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Suspicious Package Procedures & Training

Suspicious Package Procedures & Training for First Responders

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, Uncategorized

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of packages are shipped daily using a variety of mail carriers that transport the piece of mail to its intended destination. The high volume of mail that is processed each day makes it extremely difficult for carriers to give proper attention and observation to potentially suspicious packages or suspicious mail that ends up in their facility. There are always potential threats that are posed in either suspicious letters, packages, and unknown substances that can include a variety of risks to human health. In recent news there have even been high profile cases that consisted of dangerous packages that were sent to famous individuals through mail carrier, and this has led to an increase in suspicious package procedures and training for mail carriers and first responders.

In this article we are going to discuss the dangers of suspicious packages and how first responders can prepare for this type of incident through procedures and specified training for suspicious package identification and resolutions. 

Issues with Suspicious Mail & Packages

Issues with Suspicious Mail & PackagesWhen it comes to suspicious mail found in the mail carrier, the chances are pretty unlikely – but that does not mean the chances are completely eliminated. Depending on the incident, each will have unique signs and indicators that a first responder must be able to identify by applying a specific checklist that was provided to them in training. Suspicious mail can potentially contain a plethora of dangerous materials including chemical agents, explosives, and biological agents that are intended to harm the recipient and others in the area of the deployment.

The inherent risks and threats of suspicious mail found in postal carriers produces has been enough cause to revamp training and procedures to ensure that in the face of this type of incident, first responders are equipped to effectively and successfully handle that potential scene.

What Makes a Package Suspicious?

Did you know that the United Stated Postal Service reported that they handled 150 billion pieces of mail in 2018? Of the 150 billion pieces of mail that were handled, USPS inspectors responded to 2,282 incidents of suspicious items. Unlike famous politicians and other high-ranking officials, most people do not have trained personnel or companies that can examine their mail for potential trouble. Therefore, the job of mail inspectors is vitally important to public health.

When it comes to detecting whether a package or piece of mail looks suspicious there are certain common characteristics that will be obvious. These characteristics include the following:

  • Bulky
  • Lopsided or uneven
  • Excessive postage
  • No postage
  • Leaks, stains, powders, etc.
  • Foreign writing, postage or mailing address
  • Wrapped in string
  • Generic titles
  • Misspellings
  • Ticking, vibration, or other sounds

Suspicious Package Checklist

Analyzing and assessing packages and mail for suspicious characteristics can be complex. There are a number of characteristics and signs to look for when trying to determine if a package is ‘suspicious looking’. Once you have identified that the package or mail is suspicious than you will need to go through a checklist of actions that you will need to implement to safely protect yourself and others from the potential dangers that lurk within this piece of suspicious mail. This suspicious package checklist includes the following:

  1. Suspicious Package ChecklistIf you suspect that the package is compromised or contains potentially harmful substances within it than you will need to leave the mail where it was found – try to avoid touching it or cleaning up any mess produced from the package (like substances that leaked out of the mail).
  2. Contact Emergency Responders to assist in the scene to ensure the safety of all individuals that are present. First responders will immediately clear the scene of all persons and keep others away from the package or mail.
  3. Instructions will be given to all of those that handled or were exposed to the suspicious mail to quickly wash their hands or other exposed skin with soap and water.
  4. Compile a list of names of those that were in the immediate area of the mail piece or substance.
  5. Block off the area surrounding the suspicious piece of mail and be sure to shut off all equipment in the area including HVAC systems.
  6. Take action and direct other law enforcement or emergency responders as needed to resolve the situation.

Suspicious Package Training

Mail carriers, as well as first responders have all been trained in the identification and response to suspicious mail that they come into contact with while in the carrier sorting facility. The top mail carriers like the United States Postal Service (USPS) screen mail and packages every single day, and they are taught to properly screen all mail for suspicious characteristics when they first arrive into the mailrooms sorting area. The staff that is tasked with sorting the mail by hand should conduct a screening right away as they are the ones that are most likely to detect suspicious packages.

When a suspicious package is identified, workers will go into the procedures that they are taught right away to determine the status of the package before it is shipped to the intended sender.

Procedures for Dealing with Suspicious Packages

The procedures that are set in place for mail carriers when it comes to a suspicious package is something that has been laid out and given to these workers to ensure the safety of the workers on the job. When a mail sorter comes across a suspicious package, they will need to conduct the following procedures to ensure safety of all those surrounding the package.

  • Evaluate the building to determine the potential risks to those in the area of the workplace.
  • Establish clear lines of communication between the mail center security coordinator, management, and the security office.
  • Develop a screening procedure for incoming letters and packages that are delivered into the sorting area.
  • Establish procedures for isolating suspicious letters and packages.
  • Train mail center, security, and management staff to validate all packages.

Decontaminating Suspicious Package Found Containing Chemicals

Suspicious packages can be found with a variety of different substances that can be a potential threat to public health and to the environment. In a suspicious package there can be explosive devices found, biological agents, or even dangerous chemical agents that can impact human health and greatly affect the environment. Chemical threats can be found in letters and packages, some of which will contain a powdery or oily substance that will alert the mail carrier or receiver of potential danger within the mail. If a chemical threat is sent by mail, there are a few steps to take to deal with the scene in the safest manner.

  1. Gently place or lay the letter/package contents down and avoid touching any further items or people.
  2. Turn off fans and HVAC systems to reduce air flow that will spread the chemical agent throughout the environment.
  3. Contact Emergency Responders to come to the scene to properly handle and decontaminate this chemical agent.
  4. Utilize a decontamination solution to properly contain and neutralize the agent. The challenges with chemical threats are the difficulty in identifying the exact chemical agent at play – as each chemical will require a specific decontamination solution. However, with FAST-ACT decontamination solution you can easily decontaminate a wide variety of chemical agents without the need to identify the agent beforehand.

Decontaminating Suspicious Package Found Containing Chemicals

Ricin Toxic Effects

Everything to Know About Ricin’s Toxic Effects

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, Uncategorized

Have you ever stopped to wonder how exactly toxic chemicals are introduced and produced into the world? The production and manufacturing of chemicals will vary per chemical(s), some may be engineered and produced, while others will actually come from other sources such as plants and beans that can be utilized to create this lethal toxic chemical. Among the list of toxic agents, one agent that can be fairly hazardous and is even classified as a warfare agent is Ricin – a toxic agent that is found naturally in castor beans that can be found in multiple forms making it a highly volatile agent to be exposed to in the environment.

In this article we are going to discuss the dangers of ricin including the effects of ricin on the human body, symptoms that ricin can ignite, and how ricin can be effectively neutralized if it is released into the environment through an accident or even a potential attack.

What is Ricin

What is RicinDid you know that the smallest dose of ricin (as small as 500 micrograms) have been known to be a lethal dose to humans? This powerful agent is a highly toxic agent that will drastically effect cell function in the human body upon exposure, ingestion, or inhalation. The agent ricin is a poison that is found naturally in the environment, specifically in castor beans that produce this agent. If a castor bean is chewed or swallowed it will release ricin into the human body that can cause injury and other dangerous effects.

Generally, ricin can be found in many different forms including powder, a mist, or a pellet – it can even be dissolved into water or weak acid. When it comes to the exposure risks of ricin in everyday life, the chances of exposure or poisoning of ricin is very unlikely – unless you ingested castor beans, or a deliberate act of ricin production occurred that was exposed to a large volume of people such as an attack. If an attack occurs where ricin is used as a warfare agent, this agent can be exposed to the environment through the air, food, and even water – making this agent a highly dangerous agent that can be used for potential attacks on civilization.

