the relevance of the threat of the use of bacteriological weapons by terrorists, the lack of readiness of police services to ensure safety in the context of its use, the proposed solution
Bioterrorism is one of the main threats of the near future
In the previous article, I tried to address the most problematic issues in the activities of the police services and other law enforcement agencies that they encountered during the period of the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic. In addition, I expressed my opinion on what measures should be taken to increase the level of protection of police officers from dangerous viruses and improve their effectiveness in protecting citizens. The covid-19 pandemic did not immediately arise and the spread of the virus was not rapid, so most countries of the world had time to prepare for the epidemic, somewhere less, somewhere more, but at least a few days or even weeks were for everyone. As practice has shown, not all countries and police services made proper use of this time, but this is most likely due to the fact that the real scale of the threat at that time was underestimated, because humanity has not faced such epidemics for more than 100 years. In a previous publication, I suggested that humanity will face such epidemics more than once in the very near future, the same is claimed by virologists, so now, while the epidemic has receded a little, there is time that needs to be spent on preparing for possible new pandemics of dangerous viruses in the near future.
In this article, I would like to consider this situation, on the other hand. If police services and other law enforcement agencies still have time to prepare for probable epidemics, how to be in situations where there is no time to prepare? If the time count goes not for weeks or months, but for minutes or even seconds? As an example, I propose to consider the situation that can occur at any time and in any country in the world, this is a terrorist act using bacteriological weapons. It is naive to believe that bioterrorism is an unlikely threat, terrorist groups and movements are increasingly using the achievements of modern science and technology in their activities. The use of dangerous varieties of natural and synthetic viruses for these purposes is only a matter of time, and the precedents of the use of bacteriological weapons by terrorists are already known.
We will continue to consider the situation, the terrorists spread a strain of a dangerous virus in a place with a mass stay of people, for example, in a large shopping and entertainment center, where at the time of spraying there were several thousand people. If we assume that the incident became known immediately after its commission, then in this case special protocols of special state services to counter the spread of bacteriological threats begin to operate. Employees of these services know the procedure, have special protective equipment, equipment and other necessary equipment to eliminate the danger. However, their collection and arrival at the scene takes time, in most countries these units, although they are operational, are not in constant waiting mode 24/7 (abr: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), except when a higher level of terrorist danger is introduced. What if it's a day off or a holiday? If the high alert mode was not introduced? How much time will it take for these services to respond fully, from the moment an incident is reported to arrival on site and the deployment of an operational headquarters to eliminate the threat? Even with the most favorable combination of circumstances, it will take from 40 minutes to 2 hours.
Why in this case, «Question of Time» is the most important.
Any terrorist act committed with the use of cold or firearms, explosive devices, vehicles or toxic substances has the localization of the danger zone, and most importantly its borders. As a rule, such localization is one, less often several, the number of active entities directly carrying out dangerous actions (direct perpetrators of a terrorist attack) is also limited. In cases of bioterrorism, the situation is opposite, the boundaries of the danger zone and the number of active subjects (carriers of a dangerous virus) grow exponentially with each minute.
If we consider the situation on the example given, when bacteriological weapons were used in a shopping center where several thousand people were at that time, then if this threat is not localized for 10 minutes, (provided that terrorists used an active virus transmitted from person to person by airborne drip, contact or other contactless route) then in an hour the number of infected will increase from 500 to 1200%, if it is a large metropolis with a high population density, then in a day, hundreds of thousands of people can count infected. Therefore, when committing terrorist acts using bacteriological weapons, the first minutes are the most important. The number of victims can be reduced to a possible minimum only in one way - quickly localizing the source of infection, thereby limiting its further spread. To do this (on the example of the model of the situation under consideration), it is necessary to quickly block the building of the shopping center on which the attack was carried out and the adjacent territory. You can do this only in one way: block all entrances and exits from the building, set up posts on the access roads and cordon off the adjacent territory along the perimeter. But who should do it? Special services that neutralize bacteriological threats, depending on the country, relate either to military or civilian structures. Obtaining permission to use the military to cordon off and control the territory inside the country will take at least a few hours, civilian structures of paramilitary law enforcement units do not have at all.
The only structure that has the power, means and authority to quickly carry out such tasks is the police. Police officers also have specialized skills and sufficient experience in quickly blocking buildings and surrounding areas, restricting the movement of people and transport. Police officers who are constantly on the streets are able to perform all these actions and completely close the perimeter within 10-20 minutes from the moment they receive such a task. However, the conditions for performing such a task will be non-standard, requiring a completely different approach to its implementation. This creates some difficulties due to serious shortcomings in the system of training of employees, the organization of police activities and inter-agency coordination in such conditions. The fact is that police officers in most countries of the world:
1. no experience in direct use of bacteriological weapons;
2. Lack of specialized knowledge and skills in dealing with the direct threat of exposure to dangerous viruses;
3. There are no special personal protective equipment for work in the conditions of eliminating the consequences of bioterrorism;
4. there are no clear protocols of operational interaction between various services in case of the use of bacteriological weapons by terrorists.
In this list, I did not mention everything, but only those problematic issues that, in my opinion, are the main ones and require a solution in the first place. I repeat, I believe that it is precisely bacteriological weapons that terrorist organizations will rely on in the future. The world pandemic covid-19 in 2020 clearly showed how dangerous viral infections can be, how quickly they can spread and cover entire continents. But most importantly, in my opinion, the pandemic clearly showed how defenseless humanity was against these viruses. Therefore, while there is still time, it is necessary to quickly identify and eliminate these vulnerabilities, otherwise it may be too late later.
