Fire Services challenged by new Terror Threats

The work of the Fire Service is all about saving as many lives as possible, which serves counter to many terrorist groups’ aim of destroying as many lives as possible in their attacks. 9/11 was the most humbling example of how firefighters give their own lives in the effort to save others. Since then, the threat landscape has changed considerably as terrorism has evolved. With the increased threat of terrorism, the types of hazards that firefighters may face have expanded dramatically.

We know that the threat of terrorism is everywhere in today’s volatile world. The question is though, are we ready to respond in case the worst does happen?

The threat of ‘non-conventional’ CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) attacks has been taken into serious consideration in recent years, which is why it is more important than ever for fire services across the world to prepare for what potential disasters may unfold.

In the latter part of 2004, a US government organization known as the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) sponsored research and development projects to develop protective ensembles that would afford firefighters the extra protection that was needed in the case of a terrorism event that involved CBRN agents. The idea was simple – create a regular structural firefighting protective ensemble (garments, helmet, hood, gloves, and footwear) that would function as ordinary turnout clothing but then design features and include materials that would establish higher levels of protection against highly hazardous vapors, liquids, aerosols and particulates that could be used in terrorism releases. The idea was that most firefighters would not necessary know as first responders when they encountered these threats.

What comes to mind when we think of a disaster zone? Large areas of the Middle East have been turned into permanent disaster zones with regular bomb attacks on civilians not subsiding. The truth is that today, with the push of a button, anywhere in the world could potentially be turned into a disaster zone. Potential attacks can become unlimited in their scope of destruction and hazard to the surrounding environment.  Rescuing civilians in the event of an attack may become an ever increasingly dangerous job.

At the Counter Terror Expo in London this year, emphasis will be on how counterterrorism can adapt with a focus on what the Emergency Services can do to prepare. Members of the fire service will take particular note of the Emergency Services Conference held at the show. According to Event Director Philip Hunter, the conference will ask the questions “Are we prepared? Do we have the right equipment to deal with any given scenario? Are communications up to scratch?” Mr Hunter goes on to say that “the conference is an invaluable opportunity to learn about the future threat landscape. Visitors can learn about how and why they should upscale equipment needs for the future”.

By Robert Spurr,


Safety Product Search

References: 'New Approaches for Firefighter Protection' by Jeffrey O. and Grace G. Stull, FireRescue1