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aspartz
03-06-2005, 15:42
I just read this in the local paper. It amazes me that the feds would even consider keeping the FD/PD/EMS in the dark and in danger because of a paranoid over-reaction to 9-11

Rail placards at center of dispute between safety and security

Rail placards at center of dispute between safety and security

TERRORISM:Removing the signs would deprive attackers and emergency providers of information.

BY CHRISTOPHER DREW

NEW YORK TIMES

They are just pieces of cardboard, and they cover less than a square foot on the side of a railroad tank car. But behind them lies a post-Sept. 11 competition between safety and security.

For decades, emergency-response teams approaching train wrecks have peered at the signs through binoculars to see what dangerous chemicals might be leaking. But federal officials will decide soon on a proposal to remove the placards from all tank cars. Their fear is that terrorists could use them to lock in on targets for highly toxic attacks.

The idea has sparked an outcry from firefighters and rail workers, who say removing the signs could endanger their lives. They say federal officials seem more focused on guarding against a terrorist attack than on the daily threat of accidents.

"There's this feeling that you have to secure everything possible in every way possible for every possible kind of terrorist attack," said Garry Briese, executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

The dispute over the placards illustrates a growing push to mask sensitive data about the nation's industrial base from the prying eyes of potential terrorists. In the tug of war over tank cars and other industrial information, critics question whether the move toward secrecy is overwhelming safety concerns and even chilling debates over how to eliminate the vulnerabilities.

People who live near chemical and nuclear plants, dams and oil and gas pipelines complain that it has become harder to find out about disaster plans and environmental hazards, and some have sued for more information. Engineering reports have been stripped from government Web sites, and several agencies are creating new controls on sensitive information that go far beyond the wide-ranging classification system built in the Cold War.

Internal government e-mail messages show that months before the train bombings last March in Madrid, Spain, federal transportation officials stopped the Defense Intelligence Agency from disseminating a report on rail vulnerabilities in the United States.

The messages, which were obtained by the New York Times from a former federal official, show that the report was intended to spark debate among federal and local officials on improving rail security. But after complaints from the industry, one senior transportation official helped block the report by arguing that if it became public "I could foresee this paper being a handout in the next session of al-Qaeda's rail-attack course."

Critics say the report could have helped speed security improvements at rail stations.

Another hot area of debate over secrecy is the atomic energy industry. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has stashed away an enormous trove of documents about nuclear power plants, suspending access to much of its Web site while weeding out reports that might aid terrorists.

A spokeswoman for the commission, Sue Gagner, said that access to 380,000 documents was suspended last October and that 120,000 have been made available again.

Since chlorine leaking from a derailed tank car killed nine people and injured hundreds last month in South Carolina, the fight over the railroad placards has emerged as the most potent symbol of the debate.

The Homeland Security and Transportation Departments have been considering whether to remove the placards. In August, they asked for public comments on the idea as part of a possible package of security improvements, and officials expect to make a decision soon.

Firefighters, railroad workers and large chemical companies are all adamant about keeping the placards. Government figures show that toxic chemicals leak from dozens of rail cars each year and that deaths occur periodically.

The chlorine placard is black and white. It sports a skull and crossbones and the number 1017, the chlorine code. Without the placards, "we'd be completely in the dark" in responding to many crashes, said Joe Ashbaker, a supervisor for the San Bernadino County, Calif., Fire Department.

Jamie Conrad, a lawyer for the American Chemistry Council, which lobbies for large chemical makers, said he could see how a placard might "advertise a little bit" the best cars to attack.

"But where we come down is that if you take it off, you know that people will be killed in accidents," Conrad said. "And you're basically balancing that against the theoretical prospect that terrorists might be lurking on that corner."

http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthtribune/11065396.htm

ARS

Slinger646
03-06-2005, 18:05
there is always the manifest which is kept in the locomotive or in the cab of a semi, if that isnt there and i cant make out whats inside, i'm waiting for the glow-worms

TerraMedicX
03-06-2005, 18:14
Originally posted by Slinger646
there is always the manifest which is kept in the locomotive or in the cab of a semi, if that isnt there and i cant make out whats inside, i'm waiting for the glow-worms

True....but getting close enough to get the manifest breaks my number one rule about HAZMAT, the wonderful "Rule of Thumb!"

Nate.

obxprnstar
03-07-2005, 02:38
Originally posted by TerraMedicX
True....but getting close enough to get the manifest breaks my number one rule about HAZMAT, the wonderful "Rule of Thumb!"

Nate.

Ditto that for me. Plus if they do trains, who is to say that truck will not be shortly afterwards.

