Prepare yourself to survive in a nuclear
environment. Know how to react to a nuclear hazard.
Effects of Nuclear Weapons
The effects of nuclear weapons are classified as
either initial or residual. Initial effects occur in the immediate area of the
explosion and are hazardous in the first minute after the explosion. Residual
effects can last for days or years and cause death. The principal initial
effects are blast and radiation.
Defined as the brief and rapid movement of air
away from the explosion's center and the pressure accompanying this movement.
Strong winds accompany the blast. Blast hurls debris and personnel, collapses
lungs, ruptures eardrums, collapses structures and positions, and causes
immediate death or injury with its crushing effect.
The heat and light radiation a nuclear
explosion's fireball emits. Light radiation consists of both visible light and
ultraviolet and infrared light. Thermal radiation produces extensive fires, skin
burns, and flash blindness.
Nuclear radiation breaks down into two
categories-initial radiation and residual radiation.
Initial nuclear radiation consists of intense
gamma rays and neutrons produced during the first minute after the explosion.
This radiation causes extensive damage to cells throughout the body. Radiation
damage may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death,
depending on the radiation dose received. The major problem in protecting
yourself against the initial radiation's effects is that you may have received a
lethal or incapacitating dose before taking any protective action. Personnel
exposed to lethal amounts of initial radiation may well have been killed or
fatally injured by blast or thermal radiation.
Residual radiation consists of all radiation
produced after one minute from the explosion. It has more effect on you than
initial radiation. A discussion of residual radiation
takes place in a subsequent paragraph.
Types of Nuclear Bursts
There are three types of nuclear
bursts--airburst, surface burst, and subsurface burst. The type of burst
directly affects your chances of survival. A subsurface burst occurs completely
underground or underwater. Its effects remain beneath the surface or in the
immediate area where the surface collapses into a crater over the burst's
location. Subsurface bursts cause you little or no radioactive hazard unless you
enter the immediate area of the crater. No further discussion of this type of
burst will take place.
An airburst occurs in the air above its intended
target. The airburst provides the maximum radiation effect on the target and is,
therefore, most dangerous to you in terms of immediate nuclear effects.
A surface burst occurs on the ground or water
surface. Large amounts of fallout result, with serious long-term effects for
you. This type of burst is your greatest nuclear hazard.
Most injuries in the nuclear environment result
from the initial nuclear effects of the detonation. These injuries are classed
as blast, thermal, or radiation injuries. Further radiation injuries may occur
if you do not take proper precautions against fallout. Individuals in the area
near a nuclear explosion will probably suffer a combination of all three types
Blast injuries produced by nuclear weapons are
similar to those caused by conventional high-explosive weapons. Blast
overpressure can produce collapsed lungs and ruptured internal organs.
Projectile wounds occur as the explosion's force hurls debris at you. Large
pieces of debris striking you will cause fractured limbs or massive internal
injuries. Blast over-pressure may throw you long distances, and you will suffer
severe injury upon impact with the ground or other objects. Substantial cover
and distance from the explosion are the best protection against blast injury.
Cover blast injury wounds as soon as possible to prevent the entry of
radioactive dust particles.
The heat and light the nuclear fireball emits
causes thermal injuries. First-, second-, or third-degree burns may result.
Flash blindness also occurs. This blindness may be permanent or temporary
depending on the degree of exposure of the eyes. Substantial cover and distance
from the explosion can prevent thermal injuries. Clothing will provide
significant protection against thermal injuries. Cover as much exposed skin as
possible before a nuclear explosion. First aid for thermal injuries is the same
as first aid for burns. Cover open burns (second-or third-degree) to prevent the
entry of radioactive particles. Wash all burns before covering.
Neutrons, gamma radiation, alpha radiation, and
beta radiation cause radiation injuries. Neutrons are high-speed, extremely
penetrating particles that actually smash cells within your body. Gamma
radiation is similar to X rays and is also a highly penetrating radiation.
During the initial fireball stage of a nuclear detonation, initial gamma
radiation and neutrons are the most serious threat. Beta and alpha radiation are
radioactive particles normally associated with radioactive dust from fallout.
They are short-range particles and you can easily protect yourself against them
if you take precautions. See Bodily Reactions to Radiation,
below, for the symptoms of radiation injuries.
Residual radiation is all radiation emitted after
1 minute from the instant of the nuclear explosion. Residual radiation consists
of induced radiation and fallout.
It describes a relatively small, intensely
radioactive area directly underneath the nuclear weapon's fireball. The
irradiated earth in this area will remain highly radioactive for an extremely
long time. You should not travel into an area of induced radiation.
