Armed Hostilities

Recovery Plan: Chemical Attack on the Super Bowl

The modern world is vulnerable to various threats. Terrorist attacks have become quite common in many parts of the world. American cities are not absolutely as safe as terrorists use different techniques to attack as many people as possible. Terrorists tend to attack various events and areas where many people gather (Bolz, Dudonis, & Schulz, 2016). The use of chemical weapons is a common strategy of terrorists as it is associated with vast contaminated areas and significant casualties.

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The recovery plan in question is developed to respond to the attack on the Super Bowl. The stadium was filled to its full capacity (72,000 spectators). During the game, people noticed that a bitter almond smell appeared in the area of the stadium’s bathrooms. Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) had been released through the ventilation system of the bathrooms. People who used the bathrooms displayed severe symptoms of cyanide poisoning, while many other fans started suffering from symptoms of different severity. To mitigate the effects of the terrorist attack mentioned, emergency response measures should involve ensuring people’s safety, the area’s decontamination, provision of the relevant information to the public, as well as the preservation of the information necessary for the investigation.



Hydrogen cyanide is a highly toxic colorless gas that can be quickly absorbed through the respiratory tract and the skin. The largest portions of poisonous elements are mainly distributed in blood, lungs, liver, and brain (Surleva, Gradinaru, & Drochioiu, 2012). This poisonous gas is included in the group of blood agents (Bolz et al., 2016). The exposure to HCN results in the development of the following symptoms: headaches, giddiness, convulsions, unconsciousness, paralysis of the central respiratory center. High concentrations of this gas can lead to such clinical conditions as cardiovascular collapse, respiratory arrest, and coma (Surleva et al., 2012). People who have been exposed to a high concentration of this gas have the most severe symptoms and need immediate medical Treatment.

It is noteworthy that the victims will not experience any prolonged effects after leaving the contaminated area. Clearly, those who display certain symptoms should receive the corresponding Treatment. Otherwise, they may have more serious health issues. For instance, people having giddiness (if untreated) may lose consciousness or simply fall and receive significant injuries. It is noteworthy that animals will experience similar health issues, so people should be informed about such hazards and make sure that their pets and/or domestic animals will not be exposed to the contaminated air, especially in the area closer than 1 kilometer from the Superdome.


As for the environmental impact, it may be rather significant. HCN is an unstable gas that can easily mix with air, moisture, some elements present in the air, and explosive mixtures are created (Surleva et al., 2012). Importantly, hydrogen cyanide is associated with the threat of explosion if there is heat (Pitschmann, 2014). Since the poison is in the form of gas, it will not remain in open areas, but various quarters of the Superdome (especially bathrooms) should be properly ventilated. The downwind areas will be exposed to a certain level of gas concentration. It is vital to make sure that these zones are free from the characteristics mentioned above (heat, moisture, certain elements in the air). No lasting effects on the environment are known.

Agencies Responding to the Attack and Their Roles

The chemical attack of that scale will involve the collaboration of several local agencies and a state agency. The local responders include police and fire departments, as well as healthcare providers (Bolz et al., 2016). The state agency involved is the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), as an FBI manager will supervise the response measures and coordinate the collaboration of the agencies. The city has sufficient resources (manpower, and tools) to handle the attack, so state agencies will not be involved.

However, if the situation changes, state agencies may be addressed so they should be prepared to respond. It is necessary to note that the excessive number of responders will be harmful as the confusion increases exponentially with the increase in the number of people involved (Bolz et al., 2016). Hence, it is beneficial to use unites and individuals, as well as other resources, that are essential.

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Police Departments

As for particular responsibilities, police departments will focus on handling the perimeter, managing the evacuation, and maintaining order. Police officers will help people leave the contaminated area, but they will also prevent any unauthorized access to the scene. They will keep bystanders and journalists, as well as other people, away from the scene as they will need to protect evidence from investigating the case. Police departments have extensive experience in this area, so they will perform this role effectively.

Fire Departments

The fire departments involved will identify the contaminated areas, the level of contamination, assist people in the most contaminated areas (to leave the dangerous zone), and implement decontamination procedures. Firefighters will also collect evidence (if they come across any). Fire personnel will focus on the area, but saving and assisting people will also be their responsibility. Fire departments have the necessary equipment and devices to ensure access to all parts of the Superdome without health risks to the fire personnel. Therefore, firefighters will be able to help those who have been exposed to high concentrations of the gas and are unable to walk on their own. Firefighters will bring such people to safe zones where they will receive medical care.

Medical Personnel

The healthcare personnel will provide medical care to the victims (at the scene and in local (nearest) hospitals). Bolz et al. (2016) claim that medical care may be necessary for police and fire departments’ personnel. Police officers and firefighters (especially those who come first to the scene) may not know the nature of the threat and be unprepared. There can also be injuries due to panic that can take place. Emergencies will bring people with severe symptoms of cyanide poisoning to the nearest healthcare facilities. Medical personnel will provide medical care to less affected people in the safe zone (upwind area) around one or even two kilometers from the Superdome.


