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Individual and Family Preparedness

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General Preparedness

Planning may seem like an afterthought, but disaster could strike at any time and it is important to know how to prepare yourself for different circumstances. Ready.gov and the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness also have sample plans available.

Discuss how will you receive emergency alerts and warnings.

  • What is your shelter plan?
  • What is your evacuation plan if you need to leave your residence?
  • What is the family/household communication plan to get in touch with each other?

You may need to tailor your preparedness plan to any special needs within the household. Keep in mind some of these factors:

  • Different ages of members of your household
  • Dietary needs
  • Medical needs including prescriptions and equipment
  • Disabilities or access and functional needs
  • Pets or service animals
  • Cultural and religious considerations.

It’s important that your family/household has an emergency plan along with a communication plan. You can use this as a guide and add or remove items pertaining to your household and the emergency.

  • For a communication plan click here.
  • For businesses click here.
  • For families click here.
  • For pet planning click here.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also good for locating resources and what to do in different emergencies. More information can be found here

Practice the plan with your family/household. Even though emergency response skills won’t be used every day, those abilities need to be utilized often enough that when the time comes, everyone can recall them and act quickly. Drills give everyone the chance to get things right before they are in a critical situation and can also identify plan shortcomings so that they can be corrected before an emergency. 

  • If you live in a more rural area of Ohio with livestock, go here for plan templates for how to prepare your animals and here for what to do with livestock in different emergencies.
  • Other helpful resources include prep4agthreats.org resources and contacts for agricultural purposes.  Ready.gov also has good resources for plans and what to do in case of emergencies.


Knowing what to do when you see a tornado, or when you hear a tornado warning, can help protect you and your family. During a tornado, people face hazards from extremely high winds and risk being struck by flying and falling objects. The wreckage after a tornado poses additional injury risks. Although nothing can be done to prevent tornadoes, there are actions you can take for your health and safety. 

Before a tornado:

You can always be prepared by having some things in your household on hand.

  • Fresh batteries and a battery-operated radio, or internet-enabled device to listen to the latest emergency weather information.
  • A tornado emergency plan.
  • An emergency kit.
  • A list of important information, including telephone numbers of the people in your household.

Keep up to fate on weather conditions. If you know that thunderstorms are expected, stay tuned to a local radio and TV station for further weather information. Some tornadoes can strike rapidly without enough time for a tornado warning. 

During a tornado:

  • Know where to find safe shelter in the event of a tornado. Falling and flying debris cause most deaths and injuries during a tornado. There is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others. 
  • Go to the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor like a bathroom, closet, or center hallway.
  • Avoid sheltering by windows. 
  • For added protection, get under something sturdy like a heavy table or workbench. Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress. Protect your head with anything available. 
  • Do not stay in a mobile home. If you are outside or in a mobile home, find a nearby building preferably with a basement. If you are driving in a car, do not try to outrun the tornado and find the nearest sturdy building. 

What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning?

Tornado Watch: Be prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near your watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, check supplies, and check your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. 

Tornado Warning: Take action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property.

For more information about preparing for a tornado, go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

After a tornado:

  • Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases, and windows for damage.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately. 
  • Use battery-powered flashlights when examining buildings. Do NOT use candles. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building. 
  • Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
  • Use a telephone only for emergency calls as phone lines can be jammed.
  • Keep all of your animals under your direct control.
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard. 

For more information about tornadoes, visit the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and Ready.gov.


Floods can result from rain, snow, coastal storms, storm surges, and overflows of dams and other water systems. They can develop slowly or quickly, and flash floods can come with no warning. Floods can cause outages, disrupt transportation, damage buildings, and create landslides. Below are some steps that you can take to make sure that you, your members of your household, and your home are safe during a flood. 

Before a flood occurs:

  • Avoid building in a flood-prone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home. 
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Seal the walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
  • Review your property insurance coverage. Consider purchasing flood insurance. Keep an updated photo and/or video inventory of your personal belongings, furniture, and children. Store a duplicate copy away from your home. 
  • You may need to evacuate the area if there is an impending flood coming. 

