The world is a scary place. We face many threats daily, and it's hard to know what the future will bring. One of the most dangerous threats in today's society is biological warfare. It has been found worldwide, and there are no signs of it slowing down or stopping any time soon.
The following article offers some tips for preparing yourself for this type of situation, so you can be as safe as possible if your worst fears come true.
Biological weapons of mass destruction are a major source of dread and anxiety for many of us. We've already seen what disease and a pandemic can do, which may leave us thinking, how can we prepare ourselves against the threat of biological warfare? What kind of bioterrorism preparedness plan do we need?
Take a look at our guide to staying safe and protected if the worst does happen, as we examine how to prepare for biological warfare, bioterrorism, or a chemical attack.
What is biological warfare?
Biological warfare, or biological terrorism as it is sometimes called, has been around for years and can be traced back to ancient times when there were not many other ways of attempting to invade a fortress. Biological warfare refers to the use of biological toxins and microorganisms as weapons in a conflict or War.
While warfare and weapons of War are always unsettling, biological weapons play upon our natural human fears. This is an insidious weapon that cannot be fought or evaded with strength and wit alone, and in most cases, it is invisible. It gets into our systems, causing damage and possibly death, and we may not even know about it until it is far too late.
At the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. While this was not a case of biological warfare and was a natural viral outbreak that caught the world off guard, it underlined how vulnerable humanity is to pathogens. In this modern age, with global travel, trade, and commerce now connecting previously isolated communities, a biological attack could be severe.
With this in mind, a bioterrorism preparedness plan becomes crucial. While international governments and military forces will do their utmost to prevent such attacks, it still comes to individuals to make sure they are ready for any eventuality. This could be the key to survival.
Biological warfare and bioterrorism as a real threat
With bioterrorism and biological warfare defined, let's look at the threat level and learn more about what has led us to this point. While it's true that the threat of a chemical attack, or an attack utilizing biological weapons of mass destruction, remains relatively low, this low threat is still a real threat. This is still something we need to bear in mind and prepare for. Preparedness saves lives.
An ancient threat with a long history
For as long as humans have been aware of the threat of germs and pathogens — even before we knew what these germs and pathogens were — biological weapons have been used in warfare.
As early as 400 BC, nomadic Scythian troops from central Asia and the Russian steppe were tainting their arrows with decomposing corpse matter, infected blood, and excrement to spread disease among their enemies while contaminating well water with the corpses of animals was a tactic recorded by Persian, Greek and Roman writers in the following century.
The advent of the bubonic plague in Europe in the Middle Ages increased the fear of disease among the populace. Also, it increased the effectiveness of biological warfare in the field. Tatar forces besieging the Black Sea port city of Kaffa used plague-infected corpses to spark an epidemic, and the same strategy was deployed by the Russians some three hundred years later against the Swedish Army at the Battle of Reval.
By this time, the lethal power of smallpox was more widely understood, and British Forces famously deployed this during the French and Indian War, and allegedly by both sides during the American Civil War around a century later.
Modern-day uses of biological warfare and weapons
World War I brought increasingly sophisticated biowarfare tactics. The German Army developed and deployed weapons of this nature across the Eastern, Middle Eastern, and Western Fronts, to varying degrees of success. This led to the signing of the Geneva Protocol in 1925, effectively banning biological weapons and their development.
However, this did not stop Japanese forces, who carried out several experiments on human subjects at their now infamous Unit 731 research facility in Manchuria, northeastern China. Nor did it prevent the United States and the United Kingdom from developing their biological weapons during the 1940s, with the US continuing their development program well into the 1960s.
Critical biological warfare and bioterrorism incidents
Today, biological warfare is a taboo subject among international militaries but remains a genuine threat because of the actions of bioterrorists.
- 1984: Several followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh infected 751 people with Salmonella after targeting a series of restaurants across Oregon.
- 1985: Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government began developing a range of sophisticated chemical and biological weapons, some of which could be mounted on an aircraft.
- 1994: The Aum Shinrikyo cult attempted to release anthrax into the air in Tokyo. The same group would successfully carry out a gas attack on the Tokyo subway, killing 13 people.
- 1995: A Minnesota militia group was found to have a self-developed ricin agent ahead of an attack on local government officials.
- 1996: A man in Ohio was caught ordering bubonic plague pathogen cultures by mail.
- 2001: In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, mass panic began to spread after parcels of anthrax delivered by mail killed five people.
- 2002: Police in Manchester, UK, arrested six suspects producing ricin in a makeshift laboratory in their apartment. The arrests were linked to a possible attack on the Russian embassy.
- 2004: Traces of ricin were found in the mailroom of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office at the US Senate.