What is Ricin Made From

Ricin originates from the plant species, Castor Oil Plant that is the sole member of the genus Ricinus that is a native plant to the Ethiopian region of Africa due to its strong growth in tropical, warm climates. The castor oil plant has even made its way into the United States and is abundant in the southwest U.S. where there are warm climates. The beans of this plant can be dangerous as they contain ricin in the bean pulp following the parting of the oil from the beans. The oil that is made from the castor plant, however, does not contain ricin because it is inactivated while extraction is performed under heated conditions.

This agent can also be found in medicines used in the United States, from laxatives to cancer experimental medicine but in very small doses that are not lethal. Medical researchers had hoped at one point in time to use ricin in cancer medication to specifically target and attack cancer cells in the body – but it was determined that this would be too dangerous to be used in the human body.

Ricin Effects: What Does it Do to the Body?

What Does Ricin Do to the BodyAs we discussed, ricin is a very potent toxin that can be extremely harmful to human health if exposure or inhalation/ingestion occurs in the environment. The smallest amount of ricin that is exposed to the human body can be potentially deadly – demonstrating the strength of this agent to human health. If a person is exposed to ricin it can be classified as ricin poisoning which is an infectious disease that cannot be spread from person to person.

Ricin will enter into the body and impact the human cells, which will prohibit the cells from making the protein that is needed within the body. If your body cannot produce proteins, then this will lead to the demise and destruction of the cells which can be deadly to human health. However, the effects of ricin on the human body can depend greatly on the way that the ricin entered into the body, either through ingestion, inhalation, or injection.

Ricin Symptoms

When it comes to toxin exposure in the environment, the severity and symptoms that can be produced from the agent will vary greatly on the route of exposure, the amount of the toxin ingested into the body, and how long exposure to this agent occurred for in the environment. Upon exposure to ricin the initial symptoms that will take place will occur quite early, usually within 4 to 8 hours of exposure. Whether you inhaled, ingested, or adsorbed this agent into the body the symptoms can vary as follows:

  • Ingestion – When you swallow a significant amount of ricin, usually through the consumption of caster beans, you will begin to experience symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea that have the potential to turn bloody. This will be followed by dehydration which will turn into low blood pressure in the body. Seizures, blood in the urine, and the shutdown of organs in the body will also be symptoms that occur from ingestion.
  • Inhalation – When ricin is inhaled into the human body in significant amounts there will be a bout of symptoms that follow such as respiratory issues, difficulty breathing, fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest. Overall, breathing will be very difficult because an excess of fluid in the lungs will gather and lead to respiratory failure.
  • Absorption into the Skin & Eyes – Absorption of ricin into the skin is a highly unlikely route of exposure to occur, however, contact with ricin powders can cause redness and pain within the skin and the eyes. If you touch ricin that is on your skin and then eat food with your hands after it will lead to ingestion of this agent into the human body.

Neutralizing a Ricin Attack

Ricin agents can be utilized as a potential warfare agent that can be a great hazard to environmental and public health to those areas that are exposed to this toxic agent. The chemical agent ricin is a toxic protein that comes from the castor oil plant and it is classified as a carbohydrate binding protein that is very toxic and is comprised of amino acids – therefore it contains many amine and carbonyl and carboxyl groups that need to be neutralized if ricin is used in an attack.

FAST-ACT is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials that are effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability of destroying chemical warfare agents. The FAST-ACT technology works with the amino acids found in ricin to react with the agent to effectively neutralize the toxin from the environment. Various amino acids have a side chain that contains other elements and functional groupings that would be reactive with FAST ACT under the right conditions.

Neutralizing a Ricin Attack

The Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid

The Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

The dangerous world of chemicals can present many hazards to the environment and even to those exposed to the toxic chemical structure found in the enclosed space. The list of chemicals that are found in the world is a long, extensive list and among this list will be several toxic, if not deadly chemicals especially when exposure to these chemicals occurs to individuals. Chemicals can be found anywhere, they can be found in some foods we eat, products we use on our bodies, and even found in the earth in the ground – the reality is that chemicals are almost unavoidable.

Hydrofluoric acid, although not a common chemical found in the environment and conversely not one that we are exposed to often, is a chemical that can have potentially devastating consequences when exposure occurs, particularly in large quantities. This chemical has a complex chemical structure that makes it a highly toxic substance to humans like emergency personnel and others that may become exposed to it in an environment.

What is hydrofluoric acid, where does it come from, and how can you protect yourself from this potentially volatile chemical in the environment? 

What is Hydrofluoric Acid?

What is Hydrofluoric AcidHydrofluoric acid is an inorganic chemical compound that is highly corrosive with many industrial and commercial uses. The chemical itself is a clear, colorless chemical that has a number of physical, chemical, and toxicological properties that make it very hazardous to handle. This compound is an acid that differs greatly from other acids because it uses fluoride ions that readily penetrates the skin and will lead to significant destruction of tissue layers deep in the body down to the bone. Similar to other acids, it has the potential to cause significant burning depending on the concentration of the chemical, the temperature, and the duration of contact on the skin.

As this acid is released into the air as a vapor, the chemical will taint the air and impact those who are exposed to this toxic vaporized chemical. The hydrofluoric acid will produce pungent fumes into the air and due to its corrosive properties, it will have the potential to cause deep tissue damage and complete toxicity.

What is Hydrofluoric Acid Used For

There are several different uses for hydrofluoric acid that may surprise you to learn. This chemical is used in solution form in both glass and metal etching, industrial and home cleaners, and even in manufactured electronics. The full-strength hydrofluoric acid is used in the construction and manufacturing of high-octane fuels in oil refineries. Mainly though, the chemical is used in the manufacturing process to make refrigerants. Other uses for the chemical will include the following:

  • Propellants and solvents
  • Insecticide and fertilizer production
  • Manufacture and reduction of chlorides
  • Brewery to control fermentation
  • Fabric industry for stain removal
  • Leather industry for tanning
  • Drug and dye production

The potential items and places that hydrofluoric acid may be present within can be astonishing to many people. Therefore, if you are surrounded by these different areas listed above where the chemical can be found in it is important to be vigilant and prepared in the event exposure occurs in the environment, both acute and significant exposure.

What Does Hydrofluoric Acid Smell LikeHydrofluoric Acid: What Does it Smell Like

The many dangerous components of hydrofluoric acid include its corrosive abilities, its colorless appearance, and sometimes discrete odor that is not detectable in the air. The chemical does have an odor that will be noticeable but not right away in the air of the environment. The smell of the acid is a strong, irritating odor that will be followed by symptoms of severe injury to the skin and eyes, inhalation and ingestion irritation. It is also worth noting that hydrofluoric acid can be emitted into the environment in the form of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and it will appear in the space with a strong harsh odor that will form a dense white vapor cloud into the air when released, this will be very hazardous to human health.

Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid to Human Health

Did you know that hydrofluoric acid is one of the most dangerous inorganic acids? A trace amount of exposure to this chemical on the skin, as small as 1 percent of body surface area burns could be fatal due to the acid’s corrosive properties. The chemical known as HF has the ability to penetrate the skin tissues deep to the bone – it penetrates more quickly than any other typical acid. The exposure to this chemical can occur in several different mechanisms from dermal, ocular, inhalation, and oral routes into the body. As it enters into the body the human tissue will risk exposure and the fluoride ions will quickly penetrate the dermal and muscle tissues and react with both magnesium and calcium in the body – this will place major organs in danger such as the heart, liver, kidneys, and nerves. In the event that a large quantity of hydrogen fluoride is present in the air, and exposure occurs either from skin contact or inhalation, it can result in death from either an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs.

Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid to Human Health

Hydrofluoric Acid Inhalation Poisoning Symptoms

The toxicity that can result from exposure and inhalation from hydrofluoric acid can vary depending on the type of exposure and how much concentration is present in the environment. The symptoms of hydrofluoric acid exposure can include the following:

  • Skin Contact: Hydrofluoric acid produced fluoride ions that are ready to penetrate the skin upon contact and will cause destruction of deep layers of tissue. The destruction of tissues can occur for several days on the skin, if the chemical is not treated. The symptoms that someone will feel as the chemical destroys the tissues on the skin includes severe burning pain, discoloration of the skin, and blistering.
  • Eye Contact: The chemical hydrofluoric acid when released into the air and vaporized will cause significant health symptoms in those who are exposed to the chemical. The symptoms will include severe eye irritation, burning eyes, and potentially the destruction of the cornea – which will result in blindness if not treated quickly.
  • Inhalation: Coughing, chocking, tightness in the chest, chills, fever, and blue skin can all be a result of inhalation of hydrofluoric acid. The vapors that are released from this chemical into the air can result in health conditions that will ignite the symptoms above, these conditions include laryngospasm, bronchospasm, and pulmonary edema.

Treatment for Hydrofluoric Acid Spill Exposure

The treatment plan for those who have been exposed to HF chemical will vary depending on the level of exposure and the concentration of the chemical present within the environment. Any and all victims should be sent to an emergency facility to receive the proper treatment methods. The standard treatments that should be implemented to those with acute exposure should include EKG monitoring, O2, and prophylactic eye and breathing treatments. Whereas severe exposure should be monitored very closely and extensively.

What Neutralizes Hydrofluoric Acid?

Due to the extreme toxicity and corrosive nature of HF, any spill of this acid must be cleaned up with great care. The most commonly used practices for containing and neutralizing the hydrofluoric acid spill includes dilution with water, containment using polypropylene pad, or Vermiculite and Magicsorb. While these methods offer a solution, they also pose an immediate environmental threat ranging from the generation of HF fume and/or by product in the form of a highly toxic gas.

To counter hydrofluoric acid, FAST-ACT offers a proven formulation to contain and neutralize HF spills. FAST-ACT is a dry, solid based sorbent and neutralizer which reacts with the chemical rendering nontoxic by-products. This neutralization technology has the ability to absorb and neutralize the immediate threat of an HF spill providing benefits such as – free HF liquid will be diked and contained, there will be no off-gassing of HF fumes, and it will form a stable end product, a fluoride salt, which can then be handled safely.

Civil Support Team (CST) Response

Civil Support Team (CST) Response

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, terrorist attack preparation, Uncategorized

The growing threat that looms in response to terrorist activities or incidents has exponentially grown over the years. More and more terroristic acts have occurred throughout the world, in what seems to be an alarming rate, has forced the United States to take action in preparation for a potentially heinous act on our Country. Weapons of Mass Destruction are at the forefront of concern for the government and government officials, these weapons pose a tremendous risk to a large population of people and potentially even an entire country, depending on the WMD deployed.

In order to combat these extremely dangerous Weapons of Mass Destruction, the U.S. Government has implemented a number of different measures to enhance the Country’s ability to deter, prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist activities within the United States. Therefore, the U.S. developed a team called the Civil Support Team (CST) as a high priority response unit supporting civil authorities in responding to a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) situation.

What is a Civil Support Teams ResponsibilitiesWhat is a Civil Support Teams Responsibilities & When Are They Called Upon

The mission of a Civil Support Team is to support civil authorities at a domestic CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosives) incident site with responsibilities such as identification and assessment of hazards, advice to civil authorities, and facilitating the arrival of follow-on military forces during emergencies and incidents.

Each member of the CST provides unique capabilities, expertise, and technologies to assist the governors in preparing for and responding to a CBRN situation. These teams are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for rapid deployment for any response operation. There main mission is consequence management support for an incident or attack involving weapons of mass destruction – this occurs after an incident has happened in the environment or post-incident.

How Many Civil Support Teams are There?

The United States Civil Support Team is designed to support an immediate and quick response to any and all major population centers within the U.S. In total, there are 27 Civil Support Teams that place 90 percent of the country’s population within 250 miles of a team. When stationing these teams there were several factors considered including transportation access, facilities, proximity to airlift, and the closeness to other state and regional planning organizations. These teams are each composed of 22 highly skilled, full-time National Guard members who are federally resourced, trained, and exercised. The Civil Support Team consists of six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical, and survey.

The 27 teams that are composed of Civil Support Teams are located in several states including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, & Virginia.

Capabilities & Functions of a CST

The Civil Support Team for Weapons of Mass Destruction was/is designed to provide a specialized capability to respond to a CBRNE incident. The teams respond under the authority of the governor and provide both the state and local agencies with any intentional or unintentional release of CBRNE agents or natural disasters. Although CST does provide assistance to large-scale situations and disasters, they also have the capability to respond to and support smaller-scale incidents where specific technical capabilities are required.

The functions associated with Civil Support Teams includes identifying CBRNE agents and substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with appropriate requests for additional support.

Identifying CBRNE Agents and Substances

Identifying CBRNE agents and substances is among the functions conducted by the Civil Support Teams. They use assets to detect, characterize, identifying, and monitor any unknown CBRNE agents & substances. By utilizing multiple detection technologies, the Civil Support Team is able to generate the best possible analysis to identify the agent in the field.

The members of CST utilize sophisticated detection, analytical, and protective equipment that allows them to operate in many different situations involving both TIMs and CBRNE materials. CST also uses some of the highest standard PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), such as Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Levels A & B. These levels of PPE provide members with more extensive protection than the PPE utilized by most military units.

Assessing Current & Projected Consequences

Assessments from the Civil Support Team need to occur prior to, during, and after an incident. These assessments take place with both local, state, and federal response organizations to properly ensure that the CST is successfully integrated with local and state emergency plans. When they undergo assessments, they are able to support both deliberate and crisis action planning for any type of incident.

The Operation Center (OPCEN) for Civil Support teams collect a variety of information that will include valid & appropriate sources, identification of critical & necessary information, and then evaluating the collected information to aid in determining threats – this includes hazards, risks, possible course of actions (COAs), possible targets, potential probability of an attack, etc. Based on the assessments conducted by the Civil Support Team, they will create Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Response Plans for situations.

Advising on Response Measures

The Civil Support Team after utilizing the identification & assessment results, will than advise the incident commander (IC) and those emergency responders on the potential hazards and countermeasures associated with both the intentional and unintentional release of CBRNE or natural disasters that could result in catastrophic lost. When advising on response measures the CST will cover the key methods for protecting and mitigating potential loss of life, damage to critical infrastructures, and/or extensive property damage to private property. Emergency response implements this advice to assist emergency responders and authorities to tailor their actions to minimize the impact of an event.

