September 11, 2001

Twelve years ago today, the world changed as we knew it. After decades and decades of feeling invincible, on September 11, 2001, America learned how vulnerable we were to a major terrorist attack.

At 8:46 a.m., hijackers flew a plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. On board were 11 crew members and 76 passengers (not counting the hijackers). For seventeen minutes, the country thought a terrible plane crash had occurred. Until the second plane hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. And our worlds changed forever.

The second plane was carrying nine crew members and 51 passengers. Both planes had made their departures from Boston’s Logan Airport and were both heading to Los Angeles.

The World Trade Center, September 11, 2001. The World Trade Center, September 11, 2001.

 At 9:37 a.m., a plane carrying six crew members and 53 passengers crashed into the Pentagon. And America held its breath.

At 10:03, a plane crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The 7 crew members and 33 passengers onboard had tried to overcome the hijackers. The hijackers’ intended target for that plane is believed to have been either the White House or the Capital.

There were 2,977 victims killed that day. There were no survivors from any of the plane crashes -  246 passengers and crew members were killed. In New York City, there were 2,606 people, either in the towers or on the ground who were killed. And there were 55 military personnel who were victims at the Pentagon.

The nineteen hijackers, none of whom survived, are included in any of these victim totals.

Almost 500 people killed that day were New York City emergency response workers who rushed into the towers to rescue victims. Hardest hit was the New York City Fire Department, who lost 341 firefighters and two paramedics. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department lost 37 police officers. The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers. There were eight EMTs from private emergency medical services also killed that day.

Many of those rescue workers who responded to the World Trade Center have since dealt with serious health issues, including cancer and lung problems, which studies have linked to exposure from toiling in the wreckage at Ground Zero.

This morning, in what has become a traditional ceremony, relatives will recite the names of the nearly 3,000 victims, as well as the 1993 trade center bombing victims' names.

Read now

Evidence Reveals Al Qaeda Planning New Terrorism Attacks

With new evidence that Al Qaeda is looking to strike, the United States government has closed more than 20 embassies and consulates across the Middle East and Northern Africa. Global travel warnings have also been issued by the State Department, urging U.S. citizens to be alert to “the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.”

An intercepted message among senior Al Qaeda operatives led to the closures and warnings. According to a member of the House Intelligence Committee, the information was gathered from “chatter” accumulated from phone lines, computer outlets, websites and other communication outlets. The information indicates that members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are in the final stages of planning for an unspecified attack. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview with CBS that it was “one of the most specific and credible threats I've seen perhaps since 9/11.”


New Al Qaeda threat is most specific and credible since 911, says one lawmaker. Lawmakers say new Al Qaeda threat is most significant since 9/11.


The threats have also led federal authorities to tighten security here. The Department of Homeland Security is increasing security measures at all transportation hubs, including airports, train and bus stations. Travelers coming into the country will also be heavily screened by officials.

A joint intelligence bulletin was issued by the DHS and the FBI to state and local law enforcement agencies outlining the recent intelligence and urging authorities to remain alert and vigilant to any suspicious activity. That bulletin remains classified, highlighting just how serious the threat is.

Emergency Film Group offers a complete line of Terrorism Response training films. Appropriate for law enforcement, fire departments, emergency management, hospital personnel and security officers, the topics covered in series includes biological weapons, IEDs, VBIEDs, suicide bombers and WMD response. To learn more, read here. . .


Read now

EFG Producing Program on Transportation Systems Vulnerability to Terrorism for TSA

Emergency Film Group has begun production of its latest project, Target: Transportation Systems. The training program is funded by the United States Congress and designed to support the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) and law enforcement efforts to prevent and deter acts of terrorism. The project is organized in four modules, describing the vulnerability of transportation systems to explosive device attacks and how transportation industry personnel can make major contributions to the security of the nation’s transportation network.

Filming of the first module recently took place on location at several Massachusetts transportation facilities. This program studies terrorist attacks on transportation systems around the world and filming included re-enactments of several major terrorist incidents. Both facilities personnel and local actors participated in the filming.

Several scenes were filmed at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, in West Tisbury, and featured different methods of concealments of improvised explosive devices (IED) as well as basic security procedures to prevent terrorist attacks.

EFG films at Martha's Vineyard Airport. EFG films at Martha's Vineyard Airport.

Another day of filming was spent at the Steamship Authority ferry terminal in Woods Hole, both aboard the SSA’s vessels and at the ferry terminal in Woods Hole. EFG’s crew, with the help of several local boat owners, the Falmouth Harbormaster and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute was also able re-enact examples of terrorist actions on the water.

The third day of filming was spent with the MBTA Transit Police Department.  Three MBTA facilities – South Station, World Trade Center Station and Courthouse Station - became the scene of “terrorist activity” as the EFG’s cameras rolled. Several MBTA Transit police officers participated in the filming, including the Transit Police’s bomb squad.