Fallout consists of radioactive soil and water
particles, as well as weapon fragments. During a surface detonation, or if an
airburst's nuclear fireball touches the ground, large amounts of soil and water
are vaporized along with the bomb's fragments, and forced upward to altitudes of
25,000 meters or more. When these vaporized contents cool, they can form more
than 200 different radioactive products. The vaporized bomb contents condense
into tiny radioactive particles that the wind carries and they fall back to
earth as radioactive dust. Fallout particles emit alpha, beta, and gamma
radiation. Alpha and beta radiation are relatively easy to counteract, and
residual gamma radiation is much less intense than the gamma radiation emitted
during the first minute after the explosion. Fallout is your most significant
radiation hazard, provided you have not received a lethal radiation dose from
the initial radiation.
Bodily Reactions to Radiation
The effects of radiation on the human body can be
broadly classed as either chronic or acute. Chronic effects are those that occur
some years after exposure to radiation. Examples are cancer and genetic defects.
Chronic effects are of minor concern insofar as they affect your immediate
survival in a radioactive environment. On the other hand, acute effects are of
primary importance to your survival. Some acute effects occur within hours after
exposure to radiation. These effects result from the radiation's direct physical
damage to tissue. Radiation sickness and beta burns are examples of acute
effects. Radiation sickness symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting,
fatigue, weakness, and loss of hair. Penetrating beta rays cause radiation
burns; the wounds are similar to fire burns.
The extent of body damage depends mainly on the
part of the body exposed to radiation and how long it was exposed, as well as
its ability to recover. The brain and kidneys have little recovery capability.
Other parts (skin and bone marrow) have a great ability to recover from damage.
Usually, a dose of 600 centigrams (cgys) to the entire body will result in
almost certain death. If only your hands received this same dose, your overall
health would not suffer much, although your hands would suffer severe damage.
External and Internal Hazards
An external or an internal hazard can cause body
damage. Highly penetrating gamma radiation or the less penetrating beta
radiation that causes burns can cause external damage. The entry of alpha or
beta radiation-emitting particles into the body can cause internal damage. The
external hazard produces overall irradiation and beta burns. The internal hazard
results in irradiation of critical organs such as the gastrointestinal tract,
thyroid gland, and bone. A very small amount of radioactive material can cause
extreme damage to these and other internal organs. The internal hazard can enter
the body either through consumption of contaminated water or food or by
absorption through cuts or abrasions. Material that enters the body through
breathing presents only a minor hazard. You can greatly reduce the internal
radiation hazard by using good personal hygiene and carefully decontaminating
your food and water.
The symptoms of radiation injuries include
nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The severity of these symptoms is due to the
extreme sensitivity of the gastrointestinal tract to radiation. The severity of
the symptoms and the speed of onset after exposure are good indicators of the
degree of radiation damage. The gastrointestinal damage can come from either the
external or the internal radiation hazard.
Countermeasures Against Penetrating External
Knowledge of the radiation hazards discussed
earlier is extremely important in surviving in a fallout area. It is also
critical to know how to protect yourself from the most dangerous form of
residual radiation--penetrating external radiation.
The means you can use to protect yourself from
penetrating external radiation are time, distance, and shielding. You can reduce
the level of radiation and help increase your chance of survival by controlling
the duration of exposure. You can also get as far away from the radiation source
as possible. Finally you can place some radiation-absorbing or shielding
material between you and the radiation.
Time is important to you, as the survivor, in two
ways. First, radiation dosages are cumulative. The longer you are exposed to a
radioactive source, the greater the dose you will receive. Obviously, spend as
little time in a radioactive area as possible. Second, radioactivity decreases
or decays over time. This concept is known as radioactive half-life.
Thus, a radioactive element decays or loses half of its radioactivity within a
certain time. The rule of thumb for radioactivity decay is that it decreases in
intensity by a factor of ten for every sevenfold increase in time following the
peak radiation level. For example, if a nuclear fallout area had a maximum
radiation rate of 200 cgys per hour when fallout is complete, this rate would
fall to 20 cgys per hour after 7 hours; it would fall still further to 2 cgys
per hour after 49 hours. Even an untrained observer can see that the greatest
hazard from fallout occurs immediately after detonation, and that the hazard
decreases quickly over a relatively short time. As a survivor, try to avoid
fallout areas until the radioactivity decays to safe levels. If you can avoid
fallout areas long enough for most of the radioactivity to decay, you enhance
your chance of survival.