The FBI manager will supervise the measures undertaken, but the local police will have the right to make final decisions. The coordination of the steps undertaken by different local agencies is also an important responsibility that will contribute to the effectiveness of the operations. The FBI officer has the necessary training and is aware of the most effective recovery strategies that have been used in other places. Therefore, this experience will be needed to respond to the attack.


Agency-to-Agency Communication

Effective communication is the key to successful response measures (Bolz et al., 2016). All responders involved will have the necessary communication devices (radio). The communication will be characterized by quite a strict hierarchy as each department’s personnel will report to their heads. The heads of the department will report to the emergency response team that will be created immediately after the attack and located in the nearest police station (which is in a safe zone).

The communication will be facilitated by such means as telephones and emails as the heads of departments, and the members of the response group will have to reach each other promptly. The group will include representatives of all the agencies involved. Clearly, the members of the group will be able to contact the heads of the departments (and team leaders, if necessary) involved in case they need certain data or have some instructions to provide.

Informing the Public

As for the communication with the public, it is also important as it will help avoid panic and chaos in the local communities. The heads of the departments involved will provide the information to the media that is one of the major sources of information for many people. The mayor of the city will also address the public to provide the most relevant information. Bolz et al. (2016) state that the use of social media has proved to be an effective method of informing people.

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Therefore, it is possible to use social networks to provide information on the affected zone. The measures individuals can undertake to keep safe, hospitals where victims are treated, and so on. The information provided to the public (through the channels mentioned above) will cover the following: the area affected, health hazards to the fans and the rest of inhabitants of the city, symptoms, steps individuals should take to keep safe, agencies to address (for medical care, or to provide important information concerning the attack). The use of social media is justified as the majority of people use these networks to communicate and remain updated on various aspects of their life.

Major Challenges


As has been mentioned above, HCN is a highly toxic gas, so the first responders are at high risk of being poisoned. To ensure the first responders’ safety, it is necessary to provide them with the necessary protective equipment. Most importantly, all the responders operating in the affected area should have respirators. In places with a high concentration of hydrogen cyanide, people should wear special masks and, in some cases, supplied breathing air (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015).

For instance, this equipment may be needed for the personnel working in the bathrooms and other closed rooms in the Superdome. The personnel operating in the areas with a high concentration of the gas should wear chemical suits, while those operating in zones with insignificant concentration should wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid skin contamination. Some firefighters should be equipped with the detection devices available to identify the concentration of HCN. Pacsial-Ong and Aguilar (2013) state that a number of effective detection devices exist, and many agencies, as well as facilities, have some of them. For example, it is possible to utilize such devices as radius BZ1 area monitor or MX6 iBrid Gas Detector.

Decontamination Procedures

When the levels of contamination are estimated, the responders should establish the perimeters and develop the necessary decontamination procedures. According to the CDC (2015), large spills should be treated as follows. It is necessary to isolate the distance of 500 meters in all directions. People’s protection will involve decontamination efforts focusing on downwind areas (up to 4 kilometers).


As for the work of the first responders, firefighters will operate in the zones with the highest contamination (the bathrooms, other closed areas) and areas with moderate levels of contamination. Police officers will operate outside the Superdome, at the gates, and in the open areas inside the stadium. Some police officers may need to access the bathrooms (where the source was placed) to collect evidence. Healthcare professionals will mainly remain outside the Superdome in the areas appropriate for parking emergencies as well as in the safe zones where people with no or insignificant symptoms will be examined and treated if necessary. Such distribution of responsibilities is effective as the agencies are well-trained to perform the roles assigned and have all the necessary equipment. At that, they may lack the expertise or equipment to enter other zones.


Another challenge is the victims’ behaviors. Thus, police officers (and the Superdome personnel, as well as firefighters) should inform people about possible outcomes of certain activities (for example, lighting a cigarette). If the use of the communication system of the Superdome is unavailable (the room is contaminated), only loudspeakers will be used. More so, police officers are responsible for preventing the panic among the fans as panic is often associated with injuries or even casualties.

Treatment of the Victims


Hall, Cooper, Marciani, and McGee (2012) state that the full evacuation is a standard measure during a large chemical spill. First, it ensures the safety of people and the implementation of the area decontamination procedures. Surleva et al. (2012) note that the removal from the contaminated area is the first and most important procedure to implement. Apart from this, the victims’ decontamination involves the administration of 100% oxygen. If the individual is unconscious, it is essential to administer the antidote (Maniscalco & Christen, 2011).

