Tips On Preparing For Terrorism

San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Area Office of Emergency Services
(650) 363-4790

The threat of terrorism has been brought home to America in a shockingly personal manner. However, it is not a new threat and you can do something about it. For years, cities and the County of San Mateo have waged war on crime and have prepared for a variety of potential disasters.

These techniques can help:

1. Get The Facts

While terrorist attacks with chemical, biological or nuclear agents are possible; the likelihood of their use is not high.

  • Chemical agents are poisonous gases, liquids or solids. They are difficult to manufacture and to deliver in quantity. For example, the Pentagon estimates that a ton of sarin would be necessary to produce 10,000 casualties.
  • Biological agents are organisms or toxins that have illness-producing effects. Again, they are difficult to manufacture and to deliver. Aum Shinrikyo, with millions in funding and sophisticated staff, was unable to produce a biological weapon after five years of trying.
  • Nuclear agents are substances that generate harmful radiation.. Nuclear devices and materials are closely monitored and difficult to obtain.

The preferred terrorist weapon of choice continues to be conventional explosives. They can be easily manufactured and transported, as we saw in the Oklahoma City bombing. Fortunately, good physical security practices and public awareness can help prevent this type of attack.

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2. Accept Responsibility For Your Own Safety

An aware and informed public is our best defense against terrorism. We must all do our part to keep our community safe. Terrorism is a crime and crime prevention strategies work very well. These include:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Notice where emergency exits are located. Think ahead about how to evacuate a building, subway or congested public area in a hurry.
  • Report suspicious objects, packages, vehicles or persons to the appropriate authorities.
  • Cooperate with security procedures at your place of work and in public places.
  • Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior/ Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended.
  • Don't spread rumors - confirm questionable information with a credible source.

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3. Prepare For All Emergencies

San Mateo County is prone to many disasters, not just terrorist attack. The same preparedness measures work well for many different types of emergencies. Some key things you can do:

  • Make copies of important personal/business documents and store them in a safe place.
  • Identify an out of state contact person so family and friends can communicate with your during an emergency.
  • Develop an individual / family / business emergency plan.
    • Plan for a meeting place if you cannot meet at home.
    • Discuss what children should do if at school.
    • Coordinate with neighbors for pickup if children attend the same school.
    • Designate a surrogate parent for your children if you are not able to tend to them.
    • Provide this information to your child's school.
  • Learn how to locate and shutoff (if necessary) power, water and gas.
  • Stockpile emergency supplies for 3-7 days, including prescription medicines and a first-aid kit.
  • Know your community resources.

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4. Volunteer To Help

A successful response to an emergency requires a great deal of help. A limited number of volunteer groups have been pre-trained and are part of jurisdictions' emergency plans. Joining one of these organizations NOW increases your personal preparedness and your value to the community in emergencies. Some key organizations are:

  • Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) - Licensed Amateur (HAM) radio operators providing vital communications links when normal communications systems are inoperative or overloaded.
  • Sheriff's Area Office of Emergency Services (650) 363-4790
  • American Red Cross - Disaster Action Teams (DAT), provides victim services and emergency shelter teams. Red Cross (650) 259-1750

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If A Terrorist Attack Occurs:

  • Remain calm and follow the instructions of emergency services personnel.
  • Be alert to secondary hazards such as falling debris or additional devices.
  • Monitor the media for emergency information and bulletins. The emergency stations are:
    • KCBS 740 AM
    • KGO 810 AM
    • KNBR 680 AM

How To Report An Emergency

  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • State your name
  • Describe the emergency
    • What happened?
    • Where did it happen?
    • Who is involved?
  • Stay on the phone

Suspicious Mail

  • SET IT ASIDE. Do not merely discard it.
  • WASH HANDS with soap and water after handling mail.
  • If you have a letter that contains a liquid or powder substance - ISOLATE IT.
  • DO NOT shake or empty contents.
  • CONTACT law enforcement.

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