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Dr. Fred Harper of Brookhaven National Lab working with Indian counterparts during the field exercise portion of the workshop
Dr. Fred Harper of Brookhaven National Lab working with Indian counterparts during the field exercise portion of the workshop

NNSA emergency response experts traveled to Mumbai and New Delhi in August to lead a workshop for Government of India representatives exploring a scenario involving a “dirty bomb”, or radiological dispersal device (RDD).

The best practices technical exchange focused on planning an effective response to an RDD, using the actionable guidance presented in the U.S. interagency document, "Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) Response Guidance - Planning for the First 100 Minutes."

Dr. Fred Harper explaining the science of radioactive material dispersal to an audience of Indian first responders
Dr. Fred Harper explaining the science of radioactive material dispersal to an audience of Indian first responders

NNSA subject matter experts co-authored the planning guidance, along with federal partners from Department of Homeland Security and its National Urban Security Technology Laboratory, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The RDD response guidance codifies decades of Department of Energy research into operationally relevant and holistic guidance, strategies, and tactics that can benefit RDD incident management and response worldwide,” emphasized Dan Blumenthal of the NNSA Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation, who helped to organize the workshop. 

Response personnel from the United States and India discussed the many challenges associated with RDD response and recovery. Former New York City Fire Department HazMat Batallion Chief Bob Ingram shared firsthand knowledge about how the city has implemented the First 100 Minutes procedures into its response protocols.  

Robert Ingram, retired FDNY HazMat Batallion Chief describing how New York City has planned to respond to RDD
Robert Ingram, retired FDNY HazMat Batallion Chief describing how New York City has planned to respond to RDD

The technical exchange provided several hands-on components, including walking through the RDD Response Planning Checklist, to guide planners in developing effective response plans, followed by scenario-based tabletop discussions, and a field exercise using the FEMA RadResponder Network to demonstrate environmental radiological monitoring. It focused on a holistic solution set for an RDD scenario, covering the scientific basis for correctly characterizing the extent of environmental contamination as well as addressing the economic recovery and public messaging. 

For some Government of India participants at the new Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership, it was their first experience discussing RDD response and recovery in an interactive format. This underscored the need for a harmonized, interagency, and inter-ministry approach to decision making for public health and safety. 

Robert Ingram, retired FDNY HazMat Batallion Chief describing how to conduct environmental radiological monitoring
Robert Ingram, retired FDNY HazMat Batallion Chief describing how to conduct environmental radiological monitoring