Assisting with Appropriate Requests for Additional State/Federal Support

The last function of CST is to provide assistance to the IC by giving input on the capabilities and utilization of assets that are currently gathered at the incident. The Civil Support Team offers an extensive background, specialized training, and scope of liaison between local, state, and federal agencies – and because of this they provide a much larger view of the specific assets and capabilities available to emergency responders.

Civil Support Team Training / Equipment

The training required for a Civil Support Team member consists of both military and civilian emergency response training. These trainings and instructions are provided from several DOD schools, and agencies like FEMA, DOJ, EPA, and DOE. Altogether the members of CST will receive more than 600 hours of high-tech training with topics covering planning, management, individual and collective training, goals, doctrinal aspects of training programs and how they relate to Civil Support Teams.

A Civil Support Team is equipped with high-end detection, analytical, and protective equipment, as well as satellite, secure and cellular communications to provide communication with both civil and military forces. They are required to maintain PPE that are far more intricate than those PPE provided to military members.

Chemical Decontamination Equipment

Chemical Decontamination EquipmentChemical weapons contain chemical agents or materials intended to kill or severely hurt a group of people. Terrorists have already showcased their capability to use chemical weapons in a terroristic act against their enemies, and therefore preparation for these types of attacks is vital for Civil Support Teams.

In part of preparing for this type of situation, it is necessary to have on hand a chemical decontamination solution equipment to aid in the neutralization of a chemical agent deployment. FAST-ACT is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance materials that are effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents. The FAST-ACT technology works quickly to reduce hazards associated with common industrial chemicals including acids, acidic/caustic gases, organic compounds, phosphorous and sulfur compounds, and many industrial solvents.

FAST-ACT is provided in a variety of applications including pressurized cylinders for liquid and vapor hazards, manually dispersed containers, kits for liquid hazard treatment, and mitts for equipment and small-scale decontamination. Best of all, FAST-ACT can be applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responders to utilize one technology when faced with a wide variety of known or unknown chemical hazards.

Does Your Fire Department Have a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)

Does Your Fire Department Have a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, Uncategorized

Fire departments are often tasked with handling emergency activities that can present to the responding firefighters a varying degree of risk and danger depending on the situation at hand. Rapid intervention teams (RIT), rapid intervention companies (RIC), and firefighter assist and search teams (FAST) all serve the same purpose to fire departments. They are there to facilitate their fellow firefighters who have become lost, trapped, or injured during a responding incident. The potential possibilities that may undergo a fire department upon a responding call can be dangerous and downright deadly. Sometimes incidents will occur that leaves a firefighter trapped or lost in an environment while on scene of an incident. When a frightening situation like that happens the RIT or FAST is called to be of service and aid in the issue present to the responding fire department and firefighters.

What are the responsibilities of the Rapid Intervention Team and why is it important to integrate (RIT) or (FAST) within your fire department? Find out by reading down below!

What is a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)What is a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)

Rapid intervention team is a team of two or more firefighters that are solely dedicated to the search and rescue of other firefighters in danger or distress. Many fire departments spend quite a bit of time on training rapid intervention teams (RITs) and a lot of information has been presented via websites and magazines on different tools and techniques that go along with the overall RIT operations.

This type of team is a critical fireground function that is needed to be established by clear guidelines that are consistent with the need of the operation and the Incident Commander (IC). A fire departments RIT should be fully equipped with all appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including protective clothing, gear, SCBA and specialized rescue equipment needed based on the specific operation they are facing at hand.

History of RIT Concept

Fire rescue and the establishment of RIT is not something new for fire departments. Rapid intervention teams can be traced all the way back to 1915 in New York City, where the earliest attempts of forming and organizing a group like RIT came to develop. The concept originated in March 1915, with trapped firefighters in an incident that needed rescuing from the environment. This went on to progress in the late 1960s and early 1970s with London Fire Brigade who developed “Emergency Teams” that were equipped with emergency supplies such as air supply equipment and air transfer lines.

Eventually this formed into the “buddy system” or “two-in/two-out rule” – this requires four people to assemble prior to entry, where two people would remain outside to provide immediate assistance to the two inside if they required support. Ultimately, it was determined that if RIT is not in place or cannot perform in a safe and timely manner, it is possible that firefighters may die or be seriously injured. Thus, the forming of a rapid intervention team is critical for protecting the lives and health of responding firefighters.

RIT responsibilities & toolsRIT Responsibilities & Tools

The importance of assigning responsibilities to RIT members is critical before entering into an incident scene. Outlining a layout of responsibilities should be done through the use of riding assignments. This will help give direction to the responding firefighters as they will know prior to arrival that they will be operating as the RIT on scene, either because they were specifically dispatched as RIT or through department operating guidelines that assigned the RIT to a company based on the arrival order to the area.

When rapid intervention teams arrive at the fireground, the members will gather their equipment and tools while the responding company officers perform a size-up and gets a report from the incident commander (IC). The tools and equipment of RIT will vary from department to department, but the standard minimum tools required includes the following:

  • Radios (every member needs)
  • Flashlights
  • Forcible-entry tools
  • Thermal imaging camera
  • Spare air supply for firefighters in distress

Rapid Intervention Team Equipment

All firefighter trucks and company trucks in the department carry a basic complement of RIT equipment. As we mentioned above, the key pieces of rapid intervention team equipment include a set of irons, a 200’ RIT tagline, a thermal imagining camera, a Scott Pak-Tracker firefighter locator, and an additional RIT air supply. This array of equipment is also carried by the chief and safety chief’s vehicle to ensure that there are adequate supplies of the equipment when arriving to the scene for the first-arriving RIT companies.

RIT equipment is a topic that sparks a lot of talk and discussion. Beyond the basic equipment for rapid intervention teams, the second RIT truck has an entire set of truck company equipment at its disposal if needed by the responding team.

RIT SituationsRIT Situations

The RIT is no place for inexperienced and untrained firefighters, as they are left to deal with extreme situations and circumstances that will require extensive knowledge and experience to conduct an effective solution for the incident. Ultimately, these firefighters should be the best trained, best equipped, psychologically hardened and physically fit individuals to be an effective member of RIT. Each and every RIT situation will be different from the next, and therefore having a seasoned firefighter as part of the RIT will be pertinent to the safety of the environment and the firefighters in distress.

Some of the most common situations that a RIT member must be able to handle include the following:

  • Rescuing firefighters based on a variety of impacts
  • Creating access in all building construction types
  • Performing an incident size-up on their own
  • Read fire behavior and project its movement time
  • Performing team search techniques and deal with problems such as large area searches
  • Competent in thermal imagers to enhance search success
  • Setting up change-overs and utilizing their emergency breathing support systems
  • And dealing with entrapped, entanglements, floor collapses, confined space, above ground level and below ground level rescuing.

Rapid Response to Chemical Releases

Another situation in which a rapid intervention team may respond to is that of a chemical release or spill. Chemical releases can occur from a variety of reasons including laboratory spill, chemical release accident, or even a chemical attack. When a chemical release takes place there will be numerous emergency responders called to the scene of the incident including the police, ambulance, fire department, HAZMAT, and RIT. This type of release can be significantly impactful to an environment and to the individuals present within this environment. Therefore, an excess amount of emergency responders is called to the scene including specialty responders such as HAZMAT and RIT.

