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"Dirty Bomb" Response for Special Events

     If your response area is anything like mine, from time to time your municipality may sponsor special “City” events. These events may range over a couple of days, during holiday celebrations. Or, they may be single day festival for a particular holiday ceremony. These events draw large crowds many of who are from outside your area and unfamiliar with local streets and evacuation paths. Add to this confusion the usual blend of alcohol and tom-foolery, and you have a recipe for disaster if one of these incidents occurs in your community.

     To combat this influx of celebratory masses, you need to pre-plan your response for these conditions using some basic objectives. The plan that I submitted for the annual festivals in my response area, includes some strong points that I believe should be included every response group’s tactical plan.

     Hazardous Materials Teams at a dirty bomb incident are responsible for two main strategies. Decontamination of victims and necessary treatment/transportation, and definition and seclusion of the exclusion zone/hot zone for further investigation/mitigation after victim extraction. Outside of these two objectives your team may interact or assist varying organizations with their tasks “IF” manpower allows. Let us take a look at the elements I found useful in a “step-by-step” plan, and respond to an incident in chronological order from pre-event meetings to incident mitigation.

1] The responders involved should be “shown” an enlarged map of the projected attack area {Festival}. Upon response, your ICP must have a larger version of this document for planning incident objectives on-site, in real time. This will accomplish two goals. 1] Familiarize responders with the “site” ahead of time, and 2] provide the IC and Staff a planning board while the incident is unfolding. This can be presented in any media you wish, as long as this media can be sheltered and made functional at your site ICP.

2] Staging area and ICP; the staging area should be large enough to accommodate all resource vehicles expected and would be exemplary, if it could also contain protection from the elements. You never know when bad weather is going to spoil a holiday festival. Additionally, the area should be far enough away from the actual festival site to accomplish two objectives. 1] Afford uncongested access apart from festival goers and 2] be close enough to serve as the eventual ICP without risking the contamination of personnel or emergency equipment. Once your IC begins to deploy equipment and manpower from staging to the actual incident site, staging/ICP will function effectively as an ICP.

3] Divisions; for my scenario, I split the tasks into groups to be handled by varying disciplines. Haz-Mat Team members were responsible for three main objectives; 1] remove non-ambulatory victims from the exclusion zone to the decontamination corridor, 2] map the exclusion zone perimeter using radiation detection devices and 3] determine the radiation type for decontamination/medical concerns. These objectives allowed immediate rescue operations, isolation of the exclusion zone, and preserved law enforcement evidence for investigation.

4] Law enforcement on scene was given the task of “herding” ambulatory victims from ground zero, to the mass casualty decontamination area. They were expected to find the shortest route that “they” could shut-down and control. After the ambulatory victims passed, the pathway is considered contaminated until Haz-Mat analyzes the area for contaminant. During the incident, this closure could be excessive. Law enforcement must be able to control the route they choose.

5] Firefighters were responsible for the decontamination of non-ambulatory, ambulatory patients, medical evaluation, field treatment, and emergency transportation an appropriate medical facility.

     By splitting responsibilities into divisions, allows already known, functional groups to best devise an operational response plan for special events. In retrospect, one idea that I implemented for decontamination but did not for the entire event should be added. “IF” your festival is outdoors, contingency plans for a simple public address {PA} system should be implemented. This could be as simple as having your mayor take control of the existing stage sound system to announce instructions to civilians. Scared, untrained individuals can complicate operations from fear. Throughout the incident, there should be a single voice giving instructions to affected festival goers to both get them to safety, AND prevent them from interfering with your response strategies.

                                                  Haz Mat Mike

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