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Ready Marine Corps

Emergency Preparedness Program

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Biological Terrorism

 hoto of biological sample collection procedure.

Photo of biological sample collection procedure by:
 Petty Officer 2nd Class Elizabeth J. Dumolt

Terrorists could deliberately release biological substances that harm or kill people, animals, and plants. Bacteria, viruses, and toxins—the main types of potential biologi­cal “agents”—occur in nature but can be altered to increase their ease of dispersion, potency, or resistance to medicines. 

Biological agents can be hard to detect, and their effects may be delayed. A biological attack could come without warning, and the danger may not be immediately recognized. The first alert may be from health-care workers noting an unusual pattern of illness. Your first warning would likely be an emergency broadcast or some other signal used in your community.

How To Prepare
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  1. Verify and update official contact information in the Marine Corps Enterprise Mass Notification System (eMNS), and register all cell phones, home phone, email addresses, etc. in eMNS
  2. Make a written evacuation plan.
  3. Make a written communication plan.
  4. Choose an internal room for sheltering-in-place, preferably one without windows and on the highest level.
  5. Build an emergency kit.
  6. Precut plastic to cover doors, windows, and vents to save critical time during an emergency. Cut each piece several inches larger than the door, window, or vent you want to cover so that it lies flat against the wall. Label each piece as to where it fits.
  7. Report suspicious activity at www.USMCEagleEyes.org.
What To Do
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  • Watch television, listen to radio, or check the Internet for reliable information about areas in danger, signs and symptoms, and the nature and location of available assistance.
  • Try to stay in an indoor location where the air is filtered.
  • If you notice a suspicious substance, move away, wear a breathing filter, wash with soap, and contact authorities.
  • Stay away from crowds where others may be infected.
  • Wear a breathing filter. If you do not have a mask, layers of fabric (t-shirt, handkerchief, or towel) or several layers of tissue or paper towels may help.
  • Remove clothes and personal items, bag them, and follow official instructions for disposal.
  • Wash with soap and put on clean clothes.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Use common sense. Be alert for symptoms, but don’t panic.
  • Seek medical attention. Medical treatments are available for some biological threats. You may be advised to stay away from others.
  • Practice good hygiene: 
    • Wash hands with soap frequently.
    • Don’t share food or utensils.
    • Cover the mouth and nose with the crook of your arm when coughing or sneezing.
    • Consider breathing filters for patients, caregivers, and others

Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit.
Live Ready Marine Corps.

Where to Find Additional Information

Live radio and television broadcasts will have the most current information on bioterrorism events and the appropriate actions to take.

The following agencies offer more detailed and updated information about biological threats:

Department of Homeland Security (Ready.gov) & FEMAwww.ready.gov/biological-threats

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)— https://emergency.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/
The CDC Web site offers detailed information about specific biological threats, such as smallpox, anthrax, botulism, and plague.

Downloadable PDF