Definitions of Emergency Management Terms


Some Common Emergency Terms, and What Is Meant When They Are Used
By Emergency Management Officials

Tornado Watch
Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are possible. Conditions are such that a tornado could develop. Stay tuned to the radio 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 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.


Viruses: 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: 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: 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: 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.

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