T Nation

Common Sense On Biological and Chemical Weapons

As many of you know from my posting I am involved in making America safe for everyone. AS a serve to t-mag readers, I though I would forward this e-articel that recently came across my desk. The information is accurate and will serve to keep you informed. Better than Duct tape and plastic wrap.

Best of Luck.


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 is 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 its 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 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 going to
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 Karo 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 affect 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 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 in a
second. Then there will be two blast waves, one out going, and one
on the 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 grasshoppers the size of tanks. These will be, at
the most, one 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,” 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 is much 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 got to 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 are safe to
eat. The radiation poisoning will not affect plants, so fruits and
vegetables are OK if there’s no dust on them (rinse them off if
there is). If you don’t have running water and you need to collect
rain water 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 kiddy pools) lying around to allow mosquitoes
breeding room. This stuff is carried by vectors, that is, bugs,
rodents, and contaminated material. If biological warfare is as
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 going to 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 much
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 got to 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.

Thanks for posting this, OL! I’ll be printing this off and sending it to my mom and sister, who are both up-in-arms over the recent warnings we’ve received from our government and media. And the article, while scary in its own right, is a nice (and much needed!) dose of reality. My sister, in particular, needs this as she has a 17 month old son and another little one on the way. Having asked herself over-and-over recently if this is the kind of world she wants her kids growing up in, I think she’ll take comfort in reading this. Thanks again!


Thanks for some common sense, and I think, helpful information, OL. Kind of takes the wind out of a terrorist’s sails if people don’t panic and throw themselves off bridges, jump out of buildings, etc. but instead, remain as calm as possible and handle the situation.

Thanks, Older Lifter!

I’ve heard about this e-mail but never saw it except for excerpts in a book called “Fear Less” by Gavin deBecker {which also is a good source on putting terrorist attacks in perspective}. Hopefully this’ll help some of my co-workers calm down!

I’m 0% surprised. Hussein isn’t a threat to the USA but Bush is just looking for any excuse to take over Iraq.

PS what is the url for this article? (cite your source please)

Oh geez, Say, give it a rest. I don’t think OL meant for the info to start another “Should we go to war or not” debate. God knows there are enough other threads (including yours) that cover that. I think his intent was probably just to provide some helpful information.

Dear Say,

“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.” Is the source.

This was emailed to me by six different miltary and Emergency Management professionals. Since the “Duct Tape” incident, we have been hard pressed to answer questions by concerned citizens.

With over twenty years experience in this field Chemcial, Nuclear and Biological warfare, I carefully reviewed the material before psoting it.

I did mean to reduced the terror and fear and not discuss the up coming action.

If you want details on the effects of various weapons or area studies you might want to subscribe to Jane’s Defense Weekly or visit their website. It is a good place to start.

Best of Luck.

I think this is a great piece of work, and someone actually sent it to me a few weeks ago. One thing its is conspicuously silent on, though, and believe me, I’m NOT trying to “restart” a panic, but it makes no mentioned of weaponized diseases such as smallpox and plague- that stuff is FOR REAL, and some very scary shit. No, duct tape won’t protect you, neither will “not sharing drinks or sloppy kisses with people” like the author suggests. That stuff is airborne, just like in that “Outbreak” movie, and will kill lots of people if it’s released. Again, my purpose is not to foster fear, but awareness, that while most terror attacks can largely be of a small scale as illusrated in this gentleman’s article, there are still some valid concerns out there and we should be vigilant…

I was editing a paper on ‘What to do in Case of a Bio/Chem/whatever attack’ today and much of the information that Older Lifter posted from Red’s e-mail was similar.

There’s a couple things mentioned in the paper I edited but not in the post that I’ll add here for some extra info.

The most important thing one can do if they’ve been exposed to anything is get themselves away from the exposed site as soon as they can and decontaminate themselves by using soap and water.

    Here are some key points:
  • Don't use pressurized water because it can drive the contamination deeper into the skin. Use a sponge or nozzle with a slow drip.
  • Don't use hot water because it can open up your pores.
  • Laundry detergent (liquid or powder) can also be used.
  • Be sure you take off everything you were wearing and put it in a trash bag or other container. Put the container somewhere away from where it may be exposed to others.
Older Lifter, thanks again for this post. I've sent it out a lot of people and it's helped ease their fears.