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(NCIX) Potential Indicators of Threats Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Emergency Actions

April 2003

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

The following information, recently received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is forwarded for your information.  It may be further  disseminated without restriction in any manner you chose.

Potential Indicators of Threats Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Emergency Actions

This document is intended to provide general information to assist in efforts to recognize potential
WMD-related threats or incidents. The information is not all encompassing, and its applicability should
be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with local conditions, policies, and procedures.

Chemical, biological, and radiological material can be dispersed in the air we breath, the water we
drink, or on surfaces we physically contact. Dispersion methods could include placing an open container
in a heavily used area, using conventional (garden)/commercial spray devices, or detonating an improvised explosive device
to disseminate chemical, biological or radiological material.

Chemical incidents are characterized by the rapid onset of medical symptoms (minutes to hours) and easily
observed signatures (colored residue, dead foliage, pungent order, and dead insect and animal life). In
the case of a biological or radiological incident, the onset of symptoms requires days to weeks and there
are typically few characteristic signatures.

In all cases, being alert to the following could assist law enforcement and emergency responders in
evaluating potential threats.


  a. Unusual packages or containers, especially those found in unlikely or sensitive locations, such as
near HVAC or air intake systems.

  b. Unusual powders or liquids/droplets/mists/clouds, especially those found near air intake/HVAC
  Indications of tampering in targeted areas/equipment (i.e., locked ventilation/HVAC systems; stocks of
food; water supply).

  c. Reports of suspicious person(s) or activities, especially those involving sensitive locations
within or around a building.

  d. Surveillance of targeted areas, including but not limited to hotels, entertainment venues, subway
systems, aircraft; water sources, office buildings, apartment buildings.

  e. Theft of chemical products/equipment.
Dead animals/birds, fish, or insects.

  f. Unexplained/unusual odors. Smells may range from fruity/flowery to sharp/pungent,
garlic/horseradish-like, bitter almonds, peach kernels, and new mown grass/hay.

  g. Unusual/unscheduled spraying or discovery of spray devices or bottles.


  a. Maintain a heightened sense of awareness.

  b. Place an increased emphasis on the security of immediate surroundings.

  c. Conduct periodic inspections of building facilities and HVAC systems for potential

  d. Review emergency operations and evacuation plans/procedures for all locations/organizations to
ensure that plans are up to date.

  e. Promptly report suspicious activities to appropriate law enforcement authorities.


  a. Maintain a safe distance/evacuate area (if outside move to upwind location; if inside keep outside
doors/windows closed).

  b. Call your local 911 (law enforcement and public safety personnel) after reaching safe area.  Do not
handle or disturb suspicious objects.

  c. Remove possibly contaminated external clothing (including hats, shoes, gloves).

  d. Follow emergency operations plans/instructions from emergency response personnel.

Please contact your local FBI Field Office if you observe any suspicious activity.