UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Homeland Security

Homeland Security Planning Scenarios

Scenario 6: Chemical Attack - Toxic Industrial Chemicals


Casualties 350 fatalities; 1,000 hospitalizations
Infrastructure Damage 50% of structures in area of explosion
Evacuations/Displaced Persons Up to 700,000
Contamination Yes
Economic Impact Billions of dollars
Potential for Multiple Events Yes
Recovery Timeline Months

Scenario Overview:

General Description - In this scenario, terrorists from the Universal Adversary (UA) land in several helicopters at fixed facility petroleum refineries. They quickly launch rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before re-boarding and departing, resulting in major fires. At the same time, multiple cargo containers at a nearby port explode aboard or near several cargo ships with resulting fires. Two of the ships contain flammable liquids or solids. The wind is headed in the north-northeast direction, and there is a large, heavy plume of smoke drifting into heavily populated areas and releasing various metals into the air. One of the burning ships in the port contains resins and coatings including isocyanates, nitriles, and epoxy resins. Some IEDs are set for delayed detonation. Casualties occur onsite due to explosive blast and fragmentation, fire, and vapor/liquid exposure to the toxic industrial chemical (TIC). Downwind casualties occur due to vapor exposure.

Timeline/Event Dynamics - Total time to plan and prepare for the attack would be on the order of 2 years, including reconnaissance, pilot and weapons training, and accumulation of weapons. Time to execute the attack would be several weeks to coordinate the shipping and coincident arrival of the containers aboard separate ships at the port. Time to execute the airborne phase of the attack would be on the order of 1 to 2 hours from liftoff from the originating airport. Time over target for the helicopters would be about 10 minutes. Time on the ground would be 2 to 3 minutes at each site. Fires resulting from the attack would take many hours, possibly days, to extinguish. 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 - Once they grasp the situation, authorities will evacuate or order shelter-in-place for a significant area downwind of the refineries and the port. Numerous injuries will occur as a result of population panic once downwind casualties begin to occur. Further injuries are likely to occur due to motor vehicle accidents in the surrounding roadways. (The rule of thumb is one fatality per 10,000 evacuated.) Significant contamination of the waterway may also result, including oil and cargo spills from sunk or burning ships.

Key Implications:

Assuming a densely populated area, 7,000 people may be in the actual downwind area. Of these, 5% (350) will receive lethal exposures, and half of these will die before or during treatment. An additional 15% will require hospitalization, and the remainder will be treated and released at the scene by Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel. However, approximately 70,000 "worried well" may seek treatment at local medical facilities.

All three refineries sustain significant damage, with 50% of the equipment and facilities requiring significant repairs or replacement. Two ships in the port sink at their moorings; the port sustains heavy damage near the ships and at a dozen points where IEDs were dropped. Depending on which chemicals are released, there may be significant property damage in the downwind area.

Refinery capacity on the west coast is significantly diminished, resulting in fuel shortages and price increases. The port is temporarily closed due to damage and contamination. Contamination in the waterway may also result. Some public transportation and other facilities may be lost. Overwhelming demand will disrupt communications (landline telephone and cellular) in the local area. Significant disruptions in health care occur due to the overwhelming demand of the injured and the "worried well."

Decontamination, destruction, disposal, and replacement of major portions of the refineries could cost billions of dollars. Similar costs could be expected at the port. Loss of the port will have a significant impact on U.S. trade with the Pacific Rim. An overall national economic downturn is possible in the wake of the attack due to a loss of consumer confidence.

In addition to their toxic effects, many TICs are known carcinogens. Long-term damage to internal organs and eyes is possible, depending on which TICs are present.

Mission Areas Activated:

Prevention/Deterrence/Protection - Avoiding an attack would require prevention of aircraft and weapons acquisition, IED assembly, and site reconnaissance.

Emergency Assessment/Diagnosis - The presence of multiple chemicals and exposure symptoms will greatly complicate assessment and identification efforts. Actions required include dispatch; TIC 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 - Mitigation measures will be complicated by multiple TICs and secondary device concerns. Actions required include isolating and defining the hazard; establishing, planning, and operating incident command; firefighting; performing bomb disposal dispatch and IED render-safe procedures; preserving the scene; conducting mitigation efforts; decontaminating responders; and performing site remediation and monitoring.

Public Protection - Evacuation and/or sheltering of downwind populations will be required.

Victim Care - Injuries to be treated will include trauma, burns, smoke inhalation, severe respiratory distress, seizures, and/or comas. Short- and longterm treatment will be required as well as decontamination.

Investigation/Apprehension - Searching for suspects and evidence in an industrial area while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) will be a significant challenge. Actions required include dispatch, site control, criminal investigation, pursuit and tactical deployment, and apprehension of suspects.

Recovery/Remediation - The extent of decontamination required will depend on the TIC. Regardless, monitoring and sampling a large industrial port facility and refineries will be a challenge. Site restoration will be a major challenge, particularly for the refineries. Environmental impact issues are likely to significantly delay rebuilding efforts.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

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