Are You Prepared For a Chlorine Attack?

Whether Accidental or Intentional, a Chlorine Release Can Be Deadly


Do the following numbers about chlorine scare you? Some 300,000 miles of railroad tracks in the United States carry thousands of tons of highly toxic chlorine through every major city and town. Thirty-seven drinking water- and waste-treatment facilities in this country still receive chlorine gas...


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Are we prepared if al-Qaida operatives explode tank cars loaded with chlorine on a windy day in a large metropolitan area? The problem will be protecting responding emergency personnel. There will not be enough Level A suits to rescue a large number of people. In the event of a spill or leak involving chlorine, fire department personnel not wearing protective equipment and fully encapsulating, vapor-protective clothing should be restricted from contaminated areas until cleanup has been completed.

For those who are able to escape, but have been contaminated, if chlorine has contacted the skin, rescue personnel should flush the affected areas immediately with plenty of water, followed by washing with soap and water. Gross decontamination can take place in many of these circumstances using engine and/or ladder companies with piped waterways. Clothing contaminated with chlorine should be removed immediately and provisions made for the safe removal of the chemical from the clothing.

More than five years after al-Qaida murdered 2,996 people in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, we need to be prepared for the next attack that will hit our shores. Hopefully, our government can prevent such an attack, but we need to be ready for whatever the terrorists throw at us, including chlorine.

GARY LUDWIG, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He has 30 years of fire-rescue service experience. Ludwig is chairman of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has a master's degree in business and management, and is a licensed paramedic. He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally, and can be reached through his website at www.garyludwig.com.

3 Join NFPA Board

New members of the board of directors of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) were elected at the association's World Safety Conference & Exposition last month. The new members are John C. Dean of Winthrop, ME; Rebecca F. Denlinger of Marietta, GA; and Keith F. Williams of Northbrook, IL.

Dean is the state fire marshal of Maine. He also is president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), treasurer of the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission and a member of the Maine Fire Training & Education Advisory Board.

Denlinger is fire chief with the Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services. In 2004, President Bush appointed her to serve on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. She is a member of the Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and represents the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs as a member of the Georgia Homeland Security Task Force.

Williams is president and CEO of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) He also spent eight years with Medtronic and worked for more than 20 years for General Electric.