[ RadSafe ] ARTICLE: North American First Responders Lack Radiation Train...

JGinniver at aol.com JGinniver at aol.com
Tue Nov 1 16:48:27 CST 2005

In a message dated 01/11/2005 16:54:39 GMT Standard Time, LNMolino at aol.com  

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 
said yesterday (see GSN, Sept.   30).

Help, I'm more than a little confused about the whole article.  In the  first 
section (see above) the emphasis seems to be on the response of emergency  
services to a major accident at a nuclear plant.  Surely these plants have  been 
around long enough with the requirements for a robust emergency plan (post  
Three Mile Island) that the emergency service should be trained to a suitable  
standard for this type of incident?  If not then something serious is  wrong.
Alternatively is the author trying to suggest that the emergency services  
are inadequately trained for other radiological emergencies that may occur i.e.  
transport accidents.  In my experience in the UK, the emergency services do  
receive training and are supported by a dedicated emergency centre that 
provides  suitable advice to manage the incident until such time as professional 
health  physics personnel can attend the site, or if necessary provide further 
advice if  it is required.  
This leaves a couple of other possible scenarios. sites where limited  
quantities of radioactive material may be present and where the risk is low  enough 
that professional health physics advice may not be available from the  site 
operator.  In these cases I would hope that, in the UK the  training provided to 
the Fire and Rescue services as part of their normal  training programme and 
the additional training provided by the Health Protection  Agency - Radiation 
Protection Division (used to be the NRPB) would  suffice.
This just leaves a terrorist event.  Perhaps I'm just naive in  thinking that 
any significant terrorist event involving radioactive material  would involve 
some form of improvised explosive device and that blast and  possible fire 
would have far more potential to injure than any quantity of  radioactive 
material that was dispersed, and that the normal procedures adopted  for protection 
against chemicals, which the emergency services encounter much  more 
frequently, is sufficient to prevent significant exposures.  
There is however an issue, certainly for the US, that I just haven't any  
experience of and that is the (seemingly to us in the UK) large numbers of  
volunteer fire and rescue services.  Although we do have part-time  (volunteer) 
fire services in the UK, these are trained to the same standards as  their full 
time colleagues for the roles in which they are approved to  undertake.  They 
are limited in what they can do, and with the exception of  some units located 
close to nuclear plants, this would not include responding to  a radiological 
incident.  Those units located close to nuclear plants  usually have workers 
from the plant and so possible have a better understanding  of radiological 
issues than their full time colleagues.
Feel free to throw rocks at me if you think I'm sitting just a little to  
comfortably atop my off-white (not quite Ivory) tower.

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