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Terrorism - If Disaster Strikes:
Preparing to Evacuate or Shelter-In-Place

(Most of the information on this page is adapted from the American Red Cross document, “Terrorism: Preparing for the Unexpected”)

Things to Expect:

Health Risks: Terrorist events involving biological, radiological, chemical or other agents may create unique health risks.

  • You should be prepared to listen for official instructions from Public Safety officials, about health risks and the possible availability of emergency treatment.
  • Remember: For this and other reasons, a battery-powered radio is a key component of your Emergency Supply Kit!
  • Find fact sheets and other information on emergency health risks at the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Emergency Preparedness Page.

Other Factors: As we learned from the events of September 11, 2001, the following things can happen after a terrorist attack:

  • There may be significant numbers of casualties and / or damage to buildings and infrastructure.
    • Your employer will need up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have, and on how to contact your designated beneficiaries.
  • Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature.
  • Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, perhaps even overwhelmed.
  • Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed. There may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • You and your family may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
  • Clean-up may take many months.

Evacuation: What should you do when an Evacuation is advised or ordered?

  • Follow the instructions you are given by emergency management officials. Heed their advice immediately.
  • Leave as soon as possible.
  • Bring your Emergency Kit -pdf.
  • Dress for the prevailing weather conditions, at minimum a long sleeve shirt, pants, and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your pets with you. Remember that pets (other than assistance animals for people with disabilities) are not permitted in emergency shelters. You must follow your plan to go to a friend’s home or a pet-friendly hotel. Click here for tips.
  • Lock your home.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities – don’t use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  • Avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Stay away from downed power lines.
  • If you are sure you’ll have time:
    • Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
    • Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so. Leave natural gas service ON unless local officials advise you otherwise.
  • Listen to local authorities. They will provide you with the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. Stay tuned to local radio and television. A battery-powered radio is a vital part of your Emergency Kit.

Sheltering-In-Place: What should you do if instructed to “Shelter in Place”?

  • To “shelter in place” means to remain in your home or office and protect yourself there.
  • Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
  • Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Close the fireplace damper.
  • Get your Emergency Kit-pdf.
  • Make sure the radio is working. A battery-powered radio is a vital part of your Emergency Kit.
  • Go to an interior room without windows that is above ground level.
    • IMPORTANT: In case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
  • Using duct tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents in the room.
  • Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or until you are told to evacuate. A battery-powered radio is a vital part of your Emergency Kit.
  • Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.

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