Help for British nationals overseas – guidance

Reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad

How to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a biological or chemical attack.


Terrorist attacks include:

  • suicide operations
  • hijackings
  • bombings
  • kidnappings
  • shootings
  • attacks on commercial aircraft and ships
  • use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials

Minimise your risk from terrorism

  • regularly check our travel advice for the country you’re visiting and subscribe to our email alerts
  • watch and read news about the country and region
  • be vigilant in public areas and places that attract foreigners and westerners like embassies, hotels, restaurants, bars and businesses
  • look out for anything suspicious, and if you see anything report it to the local police immediately – many terrorist attacks are foiled by the vigilance of ordinary people
  • be clear about any routes you use and have a plan of action to follow in the event of an incident
  • try to avoid routines that make you an easier target – vary the time and route of your regular journeys
  • keep your mobile phone charged and with you, with emergency numbers programmed in
  • consider the extent to which you might stand out from the crowd before deciding to visit out-of-town destinations
  • be discreet on social media about yourself and your plans
  • inform colleagues, neighbours or hotel staff about where you’re going and when you intend to return
  • identify places like police stations, hospitals, official buildings along your route where you could seek refuge in an emergency

Chemical and biological agents

Chemical agents are natural or manufactured chemicals such as chlorine and mustard gas. Most are liquids with poisonous vapours, but some are solids that can be released as a powder or aerosol.

Biological agents are germs which cause natural but rare diseases, such as smallpox or anthrax. They’re usually released from an aerosol.

What to do in a chemical or biological incident

  • move away from the immediate area quickly but calmly
  • if you are underground, return to ground level as most chemicals are heavier than air and sink downwards
  • alert the emergency services if they are not already at the scene
  • make yourself known to the emergency staff and follow their instructions
  • don’t leave the scene until the emergency services tell you to – you may need to be decontaminated to avoid spreading it to other people

Chemical or biological attack effects

This depends on the chemical or biological agent used. Symptoms can develop within seconds or over months.

Chemical attacks can cause breathing difficulties, eye and skin irritation, blisters, headaches, nausea and convulsions. The time it takes for symptoms to develop depends on the chemical and on its concentration, but unlike biological agents, chemical agents are not infectious.

The symptoms of biological agents vary with each disease. They are the same as when the diseases are caught naturally. Antibiotics can be used to treat most biological agent diseases. The sooner they are taken, the more effective they will be.

If you have been a victim of terrorism overseas you could be eligible to claim for compensation.