[ 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 
Joe Fiorill
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 
incident response.

“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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