View Full Version : The 'ABC' of Panic & Survival

Tricky Woo
2nd Nov 2001, 15:54
Hi all,

I don't usually go for cut 'n' pasting stuff I find on the Web, but this one is one of the most fascinating articles I've ever read.

Want know what you should do when someone releases nerve gas, or drops a nuclear device on your neighbourhood? Read on, McDuff, read on...



The "ABC" of Panic and Survival

by SFC Red Thomas(Ret)
Mesa - Oct 25, 2001

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 was 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 it's 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 gonna 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 effect 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 the 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 it's 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 grass hoppers the size of tanks. These will be at the most 1 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," these are 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's lots 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 gotta 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 is safe to eat. The radiation poisoning will not effect plants so fruits and vegetables are OK if there's no dust on 'em (rinse 'em 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 kiddie pools) laying around to allow mosquitoes breeding room. This stuff is carried by vectors, that is bugs, rodents, and contaminated material. If biological warfare is so 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 gonna 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 gotta 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.

This paper was written by SFC Red Thomas
(Ret) Armor Master Gunner Mesa, AZ
Unlimited reproduction and distribution of this article is authorized. Just give me credit for my work, and, keep in context.

Life of TrollyDollyLover
2nd Nov 2001, 16:21
I am afraid that this is a very simplistic view. Apart from the effects of an air burst nuclear weapon how would you know the symptoms in yourself and others for a chemical agent, without the proper equipment.
As for chemical weapons being less effectual than the media makes out. Remember the pictures of the Iran - Iraq war when they gassed each others villages on the boarder.
Killing thousands.

Never belief a drill sargeant, as A British Army Officer for the truth. He will tell you his balls are made of gristle, not crystal.

tony draper
2nd Nov 2001, 16:32
I think its time the US President or our Tony issued a warning in the same manner as Kennedy, that any attack by a weapon of mass destruction on any allied nation will result in a full scale nuclear strike on the nation the said attack eminated from, and mean it.
Don't care if it a Syria, Saudi or Iraq, that might encourage those bloody places to sort out the terrorists themselves.

2nd Nov 2001, 16:35
Sudden headache, Dimness of vision ...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.

Sounds like Slasher after seeing a woman! :D

Vortex what...ouch!
2nd Nov 2001, 17:25
The man speaks a lot of sense here. I spent many years in the military and used to be an NBC (nuclear, bilological and chemical warefare) Instructor for 5 of them. It is all terror tactics. A lot of what I learnt and tought was worst case scenarios using military level equipment and distrubutions systems. These people simply don't have that level of expertise. How many people have actually died of anthrax since this thing started? It's about 5 or 6 now I think. How many poeple have died because they electrocuted themselves by acident at home? I suspect it is many times more over the same period!

Have to agree with TD here. Lets cut to the chase and make it clear that there is a massive price to be paid for their attacks.

We should stop having to apologise for defending ourselves and make excuses for everything we do.

Drinks trolly or whatever. Do you really think these people have airburst nuclear weapons? Well don't make silly comments like that then.

[edited cos I can]

[ 02 November 2001: Message edited by: Vortex what? ]

Life of TrollyDollyLover
2nd Nov 2001, 18:47
VW thank you for your constructive criticism. If my post misled you then I apologies.
What I was getting at was the fact that unless you see a device being detonated, you will have very little idea as to what the agent is, hence air burst, so that every Tom Dick and Harry can see.
You ask the people that you taught for the symptoms of a blood agent and they wouldn’t know or would get it wrong. That is no slight on you; it is just the nature of the agents. How about the mixing of agents, delayed reaction and casualty dispersal. Persistent and non-persistent, blood, blister, and nerve…the list is not as simple as the original post makes it out to be. Just a more realistic view than the computer-based experts would have you believe.

