The Right Road

Months have passed since the terrorist attacks of September. Much rhetoric has been espoused regarding the next wave of attacks and where we should spend the money given to us to prepare for terrorism. I find it more than a little troubling that the...


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Months have passed since the terrorist attacks of September. Much rhetoric has been espoused regarding the next wave of attacks and where we should spend the money given to us to prepare for terrorism.

I find it more than a little troubling that the talk regarding our priorities centers mostly on weapons of mass destruction (WMD). These weapons are considered by many to be biological, chemical or dare I say nuclear. Well, before you run out and buy enzyme kits, let me talk to you about reality.

Let's look at two of the most prolific and active sites of terrorism: Northern Ireland and the Middle East. Struggles have been going on there for some time. The members of the fire and EMS services in these areas have been on the front lines during the whole time. The frequency of attacks over the years makes ME think that these members of the worldwide fire family are the true experts in this field.

Not being a professional researcher, but nonetheless able to read and discern facts, I submit that the chosen WMD is explosives and the chosen delivery system is fanatics willing to die for their cause as long as it takes out as many civilians and emergency workers as possible. (Even the attacks on 9/11 were a demonstration of explosives - fuel - delivered in a container - aircraft - by fanatics willing to die.)

The fire and EMS departments in areas where these terrorists have struck have protocols and SOPs already developed and I don't hear about the main alphabet groups in our services (fire and EMS) sending delegations over there to study what has already been accomplished. I feel that there is where the answers lie, not in the hands of trainers or gurus, usually self proclaimed to reinvent the wheel with little or no actual combat experience.

For many departments that are already shortstaffed and underequipped, even planning for mitigating this type of event can be cruel. I took a nerve agent training class. I watched helplessly as team after team took on the Herculean task of mitigating a nerve agent attack involving 2,000 people with 14 firefighters on duty. They talked about decontamination for 600 people per hour while containing the scene and evacuating, blah, blah, blah. The incredible observation was that everyone in the room applauded their efforts like there was a prize for exaggerating the biggest fallacy.

Let's get responsible. Think about your own area. If someone took out a hospital or apartment building, would you really have enough people to do anything at all? This is not a game played out on some tabletop with ribbons for the winners. If you believe that, buy a train set from Lionel and create your own world where firefighters never die. I am not telling you not to consider chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, but at the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center there was an attempt to disperse biologics. The heat from the blast negated their capability.

Terrorist groups have attacked salad bars. We've seen several incidents where dumpster fires have turned into "chem-bio" emergencies because somebody illegally dumped waste. Nuclear weapons, from all accounts, are difficult to deliver. Chemicals could be a factor, but once again what do you buy with an indefinite shelf life about to be used maybe once, if ever, by firefighters who most probably will be killed by their aggressive behavior? Only in drills do you get a heads-up that this is an attack when you are dispatched for an EMS call.

After the anthrax attacks started, we had our share of real incidents in this city, but certainly many, many more good intents. Somebody is protesting every day about something in this city; only the crowd size differs. I have been at many bombings, including those involving the British and Russian Embassies, Russian airlines and the Argentine ambassador.

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