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Chemical/Biological/Radiological Incident Handbook, October 1998

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages
This handbook is intended for first responders in determining if a chemical, biological, or radiological incident has occurred.
Chemical, biological, and radiological material can be dispersed in the air, water, and surfaces. Chemical incidents are characterized by the rapid onset of medical symptoms (minutes to hours) and easily observed signatures, such as dead foliage or animals. The onset of symptoms for a biological incident requires days to weeks and typically there will be no characteristic signatures. Because of the delayed onset of symptoms, the area affected may be greater due to the migration of infected individuals. The onset of symptoms in a radiological incident requires days to weeks and typically there will be no characteristic signatures. Radiological materials are not recognizable by the senses, and are colorless and odorless. The most critical consideration when approaching a scene that may involve chemical, biological, or radiological materials is the safety of oneself and other responders. Actions to be considered include approaching upwind of the suspected area, donning available protective equipment, and calling specialized expertise if an event is suspected. Decontamination measures include removing all external apparel, thoroughly washing body with soap and water, and decontaminating fabric clothing or equipment with undiluted household bleach. Indicators of a possible chemical incident include lack of insect life, mass casualties, and low-lying clouds. Indicators of a possible biological incident include unusual numbers of sick or dying people or animals, unscheduled and unusual spray being disseminated, and abandoned spray devices. Indicators of a possible radiological incident include heat emitting materials and glowing material/particles. Glossary, 14 references