Other programs in the series will focus on in-depth look at IED components, the mind set of terrorists and how the set about to organize an attack, and responses to suspicious objects, including protective actions, incident command and response priorities.

As with all of Emergency Film Group’s productions, this program was created with the assistance of an expert technical committee, with members from Safe Skies, Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP), TSA, Transportation Explosives Security Training Center (TESTC), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), NYPD Bomb Squad and the FBI.


[slideshow id=6]

Read now

What You Need to Know about Ricin

Responders to hazmat and WMD incidents who have been active since 911 are well aware of what happened in the wake of the anthrax attack in 2011. Thousands of anthrax scares kept hazmat teams scurrying to “white powder” calls, almost all of which turned out to be harmless substances. The newest scourge involves another biological agent - ricin.

Ricin letters have been sent to the President, a US Senator and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, and the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The letters attack the stance of persons and organizations who back stricter gun control legislation.


Capture Terrorist planting a powdered biological weapon.


When the anthrax attacks happened, news organizations worldwide turned to Emergency
Film Group because it had recently release a training film called Response to Anthrax Threats. As is the case now with ricin, little was known about anthrax.

In 2001, letters containing anthrax were sent to Senator Tom Daschle, NBC and other media outlets. The anthrax had been weaponized and milled to very fine dust. In the aftermath, there were nineteen confirmed cases of anthrax and five persons died. Many more were exposed and underwent treatment. Anthrax can kill up to 90% of its victims.  The most likely and most lethal route of exposure is through inhalation. Within one week of exposure acute respiratory distress and cyanosis may appear. A vaccine is available and certain antibiotics can be effective immediately after exposure. However, there is usually no effective treatment after symptoms begin.

In WMD training for emergency responders, biological agents are usually divided into four major categories: Viruses, Bacteria, Toxins, and Rickettsia.  Anthrax is categorized as bacteria, while ricin is a toxin.

Biological toxins are produced by plants, animals, or microorganisms. Ricin is a protein found in the castor bean plant. The plant (ricinus communis), generally found in areas with a year-round warm climate, is a fast-growing leafy plant that can grow ten feet in a single season. Oil from the castor plant has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years: everything from hair growth to a laxative.

Castor oil is the key component in numerous industrial applications. Its water-resistance has made it a component in paint and varnish. Castor oil can maintain viscosity at extremely high temperatures so has been used as motor oil and in nylon production.

The seeds contain between 40% and 60% oil. Ricin is also present in lower concentrations. A lethal dose of ricin is considered to be four to eight seeds for a healthy adult. However, reports of actual poisoning are relatively rare, and suicides involving ingestion of castor beans are unheard of.  However, a more lethal form of ricin can be extracted from castor beans by concentrating it. Videos on line have explained how to this- a fairly uncomplicated, but time consuming process using readily available supplies and chemicals.

The likely routes of exposure are through ingestion, injection, or inhalation. A lethal does may be as little as a few grains of table salt.

If the ricin is ingested, symptoms may be delayed by up to 36 hours but commonly begin within 2 to 4 hours. These include a burning sensation in mouth and throat, abdominal pain, purging, bloody diarrhea, and seizures. Within several days there is severe dehydration, a drop in blood pressure and a decrease in urine. Unless treated, death can be expected to occur within 3 to 5 days. Antidotes are under development, but there has only been limited testing with humans. Symptoms can be treated, but long term organ damage is likely in survivors. Commercially available castor oil is not toxic to humans in normal doses

Ricin is known to have been used by injection in at least two assassinations.  In 1978, the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was assassinated by Bulgarian secret police who surreptitiously injected him on a London street with a modified umbrella using compressed gas to fire a tiny pellet contaminated with ricin into his leg.  He died in a hospital a few days later; the pellet was discovered during an autopsy. Markov had defected from Bulgaria some years previously and had subsequently written books and made radio broadcasts which were highly critical of the Bulgarian communist regime

The United States restricts the possession or use of ricin since it is a potential weapon of biological terrorism. According to the 2002 Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act, possessing, using or transferring ricin is prohibited. There are no federal regulations restricting the possession of castor bean plants.

The recent spate of ricin letters has often been treated in the press as part of the gun culture issue. But there should be no mistake, sending a ricin letter to anyone is an act of terrorism. The federal regulation is clear. Terrorism is “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Written by Gordon Massingham, the director and writer of the Emergency Film Group program “Terrorism: Biological Weapons.” Part II of the series will address sampling and decontamination issues.









Read now

Possible Security Breach at Quabbin Reservoir

Massachusetts State Police say they are increasing routine patrols at water supply facilities around the state after a possible security breach incident at the Quabbin Reservoir near Belchertown, which is the primary drinking water source for Boston and forty other communities.

