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CBR Facts

The “Real” Deal about Nuclear, Bio, and Chemical Attacks
By SFC Red Thomas (Ret) 

Since the  media has decided to scare everyone with predictions of chemical, biological, or  nuclear warfare on our turf I decided to write a paper and keep things in their  proper perspective. I am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training  expert.

Lesson number one: In the mid 1990’s there were a series  of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect  conditions for an attack less than 10% of the people there were injured (the  injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the injured died. 60-Minutes once had a fellow telling us that one-drop of nerve gas could  kill a thousand people; well he didn’t tell you the thousand dead people per  drop was theoretical. Drill Sergeants exaggerate how terrible this stuff was to  keep the recruits awake in class (I know this because I was a Drill Sergeant  too).

Forget everything you’ve ever seen on TV, in the movies,  or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (read this sentence again  out loud!)!

These weapons are about terror, if you remain calm, you  will probably not die. This is far less scary than the media and their  “Experts,” make it sound.

Chemical weapons are categorized as Nerve, Blood,  Blister, and Incapacitating agents Contrary to the hype of reporters and  politicians they are not weapons of mass destruction they are “Area denial,” and  terror weapons that don’t destroy anything. When you leave the area you almost  always leave the risk. That’s the difference; you can leave the area and the  risk; soldiers may have to stay put and sit through it and that’s why they need  all that spiffy gear.

These are not gasses, they are vapors and/or air borne  particles. The agent must be delivered in sufficient quantity to kill/injure,  and that defines when/how it’s used. Every day we have a morning and evening  inversion where “stuff,” suspended in the air gets pushed down. This inversion  is why allergies (pollen) and air pollution are worst at these times of the day.

So, a chemical attack will have it’s best effect an hour  of so either side of sunrise/sunset. Also, being vapors and airborne particles  they are heavier than air so they will seek low places like ditches, basements  and underground garages. This stuff won’t work when it’s freezing, it doesn’t  last when it’s hot, and wind spreads it too thin too fast. They’ve got to get  this stuff on you, or, get you to inhale it for it to work. They also have to  get the concentration of chemicals high enough to kill or wound you. Too little  and it’s nothing, too much and it’s wasted.

What I hope you’ve gathered by this point is that a  chemical weapons attack that kills a lot of people is incredibly hard to do with  military grade agents and equipment so you can imagine how hard it will be for  terrorists.

The more you know about this stuff the more you realize  how hard it is to use.

We’ll start by talking about nerve agents you have these  in your house; plain old bug killer (like Raid) is a nerve agent. All nerve  agents work the same way; they are cholinesterase inhibitors that mess up the  signals your nervous system uses to make your body function. It can harm you if  you get it on your skin but it works best if they can get you to inhale it. If  you don’t die in the first minute and you can leave the area you’re probably  gonna live. The military’s antidote for all nerve agents is atropine and  pralidoxime chloride. Neither one of these does anything to cure the nerve  agent, they send your body into overdrive to keep you alive for five minutes,  after that the agent is used up. Your best protection is fresh air and staying  calm. Listed below are the symptoms for nerve agent poisoning.

Sudden headache, Dimness of vision (someone you’re  looking at will have pinpointed pupils), Runny nose, Excessive saliva or  drooling, Difficulty breathing, Tightness in chest, Nausea, Stomach cramps,  Twitching of exposed skin where a liquid just got on you.

If you are in public and you start experiencing these  symptoms, first ask yourself, did anything out of the ordinary just happen, a  loud pop, did someone spray something on the crowd? Are other people getting  sick too?

Is there an odor of new mown hay, green corn, something  fruity, or camphor where it shouldn’t be?

If the answer is yes, then calmly (if you panic you  breathe faster and inhale more air/poison) leave the area and head up wind, or,  outside.  Fresh air is the best “right now antidote”. If you have a blob of  liquid that looks like molasses or Kayro syrup on you; blot it or scrape it off  and away from yourself with anything disposable. This stuff works based on your  body weight, what a crop duster uses to kill bugs won’t hurt you unless you  stand there and breathe it in real deep, then lick the residue off the ground  for while. Remember they have to do all the work, they have to get the  concentration up and keep it up for several minutes while all you have to do is  quit getting it on you/quit breathing it by putting space between you and the  attack.

Blood agents are cyanide or arsine which effect your  blood’s ability to provide oxygen to your tissue. The scenario for attack would  be the same as nerve agent. Look for a pop or someone splashing/spraying  something and folks around there getting woozy/falling down. The telltale smells  are bitter almonds or garlic where it shouldn’t be. The symptoms are blue lips,  blue under the fingernails, rapid breathing. The military’s antidote is amyl  nitride and just like nerve agent antidote it just keeps your body working for  five minutes till the toxins are used up. Fresh air is the your best individual  chance. Blister agents (distilled mustard) are so nasty that nobody wants to  even handle it let alone use it. It’s almost impossible to handle safely and may  have delayed effect of up to 12 hours.  The attack scenario is also limited to  the things you’d see from other chemicals. If you do get large, painful blisters  for no apparent reason, don’t pop them, if you must, don’t let the liquid from  the blister get on any other area, the stuff just keeps on spreading. It’s just  as likely to harm the user as the target. Soap, water, sunshine, and fresh air  are this stuff’s enemy.

