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A GUIDE TO TRANSPORTATION'S ROLE IN PUBLIC HEALTH DISASTERS SUMMARY This report contains introductory information on chemical, biological, and radio- logical (CBR) threats as they relate to the transportation system. The report presents the fundamentals of CBR agents, describes the basic information needed for emergency response decisions, discusses how CBR threats relate to transportation system vulner- abilities and consequence minimization actions, and generally compares the different threat-agent categories. The transportation section describes each of the transportation modes (i.e., highway, maritime, rail, aviation, and mass transit), their general organi- zation, and their emergency response plans, options, and structure. Incident response to a CBR release probably will involve establishing isolation and restriction areas where dangerous contaminant levels are suspected. The extent of such areas often will change as a more thorough survey of contaminant levels is conducted. In general, the speed with which CBR contamination can be identified affects the duration of broader, initial restricted areas and related requirements for suspension of transportation service and traffic re-routing. Chemical and radiological agents can be identified rapidly with portable detectors. In contrast, only a few types of biological agents can be identified with portable detectors. For most biological agents, identification takes several days of laboratory analyses. The longer time usually required for identifying the extent of biological contamination means isolation and restriction areas will be delineated with a wider margin of uncer- tainty incorporated into the restricted area to ensure safety. Non-persistent CBR agents (e.g., industrial gases, sarin, and many vegetative bacteria and viruses) typically do not pose a substantial threat for more than a day or two unless there is a continual source of release. In contrast, persistent agents have the potential to cause greater disruption of transportation because of the longer period over which they pose a substantial threat. Suspension of transportation services because of a CBR release is determined largely by the duration of decontamination. CBR agents that are not persistent may naturally degrade or disperse to safe levels within hours to days (e.g., industrial gases, sarin, and many vegetative bacteria and viruses) and thus may not require ac- tive efforts for decontamination. Although many chemical and biological agents are relatively easy to decontaminate, decontamination methods that involve applying
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2 chemicals such as bleach solutions can also destroy property (e.g., carpet and uphol- stery), and extend the total reclamation period. For persistent chemicals (e.g., mus- tard and VX) and biological agents (e.g., anthrax and mycotoxins), decontamination is likely to take days to months. In general, radiological agents are the most persis- tent and difficult to decontaminate. Decontamination of a radiological release is likely to take months to years. Table S-1 (the same as Table 2-16) summarizes the transportation system's vulner- abilities with respect to the system's ability to retain contamination of persistent CBR agents at levels that may affect human health, the difficulty of decontamination, and the ability to spread these contaminants. In enclosed areas (e.g., passenger compartments and buildings), the ventilation system may help in dispersing CBR agents, thus shutting down these systems is a com- monly recommended first response. In open, outdoor areas, concerns about wind spread of contamination may be off set by factors such as wind ability to enhance evaporation of liquid agents and broadly dilute vapors and small particles to safe levels and sunlight degradation of many chemical and biological agents. These same factors may help de- contamination of chemical and biological agents in open environments; however, runoff control of decontamination chemicals may be more challenging. TABLE S-1 Relative Vulnerabilities of the Transportation System to Releases of Persistent Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Agents. (Persistence more than 24 hours to substantially degrade in an open environment) Ability to Retain Difficulty of Ability to Spread Vulnerability Contamination Decontamination Contamination Chem 1 Bio2 Rad 3 Chem 1 Bio2 Rad 3 Chem Bio Rad Transportation Path Road Medium Medium High Medium Medium High Low Low Low Track Medium Medium High Medium Medium High Low Low Low Tarmac Medium Medium High Medium Medium High Low Low Low Air Low Low Low Low Low Low High 4 High 4 High 4 Waterway Low Low Low Low Low Low High 4 High 4 High 4 Indoor or Underground Stations/ Terminals Smooth surfaces High High High Medium Medium High Low Low Low Porous surfaces 5 High High High Medium High High Low Low Low HVAC system Medium Medium Medium Low Low Low High High High Outdoor Stations/ Terminals Smooth surfaces Medium Medium High Low Low Medium Low Low Low Porous surfaces 5 Medium Medium High Medium Medium High Low Low Low Vehicles/ Vessels Smooth surfaces Medium Medium Medium Low Low Medium Low Low Low Porous surfaces 5 High High High High High High 6 Medium Medium High HVAC system Medium Medium Medium Low Low Low High High High Contents Crew/ Passengers Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium High6 Medium 7 Medium Cargo/ food/ water High High High Medium Medium High High High High 1 Persistent chemicals include some chemical weapons agents (e.g., mustard agents, VX). Most transported industrial chemicals and many chemical agents are not persistent; thus ability to retain contamination and the difficulty of decontamination is low for many chemicals due to their non-persistence. 2 Persistent biological agents include Anthrax spores, mycotoxins (T2 or yellow rain), and the causative agent of Q- fever, none of which are very contagious. Most other biological agents are not persistent in an open environment, and the ability to retain contamination and the difficulty of decontamination would be relatively low. 3 Most radiological agents are persistent. For those that are not persistent the ability to retain contamination and the difficulty of decontamination would be relatively low. 4 Ability to spread contamination is high, but the contaminant may be relatively quickly diluted below levels of concern. 5 Porous surfaces include corroded metal, cement, rubber, carpet, fabric, etc. 6 Most persistent chemical agents of concern (i.e., mustard and VX) are oily liquids that may adhere to skin, clothing, and other porous surfaces better than solid particle forms of radiological and biological agents. 7 High if the biological agent is contagious (i.e., influenza, pneumonic plague, smallpox, some hemorrhagic fevers).
