*It Can Happen Here*
By: emict
15 September 2006

To all those first responders out thereÖ.

The following is a real incident that occurred in 2003 involving a multitude of agencies that were going about "business as usual" without consideration being given to the ramifications of the event. The following article was published in our weekly EMS newsletter.

You would think, after all of my preaching over the past couple of years regarding WMD, that I would be as prepared as anyone to respond to a terrorist type of event. I found out recently that my "state of readiness" as well as that of our allied agencies is woefully inadequate to confront a terror event, at least in its initial stages. I witnessed, first hand, how the entire system failed, including 911, the fire department, the police department as well as our own organization. Sadly to say, I am quite confident that some of us will indeed die as a result of our complacency and the false perception that "it canít happen here", and if the event had been "real", my partner and I would have been among the first casualties. As Paul Harvey would say; "And now, the rest of the story".


On March 7th, at 1940 hours, Medic 35 was dispatched to an "unknown call" for EMS at 2121 N Ridge Road. While enroute, dispatch advised that a device had gone off in the restroom of the Braumís Restaurant. Neither I, nor my partner, had heard this information due to his enthusiastic use of the air horn as we entered the intersection of Tyler and Central. We did not acknowledge the receipt of this information and dispatch did not re-broadcast or ensure that we were aware of the updates regarding this call. As far as we knew, we were still responding to an "unknown call for EMS".

Upon arrival, we noticed that there were several people milling around in the parking lot of Braumís. This should have been my first clue that something wasnít quite right. I assumed, quite incorrectly, that there might have been a fire in the kitchen area of the restaurant. Instead of contacting dispatch and clarifying the type of call we were responding to, I ignored the obvious signs and proceeded to enter the building where firefighters were gathered around a couple sitting in a booth near the restrooms. I noticed a strange odor upon entering the building, clue #2, which I ignored as we proceeded to where the patient was seated. The police department had not yet arrived upon the scene.

The patientís chief complaint, upon the initial interview, was a "ringing" in his ears. I remember looking at one of the firefighters quizzically, still not knowing what had happened. The firefighter responded by stating that a "bomb" had gone off in the menís restroom about the time the patient had opened the door. I stood there dumbfounded wondering how we had gotten this far into a potentially hazardous scene completely clueless. I was even stupid enough to peer into the restroom to see the extent of damage caused by the explosion. After I finally realized what we were dealing with, I instructed everyone to promptly evacuated the interior of the building. On the way out, I questioned the fire department regarding whether they had looked for "secondary devices" or had thought of a "dirty bomb" scenario where hazardous material had been placed with the explosive device. They had not, and neither had I until well into the call.

No one on scene seemed to understand the ramifications of this event. The fire department responded to the scene as a "fire" event. The police department viewed the event as a "crime scene" and sadly to say, we treated the event initially as a "medical call". Fortunately, for all of us, this was an isolated "prank" that, for the most part, was harmless. We may not be so lucky next time.


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