During the flood:

  • Depending on where you are, and the impact and warning time of flooding, go to the safe location that you identified in case of emergencies. 
  • If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Listen to local alerting systems and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for current emergency information and instructions. 
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters.
  • Stay off bridges that are over fast-moving water. Fast-moving water can wash bridges away without warning. 
  • If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, then stay inside. If water is rising inside the vehicle, then seek refuge on the roof.
  • If you are trapped in a building, then go to its highest level. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising floodwater. Go on to the roof only if necessary. Once there, signal for help. 

What's the difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning?

Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Monitor radio and television stations for more information.

Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; monitor radio and television stations for more information.

Flood Warning: Imminent threat. Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately. 

Flash Flood Warning: Imminent threat. A flash flood is occurring or will occur soon; seek higher ground on foot immediately. 

After the flood has passed:

  • Listen to authorities for information and instructions. Return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so. Try to return to your home during the daytime so that you do not have to use any lights. Use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches. 
  • Avoid driving, except in emergencies. 
  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid wading in flood waters, which can contain dangerous debris and be contaminated. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water. Water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
  • Snakes and other animal may be in your house. Wear heavy gloves and boots during clean up.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them to the power company.
  • If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for a while, at least 30 minutes, before you stay for any length of time. 
  • If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, assume your home has mold and may be contaminated with sewage. 
  • If flood or storm water has entered your home, dry it out as soon as possible. 
  • Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water; perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly; and those with an unusual odor, color, or texture. 
  • Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. 
  • All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before returning them to service. Have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question. 
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning after a flood. Only use a portable generator outdoors in a dry area at least 20 feet away from doors, windows, and vents. When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup carbon monoxide detector in your home. 

For more information about mold and mold cleanup, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mold cleanup guide and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) program of Healthy Homes.

For more information about preparing for a flood, returning home, and floodwater safety; go to this CDC page here

For more information for how to save food in a flood, visit the CDC page here and the ODH Food Safety Program.

For more information about water after a flood, visit the CDC page here

For more information about electrical hazards in a disaster, visit this CDC page here

​For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning, visit this CDC page here and the ODH program of Healthy Homes.

Extreme Heat

In most of the United States, extreme heat is defined as a long period (2 to 3 days) of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In extreme heat, evaporation is slowed, and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. This could lead to death by overworking the human body. 

Extreme heat can:

  • Occur quickly and without warning.
  • Affect vulnerable populations; older adults, children, sick or overweight individuals, the homeless or poor, people who work or exercise outdoors, and people with a chronic medical condition; at a greater disproportion. 
  • Increase the heat index with the addition of humidity. 

There is no set template for dealing with extreme heat but there are some things that you can watch out for to help you prepare for it.

Before the extreme heat:

  • Find places in your community where you can go to get cool. 
  • Keep your home cool by covering windows with drapes or shades, adding insulation to keep heat out, use attic fans to clear out hot air, and install window air conditioners. 

During the extreme heat wave:

  • Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in your area.
  • Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. 
  • Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. 
  • Friends and neighbors are urged to periodically check on the elderly and those with illnesses since they are among those at highest risk for heat-related problems. 
  • Adults and kids at work and play also need to take measures against heat stress. Summer activity, whether on the playing field or at a construction site, should be balanced with measures that help the body cool off. Hot weather demands increased fluid intake, regardless of activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.
  • Adults should mandate breaks for small children and bring them indoors to cool down and have a cool drink. Young children may become preoccupied with playing and not realize they are overheated. 
  • Consideration should be given to modifying practices or games during the hottest parts of the day and shifting them to cooler times. 
  • Never leave children or pets in vehicles. Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures quickly. Even if the windows are cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes. 
  • When travelling with children, even on routine drives, remember to do the following:
    • ​​To remind yourself that a child is in the car, place bags, phones, or other items you will take with you in the back seat. This will force you to turn around before exiting the car. 
    • When leaving your vehicle, check the front and back seats to make sure that no sleeping children or pets are left in the car. 

