Biological and chemical weapons cause serious injury or death through their toxic properties. They may
contaminate terrain and equipment. They degrade force effectiveness by causing troops to put on
cumbersome protective clothing and equipment. Nuclear weapons cause casualties through blast, heat,
and radiation effects. They restrict terrain by blowing down trees and buildings, starting fires, or
cratering. They may cause radiological contamination over a large area.
At the tactical level of war, NBC defense allows the force to survive, fight, and win under NBC
conditions. Commanders reduce the likelihood of an NBC attack through avoidance measures. They
disperse their forces and ensure operations and communications security. Positions are hardened to
reduce the impact of an NBC attack. Contamination is detected and marked; its spread is controlled.
When units cannot avoid contamination, or are in danger of an enemy attack, they implement NBC
protective measures. Biological and chemical hazards, including the protective mask and clothing,
normally degrade force effectiveness and erode combat power.
To restore combat power, commanders implement appropriate levels of decontamination as early as
possible. Individual survival is supported by immediate decontamination. Operational decon allows
temporary reduction of protective posture and aids in limiting the spread of contamination. Thorough
decon allows the unit to significantly reduce protective posture. Thorough decon can be used as part of
unit reconstitution to reduce contamination hazards to negligible levels.
Once a unit finds an NBC hazard, the next step is to identify the hazard. Unit personnel detect and
identify chemical agents using kits authorized at squad level. They may also use the detector paper
carried by each individual. Biological and unknown chemical agent samples must be evacuated through
Detection and identification of NBC contamination is important in determining the need for
decontamination and the appropriate decontamination methods to use. Certain events can cause an
attack to be suspected. Use of chemical agent detector kits and/or RADIAC instruments can confirm or
rule out the presence of contamination. Although, at the current time there is no detection device
available that can immediately identify the specific biological contaminant, enough information is
usually available to indicate a biological attack.