Distance provides very effective protection
against penetrating gamma radiation because radiation intensity decreases by the
square of the distance from the source. For example, if exposed to 1,000 cgys of
radiation standing 30 centimeters from the source, at 60 centimeters, you would
only receive 250 cgys. Thus, when you double the distance, radiation decreases
to (0.5)2 or 0.25 the amount. While this formula is valid for
concentrated sources of radiation in small areas, it becomes more complicated
for large areas of radiation such as fallout areas.
Shielding is the most important method of
protection from penetrating radiation. Of the three countermeasures against
penetrating radiation, shielding provides the greatest protection and is the
easiest to use under survival conditions. Therefore, it is the most desirable
If shielding is not possible, use the other two
methods to the maximum extent practical.
Shielding actually works by absorbing or
weakening the penetrating radiation, thereby reducing the amount of radiation
reaching your body. The denser the material, the better the shielding effect.
Lead, iron, concrete, and water are good examples of shielding materials.
Special Medical Aspects
The presence of fallout material in your area
requires slight changes in first aid procedures. You must cover all wounds to
prevent contamination and the entry of radioactive particles. You must first
wash burns of beta radiation, then treat them as ordinary burns. Take extra
measures to prevent infection. Your body will be extremely sensitive to
infections due to changes in your blood chemistry. Pay close attention to the
prevention of colds or respiratory infections. Rigorously practice personal
hygiene to prevent infections. Cover your eyes with improvised goggles to
prevent the entry of particles.
As stated earlier, the shielding material's
effectiveness depends on its thickness and density. An ample thickness of
shielding material will reduce the level of radiation to negligible amounts.
The primary reason for finding and building a
shelter is to get protection against the high-intensity radiation levels of
early gamma fallout as fast as possible. Five minutes to locate the shelter is a
good guide. Speed in finding shelter is absolutely essential. Without shelter,
the dosage received in the first few hours will exceed that received during the
rest of a week in a contaminated area. The dosage received in this first week
will exceed the dosage accumulated during the rest of a lifetime spent in the
same contaminated area.
The thickness required to weaken gamma radiation
from fallout is far less than that needed to shield against initial gamma
radiation. Fallout radiation has less energy than a nuclear detonation's initial
radiation. For fallout radiation, a relatively small amount of shielding
material can provide adequate protection. Figure 23-1
gives an idea of the thickness of various materials needed to reduce residual
gamma radiation transmission by 50 percent.
The principle of half-value layer thickness
is useful in understanding the absorption of gamma radiation by various
materials. According to this principle, if 5 centimeters of brick reduce the
gamma radiation level by one-half, adding another 5 centimeters of brick
(another half-value layer) will reduce the intensity by another half, namely, to
one-fourth the original amount. Fifteen centimeters will reduce gamma radiation
fallout levels to one-eighth its original amount, 20 centimeters to
one-sixteenth, and so on. Thus, a shelter protected by 1 meter of dirt would
reduce a radiation intensity of 1,000 cgys per hour on the outside to about 0.5
cgy per hour inside the shelter.
Terrain that provides natural shielding and easy
shelter construction is the ideal location for an emergency shelter. Good
examples are ditches, ravines, rocky outcropping, hills, and river banks. In
level areas without natural protection, dig a fighting position or slit trench.
When digging a trench, work from inside the
trench as soon as it is large enough to cover part of your body thereby not
exposing all your body to radiation. In open country, try to dig the trench from
a prone position, stacking the dirt carefully and evenly around the trench. On
level ground, pile the dirt around your body for additional shielding. Depending
upon soil conditions, shelter construction time will vary from a few minutes to
a few hours. If you dig as quickly as possible, you will reduce the dosage you
While an underground shelter covered by 1 meter
or more of earth provides the best protection against fallout radiation, the
following unoccupied structures (in order listed) offer the next best
- Caves and tunnels covered by more than 1 meter
- Storm or storage cellars.
- Basements or cellars of abandoned buildings.
- Abandoned buildings made of stone or mud.
It is not mandatory that you build a roof on your
shelter. Build one only if the materials are readily available with only a brief
exposure to outside contamination. If building a roof would require extended
exposure to penetrating radiation, it would be wiser to leave the shelter
roofless. A roof's sole function is to reduce radiation from the fallout source
to your body. Unless you use a thick roof, a roof provides very little
You can construct a simple roof from a poncho
anchored down with dirt, rocks, or other refuse from your shelter. You can
remove large particles of dirt and debris from the top of the poncho by beating
it off from the inside at frequent intervals. This cover will not offer
shielding from the radioactive particles deposited on the surface, but it will
increase the distance from the fallout source and keep the shelter area from
Shelter Site Selection and Preparation
To reduce your exposure time and thereby reduce
the dosage received, remember the following factors when selecting and setting
up a shelter:
- Where possible, seek a crude, existing shelter
that you can improve. If none is available, dig a trench.
