Protecting Emergency Responders: Lessons Learned from Terrorist Attacks

Protecting Emergency Responders: Lessons Learned from Terrorist Attacks

Protecting Emergency Responders: Lessons Learned from Terrorist Attacks

Protecting Emergency Responders: Lessons Learned from Terrorist Attacks

Synopsis

This report presents a summary of a December 2001 working conference, sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Attending were emergency workers who responded to the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the anthrax incidents that occurred during autumn 2001. The report addresses the equipment, training and information required to protect emergency responders as they meet the challenge of protecting their communities.

Excerpt

Just as it has for the nation as a whole, the world in which emergency responders work has changed in fundamental ways since September 11, 2001. Members of professions already defined by their high levels of risk now face new, often unknown threats on the job. At a basic level, the September 11 terrorist events have forced emergency responders to see the incidents they are asked to respond to in a new light. As one firefighter-special-operations professional put it, “After 9-11, we must rethink exactly how we approach things. If you go to a fire scene and there is a possibility of a terrorist attack, then most of it is unknown. Other than what you see, everything else is unknown.”

At the World Trade Center, 450 emergency responders perished in the response to the terrorist attacks—about one-sixth of the total number of victims. Hundreds more were seriously injured. In this light, the terrorist events are also forcing emergency responders to reconsider the equipment and practices they use to protect themselves in the line of duty. A firefighter observed, “We had an incident at the FBI [headquarters] soon after the incident in New York. I was looking at the battalion chief on the scene and watching them operate under a cantilevered structure. I asked them, ‘Why don’t you move everybody further away so if that thing does come down you won't get killed?' New York taught me a lot about firefighter safety.”

Preparation is key to protecting the health and safety of emergency responders, and valuable lessons can be learned from previous responses. To that end, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) convened a conference in New York City on December 9–11, 2001, to determine what could be learned about protecting the life and health of emergency workers who respond to terrorist attacks. The focus was on personal protective equipment (PPE), and the input was provided by workers who responded to the 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; and the anthrax incidents that occurred during autumn 2001. This report summarizes the key lessons learned about PPE during those events.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.