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Contact: President Brooke Buddemeier

First Response Working Group

Development of information and techniques for responding to radiological events

  • Charter of the First Response Work Group

  • Katherine McMcLellan, Chair (K_mclellan@verizon.net)

    Thomas F. O'Connell, Hazardous Materials Response

    Tom Clawson, Technical Resources Group, U.S. DOE MERRTT program coordinator

    Gordon Diotalevi, Milford, MA Fire Department, NFPA Certified Hazardous Materials Technician

    Dale Mack,
    RSO, Morehouse School of Medicine

    Doug Van Cleef,
    ORTEC, Instrumentation-Technical Support

    radiation symbol

    Some thoughts about keeping your perspective in a radiological emergency...

    • You can operate safely and accomplish your missions in an incident that involves radiation.
    • Prepare for the worst by wearing your turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as a minimum. Wearing of respiratory protection minimizes the inhalation of the substances that contain radioactive materials.
    • Be aware of your working environment and be observant of all the hazards present at an incident. Radiation may not be your biggest hazard.
    • Be observant; all legally transported radioactive materials will have labels, marking, or placards with the universal radiation symbol.
    • Remember and practice keeping your exposure to both radiological and hazardous materials as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).
    • The basics of keeping your time in the hazard to a minimum, increasing your distance from a hazard, and putting more material between you and the hazard works for a radiological hazard.
    • Call for additional resources, such as radiation experts, early on in the incident when their technical expertise is needed.
    • Use the 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook in addition to your established standard operating protocols to assist you in setting up your initial incident operation zones.


    Radiation Instrumentation...

    • Be knowledgeable and be trained on the instruments that you deploy.
    • Always perform instruments' operational checks prior to deployment.
    • Always perform the operational checks in the cold zone.
    • The area impacted by the incident is constantly changing.
    • There is no magic box that detects all types of radiation.
      • Use an exposure rate meter in the hot or exclusion zone.
    • Use a contamination rate meter at the decontamination line.

    An aid to understanding radiological exposure hazards...

    If 10 microrem (background) = $0.01, then
    1 mrem = $1.00
    1 rem = $1,000.00
    5 rem = $5,000.00 [general monitoring]*
    10 rem = $10,000.00 [protection of large population]*
    25 rem = $25,000.00 [lifesaving value; above this value, written authorization required]*

    *The information within brackets is taken from USEPA 400, 1994.

    Links to First Responder Resources:               

    Radiological Capabilities, Strategy, And Response: The Massachusetts Approach

    Training Presentation on Radiological Exposure Devices

    Emergency Responder Wallet Card and Emergency Responder Wallet Card for laminating

    Due to the similarities between the first responder and public health response to a chemical or radiological incident, this website will provide valuable background information for interested emergency responders:

    Manual for the Public Health Management of Chemical Incidents

    Guidelines for Mass Casualty Decontamination During a HAZMAT/Weapon of Mass Destruction Incident
    Vol. 1
    Vol. 2

    Terrorism Response: A Checklist and Guide for Fire Chiefs

    An Approach to First Responder Radiological Preparedness
    Tom O'Connell and Paul Ares

    Contamination Monitor Procedure (MBAS-RAD-001)                       

    Instructions for Use of Digital Dosimeters (MABAS-RAD-002)

    (Gamma) Exposure-Rate Monitor (MABAS-RAD-003)

    Radiation Detection and Metering Standard Operating Procedure

    First Responders - Does Radiation Change the Response - Presentation by Tom O'Connell

    Plugging Into the Local Incident Command System - Presentation by Tom O'Connell and Steve Clendenin

    Response Actions at Radiation Incidents - A Typical EMS Standard Operating Procedure

    The Challenge of Communication at Hazmat Incidents
    Steven Graham, Marlin Hartman, and George Mosho
    A tool is suggested that should readily improve "passing the word" at HAZMAT incidents. The incorporation of the Five-Paragraph Order (SMEAC) as a standard for HAZMAT response operations orders should significantly increase the safety and effectiveness of the responders.

