1st Edition

Emergency Characterization of Unknown Materials

By Rick Houghton Copyright 2008
    328 Pages 95 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Deliberately, accidentally, or consequentially, first responders and waste site workers handle unknown substances of varying degrees of danger every day.  Unidentified chemicals involved with clandestine production of WMD agents or drugs, explosive materials, unlabeled waste, and forensic samples all pose a threat to the worker and those they protect. A straightforward, concise handbook of practical strategies is needed to perform effective risk assessment and management in the face of uncertainty.

    Written for emergency workers responsible for the safe response to and management of unknown hazardous materials, Emergency Characterization of Unknown Materials providesreadily applicable strategies for developing and implementing a fluid concept of risk analysis based on hazard characterization in emergency situations where definitive identification of the material may be impractical or even impossible. Using a hands-on approach involving the manipulation of small amounts of material, the author discusses strategies to identify threats and vulnerabilities, ascertain exposure, and reduce or eliminate impact. The book begins with an overview of chemical and physical terms and definitions. It continues with a look at types of hazards presented by chemical compounds and mixtures, organisms, and radiation sources. It covers approximately 63 portable technologies for field identification or characterization and examines general technological advantages and disadvantages relative to hazard identification. The final chapter presents strategies for use in identifying or characterizing suspected weapons of mass destruction, illegal drugs, explosive substances, biological hazards, and other hazardous materials. Each chapter includes extensive references and a comprehensive index.

    Providing a sweeping overview of hazards and emphasizing risk analysis and public safety, Emergency Characterization of Unknown Materials gives first responders an advantage they deserve.


    Terms and Definitions
    Physical Terms and Definitions
    Chemical Terms and Definitions
    WMD Terms and Definitions
    Physical Form
    Detection Technology
    Chemical Detection Technology
    Radiation Detection Technology
    Biological Detection Technology
    Strategies for Characterizing Unknown Material
    Unknown Material
    Chemical Warfare Agents
    Biological Warfare Agents
    Radiological Material
    Explosive Material
    Illegal Drugs
    Summary References


    Rick Houghton

    "… offers a good blend of the required science followed by an overview of some of the common field detection devices and testing processes. … identifies all of the terms used by the National Fire Protection Association Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials /WMD Incidents (NFPA 472 2008) and provides a good explanation of each… offers some excellent background material….

    "The largest section of the text covers detection technology … focusing on the technology that drives the devices… . It is an excellent overview of the current technologies with an appropriate level of description.

    "An investigator who routinely characterizes unknown materials and routinely works with hazardous materials will be comfortable with the processes. …The text certainly offers a good basis to train someone to perform these characterizations

    "… the text is well written and flows well…. If you respond to unidentified materials or have to characterize

    potential evidence in the field then this text offers the background,devices, and strategies to accomplish those objectives.

     — Christopher Hawley, Sr. Deputy Project Manager, Computer Sciences Corporation, International Counterproliferation Program, Alexandria, Virginia, writing in the Journal of Forensic Science, January 2009, Vol. 54, No. 1

    “Few people are as passionate and committed to this subject as Rick. His book provides an easy to read and understand guide to HAZMAT and should form part of any HAZMAT team’s reference arsenal.”
    --Peter-John Jacobs, Captain, South African Police Service, Forensic Science Laboratory, Pretoria

    “Rick Houghton’s Emergency Characterization of Unknown Materials brings a needed practical look at identification of materials in the field for the first responder. First responders, whether hazardous materials technicians, bomb disposal technicians, crime scene investigators, narcotics investigators, public health environmental specialists, or environmental protection specialists are most often not trained as chemists. Houghton’s book examines field identification in terms that these technical, non-scientists can easily understand, and allow them to safely and efficiently apply these techniques in their incident response. In today’s world, with hazardous materials being an often encountered response, and the concerns of use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists on the minds of many responders, this user friendly book is a treasure for the responder to study and refer to.”
    — Paul R. Laska, Paul R. Laska Forensic Consulting, Inc., Palm City, and Retired Sergeant commanding the Bomb Disposal Team of Martin County Sheriff’s Office, Stuart, Florida, USA

    “A well written resource providing a straightforward approach to identification of all types of unknowns—commercial materials, hazardous decomposition products, military chemical and potential biological agents. Using a combination of technical details, practical examples and humor, Mr. Houghton describes not only the various methods of field analysis, but also provides proven strategies for applying these methods.  Most importantly, he provides insight into how to avoid critical, and potentially dangerous, mistakes.  A valuable addition to the library of any first responder, emergency manager, or field analytical chemist.”
    --Hank Ellison, Cerberus Associates, Hampshire, UK

    "... provides a comprehensive review of information that emergency responders must know when attempting to mitigate releases involving unknown materials. ... provides practical examples and diagrams that will help responders in analyzing a situation and making the correct decision.
    --Scott H. Tobey, Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University