Tokyo Subway Attack Essay

1028 words - 5 pages

Chemicals were first utilized extensively as a weapon during the First World War. Mustard gas and chlorine were the most common. Being disseminated erratically across the battlefield often times these agents would indiscriminately inflict casualties on both sides. As a weapon of terror chemical weapons have been rather obscure. Despite many recent uses by totalitarian regimes in the past 30 years, because of the extensive costs in manufacturing, chemical agents are rarely used by radical groups or terrorists. This was not the case on March 20, 1995. The Tokyo subway system was attacked by the cultist group Aum Shinrikyo with the use of the nerve agent sarin. The attack had far reaching ...view middle of the document...

Defense and police forces were then capable of performing proper decontamination procedures for those exposed and responders. After victims and responders were attended to the massive decontamination process could begin. Decontamination is typically conducted by neutralizing and/or dilution of the present agent.
Several factors inhibited the response efforts by the Japanese. First responders, police and firefighters, were not properly trained or equipped with the proper assets to manage a sarin attack. It should be noted GC/MS units at the time were extremely large and not hand held devices. Additionally, complacency by not expecting or preparing for worst case scenarios further exacerbated the situation. An established system and knowledge by the responders of general symptoms of various Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) agents could have allowed responders to make a better assessment of the agent present.
When people join any service branch in the United States military they are educated on basic signs and symptoms of various CBRN threats. These indicators serve as one of the most basic means of identification for a threat which might be present. Not only would this training be valuable for the first responders, improving public knowledge of these threats can assist in containing and identifying the situation. Leaving mass transit systems, especially those in contained structures (subways, airports etc.), vulnerable to attacks by not implementing response plans and sustained detection devices is simply reckless. First responders to the incident, and in general, should also be provided with the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), detection and monitoring equipment.
Granted, technology has allowed many systems to become significantly smaller, rugged and capable. For example GC/MS systems are now capable of being hand held, advanced software and simplified user interfaces now longer require trailers or facilities. More importantly, they do not require a first responder to have graduate school training to operate the device. In addition to GC/MS, it is important responders be provided with different devices to create redundancy. This can be especially important as not to misidentify a chemical because the only...

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