A Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) terrorist incident, involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive weapons, on a Department of Defense (DOD) installation or in a civilian community, poses a significant threat to military personnel and civilians. A WMD terrorist attack would also present major challenges to an installation’s or a community’s emergency response teams. No matter what type of emergency takes place, the initial information concerning the event will be gathered by individuals in the emergency dispatch center. Asking the right questions and obtaining vital information will play an enormous part in the initial minutes of the incident. The information that is provided to the Incident Commander (IC) and responders will be an important part of the process used to assess the risk and make life-and-death decisions. Sending first responders to a scene with as much accurate information as possible will save lives.
The emergency dispatch center, during the initial stage of a response, has a critical role in the success or failure of an emergency operation. WMD incidents combine the priorities of a mass casualty incident and the danger of a large-scale hazardous materials incident. The Dispatcher’s Guide for WMD Incidents was designed to aid the call-taker or dispatcher who collects the initial information for the emergency responders, in order to ensure a coordinated safe response during a WMD incident. It also provides basic guidance that can be given to callers to reduce the hazards to themselves and others at the incident scene.
The Guide provides the emergency response communication center with checklists to be used as tools to be integrated within their current system. It was designed to supplement and enhance current procedures and can be adapted for large and small dispatch centers. Each jurisdiction may adapt this information to fit its needs.
The Dispatcher’s Guide for WMD Incidents was written by the DOD and the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), with participation by nearly a dozen fire departments, 911 centers, and law enforcement agencies. It can be viewed and downloaded by visiting http://www.edgewood.army.mil/hld/dl/WMD_DISPATCH.pdf.