Decontaminating a chemical release is a very difficult and time-consuming process that requires extensive knowledge of chemicals to be able to identify the chemical released and the best method to decontaminate this chemical. Typically, identifying a chemical requires detectors and the use of an ABC-spill kit to decontaminate the chemical depending on the specific chemical. Although this process works effectively it can be very time-consuming during an incident that needs immediate action.

FAST-ACT® is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents.  The FAST-ACT formulation is non-flammable, non-corrosive, and significantly reduces both liquid and vapor hazards.  Since the dry powder neutralizes threats upon contact, on-site incident management and clean up times are reduced. FAST-ACT can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responders to utilize one technology when faced with a wide variety of known or unknown chemical hazards.

Rapid Response to Chemical Releases

What is Your Response Strategy for Unidentified Materials

What is Your Response Strategy for Unidentified Materials?

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

The field of emergency response is full of gray areas and unknowns, with very little time to prepare for the incident at hand. Emergency responders and HAZMAT teams must make rapid decision making upon an incident scene, thus training and preparations for a wide array of incidents and hazardous issues is required for these individuals. Each and every day these workers will experience a new round of incidents and scenarios that they must respond to including response to hazardous and unidentified materials.

An unidentified materials incident is a hazmat scene in which a material is present but is unable to be identified prior to a response strategy being applied. This type of situation can be extremely dangerous for HAZMAT and emergency responders and will require preparation & planning of a response strategy before this unknown incident occurs in the field.

What are the different levels of HAZMAT response and how can emergency responders appropriately and effectively respond to an unidentified materials incident? Find out by reading more below!

What Does HAZMAT Mean & What Duties Do They Perform

What Does HAZMAT MeanHAZMAT stands for the abbreviations “Hazardous Materials” – which are substances in quantities or forms that can pose a major risk to human health, property, or the environment. The typical substances that are classified as ‘hazardous materials’ include toxic chemicals, fuels, nuclear waste products, and other CBRN agents.

The likelihood of a HAZMAT incident is more likely than you may have thought, as many products containing hazardous chemicals are routinely stored and used in homes. Furthermore, these materials are also commonly transported every day on highways, railroads, waterways, and even pipelines.

Unfortunately, thousands of HAZMAT incidents occur each year and can result in significant damage to the environment and public health. When a hazardous materials incident occurs, it is the duty of HAZMAT teams and emergency responders to contain, neutralize, and decontaminate the materials present. This is with the goal in mind of securing the area and the safety of humans within the area of the affected incident.

HAZMAT Operations & Situations

A Hazardous Materials Response Team has a set of operational tasks that they are designated to perform. This organized group of hazardous materials technicians that respond to hazardous materials incidents deal with the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and other dangerous materials that may become present in the environment due to an accident, leak, or an attack. The mission of the HAZMAT Response Team is to ultimately control the spill and eliminate any imminent hazard to the public, and this response will range per situation.

The three most common HAZMAT situations that are typically responded to by emergency responders includes an incident involving hydrocarbons, narcotics and clandestine drug labs, and common household product incidents. These three different situations each require different response strategies to effectively contain and clear the environment. Below we are going to discuss the different levels of HAZMAT response per situation.

The Levels of HAZMAT Response

Generally, there are four different levels of HAZMAT response for hazardous materials. These four levels include awareness, operations, technicians, and specialists.

The Levels of HAZMAT ResponseThe Awareness Level

The awareness level of HAZMAT is the most basic and is designed for a person who in the course of their normal activities or duties, may be the first person on the scene of an emergency involving HAZMAT or CBRNe agents. The responders at this level are expected to understand and be able to detect the presence of these materials. An awareness level certification can be obtained from a university, medical center, and from FEMA through exams.

The Operations Level

An operational level responder is those who respond to releases or potential releases of hazardous materials or CBRNe as an initial response to the incident to help protect nearby individuals and the environment. Operational level responders are expected to respond in a defensive fashion to control the release from a safe distance to keep it from spreading. In comparison to the awareness level, operations level requires a more hands-on approach to an incident of this nature. They will also be responsible for performing evacuations and establishing hazard zones.

To achieve operations level, responders are trained in such HAZMAT/CBRNe defensive techniques such as absorption, damming, diking, diverting, retention vapor dispersion, and suppression. This includes workers such as firefighters, environmental and conservation personnel, and other public safety personnel.

The Technician Level

A highly specialized and technical level, the technician level has responders that take offensive action in responding to HAZMAT releases for the purpose of controlling the release. At this level, the responders are classified as HAZMAT Technicians and are supposed to use specialize chemical PPE. On average, training for HAZMAT Technicians is 40 hours, and they are to have a strong background or understanding of basic chemistry.

The Specialist Level

The highest level of HAZMAT response, the specialist responder has a very extensive and advanced level of knowledge in chemistry, biology, and other science disciplines. The specialist responders work with technician level responders to take a hands-on approach in controlling a hazardous release. In some instances, these responders serve as trouble-shooters at HAZMAT/CBRNe incidents. Training to be certified as a Specialist level is 24 hours and must contain a college degree.

Response to Unknown Hazmat Materials

What can HAZMAT and emergency responders do when they come across an unknown HAZMAT materials incident? Handling a situation of this magnitude can be very dangerous and extremely hard to contain. However, new and emerging technology has aided in situations just like this – with new detectors that are able to identify unknown gases and vapors in nearly minutes. Although this is a quick response time, sometimes it may be a couple minutes too long and risk the safety and containment of the unidentifiable hazardous material. When HAZMAT comes upon an incident, they will need to immediately take action, even if they are not necessarily sure what the material is in question.

FAST-ACT® is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents.  The FAST-ACT formulation is non-flammable, non-corrosive, and significantly reduces both liquid and vapor hazards.  Since the dry powder neutralizes threats upon contact, on-site incident management and clean up times are reduced. FAST-ACT is offered in pressurized cylinders capable of addressing both liquid and vapor hazards, manually dispersed containers, kits for liquid hazard treatment, and mitts for equipment and small scale decontamination.  FAST-ACT can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling Emergency Responders to utilize one technology when faced with a wide variety of known or unknown chemical hazards.

Response to Unknown Hazmat Materials

Emergency Response to Chemical Suicides

Emergency Response to Chemical Suicides

By | chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

Chemical Suicide Dangers to Emergency RespondersEmergency responders and HAZMAT teams are responding to a growing number of calls involving the reported new suicide trend that has been evolving in developed countries. Chemical suicides, also known as “detergent suicides” was first seen in Japan in 2007 and has since spread into other countries like the United States that is responding to a number of these incidents recently – with many emergency responders being called to the scene of chemical suicides.

“Detergent Suicides” was the named labeled to this incident by the media because it contains the use of household chemicals that are mixed together to produce a highly toxic concentration of hydrogen sulfide gas. The individuals involved in these incidents will remain in a closed area like a car, small room, or even a closet in the pursuit to receive instant effects both severe and/or deadly.

This trend developed online through the availability of instructions that were posted via the web. And has since grown into a devastating trend because of its assumed “painless” option for killing oneself. However, the inherent risks produced from this type of suicide can be dangerous not only to the victim but also to first responders and emergency personnel that enter the scene unprepared or unprotected for a chemical vapor/liquid release. What can emergency response personnel do to become more aware and prepared for chemical suicides?

