Chemical Warfare Agents

The Sarin gas attack that occurred in a Tokyo subway in 1994 and an earlier such terrorist incident in Matsumoto, Japan, added a new dimension to the threat of chemical agents. In the hands of terrorists, these agents pose a real threat to the population...


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When large numbers of casualties start showing up from apparently unknown sources, chemical or biological terrorism should be a consideration. These types of incidents will tax the emergency response system as never before.

Responders must plan and train for chemical as well as nuclear and biological terrorism attacks but even with planning, these will be difficult incidents. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a program available to provide chemical and biological weapons training and assistance. The agency can provide Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) to assist local medical personnel at the scene of terrorist attacks or any other disaster.

At best, most local hospitals have only limited supplies of antidotes to chemical agent exposures. The VA's Office of Medical Preparedness (OMP) has a stockpile of antidotes for chemical agent exposures. DMATs with antidotes can be airlifted directly to a disaster scene.

Robert Burke

For additional information on chemical warfare agent training, technical information or contacts, write to the author at Firehouse.®


Robert Burke, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a Maryland-based certified Hazardous Materials Specialist and has served on state and county hazardous materials response teams. He is a member of the Earleigh Heights, MD, Volunteer Fire Company and has 16 years' experience in career and volunteer fire departments, attaining the rank of assistant chief, as well as serving as a deputy state fire marshal. Burke holds a bachelor's degree in fire science and is an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy and the Delaware County, PA, Fire Academy. His new book, Hazardous Materials Chemistry For Emergency Responders, was published in January 1997. His e-mail address is: robert.burke@worldnet.att.net.