Countering Chemical Terrorism: A Digitized Fire Chief Supporting System for Rapid Onsite Responding to HazMat Emergencies

Countering Chemical Terrorism: A Digitized Fire Chief Supporting System for Rapid Onsite Responding to HazMat Emergencies

Amy Wenxuan Ding (University of Illinois, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-228-2.ch008
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Abstract

An industrialized society makes widespread use of toxic chemicals, transported daily in large amounts on the roads or by rail. Approximately 800,000 shipments of hazardous substances, including chemical and petroleum products, travel daily throughout the United States by ground, rail, air, water, and pipeline (DOT, 1998). Although nearly all of these materials safely reach their destinations, many are explosive, flammable, toxic, and corrosive and can be extremely dangerous if released improperly. These materials frequently are transported over, through, and under areas that are densely populated or populated by schools, hospitals, or nursing homes, where the consequences of an acute release could result in environmental damage, severe injury, or death (DOT, 1999; AAR, 2004). According to the U.S. Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) system, 643 incidents involving chemicals in the highest-ranked group—designated as those that are easy to obtain, travel far by air if released, are highly toxic, and could be used as weapons—occurred in 15 U.S. states between October 2006 and February 2007. These 643 chemical incidents affected 225 victims (who could be associated with more than one chemical) and resulted in 1,200 persons being evacuated. Table 8.1 displays the disposition of most affected people. For an industrial chemical incident, the type of chemical agent involved (if released) is normally known during the occurrence. On the basis of the agent’s characteristics and possible poisonous effects, an event-based, specific response and associated medical rescue procedure can be generated and implemented to handle and control the situation.
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Introduction

An industrialized society makes widespread use of toxic chemicals, transported daily in large amounts on the roads or by rail. Approximately 800,000 shipments of hazardous substances, including chemical and petroleum products, travel daily throughout the United States by ground, rail, air, water, and pipeline (DOT, 1998). Although nearly all of these materials safely reach their destinations, many are explosive, flammable, toxic, and corrosive and can be extremely dangerous if released improperly. These materials frequently are transported over, through, and under areas that are densely populated or populated by schools, hospitals, or nursing homes, where the consequences of an acute release could result in environmental damage, severe injury, or death (DOT, 1999; AAR, 2004).

According to the U.S. Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) system, 643 incidents involving chemicals in the highest-ranked group—designated as those that are easy to obtain, travel far by air if released, are highly toxic, and could be used as weapons—occurred in 15 U.S. states between October 2006 and February 2007. These 643 chemical incidents affected 225 victims (who could be associated with more than one chemical) and resulted in 1,200 persons being evacuated. Table 1 displays the disposition of most affected people.

Table 1.
Treatment location
Treated on scene using first aid97
Treated at hospital (not admitted)59
Treated at hospital (admitted)12
Observation at hospital with no treatment3
Seen by private physician within 24 hours7
Injury reported by officials2

Note that half the victims were treated at the incident sites, suggesting that onsite pre-hospital rescue is crucial to responses to such emergency situations.

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