Threats to civilians and civilian life include NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare) and others, like the more modern term CBRN, Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear. Threat assessment involves studying each threat so that preventative measures can be built into civilian life.
This would be conventional explosives. A blast shelter designed to protect only from radiation and fallout, however, would be much more vulnerable to conventional explosives, also see fallout shelter.
Shelter intended to protect against nuclear blast effects would include thick concrete and other sturdy elements which are resistant to conventional explosives. The biggest threats from a nuclear attack are effects from the blast, fires and radiation. One of the most prepared countries for a nuclear attack is Switzerland. Almost every building in Switzerland has an abri (shelter) against the initial nuclear bomb and explosion followed by the fallout. Because of this, many people use it as a safe to protect valuables, photos, financial information and so on. Switzerland also has air-raid and nuclear raid sirens in every village.
A "radiologically enhanced weapon," or "dirty bomb" uses an explosive to spread radioactive material. This is a theoretical risk, and such weapons have not been used by terrorists. Depending on the quantity of the radioactive material, the dangers may be mainly psychological. Toxic effects can be managed by standard hazmat techniques.
The threat here is primarily from disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.
Various chemical agents are a threat such as nerve gas (VX, Sarin, and so on.).
Mitigation is the process of actively preventing the war or the release of nuclear weapons. It includes policy analysis, diplomacy, political measures, nuclear disarmament and more military responses such as a National Missile Defense and air defense artillery. In the case of counter-terrorism, mitigation would include diplomacy, intelligence gathering and direct action against terrorist groups. Mitigation may also be reflected in long-term planning such as the design of the interstate highway system and the placement of military bases further away from populated areas.
Preparation consists of building blast shelters, and pre-positioning information, supplies and emergency infrastructure. For example, most larger cities in the U.S. now have underground emergency operations centers that can perform civil defense coordination. FEMA also has many underground facilities located near major railheads such as the one in Denton, Texas and Mount Weather, Virginia for the same purpose.
Other measures would include continuous government inventories of grain silos, the Strategic National Stockpile, the uncapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the dispersal of truck-transportable bridges, water purification, mobile refineries, mobile decontamination facilities, mobile general and special purpose disaster mortuary facilities such as Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) and DMORT-WMD, and other aids such as temporary housing to speed civil recovery.
On an individual scale, one means of preparation for exposure to nuclear fallout is to obtain potassium iodide (KI) tablets as a safety measure to protect the human thyroid gland from the uptake of dangerous radioactive iodine. Another measure is to cover the nose, mouth and eyes with a piece of cloth and sunglasses to protect against alpha particles, which are only an internal hazard.
To support and supplement efforts at national, regional and local level with regard to disaster prevention, the preparedness of those responsible for civil protection and the intervention in the event of disaster
Preparing also includes sharing information:
Response consists first of warning civilians so they can enter Fallout Shelters and protect assets.
Staffing a response is always full of problems in a civil defense emergency. After an attack, conventional full-time emergency services are dramatically overloaded, with conventional fire fighting response times often exceeding several days. Some capability is maintained by local and state agencies, and an emergency reserve is provided by specialized military units, especially civil affairs, Military Police, Judge Advocates and combat engineers.
However, the traditional response to massed attack on civilian population centers is to maintain a mass-trained force of volunteer emergency workers such as the USCDA. Studies in World War II showed that lightly trained (40 hours or less) civilians in organized teams can perform up to 95% of emergency activities when trained, liaised and supported by local government. In this plan, the populace rescues itself from most situations, and provides information to a central office to prioritize professional emergency services.
In the 1990s, this concept was revived by the Los Angeles Fire Department and the United States Civil Defense Assoc. to cope with civil emergencies such as earthquakes. The program was widely adopted, providing standard terms for organization. In the U.S., this is now official federal policy, and it is implemented by community emergency response teams, (CERTS) under the Department of Homeland Security, which certifies training programs by local governments, and registers "certified disaster service workers" who complete such training.
Recovery consists of rebuilding damaged infrastructure, buildings and production. The recovery phase is the longest and ultimately most expensive phase. Once the immediate "crisis" has passed, cooperation fades away and recovery efforts are often politicized or seen as economic opportunities.
Preparation for recovery can be very helpful. If mitigating resources are dispersed before the attack, cascades of social failures can be prevented. One hedge against bridge damage in riverine cities is to subsidize a "tourist ferry" that performs scenic cruises on the river. When a bridge is down, the ferry takes up the load.
Some advocates believe that government should change building codes to require autonomous buildings in order to reduce civil societies' dependence on complex, fragile networks of social services.
An example of a crucial need after a general nuclear attack would be the fuel required to transport every other item for recovery. However, oil refineries are large, immobile, and probable targets. One proposal is to preposition truck-mounted fuel refineries near oil fields and bulk storage depots. Other critical infrastructure needs would include road and bridge repair, communications, electric power, food production, and potable water.
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