[ RadSafe ] ARTICLE: North American First Responders LackRadiation Train...

John R Johnson idias at interchange.ubc.ca
Tue Nov 1 18:01:55 CST 2005


I must have deleted the original message. Who is the " Canadian government radiation 

John R Johnson, Ph.D.
President, IDIAS, Inc
4535 West 9-Th Ave
Vancouver B. C.
V6R 2E2
(604) 222-9840
idias at interchange.ubc.ca
or most mornings
Consultant in Radiation Protection
4004 Wesbrook Mall
Vancouver B. C.
V6R 2E2
(604) 222-1047 Ext. 6610
Fax: (604) 222-7309
johnsjr at triumf.ca
-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl]On
Behalf Of LNMolino at aol.com
Sent: November 1, 2005 3:23 PM
To: JGinniver at aol.com
Cc: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] ARTICLE: North American First Responders
LackRadiation Train...

I don't tend to throw rocks at Ivory Towers but I may make the occasional  
PhD level joke ;) as I am employed by one and we tend to go round and round on  
that topic from time to time ;)
First off the piece is MASS MEDIA so HUGE grains of salts are in order as  
with ANYTHING that gang did or does (I can throw those rocks as I was and in  
fact still am currently a Member of the "Working Press" here in  Texas)
My comments are in line as yours were Julian,
In a message dated 11/1/2005 4:48:27 P.M. Central Standard Time, J Ginniver  

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 
specialist 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.

The problem is as I see it is that we have done a very good job here in the  
US of making Nuke plants fairly safe. Most of the plant "emergencies" are  
more akin to everyday standard run of the mill industrial emergencies, small  
fires, fairly minor injures etc. and most don't involve a radiation issue  at all 
other than they take place in a nuclear power facility.  Hence, rarely do a 
majority of our First Responders need to intervene in  such events except as 
support for the plant personnel. They (Plant Personnel)  are very good at 
dealing with these day to day emergencies as well as the  every now and again 
"contamination" incident. Again not much for the First  responder to do or to worry 
about. This is all a good thing in my view. 
We've also done a pretty decent job of training those First responders that  
are likely to respond to a Nuke Plant in the above captioned "support role", 
we  have also done a good job in some ways in terms of training in high profile 
 transport stuff like the WIPP program and the like, and some states have 
very  good programs in a variety of other areas that involve radiation responses 
while  other have well less than very good is a PC way of putting it for 
training their  responders.

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. 

I think if one were to poll all of the CIV Emergency Responders that we  have 
here in the US across the 10 "Disciplines" that we have neatly stacked them  
into for training and funding purposes you'd be amazed at the lack of formal  
training across the 7-10 million persons (depending on whose numbers you use)  
that fall into that list. If we further were to take out those "disciplines"  
seen as "traditional" First Responders (i.e. fire, police and EMS) you'd 
still  be pretty amazed at the percentage that had little or no formal training in 
the  radiation arena. 
while the federal and state governments have created systems for dealing  
with and responding to events that involve radiation again I feel that the bulk  
of the "response" force here in the US would not be able to effectively 
describe  said capability nor how to access same. That said, they would figure it 
out in a  fairly short order once they started making some calls and dropping 
the R or N  word (Nuclear or radioactive or any variation of same).

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.

Ah this is the root of the issue at hand is it not? While I have no idea as  
to the content of the program that you describe in the UK I am willing to bet  
that no single such program could be found here in the US. We do have some 
very  excellent programs operated by our federal government that are very 
accessible  to the First Responder Community as a whole but even when they operate 
at full  capacity (and for the most part they do just that) they only train a 
very small  percentage of our First Responders, we are still trying to build an 
effective  and realistic program to cover the whole of the community. (As an 
aside, I will  be in London for a bit of time in the first week of December 
and plan on  visiting Morton-on the- Marsh to see how Y'all do fire and rescue 
training in  the UK)

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.  

Agreed to a point. We have also discussed the planned dispersion of a RAD  
material without the fanfare of an IED or IND, less effective? Absolutely, could 
 it bring the same level of press, that would be dependant of a number of 
factors  but in theory it could. Our media can get well I doubt I need to discuss 
our  media and its issues with the Members of RADSAFE.

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.

As you are likely ware some 80% (loose number) of the American Fire Service  
is volunteer in some way. While only approximately 20% of the population of 
the  US is protected by volunteers 80% of the land mass of the US is. Also,  
understand that within a stones throw of major Metro areas such as Washington,  
D.C., Boston and other major cities you have huge contingents of non paid fire  
and rescue services in play. I'd hazard to guess that most of the nuclear 
power  plants in the US are protected by the volunteer fire service. Oh and for 
the  record I have a 24 plus year background in the volunteer fire and EMS 
world and  I am still engrained in that world today both as a firefighter/EMT and 
as a  career Fire Service Instructor. 

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.

Why would I throw rocks are you a PhD ;)


Louis N.  Molino, Sr., CET
LNMolino at aol.com
979-690-7559  (Office)
979-412-0890 (Cell Phone)
979-690-7562 (Office Fax)

"A  Texan with a Jersey Attitude"

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