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- An incident such as a fire or explosion long may turn out to be an NBC incident, without being immediately obvious.
- The first indication will be the observed symptoms of the agent in the victims. Chemical agents have unique symptoms that differentiate them from other illnesses. Most biological agents and many chemical agents do not exhibit these symptoms until several hours after the initial exposure. Radiological agents will not result in symptoms appearing for days, and more likely years.
- Another strong indicator is a massive number of casualties, all having severe cases of the same disorder.
- Casualties downwind of an area or limited to specific enclosed areas also indicate a wind-borne hazard.
- In the best of scenarios, a dissemination device may be found as evidence. A group may take credit for their actions.