[ RadSafe ] ARTICLE: North American First Responders Lack Radiation Training
LNMolino at aol.com
LNMolino at aol.com
Tue Nov 1 10:39:10 CST 2005
_North American First Responders Lack Radiation Training, Say Canadian
Official, U.S. Firefighters_ (http://all-hands.net/Article2304.html) By
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON — Teaching more U.S. and Canadian emergency responders about
radiation and its effects would address a major vulnerability of the North
American nuclear-power infrastructure, a Canadian government radiation specialist
said yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 30).
The nuclear industry has done a good job of fortifying facilities against
attack, but police, firefighters, emergency-management technicians and medical
staff are insufficiently trained for radiation incidents, said Chris L’
Heureux, senior emergency preparedness adviser at Health Canada’s Radiation
Protection Bureau. The health department is the lead Canadian agency for radiation
“We’re so uneducated as responders,” L’Heureux said at an Arlington, Va.,
security conference sponsored by the Performance Institute. “When we get to
the nuclear industry, this is a totally alien world.”
Understanding what health effects can be expected from various levels of
radiation, L’Heureux said, would help responders make crucial decisions during
an incident about how best to protect victims’, and the responders’ own,
health and lives. Failure to provide sufficient training on such matters could
exacerbate the effects of a terrorist attack, he said.
“Our responders need to recognize and to be trained in radiation exposures,
and that’s a vulnerability,” L’Heureux said.
A firefighter representative today concurred with L’Heureux’s basic
“If you walked up to many firefighters and asked them, ‘What do you know
about action levels? If you were going to get a 25-rem exposure, and you were
going to make a rescue, is that appropriate or not?’ Most of them would not
know,” said Eric Lamar, assistant to the president of the 270,000-member
International Association of Firefighters. “We need to have much more
comprehensive and much better training on that stuff.”
Lamar said virtually all professional firefighters receive “very basic”
training on topics such as when and how to don gear to protect against
radiation. Only a few thousand — principally, members of specialized
hazardous-materials teams — receive more extensive instruction, he said, adding that many more
firefighters should be trained about how to use detection equipment and what
actions to take when faced with different radiation levels.
“What all of us need more of is good training on response protocols and on …
detection equipment used in an emergency. One of the weak areas
consistently is making sure that responders have access to direct-read
[radiation-detection] instrumentation and that they’re trained on how to use it,” he said. “
There’s not a lot of money or resources out there to give that kind of
No overall data was immediately available on how many of the United States’
2 million local, state and federal emergency responders receive radiation
training, or on what kind of instruction is given to those who do receive some.
The National Fire Academy, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s
National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Md., says it has trained
1.4 million students over 30 years and currently offers seven courses that are
primarily focused on radiation.
The Emergency Management Institute, also part of the Emmitsburg training
center, currently offers two such courses. The institute says it trains more
than 5,000 responders yearly at the Maryland campus and hundreds of thousands
more through institute-backed training and exercises around the country.
The firefighters’ association and other nongovernmental entities also offer
courses on responding to emergencies involving radioactive and other
hazardous materials. Lamar said such training must reach a wider group of responders.
“In the past, people saw this area as being almost esoteric,” Lamar said, “
but now we know the world’s changed.”
© Copyright 2005 by National Journal Group, Inc.
Louis N. Molino, Sr., CET
LNMolino at aol.com
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