    Time-to-Dose Calculator - Excel spreadsheet for calculating time-to-dose limit for various instruments

    Nuclear Dose Calculator - Excel spreadsheet for calculating time-to-dose limit when responding to a nuclear weapons attack

    First Responder Job Aids and Documents

    Q&A Radioactive Materials Transportation and Incident Response, FEMA 358, 05-2010: This 27 page, pocket-sized booklet provides answers to the questions typically asked by responders to incidents involving radioactive materials. The booklet provides on scene guidance for responding to radiological incidents along with multiple color photos of transportation packages. The booklet is an update to the existing FEMA 358. This is a must-have document for any responder to an incident involving radioactive materials.

    The Portable Digital Tool for Assisting First Responders is a tool that may be used by emergency service personnel as an aid in the field when responding to a radiological emergency. It is based on the material in the IAEA Manual for First Responders to a Radiological Emergency and contains quick guides with response actions, instructions, and information useful in the first response to a radiological emergency. IAEA Training for Radiological Emergency First Responders is companion training for the IAEA manual.

    The tool has been designed for use on portable devices, such as handheld computers and smart phones, and requires only a Web browser to be used.

    SAFER Mobile Response™ is a FREE mobile app for Android and iOS that puts the 2012 Emergency Response Guide (ERG2012) information, safety measures, and hazard distances at the user's fingertips. The impact zone, protective action distances, and isolation distances are all visualized on top of Google Maps™. SAFER™ Systems has integrated live weather and Google Traffic™ as well as user customized points of interest (POIs) that fall within the impact zone. Scenarios can be shared with colleagues during an emergency event enabling everyone to work off the same visual information and they can be saved to a user’s profile for later review.

    Transportation Emergency Preparedness Program - Emergency Responder Radioactive Material Quick Reference Sheet: This one-page reference sheet provides a quick reference for responding to a transportation accident involving radioactive materials.

    Manual for first responders to a radiological emergency: The objective of this publication by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to provide practical guidance for those responding within the first few hours of a radiological emergency.

    Communicating in the First Hours: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's communication guide for the first hours of an incident

    Medical Management of Internally Radiocontaminated Patients: A manual that is useful for EMS and hospital medical personnel for management of patients internally contaminated with radioactive materials

    NIST Special Publication 981 - Aid for Decontamination of Fire and Rescue Service Protective Clothing and Equipment After Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Exposures

    Emergency Response to Terrorism Job Aid Edition 2: A U.S. Fire Administration handbook

    Critical Incident Stress Management Articles: A compilation of articles covering a variety of topics related to incident stress management

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Radiation emergencies, Information for First Responders contains guidance and recommendations for radiological response.

    CDC/NIOSH Guidance Documents: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's guidance document website on Protecting Emergency Responders

    HSPD-8 Overview: Here is the Department of Homeland Security Office of Grants and Training overview of Presidential Directive 8 National Preparedness, with links to other documents and Presidential directives.

    Emergency Responder Guidelines: The Office for Domestic Preparedness is the Department of Justice's component responsible for enhancing the capabilities of state and local jurisdictions to prepare for, and respond to, incidents of domestic terrorism involving chemical and biological agents and nuclear, radioactive, and explosive devices.

    Radioactive Material Shipment Quick Reference Sheet: A quick reference from the Department of Energy

    There are free software packages that can be used by a responder with an intermediate and advanced knowledge of radiation and radioactive materials. The two free software packages listed here, Rad Pro Calculator and Rad Decay, give you the ability to develop incident zones (i.e. hot, warm and cold) distances based on a meter reading, stay time tables to control response personnel radiation exposures, radiations emitted by different radioactive materials that will assist in meter selection, and radiation unit conversions. These are great programs or the safety officers, planning section and operational section personnel.

    National Fire Protection Association 472 version 2008, Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents: Overview presentation for understanding the guidance identified in this voluntary standard for the competency of personnel operating on the scene of a weapons of mass destruction incident. Meeting the standard has become the baseline for training and demonstrated competencies for any hazardous materials response. The presentation was prepared by Gregory G. Noll, CSP, CHMM, Chairperson of the NFPA 472 Technical Committee.

    Websites of Interest to First Responders:

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a lot of information on bioterrorism agents, chemical warfare, diseases, and other threats in addition to radiological emergencies. There is information on how to handle mass casualty incidents.