It is important to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and what to do in those situations. 

Heat Exhaustion:

  • Symptoms include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or fainting.
  • People experiencing these symptoms should be moved to a shady or air-conditioned area.
  • Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet clothes or towels. 
  • Have the person sip on a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. If the person refuses water, vomit or loses unconsciousness, call 911 or the local emergency number. 

Heat Stroke:

  • Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. Call 911 immediately. 
  • Symptoms include: body temperature of 103 degrees or higher; red, hot dry or moist skin, rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness.
  • Before medical help arrives, begin cooling the person by any means possible, such as spraying the person with water from a garden hose or by placing the person in a cool tub of water. 

For more information about heat-related illnesses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page for warning signs and symptoms here.

For more information and tips on what to do in extreme heat, visit the CDC page here and also Ready.gov.

Extreme Cold 

Extreme cold is most often defined as a prolonged period of excessively cold weather. Extreme cold conditions are often, but not always, part of winter storms. 

Before the cold sets in:

  • Weatherproof your home by doing the following:
    • ​Insulate walls, attic space, and any water lines that run along exterior walls, so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.
    • Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structures. 
    • Have your chimney or flue inspected every year, especially if you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating. 
    • Have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly.
  • Install a smoke detector and battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.
  • If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy to read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.
  • Listen to weather forecasts regularly and check your emergency supplies, including your emergency food and water supply, whenever you are expecting a winter storm or extreme cold. We can't always predict extreme cold in advance, but weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days of notice to prepare. 
  • If you have pets, bring them indoors. 
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may need extra help. 
  • It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary, go to Ready.gov for preparing a winter car kit. 

During and after extremely cold temperatures:

It's best to limit your time outdoors in these extreme cold temperatures but there are some things to be aware of inside your home. 

  • Use a fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space. 
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors because the fumes are deadly. 
  • Never leave lit candles unattended. 
  • Keep as much heat as possible inside your home. 
  • Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather. 
  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously. This keeps the water pipes from freezing over. 
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer.

If you must go outside, here are some tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) located here.

For more information about precautions during and after a winter storm/extremely cold temperatures, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) here. You can also visit the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness for general weather preparedness here.

It is important to recognize the risks of extremely cold temperatures and what to do in those scenarios.


  • When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body's stored energy. The result if hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.
  • Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victims unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won't be able to do anything about it. 
  • Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 degrees) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water. 
  • Treatment: Get the victim into a warm location. Cover exposed skin, but do not rub the affected area. Seek medical attention immediately. 


  • Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes. 
  • Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures. 
  • Treatment: If the symptoms of hypothermia are detected, take the person's temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, seek medical attention immediately. Get the victim to a warm location. Remove wet clothing. Warm the center of the body first by wrapping the person in blankets or putting on dry clothing. Give them warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the person is conscious. 

For more information about hypothermia and frostbite, visit the CDC page here.

Storms and Power Outages

You can protect yourself and your family if you know what to do when you see lightning or when you hear thunder as a warning. Thunderstorms are dangerous storms that include lightning and can have powerful winds over 50 miles per high, create hail, and cause flash flooding, tornadoes, and power outages.

If you are under a thunderstorm warning, find a safe shelter right away.

  • Move from outdoors into a building or a car.
  • Pay attention to alerts and warning.
  • Unplug appliances.
  • Do not use landline phones.

Before a thunderstorm happens:

  • Know your area's risk of thunderstorms.
  • Sign up for you community's warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio provide emergency alerts. 
  • Identify nearby, sturdy buildings close to where you live, work, study, and play. 
  • Trim back or cut down trees that may be in danger of falling on your home. 
  • Consider buying surge protectors, lightning rods, or a lightning protection system to protect your home, appliances, and electronic devices. 

