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War on Terror: Government report on coping with fallout from 'dirty bomb'.

The Government yesterday published its plans for mass decontamination after a theoretical terrorist strike with chemical weapons or a nuclear 'dirty bomb'.

The Home Office's new document assumes a 'worst case scenario' in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) attack.

It brings together existing guidelines from a range of groups including emergency services and government departments, and also deals with what to do in the event of an unintentional release of CBRN material.

'It is likely that a terrorist attack would involve a specific target such as a VIP, critical or iconic location, or high profile event,' says the 39page document.

It warns: 'The numbers of people exposed and requiring decontamination from chemical or biological terrorism may grow swiftly to many more than anything experienced or planned for following conventional disaster or naturally occurring outbreak.

'But it is not inevitable that CBRN terrorism will always lead to high levels of contamination.'

It adds: 'The experience of September 11 has shown that multiple incidents may have to be handled simultaneously, perhaps within the boundaries of a single authority.'

It raised the spectre of disturbances or even riots at the scene of a CBRN contamination.

'If there is impatience to enter the decontamination facility, responders should expect public disorder,' it said.

It set out the detailed roles and responsibilities of the police, fire, ambulance, NHS, local councils, Environment Agency and coroners in the event of an attack.

The document, designed for use by emergency services and local councils, describes the area immediately around an incident as the Hot Zone, where police, fire and military will work to rescue casualties and investigate any attack.

Immediately surrounding the Hot Zone is the Warm Zone, where decontamination begins.

An inner cordon surrounds both these zones, straddled by decontamination units.

Beyond that, the Cold Zone is where command and control vehicles are based, with a survivor rest centre and ambulance loading point, all surrounded by an outer cordon. Mass decontamination methods could include 'low pressure water spray from a fire hose, portable showers, the use of large, purpose-built mobile units and the use of fixed facilities away from the scene'.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 4, 2003
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