Bottom line on chemical weapons (it’s the same if they  use industrial chemical spills); they are intended to make you panic, to  terrorize you, to herd you like sheep to the wolves. If there is an attack,  leave the area and go upwind, or to the sides of the wind stream. They have to  get the stuff to you, and on you. You’re more likely to be hurt by a drunk  driver on any given day than be hurt by one of these attacks. Your odds get  better if you leave the area. Soap, water, time, and fresh air really deal this  stuff a knock-out-punch. Don’t let fear of an isolated attack rule your life.  The odds are really on your side.

Nuclear bombs. These are the only weapons of mass  destruction on earth.  The effects of a nuclear bomb are heat, blast, EMP, and  radiation. If you see a bright flash of light like the sun, where the sun isn’t,  fall to the ground!

The heat will be over a second. Then there will be two  blast waves, one out going, and one on it’s way back. Don’t stand up to see what  happened after the first wave; anything that’s going to happen will have  happened in two full minutes.

These will be low yield devices and will not level whole  cities. If you live through the heat, blast, and initial burst of radiation,  you’ll probably live for a very very long time. Radiation will not create  fifty-foot tall women, or giant ants and grass hoppers the size of tanks. These  will be at the most 1-kiloton bombs; that’s the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

Here’s the real deal, flying debris and radiation will  kill a lot of exposed (not all!) people within a half mile of the blast. Under  perfect conditions this is about a half-mile circle of death and destruction,  but when it’s done it’s done. EMP stands for Electro Magnetic Pulse and it will  fry every electronic device for a good distance, it’s impossible to say what and  how far but probably not over a couple of miles from ground zero is a good  guess. Cars, cell phones, computers, ATMs, you name it, all will be out of  order.

There are lots of kinds of radiation, you only need to  worry about three, the others you have lived with for years. You need to worry  about  ”Ionizing radiation,” these are little sub atomic particles that go  whizzing along at the speed of light. They hit individual cells in your body,  kill the nucleus and keep on going. That’s how you get radiation poisoning; you  have so many dead cells in your body that the decaying cells poison you. It’s  the same as people getting radiation treatments for cancer, only a bigger area  gets radiated. The good news is you don’t have to just sit there and take it,  and there’s lots you can do rather than panic. First; your skin will stop alpha  particles, a page of a news paper or your clothing will stop beta particles, you  just gotta try and avoid inhaling dust that’s contaminated with atoms that are  emitting these things and you’ll be generally safe from them.

Gamma rays are particles that travel like rays (quantum  physics makes my brain hurt) and they create the same damage as alpha and beta  particles only they keep going and kill lots of cells as they go all the way  through your body. It takes a lot to stop these things, lots of dense material;  on the other hand it takes a lot of this to kill you.

Your defense is as always to not panic. Basic hygiene and  normal preparation are your friends. All canned or frozen food is safe to eat.   The radiation poisoning will not affect plants so fruits and vegetables are OK  if there’s no dust on em (rinse em off if there is water). If you don’t have  running water and you need to collect rainwater or use water from wherever, just  let it sit for thirty minutes and skim off the water gently from the top. The  dust with the bad stuff in it will settle and the remaining water can be used  for the toilet, which will still work if you have a bucket of water to pour in  the tank.

Finally there’s biological warfare. There’s not much to  cover here. Basic personal hygiene and sanitation will take you further than a  million doctors. Wash your hands often, don’t share drinks, food, sloppy kisses,  etc., … with strangers. Keep your garbage can with a tight lid on it, don’t  have standing water (like old buckets, ditches, or kiddie pools) laying around  to allow mosquitoes breeding room. This stuff is carried by vectors, that is  bugs, rodents, and contaminated material. If biological warfare is so easy as  the TV makes it sound, why has Saddam Hussein spent twenty years, millions, and  millions of dollars trying to get it right? If you’re clean of person and home  you eat well and are active you’re gonna live.

Overall preparation for any terrorist attack is the same  as you’d take for a big storm. If you want a gas mask, fine, go get one. I know  this stuff and I’m not getting one and I told my Mom not to bother with one  either  (how’s that for confidence). We have a week’s worth of cash, several  days’ worth of canned goods and plenty of soap and water. We don’t leave stuff  out to attract bugs or rodents so we don’t have them.

These people can’t conceive a nation this big with this  many resources.  These weapons are made to cause panic, terror, and to  demoralize. If we don’t run around like sheep they won’t use this stuff after  they find out it’s no fun. The government is going nuts over this stuff because  they have to protect every inch of America. You’ve only gotta protect yourself,  and by doing that, you help the country.

Finally, there are millions of caveats to everything I  wrote here and you can think up specific scenarios where my advice isn’t the  best. This letter is supposed to help the greatest number of people under the  greatest number of situations. If you don’t like my work, don’t nit pick, just  sit down and explain chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare in a document  around three pages long yourself. This is how we the people of the United States  can rob these people of their most desired goal, your terror. 

SFC Red Thomas (Ret)
Armor Master Gunner
Mesa, AZ

Unlimited  reproduction and distribution is authorized. Just give me
credit for my work, and, keep in context.

January 7, 2010Karen Hood