It’s difficult to imagine an emergency situation more potentially horrendous than a chemical attack on U.S. soil. This horrifying possibility — undoubtedly being discussed by America’s enemies on a regular basis — could be an act of war such as we have not seen in this country since Sept. 11, 2001.
But prior to those terrorist attacks that resulted in deaths and carnage in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Pennsylvania — and forever changed the way Americans live — a chemical attack occurred in Japan that was a wake-up call for the rest of the world.
On the morning of March 20, 1995, domestic terrorists released sarin gas on several lines of the Tokyo metro system, killing 13 people, severely injuring 50 and causing some 6,000 other injuries, including temporary vision problems for nearly 1,000 people.
We would like to think that “it can’t happen here,” but most of us know better. In fact, some people are surprised that it hasn’t happened here yet on a large scale. Every day, the U.S. government spends man hours both trying to prevent and preparing for what some consider an inevitable biological or chemical terrorist attack on our soil.
It might seem as if effectively preparing for such an attack would be virtually impossible for individual citizens, but there are some things you can do following such an incident to minimize the risk of being injured or killed.
Knowing these steps — in advance of a potential chemical or biological attack — and being prepared to take them quickly could mean the difference between death and survival for you and anyone you are with at the time.
Those in close proximity to the release of a deadly nerve gas probably have little, if any, chance of survival; but others in the general area may have an opportunity to survive if they are prepared and if they act quickly.
Following are five steps to surviving a chemical attack:
- Get away from the area as quickly as possible. You’re probably not going to be able to help anyone who has been immediately overcome by the gas, but you will risk inhaling the gas if you get too close to where it was released. There will be a very natural inclination to flee the area quickly, so this step should be easy to follow, assuming you are physically capable of executing it.
- Remove your clothes as soon as you are in a position to do so. If you can possibly rip them off rather than pulling them over your head, that would be much preferable so that you don’t expose your face to any gas that might have already infiltrated your clothing.
- As soon as you can find your way to a place with soap and water, wash yourself thoroughly, from head to toes. Pay special attention to your hair and armpits, and interlock your fingers as you’re washing your hands. This is a very important step to take, even if you are not sure whether you were exposed to the gas.
- Seek medical attention immediately. Depending on the severity of the event and how many people have been exposed to the gas, this might be challenging, because there could be many other people who are in need of more urgent care than you are. But try to get yourself to a hospital emergency room as fast as possible, so that you can be treated by healthcare professionals who will determine if and how badly you’ve been exposed to the gas.
- Call family members and friends to let them know what happened to you and where you are. Warn them to stay away from the area where the biological or chemical attack occurred.