- 2018: Russian dissident Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were targeted by Russian operatives armed with the Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury, United Kingdom. An unrelated party, Dawn Sturgess, died in a hospital following exposure.
Why is biological warfare still such a threat?
Suppose biological warfare is nothing new, and our governments, scientists, and militaries are now so well-versed in the strategies of bioterrorists. Why does this continue to pose such a threat? There are some reasons for this:
- Biological weapons are relatively easy to produce
Terrorists with biological weapons and rogue states launching nuclear missiles against population centers around the world — these are primarily the stuff of movies.
Why? Because these kinds of attacks are so difficult to pull off. Nuclear weapons require vast amounts of money, personnel, and resources to develop. Biological weapons, on the other hand, are much easier to develop in relative secrecy.
- Biological weapons can be deployed quickly.
As we have seen from some of the examples above, it is not difficult to deploy a biological weapon. Yes, military forces might decide to attach biological weapons to bombs, aircraft, and other expensive pieces of hardware, but for terrorists, the process is much more straightforward. Even sending a small amount of an agent or pathogen through the mail can cause death and destruction, as well as waves of panic.
- The fear factor is huge.
This idea of panic is an important one. The aim of terrorism is exactly what it sounds like — to cause terror. Humans are naturally disturbed by the idea of a global pandemic, and the events of 2020 have only increased this fear. Terrorists and militaries can harness this fear factor to significant effect, whole crippling societies with terror and paranoia.
The public is mainly unprepared.
Even after the increased understanding of the nature of a global pandemic, the public is still largely unprepared. We have seen this low level of preparation manifested in the panic and confusion that reigned during the earliest phases of Covid-19 and still reigns even long after the beginning of the pandemic.
But it does not need to be this way. With the right bioterrorism preparedness plan, you can stay protected against biological weapons of mass destruction.
How to Survive a Biological or Chemical Attack
If something was to happen — if a biological or chemical attack were to occur — how would you survive? What would your chances be? Being prepared is always the best course of action.
This does not mean living your life obsessing over the threat of biological or chemical warfare. Instead, it means living your life safe in the knowledge that you have a plan and a strategy to help you survive.
Have a strategy for staying informed
We live in the digital age, which means data and information are all around us. However, this does not necessarily mean that all of this data and information is valid. Misinformation and untrustworthy sources abounded in 2020, a year in which worldwide trust in the media fell by 8%. Only 29% of Americans said they mostly trusted news media, and 52% of Americans regularly encountered fake news online.
This means, while information is right there at our fingertips, we need to be increasingly savvy with what we do with this information, particularly on a subject with such high stakes as biological warfare and bioterrorism.
To prepare yourself for the possibility of a biological attack, you need to know who to trust.Consult thoroughly sourced and researched fact-checking sites such as Media Bias / Fact Check, Snopes, PolitiFact, and FactCheck.org, and then apply your research to any news stories you encounter.
This will help you learn which news sources you can trust. It is also worth conducting your research into the symptoms and indicators of different chemical and biological agents to help you watch out for any attack signs.
Draft and refine your plan
Your survival plan for a biological or chemical attack needs to be consistently evolving and developing. As you add new tools to help you survive an attack and learn more about threat levels and attack indicators, you need to reassess and reappraise your plan.
Start your plan by thinking about what you currently have available. For example, you may have an internal room in your home that can be easily turned into a quarantine area, so you want to include this in your plan. However, if you then move into a property with a basement, this area may be more suitable and should be factored in accordingly.
Think about how you are going to access water, food, and medical supplies. Consider how you will continue to stay informed and connected to the outside world even as you hideout.
Plan how you will alert your family members and bring them to your safe space within only a short window of notice. Your plan should cover all of these critical aspects, and all of your loved ones should be aware of the details it contains.
Build your stockpile
Ensure you always have access to the things you need, even if a biological attack closes down supply lines or makes it difficult to go outside. So, what do you need exactly?
- Drinking water is the most important, as the human body cannot survive for long without it. You also need water for washing and other hygiene-related purposes.
- Food and sustenance are non-perishable and can easily be stored and then consumed even several months or years after purchase.
- Medical supplies to keep you and your family healthy during the worst of the attack.
- Personal protective equipment, or PPE, keeps you safe from infection or disease during the threat period — the Covid pandemic has pushed PPE to the fore and has made it relatively easy to find the clothing and equipment you need.
- Hygiene supplies, including tissue paper, washing materials, sanitary products, and anything else that will keep you clean and healthy in the long term. It's also essential to think about sanitizers and antibacterial products.
Biological warfare is a chemical or biological weapon that utilizes bacteria, viruses, and toxins to kill people. The United States has taken steps in the last 100 years against these weapons because they can have long-term consequences for human health. We are fighting this threat through our monthly survival box with everything you need to survive!
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