Just remember if you experience…

Vortex what...ouch!
2nd Nov 2001, 19:55
...the effects in yourself or observe the effects in others. Notice any suspicious mist, smoke, smells droplets or splashes. Sight any enemy low flying aircraft (this one always had me laughing) then you are to assume a chemical attack and carry out the chemical IA drill. :) (Itís about right it has been some time)

However we digress :D

I do take your though point TDL. :)

I agree that all the various symptoms are easy to get mixed up (clearly you are ex mil and remember the swotting up with "Survive to fight" :D ). I used to have to read up on it all once a year before teaching the subject for the annual NBC tests. It is very easy to forget them. I can't remember most of it now and I was taught to spiel it all off parrot fashion.

However the point still stands that it is incredibly difficult to create, transport and then disperse this stuff, which was the point the commentator was making. The military train in it's use and practice defence against (remember the pink faces using CATM) it and even they have big problems.

The idea that some bunch of fanatics, who see the potential, from their point of view, might be able to kill significant numbers of people using these agents is very small indeed. But that is not their aim, it is to scare people into changing how they go about their lives. It's working!

4th Nov 2001, 23:02
The most sobering thought is that terror as a weapon has been evolving with the species. As we grow more sophisticated the more Machiavellenian amongst us keep right on up there with all the advances. The potential exists today for a small number of fanatics to inflict enormous casualties quite out of proportion to their number.

When these are assisted and aided by 'rogue' States who are prepared to utilise them as clandestine weapons against those they fear retaliation from, the potential for something truly nasty increases disproportionately and expotentialy.

It is a personal opinion only but the biosituation of the present time is possibly one such an example and I fear that we have seen but the tip of the iceberg. I think that indeed the strongest warning should definitely be made that retaliation will be devastating if this is detected. It may however be too little and too late.

tony draper
4th Nov 2001, 23:24
Draper has had a interesting though most of my generation were inocculated against smallpox and various other afflictions, being a seafaring man Draper has been jabbed and is immune to diseases that died out here in the middle ages,such as kings evil, hunchbacktness, yellow fever, galloping nob rot, beri beri, and leprosy of the testicular system and such.
These precautions seem to have died out in the seventies leaving the following generations suseptable to all sorts of foul stuff us oldies will simply laugh off.
It is a astounding irony that us crumblies may inherit the earth.
We'll ban that bloody rock and roll music for a start. ;)

[ 04 November 2001: Message edited by: tony draper ]

5th Nov 2001, 08:51
Mr. draper you old sod. Forgive me if I'm wrong - but wasn't it us old wrinklies that invented Rock and Roll? (We definitely invented drugs and sex, I remember that. Before about 1956, human beings were produced by divine intervention.)

Going back to the NBC lectures, I remember us being assigned to teams to deal with the City of Lincoln after a nuclear attack. Some were in cremation teams learning to dispose of bodies by building pyres designed in such a way that they could dispose of the maximum amount of rotting flesh using the minimum of fossil fuel. Others were assigned to recovery teams searching the wreckage for survivors. Me, I was assigned to a 'First Aid' team. Our job was to assess peole as fit for work - in which case they were sent to join the recovery or cremation teams - or unfit for work - in which case we shot them once behind the ear, aiming our Browning 9mm at the right angle, just so. Then sent them to the cremation teams as additional non-fossil fuel.

The civilian population were blissfully unaware of these military preparations. We boys in blue were simply amazed that anyone in authority believed there would be any survivors on any of No.1 Group Bomber Command's airfields to carry out the process. Or, that if any of us DID survive, we would be interested in cooperating with their activities.

Whether terrorism or simple breakdowns in international relations (aka War,) nuclear detonations are definitely worth worrying about.

Through difficulties to the cinema

Tricky Woo
5th Nov 2001, 14:30
Hmm, it makes me wonder if such measures are still planned in the event of a nuclear strike.

I wonder if Mr Blacksheep is referring to the first aid 'treatment' of civilian casualties or military ones? In either event, it's nice to know that our corpses will be disposed of hygienically: I woundn't want my body polluting the radio-active water that the few survivors will be quaffing.

