A chemical attack is probably one of the most lethal SHTF scenarios you can witness, and some historical cases we all recall were harsh proof of that.
“A chemical attack may be executed by individuals or groups — terrorists, terrorist affiliates, or state-sponsored, and/or organized crime — through the deliberate release of toxic substances, such as a gas, liquid, or solid, in an attempt to cause public harm, injury, or loss of life. A wide variety of common household and professional-grade toxic chemicals can be made, stolen, or acquired for use in an attack, including nerve agents, blister agents, blood agents, choking agents, and irritants.” – Department of Homeland Security – “Chemical Attacks Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places”
The lack of proper knowledge about the effects of poisonous gas, along with the scarce or even total absence of proper gear to use during the attack, had dramatic consequences.
Sometimes, governments remained silent for days – or even weeks – after the events occurred to add insult to injury.
The average individual may have no idea at all about the spread of toxic gases neither on the lethal effects of such gases on the short, medium, or long-range.
From this article, we will learn about the basic actions we need to take in case of a chemical attack and the procedures we need to follow when SHTF.
Some recent historical cases
“Isn’t a policy of conventional weapons, with the terrible bombs raining down, with the missiles, with the aircraft, with the submarines, with the torpedoes, with the tanks, with chemical weapons – isn’t that based on the possibility of threat?”
In 1995, hundreds of people were injured, and twelve were killed in Tokyo.
The Aum Shinrikyo cult members released sarin gas inside the subway systems during the morning rush hour.
In March 1988, as Kurdish guerrillas joined an Iranian offensive, Iraqi aircraft launched bombs on the Kurdish town of Halabja, close to the Iranian border.
The bombs were filled with nerve agents, and they killed nearly 5,000 people, mainly civilians.
In 2017, the Australian government stopped a plot allegedly conceived by some ISIS supporters. They claimed that radicalized people develop a specific device that could release toxic gas within a public enclosed space.
Between 2018 and 2017, the government released a toxic agent, possibly a nerve gas, on its citizens.
“Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”
― Idowu Koyenikan
Being prepared starts by being realistic. In saying that, your knowledge of what a chemical attack can mean in terms of short and long-term symptoms will save your life and the lives of your loved ones.
As President Roosevelt used to say, “It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come, he is ready.”
The ABC of survival within an environment contaminated by chemical agents must include some procedures that every prepper needs to acquire and trigger them automatically when there’s the need to do so.
Like every warfare scenario, a chemical attack has its own features, and you need to accustom yourself to quickly recognizing the signs of a chemical attack.
By doing so, you will know how to face that threat. Here are some general specifications of possible chemical attacks.
- Any bombing action can be the means of triggering a chemical attack. The Iraqi 1998 case is a clear case of such an occurrence.
- A grenade filled with chemical gases. The wind can carry the gas, even if disrupted far away from the location the grenade was thrown.
- When you detect a low-flying aircraft (especially if marked as “unknown”)
- When you detect unusual smells or noises
- When you notice a strange mist, with odd drops
The most common symptoms of a chemical attack are connected with:
- difficulty breathing
- muscle weakness
- sudden headache
- runny nose
- red eyes
- excessive salivation
- a harsh chest pain
- lack of reasoning
- lost of consciousness
- skin irritation
Even if some of these symptoms can appear like common minor health issues, the whole list of present symptoms should put you on alert. This happens in a more evident manner when you find yourself trapped inside a closed space, as we will soon see.
The risk of exposure
“We cannot stop natural disasters, but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.”
– Petra Nemcova
The most likely toxic agents delivery methods could be carried out in the following cases:
- high-density people open spaces
- closed locations equipped with ventilation systems
- The employment of sprayers or aerosolizing items
- E.D. (Improvised Explosive Devices)
- by passive inhalation
- by insertion of chemical toxins in water and food
- damage of vehicles/containers/facilities with host chemicals
- Introduction of toxins in the food and water supply.
The mere knowledge of which kind of “opportunities” are located in your surroundings (urban or suburban area) makes you able to forecast the methods of delivery of such toxic agents.
You can actually map them and keep a record of:
- their exact location
- what they produce
- the risk you and your relatives may face in case of a chemical attack on those targets
Most common list of chemical agents
A high percentage of chemical agents can cause serious injury or even death, and this usually happens if they have been inhaled or absorbed throughout the skin.
Let’s look at the most common and lethal chemical toxins, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Arsine is a chemical agent, and it smells like a combination between fish, garlic, and clay.
Exposure to it is fatal in a short amount of time: 25–30 ppm concentrations for 30 min exposure.
Chlorine smells like bleach. We are all familiar with this chemical agent. The effects happen to be extremely fast if spread in high concentrations, at the opposite, the effects may be delayed in lower concentrations.
Hydrogen Sulfide is a chemical gas with a disgusting smell that resembles rotten eggs. Hydrogen Sulfide is very toxic, with undoubtedly rapid negative effects if found either in low or in high concentrations.
Phosgene has a distinctive odor of hay, and it behaves like Chlorine.
Phosphine is both a nerve and chemical agent, with a repulsive smell of fish and garlic combined together. The effects are similar to Phosgene.
Sarin, which is a nerve agent, has no odor at all, which makes it extremely hard to detect. It became infamous during WWII. Its effects are very rapid in vapor form, and if it’s delivered in the liquid form, the effects may appear to be delayed.
How you may be exposed to chemical agents
“A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
– Proverbs 27:12
There are several ways you may be subjected to the effects of chemical or nerve agents.
As mentioned above, food and water can be contaminated by chemical agents. They can be absorbed by blood and then reach your stomach quickly. In order to avoid it, always favor eating canned or sealed food in an unknown environment.
This happens to be the easiest and common way for gases to reach your respiratory system. The damages are far bigger and destructive compared to when it gets in contact with your eyes and/or your skin.
Insects, like mosquitoes, can be lethal carriers of chemical agents. A simple bite can insert the chemical agent into your body, and it may reach your organs in minutes through the bloodstream.
What you must do in case of a chemical attack
Knowing and applying the right procedures can actually save your life and the lives of others.
If it happens outdoors
If you detect any weird odor, you must protect your respiratory system by accurately covering your nose, mouth, and, if possible, your eyes.
The best thing to do is to leave any outdoor areas where the vapor can spread by reaching a safer place indoors.
Once inside, you must lock all doors and windows and block any air ventilation system.
Chose the most secluded room as your living quarters and seal it in the best way you can.
Do not touch anything, as it may penetrate your skin.
If you are aware of any evacuation plan, follow it without panicking and help others do the very same.
Call for help and follow their instructions.
If it happens indoors
Protect all your respiratory functions and cover your eyes, nose, and mouth as best as possible.
Find rapid access to clean air sources or protective equipment (face masks) and help others to do the same.
Do not expose yourself to contaminated areas while you are making your way out.
Call for help and follow their instructions.
“We must perfect a worldwide system of accountability for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.”
– Richard Lugar
Being aware of the right procedures to carefully follow in case a chemical attack occurs is the only option you have to survive. Having a minimum amount of gear (like respirators and air filters) will also help you and your loved ones stay safe.
Kyt Lyn Walken has written this article for Prepper’s Will.