Hardware chains such as Home Depot, Inc. and Lowes Cos., Inc. report brisk sales of disaster supplies, especially in the northeast. Home Depot said several stores had sold out of duct tape days ago.

Several mail order houses specializing in gas masks and other survival products were too busy to talk or could mot be reached, according to press reports.

One, the Emergency Preparedness Center in Heber City, Utah, was telling customers it could no longer take calls, that orders had to be placed through its Web site and that gas masks were sold out until a new shipment comes in March 1.

Proprietors at two Manhattan stores each said they have sold several hundred chemical protection suits this week.

In addition to extra firepower, police have been urged to start packing protective hoods to be used in the event of a chemical attack. A mobile missile launcher has been stationed near the Capitol.

Lawmakers have been urged to get rid of vanity license plates that identify them as a member of Congress, avoid predictable routes and devise an emergency action plan with their respective families.