During the thunderstorm:

  • Go inside to a sturdy building because that is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm. 
  • When you receive a thunderstorm warning or hear thunder, go inside immediately.
  • If indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and phone lines. 
  • Protect your property by unplugging appliances and other electronic devices. Secure outside furniture. 
  • If boating or swimming, get to land and find a sturdy, grounded shelter or vehicle immediately.
  • Avoid flooded roadways. 

After the thunderstorm:

  • Listen to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and for instructions regarding potential flash flooding. 
  • Watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately. 

Severe thunderstorms can lead to power outages which can impact the whole community and economy. A power outage is when the electricity power goes out unexpectedly and may:

  • Disrupt communications, water, and transportation. 
  • Close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, automated teller machines (ATMs), banks, and other services. 
  • Cause food spillage and water contamination. 
  • Prevent use of medical devices. 

Before a power outage: 

  • Take inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity. Review the supplies that are available in case of a power outage. Have enough nonperishable food and water. 
  • Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medications. 
  • Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your electrical needs when the power is out. 
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery back up in central locations on every floor level of your home. 
  • Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so that you can know the temperature when the power is restored. Throw out food if the temperature is 40 degrees or higher. 

During the power outage: 

  • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary and monitor temperatures with a thermometer. 
  • Only use generators outdoors and away from windows to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Do not use a gas stove top or oven to heat your home. 
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges. 
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines and using power-dependents medical devices. 
  • Maintain food supplies that do not require refrigeration. 

For more information about what you need to do in a power outage, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here

After the power outage:

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out. 
  • If there is power out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug's label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use medicine only until a new supply is available. 

For more information on safe food and water after a power outage, visit the CDC here and for more information on specific what foods can be saved versus discarded, visit the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) here.

For more information about thunderstorms and power outages, visit Ready.gov. And for information on staying safe with lightning, visit the CDC page here.

Food Borne Disease

Food borne illnesses (also can be called food borne disease and food poisoning) is any illness resulting from the food spoilage of contaminated food, pathogenic, bacteria, viruses, or parasites that contaminate food, as well as toxins. There are many causes of food borne diseases and they are briefly laid out below. 


  • Bacteria can find its way into your system through raw foods that were purchased such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, unpasteurized milk, and even some fresh produce. Foods can also be contaminated during food preparation in a restaurant or in a home kitchen. 


  • Viruses cause infections that can lead to sickness. People can pass viruses to each other. Viruses are present in the stool or vomit of people who are infected. People who are infected with a virus may contaminate food and drinks, especially if they do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. 


  • Parasites are tiny organisms that live inside another organism. In developed countries such as the United States, parasitic infections are relatively rare. 


  • Harmful chemicals that can cause illness may contaminate foods such as fish or shellfish, certain types of wild mushrooms, and unwashed fruits and vegetables that contain high concentrations of pesticides. 

For more information about food borne illnesses, visit The National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases here.

If you believe that more than one person has become ill with gastrointestinal symptoms from a common food exposure, please report this occurrence to your local health department. To find your local health department, click here.

Common symptoms of food borne diseases are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, symptoms may differ among the different types of food borne diseases. Symptoms can sometimes be severe, and some food borne illnesses can even be life-threatening. Although anyone can get a food borne illness, some people are more likely to develop one. Those groups include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • People with immune systems weakened from medical conditions, such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, organ transplants, HIV/AIDS, or from receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment. 

The health department will need to know when you fell ill, what foods did you eat, your symptoms, and any testing that was done by a doctor. For more information about the reporting process visit the Ohio Department of Health page here

Water Borne Diseases

Water borne diseases are conditions caused by pathogenic microorganisms that are transmitted in water. Disease can be spread while bathing, washing or drinking water, or by eating food exposed to contaminated water. Various forms of water borne diarrhea diseases are the most prominent examples and affect children in developing countries most dramatically. There are many causes of water borne diseases and they are briefly laid out below. 


  • Protozoa are single-celled microscopic animals that feed on organic matter.
  • Some common sources that protozoa can come from are untreated drinking water, groundwater, sewage, animal manure, seasonal runoff of water, and swimming pools. 


