Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology


CBRN Awareness Day

A full report on an insightful and informative CBRN Awareness Day, which was held on October 26th at Westminster City Hall

We were welcomed to the meeting by Katie Tomkins, London & Southeast Regional Lead, who thanked Westminster Council for providing the venue and refreshments free of charge.

The first speaker was DS Ian Tippet (Metropolitan Police Service (MPS); CO3 Emergency & Preparedness). Ian gave us an introduction into Disaster Victim Identification (DVI). He explained several reasons why the provision of a DVI capability is required;

  • Civil Contingencies Act 2004 imposes a legal obligation for an effective response.
  • Interpol Resolution 1996; the Standing Committee on DVI recognises that for legal, religious, cultural and other reasons, human beings have the right not to lose their identities after death, and that the identification of disaster victims is often of vital importance for police investigations, 
  • Judicial recommendations following the Lord Justice Clarke report into the Marchioness disaster.

It was explained to us the difference between ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ incidents i.e. an aircraft crash with a detailed flight manifest is a closed incident whereas a busy commuter train in a cosmopolitan city would be an open incident as there would be no record of who was on the train and there could also be several nationalities.

In the event of an incident there is a timeline of events and Ian went through this with us. One of the priorities in the immediate aftermath of an incident is the setting up of a Casualty Bureau which would deal with all enquiries with regards to potential victims. Once the scene of the incident has been cleared of all injured then initial assessment requires to be made of the area and the dead.

An initial team of officers and specialists will assess and describe;

  • Explosive safety
  • Environmental Safety
  • Evidence Intelligence (is this an on-going campaign that could bring about further attacks)
  • Property
  • Human Remains
  • Body Parts ( these may be from the living as well as the dead)

On removal from the scene all human remains and evidence are given unique reference numbers which then remain through the entire process at the mortuary. The mortuary selected will be dependent on the number of dead.

  • Local mortuaries can be used for a few deaths if it does not impact too much on the existing service.
  • A regional temporary mortuary could be used if the number of dead would overwhelm local mortuaries.
  • National Emergency Mortuary Arrangements (NEMA) could be requested if the number of dead is excessive.

Ian then explained briefly the mortuary process and the ‘Pinks’ and ‘Yellows’ DVI Interpol Forms that are completed. All post-mortem information is recorded on the ‘Pinks’ and all ante-mortem information is collected, by Family Liaison Officers, on the ‘Yellows’.

These forms are then brought together before an Identification Commission in order to confirm identification and allow release of deceased to families.

PC Richard Mead (CO3 (Dedicated CBRN Unit) then explained how the DVI process as we know it can be made more difficult if the victims are contaminated. Contamination could occur due to;

  • Terrorism – deliberate release of a chemical or biological agent
  • Hazmat – accidental release of chemical or biological agent
  • Illicit Drug Laboratories (IDL)
  • Suicides

Richard explained to us how easy it is to get hold of the chemicals for bomb making, drug making, and suicides and that there are readily available instructions/recipes on the internet.

Richard explained that in the event of contaminated fatalities the MPS seek advice from their colleagues at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down and that the scientist there would advise on the PPE required for each scenario.

PS David Jones (CBRN –IDL Team) then presented to us an insight into the Illicit Drug Laboratories that are very common in the USA and becoming increasingly common in the UK. These IDLs present a serious health & safety risk to emergency responders and members of the public. The ‘cooking process’ during the production of methamphetamine (Crystal meth) produces a side product of phosphine gas which is extremely toxic. Hazards can be acute or chronic. He gave an example of a methamphetamine lab in a private dwelling house which had been shut down. The next owners of that house suffered health problems, in particular, their young child. Tests indicated this was due to toxins still being present in the house.

The labs don’t require a lot of space, can be easily disguised and locations include

  • Rural
  • Urban
  • Mobile (in vehicles)
  • Underground

Methamphetamine labs are on the increase due to its ease of manufacture and the fact that it is one of the most addictive drugs. Figures suggest that, out of 100 users, if the drug is smoked or injected twice 90 will become addicted. Again the ‘recipes’ for manufacture are readily available on the internet and ‘ingredients’ are commonly found in the UK. The PPE for emergency responders to these IDLs is breathing apparatus (some breakthrough using regular respirator) with a special type of Tyvex.

Simon Andrews (SO15 Counter Terrorism) went on to explain Counter Terrorism in DVI and again how results are achieved even in contaminated incidents. There is a fine balance between Criminal Investigation and Victim Identification. What SO15 are looking to achieve from a scene investigation would be information that might point them to;

  • Any safe houses
  • Bomb Factories
  • Vehicles used
  • Weapons stores
  • Supporting organisations

Simon then went on to describe the scene examination in detail including risk assessments and precautions taken to protect evidence on route to the mortuary location. He then gave us a case study on the Alexander Litvinenko, Polonium-210 poisoning. He described how this mushroomed into a massive operation over numerous scenes and countries;

  • Aircraft
  • Buses
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants

Afterwards it also involved a massive ‘clean up’ operation;

  • Personnel health monitoring
  • Removal of contamination
  • Radioactive waste disposal
  • Storage of exhibits

At the close of the meeting James Lowell (AAPT Chair) asked those interested in receiving training from the MPS in the handling of contaminated fatalities (CR1 kit) to raise their hands. A few did but as it had been an intense afternoon with a lot to take in Katie Tomkins suggested that everyone should take the information away and seriously think about whether or not they would want to take this forward.

This training, at the moment, is for London based APTs and those interest should contact Katie Tomkins;

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