Hydroxocobalamin is now seen as one of the most effective antidotes (Surleva et al., 2012). The researcher also mentions that methemoglobin inducers can also be used, but these antidotes are associated with quite a slow reaction and a number of serious side effects. Finally, cyanohydrin formers can also be utilized, but more research is needed to estimate the effectiveness of this strategy. It is necessary to provide artificial respiration to those who have apnea. In any case, further medical care is essential. Therefore, the victims who have been exposed to high and moderate concentrations of the gas should be taken to the hospital for further medical examination and Treatment.

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Since hydrogen cyanide is highly toxic, it is also important to remove the victim’s clothes (underwear can be kept) to a specific container. The clothes can be washed in warm water with the use of soap. The parts of the victim’s body exposed to hydrogen cyanide should be washed with soap and warm water. It should be remembered that heat can facilitate the distribution and absorption of poisonous elements; hence, no hot water can be utilized for washing people’s bodies or their clothes. It is also crucial to be careful when washing people’s bodies not to damage skin as cyanide can affect the injured zones. If there are injuries, they should be covered (and treated properly before that) to make sure that poison will not reach the damaged areas (CDC, 2015).

When Treatment Is not Needed

The victims who have been exposed to insignificant concentrations of HCN and do not display any symptoms of cyanide poisoning can be seen by healthcare professionals near the Superdome. After that, they can leave the place if no health hazards are detected. Letting people go home is justified as it will reduce the overload of the healthcare facilities providing care to the victims of the attack. Of course, it is critical to make sure that those who will not seek further medical care are not poisoned.


Nonetheless, the psychological wellbeing of the victims should also be ensured. Bolz et al. (2016) argue that psychological assistance is vital for those who have experienced a terrorist attack. Obviously, at the scene, it can be difficult to provide all the necessary care (psychological support) due to the considerable number of victims. Therefore, psychologists working at the nearest healthcare facilities as well as volunteers, can come to the scene and help the victims during the first minutes after the attack.

At that, it is vital to ensure these people’s safety. The effort of healthcare professionals providing psychological support can be intensified by the police who can guide people and help establish particular spots of psychological aid. These spots should be in a safe zone. Healthcare professionals can also provide some information concerning further psychological Treatment if necessary. There can be leaflets with contact information concerning the corresponding centers or professionals.

It is also critical to remember about health hazards to the inhabitants of the city. Downwind areas (up to 4 km) will be exposed to quite a significant concentration of cyanide. Therefore, people should be informed about the ways to behave during the day and night after the attack. The information should come from media and social media. People should try to stay at home, close windows, leave their houses in the clothes that ensure minimal exposure of the body. It is critical to inform people about possible symptoms and the need to address healthcare professionals if these symptoms appear. This information will help decrease the number of victims of the attack.

Decontamination of the Area

As has been mentioned above, the major decontamination procedure is the ventilation of the contaminated areas. The stadium will be ventilated quite easily as it is an open area while some rooms should be properly ventilated. These procedures will prevent fires and minimize health threats to people. According to the CDC (2015), it is also necessary to wash the furniture with soap and warm water to remove all the poisonous elements. This should be done after the ventilation, and cleaners will have to wear protective clothing (clothes with long sleeves, trousers, boots, gloves, goggles, hoods or hats). After these procedures, ventilation should also be carried out.


Preserving the Scene

One of the most important (and most difficult) procedures to implement is associated with evidence collection. Clearly, the number of people affected and the health conditions of many victims and, most importantly, the contamination of the area will make it difficult to collect evidence right after the identification of the release of the chemical. The evidence can be lost during the response procedures that will involve a significant number of people and cleaning procedures. However, when the police identify the parameters and guide people from the most contaminated areas, it will be possible to seek evidence.

The first step is the preservation of the terrorist attack scene (Maniscalco & Christen, 2011). It is crucial to make sure that unauthorized access to the contaminated areas is impossible, which will be ensured by the police departments involved in the response measures. Maniscalco and Christen (2011) note that some people try to access the areas affected during terrorist attacks to get some souvenirs or just due to their curiosity or the desire to conduct their own investigation.

Evidence Collection

The collection of evidence should be implemented before the decontamination procedures, especially those involving washing. The police officers wearing protective clothing should start with the bathrooms and ventilation. It is necessary to collect the tanks (or what is left), in which the gas was left in the ventilation system of the Superdome. The tanks will be taken to the laboratory in special containers. Any kind of evidence found in the Superdome will be placed in a specific container to make sure that poisonous elements do not harm people transporting them.

Clearly, it can be possible to look for some fingerprints near and on the tanks, but this procedure is likely to bring no results. Any evidence will be provided to the FBI that will investigate the case (Maniscalco & Christen, 2011). It is necessary to note that it can be hard for first responders to collect evidence, but it is important to remember that these steps are the basis for effective investigation.