KY Moose
03-07-2005, 04:48
Coming from DHS, it doesn't surprise me. IMHO, it's a bad idea.

Hell, DHS did a fine job of throwing away millions of dollars to small town departments to buy equipment for responding to terrorist incidents, when those departments don't have the manpower or training to respond to that type of incident.

Tvov
03-07-2005, 14:16
Originally posted by KY Moose
Coming from DHS, it doesn't surprise me. IMHO, it's a bad idea.

Hell, DHS did a fine job of throwing away millions of dollars to small town departments to buy equipment for responding to terrorist incidents, when those departments don't have the manpower or training to respond to that type of incident.

I have to agree with you on this. Guys in my department are working on, and have been, getting some of that money for HazMat gear way beyond basic equipment. This is silly considering the basically zero odds we would ever need it, and that our SOPs for anything beyond a minor HazMat is to back off, secure the area, and wait for the boys from the state.

Most of these guys have the attitude of- "It's not 'our' money!" (yes it is, ever heard of taxes??), and "If we don't get it and spend it, someone else will!" (that doesn't make it right).

I am really beginning to sound like an "evil old timer" in my department.

Tvov
03-07-2005, 14:21
Anyway, are terrorists really going to read the placards anyway??

aspartz
03-07-2005, 16:14
Originally posted by Tvov
Anyway, are terrorists really going to read the placards anyway??
The terrorist are more likely to have a copy of the manifests. The odds of them needing the placards to select a target is about zero.

InRE DHS grant money -- When I took my HazMAt ops class, it was funded by DHS, so it was supposed to be targeted to bio-terrorism rather than a random accident. Exactly what are the odds of the former out here in the boonies?

ARS

Rob72
03-08-2005, 12:35
To my mind, removing the placards would assist any "Terr-ass" action. Transport of hazmat is largely common sense/public domain, you're only hiding info from the people that need it. Removing the placards increases the liklihood of getting first responders in closer to a good secondary explosive, which in turn will occupy more resources recovering/evacuating the FR's.

Think it through: set off a "good'un" that will call out half a dozen engines, PD's East/West/North/South whatever side patrol units, and three or so medic units. Either with shooters, or an equally impressive secondary IED, get a significant portion of the responders, then go for one (or a couple) of the good high-visibility, soft-targets, like a school, ball stadium, etc.. No big challenge for 12 informed, dedicated individuals.....:soap:

DaleGribble
03-08-2005, 15:14
Originally posted by KY Moose
Coming from DHS, it doesn't surprise me. IMHO, it's a bad idea.

Hell, DHS did a fine job of throwing away millions of dollars to small town departments to buy equipment for responding to terrorist incidents, when those departments don't have the manpower or training to respond to that type of incident.

I used to feel the same but now I have to disagree.

Remember the HAZMAT incident in Graniteville SC where nine people died and over 200 were hospitalized? Well I was working that night and I was there due to a mutual aid agreement. When our small EMS agency got a huge portable decon shelter last year I thought it was a big waste, not anymore. I recently got my tyvex suit and all the goodies (after the incident). When I signed up for the suit I thought it to was a waste, now I'm glad I have it!

Just because an agency might be small and in a low threat area does not mean they are immune.

KY Moose
03-09-2005, 02:33
Originally posted by DaleGribble
I used to feel the same but now I have to disagree.

Remember the HAZMAT incident in Graniteville SC where nine people died and over 200 were hospitalized? Well I was working that night and I was there due to a mutual aid agreement. When our small EMS agency got a huge portable decon shelter last year I thought it was a big waste, not anymore. I recently got my tyvex suit and all the goodies (after the incident). When I signed up for the suit I thought it to was a waste, now I'm glad I have it!

Just because an agency might be small and in a low threat area does not mean they are immune.


I'm not saying everyplace is immune to an attack, just that the money is not being spent wisely or going to locations where the threat is greater like those places that have been/or have planned to be attacked.

Say a small agency gets money from DHS to purchases HAZMAT equipment for domestic preparedness that their normal budget would not allow them to have and they spend over thirty thousand dollars on the stuff. What happens when the shelf life expires on some of the supplies? If they barley get by on their normal budget, who is going to replace the equipment or pay for the special initial/continuing training for CBRN or other terrorist related incidents?

If some places in small town America can barley muster enough people to respond to fire and/or EMS calls during the daytime, how are they going to handle a terrorist incident? Since the federal government is not going to give this money to the greater risk areas, then MHO is that since Congress had to treat this as pork and get their states and districts a cut of the money, then each states should be required to set up special response task forces to respond within their states in order to get cash.