Worker Protection Is Key to Homeland Security. (Emergency Planning)

Article excerpt

Emergency response, rescue and other workers were ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the scene that met them following the Oklahoma City, World Trade Center (WTC) and Pentagon disasters, according to a new report. As a result, many workers suffered needless injuries. The report also claims that search and rescue operations at the WTC continued too long,, risking lives needlessly.

The report, "Learning from Disasters: Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness Through Worker Training," summarizes the findings of a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Worker Education and Training Program technical workshop. (The report is available online at www.wetp.org).

The report noted there were many deficiencies in the protection of rescue and other workers that resulted in needless injuries, particularly to eyes and lungs. The WTC collapse "was so massive, extensive in duration and complex that nearly all aspects of our well-developed and relatively mature destructive incident response and cleanup operations plans were challenged and, in many cases, found defective in some measure," the report concluded.

Improvements recommended in the report include:

* First-on-the-scene emergency response personnel, such as police and firefighters, need to be trained in and provided with appropriate protective gear, particularly respiratory protection. …