Several priority actions are needed to address identified vulnerabilities:
1. Supplement education programmes for the initial and periodic training of police officers, especially patrol units.* Curricula shall be supplemented by the following sections:
1.1. Bacteriological weapons: general information, types, threats, principle of operation, methods of transportation, use and distribution;
1.2. Personal safety measures in case of threat of use of bacteriological weapons, types, possibilities and rules of using personal protective equipment;
1.3. Initial tactics for the threat of bacteriological weapons under different conditions;
1.4. Features of ensuring public order and human safety in the area where bacteriological weapons are used;
1.5. The procedure for entering the mode is Quarantine.
* It would be even better if each patrol unit, as part of the duty shift, had at least one staff member who would undergo more in-depth vocational training in these disciplines in a specialized educational institution.
2. Include in the equipment of officers of police patrol units a special set of primary protection against bacteriological weapons*, consisting of:
2.1. protective suit, disposable;
2.2. protective mask with filtering elements;
2.3. protective, disposable gloves;
2.4. means for disinfecting air and surfaces in an aerosol package.
* The simple composition of this kit may cause skeptics reasonable doubts about its effectiveness. But here it is important to understand that the tasks of police officers in this case are auxiliary, they ensure cordon off the scene and control the perimeter of the danger zone, they are not engaged in eliminating the threat and do not work at the epicenter of a viral attack. Their main goal is to ensure control before the arrival of special services officers who are engaged in the decontamination of the danger zone and the elimination of the threat. To accomplish such tasks, the above primary safety measures are sufficient, they reduce the risk of infection by more than 95% by most known viruses. Police officers will have to be at the borders (not in the epicenter) of the danger zone from 40 minutes to 2 hours, under such conditions, these personal security measures will be enough.
Specialized (professional) suits, gloves and masks of a higher level of bacteriological protection can be used, but this will complicate the work. The first is to dress such suits for a long time and often they require additional processing measures, the second is to perform police tasks in such suits, communicate with people, conduct radio communication, use physical force, special means and weapons, because situations can be different. Therefore, the use of even simpler, but at the same time sufficiently reliable means of protection will be no less effective, and most importantly less time consuming, namely, time in terrorist acts using bacteriological weapons is the most important factor. Using the funds indicated in the kit, the policeman will be able to independently dress protective equipment in less than 5 minutes and begin to fulfill his task.
However, this does not mean that the arsenal of police services should not have protective equipment with a higher degree of protection against exposure to dangerous viral infections. This equipment and equipment can be stored in police stations and used by reserve units, which will be mobilized and sent to the scene as reinforcements, as well as for other tasks related to bacteriological threats.
3. Together with special services for countering bacteriological threats and other specialists in this area, develop simple and understandable tactical algorithms for actions for police patrol units when threatening to use bacteriological weapons.
These algorithms should be included in the development plans for existing employees, with the obligatory conduct of practical exercises with imitation of various situations, at various objects of life, especially in places with a mass stay of people.
4. Develop and conclude agreements between police units and special services for combating bioterrorism on joint activities and temporary operational guidance* in case of detection of the threat of use of bacteriological weapons.
* Let's analyze by example: the police on duty receives a message that a terrorist attack using biological weapons was committed in a shopping center. The control center, introducing the Bacteriological Hazard code, sends the nearest patrols to the scene of the incident, gives instructions on equipping employees with personal protective equipment and sets initial tasks to close the perimeter around the building and the surrounding area. This task is fulfilled, but the question arises - to do further, before the arrival of the special biosecurity service? It is important to understand that each of the dangerous viral infections that terrorists can use is unique in its own way. «Battle viruses» suitable for use in terrorist attacks rarely have similar characteristics, so in each case it is important to find out as quickly as possible which type of biothreat had to be encountered or at least which group it belongs to. The sooner this becomes known, the faster and more effective measures will be taken to eliminate the consequences of the attack. Therefore, it is important that from the moment of arrival on the spot, the patrol, in addition to cordoning off the area of destruction, quickly collect and transfer to the special bioprotection service as much important information as possible. But again questions arise: what is important and what is not, what is worth paying attention to, how to respond? The police on duty does not know this, but bioprotection specialists know this. Therefore, the most correct decision would be to temporarily transfer operational control of police officers who arrived in the area of destruction, bioprotection officers, in order for them to direct their actions, collect primary information through them, and then, taking into account the data transmitted, quickly correct the tasks at the scene. The more professionally organized the actions of police officers in the danger zone, the lower the damage from the actions of terrorists. Therefore, the urgent action protocol for such cases should provide for a temporary transition of the operational management of police officers at the scene to a special bioprotection service.
Such a campaign will significantly reduce the time period from receiving a report of an act of bioterrorism to eliminating its consequences. After all, it is time in this case that is the most important factor and how correctly it will be used in this case and it will depend on what extent the tragedy will have. Every second used correctly is at least one saved life.
In the article before me, I indicated the minimum list of urgent measures to be taken today could in the future enable the police services to deal more effectively with the growing wave of international terrorism.
I am sure that you should not wait for the moment when the threats of the use of bacteriological weapons by terrorists will become a reality. Already, we need to change the usual practice of lagging behind crime and terrorism, we need to act ahead of schedule, predicting likely threats and taking effective preventive measures. Otherwise, we will lose the war on terrorism.
date of publication - on September 25, 2020 author Grishin Roman, Russian Federation photo taken from the site Twitter
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