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Homeland Security

Homeland Security Planning Scenarios

Scenario 5: Chemical Attack - Blister Agent


Casualties 150 fatalities; 70,000 hospitalized
Infrastructure Damage Minimal
Evacuations/Displaced Persons More than 100,000
Contamination Structures affected
Economic Impact $500 million
Potential for Multiple Events Yes
Recovery Timeline Weeks; many long-term health affects

Scenario Overview:

General Description - Agent YELLOW, which is a mixture of the blister agents sulfur Mustard and Lewisite, is a liquid with a garlic-like odor. Individuals who breathe this mixture may experience damage to the respiratory system. Contact with the skin or eye can result in serious burns. Lewisite or Mustard- Lewisite also can cause damage to bone marrow and blood vessels. Exposure to high levels may be fatal.

In this scenario, the Universal Adversary (UA) uses a light aircraft to spray chemical agent YELLOW into a packed college football stadium. The agent directly contaminates the stadium and the immediate surrounding area, and generates a downwind vapor hazard. The attack causes a large number of casualties that require urgent and long-term medical treatment, but few immediate fatalities occur. Of the total stadium attendance, 70% is exposed to the liquid at the time of the attack. The remaining 30% (i.e., those in the covered areas of the stadium), plus 10% of the total population in the vapor hazard area, are exposed to vapor contamination.

Timeline/Event Dynamics - The total time of the attack, including the last mile of the plane's approach, is less than 5 minutes. The crowd will panic and immediately evacuate the stadium, which will require up to 30 minutes. First responders should begin arriving at the facility perimeter within 10 to 15 minutes of the attack. In order for the UA to succeed in this attack, certain meteorological conditions - wind speed, temperature, humidity, and precipitation - must be met.

Secondary Hazards/Events - Numerous injuries will occur as a result of crowd panic, including those that result from falling and crushing. Further injuries are likely to occur due to motor vehicle accidents in the parking lot and surrounding roadways.

Key Implications:

In the case of a full, 100,000-seat stadium, 70,000 people (70%) may be contaminated in the attack. Of these, most will have only clothing and/or skin contamination, resulting in moderateto- severe skin blisters that will appear in 2 to 12 hours. Expedient decontamination (i.e., clothing removal and heavy water spray) will avoid half of these injuries. Systemic arsenic poisoning will occur in highly contaminated individuals. However, many will inhale sufficient agent vapor to cause severe lung damage, and many more will sustain permanent damage to the eyes. Fatalities and major injuries will occur due to falling and crushing during the evacuation, and to vehicle accidents.

There will be little direct property damage due to the attack. However, the stadium site and other contaminated property will be a total loss due to decontamination measures and/or psychological impacts of future usability.

Loss of use of the stadium and adjacent athletic facilities is expected. Additionally, some public transportation and other facilities may be lost due to contamination carried by fleeing victims. Overwhelming demand will disrupt communications (landline telephone and cellular) in the local area. Finally, some victims may self-transport to health care facilities and contaminate those facilities.

Decontamination, destruction, disposal, and replacement of a major stadium could cost up to $500 million. Enrollment at the college will be negatively affected, and the local community will experience significant losses resulting from the attack. Additionally, an overall national economic downturn is possible in the wake of the attack due to a loss of consumer confidence.

Many will be permanently blinded and many more will carry lifetime scars. Many may suffer significant damage to the lungs. In addition, Mustard is a known carcinogen, and systemic poisoning from the arsenic in Lewisite is also a concern.

Mission Areas Activated:

Prevention/Deterrence/Protection - The ability to prevent the attack is contingent on the prevention of chemical warfare material (CWM) importation, weapon assembly, plane and pilot acquisition, and site reconnaissance.

Emergency Assessment/Diagnosis - Hazardous material (HazMat) teams should instantly recognize the attack. Liquid contamination and a downwind vapor hazard will be components of the hazard. Actions required include dispatch; agent detection; and hazard assessment, prediction, monitoring, and sampling.

Emergency Management/Response - Actions required include alerts, activation and notification, traffic and access control, protection of special populations, resource support and requests for assistance, and pubic information activities.

Incident/Hazard Mitigation - The spread of contamination by fleeing victims will be a major challenge. Actions required include isolating and defining the hazard; establishing, planning, and operating incident command; preserving the scene; conducting mitigation efforts; decontaminating responders; and conducting site remediation and monitoring.

Public Protection - Evacuation and/or sheltering of downwind populations in a 360- degree arc around the stadium will be required until the stadium is decontaminated.

Victim Care - Tens of thousands of people will require decontamination and both short- and long-term medical treatment.

Investigation/Apprehension - Actions required include aircraft tracking, dispatch, site control, criminal investigation, tactical deployment, and suspect apprehension.

Recovery/Remediation - The stadium and adjacent facilities must be decontaminated of liquid agent YELLOW. Decontamination waste disposal is complicated by the presence of arsenic. Environmental testing must be done. Although decontamination could technically restore the stadium, psychological impact will likely require the stadium to be rebuilt.

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Page last modified: 23-08-2011 14:49:48 ZULU