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3 In general, porous surfaces have greater ability to retain contamination than smooth surfaces. Porous surfaces such as fabric, rubber, and corroded metal have microscopic pits and valleys that may retard natural degradation and hinder decontamination efforts. After decontamination, the only CBR agents that may be spread further are the subset of biological agents that are contagious. For many diseases, the most contagious stages occur during the period that infected individuals are obviously sick and often confined to bed. The transportation system may make easier the dispersal of infected individuals be- fore contagious stages, in addition to the possibility of contagious passengers infecting other passengers. Five modes are considered within the national transportation system: highway, maritime, rail, air, and mass transit. Controlling agencies for each these modes, along with their emergency response organization and general historical emergency response activities can suggest how these resources may be used in future events and what or- ganizations may be involved in developing mutual assistance agreements. About 77 percent of the highway system is owned by local governments, 20 percent by states, and 3 percent by the federal government. Emergency response plans for high- ways are developed by state departments of transportation (DOT). These plans address emergency response modification of traffic flow, determination of roadway soundness, and provision of trucks and personnel per the request of incident command. Counties and municipalities also have transportation and emergency response offices with plans that like the state DOT plans, are for emergency re-direction of traffic passing on their roadway. Thus, during an emergency, the primary entities for activating emergency re- sponse that affect the highway system are state and local governments. There are about 150 deep-draft ports in the US. These are overseen by state and local port authorities, with the primary objective of promoting commerce. There are significantly more shallow-draft ports, which are run by local governments and commercial entities. Regardless of port, vessel size or ownership, the US Coast Guard (USCG), has primary responsibility for safety and emergency response over the nation's waterways and in its ports. The USCG develops Area Security Plans that address emergency operations. During emergency events, temporary ferry lines have been established to supplement other compromised transportation modes and assist in evacuations. Many large tugboats are equipped to assist with firefighting needs, and various pubic and private vessels have assisted with search and rescue operations. The primary entity for activating emergency response activities that af- fect the maritime system is the USCG. More than 90 percent of freight railroads, including rail track, are privately owned and operated. While there are only 8 large, Class I carriers that operate 68 percent of the track, there are more than 500 smaller railroads. The activities of these companies are coordinated through the America Association of Railroads (AAR), which maintains a single-point database of rail shipments through Railinc. Decisions about emergency changes in security and operations are typically made at a corporate level, where there are rotating shifts, around-the-clock, of top decision-makers. During emergency re- sponse events, resources provided by railroads have included use of freight cars, shipping of supplies free of charge, and increasing on-duty staff as needed to meet emergency shipping needs. The single-point contact for initiating emergency response activities that affect the rail system is the AAR, which in turn, can quickly identify the appropriate organizations for the region, and assist in the coordination of traffic among various carriers. The air transportation system consists of three segments, each with different types of ownership. Airports are typically owned and operated by state or local governments. Aircraft are primarily owned by commercial and private entities. Communications,
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4 navigation, and the air traffic control (ATC) system are primarily owned by the federal government. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released an advisory for "State and Regional Disaster Airlift (SARDA) Planning." SARDA may be developed and implemented by a state or regional DOT, or office of aviation, its resources may include those within state and local governments, the Civil Air Patrol, and other volunteer organizations of commercial and private operators such as the Emergency Volunteer Air Corp (EVAC), etc. When a state emergency is declared, National Guard resources are available; and when a national emergency is declared, more resources may be provided by the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) and the US Department of De- fense (DOD). Not all states have developed a SARDA plan. In these cases, the Civil Air Patrol may provide the first line of aviation support. Aircraft and helicopters may transport supplies, first-responders, and evacuees. Limitations are typically not with aircraft availability, but rather with airport capacity. The mass transit systems predominantly are owned and operated by county, city, or metropolitan area governments. Some transit service is provided by private entities, often in affiliation with local mass transit agencies. All transit agencies have some level of emergency plans that often include preset alternate routes and schedules to allow them to move around problem areas and to provide assistance to first-responders as needed. The 30 largest public transit agencies have plans that specifically address weapons of mass destruction. Emergency response decisions in mass transit organizations are typi- cally made at the operations level. In addition to re-routing around isolation areas and assisting with evacuations, mass transit vehicles may be modified to assist with trans- port of supplies. In general, emergency response decisions follow pre-set plans that can be superseded by the incident command. These actions do not require explicit consulta- tion or approval within the transit agency beyond the operations division.