McHenry County Department of Health - Emergency Preparedness & Response
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Terrorism & Man-Made Disasters

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Man-made disasters are the result of human intent, error, or as a result of failed systems. They can be divided into categories such as terrorism, technological hazards, transportation hazards and environmental accidents.

  • Terrorism is defined as an act that is violent or dangerous to human life, with the intent of furthering political or social objectives. The threat of terrorism affects all communities around the world.  Terrorists, both Domestic and International, have demonstrated they have the knowledge and capability to strike anywhere in the world.
  • Domestic Terrorism involves groups or individuals whose terrorist activities are directed at elements of our government or population without foreign direction.
  • International Terrorism involves groups or individuals whose terrorist activities are foreign-based and/or directed by countries or groups outside the United States or whose activities transcend national boundaries.

(Source: U.S. Department of Justice)

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The term Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is often used to refer to the group of threats consisting of chemical or biological agents, or radiological, nuclear, or explosive devices (CBRNE). These are weapons that have a relatively large-scale impact on people, property, and/or infrastructure. Information on WMDs can be found here  or below in the threat-specific pages.

National Terrorism Advisory System

The National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS)  is the structure used in the United States to communicate terrorist threats. This system effectively relays timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports, transportation hubs and the private sector. NTAS replaces the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS).

NTAS, which is run through the Department of Homeland Security, recognizes that Americans all share responsibility in the nation's security, and should always be aware of the heightened risk of terrorist attack in the United States. The NTAS website provides current and expired alerts as well as a sample NTAS alert.


Bioterrorism is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs (also known as “agents”) used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants.  Learn about bioterrorism and bioterrorism agents.


dabombBombs, Explosives and Incendiary Devices

Explosions can occur by accident or as the result of malicious intent. Bombs, explosives or other incendiary devices are one of the most common methods used by terrorists to inflict harm and create fear.  Although the purpose behind many bombs is to cause harm and destruction through an explosion, bombs can also be used to disperse chemical, biological, incendiary and nuclear agents. This link  will provide you with more information.


chemistry-heart_6Chemical Disaster

A chemical emergency occurs when a hazardous chemical (gas, liquid or solid) has been released and the release has the potential for harming people’s health. Chemical releases can be unintentional, as in the case of an industrial accident, or intentional, as in the case of a terrorist attack.  Learn about different types of chemical agents, and how to stay safe during a chemical emergency .


cyber attack Cyber-Attack

A cyber-attack is a deliberate and malicious technological assault on a computer information system, infrastructure, network, or personal device (e.g. computer, smart phone, or tablet). Cyber criminals steal, alter or destroy their target by hacking into computer systems. Visit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  and US Computer Emergency Readiness Team  for more information.


radiation ruling the nationRadiological Emergencies

Radiation is a form of energy that travels in waves or high speed particles. A radiological emergency may be an intentional event (e.g. “dirty bomb”) or an accidental release of radiological material. If a radiation emergency occurs, you can take actions to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your pets. Follow this link  to learn more about radiological emergencies. 


firefirefireStructure Fires

More than 3,400 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 17,500 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It's not a question of luck. It's a matter of planning ahead. To learn about how to be prepared before, during, and after a fire visit the Red Cross  and FEMA.


For more information on terrorism and man-made disasters, please visit the following links: