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What to Do If Terrorism Strikes Your Workplace

Your company may not be able to prevent a terrorist attack, but\r\nyou still need to be ready to take action, NSC speaker says.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many safety professionals may be wondering what they can do to prevent an attack at their workplace. While there is little anyone can do to stop terrorists, companies can take steps to minimize the damage, according to an anti-terrorism expert who spoke Monday at the National Safety Council''s Congress.

With talk turning toward the next possible acts of terrorism -- chemical, biological or nuclear (CBN) incidents -- companies need to be prepared to lose up to 90 percent of first responders through weapons of mass destruction, said Richard Cacini, course manager of the Transportation Safety Institute for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

As seen in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center, even bystanders may need to help immediately after a terrorist attack if first responders are killed. Thus, Cacini said, safety professionals definitely will play a role in any workplace attacks.

Because terrorists look for environments such as large numbers of people and enclosed spaces, workplaces could be targeted. Do not make the job easier for a possible terrorist eyeing your facility. For example, a terrorist could use a couple of hoaxes to find out what escape route a company uses, then target the holding area where employees go when they evacuate a building. Check to ensure that the escape route does not take workers near other dangers, such as gas lines under a sidewalk.

If a CBN attack occurs, several steps should be taken:

  • Secure the perimeter and establish zones of operation.
  • Control and identify the agent. Medical management calls for the safety professional to first protect him or herself, Cacini said.
  • Attend to the victims. This includes rescue, decontamination, triage, and treating and transporting victims.
  • Move crowds and other persons to safe zones, specifically upwind.
  • Avoid secondary contamination.
  • Secure evidence and the crime scene.
  • Protect against a secondary attack.

"Like it or not, Cacini said, "safety professionals and others will be involved if terrorism strikes their workplace. We''re all in this together."

by Todd Nighswonger

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