- Dig the shelter deep enough to get good
protection, then enlarge it as required for comfort.
- Cover the top of the fighting position or
trench with any readily available material and a thick layer of earth, if
you can do so without leaving the shelter. While a roof and camouflage are
both desirable, it is probably safer to do without them than to expose
yourself to radiation outside your fighting position.
- While building your shelter, keep all parts of
your body covered with clothing to protect it against beta burns.
- Clean the shelter site of any surface deposit
using a branch or other object that you can discard. Do this cleaning to
remove contaminated materials from the area you will occupy. The cleaned
area should extend at least 1.5 meters beyond your shelter's area.
- Decontaminate any materials you bring into the
shelter. These materials include grass or foliage that you use as insulation
or bedding, and your outer clothing (especially footgear). If the weather
permits and you have heavily contaminated outer clothing, you may want to
remove it and bury it under a foot of earth at the end of your shelter. You
may retrieve it later (after the radioactivity decays) when leaving the
shelter. If the clothing is dry, you may decontaminate it by beating or
shaking it outside the shelter's entrance to remove the radioactive dust.
You may use any body of water, even though contaminated, to rid materials of
excess fallout particles. Simply dip the material into the water and shake
it to get rid of the excess water. Do not wring it out, this action will
trap the particles.
- If at all possible and without leaving the
shelter, wash your body thoroughly with soap and water, even if the water on
hand may be contaminated. This washing will remove most of the harmful
radioactive particles that are likely to cause beta burns or other damage.
If water is not available, wipe your face and any other exposed skin surface
to remove contaminated dust and dirt. You may wipe your face with a clean
piece of cloth or a handful of uncontaminated dirt. You get this
uncontaminated dirt by scraping off the top few inches of soil and using the
- Upon completing the shelter, lie down, keep
warm, and sleep and rest as much as possible while in the shelter.
- When not resting, keep busy by planning future
actions, studying your maps, or making the shelter more comfortable and
- Don't panic if you experience nausea and
symptoms of radiation sickness. Your main danger from radiation sickness is
infection. There is no first aid for this sickness. Resting, drinking
fluids, taking any medicine that prevents vomiting, maintaining your food
intake, and preventing additional exposure will help avoid infection and aid
recovery. Even small doses of radiation can cause these symptoms which may
disappear in a short time.
The following timetable
provides you with the information needed to avoid receiving serious dosage and
still let you cope with survival problems:
- Complete isolation from 4 to 6 days following
delivery of the last weapon.
- A very brief exposure to procure water on the
third day is permissible, but exposure should not exceed 30 minutes.
- One exposure of not more than 30 minutes on
the seventh day.
- One exposure of not more than 1 hour on the
- Exposure of 2 to 4 hours from the ninth day
through the twelfth day.
- Normal operation, followed by rest in a
protected shelter, from the thirteenth day on.
- In all instances, make your exposures as brief
as possible. Consider only mandatory requirements as valid reasons for
exposure. Decontaminate at every stop.
The times given above are
conservative. If forced to move after the first or second day, you may do so,
Make sure that the exposure is no longer than absolutely necessary.
In a fallout-contaminated area, available water
sources may be contaminated. If you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any
water to allow for radioactive decay to take place and select the safest
possible water source, you will greatly reduce the danger of ingesting harmful
amounts of radioactivity.
Although many factors (wind direction, rainfall,
sediment) will influence your choice in selecting water sources, consider the
Safest Water Sources
Water from springs, wells, or other underground
sources that undergo natural filtration will be your safest source. Any water
found in the pipes or containers of abandoned houses or stores will also be free
from radioactive particles. This water will be safe to drink, although you will
have to take precautions against bacteria in the water.
Snow taken from 15 or more centimeters below the
surface during the fallout is also a safe source of water.
Streams and Rivers
Water from streams and rivers will be relatively
free from fallout within several days after the last nuclear explosion because
of dilution. If at all possible, filter such water before drinking to get rid of
radioactive particles. The best filtration method is to dig sediment holes or
seepage basins along the side of a water source. The water will seep laterally
into the hole through the intervening soil that acts as a filtering agent and
removes the contaminated fallout particles that settled on the original body of
water. This method can remove up to 99 percent of the radioactivity in water.