Effects on the Area

As far as the effects on the area are concerned, it is necessary to note that the environmental impact will not be significant. It will have certain effects on a 2-kilometer area in all directions and the downwind area (about 4 kilometers) during the first day and night (CDC, 2015). The impact will be associated with people’s (and animals’) health conditions, as some may develop some of the symptoms mentioned above. Clearly, the health issues of the victims who have been exposed to high concentrations of hydrogen cyanide will be a considerable issue to handle.

Apart from obvious health effects, the attack will have certain financial issues to handle. Thousands of people will be unable to be active members of the community for some period (depending on their health issues), which means that a lot of companies will lose employees for some (or even a substantial) period. Moreover, significant funds will be spent to cover healthcare expenses.

Nevertheless, the central impact is associated with the psychological aspect. The way the agencies respond will define people’s further attitude towards their personal safety, the agencies involved, and so on. Therefore, it is critical to make sure that the response measures will be effective, and the collaboration between the agencies will be effective. People should feel safe and understand that all situations will be handled properly. This is also one of the reasons for informing the public about the most significant details concerning the attack and the investigation (Bolz et al., 2016).


In conclusion, it is possible to state that the response to the chemical attack on the Super Bowl will be associated with the collaboration of such local and federal agencies as police and fire departments, healthcare facilities, and the FBI. The fire departments will help fans leave the dangerous area (especially zones with the highest concentration of HCN), identify the levels of contamination in different zones, and handle decontamination procedures. The police departments involved will handle the perimeter and preserve the terrorist attack scene, manage the evacuation, and maintain order.

The healthcare professionals involved will provide medical care (including psychological support) to people affected. The FBI will supervise the response measures, coordinate the work of the agencies involved, and investigate the case. All the personnel will have the necessary protective equipment as well as devices to complete the tasks assigned in an efficient way. The police, fire departments’ and FBI personnel, will collect evidence.

The response procedures will include the evacuation of fans and employees, Treatment of the affected people (fans, employees, as well as police officers and firefighters if necessary), decontamination of the area, and communication with the public. The Treatment will involve the removal from the contaminated area, administration of 100% oxygen, the administration of antidotes (if the victim is unconscious), removal of the contaminated clothes, and washing of open areas of victims’ bodies. It is also essential to pay the necessary attention to the provision of effective psychological support to those who may need it. The decontamination procedures will include ventilation of the areas and cleaning of the furniture.

Communication is often regarded as less relevant compared to other response procedures, but it often defines the effectiveness of the measures undertaken. The communication among the agencies will be carried out through radios and cell phones, as well as emails. It will be characterized by a strict hierarchy as the personnel will report to their heads, which will provide the information to the emergency response center. Importantly, additional communication channels may be developed, and the heads of the agencies will be informed about them and responsible for making their personnel aware of these channels.

The communication with the public will take place through the media with the use of social media. The heads of the agencies involved will inform the public about the details concerning the attack and response measures undertaken. Social media will be an effective platform for sharing information regarding the symptoms that may appear (as more people can be affected), ways to respond and agencies to address, information about healthcare facilities providing care to the victims, and so on. The public should feel safe and understand that the agencies undertake effective emergency response measures.

It is possible to note that this recovery plan is effective as it addresses all the challenges and issues that may appear during the emergency response procedures. The plan involves such stages as evacuation, management of the perimeter, evidence collection, and decontamination. The plan includes the description of meaningful details, including the devices to be used and particular procedures to implement. Specific attention is paid to the provision of psychological support and proper communication. The relevance of these aspects is often underestimated, which may lead to negative outcomes for the entire community. At that, it is necessary to remember that the development of an effective recovery plan does not mean efficient emergency response. It is crucial to make sure that the plan is followed, but some changes are made if necessary.


Bolz, F., Dudonis, K. J., Schulz, D. P. (2016). The counterterrorism handbook: Tactics, procedures, and techniques. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Hydrogen Cyanide (AC): Systemic agent. Web.

Hall, S. A., Cooper, W. E., Marciani, L., & McGee, J. A. (2012). Security management for sports and special events: An interagency approach to creating safe facilities. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Maniscalco, P. M., & Christen, H. T. (2011). Homeland security principles and practice of terrorism response. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Pacsial-Ong, E. J., & Aguilar, Z. P., (2013). Chemical warfare agent detection: A review of current trends and future perspectives. Frontiers in Bioscience, 5(2), 516-543.

Pitschmann, V. (2014). Overall view of chemical and biochemical weapons. Toxins, 6(6), 1761-1784.

Surleva, A., Gradinaru, R., & Drochioiu, G. (2012). Cyanide poisoning: From physiology to forensic analytical chemistry. International Journal of Criminal Investigation, 2(2), 79-101.

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