There was a film made in the late 1950's or early 1960's who's name I don't remember. Anyway, it was banned by HM Govt due to its shockingly realistic portrayal of the outcome of a nuclear war. Big scandal at the time, I believe. During the early 1980's, the Government decided that a population attuned to the horrors of Hollywood would be less shocked, so it was unbanned.

Hooray for free speech.

Some lefty teachers at the comprehensive school/borstal I attended, obtained a copy. The whole 6th Form got to watch the grainy black and white, on a clickety-click projector that kept stopping and burning the film. Great stuff 'cos it made us all feel very illicit and subversive; all we needed were black-tie and cigars and we could have been in an early Michael Caine spy movie.

I digress.

Said film was all very medieval with funeral pyres burning through the long, dark nights; trigger-happy soldiers shooting curfew breakers; executions of wounded civilians; etc, etc. Hardly any laughs to be honest. Still, it had a happy ending of sorts when the girl who was pulling a plough during the subsequent nuclear winter managed to find some rotting vegetables in the frozen earth and hence avoided starvation.

Anybody know what the film was called?


5th Nov 2001, 14:44
The War Game

tony draper
5th Nov 2001, 14:52
I remember reading about one of those exercises, it was decided that one of Ivan's warheads had scragged Arc Royal I think, all the Admirals stormed out of the excercise in the huff, also they had a big one sky bursting over London, but every body screamed about that, so they had it overshoot and Wack South Wales, a bit tough on Tiger Bay I thought. ;)
ps , Ivan if you are reading this, please note, we prefer glow in the dark Welshmen to glow in the dark Cockney's. ;)

[ 05 November 2001: Message edited by: tony draper ]

Tricky Woo
5th Nov 2001, 15:03

It was indeed The War Game.

Maybe my sensitive nature at the time accounted for my rather negative account of the film. I'm sure it was really rather jolly and I probably missed out on loads of jokes and clever one-liners due to my staring at Wendy Wragg's perfect legs.


tony draper
5th Nov 2001, 16:25
Wasn't there a docudrama about a nuke hit on Sunderland called Threads?.
I often wondered how sixteen thousand Newcastle United supports, managed to get home with their laser designators. ;)

Life of TrollyDollyLover
5th Nov 2001, 18:28
I never got to see the programme Threads, I thought that it was filmed in Sheffield. From what I know it was pretty realistic and so I am not to keen on seeing it. I once saw a film called the Day After, and that scared the **** out of me for years.
I can honestly saw that I am torn about the whole subject of Afganistan at this time, Surely it would be better to get the Afgans to fight for their country and we provide the support. If they Capture and Kill OBL then he will not be a marter but a traitor to Islam. At this moment we are playing into his hands and it is all going to blow back in our faces. Lets put emotion to one side and start thing about this as a population, instead of throwing our own troops to the lions. Lets face it if the Russians got ****ed for 10years and they were totally ruthless, are we going to be able to do it before Christmas? CNN, BBC and Middle America get your heads out of the sand.

5th Nov 2001, 18:44
Yes, Threads was about Sheffield.

I think I must have been about 12 when I saw it (parents out, older sister had a warped sense of what was good for me) and I was absolutely terrified for months. Hard to believe now but what with that, A Guide to Armageddon and Protect and Survive, we were living day to day with the idea of impending nuclear attack. God knows what it was like for those who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

6th Nov 2001, 09:29
It was rough...very rough! We will carry the mental scars to our graves, probably also accounts for the irresistable urge to lob some low yielders into suspicious looking mountains in Afghanistan.

Tricky Woo
6th Nov 2001, 12:38
It looks like Jack Kennedy did rather a good job; during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and also just before, during the Berlin Crisis. Must have done 'cos we're all still here, even Spike Milligan. Hard to imagine JFK was in any condition to save the world seeing as his knob was so sore at the time.

