Introduction to CBRNE Terrorism

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Introduction to CBRNE Terrorism
An Awareness Primer and Preparedness Guide for Emergency Responders
By
Robert J. Heyer, D.Sc.
Hazardous Materials Specialist
Red Bank, New Jersey

January 10, 2006
Number Twenty in the DERA Monograph Series
Published by
The Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Association
P.O. Box 797
Longmont, CO 80502
www.disasters.org
Introduction to CBRNE Terrorism: An Awareness Primer and Preparedness Guide for Emergency Responders
By Robert J. Heyer, D.Sc.
Number Twenty in the DERA Monograph Series
Published by The Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Association
P.O. Box 797, Longmont, CO 80502
Editor: Dennis I. O’Quinn
October 15, 2001; Revised April 7, 2003; January 10, 2006
ISSN 1521-1592
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2006, DERA International. This publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express
prior permission of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Association, Inc. (DERA), P.O. Box 797, Longmont,
Colorado, 80502 USA. Worldwide rights reserved. DERA and the DERA Logo are Trademarks (™} of the Disaster Preparedness
and Emergency Response Association, Ind.. Notice to academics, governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations: Permission
to reprint this publication will normally be granted upon request. Fair Use Doctrine applies. You are welcome to quote portions of
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Table of Contents
Topic Page
Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1
Conventional Weapons and Explosives………………………………………………………………… 2
Nuclear and Radioactive Weapons………………………………………………………………………. 3
Chemical Weapons……………………………………………………………………………………………. 3
Biological Weapons……………………………………………………………………………………………. 4
Handling Suspicious Mail……………………………………………………………………………………. 4
Emergency Decontamination……………………………………………………………………………… 5
Self Protection for Responders……………………………………………………………………………. 6
Establishing an Emergency Command Post…………………………………………………………. 7
General Safety Guidelines…………………………………………………………………………………. 8
Early Indicators of Attack……………………………………………………………………………………. 8
Likely Targets…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 9
Conclusion and Recommendations…………………………………………………………………….. 9
Table of Properties for Major Chemical and Biological Agents……………………………….. 10
DERA Mission Statement and Membership Invitation……………………………………………. 11

