BY INSI

SAFETY ADVISORY: Threat of chemical weapons in Syria as at 08/04/13

The threat of chemical weapons is hanging over Syria.

Reports and counter-reports of their alleged use have been dominating the headlines - by the Syrian government who denies that it would use them, and the opposition who say they don't have the means to make them. 

Just weeks ago two reports of alleged chemical weapon use, one near the Khan al-Assal area of rural Aleppo (picture 1) and one near Adra, on the outskirts of Damascus (picture 2), prompted a UN investigation.

Picture 1
Picture 2

Initial findings from British scientists, who tested a soil sample from Adra, suggest that 'super strength tear gas' rather than a nerve agent was used in an attack on March 25.

Although few munitions evoke as much fear as chemical weapons, experts in this field currently believe that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is highly unlikely.

General

However, individuals operating inside Syria and the immediate border area should factor this threat into their risk assessment and if they are unsure seek expert assistance to decide whether to mitigate the risk. If they feel it is a high risk, then ensure that they are properly equipped to deal with the CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) threat should it arise and contact SecureBio below.

If you suspect a CBRN attack

What to do?

Try to get upwind.

Get in your vehicle and drive away from the area; keep windows closed and the fan turned off.

Try to get to high ground, as it is likely to afford you greater access to clean air. Avoid low-lying areas if possible as some agents are heavier than air and will settle at the lowest point.

If you can’t drive away, avoid hiding in confined spaces as they will reduce your access to clean air and can concentrate agents.

Try to get upwind.

Get in your vehicle and drive away from the area; keep windows closed and the fan turned off.

Try to get to high ground, as it is likely to afford you greater access to clean air. Avoid low-lying areas if possible as some agents are heavier than air and will settle at the lowest point.

If you can’t drive away, avoid hiding in confined spaces as they will reduce your access to clean air and can concentrate agent

Environment

Avoid unnecessary contact with surroundings i.e. unnecessarily touching door handles, leaning on walls or scuffing up dirt/dust, as they are likely to be contaminated.

Avoid puddles. Puddles will collect and trap contaminates. They may provide a carrier to breach your clothing/boots/skin.

Be aware of unusual sights or smells. Unusual smells should be acted on and may be your first indicator of CBRN hazard. Unusual sights, such as dead or no wildlife, will also provide a rapid and early indication that something is not right.

Decontamination

If you think you have been contaminated the following is suggested:

Move away from the suspected contamination in an upwind direction.

Remain upwind of the hazard and try to find some hard ground, which is non-absorbent.

Remove outer layers of clothing. Removing clothing, down to the underwear, can reduce the contamination by as much as 80%. Isolate discarded clothing and treat as contaminated, put into plastic bag if possible.

Blow your nose hard. Isolate any tissues and treat as contaminated.

Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water and scrub as well as any other areas of the body believed to be contaminated.

Seek extraction and immediate medical help.

Note: The information which provides the basis of this update has been provided by SecureBio and for any further information or assistance, please contact them directly at [email protected]

INSI will continue to monitor the situation.


Photo: Black smoke rises from buildings after government forces shelling, in Aleppo, Syria. Syria's main opposition group demanded Wednesday March 19 a full international investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack in the country's north, calling for a team to be sent to the village where it reportedly occurred. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)