This document was produced in cooperation with the Emergency Management Division of the Washington State Military Department.

Terrorists look for prominent targets where they can avoid detection before or after an attack, such as international airports, large cities, major public events, resorts, and high-profile landmarks.

Preparing for terrorism is critical, just as for other types of disasters.

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • If you see what appears to be a dangerous situation, call 9-1-1 and explain your concerns to the operator. The operator will help determine what actions should be taken.
  • Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave your luggage unattended.
  • Learn where emergency exits are located, and how to quickly evacuate a building, transportation corridor or congested public area.
  • Stay clear of heavy or breakable objects that could move, fall or break in an explosion.

Prepare for building explosion

The use of explosives by terrorists can result in collapsed buildings and fires. People who live or work in a multi-level building should follow these guidelines.

  • Know the emergency evacuation procedures that are in place.
  • Know where the fire exits are located and be able to find them in the dark.
  • Keep fire extinguishers in working order. Know where they are located and know how to use them.
  • Learn first aid and CPR.
  • businesses and organizations should keep and maintain a disaster supply kit on each floor of their buildings.

If an explosion occurs

  • Immediately get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you.
  • Heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling. Stay below the smoke at all times.

If trapped in debris

  • If you have a flashlight, use it to help rescuers locate you.
  • Stay in your area so that you don't kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort — shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
  • Stay low to the floor and exit the building as quickly and calmly as possible.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth, if possible.
  • Test closed doors for heat with the palm of your hand and forearm on the lower and upper portions of the door. If it is not hot, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly. If it is hot or warm to the touch, do not open the door. Seek an alternate escape route.

Biological agents

  • Biological agents are organisms or toxins that may harm people, livestock and crops. Because biological agents cannot necessarily be detected and may take time to grow and cause disease, it is almost impossible to know that a biological attack has occurred.
  • If the government were to become aware of a biological attack through an informant or warning by terrorists, they would most likely instruct people to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises (shelter-in-place), or evacuate immediately.
  • A person affected by a biological agent requires the immediate attention of professional medical personnel. Some agents are contagious, and victims may need to be quarantined. Also, some medical facilities may not be receiving victims for fear of contaminating the hospital population.

More information is available from federal agencies at:

DOH Pub 821-016
Revised - October 2006
Reviewed annually