BOX 4.2
Groups That Can Help Respond to a Terrorist Attack Using a Chemical Agent

Many (if not most) cities and many industries have HAZMAT teams trained and equipped to deal with accidental spills and releases of toxic industrial chemicals. They have not been trained or equipped to deal with terrorist incidents, but chemical weapons of the types that would most plausibly be used by terrorists are not fundamentally different from the chemicals that these teams already address.

Among the first responders to chemical terrorism, fire departments can be a major resource. All fire departments have personnel who are trained and equipped to work with respirators and protective gear (as hazardous vapors are always a part of fires), and they are of course trained to deal with emergencies. The police are not routinely equipped to respond to chemical incidents per se (although they play an essential role in maintaining order). Equipping police units with protective gear is, however, a practical way of expanding the number of individuals who can actively participate in the response to a chemical incident.

Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams from the Department of Defense are deployed around the country.1 These groups have a limited but possibly useful capability to coordinate communications among responders and to carry out chemical and biological analyses.

Another substantial capability in place is the military, including active-duty, reserve, and National Guard personnel. The military has trained and equipped for chemical warfare during the past 50 years. It maintains large supplies of relevant equipment—protective suits, prophylactics, and medical countermeasures against nerve and blister agents. These assets are geared, however, to wars on foreign battlefields. An important issue is to understand how to use this capability in time of need inside the continental United States.


As of April 2002, 27 teams had been deployed, with 5 more authorized and in the planning stage.

12 and 13.) In some chemical attacks, still other agencies would be involved (e.g., the USDA for attacks on the food supply and the EPA where decontamination is required). The most efficient mechanism for working through the usual conflicts among these organizations, and for rendering workable the laws and regulations under which they operate, is to carry out field exercises—simulations of real attacks—with all those entities that would be likely to participate. Differences should be settled before an event rather than after it.

Exercises and protocols can only be taken so far, however; it is impossible to envision and plan for all possible scenarios. To minimize the consequences of any attack, it is thus essential that the person (or persons) in charge of the response be able to readily access as much information as possible and to commu-

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