Be Prepared: Nurses Need to Be Ready Should a Terrorist Attack Occur

As a nurse, you’re expected to respond quickly and decisively should an act of terrorism occur. Not only do you need to provide quality care for the victims and ensure your own safety but, as a key player in an emergency, you’re expected to take a leadership role during a public health crisis.

To do this effectively, keeping up-to-date on the latest governmental guidelines for major public health emergencies, including a terrorist attack, is vital. So it’s important for you to know that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has discontinued the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) that used color codes to alert the public to the likelihood of a terrorist attack. The old system is being replaced with the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), which the DHS expects will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely and more detailed information to the public as well as to government agencies, first responders, and airports and other transportation hubs.

Under the new system, the DHS will coordinate with other federal departments and agencies to issue detailed alerts when the federal government receives information regarding specific or credible threats. The alerts will clearly state that there is an imminent or elevated threat and will:

  • provide a concise summary of the potential threat
  • communicate information about actions being taken to ensure public safety
  • recommend precautionary steps that individuals, communities, businesses, and local governments can take

The new NTAS alerts will be issued based on the exact nature of the threat. Depending on the circumstances, alerts will be sent directly to law enforcement or affected areas of the private sector. Other alerts might be issued to the general public through official government channels, such as the Department of Homeland Security webpage ( or through the media and social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter @NTASAlerts.

Prepared for the Worst? To help prepare nurses for major public health emergencies, Mosby has developed ReadyRN: Disaster Nursing and Emergency Preparedness, an interactive online course. The course’s goal is to ensure that nurses are prepared to respond during any type of national health crisis, including a terrorist attack.

Among the 26 lessons offered, more than a dozen are devoted to preparing nurses for a terrorist attack or disaster-related event, including:

  • Essentials of Disaster Planning
  • The Federal Disaster Response Network
  • Psychosocial Impacts of Disaster
  • Overview of Disaster Management
  • Biological and Chemical Terrorism
  • Surveillance Systems for Bioterrorism
  • Biological Agents of Concern
  • Early Recognition of Biological Events
  • Chemical Agents of Concern
  • Radiological Incidents and Emergencies.

The ReadyRN online course also prepares nurses for other major public health emergencies or catastrophic events, including tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, infectious disease outbreaks, and radiological events.

For more information about how ReadyRN can help you be prepared in any public health emergency, visit

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