Westchester County is distributing radiation monitors to local fire and police departments so first responders will be better prepared to recognize and deal with any kind of radiological incident.
Agencies were notified today by the Department of Emergency Services (DES) that their alerting radiological detection pagers are ready to be picked up. Each department will receive two of the hand-held devices which are intended to be used by the first police officers or firefighters to arrive at the scene of an emergency. The pagers would alert them to the presence of radiation so they can recognize a hazard and take the necessary actions to protect themselves.
“While we hope to never have a need for these devices, our philosophy has always been that it’s best to be prepared,” said County Executive Andy Spano. “This program adds one more layer of protection for the county’s first responders and helps ensure that they can detect and respond efficiently to any kind of radiological incident.”
Spano noted that the distribution of the monitors fits well into the county’s overall program of detection and response, which includes HAZMAT teams and radiological response units from the Health Department.
The idea for the pagers came from a committee assembled by DES Commissioner Anthony Sutton at Spano’s request. The committee, which determined how to most prudently spend grant money, is comprised of representatives from the County’s fire, police and EMS agencies, as well as emergency management and hospital representatives. The group decided to purchase the pagers with Federal Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) funds.
The potential for transportation accidents involving radioactive material and the potential threat of a radiological terrorism incident requires that first responders be equipped with a radiation monitor. Using this new equipment, first responders in the county will be able to recognize a radiation hazard, set up a safe perimeter and summon the appropriate technical resources to respond to and mitigate the problem.
“This program is designed to protect the county’s first responders,” said Sutton. “The pagers are intended to give those personnel an alarm that there is a radiation hazard. The training we have provided with this instrumentation has prepped the responders to protect themselves, secure the area and summon more specialized resources.”
In the past month, the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, Brookhaven National Labs and the manufacturer, Canberra Industries, has held training sessions for the first responders to help prepare them for response to transportation accidents and other events that may involve radiation hazards.