    GET INVOLVED with the LOCAL RESPONSE: The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

    The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) provides state-of-the-art science, technology, and engineering solutions to meet the rapidly changing needs of the war fighter. Located in Edgewood, Maryland, ECBC offers more than 85 years' experience in chemical and biological defense and houses many facilities capable of handling items contaminated with chemical, biological, or radiological materials.

    Specific ECBC offerings include a full array of material management assistance ranging from risk management to agent detection, testing, and decontamination. By partnering with industry, academia, and the first responder community, ECBC leverages this expertise, furthering its mission to protect U.S. Armed Forces and U.S. interests.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has published many documents pertaining to radiological emergency response. There are technical documents on radiological response, case histories of past incidents to learn what went right and what went wrong, medical aspects of radiation exposures, risks from radiation, and emergency planning and preparation documents. In addition, the IAEA has a website dedicated to first responders including a Manual for first responders to a radiological emergency.

    Comprehensive Planning Guide (CPG) 201 (August 2013 Second Revision)

    Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 201 provides guidance for developing emergency operations plans. It promotes a common understanding of the fundamentals of risk-informed planning and decision making to help planners examine a hazard or threat and produce integrated, coordinated, and synchronized plans. The goal of CPG 201 is to assist in making the planning process routine across all phases of emergency management and for all homeland security mission areas. This Guide helps planners at all levels of government in their efforts to develop and maintain viable, all-hazards, all-threats emergency plans.
    Also available is the THIRA Toolkit (April 2012) that is a supplement to the CPG 201.

    Use of the FEMA banner does not imply a relationship with, affiliation with, sponsorship of, or endorsement of the HPS or this website.

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
    The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response was created under the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act in the wake of Katrina to lead the nation in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters. ASPR focuses on preparedness planning and response; building federal emergency medical operational capabilities; countermeasures research, advance development, and procurement; and grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals and health care systems in public health emergencies and medical disasters. The office provides federal support, including medical professionals through ASPR's National Disaster Medical System, to augment state and local capabilities during an emergency or disaster.

    Under the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, HHS is the lead agency for the National Response Framework (NRF) for Emergency Support Function 8 (ESF). The Secretary of HHS delegates to ASPR the leadership role for all health and medical services support function in a health emergency or public health event.

    If you want to know how the Incident Command System works, FIRESCOPE is the site to see and learn.

    The Mission of FIRESCOPE is to (1) provide professional recommendations and technical assistance to the director of OES (Office of Emergency Services) and the OES Fire and Rescue Branch on the following program elements:

    • Statewide Fire and Rescue Cooperative Agreement (Mutual Aid) Plan
    • Statewide Fire and Rescue Cooperative Agreement (Mutual Aid) System
    • Mutual Aid Use and Application
    • OES Fire and Rescue Branch staffing needs
    • Policies and Programs
    • Apparatus and Equipment programs

    and (2) maintain a system known as the FIRESCOPE "Decision Process" to continue statewide operation, development, and maintenance of the following FIRESCOPE-developed Incident Command System (ICS) and Multiagency Coordination System (MACS) components:

    • Improved methods for coordinating multiagency firefighting resources during major incidents
    • Improved methods for forecasting fire behavior and assessing fire, weather, and terrain conditions on an incident
    • Standard terminology for improving incident management
    • Improved multiagency training on FIRESCOPE-developed components and products
    • Common mapping systems
    • Improved incident information management
    • Regional operational coordination centers for regional multiagency coordination

    The NIOSH website, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contains many resources currently used in the hazardous-materials and first-responder communities. These resources include pocket guides on chemical safety, emergency response resources, respiratory protection information, and emergency preparedness guidance for businesses.

    NIOSH objectives include:

    • Conduct research to reduce work-related illnesses and injuries
    • Promote safe and healthy workplaces through interventions, recommendations, and capacity building
    • Enhance global workplace safety and health through international collaborations

    The RAND Corporation publishes many documents pertaining to terrorism and other world affairs. It is a valuable resource for researching various topics that involve preparing to respond to emergencies and insight into the reasons things are the way they are in the world. The nice thing is that material on homeland security and other topics can be downloaded or reviewed with no cost to the site visitor.