You must cover the hole in some way in order to prevent further contamination.
6-9 for an example of a water filter.
Water from lakes, pools, ponds, and other
standing sources is likely to be heavily contaminated, though most of the
heavier, long-lived radioactive isotopes will settle to the bottom. Use the
settling technique to purify this water. First, fill a bucket or other deep
container three-fourths full with contaminated water. Then take dirt from a
depth of 10 or more centimeters below the ground surface and stir it into the
water. Use about 2.5 centimeters of dirt for every 10 centimeters of water. Stir
the water until you see most dirt particles suspended in the water. Let the
mixture settle for at least 6 hours. The settling dirt particles will carry most
of the suspended fallout particles to the bottom and cover them. You can then
dip out the clear water. Purify this water using a filtration device.
As an additional precaution against disease,
treat all water with water purification tablets from your survival kit or boil
Although it is a serious problem to obtain edible
food in a radiation-contaminated area, it is not impossible to solve. You need
to follow a few special procedures in selecting and preparing rations and local
foods for use. Since secure packaging protects your combat rations, they will be
perfectly safe for use. Supplement your rations with any food you can find on
trips outside your shelter. Most processed foods you may find in abandoned
buildings are safe for use after decontaminating them. These include canned and
packaged foods after removing the containers or wrappers or washing them free of
fallout particles. These processed foods also include food stored in any closed
container and food stored in protected areas (such as cellars), if you wash them
before eating. Wash all food containers or wrappers before handling them to
prevent further contamination.
If little or no processed food is available in
your area, you may have to supplement your diet with local food sources. Local
food sources are animals and plants.
Animals as a Food Source
Assume that all animals, regardless of their
habitat or living conditions, were exposed to radiation. The effects of
radiation on animals are similar to those on humans. Thus, most of the wild
animals living in a fallout area are likely to become sick or die from radiation
during the first month after the nuclear explosion. Even though animals may not
be free from harmful radioactive materials, you can and must use them in
survival conditions as a food source if other foods are not available. With
careful preparation and by following several important principles, animals can
be safe food sources.
First, do not eat an animal that appears to be
sick. It may have developed a bacterial infection as a result of radiation
poisoning. Contaminated meat, even if thoroughly cooked, could cause severe
illness or death if eaten.
Carefully skin all animals to prevent any
radioactive particles on the skin or fur from entering the body. Do not eat meat
close to the bones and joints as an animal's skeleton contains over 90 percent
of the radioactivity. The remaining animal muscle tissue, however, will be safe
to eat. Before cooking it, cut the meat away from the bone, leaving at least a
3-millimeter thickness of meat on the bone. Discard all internal organs (heart,
liver, and kidneys) since they tend to concentrate beta and gamma radioactivity.
Cook all meat until it is very well done. To be
sure the meat is well done, cut it into less than 13-millimeter-thick pieces
before cooking. Such cuts will also reduce cooking time and save fuel.
The extent of contamination in fish and aquatic
animals will be much greater than that of land animals. This is also true for
water plants, especially in coastal areas. Use aquatic food sources only in
conditions of extreme emergency.
All eggs, even if laid during the period of
fallout, will be safe to eat. Completely avoid milk from any animals in a
fallout area because animals absorb large amounts of radioactivity from the
plants they eat.
Plants as a Food Source
Plant contamination occurs by the accumulation of
fallout on their outer surfaces or by absorption of radioactive elements through
their roots. Your first choice of plant food should be vegetables such as
potatoes, turnips, carrots, and other plants whose edible portion grows
underground. These are the safest to eat once you scrub them and remove their
Second in order of preference are those plants
with edible parts that you can decontaminate by washing and peeling their outer
surfaces. Examples are bananas, apples, tomatoes, prickly pears, and other such
fruits and vegetables.
Any smooth-skinned vegetable, fruit, or plant
that you cannot easily peel or effectively decontaminate by washing will be your
third choice of emergency food.
The effectiveness of decontamination by scrubbing
is inversely proportional to the roughness of the fruit's surface.
Smooth-surfaced fruits have lost 90 percent of their contamination after
washing, while washing rough-surfaced plants removes only about 50 percent of
You eat rough-surfaced plants (such as lettuce)
only as a last resort because you cannot effectively decontaminate them by
peeling or washing. Other difficult foods to decontaminate by washing with water
include dried fruits (figs, prunes, peaches, apricots, pears) and soya beans.
