Terrorism continues to evolve. Threats may come from abroad or be homegrown. Terrorists use tactics such as biological agents, weapons, explosives, and cyber attacks. Terrorists often use threats to create fear, convince people their government is powerless to prevent terrorism, and get immediate publicity for their causes. While you can be prepared in case of a terrorism event, these situations are often unpredictable and evolve quickly.

mass attacks

While the threat of attacks in public spaces are real, we can all take steps to prepare, protect, and help others.

An active shooter is an individual engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and public space. These situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene. There is no pattern or method to the selection of victims by an active shooter. People need to be prepared mentally and physically to deal with these situations. In 2021, the FBI designated 61 shootings as active shooter incidents where 103 people were killed and 140 injured. This is a 96.8% increase from 2017 and a 52.5% increase from 2020. 

When terrorists use vehicles to target pedestrians, breach security barriers, and deliver explosive devices.

See something, say something

 If you see something suspicious, report it to authorities. In Wisconsin, call the Wisconsin Statewide Intelligence Center watch desk at  1-877-949-2824 and keep the five w’s in mind:

Signs of suspicious activity

Threatening to commit a crime that could harm or kill people or damage a facility.


Prolonged interest in taking pictures/video of personnel, facilities, security features, or infrastructure in an unusual matter.


Stealing or diverting items that belong to a facility or secured site.


Investigating or testing security and IT systems.


Operating or interfacing with the operation of an aircraft that poses a threat.


Unauthorized people trying to gain access to a restricted area or impersonating authorized personnel.


Gaining skills or knowledge on a specific topic, such as flying a plane or facility security.


Questioning personnel beyond mere curiosity about an event, facility, or operations.


Presenting false information or misusing documents to conceal possible illegal activity.


Disrupting or compromising an organizations information technology systems.


Funding suspicious or criminal activity or recruiting people to participate in criminal or terrorist activity.


Damaging or destroying part of a facility, infrastructure or a secured site.


Acquisition and or storage of unusual materials such as cell phones, radio controllers, or toxic materials.


Collection or discovery of unusual amounts of weapons, including chemicals and other destructive materials.


Actions which raise concern to specific sectors, such as power plants, regarding their personnel, facilities, systems or functions.

Report suspicious activity

Public safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you see suspicious activity, report it to local law enforcement or a person of authority. Many states have designated a unique “tip line” to collect reports of terrorism-related suspicious activity.


  • Stay alert. Always be aware of your environment. Be aware of any possible dangers and any possible safe spots in case an attack occurs.
  • See Something, Say Something. Report suspicious activity to authorities.
  • Learn lifesaving skills. Take trainings such as “You Are The Help Until Help Arrives” and learn first aid to assist injured before help arrives.
  • Sign up for active shooter preparedness training. Check with your local police or sheriff’s office if there are any active shooter preparedness training events in your community.
    • Run to safety. Getting away from the attacker is the top priority. Leave your belongings behind and get away. Call 911 when you are safe and describe the attacker, location, and weapons. Help others escape, if possible, and prevent people from entering an area where the attacker may be. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE INJURED PEOPLE.
    • Hide in a safe spot. Cover and hide if you cannot get away. Find a place to hide out of view of the attacker and put a solid barrier between yourself and the threat if possible. Lock and block doors, close blinds, and turn off lights. Keep silent.
    • Fight. As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt the attack or disable the attacker. Be aggressive and commit to your actions. Recruit others to ambush the attacker with makeshift weapons such as chairs, scissors, and books. Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the attacker
  • If a fall occurs while running. Curl into a protected position and get up as soon as possible to avoid being trampled
  • Help the injured. Take care of yourself first and help those who are injured get to safety and provide immediate care, if able.
  • When law enforcement arrives.
    • Remain calm and follow instructions.
    • Keep hands visible and empty.
    • Report to designated areas.
    • FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. Evacuate in the direction law enforcement tells you to go.
    • Share updates as you can with family and friends.
  • Seek professional help. Be mindful of your mental health. If needed, seek help for yourself and your family to cope with the trauma.


A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. Biological agents can be spread by spraying them into the air, through person-to-person contact, infecting animals that carry the disease to humans, and by contaminating food and water.

There are three basic groups of biological agents that could be likely used as weapons: 



A biological attack may not or may not be immediately obvious. In most cases, local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there could be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. You will be alerted through an emergency radio or TV broadcast, a phone call, or a home visit from an emergency response worker.

To prepare:

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make an emergency plan.
  • Make sure you and your family have up-to-date immunizations
  • Consider installing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your furnace air return duct. This filters out most biological agents that may enter your home

The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to figure out exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated and who is in danger.

