Chemical Weapon Guidelines For Crowded Places.docx
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Table of Contents What are chemical weapons? 2 What are the possible indicators of a chemical weapon attack? 2 What is the threat? 2 What is the government doing to protect crowded places from chemical weapon attacks? 3 What can owners and operators do? 3 What can the public do? 5 1
What are chemical weapons?
A chemical is a material that may pose a health hazard or physical hazard, and included compounds that are toxic, flammable or corrosive. Chemicals vary greatly in toxicity – some are highly toxic and can cause immediate or delayed symptoms, others are less toxic and pose a less immediate threat or no threat at all. Chemicals in a gas or liquid state generally lead to greater exposures than solid chemicals. Chemicals can include:
- Substances defined within the Australian Dangerous Goods Code or National Code for Practice for the Storage and Handling of Workplace Dangerous Goods;
- Warfare agents developed for military use but banned since 1997 under the Chemical Weapons Convention e.g. nerve or blister agents;
- Legitimate but harmful household, commercial, or industrial products (e.g. chlorine); and
• Biological toxins, e.g. ricin. A chemical weapon is a device or mechanism designed to deliberately deploy a harmful chemical. Chemical weapons use the toxic properties of chemical substances, rather than their explosive properties, to produce physiological effects on victims.
The toxicity of the chemical, and its concentration when it reaches people, both determine the severity of the exposure. The concentration of a chemical in the air is
determined by a range of variables, including:
- The volatility, state, vapour density and persistence of the chemical;
- The presence and strength of environmental factors (e.g. wind, rain, humidity); and
• The environment in which the chemical is released – enclosed spaces can expose people to more concentrated doses, while chemicals usually disperse more quickly in open spaces.
What are the possible indicators of a chemical weapon attack?
All chemicals act differently and there are no common indicators for all chemical agents. In some cases there may be no immediate and obvious indicators of a chemical weapons attack.
Some chemical agents can produce obvious visual signs of exposure in groups of persons,
• Eye irritation, visual changes, vomiting and diarrhoea;
- Coughing, breathing difficulties and respiratory irregularities;
- Muscle weakness, paralysis and seizures;
- Skin redness, irritation and burns; and
• Collapse, loss of consciousness, or death.There may also be obvious visible signs of a chemical weapons attack, including:
• Leakage of gas or vapour, or chemical reaction from an item or substance; and/or
• A powder, liquid, or other substance released from an item or place with no logical
What is the threat?
Non-state actors have shown the willingness and the capability to use chemical weapons.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has conducted a number of chemical weapons
attacks in Syria and has demonstrated intent, along with Al Qaida and other terrorist groups,
to acquire, make, and use chemical weapons elsewhere, including in the West. This threat extends to Australia. Terrorists here may seek to conduct chemical attacks using a variety of different tactics, including some that are relatively easy to employ. Mass casualties are a possibility.
In August 2017, police and intelligence officials disrupted a plot involving the development of
hydrogen sulphide gas for use in an improvised chemical dispersal device in Australia. Officials
allege those involved in the plot received advice and direction from ISIL. While terrorist attacks in Australia – and against the West – have trended towards low capability inspired attacks using basic weapons, we also remain concerned by the threat of more complex attacks.
What is the government doing to protect crowded places from chemical weapon attacks?
There is close cooperation between all levels of government, the private sector, and the public on protecting crowded places from terrorism. These arrangements are laid out in Australia’s trategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism, available at www.nationalsecurity.gov.au.
Australia has robust national governance arrangements in place to protect against the use of chemical weapon in a terrorist attack, including inter-governmental agreements, strategies, and policy development through the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee.
