|Are we prepared?
By Thomas M. Cunningham
WTC Staff writer
On September 11, 2001, was anyone ready for the events that occurred that day? Was New York’s “Bravest” ready for such an attack? Sitting in front of the TV that day and watching as the events took place, were we ready? Sadly, the answer is no. It has been some years since the terrorism training for emergency responders has came out, and how many of us have taken at least three to four courses involving terrorism? The truth is after most have completed the terrorism awareness training they have never pursued further study on responding to acts of terrorism. These acts can be either Biological, Nuclear, incendiary, Chemical and explosive. The acronym B-NICE is used to describe the acts listed above.
Can we handle a terrorist incident like we do a hazardous materials spill? In some ways they may both parallel one another. We must remember that using the Department of Transportation hazard classes can circumvent most acts committed by terrorist. The only difference between HAZMAT and terrorism is the fact that someone takes a hazardous material and makes it into a weapon. But, how do you determine which substance has been used. The only fire department that I am currently aware of that possess equipment that analyzes and determines the substance involved is the Indianapolis fire department. This equipment can be rather expensive as well. One type of monitor can cost from $7000.00 and up. The only other method to determine the substance onsite is the use of the Army’s chemical analysis testing kit. This requires entry into the exclusionary zone to ensure accuracy, if you have accessibility to a kit.
The events on September 11, 2001 proved one point, and that was the fire department is the true first responders to emergency incidents. Even though there were law enforcement officers who perished there as well, the shear numbers of FDNY members who were murdered is proof that is conclusive to whom the true first responders really are. Not the National Guard, not some fancy named military unit, not FEMA, you and I are the first defense in the war on terrorism.
Recently the Secretary of the Health
and Human Services Tommy Thompson stated, “The real first responders to
acts of terrorism are the hospital medical staff and the medical doctors.”
The reasoning for this is that they would be the ones to determine through
medical examination what type of agent had been used. Hold on for one minute,
Secretary Thompson must be suffering the effects of an agent himself. How
is that person going to get to a medical facility? If you can remember
the Sarin attack in the subway in Japan, which killed 12 and injured 54,
the firefighters and emergency services personnel were the ones who removed
those people. And this happened only after donning a level of protection
equal to a hazardous material incident.
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