In general, you can use any plant food that is
ready for harvest if you can effectively decontaminate it. Growing plants,
however, can absorb some radioactive materials through their leaves as well as
from the soil, especially if rains have occurred during or after the fallout
period. Avoid using these plants for food except in an emergency.
The use of biological agents is real. Prepare
yourself for survival by being proficient in the tasks identified in your
Soldier's Manuals of Common Tasks (SMCTs). Know what to do to protect yourself
against these agents.
Biological Agents and Effects
Biological agents are microorganisms that can
cause disease among personnel, animals, or plants. They can also cause the
deterioration of material. These agents fall into two broad categories-pathogens
(usually called germs) and toxins. Pathogens are living microorganisms that
cause lethal or incapacitating diseases. Bacteria, rickettsiae, fungi, and
viruses are included in the pathogens. Toxins are poisons that plants, animals,
or microorganisms produce naturally. Possible biological war-fare toxins include
a variety of neurotoxic (affecting the central nervous system) and cytotoxic
(causing cell death) compounds.
Germs are living organisms. Some nations have
used them in the past as weapons. Only a few germs can start an infection,
especially if inhaled into the lungs. Because germs are so small and weigh so
little, the wind can spread them over great distances; they can also enter
unfiltered or nonairtight places. Buildings and bunkers can trap them thus
causing a higher concentration. Germs do not affect the body immediately. They
must multiply inside the body and overcome the body's defenses--a process called
the incubation period. Incubation periods vary from several hours to several
months, depending on the germ. Most germs must live within another living
organism (host), such as your body, to survive and grow. Weather conditions such
as wind, rain, cold, and sunlight rapidly kill germs.
Some germs can form protective shells, or spores,
to allow survival outside the host. Spore-producing agents are a long-term
hazard you must neutralize by decontaminating infected areas or personnel.
Fortunately, most live agents are not spore-producing. These agents must find a
host within roughly a day of their delivery or they die. Germs have three basic
routes of entry into your body: through the respiratory tract, through a break
in the skin, and through the digestive tract. Symptoms of infection vary
according to the disease.
Toxins are substances that plants, animals, or
germs produce naturally. These toxins are what actually harm man, not bacteria.
Botulin, which produces botulism, is an example. Modern science has allowed
large-scale production of these toxins without the use of the germ that produces
the toxin. Toxins may produce effects similar to those of chemical agents. Toxic
victims may not, however, respond to first aid measures used against chemical
agents. Toxins enter the body in the same manner as germs. However, some toxins,
unlike germs, can penetrate unbroken skin. Symptoms appear almost immediately,
since there is no incubation period. Many toxins are extremely lethal, even in
very small doses. Symptoms may include any of the following:
- Mental confusion.
- Blurred or double vision.
- Numbness or tingling of skin.
- Rashes or blisters.
- Aching muscles.
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
- Bleeding from body openings.
- Blood in urine, stool, or saliva.
Detection of Biological Agents
Biological agents are, by nature, difficult to
detect. You cannot detect them by any of the five physical senses. Often, the
first sign of a biological agent will be symptoms of the victims exposed to the
agent. Your best chance of detecting biological agents before they can affect
you is to recognize their means of delivery. The three main means of delivery
- Bursting-type munitions.
These may be bombs or projectiles whose burst causes very little damage. The
burst will produce a small cloud of liquid or powder in the immediate impact
area. This cloud will disperse eventually; the rate of dispersion depends on
terrain and weather conditions.
- Spray tanks or generators.
Aircraft or vehicle spray tanks or ground-level aerosol generators produce an
aerosol cloud of biological agents.
Insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, lice, and ticks deliver pathogens. Large
infestations of these insects may indicate the use of biological agents.
Another sign of a possible biological attack is
the presence of unusual substances on the ground or on vegetation, or
sick-looking plants, crops, or animals.
Influence of Weather and Terrain
Your knowledge of how weather and terrain affect
the agents can help you avoid contamination by biological agents. Major weather
factors that affect biological agents are sunlight, wind, and precipitation.
Aerosol sprays will tend to concentrate in low areas of terrain, similar to
early morning mist.
Sunlight contains visible and ultraviolet solar
radiation that rapidly kills most germs used as biological agents. However,
natural or man-made cover may protect some agents from sunlight. Other man-made
mutant strains of germs may be resistant to sunlight.
