infects people, there is a chance that the virus could mutate, or change, to a new virus that spreads easily from person-to-person and causes serious illness. Infections with new human flu strains cannot be prevented by the flu vaccine that people get each year. Making a safe vaccine that can prevent infections with a new human virus can take several months.
There are precautions individuals can take in the event of a pandemic:
- Frequently washing or sanitizing your hands.
- Covering up when coughing or sneezing.
- Be aware of others that exhibit flu symptoms.
- Most importantly, stay home if you feel sick.
As a business it is important to develop a plan for:
- The impact of a pandemic on your business.
- The impact of a pandemic on your employees and customers.
- Establishing policies to be implemented during a pandemic.
- Allocating resources to protect your employees and customers during a pandemic.
- Educating your employees.
- Coordinating with external organizations and helping your community.