  • A common source that bacteria can come from is contaminated water with bacteria or with feces. This could be swimming in the water, drinking the water, and the infected water getting into an open wound. 


  • Viruses cause infections that can lead to sickness. People can pass viruses to each other.
  • Some common sources that viruses can come from are feces of affected individuals and it can manifest itself in water, especially if it's not treated. 

More information about specific causes of water borne diseases can be found on the Ohio Department of Health page here.

If you believe that more than one person has become ill with gastrointestinal symptoms from a common exposure, please report this to your local health department. To find your local health department, click here.


A biological attack, or bio-terrorism (BT), is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken and kill people. Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack because:

  • Anthrax spores are easily found in nature, can be produced in a lab, and can last for a long time in the environment. 
  • Anthrax can be released quietly and without anyone knowing. The microscopic spores could be put into powders, sprays, food, and water. 
  • Anthrax has been used as a weapon before. 

Bio-terrorism differs from other methods of terrorism is that the effects are not always immediately apparent. An attack may be difficult to distinguish from a single case of an unusual infection or from a naturally occurring infectious disease outbreak. The first evidence of an attack may be in a hospital emergency room. 

There are class A, B, and C agents and diseases that can be found on the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Bio-terrorism Investigation Team page here. More information can also be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) biological agents page here and on the United States Department of Labor biological agents page here

General preparation against biological agents can be found on the CDC page here


A chemical emergency occurs when a hazardous chemical has been released and the release has the potential for harming people's health. Chemical releases can be unintentional, as in the case of an industrial accident, or intentional, as in the case of a terrorist attack.

Many hazardous chemicals are used in industry (for example, chlorine, ammonia, and benzene). Others are found in nature (for example, poisonous plants). Some could be made from everyday items such as household cleaners. These types of hazardous chemicals also could be obtained and used to harm people, or they could be accidentally released. 

Scientists often characterize hazardous chemicals by the type of chemical or by the effects a chemical would have on people exposed to it. Some categories/types used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are:

  • Bio-toxins - poisons that come from plants or animals.
  • Choking, lung, pulmonary agents - chemicals that cause severe irritation or swelling of the respiratory track (lining of the nose, throat, and lungs).
  • Incapacitating agent - drugs that make people unable to think clearly or that cause an altered state of consciousness (possibly unconsciousness).
  • Nerve agents - highly poisonous chemicals that work by preventing the nervous system from working properly. 
  • Riot control agents/Tear gas - highly irritating agents normally used by law enforcement for crowd control or by individuals for protection (for example, mace).

For a complete list of categories, visit the CDC chemical agent list page here and also the CDC chemical fact sheet page here 

During the event of a chemical attack, you may be urged to either evacuate or to shelter in place. Here are the generals of evacuation.

  • Evacuation plans will involve hearing from the local police, emergency coordinators, or the government from a radio or television emergency broadcast system for if you need to evacuate. If there is a "code red" or "severe" terror alert, you should pay attention to radio and/or television broadcasts, so you will know right away if an evacuation order is made for your area. 
  • If you have to go to an emergency shelter, they will have most supplies that people need. The emergency coordinators will tell you which supplies to bring with you, but you may also want to prepare a portable supply kit. You can visit Ready.gov for building an emergency kit. Be sure to take any medications you are taking. 
  • Evacuating and sheltering in this way should keep you safer than if you stayed at home or at your workplace. Emergency coordinators will let you know when it is safe to leave the shelter.  

And here are the generals of sheltering in place. 

