Size-up is no longer a quick look-see; just look at what has been going on around the world recently. Today, size-up includes being ever alert regarding your own personal safety from madmen and terrorists, expecting the unexpected from someone who may be hell bent on killing as many people as possible. Your initial response may be just a ruse, a setup in order to kill and injure as many responders as possible. Nothing is beyond the imagination of a terrorist, willing to die for a cause.
The use of explosives, weaponry, chemicals and vehicles are part of the present day arsenal. Initially, things may look safe and secure, changing in the blink of an eye to tragedy. Where and how do you begin a size-up. First, it will require observations of all on-scene personnel and a good working relationship with your local police agencies. You definitely need each other’s support.
With the threat of terrorism at an all time high, how prepared are you to protect yourself and the people of your community, and still remain safe? If there should be any form of terrorist attack or release in your community, the fire and emergency services will be in the forefront of the response, and you must be capable of protecting yourself in order to protect others.
How would you respond to a reported threat or attack? What will you look for? How can you tell if a chemical or biological agent has been released? Do you know what procedures to follow in response to a potential terrorist threat? Have you had basic Hazmat training and annual refresher training? Are you familiar with how your HazMat Team is activated and operates? Have you been trained in decontamination procedures? Does your department and other responding agencies train and drill together? Are your local police agencies participants in the training and drills? What is the NAERG? Do you know how to use it? Who will be in charge? Do all responding agencies use the Incident Command System?
If these questions appear difficult for you to answer, then you, your department and community may be in jeopardy from the threat of terrorism and may be placing your personal safety at risk.
On all responses, personnel should stay alert to their surroundings. You must be able to identify the warning signs of a chemical or biological release. Are their numerous civilians appearing sick with no form of trauma, but all displaying the same symptoms? Was there a reported explosion at the scene, yet no sign of mechanical injuries (basic trauma injuries)? Is there some form of cloud, or mist, or liquid spill present? Are bird and insect life in the area dead or dying?
If none of these warning signs are apparent, and there was a report of an explosion, was there a potential radioactive release from the explosive device? Remember, radiation is invisible and only detectable through detection instruments.
As in all safety issues, staying alert is the first step in staying safe! Stay alert for any warning signs of a nuclear, biological and chemical release or threat. You must think each and every response has the potential to be such an incident. Therefore, you have to treat each response as such and look for the warning signals immediately. If there are no indicators visible, you can resume your normal response procedures. Thinking about them 5 or 10 minutes into the operation will be costly, and may even prove fatal.
We are dealing with the unknown on the initial response; therefore every precaution must be taken to protect responding personnel. Once again, if you become a casualty, you can’t help anyone. Also, in your daily activities, do you make note of any suspicious activity and report same to your commanding officer and to the local police agency? Preventing an incident from occurring will always be the best act one can perform in reducing the risk of injury and death.
If you require any form of additional training in order to safely respond to, and mitigate a terrorism incident, you should contact your fire chief and he/she should contact their local county fire coordinator. It is never too late to learn, and learning and training will help keep you safe.
Response to terrorism incidents deals with your safety and the safety of your community. We are living in scary times, but they will be a lot scarier if you are not prepared. You owe it to yourself, your family, your community, your department and your country to be prepared. I know the fire and EMS services can be counted on to perform beyond expectation and render safe their communities from any threat, attack or emergency. Like our troops, you too are on the frontline in America’s fight against terrorism. Performing a good Size-Up helps keep all safe.
Till next time, Stay Safe and God Bless!