Introduction to CBRNE Terrorism
An Awareness Primer and Preparedness Guide for Emergency Responders
By
Robert J. Heyer, D.Sc.1
Red Bank, New Jersey
INTRODUCTION
As demonstrated recently, even small groups of individuals have the ability to cause massive
damage and extensive human suffering with little or no warning. Predictably, firefighters, police
officers, EMS personnel, and civilian volunteers will respond and be on the scene moments
after any attack occurs. For such events in the future, however, rescue and treatment of victims
and control or containment of fire and other hazards will be greatly complicated by the fact that
the site may also be contaminated with nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological substances
that pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of the emergency responders.
Also, the immediate impact of such attacks may reach much further than the scene of the
disaster. Thousands of injured and potentially contaminated victims may depart the scene,
returning to the suburbs and satellite cities where they reside, or privately seeking medical
assistance.
Emergency responders in metropolitan areas and far beyond will need to move quickly to deal
with this predictable exodus from cities following any attack.
This primer is an introduction to the types of weapons first responders may be exposed to in a
terrorist attack. Responders need to be ready to deal with any possible situation quickly,
efficiently and professionally. Knowledge of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, nuclear and
Explosive weapons (CBRNE) is needed for every first responder.
This paper is intended to provide an awareness-level introduction to the subject for first
responders and community officials. The intention of this paper is to give responders and those
managing community emergency programs enough basic information to safeguard themselves
and those for whom they are responsible. This material should also be suitable for use as
talking points for public information officers and those training or educating volunteer
organizations or the general public.
This information in this paper is not sufficient to prepare responders to work in contaminated
areas. Those workers require training at the Operations, Technician and higher levels.
With proper awareness and preparedness, we can save lives and reduce the impact of any
potential terrorist attack.
1 Dr. Heyer is a biologist with extensive field experience in emergency response, hazardous materials situation management,
bioenvironmental protection, infection control, radiological protection and respiratory protection. He is currently a Captain with the
Red Bank (New Jersey) Fire Department, and was assigned as a decontamination operations manager for two field teams
supporting evacuees and first responders from the World Trade Center disaster operations on September 11, 2001. He may be
contacted via Email at: robertheyer@yahoo.com
– 1 –
What types of weapons might be used?
Terrorists potentially have a wide range of available weapons, ranging from very simple to exceedingly
complex. With knowledge, preparation and training, first responders can safely deal with the
consequences of each.
In general, terrorist weapons can be categorized into four major types. It is important to remember that
different types of weapons can be combined or used sequentially. Terrorist weapons are often referred to
as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) because of the ability to kill large numbers of people.
The four categories of weapons are:
1. Conventional Weapons & Explosives.
2. Nuclear and Radioactive Weapons.
3. Chemical Weapons.
4. Biological Weapons.
Conventional Weapons and Explosives
The most likely type of terrorist weapon is a conventional explosive device. Some of these conventional
weapons pack a very powerful punch and can bring down large buildings. The casualties could number in
the hundreds in this type of attack. One example of this type weapon was the fuel oil-fertilizer bomb used
to attack the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
First responders should be alert to the potential for structure collapse as well as secondary explosive
devices in the area.
Great caution should be used if the explosion seems to do little damage. A small explosive device might
be used to disperse chemical, biological or even radioactive agents. Another purpose of a small device
might be to bring large numbers of first responders, who are then subjected to a larger secondary device.
Another immediate problem for responders and victims is the potential for asbestos exposure. Older
buildings may contain asbestos as insulation, pipe coverings, siding or roofing, flooring, adhesives, floor
or ceiling tile and wall panels. Any explosion or collapse may cause this asbestos to become airborne in
hazardous levels.
Immediately, the primary inhalation threat and decontamination problem will be dust. Any expedient
breathing protection should be used–masks, wet towels, handkerchiefs, etc.–while exiting the area
immediately. Footbaths and wash-downs are most effect for decontamination of normal conventional
incidents if asbestos exposure is suspected. Eye washing with clean water is usually needed
immediately as well.
Terrorists recently utilized a new type of conventional weapon, the airplane. Quantities of residual,
unburned fuel may remain when an aircraft is used as the weapon of attack. In addition to the resultant
fire hazard, aviation gasoline and jet fuel are hazardous substances, and decontamination efforts may
need to include removal of fuel contaminant.
As with all hazardous materials incidents, refer to the Emergency Response Guidebook for evacuation,
protection and decontamination procedures.
– 2 –
Nuclear and Radiological Weapons
It is very unlikely that terrorists will have access to a functional nuclear weapon in the near future.
Nevertheless, it should be remembered that suitcase-sized nuclear devices have been reported missing
from military storage areas in the former Soviet Union. This does lead to the possibility of these devices
becoming available to terrorist organizations. Therefore, response and planning agencies cannot totally
rule out the possibility that terrorists will attempt to transport and use nuclear devices.
It is much more likely that terrorists may attempt to use conventional weapons to attack nuclear power
plants or radioactive waste storage or processing facilities. Another potential is that a conventional
explosive might be used to spread radioactive materials over a large area.
Radiation comes from the decay of radioactive isotopes of certain elements and compounds. Radiation
can be in the form of alpha, beta, or gamma rays. All three are odorless and colorless and can be
detected only with radiation detectors.
The primary hazard will be from dust contaminated with radioactive sources. It will be very important for
the first responder to use respiratory protection to avoid breathing in the radioactive dust. Footbaths and
wash-downs will be a useful in the decontamination of victims. Detergent can be added to the water to
remove the radioactive dust. It is very important to collect all water and contain the runoff, as it will also be
radioactive.
First responders who are not properly trained and adequately equipped should not enter radioactive
areas or make contact with people or items that are contaminated.
Chemical Weapons
Terrorists have used chemical weapons in the recent past and it is likely to happen again. A very large
number of casualties could be expected in a successful chemical attack.
Chemical agents can enter the body by inhalation of the chemical agents, absorption through the skin or
eyes, injection into the body by flying glass or shrapnel, or by ingesting with food or water. A likely
delivery method is in the form of a gas or as an aerosol spray.
There are numerous chemical agents each with different symptoms and effects. Please see Appendix A
for more detailed information on the more common types of agents. The most common families of
chemical agents are:

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