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Chemistry of Counterterrorism: A Unified Approach Will Aid Public Safety Response to Chemical Terror Attacks

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 35 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2008 Pages: 104,106,109
William Finegan
Date Published
April 2008
5 pages
This article discusses the rationale and means of integrating and coordinating the emergency response of law enforcement and firefighting personnel (which have the expertise in managing hazardous materials) to incidents that may involve terrorists' chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) weapons.
The first step in assessing what and how public-safety resources should be used in a jurisdiction or region should be to conduct a threat assessment. This involves profiling all possible threats on an equal footing and then reducing them to the most likely threats by asking the following questions: Are we vulnerable? Is there intention? Does your adversary have the capabilities to attack you? Such a threat assessment leads first responders into the realm of the possible, where they can begin to analyze the likely when, where, and how. The author, who is an expert in assessing the threat of CBRNE weapons, advises that the most likely and credible terrorist threats involve outdoor releases of respiratory irritants (e.g., explosives that target chlorine tankers in Baghdad) and indoor releases of turbo-pesticides (e.g., the Tokyo subway attacks). In order to deal effectively with CBRNE threats, first-responders should develop a common language that enables them to communicate with one another efficiently and effectively in addressing operational problems. First-responders schooled in different threat and tactical knowledge and equipped with various resources must prepare for organizational and operational cooperation. This can be done by having joint training sessions that focus on likely threats and attack/accident scenarios that require a cooperative response by SWAT and hazmat personnel. Based on training and management efforts, it is possible to create an effective CBRNE tactical team that will assume leadership when such threats become a reality.