Common Household Chemicals Used in Chemical Suicides

Chemical suicides involve the mixing of common household chemicals that create a deadly hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that has a distinct, strong odor of rotten eggs or sulfur. When this chemical turns into a vapor in high concentrations it can be highly dangerous, particularly to first responders who show up to the scene without proper respiratory protection. This chemical is an olfactory nerve paralyzer that can rapidly fatigue one’s sense of smell, even in low volumes.

Hydrogen sulfide is constructed by mixing hydrochloric acid with a sulfur-constructed compound. Both of these chemicals are easy to obtain and can be purchased at a local grocery, hardware, or big box store. The chemical, when created, will turn into a gas called asphyxiant that is known to suffocate victims at the cellular level, rendering the cells in the body unable to use oxygen.

The effects and symptoms of hydrogen sulfide exposure will begin almost immediately after exposure. At high concentrations, this chemical can be very deadly as it is nearly impossible to detect with no odor to it at all – because olfactory nerves are completely stripped of function of smell. Some other symptoms that someone will experience from exposure includes the following:

  • Respiratory irritation
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Suffocation
  • Coma
  • and Death

Detergent Suicides Using Hydrogen Cyanide

Another toxic gas that is sometimes found to be used in detergent suicides is hydrogen cyanide. This type of chemical used in these incidents is less likely to be used because of the difficulty in acquiring the consumer products needed to construct this chemical. Hydrogen cyanide gas is created using an acid source and cyanide salts like sodium cyanide or potassium cyanide. This chemical is easily absorbed through contact with the mucus membranes, eyes, and skin. The odor produced from this chemical is correlated with the smell of bitter almonds and can be a very strong and overwhelming odor in the environment. Some of the key symptoms that a person will experience from exposure to hydrogen cyanide include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Headache
  • Palpitation
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Increased Respiratory Rate
  • Unconsciousness
  • and Death

Signs of a Chemical Suicide

From 2008 to 2011 there were a total of 72 chemical suicides that were documented in the United States. About 80% of these incidents resulted in injuries to police officers, firefighters, emergency workers, and even civilians exposed to the gas. After the high level of injuries to emergency responders from chemical suicides, first responders are taking more care at crime scenes to detect signs of this type of incident in an effort to protect themselves. The signs that may be displayed at a chemical suicide crime scene can include these specific signs:

  • Small confined space (such as a car, small room, closet, etc.)
  • Tape or plastic covering vents and windows
  • Signs warning of toxic gas – usually placed by victim
  • A victim showing no sign of trauma
  • Empty cleaning supplies, pesticides, etc.
  • A strong odor similar to rotten eggs or burnt almonds
  • Suicide note

Chemical Suicide Response Procedures

The dangers presented to emergency responders upon contact with a chemical suicide is extremely high and due to the nature of the chemicals – as it is usually found as a vapor – can spread rapidly throughout the environment. When the confined space is opened this vapor can seep out and rapidly affect a large area and more important effect those exposed to the chemical vapor. The chemicals used in the chemical suicide can even continue to off-gas for an extended period of time way beyond when the incident took place.

If a chemical suicide is suspected, first responders should follow local response guidelines for securing the area and protecting the health of emergency responders. The procedures an emergency responder will take when coming across a chemical suicide crime scene includes the following steps.

Chemical Suicide Response ProceduresEvaluating the Crime Scene

During the first glimpse at the crime scene, look for alerts and signs of a chemical suicide. Determining the specific type of crime scene will help responders thoroughly prepare before stepping foot onto the crime scene.

Safely Secure the Environment

If the affected area contains people, it is important to immediately evacuate these individuals. Evaluate the chemical concentration, population size, the size of the affected area, and the wind speed. All of these factors can play a role in the containment and decontamination process.

Ventilate and Monitor Air in the Confined Space

When the area has been secured and analyzed extensively for potential hazards in the area, you will be able to start the ventilation process. The ventilation process should only be handled and conducted by trained and equipped first responders. Also, use air monitoring systems to detect chemical levels still present in the area to help you be aware of toxic chemicals still present.

Decontaminate Items & Surfaces in the Area

Surfaces and items can be contaminated easily by a chemical liquid/vapor release in an environment. Finding a decontamination solution that is able to quickly and effectively decontaminate both surfaces and air is essential for emergency responders. With FAST-ACT all your decontamination needs will be met, and it will help emergency responders act quickly to chemical suicides.

FAST-ACT is a proprietary formulation of non-toxic high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability to destroy chemical warfare agents. FAST-ACT is offered in pressurized cylinders capable of addressing both liquid and vapor hazards, manually dispersed containers, kits for liquid hazard treatment, and mitts for equipment and small-scale decontamination. FAST-ACT can be safely applied to any liquid spill or vapor release enabling emergency responders to utilize one technology when faced with aa wide variety of known and unknown chemical hazards.

Decontamination of Chemical Threats: from Person to Electronics

By | chemical attacks properness, chemical spill clean up, Uncategorized

Decontamination is a process of making any person, object, or area safe by absorbing, neutralizing, or destroying chemical agents released in the environment. Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs) are very complex and destructive agents that can be deployed or released into an area causing significant issues to both public health & overall safety. Chemical agents can be classified as nerve agents, blood agents, choking agents, and TICs (Toxic Industrial Chemical) – each category of chemical agents contain different characteristics that create a lethal concoction.

Chemical threats may be dispersed in many different forms ranging from liquid form to vapor form, which can both have their own hazardous effects on the environment, human health, and on decontamination equipment. CWAs in vapor form can penetrate into the interior of decon equipment and damage the equipment if the chemical agent is highly corrosive. Whereas CWAs in liquid form can adhere to a surface, spread over the surface, and penetrate into tiny spaces such as cracks and crevices – this type of adsorption can cause changes to the properties of the material, which can affect the decontamination equipment. Decontamination of chemical threats can be a very challenging process and having the proper equipment and trained personnel can help to accomplish a complete decontamination of a chemical threat.

What is the Purpose of Decontamination?

What is the Purpose of DecontaminationDecontamination is a multi-faceted topic that involves several components including health issues, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) issues, emergency response issues, and crime scene issues. This practice is set in place to facilitate the neutralization or destruction of hazardous chemicals that may get released into an environment.

Decontamination practices offer a rapid solution to limiting the spread of contaminants from the “hot zone”, where chemicals affect a specific area. There are many components included in the decontamination process, such as cleaning contaminated victims from a wide spectrum of chemical threats and neutralizing a contaminated area from hazardous materials.

Unfortunately, the reality is that often times decon is only conducted as an afterthought after an incident occurs, and because of this, decon can sometimes be dismissed as not an integral or important part of the response procedure. And when decontamination procedures are not implemented it can lead to a very volatile environment that can be significantly hazardous to humans.

What are the Basic Principles of Decontamination?

Decontamination overall is essential to have for emergency responders, HAZMAT, and military members who are typically the individuals who are exposed to and on the scene at a contaminated area. The resources required to perform a proper and effective decontamination is fairly costly in terms of manpower, time, space and even material, but the benefits that decontamination provide to the safety of the environment and humans is invaluable.

The process of decontamination is composed of basic principles to help facilitate a successful decon application – these four basic principles include speed, need, limit, and priority. Of these four principles, speed is amongst the most crucial when it comes to decontamination. Contamination of a chemical threat on personnel or in a specific area can pose an immediate hazard and become lethal within minutes after contamination takes place. Therefore, implementing immediate action and decontamination practices will play a key role in the effect of a chemical release or outbreak.