At approximately 12:30 am Tuesday, a trooper saw two cars parked at one of the reservoir park entrances and then noticed a group of people, five men and two women, walking towards the vehicles. When questioned, the male individuals said they were chemical engineers and had recently graduated from college. The group claimed to be at the reservoir for educational purposes and career interests.

The seven people were from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore and had addresses in Amherst, Cambridge, Sunderland, Northampton, and New York City. State Police provided the Commonwealth Fusion Center the identities of the group and details of the incident. The Commonwealth Fusion Center works with local, state and federal public safety agencies and private sector organizations in collecting, analyzing and distributing intelligence relevant to terrorism and public safety.


Quabbin Reservoir Quabbin Reservoir is the primary drinking water source for Boston and forty other communities.


A preliminary background check revealed no warrants, detainers or advisories for anyone in the group and they were allowed to leave after being cited for trespassing. In a statement to the press, State Police spokesperson David Procopio said both his agency will continue to investigate the incident.  “Further investigation is being undertaken because of the late hour when they were observed, their curious explanation for why they wanted to see the reservoir, and the fact that they were in an area marked no trespassing,” Procopio said.

Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Biological Weapons DVD training program provides training and response guidelines to emergency personnel who would be called upon to respond to a terrorist incident involving biological agents. To learn more, read here. . .


Read now

Boston Marathon Bombings Raises New Concerns of "Dirty Bombs"

In the hours and days that followed the Boston Marathon bombings, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies asked members of the public to contact them with any photos or videos taken during the event that could have held clues to the identities of the people who had placed the bombs. Several photographs taken by an anonymous photographer showed men dressed in dark blue jackets and tan pants, moving throughout the bombing site. Some of these men were in the photographs were carrying large black backpacks. The photographs went viral throughout the internet and many people thought these were the suspects. It turns out, however, that these men were actually members of a National Guard Civil Support Team (CST), pre-scheduled to be at the event.  

CST officers at Boston Marathon Photos of what many people thought were pictures of the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing.


CSTs are the National Guard’s full-time response force for emergencies or terrorist events involving weapons of mass destruction, toxic chemicals, or natural disasters. CSTs are routinely pre-staged at large public events, like the Boston Marathon, to help reduce the risks and assist civilian authorities. There is a very real threat of terrorists adding chemical, biological or nuclear materials in their improvised explosive devices (IED) – referred to as a “dirty bomb”.

One photograph shows a CST holding a radiation monitoring device in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. During a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence which took place a week after the bombing, Subcommittee chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) asked Richard Daddario, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism to explain a possible scenario had the Boston bombing suspects used dirty bombs in their terrorist acts.  Daddario replied, “If a dirty bomb were to go off in Boston, there would be a large area that would be contaminated for a substantial period of would shut down all economic activity in that area, chase residents out of the area for substantial periods of time until there could be a cleanup, [and] there would be mass panic.”

CST officer measuring radiation A CST holding a radiation monitoring device at bombing site.

Heightened concerns over the possibility of more acts of domestic terrorism only re-enforce how critical it is that emergency responders and public safety officials are fully trained on how to effectively handle an attack. Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Explosive & Incendiary Weapons and Terrorism: Biological Weapons DVD training films both provide the essential training in the event a terrorism crisis occurs.

Read now

Suspicious Letter Sent to President Tests Positive for Ricin Poison

The U.S. Secret Service has confirmed that a ricin-laced letter addressed to the President was intercepted at the remote White House mail screening facility on Tuesday. The letter contained a “granular substance” and preliminary field tests confirmed the substance was ricin, which has the potential to be toxic even in small amounts.

Another letter, which also field tested positive for ricin, was mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. That letter was intercepted at the remote Senate mail screening facility. Other Washington lawmakers who have also received suspicious letters or packages include Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.

In a statement earlier today, the FBI said that the investigation is ongoing and there be more letters that will be received. The spokesperson said there is no indication of any connection to the Boston Marathon attacks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ricin is a poison that comes from castor beans. It is part of the waste left over when castor oil is made from the beans and can be found in the form of powder, mist, a pellet or dissolved in water.  The CDC reports that U.S. military had experimented in the 1940’s with using ricin as a warfare agent.

When exposure to ricin occurs, the poison gets inside the cells of the body and prevents the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. As more and more cells die, death may occur. Ricin can enter a person’s system through inhalation, ingestion or through skin and eye contact. There is no known antidote for ricin so if someone is exposed, it is imperative to get the ricin off or out of the body as quickly as possible. Remove all clothing (cutting off clothing that needs to be pulled over the head), rapidly wash entire body with soap and water and seek medical care immediately.

Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Biological Weapons DVD training program provides training and response guidelines to emergency personnel who would be called upon to respond to a terrorist incident involving biological agents. To learn more, read here. . .