High wind speeds increase the dispersion of
biological agents, dilute their concentration, and dehydrate them. The further
downwind the agent travels, the less effective it becomes due to dilution and
death of the pathogens. However, the downwind hazard area of the biological
agent is significant and you cannot ignore it.
Precipitation in the form of moderate to heavy
rain tends to wash biological agents out of the air, reducing downwind hazard
areas. However, the agents may still be very effective where they were deposited
on the ground.
Protection Against Biological Agents
While you must maintain a healthy respect for
biological agents, there is no reason for you to panic. You can reduce your
susceptibility to biological agents by maintaining current immunizations,
avoiding contaminated areas, and controlling rodents and pests. You must also
use proper first aid measures in the treatment of wounds and only safe or
properly decontaminated sources of food and water. You must ensure that you get
enough sleep to prevent a run-down condition. You must always use proper field
Assuming you do not have a protective mask,
always try to keep your face covered with some type of cloth to protect yourself
against biological agent aerosols. Dust may contain biological agents; wear some
type of mask when dust is in the air.
Your uniform and gloves will protect you against
bites from vectors (mosquitoes and ticks) that carry diseases. Completely button
your clothing and tuck your trousers tightly into your boots. Wear a chemical
protective overgarment, if available, as it provides better protection than
normal clothing. Covering your skin will also reduce the chance of the agent
entering your body through cuts or scratches. Always practice high standards of
personal hygiene and sanitation to help prevent the spread of vectors.
Bathe with soap and water whenever possible. Use
germicidal soap, if available. Wash your hair and body thoroughly, and clean
under your fingernails. Clean teeth, gums, tongue, and the roof of your mouth
frequently. Wash your clothing in hot, soapy water if you can. If you cannot
wash your clothing, lay it out in an area of bright sunlight and allow the light
to kill the microorganisms. After a toxin attack, decontaminate yourself as if
for a chemical attack using the M258A2 kit (if available) or by washing with
soap and water.
You can build expedient shelters under biological
contamination conditions using the same techniques described in Chapter 5.
However, you must make slight changes to reduce the chance of biological
contamination. Do not build your shelter in depressions in the ground. Aerosol
sprays tend to concentrate in these depressions. Avoid building your shelter in
areas of vegetation, as vegetation provides shade and some degree of protection
to biological agents. Avoid using vegetation in constructing your shelter. Place
your shelter's entrance at a 90-degree angle to the prevailing winds. Such
placement will limit the entry of airborne agents and prevent air stagnation in
your shelter. Always keep your shelter clean.
Water procurement under biological conditions is
difficult but not impossible. Whenever possible, try to use water that has been
in a sealed container. You can assume that the water inside the sealed container
is not contaminated. Wash the water container thoroughly with soap and water or
boil it for at least 10 minutes before breaking the seal.
If water in sealed containers is not available,
your next choice, only under emergency conditions, is water from springs.
Again, boil the water for at least 10 minutes before drinking. Keep the water
covered while boiling to prevent contamination by airborne pathogens. Your last
choice, only in an extreme emergency, is to use standing water. Vectors and
germs can survive easily in stagnant water. Boil this water as long as practical
to kill all organisms. Filter this water through a cloth to remove the dead
vectors. Use water purification tablets in all cases.
Food procurement, like water procurement, is not
impossible, but you must take special precautions. Your combat rations are
sealed, and you can assume they are not contaminated. You can also assume that
sealed containers or packages of processed food are safe. To ensure safety,
decontaminate all food containers by washing with soap and water or by boiling
the container in water for 10 minutes.
You consider supplementing your rations with
local plants or animals only in extreme emergencies.
No matter what you do to prepare the food, there is no guarantee that cooking
will kill all the biological agents. Use local food only in life or death
situations. Remember, you can survive for a long time without food, especially
if the food you eat may kill you!
If you must use local food, select only
healthy-looking plants and animals. Do not select known carriers of vectors such
as rats or other vermin. Select and prepare plants as you would in radioactive
areas. Prepare animals as you do plants. Always use gloves and protective
clothing when handling animals or plants. Cook all plant and animal food by
boiling only. Boil all food for at least 10 minutes to kill all pathogens. Do
not try to fry, bake, or roast local food. There is no guarantee that all
infected portions have reached the required temperature to kill all pathogens.
Do not eat raw food.
Chemical agent warfare is real. It can create
extreme problems in a survival situation, but you can overcome the problems with
the proper equipment, knowledge, and training. As a survivor, your first line of
defense against chemical agents is your proficiency in individual nuclear,
biological, and chemical (NBC) training, to include donning and wearing the
protective mask and overgarment, personal decontamination, recognition of
chemical agent symptoms, and individual first aid for chemical agent
contamination. The SMCTs cover these subjects. If you are not proficient in
these skills, you will have little chance of surviving a chemical environment.