  • Pay attention to local news on television or radio, or check the internet or social media for official news and information including:
    • Signs and symptoms
    • Areas in danger
    • If medications or vaccinations are being distributed
    • Where to get medical attention if you become ill
  • If you become aware of a suspicious substance, get away quickly.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric or an N95 mask to filter the air but still allow breathing.
  • If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.
  • Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.
  • Contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantine.
  • If your symptoms match those described and you are in the group considered at risk, immediately seek emergency medical attention.
  • Follow instructions from doctors and public health officials.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Wash hands with soap and water frequently.
  • Do not share food or utensils.
  • Do not share and spread misinformation on social media.
  • Keep an eye on children. Their immune systems are not fully developed, and they do not understand the importance of safety measures.

Pay attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. Medical services for a biological event may be handled differently due to increased demand.

The basic procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease.

additional bioterrorism resources

CDC Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response:

CDC Caring for children during biological threats:

OSHA Bioterrorism resource:


Explosive devices can be carried in a vehicle or by a person, delivered in a package, or concealed on roadsides. Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons. These devices are highly portable and can easily be detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers.

Follow these procedures:

  • Remain calm
  • Notify authorities immediately
    • Contact your facility supervisor, such as a manager or administrator
    • Call your local law enforcement or 911 if no facility supervisor is available
  • For threats via phone
    • Keep the caller on the line as long as possible. Be polite and show interest to keep them talking
    • DO NOT HANG UP, even if the caller does
    • If possible, signal or pass a note to other staff to listen and help notify authorities
    • Write down as much information as possible, caller ID number, exact wording of threat, type of voice or behavior. Refer to the DHS Bomb Threat Checklist
    • Record the call if possible
  • For threats made in person
    • Write down the threat exactly as it was said
    • Note the description of the person who made the threat
    • If they leave, note the direction they went
    • Notify your facility supervisor and authorities
  • For written threats
    • Handle the document as little as possible
    • Notify your facility supervisor and authorities
    • Write on a separate sheet of paper the date and time the document was found, rewrite the threat exactly, any situations or conditions surrounding the delivery
    • If small and removable, place in a bag or envelope
    • If large/stationary, secure the location
  • For emailed or posted on social media threats
    • Screen grab the message or leave the message open on your device
    • Notify your supervisor and authorities


A suspicious item is any item that is reasonably believed to contain explosives, an improvised explosive device, or other hazardous materials that requires a bomb technician or specialized equipment to evaluate. Anything that is HOT (Hidden, Obviously suspicious, and not Typical) should be considered suspicious. Remember “If you see something, say something.”

If you encounter a suspicious item, use R.A.I.N.

  • Recognize the indicators of a suspected explosive device. Indicators can be related to characteristics, events, locations or time.
  • Avoid the area. Do not touch the suspected item. Instead, immediately move and direct others to move away immediately
  • Isolate the suspected item. Establish a perimeter to secure people and continue to redirect people.
  • Notify appropriate emergency services. Describe the suspicious items and persons, the person’s actions, the location of the item, the time of placement and discovery, and your actions to mitigate risk.


  • Build an emergency supply kit
  • Make an emergency plan
  • Make sure your employers have up-to-date information about any medical needs you have and how to contact designated beneficiaries or emergency contacts
  • See Something, Say Something
  • Know how to get to hospitals in your community
    certificates. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that creates a secure connection.
  • Take a first aid course
  • Know how to get out of the area
  • Always follow instructions of local officials. Emergency services may not be on scene right away
  • Remain calm.
  • If safe to do so, leave the area as quickly as possible. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls. If you are inside, check for fire and other hazards. Stay low if there is smoke. Do not use elevators. Avoid floors and stairways that are obviously weakened.
    • Once out of the building, move away from windows, glass doors, and other potentially hazardous areas
    • Continue moving away from the blast site and look for emergency officials who will direct you to a safe location
    • Be aware that secondary explosions may occur at or near the original bombing site. These are intended to cause casualties among first responders. They are detonated by time delay
  • If you are trapped
    • Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand to limit the inhalation of dust or other hazardous materials. Dense-weave cotton material can act as a food filter
    • Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t kick up dust
    • Signal your location to rescuers by using a flashlight or whistle, or by tapping on a pipe or wall
    • Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust and drain your energy
  • If you are on a train or bus
    • Remain inside unless you are in immediate danger
    • Use the communication system on a train to receive instructions
    • If you need to leave, be aware of hazards on the tracks or road. Move to the nearest station or area where you can contact emergency personnel
    • Open windows or doors if possible and safe to do so. It can reduce the severity and number of injuries from a secondary explosion.
  • Once you get to safety, let your family emergency contact know you are safe by texting or messaging them on social media. Save phone calls for emergencies
  • Even if you are not directly involved in the explosion, stay informed and listen to local officials. You may be asked to evacuate or turn off your electricity and water.
  • If you are nearby the attack site, avoid being lured closer to see what is happening.
  • Care for the injured. Help control bleeding

additional EXPLOSION resources