Ricin soaked envelope

Read now

Boston Marathon Bombing: Act of Terrorism

The excitement and anticipation radiating at the Boston Marathon finish line was shattered by two powerful bomb explosions that were detonated within seconds of each other. The blasts killed three people, including an 8 year-old boy, and have left more than 150 people injured, many of the victims suffering from traumatic amputations and head trauma.

The first blast occurred at 2:50 p.m., approximately two hours after the first runners had crossed the finish line. The second explosion went off twelve seconds later and approximately 100 yards away from the first. The timing of the blasts, in the fourth hour of the race, is typically when the finish line is at its most crowded, with many of the competing recreational runners finishing the race, to the cheers of family and friends who gather in that area to greet them.

Witnesses recounted panic and confusion after the first explosion went off. But within moments, emergency responders, including police officers and firefighters, began tearing down temporary metal fencing to get to the victims, as broken glass from building windows showered onto the street. The medical tent set up for exhausted and dehydrated runners quickly became a triage tent for the dozens of critically injured victims.

The FBI is heading the investigation, along with the Massachusetts State Police, and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. As of this posting, no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings. However, news media is reporting that a Saudi national, in the country on a student visa, is being questioned. The man was observed running away from the area after the blasts and was tackled by a bystander. The man is currently hospitalized with burn injuries. FBI and Homeland Security agents searched the man’s apartment, located just outside of Boston, in the suburb of Revere. Agents removed brown papers bags, trash bags and a duffel bag, as well as other items.

The AP is quoting a law enforcement official source who said that the bombs were made by putting explosives in a metal pressure cooker, also filled with anti-personnel packing, including BB’s, ball bearings and nails. Several doctors involved with treating victims of the bombings reported that many of the injured had multiple pieces of shrapnel embedded into their bodies.

The White House said the bombings are being treated as an act of terrorism. In a statement, President Obama said, “We still don't know who did this or why. Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this.”


Video of the Boston Marathon bomb explosions provided by the Boston Globe.


Boston Marathon bombing Rescue workers and victims shortly after bombs exploded at Boston Marathon.


Read now

"I want something that will satisfy OSHA's requirements."

by Gordon Massingham, President, Emergency Film Group

 "I want something that will satisfy OSHA's requirements. I want to be able to show them the tape, have them take a test, and they will be certified."

It's the kind of request we get all too often here at Emergency Film Group. When we tell these callers that we don't have anything like that, and that neither does anyone else, some callers hang up in disgust. Maybe they go on calling other companies like ours. Maybe some disreputable salesperson from another company sells the caller a video-based program. Maybe the caller is pleased that he now has found "compliance-only training." Or, at least pleased until OSHA comes to call.


OSHA's standards for general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart L, 1910.120, and 1910.156 which cover fire brigades and response to hazardous materials emergencies are very clear about training requirements.

The employer must provide training, "commensurate with those duties and functions that fire brigade members are expected to perform." Further, the employer must assure that each member of the fire brigade is able to perform "assigned duties and functions satisfactorily and in a safe manner so as not to endanger the fire brigade members or other employees." Finally, the employers must inform the fire brigade members of any special hazards that exist and develop "written procedures that describe the actions to be taken in situations involving the special hazards and shall include these in the training and education program."

So unless you have a training video that is custom designed and site specific, no video is going to train your plant emergency response team to OSHA's requirements. Even then it is doubtful that the video alone can provide the training.

When you talk about emergency response you are talking about matters, potentially of life and death. No video is going to train a fire fighter to operate a pump, don chemical protective clothing, or proportion foam. Training an emergency responder requires an instructor- someone competent and experienced. It usually requires some classroom work, and some hands-on training in the field- at least some of which should be under simulated emergency conditions. In other words, if you expect an emergency responder to carry out a task, you better be sure that the emergency responder had competency-based training and you better keep records.

Does that mean there is no role for video? We hope there is. But at the Emergency Film Group, we design our videos and the books that accompany them as training aids for the instructor. First, we provide some compelling visuals that otherwise wouldn't be available to the instructor. Secondly, through extensive research and by constant review by leading professionals in the field, we provide eight or ten of the most important lessons to be learned about the subject- with emphasis on safety and good management. So the video might be used as an introduction to the subject, or as a review. But showing the video, no matter how good it is, and doing nothing else, will not put you in compliance.

We can't provide all your training for you, but as our motto says, we can provide "training tools for an increasingly complex and dangerous job."

Gordon Massingham has produced most of the training programs in the Emergency Film Group catalog and has been responsible for creating more than 150 emergency response training programs during the past 25 years. In 2004 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Note: Although we can’t satisfy all your OSHA training requirements, Emergency Film Group has dozens of video-based training programs that are designed to the latest OSHA and NFPA standards

Read now