What are the Three Main Levels of Decontamination?

Depending on the level of hazard, the amount of the chemical present, and the actual chemical that is at play can all lead to a specific form of decontamination that needs to be activated. There are two categories of decontamination that can be used during a chemical release – Passive or Active Decontamination. Passive decontamination is accomplished by exposing an object to high temperatures, sunlight, and wind, which is a very time-consuming process for decontamination. Whereas active decontamination is a process of removing and neutralizing liquid or solid contamination of CWAs, this is a rapid decontamination solution that most emergency responders will utilize during a chemical release.

The active decontamination process is subdivided into three main levels of decontamination – immediate, operational, and thorough.

  • Immediate decontamination: Decon that is performed by the individuals and can include the decontamination of personal clothing and/or equipment. This can save lives, minimize casualties and limit the spread of contamination. It can also be performed on individual protective equipment to sustain personal protection.
  • Operational decontamination: Decon that is performed by an individual and/or unit on a specific part of operational significant equipment. This helps to minimize contact, transfer hazard, and to sustain operations.
  • Thorough decontamination: Decon that is performed by a unit to reduce contamination on personnel, equipment, material, and working areas to the lowest potential level.

All three levels of decontamination focus on both personnel decontamination and environment/surface decontamination. The process of decontaminating surfaces can be complex, as there are many factors you must take into consideration before containing and neutralizing the chemical threat. Many decontamination solutions require the identification of the chemical to properly neutralize the chemical threat, and this can be extremely time consuming. However, with the aid of a universal chemical decontamination solution, emergency-responders can quickly contain and neutralize the environment in which a chemical threat was present. FAST-ACT is a chemical decontamination provider that utilizes a proprietary formulation of non-toxic, high-performance specialty materials effective at neutralizing a wide range of toxic chemicals with the added capability of destroying CWAs.

How Do You Decontaminate Someone

FAST-ACT is revolutionary for liquid/vapor chemical decon with its ability to decontaminate a broad range of chemicals without the need of identifying the chemical at play. Thus, eliminating precious time wasted and minimizing health effects for those exposed.

How Do You Decontaminate Someone?

What are the Three Main Levels of DecontaminationDecontamination is most effective if victims first remove their clothing, as this has been shown to eliminate alone as much as 80-90% of all contamination. The effectiveness of removing clothes prior to decontamination rapidly decreases with time following exposure, so quick action should be taken following contamination. Victims are typically decontaminated in the water shower deluge of the decontamination corridor. Depending on the type of chemical exposure, the decontamination process can vary, the variations include the following:

  • Vapor Chemical Threat: A victim that has been exposed to the vapor should rub with either their hands, a soft cloth, or a sponge to remove the contaminants, from head to toe.
  • Liquid Chemical Threat: A victim that has been exposed to the liquid should use soap or a solution of detergent and water can be applied immediately to the skin.

Understanding and knowing the processes of implementing decontamination practices can be very vital to an emergency -responder who comes across a contaminated environment. Learning the purpose of decontamination and the best practices will help you to minimize the risks and contain a hazardous situation.

Chemical Threats the 'C' in CBRNe

Chemical Threats: the ‘C’ in CBRNe

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, terrorist attack preparation

CBRNe Chemical ThreatsChemical threats, an increasingly prepared for and prevalent form of attack, has become significantly highlighted to first-responders, military, and hazmat teams. The term CBRNe is a widely known and popular term for medical professionals and military defense individuals. CBRNe involves chemical threats as the ‘C’ that is found in CBRNe. The risks of chemical threats have come from recent terrorist attacks that have deployed the use of toxic and hazardous chemical agents. Chemical agents can include common chemicals utilized in laboratories (TICs), as well as deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs).

Among the different weapons categorized as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), chemical warfare is identified as one of the most dangerous weapons created by mankind that can create utter brutality upon deployment. Chemical threats are extremely hazardous chemicals that can be dispersed as a gas, liquid, or aerosol that spreads aggressively throughout the environment. Chemical threats have been one of the key weapons used in Syria over the last few years, as the conflict among the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic and foreign/domestic allies continues to rage on throughout the Country. These recent attacks have highlighted the strength and brutality of chemical threats, leaving many countries grasping for solutions and protection strategies to implement for a possible chemical agent threat upon their area. CBRNe education and training has become a much needed and explored topic after recent chemical threats, with many fields quickly adopting this specific training into their environment.

What Does CBRNe Stand for?

CBRNe is an acronym for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high yield Explosives. The weapons classified under this acronym all have the ability to create extremely hazardous conditions that can lead to mass casualties and disrupt society completely. CBRNe events are commonly comprised of deliberate or aggressive acts, with the malicious intent of inciting fear or causing grave harm to humans and the environment.

Emergency responders are being taught how to recognize and mitigate attacks from such weapons and learning the key identifying characteristics between the different CBRNe weapons. The characteristics of CBRNe weapons are found below.

  • Chemical Threats: Chemical threats consist of weapons that utilize a hazardous chemical that is designed to cause intentional death or harm through its toxic properties. The four different types of chemical agents include choking agents, blister agents, blood agents, and nerve agents. This chemical threat has a direct effect on many human organs and systems including the respiratory system, lungs, heart, and skin. Symptoms that can occur upon exposure to a chemical agent includes watery eyes, itching, coughing, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, and potentially death.
  • Biological Threats: A biological weapon, also called germ weapon, is any number of disease-producing agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, and other biological agents, that can be used as a weapon against humans. Lethal biological weapons are capable of causing mass deaths upon humans and have been responsible for more deaths than from those employed by combat. There are five different categories of biological agents including bacteria, rickettsia, viruses, fungi, and toxins. The symptoms a human may experience from a biological threat can range depending on the different category of biological agent.
  • Radiological Threats: Radiological threats are weapons that disperse radioactive agents to inflict injury or cause contamination and damage. A commonly used radiological threat is the dirty bomb, which utilizes a conventional explosion to disperse radioactive contaminants into an environment. The effects of radiological threats upon the health of an individual can vary depending on the intensity, duration, and type of radiation. Symptoms from this classification of warfare can include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, infection, bleeding, gastrointestinal symptoms, and even death.
  • Nuclear Threats: Nuclear weapons are devices designed to release energy in an explosive manner as a result of nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, or a combination of the two. This classification of weapon can lead to extreme danger to human health.
  • Explosive Threats: An explosive weapon generally uses high explosives to project a blast and fragmentation from the point of detonation. Explosive weapons can lead to mass casualties in the affected area.

What is a CBRN Attack?

CBRNe attacks can happen either accidentally or intentionally – but no matter the circumstance the effects are bound to be grave. An accidental CBRN attack is typically caused by human error, natural, or technological reasons. This can include spills, accidental releases, or leakages that cause the incident to occur. When an accident occurs with these weapons it is usually referred to as DG or a HAZMAT accident.

Whereas intentional CBRN incidents involve criminal acts, maliciously motivated poisoning of an individual, or a terrorist attack or act. An intentional CBRN attack can leave great devastation after deployment, with a calculated plan to harm a large area with many individuals present when the attack occurs. These weapons are usually described as ‘low probability, high risk’, because of the relatively low risk of a CBRNe attack occurring but the high threat risk to public health upon an attack taking place in the environment.

