Rethinking Terrorism Response Decontamination Issues

Decontamination (decon) issues have also been at the forefront of preparation efforts. While many of these efforts have been well thought out and conducted with good intentions there are some that argue that the response community needs to rethink what...


Much of this call to reality centers around capability and resources. This Decontamination Chart (PDF)
is designed to examine and compare the different types of decon, the set-up times, and the decon rates for people. It behooves response agencies to examine where their capabilities lie and prepare accordingly.

While the goal of decontamination efforts is to prevent the spread of contaminants and reduce the effects of chemical and other agents on people, the process is fairly simple. Emergency decon simply uses large amounts of water to flush off contaminants and it can be employed fairly quickly, with easily acquired equipment, and without a large demand for personnel. Technical decon may be best employed at sites where victims may travel to seek medical assistance. It is by nature more thorough and arduous to complete. The whole goal should center around speed of implementation. How can responders do the most good in the shortest period of time?

So, is your jurisdiction ready for a terrorist attack? Hopefully, this article provides some food for thought and empowers you to rethink your decontamination efforts in response to terrorism attacks. Author Scanlon adds: "Experience suggests that the current approach won't work. Surely we can make the necessary changes before it is too late."

As usual, please forward any feedback or input to the author at dcnkm@charter.net

Footnotes;

  1. "Control the site, then decon? History says no" by Joseph Scanlon, Director, Communications Unit, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Article appeared in Homeland Protection Professional, May 2005, Situation Report Column, pages 8 and 10.
  2. "Emergency and Technical Decontamination for Hazardous Materials and Terrorism" by Robert Burke, Firehouse Magazine, appeared at www.firehouse.com/hazmat
  3. Guidelines for Cold Weather Mass Decontamination During a Terrorist Chemical Agent Incident, January 2002, Revision August 1, 2003, by Soldier and Biological Chemical Command-U.S. Department of Defense. Located on-line at National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, MIPT Library, Report #3-PDF document
  4. Appendix V-Swimming Pool Agent Decontamination Data, from Guidelines for Cold Weather Mass Decontamination During a Terrorist Chemical Agent Incident, January 2002, Revision August 1, 2003, by Soldier and Biological Chemical Command-U.S. Department of Defense. (Olympic size pool contains 3,000,000 liters. Up to 1.7 million people may be effectively decontaminated for Agents GB (Sarin) and VX. With a 50% margin of safety factored in 800,000 people could be processed by walking through the pool.)

Related links:

Decontamination Chart