    The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. For more than 50 years, the RAND Corporation has pursued its nonprofit mission by conducting research on important and complicated problems. Initially, RAND (the name was derived from a contraction of the term research and development) focused on issues of national security. Eventually, RAND expanded its intellectual reserves to offer insight into other areas, such as business, education, health, law, and science. RAND's innovative approach to problem solving has become the benchmark for all other "think tanks" that followed.

    RAND is a nonpartisan research institute and use of its banner does not imply a relationship with, affiliation with, sponsorship of, or endorsement of the HPS or this website.

    FirstResponder.gov provides first responders with information on technology, resources, products, programs, standards, testing and evaluation, and best practices. FirstResponder.gov is offered by the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate. S&T's mission is to strengthen America's security and resiliency by providing knowledge products and innovative technology solutions for the Homeland Security Enterprise.

    DISCLAIMER: Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users and the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for any content on these websites. Furthermore, the placement of the links on this website does not constitute an endorsement of any programs, policies or views of the organizations by the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.

    This system allows you to narrow down a hazardous substance by looking at human symptoms and/or the characteristics of the hazardous material. The PC-based system lets you link to many GIS resources for mapping and U.S. EPA Tier II reporting sites. Very neat, a valuable responder tool, and it's free.

    WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) is a system designed to assist first responders in hazardous-material incidents. Developed by the National Library of Medicine, WISER provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression guidance.

    The operational version of WISER for Windows is now available for download! The operational version of WISER for Palm OS is also available.

    • Mobile support, providing first responders with critical information in the palm of their hand
    • Comprehensive decision support, including assistance in identification of an unknown substance and, once the substance is identified, providing guidance on immediate actions necessary to save lives and protect the environment
    • Access to 390 substances from NLM's Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB), which contains detailed information on over 4,700 critical hazardous substances
    • Rapid access to the most important information about a hazardous substance by an intelligent synopsis engine and display called "Key Info"
    • Intuitive, simple, and logical user interface developed by working with experienced first responders

    This website has a number of documents that pertain to first responders, areas of response, and methods of improving response. There are a couple of sections of interest, especially on homeland security and terrorism, that provide a lot of guidance to first responders on biological, chemical, and radiological issues.

    The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. GAO is often called the "congressional watchdog" because it investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

    GAO gathers information to help Congress determine how well executive-branch agencies are doing their jobs. GAO's work routinely answers such basic questions as whether government programs are meeting their objectives or providing good service to the public. Ultimately, GAO ensures that government is accountable to the American people. To that end, GAO provides Senators and Representatives with the best information available to help them arrive at informed policy decisions: information that is accurate, timely, and balanced. GAO supports congressional oversight by:

    • Evaluating how well government policies and programs are working.
    • Auditing agency operations to determine whether federal funds are being spent efficiently, effectively, and appropriately.
    • Investigating allegations of illegal and improper activities.
    • Issuing legal decisions and opinions.

    REMM "Radiation Emergency Medical Management: REMM (US Department of Health and Human Services)

    • Provide guidance for health care providers, primarily physicians, about clinical diagnosis and treatment of radiation injury during radiological and nuclear emergencies
    • Provide just-in-time, evidence-based, usable information with sufficient background and context to make complex issues understandable to those without>/i> formal radiation medicine expertise
    • Provide web-based information that is also downloadable in advance, so that it would be available during an emergency if the internet is not accessible

    At a time of new global opportunities and challenges, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) provides strategic insights and policy solutions to decision makers in government, international institutions, the private sector, and civil society. A bipartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC, CSIS conducts research and analysis and develops policy initiatives that look into the future and anticipate change.

    Since 1962, CSIS has grown to become one of the world's preeminent international policy institutions, with more than 220 full-time staff and a large network of affiliated scholars focused on defense and security, regional stability, and transnational challenges ranging from energy and climate to global development and economic integration.

    Homeland1.com is revolutionizing the way in which the homeland security community finds relevant news, identifies important training information, interacts with colleagues, and researches product information. With more than 12,000 members across public safety, Homeland1 offers a full range of articles, videos, training tips, and product information. Homeland1 addresses the wide-ranging needs of domestic preparedness: from command and control to bioterrorism, disaster exercises, and funding and is a resource for emergency managers, disaster planners, and counter-terrorism officials across the country.