Canada unveils national standards for terror response

Tue Jan 25, 2011 4:49pm EST
 
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By Pav Jordan

TORONTO (Reuters) - An unused subway station in Canada's largest city faced a mock terrorist attack on Tuesday as authorities unveiled a new national equipment standard for emergency workers facing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The new standard provides national guidelines for the gear and procedures that should be used when faced with various kinds of terrorist incidents. It dictates, for example, what equipment to use for respiratory protection or whole body protection.

Previous equipment standards were developed for more common emergencies like house fires and break-ins.

Tuesday's live demonstration had police, firefighters and medics descend on Toronto's downtown Lower Bay subway station - out of service now for decades - where a large briefcase billowed thick, grey smoke.

Armed with state of the art air monitors, personnel in giant, green, sealed suits assessed the nature of the gas before signaling for a second, less-protected team to attend to choking passengers.

"After 911, things changed and we had to reassess the way we do business as first responders and as government," said Vic Toews, Canada's minister for public safety. "From that point forward we realized that we had to look at all of the standards in place, all the measures that we were taking and ensure that they addressed the threats that this new age brought forward."

The new equipment standard, on which work started in 2007, was unveiled a day after at least 35 people were killed and about 180 others injured in a bomb blast at Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport in what appeared to have been a suicide attack.

Canada's national standard for front-line fire, police and medical workers may be the only one of its kind in the world, officials said.

(Reporting by Pav Jordan; editing by Peter Galloway)