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When it comes to the unexpected, any leverage you may have over it may be your only chance of escaping unscathed, or at least good enough to fight another day. Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. We seldom know when a disaster will strike, but we know that there are always certain precautions we can take. Your chances of survival increased when preparations are made ahead of time, long before the mass chaos and panic grip a community, region or beyond. During the month of July we observe National Bioterrorism/Disaster Education Awareness Month.

Service members and dependents are no strangers to the notion of a bioterrorist attack. Most of us have deployed and perhaps have even been stationed overseas. Yet, bioterrorism seems like the one man-made disaster that entails the least prospect of affecting us.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that bioterrorism has occurred in the U.S. Some examples are the anthrax cases of 2001 that had the entire nation closely monitoring the situation and gripped in fear. More recently, President Obama during one of his terms and several U.S. Senators had mail directed to them tainted with Ricin. While bioterrorism attempts within the nation have been localized and effectively contained, the psychological impact of the prospect and onset of bioterrorism can cripple the entire nation. The bioterrorism threat is real and ever present. Let’s take a look at some precautions you can implement before, during and after a biological threat according to Ready.gov:

Before a Biological Threat

A biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. In most cases local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. The public would be alerted through an emergency radio or TV broadcast, or some other signal used in your community, such as a telephone call or a home visit from an emergency response worker.

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a biological threat:

-Build an Emergency Supply Kit

-Make a Family Emergency Plan

-Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date for yourself, your children and elderly family members.

-Consider installing a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct, which will filter out most biological agents that may enter your house

During a Biological Threat

The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated, and who is in danger.

Follow these guidelines during a biological threat:

-Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where you should seek medical attention if you become ill.

-If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance, quickly get away.

-Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a t-shirt, handkerchief or towel.

-Depending on the situation, wear a face mask to reduce inhaling or spreading germs.

-If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.

-Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.

-Contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined.

-If your symptoms match those described and you are in the group considered at risk, immediately seek emergency medical attention.

-Follow instructions of doctors and other public health officials.

-If the disease is contagious expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment.

-For non-contagious diseases, expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment.

-In a declared biological emergency or developing epidemic avoid crowds

-Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

-Do not share food or utensils.

After a Biological Threat

Pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may be handled differently to respond to increased demand.

The basic public health procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease. It is important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television, and emergency alert systems.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a complete list of potential agents/diseases and appropriate treatments.

The recent Ridgecrest earthquakes not only thrust us into an immediate connection with Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake due to their proximity, but also because the earthquakes were felt in our local area. As I prepared for Fourth of July festivities that day, the furthest thing from my mind was an earthquake. Below are some precautions you should observe when it comes to earthquakes:

Prepare Before an Earthquake

-Practice Drop, Cover, then Hold On with family and coworkers. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Crawl under a sturdy table or desk if nearby. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops. If a table or desk is not close, crawl next to an interior wall.

-Secure items, such as bookcases, refrigerators, televisions and objects that hang on walls. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.

-Create a family emergency communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated.

-Make a supply kit that includes enough food and water for at least three days, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, and a whistle. Consider each person’s specific needs, including medication. Have extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment. Do not forget the needs of pets and service animals.

-Consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage.

-Consider making improvements to your building to fix structural issues that could cause your building to collapse during an earthquake.

During an Earthquake: Drop, Cover and Hold On!

Drop: Drop where you are, onto your hands and knees.

Cover: Cover your head and neck with your arms. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows). Crawl only if you can reach better cover without going through an area with more debris. Stay on your knees; bend over to protect vital organs,

Hold On. If you are under a table or desk, hold onto with one hand and be ready to move with it if it moves. If you can’t find a table or desk: hold on to your head and neck with both arms and hands. If seated and unable to drop to the floor: bend forward, cover your head with your arms, and hold on to your neck with both hands.

Something I echo to my staff is: “It’s not a matter if a disaster will strike; it’s a matter of when it will strike.” Ponder for a moment if we had an evacuation order issued. What would you do? Would you be ready? I encourage you to consider that which may not be hypothetical.

Be prepared – preparation will make reaction to and recovery from any event that much easier. There are many websites with suggestions for an emergency kit or bugout bag. I would have one per family member. I also recommend you download and install the NFAAS accountability app as soon as possible. If in a relationship with someone that has AtHoc access, have them add you to their AtHoc profile under other phone number.

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All my best,

Captain David James

Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore

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