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Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) Threats

There is nothing natural about a terrorist attack or a devastating industrial accident—but in today's world, we must acknowledge the fact that we face potential hazards from chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) substances.

There are steps we can take to lessen the possibility that they will occur, and things we can do to reduce their impact if they do. Many of the safety principles that apply to natural weather phenomena also apply to human-caused disasters. Keep this in mind as you perform your building inspection and prepare your disaster manual.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), under the auspices of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has published a document that offers tips for taking a proactive role in protecting yourself, and others, from CBR exposure. Entitled, Guidance for Protecting Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks, the handbook was created especially for building owners and managers, but the information is useful to all of us.

It is available online at:, or you may order it from the CDC. Ask for DHHS (NIOSH) Pub No. 2002-139.

Related Resource : Public Agencies/Organizations and Publications

Dos and Don'ts

  • Know your building
  • Prevent access to outdoor air intakes
  • Prevent access to mechanical areas
  • Implement security measures, such as guards, alarms and cameras, to protect vulnerable areas
  • Isolate lobbies, mail rooms, loading docks and storage areas
  • Secure return air grilles
  • Restrict access to building operation systems
  • Restrict access to building information
  • Upgrade general, physical safety features
  • Have an emergency plan in place
  • Permanently seal outdoor air intakes
  • Modify the HVAC system without first understanding the effects on the building systems or the occupants
  • Interfere with fire protection and life safety systems

Thank you to the Florida Dental Association and Florida Dental Health Foundation for providing significant contributions to this content, which were funded in part by the American Dental Association Foundation.