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

Conklin, Al (DOH) Al.Conklin at DOH.WA.GOV
Wed Nov 2 09:34:33 CST 2005

I haven't read the article, but based on the opening paragraph, the
author seems to be referring to nuclear power plant emergency responders
as opposed to "first responders" for accidents or terrorist attacks
outside a power plant. They are two different groups. Fire, law
enforcement and hazmat aren't typical responders to a nuke plant, except
to help with roadblocks, evacuations, injured, etc. The responders to
nuke plants are very well trained and trained often. Response centers
are populated by health physicists for technical support to the decision
makers. The outside responders (plume chasers) are trained field teams,
who train several times a year.

The other type of first responders is where there is a potential
problem. Firefighters, police, hazmat teams, etc., are not well trained
as a whole in responding to a radiation accident. In Washington State,
in 2003, we had the TOPOFF II exercise. The first responders were so
leery of simulated radiation, that all the "victims" died. We, in the
Department of health, started a training program for them, including
basics of radiation, how to use radiation instruments, how to protect
themselves, and how to get the help they need. We've trained about 1,200
first responders so far, with about 200 to 300 more scheduled for the
rest of this calendar year, and my assessment is that about 1 in 5 have
some knowledge, maybe 1 in 20 have a fair amount of knowledge, and I've
only run into two that I can recall that are very knowledgeable. 

I think it's important to differentiate between the types of responders.

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On
Behalf Of LNMolino at aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, November 01, 2005 3:23 PM
To: JGinniver at aol.com
Cc: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] ARTICLE: North American First Responders Lack
Radiation 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
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

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
radiation and its effects would address a major   vulnerability of the
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
section (see above) the emphasis seems to be on the response of
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
Three Mile Island) that the emergency service should be  trained to a
standard for this type of incident?  If not then  something serious is

The problem is as I see it is that we have done a very good job here in
US of making Nuke plants fairly safe. Most of the plant "emergencies"
more akin to everyday standard run of the mill industrial emergencies,
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
dealing with these day to day emergencies as well as the  every now and
"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
are likely to respond to a Nuke Plant in the above captioned "support
we  have also done a good job in some ways in terms of training in high
 transport stuff like the WIPP program and the like, and some states
very  good programs in a variety of other areas that involve radiation
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
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
health physics personnel can attend the site, or if necessary  provide
advice if it is required. 

I think if one were to poll all of the CIV Emergency Responders that we
here in the US across the 10 "Disciplines" that we have neatly stacked
into for training and funding purposes you'd be amazed at the lack of
training across the 7-10 million persons (depending on whose numbers you
that fall into that list. If we further were to take out those
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
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
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
the additional training provided by the Health  Protection Agency -
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
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
very  excellent programs operated by our federal government that are
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
and plan on  visiting Morton-on the- Marsh to see how Y'all do fire and
training in  the UK)

This just leaves a terrorist event.  Perhaps I'm just naive in  thinking
any significant terrorist event involving radioactive material  would
some form of improvised explosive device and that blast and  possible
would have far more potential to injure than any quantity of
material that was dispersed, and that the normal procedures  adopted for
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
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
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
volunteer fire and rescue services.  Although we do have part-time
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.
are limited in what they can do, and with the exception  of some units
close to nuclear plants, this would not include  responding to a
incident.  Those units located close to  nuclear plants usually have
from the plant and so possible have a  better understanding of
issues than their full time  colleagues.

As you are likely ware some 80% (loose number) of the American Fire
is volunteer in some way. While only approximately 20% of the population
the  US is protected by volunteers 80% of the land mass of the US is.
understand that within a stones throw of major Metro areas such as
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
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
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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