Hats off to Krushchev, though... he also failed to push any nasty buttons. Poor Krushchev got canned a year or so afterwards for being a big girls blouse when it came to nuking the crap out of the West. Funny how the most dangerous commander at Stalingrad can lose his 'ard man image so quickly.

Nice shoes, too.


tony draper
6th Nov 2001, 13:21
Draper wasn't a kick in the arse from Cuba sitting on 25,000 tons of crude when those events took place, we had just been to the Marikibo lakes in Venuzuala and where on rout to New York, we thought it was the end, the Captain even issued us six cans of beer each, unheard of on that ship.
American aircraft kept buzzing us and American destroyers stopped us twice.
Still, we survived,it was a hairy time though, closest we have ever come to the big one I think.

11th Nov 2001, 00:49
CND got a copy of the War Game after it was decided not to broadcast it and used to goaround the country showing it.

11th Nov 2001, 19:29
Re Cuban Missile Crisis;
Me: "Sir, if they're going to drop H-Bombs, why do we have to do homework?"
Latin Master: "Because if they don't and if you have not, I shall flog you boy."
Miserable Bastard.
(I did it-- badly as usual). :(

13th Nov 2001, 19:46
Latin aaagh yes the memories. Speak it like a native now and no-one sees the scars on the buttocks.
Actualy little remains, a few fragments only.
Ceaser e ad sum iam forte. Puer Brutus e ad erat, being one such gem.

13th Nov 2001, 19:59
Civile, si ergo,
Fortibus es in ero.
Gnoses mare, Thebe trux.
Vatis inem?
Causan dux!

13th Nov 2001, 21:43
"Romanes eunt domum? The Romans they go in the house?..."

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggghhhhh! :eek: This is getting too close for comfort... When given lines as a punishment, we had to write out Latin and Greek declensions and verb conjugations. The roots were given daily on the school noticebord. We did the rest.

[ 13 November 2001: Message edited by: HugMonster ]

tony draper
13th Nov 2001, 22:07
Canis meus id comedit.

Di dulci fruere. ;)

Code Blue
16th Nov 2001, 06:11
Heavens above:

The benefits of a public school education.

"Fide sed cui vide"

CB :rolleyes:
edited 'coz when I sobered up I'd got it wrong!

[ 17 November 2001: Message edited by: Code Blue ]

16th Nov 2001, 09:50
Gloria threw up in my Ford van earlier this week.

17th Nov 2001, 18:44
Domine deus agimus tibi gratias pro hiis tuis donis simul regantes ut aliis quea carent semper pribias pro corda nostra gratisime redas. Te domine oramus ut aliis carent semper praebeas corda nostra, f**ck it,its all gone now.Been away too long.


Try reading it up down sideways and backwards. whiled away at least one prep trying to remember it and translate it, seem to remember it was found on a wall in Pompei

17th Nov 2001, 20:56
Aren't ROTAS them things on toppa Geordie helicoptas?

17th Nov 2001, 23:17
Arma virumque cano, qui primus ab oris...

Oh God! To think I translated all of bloody Book 1 AND Book 6...

Then the poems of sodding Ovid, Gallic Wars (too many books by far)...

And don't get me started on Socrates...

I begin to appreciate the "Who's Who" entry Osbert Sitwell had - "Educated during holidays from Eton".

[ 17 November 2001: Message edited by: HugMonster ]

tony draper
18th Nov 2001, 00:00
Aren't ROTAS them things on toppa Geordie helicoptas?

Na, we caal them worly bords
thu polis ones iz caaled thu fleyin pig
reet. ;)

[ 17 November 2001: Message edited by: tony draper ]

Hersham Boy
18th Nov 2001, 15:08
Threads is the one I remember. And I believe there was some more scare-mongery called "The Morning After" as well.

Kept me awake at nights as a youngun' I can tell you...


20th Nov 2001, 21:48
In Olde Sydney Towne, we used to call the police helo, the pork chopper.
Did hear it being asked to "squeal ident" one day

obesa cantovera... :D