The subject matter covered
below is not a substitute for any of the individual tasks in which you must be
proficient. The SMCTs address the various chemical agents, their effects, and
first aid for these agents. The following information is provided under the
assumption that you are proficient in the use of chemical protective equipment
and know the symptoms of various chemical agents.
Detection of Chemical
The best method for detecting chemical agents is
the use of a chemical agent detector. If you have one, use it. However, in a
survival situation, you will most likely have to rely solely on the use of all
of your physical senses. You must be alert and able to detect any clues
indicating the use of chemical warfare. General indicators of the presence of
chemical agents are tears, difficult breathing, choking, itching, coughing, and
dizziness. With agents that are very hard to detect, you must watch for symptoms
in fellow survivors. Your surroundings will provide valuable clues to the
presence of chemical agents; for example, dead animals, sick people, or people
and animals displaying abnormal behavior.
Your sense of smell may alert you to some
chemical agents, but most will be odorless. The odor of newly cut grass or hay
may indicate the presence of choking agents. A smell of almonds may indicate
Sight will help you detect chemical agents. Most
chemical agents in the solid or liquid state have some color. In the vapor
state, you can see some chemical agents as a mist or thin fog immediately after
the bomb or shell bursts. By observing for symptoms in others and by observing
delivery means, you may be able to have some warning of chemical agents. Mustard
gas in the liquid state will appear as oily patches on leaves or on buildings.
The sound of enemy munitions will give some clue
to the presence of chemical weapons. Muffled shell or bomb detonations are a
Irritation in the nose or eyes or on the skin is
an urgent warning to protect your body from chemical agents. Additionally, a
strange taste in food, water, or cigarettes may serve as a warning that they
have been contaminated.
Protection Against Chemical Agents
As a survivor, always use the following general
steps, in the order listed, to protect yourself from a chemical attack:
- Use protective equipment.
- Give quick and correct self-aid when
- Avoid areas where chemical agents exist.
- Decontaminate your equipment and body as soon
Your protective mask and overgarment are the key
to your survival. Without these, you stand very little chance of survival. You
must take care of these items and protect them from damage. You must practice
and know correct self-aid procedures before exposure to chemical agents. The
detection of chemical agents and the avoidance of contaminated areas is
extremely important to your survival. Use whatever detection kits may be
available to help in detection. Since you are in a survival situation, avoid
contaminated areas at all costs. You can expect no help should you become
contaminated. If you do become contaminated, decontaminate yourself as soon as
possible using proper procedures.
If you find yourself in a contaminated area, try
to move out of the area as fast as possible. Travel crosswind or upwind to
reduce the time spent in the downwind hazard area. If you cannot leave the area
immediately and have to build a shelter, use normal shelter construction
techniques, with a few changes. Build the shelter in a clearing, away from all
vegetation. Remove all topsoil in the area of the shelter to decontaminate the
area. Keep the shelter's entrance closed and oriented at a 90-degree angle to
the prevailing wind. Do not build a fire using contaminated wood--the smoke will
be toxic. Use extreme caution when entering your shelter so that you will not
bring contamination inside.
As with biological and nuclear environments,
getting water in a chemical environment is difficult. Obviously, water in sealed
containers is your best and safest source. You must protect this water as much
as possible. Be sure to decontaminate the containers before opening.
If you cannot get water in sealed containers, try
to get it from a closed source such as underground water pipes. You may use
rainwater or snow if there is no evidence of contamination. Use water from
slow-moving streams, if necessary, but always check first for signs of
contamination, and always filter the water as described under nuclear
conditions. Signs of water source contamination are foreign odors such as
garlic, mustard, geranium, or bitter almonds; oily spots on the surface of the
water or nearby; and the presence of dead fish or animals. If these signs are
present, do not use the water. Always boil or purify the water to prevent
It is extremely difficult to eat while in a
contaminated area. You will have to break the seal on your protective mask to
eat. If you eat, find an area in which you can safely unmask. The safest source
of food is your sealed combat rations. Food in sealed cans or bottles will also
be safe. Decontaminate all sealed food containers before opening, otherwise you
will contaminate the food.
If you must supplement your combat rations with
local plants or animals, do not use plants from contaminated areas or
animals that appear to be sick. When handling plants or animals, always use
protective gloves and clothing.