In New York City during May 2010, a vehicle containing explosive materials was left in the middle of Manhatten. I happened to be there at the time to witness the responses. I have a few opinions, for which I take full responsibility. It is often considered poor form to "Monday morning quarterback", but there is much to be gained by analyzing the emergency responses to such situations.
It appears to me that we are still rediscovering the wheel. That being said "all the brothers were valient". Good job Chief Harry! Same for you Inspector Joe. Time for medals all around.
(1) Command conflict on the scene. Rubbermen wanted to put in water. LE types steped in and wanted to "preserve evidence". Nothing changes...
(2) Police officers would not tell crowd what was going on. They were all "sworn to secrecy". If they had people would have fled instead of trying to get closer. Yes, panic is a problem, and to be avoided at all costs. But this was an open area and little chance of people being killed by tumbling over one another. There were lots of kiddies around (they didn't close Toy's-are-us, nearby) within distance of flying fragments. They assumed the five-gallon containers were filled with gasoline. What if they were filled with nitroglycerine? Besides, there was a big truck with "BOMB SQUAD" in big letters on the side. I would lose the lettering.
(3) Yellow plastic tape to keep people back. Yes, it was available, but not as readily as it should have been. It would seem prudent to have every engine company, truck company and patrol car carry some. When emplaced, it was sometime stretched too tight and broke. I came on a distressed cupcake trying to figure out how to tie two pieces together. If installed leave five or six foot at each end, so it if breaks, an officer can then use the piece to tie it back together. I have nothing against cupcakes. My main squeeze used to be one and until she retired as a lieutenant she always remembered to bring her gun with her (but not always the bullets). Anyway, there never seems to be anough of this tape immediately available.
(4) It would have been nice to have large plastic ten foot long interlocking barriers that could be filled with water that could be placed between the explosion and the crowd. Hmmm. There were eight of these barriers on the street not 150 meters from the incident, but nobody thought to bring them over.
(5) The New York Fire Department arrived wearing short pants and short-sleeved polyester shirts. My own opinion is that both the Fire Commisioner and the Chief of Department should be relieved if they continue to permit this unacceptable uniform. Years ago, when Obama was a gleam in his father's eye, rubbermen responded with long sleeved coton or denim shirts and tough denim or cotton pants. A turnout coat was worn over these. Then there were deaths from burns so the union insisted on what are very thick very hot insulated protective suits, called "Bunker gear". The problem was that if you wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt it gets too hot in the bunker gear. So everyone went to shorts. If the bunker gear is too hot, then reduce the thickness. It is commpmplace now for fireman to respond to potential chemical incidents dressed only in gear more appropriate for Miami Beach.
(6) Nobody seemed to have a concept of how far back a safety area should be and there were many sightseers, including EMS personnel, who didn't belong anywhere near the car bomb.
(7) It would have been helpful to have the bright orange spray paint cans used by hiughway people to spray on the black macadem underneath the plastic tape to designate "do not cross areas".
(8) In the city the parks department emplaced spray caps for the hydrants for the children to play in. These produce a good spray twenty feet from the hydrant. FDNY does not carry these. Several should have been installed and turned on in the event people needed to be decontaminated.
(9) Engine Companies should have been parked a good distance away from the event, but bumper-to-bumper to block shrapnel from the crowd in the event of an explision.
(10) Because the car contained marked propane tanks, the scen commander immediately concluded there was no chance of an incident involving a chemical agent. Wrong decision. They had no idea what were in those containers, which are refillable. As a result of this decision many responders wandered about without M117 masks (or equivelant) and the fireman left their heavy Scott's on the rigs.
(11) There were numerous trash containers within the surrounding area. These should have been immediately checked. They were not.
(12) There was no immediate provision for shower/decontamination.
(13) The little bomb robot was cute. I think I'll build one for my nephew. It was equipped with everying but the ability to drag in a charged-line.
(14) Police cars remained in the area with windows rolled up (and air-conditioning on). Anywhere near a potential explosion you want all windows rolled down, to equalize pressure.
(15) The most efficient method of determining if there is chemical agent (Sarin) in the area is the orindary white rabbit. The third cranial nerve responds by affecting the pupils in sub-lethal concentrations. There are none available in the city, but planty of million dollar machines that have fifty-percent false positives. Rabbits were, in fact available in a pet store three blocks from the incident, but hey, "Hi-Tech" is in this year. Whatever floats your boat.
I saw it on the news but being unattentive as i am was that the same guy that got on a plane then they took him off again or what? Yeah you would think that clearing people away would have been a smart move.
Authorities have a difficult job, and the fact this was a busy entertainment district was part and parcel of the equation.
Closing off large areas involves barriers (unavailable) or wide tape to stretch across a road (which was again not immediately available).
The other issue involves judgement as to the danger posed by an explosive in a vehicle. Unless one has been trained in this, one tends to underestimate.
I am proud of the both the NYPD and the NYFD, however when I see an officer show up in short pants and a short-sleeved shirt with a GAS MASK on his hips, I have to think of that old television advertisment: "This is your brain on drugs."
It's a command problem and stems from a leadership shortfall.
I want to give credit to the brave fireman of engine 54 and truck 4 in responding to this incident. I did not mean to disrespect them.
(1) The car was observed by a street vender to be illegally parked, with flashers on and there was smoke inside the car. He notified a mounted officer.
(2) The mounted officer called it in a a car fire. It was NOT considered a terorist incident.
(3) Engine 54 and truck 4 arrived first due and noted that the color of the smoke was white, uncharacteristic of a car fire, and the odor was unusual. That of gunpowder. They used a thermal imaging device and determined there was no heat source within the car and concluded this was a terrorist incident and took cover behind their rig,
(4) It was only at this point that the NYPD decided to run the Connecticut plate (discovering it was stolen) and notify the bomb squad.
(5) At that point it was decided to clear the crowds away.
The Mayor had dinner with the mounted officer, who did ungotz, and no credit was given to the officers and men of Battalion 9, engine 54, truck 4.
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