Commonwealth, state and territory governments work collaboratively with industry to assess the
national security risks associated with chemicals of security concern, and have developed a code of practice which is designed to help prevent identified chemicals from falling into the wrong hands. The National Code of Practice for Chemicals of Security Concern can be found at
www.nationalsecurity.gov.au. Guidelines for medical staff can be found in The Australian Clinical Guidelines for Acute Exposures to Chemical Agents of Health Concern: A Guide for the Emergency Department Staff at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohpexposure-chemical-agents-guidelines.htm
States and territories are responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining disaster and emergency management plans, including a capability to respond to chemical weapon attacks. These plans are integrated with state and territory counter-terrorism arrangements. Key response agencies for a chemical weapon attack include police, fire, ambulance, and health
services. Health authorities and emergency services personnel are well prepared to deal with
the consequences of a terrorist attack involving chemical weapons, including having plans in
place to respond to an attack and to treat those affected. Other support may be provided from
Defence and environmental, forensic, laboratory and welfare agencies. What can owners and
operators do? There are a range of measures owners and operators can employ to strengthen their ability to detect, deter, delay, and respond to terrorist attacks using chemical weapons. Many of these measures have a broader application beyond chemical weapon attacks and the measures may have already been considered in existing emergency management arrangements and business continuity plans. Further information on implementing effective protective security can be found in Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism. Owners and operators should:
- Conduct a comprehensive review of current emergency and evacuation plans for their respective businesses consistent with the current national threat level of PROBABLE;
• Ensure staff are aware of their roles and responsibilities within the organisation’s
emergency evacuation plans;
• Pre-plan your evacuation routes, including • Keep all communal and public spaces tidy,
identifying alternative routes to minimise including emptying bins on a regular basis;
people’s exposure to contaminated areas; • Lock all doors, cupboards, and cabinets that
• Consider how you will communicate are not in use; and evacuation routes to people during an • Be vigilant to suspicious behaviour and incident; report any suspicious behaviour to
• Ensure staff are briefed on the possible supervisors and police. health effects of a chemical weapon attacks; A potential chemical weapon may be discovered
- Ensure staff are actively engaged in the by detecting an unattended or suspicious item. conduct of ‘white level inspections’ around To determine whether an item is suspicious, their workplace (see below); owners and operators and their employees
- Ensure staff are aware of the mechanisms should apply the ‘HOT’ principle. Under the for the reporting of suspicious articles and HOT principle, anything that is hidden, obviously people, including calling 000, local police, the suspicious, or not typical to its environment could National Security Hotline or Crime Stoppers; be deemed a security risk. If a suspicious item is
• Remind staff to be vigilant to all unattended found, personnel should:
bags and articles, and any persons acting • Avoid touching, moving, or disturbing
suspiciously; the item;
• Develop and implement robust mail • Attempt to locate the owner of the article by
screening procedures; inquiring with people in the area;
• Consider conducting regular exercises to test • If available, check CCTV footage to
your emergency evacuation plans and white determine who placed the article;
level inspection procedures; • Inform a supervisor, manager, or police if the
• Ensure compliance with security plans and article cannot be accounted for;
white level inspections through appropriate • Record a detailed description of the item, management and supervision; and including size, shape, location, and whether it
• Ensure access to first aid supplies. is leaking liquid or unusual odours;
• Take a photo of the article if safe to do A ‘white level inspection’ is a visual examination so; and by all staff members of their respective
workplace for any articles that are unusual,
- Consider moving people away from the
suspicious, or unable to be accounted for. suspicious item and/or restricting access.
Employees are most familiar with their respective In a crowded place, an attack using chemical workplaces and are therefore best positioned weapons may create a level of panic and chaos to detect foreign or unusual items. Those that is difficult to control. The main objective of conducting white level inspections should: any response plan should be to minimise risk
• Inspect all areas accessible by the public to people. In the event of a chemical weapons at the start and conclusion of operations, attack, owners and operators of crowded e.g. for transport infrastructure, inspections places should do what they can to protect lives, should incorporate all areas of mass including: passenger vehicles as well as transport
• Contact and provide information to police and terminals; emergency services;
• Conduct inspections regularly throughout
• Where possible, contain the incident or the day; threat;
• Be vigilant to unattended baggage
• Activate existing emergency management and articles; and business continuity plans;
• Assess the incident and build situational • When safely away from the chemical source:
awareness; » Remove outer clothing if contaminated
• Clearly provide instructions to staff and and place in a sealed plastic bag;
patrons; » Wash with soap and water, flush skin with
• If a decision is made to initiate a total or lots of water, and flush eyes with water if
partial evacuation, use existing emergency they are irritated;
evacuation plans to evacuate staff and » Put on clean clothes if possible; patrons, taking into consideration alternative » Seek medical attention if they have been routes so people are not evacuated through exposed to the chemical, even if there are affected areas; and no immediate symptoms.
• Understand and implement the guidance in
the next section. • If a volatile chemical substance is released in
an outdoor or open space, people should:
What can the • Avoid any obvious plume or vapour cloud;
public do? • Consider wind direction and move upwind and
uphill, if possible;
• If exposed, decontaminate as above; A number of terrorists worldwide have been
detected by bystanders who acted on their initial • If not exposed, walk away from the site and
suspicion that something was ‘not quite right’ into a building to shelter in place;
about an individual’s activity by reporting this to • Where possible, seal the building to create
authorities. Members of the public are often best a temporary barrier between people and the
placed to detect suspicious behaviour. Everyone contaminated air outside – this can include
has a responsibility to report suspicious closing doors, closing windows, turning off
behaviour to the authorities. In life-threatening fans and air conditioning systems, and sealing
situations everyone should call 000. To report a windows and doors with plastic sheeting and
crime or possible criminal activity, call police on duct tape; and
131 444 (in Victoria call 1800 333 000). To report • Monitor the Internet, TV, and radio for
suspicious activity call the National Security official news and instructions as they Hotline on 1800 123 400. become available. If a volatile chemical substance is released inside a building or enclosed space, people should:
• Minimise the chance of exposure by moving away from the release and avoiding skin contact;
• Do whatever it takes to find uncontaminated air quickly – exit the enclosed space if they can do so without passing through a contaminated area or break a window to access clean air;
• Follow the directions of emergency responders; and 3635