  • "Shelter in place" means to make a shelter out of the place you are in. It is a way to make the building as safe as possible to protect yourself before help arrives. You should not try to shelter in a vehicle unless you have no other choice. Vehicles are not airtight enough to give you  adequate protection from chemicals. 
  • Choose a room in your house or apartment for the shelter. The best room to use for the shelter is a room with as few windows and doors as possible and has a water supply. For most chemical events, this room should be as high in the structure as possible to avoid vapors (gases) that sink. You should also prepare an emergency kit and you can visit Ready.gov for building a kit. 
  • Go inside to your shelter-in-place room as quickly as possible. Bring any outdoor pets indoors. 
  • If there is time, shut and lock all outside doors and windows. Locking them may pull the door or window tighter and make a better seal against the chemical. 
  • Turn off the air conditioner or heater. Turn of all fans, too. Close the fireplace damper and any other place that air can come in from outside. 
  • Turn on the radio. Keep a telephone close at hand, but don't use it unless there is a serious emergency. 
  • If it is necessary to drink water, drink stored water, not water from the tap. 
  • Tape plastic over any windows in the room. Use duct tape around the windows and doors to make an unbroken seal. Use tape over any vents in the room and seal any electrical outlets or other openings. 
  • If you are not at home when the emergency happens, listen to local police, emergency coordinators, or the government for instructions on how to get to a nearby shelter. 

Some kinds of chemical accidents or attacks may cause you to come in contact with dangerous chemicals. Coming in contact with a dangerous chemical may make it necessary for you to remove and dispose of your clothing right away and then wash yourself. The purpose of decontamination is to prevent the chemical from being further absorbed by your body and to prevent the chemical from being further absorbed by your body and to prevent the chemical from spreading to other people, including medical personnel. The three most important things to do if you think you may have been exposed to a dangerous chemical are (1) quickly remove your clothing, (2) wash yourself, and (3) dispose of your clothing. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here for more information on how to decontaminate yourself. 

For more resources on chemical emergencies, visit the CDC here and for more information on preparing for a chemical emergency, visit the CDC page here


The most common exposure would be in a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) such as a bomb that has radioactive material in it. it is designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal amounts of radioactive material over a general area. 

Before the RDD explosion:

  • Build an emergency supply kit and add in duct tape and scissors. Those are for sealing any gas between doors and windows so that radiation does not get in.
  • Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelter. 
  • If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for sheltering. 

There are two kinds of shelters: blast and fallout. A blast shelter are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat, and fire but even a blast shelter can not withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion. A fallout shelter is not specifically constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles. 

During the RDD explosion if you are outdoors:

  • If you are outdoors, seek shelter indoors immediately in the nearest undamaged building. If a suitable shelter is not available, cover your nose and mouth and move rapidly upwind, away from the location of the blast. 
  • Listen for official instructions and follow directions. 

During the RDD explosion if you are indoors:

  • If you are indoors and have time, turn off ventilation and heating systems, close windows, vents, fireplace dampers, exhaust fans, and clothes dryer vents. If yo do not have time, seek shelter immediately somewhere placing as much distance as possible between you and the outdoors where the radioactive material may be.
  • Go to your shelter room with a disaster supplies kit and a battery-powered radio. 
  • Seal windows and external doors with duct tape to reduce infiltration of radioactive particles. 
  • Listen for official instructions and follow directions. 

After the RDD explosion:

  • Those who may have been exposed to radioactive material should decontaminate themselves. To do this, remove and bag your clothing, shower thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical attention after officials indicate it is safe to leave the shelter.

For more information about types of contamination and decontamination, visit the CDC page here

Some of the services performed by the Ohio Department of Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Program, found here, include: radiological dose assessment for the public in the event of a release of radioactive material; health physics advice including oversight and training in radiation safety; environmental sample collection, analysis and evaluation; and radiological monitoring of individuals. 

The Radiological Emergency Preparedness and Response emergency services include, but are not limited to, emergency preparedness; radioactive material licensee's and training; commercial nuclear power plant accidents; and terrorism events such as a dirty bomb or transportation accidents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tips for radiation emergencies here and frequently asked questions about radiation here.

There are some health effects associated with radiation exposure and contamination. Short-term health effects of radiation exposure and contamination are acute radiation syndrome (ARS) and cutaneous radiation injury (CRI). Long term health effects of radiation exposure and contamination are cancer, prenatal radiation exposure, and mental distress. The CDC has more health information on the effects of radiation here