What You Should Know About: Biological, Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear & Explosive Hazards

What is Biological, Chemical and Radiological terrorism?

The intentional use of biological, chemical and/or radiological agents to cause disease or death in humans, animals or plants.

History of Biological, Chemical and Radiological Terrorism:

Weapons capable of causing mass injury, illness, and death have marked their place in the history of the 20th century. Although most of this history is related to the use of these agents during times of war, the efficiency of these weapons has not gone unnoticed by terrorists. Recent threats and use of biological and chemical agents against civilians have exposed U.S. vulnerability and highlighted the need to enhance our capacity to detect and control terrorist acts.

The New York State Department of Health has begun planning for intergovernmental preparedness and response to potential Biological/Chemical/Nuclear Terrorism. To prepare for a possible event, public health officials have begun to devise strategies by which morbidity, mortality, and social disruption might be reduced.

How great is the threat?

  • Biological, Chemical and Radiological terrorism is possible, yet considered unlikely.
  • These agents are difficult to make and disperse effectively on a widespread scale.
  • Some of the agents that might be used weapons are smallpox, anthrax, plague, botulism, nerve or skin blistering agents.
  • Community planning and preparedness is ongoing and can greatly reduce the threat of Biological, Chemical and Radiological terrorism.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Be informed and Stay Calm.
  • Be aware/Stay alert - Information about specific biological and chemical weapons is available from the New York State Department of Health at www.health.state.ny.us and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at www.bt.cdc.gov.
  • Listen to local media for advice on what to do in the event of any incident or emergency.
  • If you develop unusual or sudden illness, call your physician or hospital emergency room immediately.
  • Practice good infection control.
    • For 10-15 seconds
    • Rub longer if hands are dirty
    • Soap well every part of the hands (don't forget between the fingers)
    • Rinse in a flowing stream of water
    • When there is no water, use detergent-containing towelettes and alcohol-based handrubs
    • Dry hands with paper towels or hand dryers (operate lever-operated dispensers before washing and activate hand blowers with elbows to avoid re-infecting your hands)

Can I be vaccinated?

  • The public can not get the anthrax or smallpox vaccine at present.
  • Preventive antibiotics are not necessary.
  • If needed, vaccines and antibiotics will be made available.

How prepared is Steuben County?

  • A countywide emergency plan is in place to coordinate police, fire, public health, medical and emergency responses.
  • Health care workers are receiving training to increase awareness and reporting of unusual illness.
  • Hospitals report any unusual patterns of illness to Steuben County Public Health every 24 hours.
If you are concerned that you have been exposed to biological or chemical weapon call Steuben County Sheriff’s Department at 1-800-724-7777 or Steuben County Public Health 607-664-2438 (during business hours) 1-800-836-4444 (after hours and holidays).


Since September 11, 2001 public concern about the use of biological and chemical agents by terrorists has greatly increased. The intentional use of biological, chemical and radiological weapons are possible, though not likely. Realistically, these agents are difficult to make and disperse effectively. Public Health, medical and emergency personnel are trained to be alert, prepared and able to respond to the threat of biological, chemical or radiological events. Public Health emergency preparedness is being strengthened to assure that we are able to deal with emerging infectious diseases of all types, as well as being prepared to minimize the effects of a terrorist attack.

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