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Emergency Management - Definitions

Here are definitions of some emergency terms commonly used by Emergency Management Officials:


The storm has winds of more than 73 mph.

Hurricane Watch
Hurricane force winds of more than 73 mph are possible within 36 hours.

Hurricane Warning
Hurricane force winds are possible within 24 hours.

Tropical Storm
These generate winds of 39-73 mph. Watches and warnings also issued for tropical storms. 

Tornado Watch

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are possible. Conditions are such that a tornado could develop. Stay tuned to the radio or TV for further information.

Tornado Warning
Tornado detected. Take shelter immediately. Stay tuned with battery operated radio.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Severe thunderstorms are possible. Conditions could develop producing high winds and damaging rain. Stay tuned to the radio or TV for further information.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning
Severe thunderstorms have been detected and are moving to your area. Take shelter. Continue to stay tuned to the radio for further information.

Emergency Related Definitions

A virus must have a host. Unlike bacteria, they do not take in nutrients. They grow by infecting and taking over the cell and killing that cell. Ex. Ebola, Yellow Fever, and Smallpox.

Toxins are poisons of biological origin. They are non-living. They are chemically defined substances for a wide variety of sources. Although many toxins occur in nature, very few a suitable for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Ex. Botulism, Rican, Staphylococcus Enterotoxin B.

Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government of civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Weapons of Mass Destruction:
WMD- The use of nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) weapons by terrorists to inflict large numbers of casualties.

Biological Agents:
Biological Agents are living organisms (bacteria, viruses) or toxins (poisons produced by plants or bacteria) that tend to be more lethal than chemical weapons.

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that are relatively self-sufficient and reproduce rapidly. Ex. Anthrax, Plague, Tularemia.

Chemical Weapons:
Chemical Weapons are compounds with unique properties that produce lethal or damaging effects in man, animals and plants. Chemical Weapons can exist in solids, liquids or gases. Ex. Persistent agents are those that remain a hazard and continue to contaminate for more than 24 hours after release. Ex. Vesicant mustard and nerve agent VX. Non-persistent usually dissipate in less than 24 hours. Ex. Nerve agents, chlorine, cyanide.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism

Terrorism Incident Plan: Federal Level
On February 7, 1997, FEMA published the Terrorism Annex to the Federal Response Plan. This document describes the Federal concept of operations to terrorism incidents.

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