Thursday, September 8, 2011


One more concern


"Suicide by Chemical, the title of a video brought to my attention on an Emergency Management list I read, is aimed toward first responders - fire, police, EMTs.

But because my mind works in "different" directions, I started thinking:

    If a person who wants to commit suicide can go to a couple of local stores and by all the individually harmless products needed to make a killing gas, what's to stop a potential terrorist - and that can be a disgruntled (ex)employee - from compounding similar products to sicken or kill people where we work?"

Every housewife and bachelor knows - OK, should know - that bleach and ammonia are never mixed together. The fumes can kill.

Since it has become difficult for potential bombers to acquire their preferred materials, a fertilizer mix, expect them to check the World Wide Web for other options.

I can remember as a kid stories of two-compartment vials of chemicals that, when the vial was shattered and the chemicals mixed, an explosion resulted. OK, that was tv and movie serials, but the idea was, and remains, valid.

Fortunately, for the chemicals used in "suicide by chemical" cases, the area of effectiveness must be both (relatively) small and enclosed.

But consider.

The materials are easily acquired.

The materials can be easily concealed, either separately or together in a two-part vial or even a vacuum bottle - in other words, easily brought into the work place.

To the best of my knowledge "murder by chemical" is not on any terrorist's list of favored weapons, but it behooves risk management practitioners to consider the possibility now and to think of ways to avoid or mitigate the threat - without violating anyone's 'civil rights'.

What can be done to prevent an incident?

What can be done if an incident occurs. What is needed.

Think PPE - Personal Protective Equipment - for one or two people.

Think procedures to clear an area so that innocent people are protected from gases given off by the victims and their clothing.

Think procedures to notify whatever organization is equipped to handle hazmat incidents - usually the fire department - and the police, making certain to warn the responders of the potentially lethal chemicals.

Is the threat likely? At this point, probably not.

But as the video, "Suicide by Chemical," points out, the How To information is on the Internet for all to see.

Nothing is simple, but we are expected to anticipate the threats - no excuse for any black, or even grey, swans - and to develop means to deal with the threats.

Whether or not management agrees is another matter (and management may be the biggest threat of all, but don't quote me on that).

No comments: