The “Dirty Bomb” and Structural Collapse


This scenario addresses two potentially overlapping situations, the radiological-dispersal device (RDD)—the so-called “dirty bomb”—and the possibility of structural collapse, requiring sophisticated urban search and rescue (USAR) methods.

Any terrorist attack involving explosives bears some risk of structural collapse and entrapment. People may be trapped and require rescue. In most circumstances, optimum dissemination of CBRN materials does not require a large amount of explosive material. A large explosive device may end up destroying some or all of the material or spreading it too finely to be a significant threat. However, we must bear in mind that perpetrators may not have a good understanding of the ideal dispersion of CBRN materials and may overcalculate the explosives required. In addition, terrorists may decide to “spice up” a conventional device by adding some sort of toxic material to it.

Structural collapse after a terrorist bombing adds USAR issues to the already complicated issues of postblast investigation and CBRN contamination. While most USAR efforts acknowledge that hazardous materials of various descriptions may be present in structural-collapse scenarios, not many organizations have taken on the task of both USAR and CBRN concurrently. This area represents an operational-capability deficit in many places. We must also be realistic. Some rescue scenarios fall into the “too hard to do” category, particularly ...

Get CBRN and Hazmat Incidents at Major Public Events: Planning and Response now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.