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

Edwards, Richard W richard.w.edwards at boeing.com
Mon Nov 7 10:02:40 CST 2005

Having been involved with supporting emergency response and training
emergency responders for a number of years, the last 15 in western
Washington State (an area covered by the program referenced by Al
Conklin), I have a number of comments regarding this issue.

(1) Training is merely one element of a response program. Adequate
operational protocols, equipment, and specialized support are also
necessary elements. Until those elements are developed, training must be
too general to enable adequate response in the real world.

(2) Emergencies with sources of radiation involved are extremely rare
for most response agencies. Emergency services have a reasonable
tendency to focus training (as well as development of operational
protocols and acquisition of resources) to those areas they view to be
most likely to occur...or to those areas that someone else will pay for.

(3) Outreach on the part of the radiation safety community is suboptimal
(okay...it's abysmal). In my experience, the number of radiation safety
professionals that are willing to learn enough about emergency services
to be able to be effective in working with them to upgrade operational
protocols, equipment, and training is a tiny fraction of our community.
In many ways, radiation safety professionals do more to inhibit the
improvement of radiation emergency response capabilities by mystifying
radiation, amplifying the risks of radiation exposures without
comparison to other risks emergency responders accept on a daily basis,
suggesting only radiation specialists are capable of guiding
decision-making during radation emergencies, and developing parallel (or
skewed!) response methods rather than adapting the responders' existing
response methods to radiation response needs.

(4) Existing, capable resources supporting radiation emergency response
is not well advertised or easily accessed. Typically, these are state
level capabilities that are not (or not understood to be) directly
accessible to the first in responder.

For all these reasons, the maturity of emergency services in radiation
emergency response spreads clear across the spectrum. If you look to the
response to other hazardous materials, you will see many of the same
issues, although not necessarily to the degree seen in radiation
emergency response.

So my question to you is what are you doing about it in your community?

Richard W. Edwards

Boeing Radiation Health Protection
206 544-5888

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