Monday, April 28, 2008

International Hazardous Materials Response Teams Conference

The IHMTRT Conference will be held May 29th thru June 1st of this year at Hunt Valley, MD. This conference addresses the training and equipment for the hazardous material response teams that would respond to terrorist attacks at chemical facilities (among other incidents, of course). As such it might be interesting to look at some of the issues that will be addressed in selected informational sessions at this conference.

Friday Sessions

There will be 29 sessions on Friday, but two of the sessions on Friday, May 30th that will be of specific interest to readers of this blog:

  • 108: Special Operations for Terrorism Response
  • 204: The Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Fusion Center

The first session will be conducted by members of the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit. They will be discussing those things that responders need to consider when they are responding to a known or suspected terrorist attack. This will be similar to AFSOI class that I discussed in an earlier blog (see: "Terrorist Attack as a Crime Scene")

The second session will be an update on the establishment of Hazmat Fusion Center. This is part of a developing program to ensure that intelligence and lessons learned are shared between various levels of government and industry. Attendees will have a chance to put in their two cents worth on how that center should be developed.

Saturday Session

The 33 sessions on Saturday will provide a wider selection for personnel looking for information that could pertain to terrorist attacks on chemical facilities or transportation. Those sessions will include:

  • 405: Evidence Awareness during Terrorism Incidents
  • 605: Recognition of IED’s
  • 606: Keeping Your Exercises on the Rails

The first session will again be lead by an FBI team (the same team that lead the Friday session) and will concentrate more on the preserving of evidence and working with the FBI investigation team. The point of this session is not to teach you to collect evidence, but to preserve it until the professional investigators get on scene.

The recognition of IED’s is important to anyone that responds to a terrorist attack. Probably the most common terrorist tactic is to use an IED left at the scene of an attack to conduct a secondary attack on first responders. Any time you respond to a suspected terrorist attack you should be looking for IED’s and this will help you do that.

The third Saturday session deals with keeping an emergency response exercise flowing in the direction that you intend. Keeping an exercise focused and in control is important an important component in making it successful. This session is directed at those people that plan and execute these exercises rather than the emergency response personnel taking part.

Additional Saturday Sessions of Interest

There are four additional sessions on Saturday that will provide some good information for response to industrial hazmat incidents. These will not necessarily include data specific to terrorist attacks, but the general lessons will be applicable.

  • 406: Monomers and Polymerization Reactions
  • 407: Liquefied Toxic Gases: Simple Methods of Quickly Reducing the Risk Zone
  • 505: The Development of New TIH Tank Cars
  • 608: Emergency Response to Laboratory Incidents

Monomers can be toxic, flammable, and even corrosive. More importantly they are self reactive and the strangest things can cause those reactions to get quickly out of control. Hazmat responders need to have a basic understanding of these very common chemicals so that they do not make a bad situation worse by making good-intentioned bad decisions.

Liquefied toxic gases have the potential for quickly expanding the scope of a hazmat site. The second session will cover some methods for controlling the vapor cloud that results when these liquids are released from containment. It will include some simple new techniques developed in Sweden.

The third session deals with the new rail cars that are being developed to transport TIH, toxic inhalation hazard, chemicals. These rail cars are 18,000 gallon potential WMD. These new cars are going to make it less likely that they will release their contents during derailments. First responders will certainly appreciate these changes.

The fourth session deals with how to minimize the collateral damage caused by responders at hazmat incidents in laboratories. This session will familiarize personnel with typical laboratory procedures and set-ups allowing the responder to deal with hazmat situations in labs more effectively while keeping the research disruption to a necessary minimum.

Facility Security Officers

Facility security officers are need to include local first responders in the emergency response plans. While there is no substitute for talking with the people that will actually be responding, attending this conference may be a good way for security officers to get a better understanding of what to expect from first responders. Understanding and communication; these are two good tools in any emergency response situation.

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