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Terrorism and testing the emergency response system

Teaching HazMat has given me the opportunity to speak to several fire departments all over. It also allows me to do research on terrorism and fire department responses to terrorism. Every time I talk about terrorist I get the response of how terrorist are idiots or are stupid. Emergency responders need to get out of the mind set that terrorist or idiots! These people are very intelligent people, anyone that can learn to fly planes and crash them in to the World Trade Center and the pentagon can’t be stupid. As firefighters we need to be prepared for an attack, even if you are in a rural community. Currently terrorist are testing our emergency response system. An example of this is about eight months ago in a larger city the only bomb squad was called to a suspicious package about an hour away, taking them out of their district. Then in that city there were seven suspicious packages all to the left of the entrances to high rise buildings. Terrorists wanted to see what would happen if there was no bomb squad. The PIO stated that there were seven packages found and due to the bomb squad being on another run the only thing that Police and Fire could do was evacuate and isolate. The PIO also stated that this made traffic terrible exiting the city due to 25,000 people needed to be removed from the city all at once. What did the terrorist learn form this? 1) They learnt that if the cities bomb squad can not respond that Fire and Police are paralyzed. 2) They learnt that 25,000 people are in the city in the afternoon. Terrorist want to kill emergency responders and large amount of people. This test was a success for the terrorist! Emergency responders need to be able to recognize the emergency run as a terrorist type event. We do this by knowing the event and realizing that it is unusual. Look for secondary devices as the primary device may just be a ploy. Move command; don’t have command in a place where it can be destroyed by a secondary device.
Since September 11, 2001 Terrorism in the United States is a major issue, Americans are more aware of their surroundings. However, Terrorism has been here for longer than people can remember.

In the 18th century we had the British and American officials provide blankets form small pox to Native Americans. (Provided by University of Findlay)
In the 19th century KKK violence started and the Catholic churches burned in Boston and Philadelphia. (Provided by the University of Findlay)
Finally in the 20th century several abortion clinics were bombed, the assassination on President Truman, school shootings, and in Lancaster, Ohio Bubonic plague incident. (Provided by the University of Findlay)
History proves that Terrorism is nothing new it has been around for years. It has just changed and became more complex. Let’s take a look at a few things regarding terrorism, so when the need arises we are ready for the basics.

The United States Department of Justice Defines terrorism as:
“A violent act or an act dangerous to human life, I violation of the criminal laws of the United States or segment to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives


Let’s look at some basic responses by HazMat Teams for Terrorist type events.





Biological Threats

Stay calm
Stay away from release
Remember others may be affected to air borne releases and may be contaminated
Was with soap and water
Use emergency showers if available, if not available use Fire Engines with attack lines at low pressure to decontaminate for at least 15 minutes
Contain decontaminated runoff, if possible. This can be done with tarps rolled with hose lines.


Biological Characteristics
Does not penetrate skin
Can not move on their own and are non-volatile
Are more TOXIC than chemical agents
Are not detectable by our senses
Are not easily detected
Must be disseminated as aerosol
Flu like symptoms in early stages
Easy to produce
Delayed effect on Humans


ISOLATE
Wear full PPE (INCLUDING SCBA)
Have victims wash with soap and water (remove contaminated clothing)
Seal clothing materials that are contaminated in a plastic bag
Close down where product is located
If product is outside, cover area with plastic if possible
If product is inside, shut down ventilation system and shut doors
And windows

EVALUATE
Notify local authorities
Call for additional companies if needed
Recognize the need for EMS


MITIGATE
Follow local and state protocols
Decontaminate areas with bleach and water (1 part bleach 9 parts water)

TERMINATE
Debrief and Critique
Do not forget the “RIGHT TO KNOW” Act; information must be forwarded to all involved parties.
















Chemical Threats

Stay calm
Move away from released product
Call for help
Remove clothing and wash with soap and water
Notify others of the incident
Evacuate
Stay away from non-affected people
Go through proper decontamination process







Chemical Agent Characteristics
Toxic
Incapacitating
Choking agents (Phosgene, Chlorine)
May not stick around for long periods of time
Blood Agents (Hydrogen Cyanide, Cyanogen Chloride)
Disrupts Oxygen to blood ratio
Blister Agents
Rapidly causes burning of eyes
Mustard, Phosgene Oxime
Mustard gives a garlic odor
Phosgene Oxmine blisters skin in 6 to 24 hours
Nerve Agents
Tabun, Sarin, Soman,
No Odor if pure
Heavier than
Look for pin point pupils
Difficulty in breathing
Tightness in chest
Twitching
Vomiting






ISOLATE
Wear fill PPE (INCLUDING SCBA)
Decontaminate all victims
Flush Strip Flush and TRANSPORT
Secure area any area and clothing that is suspected to be contaminated
If inside shut down ventilation system along with windows and doors
EVALUATE
Follow local and state protocols
Call for additional companies if needed
Recognize the need for EMS


MITIGATE
HazMat Team’s must be able to obtain samples
HazMat Team should wear LEVEL “A” or “B” for entry
May need Military detection equipment for initial testing
Secure Evidence and follow local/state procedures


TERMINATE
Debrief and Critique
Do not forget the “RIGHT TO KNOW” Act; information must be forwarded to all involved parties.



Emergency responders need to be prepared and training on these issues is must! This is not new and has been around for ages. Terrorists is everywhere, and your department may be the next to be first on the scene. Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. Remember, be safe and train, as training will save lives!

Your Friend: Todd C. McKee

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