The Risk of a Chemical Attack

The Risk of a Chemical AttackThe severity of an attack is dependent upon several different factors, particularly the toxicity of the chemical and its concentration when it reaches people. The release of a chemical agent or a chemical attack in an enclosed space (such as a subway, airport, or an office space) could deliver lethal doses, high enough to severely hurt or kill a large group of people. In comparison, when a chemical attack is deployed in an open area, a toxic chemical cloud, or plume, would become less concentrated as it spreads and would have to be released in a large quantity to produce significant casualties.

Immediate health impacts can start to effect humans upon exposure to a chemical agent that has been deployed during a chemical attack. Symptoms from exposure to toxic chemicals will start to appear quickly, sometimes a couple hours or even a couple minutes following exposure. The health risks alone from a chemical attack solidify the strength and devastation that a chemical attack can wreak over an environment.

CBRNe Terrorism

Terrorism or terrorist attacks that involve the use of CBRNe materials pose a very real and dangerous threat to public health and safety. Terroristic threats utilizing CBRNe weapons can also impact national security, economic, and political stability on a global level. When these types of weapons are deployed in an act of terrorism, the complete destruction could be insurmountable – leading to unrepairable effects on the human population and environment.

Preventing the risks of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons has been a top U.S. national security priority for a long period of time. The United States has become hyperaware and vigilant in preventing terrorist groups from obtaining these weapons to protect U.S. civilians. The main used devices for terrorist attacks include chemical, biological, and radiological weapons.

What are Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Devices?

CBR (Chemical, Biological, and Radiological) devices are without a doubt dangerous threats to public health and safety. Chemical, Biological, and Radiological devices produce airborne hazardous contaminants that can be in the form of gases, vapors, or aerosols. These types of airborne contaminants can be very dangerous as they enter the body rapidly and impact health within hours or even minutes after exposure.

What Does a CBRN Specialist Do?

Decontamination providers have focused on providing a means to protect individuals who are exposed and decontaminate the source of hazard in the environments. The way that these decontamination solutions are delivered to the appropriate field workers and experts (such as the Military, Emergency-Responders, and Hazmat) is through CBRN Specialists. The specialist has many job duties including assisting in CBRN defense measures, provide training advice and supervision of CBRN equipment, & operate CBRN detection and decon equipment.

The CBRN specialists’ job is quite complex and vital to the safety of a large population of people in the country, therefore, having efficient and easily deployed decon solutions is critical for the CBRN specialist. For example, a decontamination solution for chemical warfare such as FAST-ACT can help a CBRN specialist, especially given the fact that FAST-ACT does not require identification of the chemical deployed in the environment. FAST-ACT is a decontamination provider that utilizes a proprietary formulation that is able to break down and neutralize a broad spectrum of chemical agents including chemical warfare agents (CWAs). The FAST-ACT technology is adapted into several different applications for both liquid and vapor chemical hazard containment and decontamination.

Chemical Decontamination Solution for Chemical CBRNe Threats

The Importance of Medical Preparedness in CBRNe

The Importance of Medical Preparedness in CBRNe

By | chemical attack preparation, chemical attacks properness, Uncategorized

Medical PreparednessThere are many threats that plague the community whether it be from natural occurrences like weather, disease, or even from planned attacks taken out on a large population of people. Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNe) agents are some of the most toxic agents that can be used for attacks and war in the world. With the growing threat of these agents and their uses, the increased hazard to business and communities is significant.

Medical professionals are trained individuals that are prepared with a vast knowledge of health ailments and medical remedies that are capable to improve the circumstances of someone suffering from a chronic or acute ailment. Many health care professionals are trained on the day-to-day, commonly seen diseases and conditions that are mostly seen and treated. However, these professionals are not regularly taught the symptoms and medical solutions for exposure to or ingestion/inhalation of CBRNe agents.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Health care professionals are often times the first line of defense when it comes to identifying and treating patients that have unfortunately come into contact with the dangerous CBRNe agents. When a patient arrives with severe symptoms and time is of the essence – the pressure is on for the medical team to quickly come to the correct diagnosis and treatment for the patient’s future health. If someone is experiencing nausea, vomiting, and tremors – a physician who is inept in CBRN training can easily diagnose the patient with a number of other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, or even an opioid overdose. Whereas medical professionals with a background or training in CBRN may consider a diagnosis of nerve agent exposure or even mild radiation sickness. Therefore, having medical preparedness in CBRN, especially our medical professionals can be life-saving.

CBRNE Training

The training for medical professionals on CBRNe agents is done through a four-day course that is designed to prepare responders to effectively respond to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) or mass casualty incident. This training is designed for emergency medical services, healthcare, public health, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and hospital staff- this includes physicians, nurses and responders.

Medical CBRNE training, The Emergency Medical Operations for CBRNE Incidents (EMO), provides classroom lectures and extensive hands-on-training that allows responders to implement the emergency-response knowledge and skills when the need for them occurs. This training is organized by the Center for Domestic Preparedness.

CBRN Preparedness Program

A relatively new initiative, the CBRN Preparedness Program (CP2) is designed to work with partnering nations to help them prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the effects of a CBRN disaster. Regardless, if a country is threatened by intentional use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or is susceptible to a natural disaster or industrial accident involving CBRN hazards, their ability to respond quickly and justly can save lives and reduce damage.

The program is geared towards training and equipping military and civilian first responders to deal with the absolute worst-case scenarios and in turn they will become a valued partner in the mission to identify, reduce, and eliminate WMD and their potentially devastating effects.

National Strategy for CBRNE Standards

Prior to several instances that have taken place with toxic CBRNE agents, there was no national strategy for CBRNE standards put in place. The pursuit for a national strategy is critical as it is vital that the nation has reliable countermeasure equipment and knowledge on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) agents. The strategy highlights the importance of medical preparedness and training for our first-responders and medical personnel workers. The importance for medical personnel to be trained in CBRN identification, treatment, and standards is essential to preventing mass casualties upon a potential CBRN agent outbreak.

 

The national strategy for CBRNE standards also consists of six goals, and they are as follows:

  1. Establish an interagency group for CBRNE standards to promote the coordination of these standards among Federal, State, local, and tribal communities.
  2. Coordinate and facilitate the development of CBRNE equipment performance standards and promote the use of standards for Federal, State, local, and tribal communities.
  3. Coordinate and facilitate the development and adoption of interoperability standards for CBRNE equipment.
  4. Promote enduring CBRNE standard operating procedures for Federal, State, local, and tribal use to improve National preparedness and response.
  5. Establish voluntary CBRNE training and certification standards for the Federal, State, local, and tribal communities and promote policies that foster their adoption.
  6. Establish a CBRNE equipment test and evaluation (T&E) infrastructure and capability to support conformity assessment standards.

Medical Preparedness for CBRN

With the numerous attacks and incidences that have occurred within the last decade or so the need and focus of medical preparedness has been highlighted. The way the United States health care system is able to respond to mass casualty incidents is important to protecting civilians. Training and preparing physicians and other medical personnel with CBRN awareness and identification will provide the healthcare worker with an understanding of chemical threat agent history, toxicology, medical intervention, etc.

CBRNe agents can be quite hazardous and sometimes deadly when contact or exposure occurs. There are many things that can be done to minimize the inherent health risks including environment and surface decontamination, protective gear, and medical preparedness upon release and exposure of these agents. Being prepared and having a preparedness plan in place will play a significant role in the reduction of risks to public safety following a CBRNe agent release or attack.

Decontamination Solution for CBRNe