In an effort to get up to speed with some real world emergency training, the Londonderry Fire and Police Departments took place in a joint venture with the Boston Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) Bomb Squad, Federal Department of Homeland Security to detect and control radiological threats at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
On Thursday, Sept 20, a number of scenarios were set up by Special Agent Ben Hicks of the FBI Bomb Squad and Jeff Dade of the New Hampshire Bomb Squad at the airport with actual radioactive isotopes.
In one scenario, the isotopes were hidden in one of the parking areas at the airport, where police and fire personnel were sent out to detect and contain the material.
According to Londonderry Fire Department Captain Jim Roger, “Up until this exercise, all of the department’s training has been in the classroom. This exercise allowed us to use the equipment we have in a ‘real life’ scenario.”
Roger also explained that in recent years, with the threat of terrorists, and the expansion of industry in Londonderry, the idea that personnel in his department would have to learn how to deal with radiological issues is becoming more and more a fact of life.
Home Land Security officials consider the scenario to be a “Low Frequency but High Risk” issue. Meaning that although these issues won’t be seen in town very often, when they do, they will create a very real danger to the community.
Most recently, according to Roger, the Londonderry Fire Department responded to an accident on I-93 where a van containing radiological material was involved in a rollover. Even though the material was never damaged, the issue of how to handle it was very real.
“The three-hour exercise served as a great learning experience.” according to Roger.